Showing posts from 2013

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Surviving Sierra Vista (and enjoying it!)

In the past month I have had the pleasureprivilege task of traveling to Sierra Vista and spending several days there for work.  Naturally, I was skeptical--how could anything an hour past Tucson be habitable?  Talking to coworkers, including a SV native, did not boost my confidence in any way.  Finding that the best accommodation available on my trip was a Comfort Inn really took the air out of any sense of fun an adventure that I had cultivated.  (there are more hotels than Comfort Inn).

Hold on, though!  It's not all doom and gloom!  Sierra Vista (Spanish for "mountain vista") is actually quite a beautiful area!  Well, to be clear, the natural surroundings are beautiful.  My first impression as I drove in was that it reminded me of Northern Tanzania and the Ngorongoro Crater area.  I realize that is hyperspecific and probably unrelatable, so my second impression might be more helpful.  My second impression was that it reminded me of Denver.  Namely the city (town?) is i…

Boo! It's Haunted House Time!

I'm not a fan of haunted houses, mostly because I have enough nightmares that I get the same effect for free on a nightly basis.  But I understand that there are people who love to pay money to be scared...or understand that it's a good date option because of the frightened hand-holding and arm-clinging (play on, playa).  With you all in mind, here are some unvetted haunted houses across the valley.

Morning Squeeze, Scottsdale - Review

Sitting in the exterior portion of the bar this morning in a bustling Morning Squeeze was reminiscent of being on a cruise.  The mild weather and breeze, the tropical colors of the decor, the permeating smell of bacon, and the clatter of dishes and silverware all felt like the breakfast buffet on the lido deck of a Caribbean cruise liner.  The food provided a similar feeling in that it was good to be hard to find specific complaints, but not so good as to be memorable in and of itself.  That's fine on a cruise because breakfast is nothing more than an opportunity to fuel up before a day of shore excursions, and honestly for a hip Scottsdale breakfast spot there may not be any need to have great food to attract a crowd.

Rock Springs Cafe - Quick Thoughts

I do love stopping here for pie after I've earned it doing a nice hike in Flagstaff or Sedona.  There's an appropriate amount of kitch and southwestern flair to make Rock Springs feel like a western town, rather than a stop with a pie store off the I-17...sort of like an independent Cracker Barrel, just with fewer items in the general store.

Kachina Trail - Flagstaff

Contrary to what several other websites say, Kachina Trail is NOT a loop.  NOT A LOOP.  One can take Kachina Trail to to Weatherford Trail to another trail for a hike of like 14 miles and 4,000' elevation change...but Kachina Trail, in-and-of itself is NOT A LOOP.  It's a five mail segment of trail in the Kachina Wilderness.

Now that we have the PSA out of the way, Kachina Trail is gorgeous, easy, and gorgeous.  It is about 5 miles point-to-point (that makes for a 10 mile round trip, for us math-challenged folks).  There's a nice meadow about 2.3 miles into the hike if you start at Snowbowl that makes a great turn-around point if you want a shorter trip.  It features gorgeous views of the flatlands around the mountain as well as panoramic views of northern Arizona and the boulders strewn across the clearing make for excellent vantage points.  Alternatively, because the trail ultimately ends at the Weatherford Trailhead you can drop a car at each parking lot and hike strai…

Walnut Canyon Rim Trail

Here's the thing about the Walnut Canyon Rim Trail...I'm not actually sure if I was on the Walnut Canyon Rim Trail.  None of the roads, parking lots, trailheads, or trails were well marked and none of the names matched up with what I saw when I read about the trail.  Further complicating things is the similarly-named Walnut Canyon National Park/monument/forest/whatever it specifically is.  One of those trails is supposed to be about 12 miles, the other is about .3 miles, and the internet doesn't do a good job of distinguishing between the two.  
Until I can confirm where I was, what the trail actually does, and how to get there, I don't want to spread misinformation.  I assume I was on the Walnut Canyon Rim Trail, but I'll have to revisit to confirm.
Here are the photos from wherever I was in the Flagstaff area - Photos

Get Started with Car Camping

Car camping can be a great way to get away and enjoy yourself in the beautiful Arizona (or other) outdoors.  It's that first baby step towards backpacking or hiking the Arizona or Appalachian Trail, or it's as immersive as you need to be given all of the secluded places a sturdy car can take you.  For those of you who are city dwellers or grew up in the woods, like myself, and had no reason to camp in the woods, here is a quick primer on camping that will get you out the door and let you refine your own needs.

Camping Ashurst Lake (Flagstaff Area)

I have an embarrassing secret to share:  for all the hiking, hunting, and fishing I've done and talk about, I've camped probably less than 10 times in my life--and a solid 5 of those consist of driving in back into the woods at my parents farm and putting up a tent to sleep in after having dinner at the house.  Camping has long been on my list of things to get into, but for some reason it seems more daunting than any other activity I've done.  Maybe it's because of needing the right gear, or knowing where to go to avoid crowds, or worrying about bear attacks...I'm not sure why it's taken me so long to pursue this (actually, it's an aversion to going more than a day without a shower).

Things to do when it's hot. A running list.

One of my biggest struggles with living in Phoenix is what to do in the dead of summer when temperatures top 100 for 20 hours of the day.  Making it especially difficult is my impatient insistence that "yea, it's hot, but it's not THAT bad" anytime someone has the gall to complain about the Phoenix summer.  The reality is that it's still entirely possible to be outside and do things, but the list of things you can just do at 2pm on a Saturday afternoon without a legitimate chance of death resulting is significantly lessened.  The other constant struggle, aside from merely figuring out what are decent options, is finding things that don't cost money.  Because while driving to Flagstaff, seeing a movie, and day drinking are all perfect options, doing them every weekend day gets expensive quickly.  Here is my attempt at making you (and myself) a list of enjoyable things to do to beat the summer heat that are no/low cost.

(Laser) Tag, You're It!

Remember laser tag?  Remember the glamorously awesome kids in the commercials?  Remember how GD expensive that stuff was in the 80's/90's?  Remember how hot it is outside right now?  Make the dreams of 8-year-old you, who always wanted to be laser tag champion--and the dreams of current you, who doesn't want a heat stroke and doesn't want to sit inside all day--all come true at once with what I consider a highly underrated activity.

Wet Beaver Creek - A Cool Place to Get Wet!

It pretty much goes without saying that Wet Beaver Creek is far more popular than Dry Beaver Creek, but no one knows for sure if the 'Dry Beaver' name is a smokescreen, like 'Iceland,' to throw lazy travelers off the scent of boundless joy.  Well, maybe that's a bit extreme, I'm sure someone knows the answer, but when the Wet Beaver is so nice, there's really no reason to thrust yourself into the wilderness of Dry Beaver.

San Francisco Travel Journal

It has been two weeks since the Memorial Day weekend and finally I've gotten to a place where I can write about a weekend of decadence in San Francisco without having to fight the urge to immediately fly up for French toast at Waterbar (more on that later). 

TruMatch Over 40 Singles Mixer

I'm sure I'm not the only one who is single, but lacks the enthusiasm, time, or desire to troll bars and clubs in hopes of finding another person who is not only attractive, intellectually stimulating, funny, and, especially, single.  At 30, I'm more likely to meet a woman who is married with kids, or a new college grad who doesn't get Dumb & Dumber references and can stay up until 2am and still function the next day.  On the flip side, online dating can be a tedious crapshoot..."just curious, why are all your pictures from the shoulders up...?"  I have no idea what it's like at 40 and up, but I can't imagine the situation is better. Are you over 40 and want to kill two birds with one stone and meet actual single people in real life?  Then check out the next TruMatch Singles Mixer.  Info below provided by TruMatch Come out to country hotspot Handlebar J on June 13th to mix and mingle with other TRUmatch singles! Play our fun TRUmatch game, spend …

Verde Canyon Railroad

"It's not the destination, it's the journey."  These are some of the last words you'll hear over the Verde Canyon Railroad's intercom system* as you return to the station from the four-hour excursion into the wilds of the Verde Canyon (no hidden surprises in naming convention here). 

While that expression has become a tired cliché when appearing on some sorority girl's Facebook feed, it's the most apt way to view the Verde Canyon Railroad...and would actually be good to know before departing rather than upon return.  The precision of sentiment expressed by "it's not the destination, it's the journey" should not be taken derisively, or understood to mean that this journey is an effort in futility...instead, it should be taken only to understand that after a two hour ride through beautiful landscape -- consisting of the Verde River lazily winding through it's canyon, the canyon itself, a tunnel, some bridges, and maybe a fisherman …

Things to do this weekend (May 17-19)

Central Phoenix
Start the weekend off tonight (May 17) at the Ren, White, and Brew Summer Kickoff at the Renaissance Hotel in Downtown Phoenix at 50 E Adams.  Runs from 5pm-9pm.  Admission is free, "adult slushies" are available, as is giant jenga, slip-n-slide, bags/cornhole, and more  More infoCharlie Murphy at Standup Live May 17-19 - http://standuplive.comFree museums - Phoenix Art Museum and the Heard Museum are free on Saturday for International Museum Day.  Scottsdale
AmeriCAN Canned Craft Beer Festival - Sponsored by San Tan Brewery, featuring over 150 local and national beers.  Runs from noon to 6 on May 18 in Old Town Scottsdale.  Presale tickets $25 while available, $35 at the door, $100 for VIP.  Gen Ad gets you 20 samples and a custom 4 oz sample can.Mixology class at Last Drop at Hermosa Inn. $30, from 2-4  Tempe
Doobieq at Kiwanis Park on May 19 from 2p-8p.  Free food and drinks, live entertainment, and more.  http…

So you're in Cottonwood...

You're probably asking yourself "how did something like this happen to me??  I'm a good person, I drive a fuel efficient could I wind up in Cottonwood?"  Calm down.  First of all, that's offensive to people who live in Cottonwood or like going there.  Second, if you'd get over your histrionics for a minute, you might find that Cottonwood is actually quite a nice little diversion and holds plenty of pleasant ways to spend your morning, afternoon, or day.  Just try to stick to Old Town Cottonwood, which is off the beaten path from the Cottonwood you purposefully pass through traveling between Sedona and Jerome.  New Cottonwood, while perfect in its own rite, represents modern Small-Town-America and is mostly populated with strip malls and national names.  Instead, follow the signs for Old Highway 89 until you get to Old Town.
First of all...why are you in Cottonwood?  Well, you could be passing through on the way to Jerome from Sedona.  Perhaps …

Tom's Thumb Trail - Scottsdale

Tom's Thumb Trail is located in the McDowell Sonoran Preserves of North Scottsdale.  Round trip to the Thumb is around 4.5 miles.  The trail winds up the side of the mountain with back-and-forth switchbacks to the top of the ridge line, where it takes a downhill bend before a final, soul crushing ascent to the Thumb (jk, it's not that hard).  This little bit of up and down puts the total elevation gain a bit over 1,000 feet. 

Getting there - it's quite easy to get to the trailhead, as long as you don't make the mistake of searching Google Maps for "Tom's Thumb Trail" and navigating to the will wind up at an alternate trailhead with no parking.  So if you find yourself going through a neighborhood, you are going the wrong way.  (also, if you see signs that say 'no motor vehicle access to mountain preserves,' don't try to rationalize that you're going the correct way and the sign is stating the obvious that you can't drive…

The Greenbelt (Scottsdale/Tempe)

I continue to be amazed by how many people I meet who have lived in the Phoenix area for years who have no idea what the Greenbelt is.  Maybe it's a good thing that this little gem is unknown by so many people so those of us who know about it can keep it all to ourselves?

The Greenbelt has something for everyone.  Unless you're a bubble boy, then maybe not.  But pretty much everyone else.

What is it?  An 11+ mile long multi-use path intermixed with a variety of parks, ponds, and golf courses that runs generally along Hayden from Shea down to Tempe Center for the Arts.  You can just as easily enjoy biking a long section as you can driving to one of the many parking lots along its length and having a picnic.  Today on my short bike ride I passed runners, walkers, rollerbladers, fishermen, exercisers, cheerleaders (or a sorority?), a couple guys throwing a baseball, golfers, dog walkers, families...and that was only a three-mile stretch!  It's generally called the "Sco…

Hot Hot Heat - Survival Guide

It's that time again - the AC is on and the pool is warming up.  Your car is getting warm and dining on a patio is becoming a questionable decision.  The heat is bearable though, especially when the temperature dips into the low 80s after a week of 90s or hotter, and you're still going on runs and hikes.  Even so, it's still getting warm enough to start exercising some caution when...well...exercising and otherwise getting outside.  Here are a few of the tips I can think of to stay safe.

(keep in mind, while I am a doctor, I'm not licensed to practice medicine and, as such, any 'health tips' should be taken with a grain of salt (which incidentally is necessary to help stay hydrated)).

So you're on I-17...

It's a rite of passage, literally and figuratively, I suppose.  Enjoying the natural beauty of a good chunk of northern Arizona almost inevitably involves an hour or two of transit on I-17.  The drive is certainly beautiful, but after enough trips even the biggest tree-hugger can find the scenery a bit mundane and then you're just driving through various desert landscapes.  Here are a few of my favorite ways to make the trip itself an adventure.

1.  Play the license plate game. Try to be the first person in your car to spot a license plate from a different state. Each first-spotting gets 2 points.  Deduct 1 point for repeating a previously spotted state.

KIDDING, oh man, I really had you going there for a second, huh?

Here are the three stops I almost always make.

1. Kid Chilleen's (there might be an updated name...they used to be Kid Chilleen's Bad-Ass BBQ, but changed the name to import family-friendliness).  Regardless of name, this places serves up a bad ass brisk…

Bike-able Phoenix

While bikers are not always prominent around the Valley streets, the Phoenix area is very bike-able. Here are many of the ways to enjoy the wind in your face with wheels on the ground.

Before you go, check out ADOT bike laws, but keep in mind that city ordinances may also apply.
Maricopa County Bike Route Map - Bicycle Action Group (Awesomely acronymed T.B.A.G.) weekly rides and routes - Park trail maps for mountain biking - Greenbelt interactive Google map (great for cruising and exercise riding) - Google Maps
more to come...

What's happening this weekend - April 6-7.

Saturday & Sunday
Tempe Festival of the Arts, including wine festival - Film Festival (through April 11) - Festival - Steele Park (3rd St and Indian School) Outlets Glendale - Taste & Style event,  Saturday
Great Arizona Bike Festival (Mesa) - Arts Festival -'s (Glendale) Lady's Day Out - Art Walk (San Tan Village) - Library Ultimate Play Date - Sunday
Ra Sushi sushi eating contest - Ra locations valley-wide:…

Travel Diary - Overgaard AZ

Last weekend I took a trip up north to Payson...or so I was told when I agreed to go.  After getting just outside of Payson, we plugged the final address into GPS and saw that there was another 60 miles yet to drive.  Hmm, apparently "Payson" was shorthand for "north and not Flagstaff or Prescott."  The final destination was actually Overgaard, an hour northeast of Payson and on the Rim. 

I traveled with dreams of fishing and hiking.  Those dreams were dashed when we topped the Rim and found the ground still covered in large patches of snow.  Any hopes I had that this was somehow confined to the roadside were crushed by the internet when I found the Forest Service website indicated that the major lakes were likely still ice-covered and that the roads were impassible. Oh well, I thought, there will still be plenty to explore and plenty of time to do it.

As we made our final approaches to Overgaard, we started to pass signs of civilization.  First a Circle K, then …

Things to know if you're new to yoga.

Yoga is one of the easiest to start and enjoyable to do that I've found. The only necessary equipment is a mat, and even that can usually be borrowed from your gym or studio.  Here are some etiquette tips, general pointers, and random observations that will help you whether you're a beginner or have been bending for a while.

2.  Be quiet.  Yoga requires a lot of focus, and if you are able to get your mind calmed you will probably be able to challenge your physical limits and reach new levels of ability. Nothing destroys your focus quicker than random chatter from others in class. This mandate extends even before class starts in most yoga studios. Check the rules for your individual class, but for the most part stay on the quiet side. Definitely don't do what a newcomer I saw recently did and make a phone call from her mat before class to loudly demand to know where the first her friend was.

3. Be considerate. This really could encompass be quiet, but quiet is so important …

Phavorites in Phoenix

This a quick running list of my favorite places, activities, events, etc. in and around Phoenix. In time, I will post more detailed reviews/descriptions of each.
Lux - formerly this Central Phoenix destination was strictly coffee and pastries. Now it is in a bigger location and offered 3 meals a day, pastries, coffee, craft beers, and fine cocktails. You may have an instinct to be intimidated by the crowd of hipsters on Apple products, but don't worry, they're as scared of you as you are of them. Citizen Public House - on the same street as Dos Gringos is an inauspicious location for one of the better bars and restaurants in the Valley. Stop by for happy hour to get a great deal on barrel-aged cocktails, stay for some dinner (the duck breast is one of my all time favorite meals); stop by for the late-night menu once the weekend is on the horizon. If you're really in the mood for a unique experience with mind-blowing cocktails, see if you can find the 'speakeasy'...I…

A Weekend in the City of San Diego, or San Diego for Strangers

San Diego, at a time this city was probably best known for the Ron Burgundy's interesting translation of its name into English.  If you're in Arizona, it's best known for being a year-round beach escape.  If you're like me, though, and grew up on the East Coast there is a lot about San Diego that will probably take you off guard.  So, for all of you Arizona transplants unfamiliar with SoCal beaches, here's a little guide.  For the rest of you, here are some possible helpful links (tirelessly curated from the first page of Google results for 'San Diego')  to help you plan your next trip.

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