A Random Week in Arizona

purple and green cactus

Why You Ask!

Well, our house-sitting host in Portland had to cancel our stay and offered her sister’s house as replacement housing since it was currently vacant. We were certainly grateful to have a roof over our heads!

It meant we were also 1,300 miles away from where we started and where we needed to return the following week. Roll with it, Baby. That was the motto of the day. We settled right in, even though it was a bit strange to stay at a vacant house, with no pets. 

lizard plaque

Getting Around Phoenix

There wasn’t much food left in our cooler by the time we arrived: gotta stock up and start cooking. Off we went to Whole Foods on the second day.

The map lady told us to head east on the 101, go 20 miles, turn south on the 51, go another 20 miles, then turn off the highway and there you are. True enough. It was right there. Just a long trip to the market.

Highways crisscross and encircle the city, instead of going through the center of it. We assumed there was no use trying to get anywhere on the surface streets as it might take all day. 

pods on a tree

The return trip from the market went a different way. ”I know, let’s try another way home and see more of the city.” That got us headed west on the 10, or the ‘in10sity’ as we came to know it. That may as well have been the 10 in Los Angeles: rush hour, bumper to bumper traffic. 

By the time we got back, we had gone in a giant loop around town, around a big city. Of course, we knew Phoenix was big. But now we had seen it first-hand.

Each trip we took around town started on the highway loop and switched to another highway or two soon after. So we never saw Phoenix itself – just the outskirts. And a lot of the drivers! Los Angeles has nothing on Phoenix drivers.

giant cactus

What’s It Like?

Maybe an image comes to mind when you hear about Phoenix. That was true for us and spending a week there confirmed a lot of our notions. Golf courses everywhere, but that’s the only grass you see! Walled in and gated neighborhoods in every direction. Every single chain store and restaurant you’ve ever heard of are just down the block.

The city covers a huge area and getting anywhere involved quite a drive. Good luck living here without a car: a lot like Los Angeles that way, though most of this area was newer.

purple and green cactus

A Home Visit

We enjoyed a few walks around the neighborhood and found a bunch of these paddle cactus plants in the best color of all!  

We also went to meet a couple in San Tan Valley who wanted to consider using house sitters. They were looking forward to a long motorcycle trip and needed someone to care for their large standard poodle and home. This opportunity came as a referral by the homeowner in Dallas.

Off we went for a day trip southeast of Phoenix, met the lovely couple and cemented the arrangements. It’s always nice to meet homeowners in person before a house sit.

purple and green cactus

A Bit of Fun

We previously shared that we had finally met another couple who did full-time house sitting. That’s not as easy as it sounds. House sitters are always house sitting and who knows where? But here we were just across town from them. What luck!

A few calls later and arrangements were set for dinner and libations. Oh, what a great time we had talking shop with them. It helped that both of them were hilarious and great story tellers. What a treat, an unexpected one at that.

giant spur

On the House Sitting Front

We agreed to a few house sits in and around Sonoma for most of February and March. Then, we’d be in Southern Oregon for a six-week house sit in the mountains. All this takes a lot of coordination. Thankfully we had plenty of time for that – no pets under our care.

Before we knew it, the week was over, and it was time get back to Oregon. We won’t describe much scenery here – how much does the desert change in six days? Yes, it looked just the same to us, too.

hills near hoover dam

It’s Time to Go

Our chosen route went back to Kingman and north from there towards Hoover Dam. The Colorado River, south of the Dam, was flowing close to the highway.

Every so often you could see evidence of a river, cliffs carved into stone mountains, trees along the water. But you couldn’t see the water as the canyon was far below highway level.

hills near hoover dam

The further north you go, the closer you get to the river, and the canyons in the mountains get steeper and more exciting. Hundreds of highway signs along the way try to get you off course: “Turn Here – Grand Canyon ahead – only 50 minutes to the Canyon – last chance.” Another time we’ll say yes. This time we had to keep going.

We got 500 feet into Nevada, changed our clocks, and turned off the highway towards the dam. 

Welcome to Hoover Dam!

Our first stop was the new bridge, dedicated to Pat Tillman, the soldier, and footballer. It’s an impressive bridge, modern looking, way up over the river, so high the dam looks a bit small. It’s not easy to make the Hoover Dam look small. But the bridge is that high.

Hoover Dam

We ended up thinking the fascinating part of that bridge would have been watching the construction. Other than that, it’s just a road that happens to be in a spectacular spot, high up in the air. 

Hoover Dam

Grasping the size of this complex is hard. A lot of it is built into the mountain, invisible from up here on the bridge. Of course, nothing looks big next to a mountain range. To us, it looked large, yes of course, but mostly it felt powerful, strong. No doubt it is.

Hoover Dam

Look how small that car looks from the top of the bridge!

Hoover Dam

Here’s a view from below looking up – that is one tall bridge.

bridge at Hoover Dam

The visitor’s center has a memorial to the construction workers who helped build the dam. This fellow probably got used to dangling hundreds of feet above the canyon floor. No thanks on this end. 

Hoover Dam

How About Some Company?

It was crowded down at the dam area which made finding a parking spot difficult. We thought the day before Thanksgiving would be a slow tourist day. Turns out, no. One of the busiest times of the year. Lucky us. Tons of people out for a day trip.

Look carefully at the photo below, and you can see how far down the water level is now. The inner wall shows stains where the water used to be. That’s a huge drop, maybe a hundred feet. Thinking about that drop all over the enormous footprint of this lake – there’s your California drought right there.

Hoover Dam

The River Drain

This was the most interesting part of the place, at least to Jim. It’s just what it looks like: a giant hole dug into the mountain. That’s where they directed the river while putting up the dam. 

The Colorado is a mighty river all year and bigger than that in the spring run-off. So, if you want to build a dam, and engineers back then really liked putting up dams, then you’ve got to do something with the river in the meantime.

Hoover Dam

This temporary pipe alone would make this a stupendous engineering project. It’s long since out of use. But what a sight it must have been when they did use it: the entire Colorado River going down the drain!

Hoover Dam

Here’s another angle on that temporary river drain. Whatever those are on the top of the wall are all as big as a house.

Okay, Time to Go

You climb in here for a straight-down look at the lower side of the dam. We didn’t. Too busy to park anywhere near it, maybe next time. P.S. I worked hard to get photos with no people blocking the view. Trust us – they were there!

After looking around for a while, we took off. This is all engineering marvel stuff. We have to do some research before we return to appreciate what’s visible just walking around.

hills near lake mead

We had our sights set on a park north of Lake Mead and headed in that direction. Jim’s note to file: come back on a stray Tuesday or something. My note? Been there, seen that! 

lake mead

These shots are of Lake Mead. Funny, neither of us had any inkling to get closer.

hills near lake mead

Here’s what the country looked like to the northeast of the dam.

hills near lake mead

The scenery got a bit more interesting as we traveled east closer to our destination. Come back for our next post when the sights turn colorful!

hills near lake mead

What’s Next – A spectacular place

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