Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Past Travels Tuesday: The Arid Zone

I've decided to start doing a new type of post on this blog occasionally, which I'm going to call Past Travels Tuesday, basically a few photos and memories and possibly advice from big trips I've taken in the past that I really enjoyed. Yes, I am a copycat--I saw some other travel bloggers doing it, and it seemed like fun! I love ensconcing myself in the past for a while and reminiscing. I'm not going to do it for every Tuesday, partially because that might get old and partially because I'm not as dedicated a blogger as all that, but it's something I'm going to try for a while, and we'll see how I like it. I hope you readers (aka Mom and Dad) get some enjoyment out of it! So here we go.

I thought I'd start at the beginning (as they say, a very good place to start). I have no idea what my first major vacation was (Mom? Dad? A little help here?), but I'd almost be willing to bet that it was to Phoenix, Arizona. We have family there and we've been going there at Christmas or Easter more or less every other year ever since I can remember. Some of my earliest memories are of 28-hour car rides and singing oldies with my parents or saying "Mommy, tell me a story."

One of our traditions from these vacations (I imagine started by a hyperexcited me really wanting to just BE THERE already) is a competition to see who can spot the first saguaro cactus on the side of the road. You see, the saguaro doesn't grow anywhere in the US east of the Arizona border, therefore once we spot the first saguaro it means we're almost there.

Perhaps because of this, or maybe because of their characteristically strange shape (I like weird-looking things, okay?), I've always had a fierce love of saguaro cactuses, and the state of Arizona where they live. 

I love them so much that I hug them. Do you think that's strange or something??

Even though I've been to Arizona probably 15 times in my life, every time I'm excited to go again. A lot of that, of course, is because I get to see family that I haven't seen in a long time, but part of it really is to get to see the saguaros again, to see the red dirt contrasting with the blue sky and to feel that dry heat creeping over my skin. 

Arizona is a fabulous place, a mix of bright colors and a clash of cultures. It's a place where you can play in the snow and sunbathe and whitewater raft in the same day, where you can eat amazing Mexican food, where there's a Walgreens on almost literally every corner, where you can see one of the natural wonders of the world, and where people choose the color of their car based on temperature. It's quirky, it's beautiful, and I love it. Lucky that I never have to worry about finding an excuse to go back!

In short, I recommend Arizona to all travelers visiting the USA. After all, some of the most iconic images of America that make it outside its borders are of Arizona. Even foreigners know who John Wayne is! Westerns gave that classic dusty desert town image to the world. So why not go to the place where many of them were filmed? Why not see a place that is so classically American and yet so atypical all at the same time? 

I have hundreds more Arizona stories I could share, but since there's not room to do them all justice, I'll leave you with just a few more tidbits. Some of our other Arizona traditions include finding a dive Mexican restaurant to eat at, making fun of the Arizona Cardinals as much as possible, climbing my uncle's mountain, going to the Buffalo Exchange to find vintage clothes, and taking a family picture in the parking lot of IHOP. What? I never said my family was normal. 

How about you? Have you ever been to Arizona? Phoenix? Are you as enamored of it as I am? Are you a fellow saguaro hugger? Do you have weird family vacation traditions too? I'd love to hear about it. 

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