Monday, November 7, 2005

Superior, AZ

Friends: The high '80s isn't even a simmer here in the Valley of the Sun. Its got to be a lot hotter than that before Anna and David turn on their a/c. And its not that they're simply conditioned to the heat after 14 months out here,. Without the humidity, such temperatures are very comfortable. It's a dry heat you know.

But still, the sun's rays are intense, and if I stopped pedaling and let them feast upon me without my breeze, I would overheat. The shade is pleasantly cool in these temps. It helps that there aren't the prolonged day light hours of the summer time letting the concrete and asphalt heat up and retain their baking temperatures. It cools off into the '50s at night, making it down right chilly. When it gets up into the hundreds, however, Anna and David leave their a/c on all the day, whether or not they are home. When they go out they'll set the thermostat at 90, which actually seems cool when they come in from the outdoor inferno, at least for a spell. And then the thermostat goes down.

I do dehydrate faster than I realize, as it is surprisingly easy to down a 48-ounce Gatorade from the self-serve soda fountains of the Circle K convenience stores that are happily ubiquitous in Arizona, gracing nearly every town and dotting just about every other block in the sprawling metropolis and suburbia of Phoenix. They are a most cherished oasis, especially after a 30 or 40 mile dash from one desert town to another. Convenience stores with self-serve ice and soda are one thing that France lacks that would raise my enjoyment of cycling there a notch or two. The 7-Elevens of Thailand with their self-serve Big Gulps and bags of ice were one of the highlights o the country for me. It was even hotter there than here and had a humidity to match the heat. Never was ice so welcome and craved. The Circle K's of the American West offer the bonus that all sizes of drinks are 99 cents. It was a momentous day when I came upon one that had a 64-ounce cup, half a gallon, four pounds of Gatorade that I usually add a jolt of coke to. Now I enter every Circle K hoping for another 64-ounce cup, but I haven't encountered another, just mere 48-ouncers.

Phoenix is presently celebrating "Guitarmania," its version of Chicago's "Cows on Parade." Scattered about town were eight-foot tall electric guitars painted by different artists. They weren't as distinctive as Chicago's painted cows, as not a one lured David and I to pause and give it a closer look in the day-and-a-half we spent exploring Phoenix and environs on our bikes. The only ones we gave more than a passing look to were those around the baseball stadium, where we paused to peer inside. The eight-year old stadium is in downtown Phoenix, about a mile from David and Anna's apartment. Its retractable roof was open, but could be closed in seven minutes if need be. It offers the cheapest ticket in major league baseball, a bargain even greater than 64-ounces of frigid, flavored fluid for 99 cents. A couple hundred one dollar tickets go on sale the day of each game. The next cheapest ticket is $11. A security guard said people will buy the one dollar ticket and then go sit in an unoccupied better seat. David, who has accompanied me on my free ticket ambushes of Wrigley Field, wasn't fully aware of this unbelievably good deal, and had yet to take advantage of it. Its almost enough to lure me back.

Our meanderings took us the ten miles to Tempe, where Anna teaches history at Arizona Sate. She couldn't accompany us, as she was buried in grading papers on fascism in post-war Italy and Germany. If I could have stuck around until Tuesday I could have watched the "fascist director" Leni Reifenstahl's "Olympiad" of the 1936 Berlin Olympics with her class.

Half of our route to Tempe was on a bike path, some paved and some dirt, along a canal right under the flight pattern of two columns of aircraft just overhead, one after another hatched from the wild blue yonder, landing at the Phoenix Airport, just on the fringe of the downtown. We were on the campus Sunday afternoon just as the NFL Cardinals game was letting out from ASU's stadium. There were numerous packs of pedicabs, more than I'd ever seen, empty and loaded rushing to transport fans to the distant parking areas. They were so spread out that the congestion of the thousands leaving the stadium didn't much slow those of us on bikes. The most popular jersey among the fans was #40 of Pat Tillman, the player who forsook his NFL career to join the army and was killed in Afghanistan.

Not far from the stadium was a six or seven story upside down pyramid--Tempe's City Hall. Another architectural marvel was the Frank Lloyd Wright designed campus auditorium. Equally noteworthy was a park, complete with Japanese gardens, a couple of blocks from David and Anna's apartment that sits atop Interstate 10, totally muffling the roar of its twelve lanes of traffic, including one lane each way for HOVs (high occupancy vehicles).

Now its on to New Mexico and then El Paso and Marfa and maybe Dallas.

Later, George

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