Population = 31,205 (part of the Phoenix Metro Area with 4,574,351), latitude 33º39’, longitude 112º21’, elevation 1,270 feet, average January low temperature = 33.9, Average July high temperature = 107, average sunny days = 292, annual snowfall = 0”, annual rainfall = 7.3”
The road from Durango winds steeply down from the mountains, down through the pine forests, down through the high desert, and finally down the Superstition Mountains into the Valley Of The Sun. We are back in the deep desert. We cross bridges where, if there was water, it would be there. Lawns are gravel and brick, dotted with cactus, palms and citrus trees. The occasional patch of green grass front yard looks somehow out of place.
After a brief stop in Scottsdale to see family, we are on the highway again, on our way to Sun City West. On paper, that looks like about a half hour drive. In practice, it is well over an hour. The 101 loop seems to be the main route for everyone in the valley. Weekend or weekday, the loop is constantly constipated, with 5 lanes of traffic doing the slow and crawl slog for miles and miles.
Sun City West was built in the 1970s, about 10 years after the original Sun City. It was designed and built to be a retirement and snowbird community. 82.4% of the residents are over 65 and 98.71% are white. There are no resident kids and no schools. In the center of town, there are a few stores, a big Recreation Center, a library, and several churches. The handout maps shows churches, not stores. There are big box stores and national franchises all around SCW, but not many inside it. It is it’s own little world and that, apparently, is how they like it here. The residents can be seen buzzing around town in golf carts or large vehicles, avoiding the workers and visitors who are hauling ass past the old farts dawdling in the fast lane.
For our stay here, we are guests of Patrick and Susan, some old and dear friends from Minnesota. They were renting a house and then bought one, so they have plenty of room for us. The former owner left lots of odds and ends all over the house, so we are helping with some of the organizing and cleanup. It is a nice, comfortable house with a patio that is perfect for hanging out, sipping a beer, and watching the birds in the cacti.
There is a lot to do in Phoenix. There are museums, botanical gardens, zoos, concerts, theater, fine dining, and so on. Maybe it is big city fatigue, or maybe it is just Sun City West rubbing off on us, but we spend most afternoons just lounging on our patio, watching the world drift by. We play a little golf. We could head into town, but it is at least an hour drive each way, so we usually don’t.
When we do travel in the city, it is to visit friends and family. Our friends Jan & Les are here in their 5th wheel RV. It turns out that they have some spare tickets, so we run across town for a pre-season baseball game; Rockies vs Mariners at Salt River Field. This is kind of a unique field in that the area past the home run fence is a grassy slope. People bring blankets to lay on and watch the game. The food is good and, if you look a little, you can find good beer. Unfortunately, our favorites, the Rockies, get beat by 2 runs.
We do another road trip, back to Scottsdale to meet up with family, Dick & BC. They have us meet them at Top Golf. This is an amazing place. It is a 3 level driving range, but each booth has an automatic ball feed and scoreboard. The range has big targets like dartboards all over it. Shots are scored by distance to target and closest to the middle of the target. Chips embedded in the balls identify the ball and who scores what. Great game! I leave wishing I could have my own chipped golf balls so I could find more of them when I shank a shot into the weeds.
After the Top golf, we head downtown to see our friends Bill and Jim, from the old neighborhood back in Minnesota. They live in an elegant townhouse in a nice, quiet part of Phoenix. They are an easy walk away from the light rail and a short drive away from many fine restaurants. I am more than a little surprised at all of the grass and trees here. Not all of Phoenix is gravel, after all.
It is hard to stick a handle on this area. Scottsdale is very tidy and cultured and has many fine shops and restaurants and golf courses. Phoenix has a bustling downtown with many amenities, genteel neighborhoods, tough slums, and everything between. Sun City West is, to my mind, lethargic and somewhat cloistered. In other words, I guess there is something for everyone here. For me though, all of that sand makes me miss the greenery of Minnesota. And I don’t care what they say about dry heat, it is still damn hot!
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