There are very few things I like more than experiencing new cities, so when I saw Phoenix was an RV show stop this year and found out no one at Rand could make it, I volunteered myself…knowing nothing about RVs. We had recently begun developing an RV channel on our road trip review site and I thought this would be the perfect opportunity to know what the heck I was writing and editing.
I’d never take a trip with all work and no play though, and I started exploring the moment we landed. Knowing we’d be stuck at a booth all day each day pitching the new site and selling RV GPS’s, I convinced a coworker to take the first exit downtown and find local fare on our way to the hotel. The top Yelp recommendation was shut down and after walking several blocks we started to lose hope for a southwestern dig with outdoor seating (a little picky I know, but we don’t have sun up here!). We begrudgingly resorted to asking for help and took a local’s advice on Sam’s Cafe, a chain but Phoenix-specific and nearby.
Their signature chips won us over instantly, so unique we took the recipe home: a mix of potato chips and plantains covered in southwestern seasoning and sea salt. My tex mex chicken wrap and her southwestern salad were so satisfying after the trip and paired perfectly with our pinot grigio’s under the sun.
We headed west to Avondale from lunch and our hotel appeared abruptly right off the interstate, but I saw mountains straight ahead and couldn’t resist simply driving until right to them (another thing we don’t have). Growing up in Florida has left me completely confused about the difference between hills and mountains, but both overwhelm me up close in the magnificent natural settings they create. At the end of the road the Phoenix International Raceway stood between the mountains and I, so I settled on taking them on over the next few days as the rally was held there.
And it didn’t take me long. The entire first day I left our booth every break I could get to plan a route up those plateaus. Phoenix lies in the valley surrounded by this range and you can’t resist a view from the top after driving through even a bit of the roadside fields–transplanted New Yorkers are suckers for green. As it turned out, one of the mountains (hills) had a staircase right up the side and I did what any adventurer would: stole our golf cart, left the rally, and drove to the foot of those stairs.
At the top, was an awesome overhead view of the speedway, and that led to a trail to the top of the mountain, which had an incredible view of the city, a plaque indicating this spot was a national landmark, and a cliff over the valley on the opposite side. I stood at the top forever, capturing it all on camera and committing it to my memory. I discovered something, all by myself, in a new city. I got to know a special part of it, because I went for it when I saw an opportunity. You have to go for it to really explore.
And that we did the rest of the trip. I convinced our team to try new restaurants in the city each night with the little time we had to get a taste of Phoenix, I took others on golf cart rides and hikes up this mountain, and we even visited Tempe to try a recommendation there (Four Peaks Brewery). We still did our job, and gleaned a complete crash course in RV understanding, but we traveled, too. We embarked on an adventure and embraced a new place for four days, took the time to get to know a city while it played host. And the meaning–the connotations, associations, and related facts–of that particular place took on a new form for each of us by the end.
- a little good here: Each March the Phoenix Zoo hosts Rock the Zoo, a fundraiser that supports the maintenance and care of the animals and the non-profit zoo’s educational programs. Further the cause while enjoying live music, food, and beverage samplings for $30.
- a long way: Any purchase at the zoo directly supports it including admission, food, memberships, and attending other events throughout the year like Rendez-Zoo and Walk in the Wild.