This travelogue is a combination of three trips to Phoenix I made this month to cover the Dodgers’ spring training.
It was quite a culture shock going from Hawaii where everything was named Wailea and Lahaina to Phoenix where I drove over Skunk Creek.
This is a sprawling city of giant shopping malls broken up by sports complexes. Oh and numerous aircraft boneyards. From rusted out WWII planes to 747s that haven’t flown since Braniff went under, they’re all here. Was hoping to swing by and pick up an L1011 fuselage but time got away.
Other major attractions Phoenix can boast about: the world’s largest Kachina Doll, the world’s largest inflatable dam, and the world’s largest sneezing nose – a fitting tribute to the many allergies people suffer from in these parts.
Famous sons of the Valley of the Sun include Steven Spielberg, retired golfer Alice Cooper, Wonder Woman, Hugh Downs, Barry Goldwater, and most prominent of them all – American Idol Jordin Sparks.
To get anywhere in Phoenix – to work, a restaurant, the rental car outpost from the airport – you just get on the freeway and go 13.2 miles. Everything is 13.2 miles away. Except Circle K’s. There are two on every corner. How much beef jerky can this town chew?
I’ve seen ads for the University of Phoenix in Los Angeles and St. Louis and Philadelphia but who knew? They also have a branch in Phoenix!
On my first trip I stayed at a Holiday Inn Express near the big University of Phoenix stadium, (home of the Superbowl losing Cardinals) which looks like an enormous Jiffy Pop bag just before it explodes. What college has an enormous stadium but no football team?
You can sure feel the effects of the economy. The Dodgers kicked off the Cactus League season against the Cubs in Mesa. Usually Cubs tickets are harder to get in the desert than oceanfront property but this year even opening day didn’t sell out. Obama’s bailout plan is going to have to include scalpers I’m afraid.
Next day we headed to Scottsdale (13.2 miles) to face the dreaded Giants. Scottsdale is the ritzy section of Phoenix. As you approach it the car dealerships get much more upscale.
Scottsdale is gorgeous. Known for its swank resorts, golf courses, art galleries (you better like “southwestern”), and the Bob Crane murder.
Most restaurants in Phoenix are a chain but at least in Scottsdale they’re Morton’s and Roy’s. Most everywhere else they’re McDonald’s and Roy Rogers.
But it was not worth driving 13.2 miles for fine dining when right nearby there was a Tilted Kilts. Who knew anyone could improve on Hooters? The breasts seemed more real, the kilts more skimpy. And for an even finer culinary experience I recommend the chicken wings appetizer. When they arrive ask for a different dipping sauce so the hot tattooed Betty Boop has to return and lean over your table to deliver it. Any top chef will tell you – it’s all in the presentation.
The new Dodger complex in Glendale is magnificent! Camelback Ranch (not to be confused with the Mustang Ranch – the other spring training destination for most men). Camelback Ranch looks like it was designed by Frank Lloyd Wright after a long night at Tilted Kilts.
But the amenities for the fans are amazing and if there’s anything better than having a picnic with your family, sitting out on a grass berm and watching major league baseball in the sunshine I don’t know what it is. Okay, maybe also getting a Valentino Pascucci home run ball and several fans got those.
Hung out with my buddy, Kurtwood Smith at one of the Dodger games. Kurtwood’s a great actor. You’ve seen him in a million things including DEAD POET’S SOCIETY, THAT 70s SHOW, and of course BIG WAVE DAVE’S. Recently, he’s been on 24. Not that Dodger fans aren’t the most knowledgeable in all of sports but Kurtwood said he went up to the concession stand and people were calling out at him, “Hey, man, lighten up on Jack Bauer!” (SPOILER ALERT: Kurtwood gets killed… for the 500th time in his career.)
Missed the big ostrich festival. Ostrich races AND Foghat!!!
Best Phoenix TV show bar none is “Lone Butte Casino’s LUCKY BREAK” every Saturday night at 10:30 on CBS 5. It’s a cheesy AMERICAN IDOL ripoff hosted by Olympic Gold medal swimmer Amy Van Dyken. Grand prize is a dinner for two at the Verona Chop House. One of the judges is a plumber. I’m not making this up! One of the contestants was 83 and just had a hip replacement. Did not bust a lot of moves in her routine. Halfway through the judges blasted an air horn to stop her. Nice. She had to be helped off the stage. Next up was her daughter who got the air horn even faster. Five contestants ended in a tie so to break it they each had to sing Happy Birthday. One actually stumbled over the words. She won.
Come ye all to the annual Arizona Renaissance Fair. Wear ye heavy garb of velvet and wool or ye full suit of armor. Imagine if they held this in August. Merry Old England during the Bubonic Plague.
The local oldies station, KOOL has a very limited playlist. “China Grove” by the Doobie Brothers. That’s it. But for their big weekend feature playing all the hits from the 60s-80s they add “Long Train Running” by the Doobie Brothers.
You can go Indoor Skydiving in Phoenix. A simulated freefall chamber will drop you 13,000 feet at 120 mph. It seems to me skydiving (outdoors) requires courage but offers an incomparable thrill. Indoor skydiving down an elevator shaft requires losing a bet at a frat party.
Pheeniks is number nine on the US list of most misspelled cities.
I was really stylin’ the second trip. My rental car was a maroon Chevy hearse. At least that’s what it looked like. I kept checking to make sure Bob Crane wasn’t in the back.
Alas, spring training is over. Last week rooms at the Holiday Inn Express were $165 a night. This week they’re free with a ticket stub from the Ostrich races. But if you’re a baseball fan or you just want to see if the Red Lobster in Phoenix is any different from the one in your town, you’ve got to come to Arizona in March. I’ll never be able to see HOGAN’S HEROES again without wanting to go back.