Saturday, March 21st, myself and some family members set out on a Rockies Spring Training road trip to sunny, hot, Scottsdale, Arizona (a suburb of Phoenix). Temperatures were projected in the upper 80s and maybe 90 degrees. Those projections were met.
I love road trips.
There’s something cathartic—even metaphysical—about leaving where you live for, well, anywhere. To range out into the world. I love driving, but there’s also something to just watching the world go by as a passenger (the group of us switched off every couple of hours). Letting your mind, your thoughts, to run free. I did catch up on some reading in the vehicle, ran through a handful of magazines I hadn’t made it to at home—and no, I don’t have a smartphone, so kept my nose out of all-things electronic while on the road. I did check some social media while at our destination(s), but didn’t devote much time to that at all.
This was a vacation.
It’s always a little “weird” (my most-used word, according to my wife) when I go through Arizona. I went to Northern Arizona University (NAU), in Flagstaff, and perhaps that has everything to do with it. NAU was my first time away from home…an 18-year old striking it out on his own for the first time, leaving family behind in upstate New York and Virginia—and I was ready for it! I still remember showing up after dark that August night, back in 1979, with a duffel bag in each hand and a pack on my back at Bury Hall…the start of the 36-year road trip that took me to where I am this very minute.
So, yeah, maybe that does have everything to do with why it always feels a little “weird” when I return to Arizona.
Anyway…we drove with one set of in-laws in their own vehicle and met up with them at Holbrook to sleep (and eat…thanks, Mesa Italiana Restaurant! Excellent Italian! Admittedly, none of us expected to find Italian food here…), then, later the next day at Payson to again chow down (great food, Fargo’s Steakhouse!). After the Holbrook dinner the majority of us (someone had to drive the vehicles…) walked back to the hotel, then, the next morning took another walk over the same stretch of road before again hitting the road (one of the things I found on this walk will be the subject of another post…). Always feels so good to stretch one’s legs during road trips!
Upon leaving Holbrook and Payson we drove on to our destination of Chandler, Arizona, where we stayed through Wednesday. We had a great hotel that was about half an hour from the Salt River Fields at Talking Stick, out in Scottsdale (here’s location info, including the field’s layout). We took in a Monday and a Wednesday game against the Brewers and the Giants, respectively. Rockies won both, which was cool (“Let’s go, Rock-ies!“). This stadium was completed in 2011, which was also the first (and last) time we’d been there. I love this stadium. It’s oriented differently than most stadiums, allowing more shade for the stands than typical fields and just has a good feel to it…but don’t sit in section 104 expecting shade (seating graphic; for more shade, staying in sections 105/205 and to the west, but I don’t recall how far west [or “left”]; it could be as far as 117/217, but it’s a pretty sure bet within that range–but don’t quote me, and this is for late March!). That won’t happen until about the 8th inning [in March]. Parts of section 204 fared a little better, shade-wise. But…in section 104 (or in any of those front rows), you are only spittin’ distance from the players! So, lube up on the sunscreen, bring your hats and gloves, and enjoy the game!
Salt River Fields is a cool complex that houses 12 practice fields for both major and minor league baseball, as well as other events. They have a really nice Pro Shop, rest rooms (I call this out, because, well, you know, if you’ve ever been to any kind of a sporting event…and The Goldbergs recently had an episode that joked about this very topic…), and the parking isn’t really all that bad, unless you need assistance. The earlier you get there, obviously the better the parking, and if you need assistance there are golf carts running back and forth, though I noticed a significant reduction in the amount of the golf carts since our last trip in 2011. But, they are available, even if you end up parking way over at the Desert Parking Lot, like we ended up on our Wednesday game (the first game we parked in the Home Plate Parking). But, if in good health and don’t mind walking, none of the walks from any of the lots is very distant, and feels quite good after sitting in a car on the drive down from Colorado! But, overall, a beautifully landscaped and laid out baseball field!
Now, about the game…yes, just being able to kick back and not do anything other than eat brats, drink Mountain Dew (yes, PEPSI products, people!) or iced coffee (even a Dunkin Donuts!), and watch baseball…quite relaxing. Though, one does have to pay attention to the game, given fly balls and errant line drives are known to happen, just like in any game, and one is much closer to action, here, then, say, Coors Field, in Denver.
But I love it.
Sitting outside…hearing the crack of the bats…watching Cargo make his signature dives for the balls (and nailing them! It was so cool to see him do one of his “give up the body” dives in person!)…Tulo his airborne pirouetted snags and burns to First Base…the breezes, the smells, the energy…it’s what makes baseball baseball, and is so utterly distant from my normal days of always being in some kind of a hurry to get something done by yesterday. It’s not like watching it on TV, that’s for sure—it’s outside, in the sun and open air…and I love that. I’m not a gonzo fan, but I love the game (played outfielder as a kid…where I could enjoy being outside and alone with my thoughts—oh, yeah, and catch a couple balls in the process—or get nailed in the chin “in the process”…). We even met Weird Beer Guy, who was still hawking beer like he was four years ago! During the Brewers game, Weird Beer Guy was walking up the steps when he saw me on the end of the row, and gave me a High Five, because I was sitting at a seat that had empty peanut shells and spent beer tops under my seat (I don’t drink beer)…so it looked like I was having fun! I was. High Five, Weird (but funny!) Beer Guy!
We did some other stuff, like took in a small aquarium and visited a relative in the Tucson area; ate at some really good restaurants, like The Claim Jumper (good God, the plate of 12-or-14-inch ribs I saw on another table!) and the Old Town Tortilla Factory—both of which we all heartily recommend! After which, we headed home, on our return road trip…parts of which will be the subject of my next posts (a dead bird and a curious “grostequery”…)!