Posts Tagged ‘Phoenix’

The Trip

Ok so we did go on a trip. We were in the land of saguaro cacti!

Steve and saguaro cacti

Remember my friend Mary who we visited in Phoenix on our road trip?  Well she got married!  So we made the trip to Phoenix again, this time by plane.  We went down a week early so that we could visit with the happy couple before they started to get busy with wedding stuff.  Then we rented a car and did a mini road trip.  We had two specific spots we wanted to see – Zion National Park (yup! we loved it so much the first time we had to go back!) and Antelope Canyon.  Photos to come as I process them!



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You’re shaking my confidence, baby.
Amelia, I’m down on my knees.
I’m begging you please,
don’t break down. Oh oh oh

On our epic drive from Austin to Phoenix, 16 hours and 1000 miles, it won’t surprise you to hear that Amelia was a little upset. So upset that at some points on our drive, she just flat out refused to accelerate. She also stalled a couple times.

So when Steve came back from Las Vegas, we debated whether to push on through and wait until our next long stay somewhere to have her looked at, or stay another day (or more, with our luck!) to have her looked at in Phoenix. We decided on the latter when Mary made us feel more than welcome to stay longer if we needed to.

Mary recommended a mechanic to us, and we headed there with Amelia. She was showered with praises once again, for her aesthetics as well as for how great of shape she is in considering her age. The mechanic was going to perform a free inspection and then based on that, we would decide how to proceed. So we stuck around at the auto shop while they checked her out. Once they’d figured out part of the problem – a tricky piece of the throttle and a clogged up fuel filter, they brought us on back to show us exactly what was going on with Amelia. It was great to look at the engine with the mechanic and go over exactly what was going on. While they searched for the parts (a specific part of the throttle and a new fuel filter), we headed for lunch somewhere nearby. When we got back, it was not looking good. The throttle part was now obsolete and they couldn’t find it anywhere. We knew of a few sources but none of those panned out either. As for the fuel filter, no one had exactly the right fit. We found a place where we could order one online, but it could take days to get to us. The mechanic did his best to clear out the clog in our existing one, to get us by for now until we can get the new one. All in all, he spent three hours working on Amelia and then insisted on not getting a cent because he hadn’t really fixed anything. This trip has convinced us that we absolutely must find a private mechanic back home whom we can trust with Amelia and our other car – we have been so fortunate on this trip to have met some great ones!

So, once again, there is nothing major that is wrong with Amelia and we will be able to keep driving without worrying about breaking down in the middle of the interstate. Phew!  But it’s definitely something we have to look into more because doing 45 mph in a 75 mph zone just isn’t cutting it.

On a side note, each mechanic leaves a tiny trace of himself on Amelia. When we had an oil change, the overweight mechanic doing it must have hauled himself out of the driver’s seat using the steering wheel, because it was slightly cracked when we got it back. In Austin, the European Expert left greasy finger prints all over the a/c housing. And now in Phoenix, our mud flaps seem to have lost the fight with the hoist when they clamped it on beside the wheels. Don’t they know that our Amelia is a lady?!

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Day three of our girly extravaganza, we woke up early and headed to a nearby mountain for some hiking – Piestewa Peak. Like the just-21-girl, we came prepared with lots of water in a camel backpack. Hiking in the desert is not like any hiking I’ve done before. The landscape is so completely different from anywhere I’ve ever been.

bottom of Piestewa Peak

Piestewa Peak and Phoenix

The hike itself was just challenging enough for my out-of-practice out-of-shape muscles, with its constant incline and rocky steps. There were pockets of shade where we could get out of the blazing sun, but really it wasn’t unbearably hot because of the mild temperatures that weekend and also because up on the mountain there is a refreshing cool breeze that you can catch now and again coming around a corner.

Hiking trail

Mary in the shadows

Me in the shadowsClimbing up, we passed a pouty young boy climbing down with his parents, bemoaning the fact that he had not seen a lizard. A couple minutes late we saw this guy, struggling to leap up a rock.

Lizard close-up

Once he made it up there, he seemed quite content, looking out over the landscape. I felt very fortunate to have seen him, because Mary said she’d never seen one before on her many hikes in Phoenix. We actually ended up seeing three of these guys!

Lizard lookout

When we reached the top, we also caught sight of an agile squirrel, leaping from rock to rock and weaving his way between them, not fazed at all by the height at which he so carelessly leapt. We were quite confident standing on the peak as well, but with sure-footing.

Mary and I at the top

Me at the top

We had another relaxing afternoon by the pool, cooling off and resting our tired muscles. That evening we decided to go see the second Sex In the City movie, which didn’t occur to us until the last minute. I had been saying how I’d probably drag Steve out to watch it with me, since he’d gone to see the first one with me (none of my girlfriends in Ottawa watch the show) – he was one of a handful of other men, and probably the only straight one! So Mary and I rushed off to the movie and it finished just in time for me to make it out to the airport to pick up Steve.

The three of us had one last evening together (Luke was still on his fishing trip). Mary took us to Old Town Scotsdale – another suburb of Phoenix which has been designed to look like an old country-Western town, with saloon-type front entrances on a lot of the buildings and lots of country-Western themed tourist shops. It was night-time so we only snapped these shots, mostly because it was just too good to resist:



We also went for dinner at this amazing restaurant:


The highlight, by far, of this restaurant is it’s famous dessert – the pizookie. It’s a pizza cookie made of fudge, cookie dough, and ice cream, with chocolate chips sprinkled on top. Sooooo good. Definitely a must-try if you come to Phoenix!

We are definitely sad to leave Phoenix. It was wonderful spending time with Mary again and I’m so happy that she and Steve have finally met each other. It is with heavy hearts and feet that we head to the Grand Canyon today. We are still undecided about whether to check out the South Rim or the North Rim. We are thinking the North Rim since we heard it was better and less touristy, and also because we are planning to head North anyway to check out Zion National Park as well. Then on the way West, we are going to check out the Hoover Dam – definitely a must-see for Steve. That’s as far as we’ve gotten…from there – West! 🙂

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Mary had to go into work early the next morning, just for an hour. I went with her so that I could see her office, and also so that we could go to a morning yoga class, which her sister Carrie was leading at The Bungalow. It was fun seeing where Mary works – she works for Arizona State University as a student advisor to MBA students.

Mary at work

She had lots of fun stuff to look at in her office, including this huge map of the world with little sticky dots of all the places she’s visited…

Mary's Map

…and this paper voodoo doll (I’m sure there’s all kinds of invisible names on that).

Voodoo paper doll

The yoga class was awesome. I hadn’t done yoga in years, and when I did it was just a small beginner’s class. The class Mary and I went to was an all-levels class and while I had no clue what I was doing, Carrie was very good at making it accessible for novices as well as challenging for the more-experienced. I’m definitely inspired to do yoga again. I think I will try and get into a class once we get home again.

After our early morning of work and yoga, we had a relaxing afternoon by the pool. Mary had been living in her house since January, but hadn’t yet tried out the pool – shocking to me who would be in it every day if we had a pool in our condo complex! Despite what I said earlier about the heat, we actually had amazing weather over the weekend – not too hot, but still sunny blue skies. Perfect for a day by the pool 🙂

Mary and I at the pool

Mary had mentioned a dueling piano bar as an option for a night out, and when she found out that I had never been to a dueling piano bar, there was no question what we were going to do on Saturday night. This particular piano bar, The Big Bang, has numerous musicians, all of whom can play several instruments besides the piano (drums, bass guitar), as well as sing. Needless to say, there was a lot of musical talent flying around.

Dueling pianos

Equally entertaining, the audience participates! Everyone dances and sings at their tables and gets right into the show. The music was a good mix of classic sing-a-longs and top 40 hits. Mary scored us front row seats in the packed bar when she caught sight of a couple leaving a table right in front of one of the big grand pianos.

Mary and I at the piano barDueling pianist

We belted out the tunes with the rest of the bar and chair danced (danced in our chairs) and just generally had a ball. When the music started to turn to mostly top 40 dance music and people encroached closer and closer into our space, dancing – holding their beers over our heads as they danced – we decided it was time to move on.

Mary was finally able to take me to her favourite pub and as we stood at a table on the patio chatting away, a young couple approached and asked if they could join us. These two were hilarious. It was just after midnight and we found out that the girl had just turned 21, ten minutes earlier. We were a couple minutes into the conversation before we realized that she was wearing a camel backpack – one of those backpacks that holds water and has a drinking spout coming out of it. She had biked there and wanted to make sure that she had enough water for the evening. She also informed us that she came prepared with “horizontal i.d.” – apparently Phoenix driver’s licenses have a vertical, or portrait layout until you are of age, then you get a horizontal one. So just in case they would turn her away at the door for having a vertical i.d., she brought along her passport. Hilarious! We were not worried for her at all. Her drinking partner, however, had already fallen on his butt once during our conversation, so we weren’t too sure about him. They left us shortly after and headed to another bar, and we headed home to indulge in some Sex In the City watching, a show we had watched together while living in China 🙂

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Mary and I became instant friends forever when we met in Changchun, China, where we were both living and teaching for a year. So it was crazy to us that we hadn’t seen each other since then – three years ago! Here is a picture of us, from our last hurrah together – a five week backpacking trip across Southeast Asia:

Mary & I, Angkor Wat

And here is a picture of us from just a few days ago, with our Chinese beers in Phoenix, reminiscing of old times.

Mary & I

We picked up as if it had only been 3 days since we’d last seen each other.

Crazier than us not seeing each other for so long was the fact that Mary hadn’t met Steve! And I was anxious to meet the man in Mary’s life, Luke. Before we sent the boys off on their own travels – Steve to Las Vegas for a bachelor party, and Luke to Ontario (!) for a fishing trip – we had a night of hanging out and getting to know each other.

One thing I learned very quickly in Phoenix – bring your i.d. everywhere! The legal drinking age in Ontario is 19, and being 28 years of age, I don’t worry about getting carded back home because it never happens – it’s usually only needed for going clubbing, and then everyone’s getting carded to get in the door. So when Mary said she wanted to take us to her favourite pub after dinner that evening, it didn’t even occur to me that I’d decided to go sans-purse for the evening (that’s what happens when you get married and can count on your husband to have his wallet 😉 ). But we were determined to relax over a pint and so persisted and got my i.d. and ended up compromising on an Irish pub near Mary’s – they had Guinness, so I was happy!

The next day the guys headed their separate ways and when Mary got home from work, it was just us girls! The timing of both their trips couldn’t have been more perfect. We got to spend hours reminiscing about China and our travels through Southeast Asia – literally hours. We got out Mary’s journal (we both kept one while travelling) and went through every single entry from Southeast Asia. It started out innocently enough, just wanting to look over the entry from this time three years ago and then we couldn’t stop ourselves and we were reading them all. We also spent several hours going through my wedding photos. Mary was not able to make it to the wedding, and we were both crushed. So it was great to share the day with her and walk her through all the little details that made it so special.

Mary was able to take Friday off, so we had the whole day together. One of the things I wanted to see most here in Phoenix, was her mom and sister’s coffee shop/yoga studio. I’ve heard about Inside the Bungalow from Mary for years and I was so excited to finally see it, and to meet her family. It is such a cute and cozy place – I wish I could transplant it, and Mary, to Ottawa – I’d be going there for iced coffees and yoga regularly if it were in my neighbourhood! It’s located in a gorgeous old house in downtown Mesa and each room has a different theme/feel to it. My two favourites were the Alice In Wonderland Room…

Alice In Wonderland room

Alice In Wonderland room

Alice In Wonderland room…and the Travel Room

Inside the Bungalow

Back patio

Side patio


After enjoying a delicious and healthy lunch, and a lovely chat with Mary’s mom and sister, we headed to the street of cute shops and boutiques of downtown Mesa (a suburb of Phoenix).

Mary and I in the big pink chair

Mary in the big pink chair Me in the big pink chair

The rest of the day was full of girly-ness. Not only did we check out those boutiques and shops, we also drove to two different scrapbooking stores. For dinner we met up with one of Mary’s girlfriends, Sam, and the three of us went out for some great Mexican food and then gelato for dessert. All in all it was a fabulous day of girly fun 🙂 While Steve was hours away having a decidedly manly day and evening of fun, gambling and drinking at the bachelor party.

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Our first day in sunny, sweaty, Phoenix, Arizona, (that’s a lot of commas!) we decided to go tubing down Salt River.  Mary, our lovely host and one of my bestest friends, is another Über Planner, and has provided us not only with a cozy place to stay, but also with a handmade Guide to Phoenix.  The first item in this guide is the tubing adventure down Salt River, and we were sold right away – there’s nothing like leisurely floating down a river and watching the scenery pass by, as well as occasionally getting a thrill going through the rapids.  It’s pretty much the best thing in the world.

May I just say that it is a whole other kind of hot down here.  It’s dry, and heavy, and when you’re outside all you can think about is “find shade, find shade as quickly as possible.”  So it may seem kind of odd that we were going to spend 4 hours baking out there in 105 degree (41 c) weather, but actually Salt River is pretty cold so we’d just splash water on ourselves to cool off.

*FYI for the parents (and Jenny) – we were wearing 50 SPF sunscreen and neither of us burned at all!

While we floated, we witnessed a couple of beavers munching on twigs (I’m guessing in the beaver world, twigs are a snack), we saw some giant fish gliding through the currents below us, and lots of different kinds of birds, including a mother duck with her ducklings.  Mary mentioned that we might see some wild horses, but alas, we saw none.


Also while we floated, we discussed how wonderful a metaphor tubing is for life.  Here is my philosophy on floating through the river of life:

1.  Don’t fight the current.  It will take you where you need to go, if you let it.

2.  That being said, if the current sends you towards some trees, duck, so you don’t poke your eye out!

3.  As you float, you will encounter people who make you smile, and people who make you frown.  Slow down and enjoy the former; speed up past the latter.

4.  Don’t litter in the river.

5.  Practice being in awe.  Listen to the birds and the trickle of the water, look at the way the horizon and the river meet, smell the flowers as you pass them, taste the fresh air, feel the cool water between your fingers and toes.

6.  Don’t worry about what lies ahead, you can deal with it when you get to it.

7. Take care of your body.  Eat well, drink lots of water, and as Kurt Vonnegut says, wear sunscreen.

8.  And last but not least, remember to HAVE FUN!

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