March 24, 2021
At dawn, we were serenaded awake by coyotes not far away. Way better than an alarm clock, I thought. A couple of times during the night, burros woke us as they brayed to each other. It was still cool out and the clouds were lingering but the wind had slackened.
It was too early and a bit chilly for breakfast, so we decided to head out and make breakfast a little later. We made the long drive down the washboard road, finally turning onto highways that would take us into Phoenix in an hour or so.
We were pleasantly surprised by the lack of rush traffic heading into the city and wondered if this was due to Covid or it was always this easy. Our plan was to check in to a hotel downtown by 11 am and clean ourselves and our clothes. Susan’s Marriott status from dozens of hotel stays while working allowed us the early check-in and an upgraded room, all paid for with accumulated points.
But it was only around 9:00 am when we arrived in town and we hadn’t had breakfast yet. We headed to Papago Park near the Phoenix zoo where we found a pretty picnic area, complete with nearby fishing ponds. We found a sunny spot and enjoyed a leisurely breakfast.
After breakfast, we explored Hole-in-the-Rock, a huge rocky hill with dozens of people climbing all over it and passing through a car-sized hole weathered through the middle of it. The sandstone rock, a few hundred feet high, has numerous holes caused by water erosion over millions of years. Based on markings on boulders inside the rock, archeologists determined that the early inhabitants of the area, the Hohokam people, used the rock as a calendar and marked the summer and winter solstice based on the sun’s movement through the main opening in the rock.
Next, we walked a nature trail loop with signs that explained a lot about the desert plants we’d been seeing for the past few days. Many of the cacti were in bloom.
By 11, we were on our way to our hotel, ten minutes away. Even downtown the traffic was light—lighter than in any other large city we’d driven through at rush hour. We brought our Yeti cooler up to the room so we could re-freeze the ice packs, then we started a load of laundry and took long luxurious showers. Stopping to do some needed chores tends to force a pause and allow us to gather our thoughts and prepare for the next chapter.
This would be one of our less adventurous days that nonetheless are fun. Cities have their own charm and some things we liked about Phoenix (besides the lack of traffic) were that it seemed less contrived than many destination cities, it’s surrounded by beautiful mountain scenery, and it has a strong outdoorsy vibe.
The opportunity to visit family is always a highlight and lets us decompress for a while. By late afternoon, we were ready to meet Susan’s cousin Hannah and her partner Megan at their condo. They took us to a new vegan burger joint where we had some very tasty “burgers.” I was glad French fries are considered vegan because it’s hard to mess them up. We stayed and chatted for a couple of hours before heading back to the room, where we quickly fell asleep. The next day, we would meet up with Susan’s brother and his wife outside of Phoenix.