Catching up in Scottsdale

Sunday morning in Santa Fe started quite early with a free breakfast at the Silver Saddle. We were on the road by 8, en route to Scottsdale.

At Jason’s request, we stopped in Gallup to check out the pawn stores. While I was initially intrigued by the idea of bargain hunting, once we hit the dusty Route 66 and realized that all of Gallup took Sunday rest day seriously, I was more than ready to move on.

Our second stop was at the Petrified National Forest. We made our way southwest through the park, making frequent stops for scenic views or mini-hikes to ancient pueblo ruins or minefields of petrified wood and minerals. In the title song from the musical, Oklahoma, they weren’t just kidding about the wind whipping across the plain. Powerful breezes pushed us through a .8 mile “hike” towards the end of the park before we hopped back on the road towards Scottsdale. All in all, I’m glad we went; I think it was my first real national park experience, and it was fun to explore with Jason.

About four hours later, we arrived in Scottsdale, where we stayed with my aunt Jill and visited with my cousin, Max, both of whom I haven’t seen since 2001. Max is recently returned from a global excursion, so our meal was full of his tales from Thailand, Australia, Vietnam. Exhausted, I passed out earlyish.

Today, Jill took us all around Scottsdale. We began the morning with a hike up Squaw Peak. Or rather, Jason hiked to the top; I went as far as my acrophobia would allow plus twenty feet further. I realize that the hikes I’ve enjoyed at Lake George or in El Yunque didn’t involve walking along a pebbly ledge without a rope. No amount of shaking my head (advice from a fellow climber) helped, so I perched on a rock with Jill and caught up while Jason was taking 360 panoramic photos from the top of the rock.

We lunched with Max at the Orange Table, an awesome sandwich joint in Old Town Scottsdale. Max recommended several phenomenal sandwiches; Jason had a corned beef and delicious on rye, and I enjoyed chipotle chicken awesomeness on grilled sourdough. Thank goodness my trainer emailed during lunch because I’m in desperate need of exercise when I return.

After lunch, we headed up to Frank Lloyd Wright’s Arizona home, Taliesen West. I knew of a few of his masterpieces, such as Falling Water and the Guggenheim, but I haven’t studied them with any kind of critical eye. His designs – from his homes to his furniture – have a clear arrogance about them, but it is an arrogance that comes with such attention to detail and dedication to craft, which I can certainly appreciate. His exploration of acoustics and light was something I learned quite a bit about today, including the little known (to me, at least) fact that he created the first recessed lighting). I wish some of the newer architecture at Lake George paid attention to nature much the way Wright did; after all, nothing says “adirondack” like a Georgian monstrosity and underwater lights, right?

Post tour, we headed for dinner at an Italian restaurant, where we enjoyed delicious family-style Italian food accompanied by a gentleman playing a mandolin. Jason and I split a calamari salad, and I enjoyed a pasta with boar sauce and a fruit tartlet for dessert. Both places we ate today were really unique little spots in Scottsdale that we would never have found on Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives.

It has been such a treat catching up with family in a very funky town. On her ipad, Jill has shown me about a million places I need to check out next time I visit. This trip has definitely helped me to appreciate how much there is see out west and has helped me hone my list of places to return to in this (or future) lifetimes.