The second rule of Travelogue is: Do not talk about Travelogue.
Yup, I just had to go out and see "Fight Club" again. I dragged three people from the hostel in Phoenix that I stayed in. Christine from America liked it. John from Australia was thoroughly confused. This girl from Estonia (I forgot her name) was ready to jump on board the next plane home. I still love it. It's actually a far better movie the second time through when you can look at theme and parallels and symbolism because this movie is chuck full of all of that stuff (and fighting and stuff being blow'd up too!).
Wednesday, November 3rd
The drive to the immediate south of Flagstaff may be one of the best I've done on my trip thus far
. When driving between Flagstaff and Phoenix try to avoid I-17. Instead take State Hwy #89A where, just south of Flagstaff, it dives down to the bottom of Oak Creek Canyon. It follows the Oak Creek to the beautiful town of Sedona. The town itself is not so wonderful but the surrounding landscape is the classic red rock mesas that are naturally associated with the Arizona wilderness. I stopped at Red Rock State Park just south of Sedona for some hiking and a picnic. #89A then swings westward through some hills to the improbable town of Jerome. At one point early this century Jerome was the 3rd largest city in Arizona. It was a booming mine town but the company that owned the mine went bankrupt during the Depression of the 30s. What's amazing about this town is the location. Right on the side of a huge steep hill. #89A serves as the town's main drag and it switchbacks at least 5 times as it climbs up the hill. I guess the bonus about living in Jerome is that every house has a great view. I eventually wound my way back to I-17 and down into Phoenix. Phoenix has recently been upgraded to the 6th largest city in America. The city is immense. Like most large desert or prairie cities Phoenix has a bad case of urban sprawl. The only hostel in town is located in a very depressed neighbourhood just to the northeast of downtown. While some of you might have found it intimidating it really made me feel fortunate. There were two girls from Australia who were somewhat spooked by the area so they cut short their stay in Phoenix
. They were somewhat naive as well. The cab trip from the bus station was 6 dollars but the cab driver told them it was 6 bucks apiece. They fell for it. Then the cab driver told them that there was a shooting in the neighbourhood that night (a lie). These girls spent one frightened night and took off for Flagstaff first thing in the morning. This was the night I saw "Fight Club" again. I had never seen a movie in one of those giant AMC theatres and the thing that impressed me most was the fact that you could apply your golden topping yourself.
Thursday, November 4th
I had heard that there was some major snow back home on Wednesday and I found that kind of funny until the thermometer hit 95 degrees this day. First thing in the morning before the town turned into an oven I walked down to AmericaWest Arena and picked up a ticket for the Phoenix Suns home opener against the Philadelphia 76ers. I then just had to go to Whataburger for an early lunch. Joe has been telling me about Whataburger since 1996 after his trip to Texas. Well, it was a solid burger but it didn't live up to 3 years of hype. From there is was a short walk over to the Phoenix Art Museum. The museum was featuring a travelling exhibit of Monet's works from his cottage at Giverny. It was a marvellous exhibit and the best part was that you could see his paintings up close where they appear to be just splats of paint on the canvas and then go upstairs to see the works from over 100 yards away where they look like detailed paintings
. There were other exhibits worth mentioning as well. My favourite was the Arizona Highways Magazine photo display featuring the works of Ansel Adams, David Muench, and Jack Dykinga. There was also a great exhibit featuring the works of John Salvest a modern artist from Arkansas who uses unusual items to mark time (including a calendar featuring 365 used coffee filters). There was also a huge showing of "cowboy art" (i.e. artists who create works to romanticize the American west). Some of these works were very good but a lot of them tended to get melodramatic and cheezy. The best pieces were the few that had some actual insight. I next walked down to the Phoenix Public Library to take advantage of some free computer internet time. It's a very unusual building which I would describe as the U of Waterloo's Davis Centre except waaaaaay better. There is actually a lot of great architecture in the downtown core of the city featuring buildings from a number of time periods. That's really the only good thing to say about downtown. There are no shops. There are no restaurants. It's just a bunch of buildings that are very wonderfully built. This city may be the only one with a parking garage that's not an eyesore. The town is booming. There was more construction going on downtown than even what's going on in Vegas. For dinner I did some research and found the restaurant where the Mexicans go to eat. La Tolteca on Van Buren near 12th St is the place. I picked up a Super Chicken Burrito. This burrito was at least 1.5 pounds and every ounce was delicious
. I also took advantage of their Thursday special, the 99 cent Corona. So I had a huge burrito and a beer for 5 bucks. This is the place to eat in Phoenix but it closes at 7pm so you have to get there early. Next I headed down to the basketball game. I got a seat way up in the rafters but this is one of those new arenas where there isn't a bad seat in the house. For over 20 years the Suns were the only major league team in town so everybody in the crowd knew the game (unlike Toronto). It was great hearing the crowd being veeeerrrry vocal whenever cheering or jeering the home team. It wasn't a pretty game but the Suns came out on top. I'm not a big fan of sports mascots but I have to admit that the Phoenix gorilla is one I enjoyed. Especially the "Friends" sendup video done with new Suns center Oliver Miller who actually sued the gorilla last year for making fun of his weight.
Friday, November 5th
The drive through the desert to Tucson is very non-descript. I arrived in town in the early afternoon and immediately headed to the University of Arizona's beautiful campus to check out the Centre For Creative Photography. It's a pretty neat place with a lot of prints by Ansel Adams and Richard Avedon as well as great exhibit of African pictures by Lynn Davis. I then headed out of town to the Desert Museum. This place was great. It was less a museum than a zoo and desert gardens. You need at least two hours to see everything. The tour leads you out into the wilderness to view javelinas as well as taking you underground and into walk-in aviaries. After another great desert sunset I headed into town and checked into the Roadrunner Hostel. It's a nice place and it has a big screen TV! I would have preferred to stay at the hostel at the Congress Hotel purely for the history of the building (it's where the FBI caught up to John Dillinger) but it was full. Given the fact that I'm enjoying the tranquility here I don't mind missing out on the Congress. I could have gone to see two hair-metal bands from the 80s, Great White and Dokken, in the evening but I chose to have a nice quiet time reading.
Saturday, November 6th
I can't get enough of the desert so I headed out to Sabino Canyon for some hiking. On the way you pass a huge airfield full of decommissioned war planes. There are acres and acres of old planes just rotting in the sun. I found out that they offer tours of the place every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday at 10:30am. Sabino Canyon is yet another wonderful example of Arizona's desert landscape. I did a 9 mile hike in the afternoon heat which has pretty much finished me for today. I plan on slowly becoming one with the couch this evening. I stopped at the Subway near the campus for dinner which was interesting. This weekend was homecoming weekend and a big football game against Washington. I would have loved to have gone to a big-time sports school in the States. Why? Because there were 3 girls at the table next to me all discussing in great detail the day's big game. Girls who like football!?! This must be paradise!
The first rule of Travelogue is: Do not talk about Travelogue.