Thursday, April 1, 2010

Exploring Phoenix: Arizona ‘mancation’ Part 4

While in Phoenix last weekend, we sampled some of the many things the region has to offer this time of year.

South Mountain Park

High on the list of things to do in Phoenix is a visit to South Mountain Park. At more than 16,000 acres, it’s the largest city park in the U.S. The desert preserve includes 51 miles of trails for hiking, mountain biking and horseback riding.
We took a hike to enjoy the fresh air. We saw some Indian petroglyphs, cactus-dwelling birds and spring desert flowers.
We also drove up the winding mountain road to Dobbins Lookout, elevation 2,330 feet, for some great views of Phoenix and the surrounding area.
On my last visit to the park several years ago I saw chuckwallas, the largest iguanid lizards native to the U.S., sunbathing on some rocks. Chuckwallas can reach up to 16 inches in length. Unfortunately I didn’t see any of the lizards on my brief visit to the park this time.

Restaurants
We sampled some great Mexican food at Los Olivos in Scottsdale. The historic restaurant was a favorite of the late Sen. Barry Goldwater, according to an article on Associated Content.
We also had a terrific steak dinner at Monti’s La Casa Vieja Steakhouse in Tempe. It’s another restaurant that’s steeped in history.
For some kitschy fun, we ate at the original Bill Johnson’s Big Apple Restaurant, a cowboy-themed eatery established in 1956, in Phoenix. The waitresses wear gun belts with six shooters. It’s a hoot.

McCain-Palin rally

Speaking of hoots, when I heard that Sen. John McCain was reuniting with his running mate Sarah Palin from their failed 2008 presidential bid for a rally, I couldn’t resist attending.
McCain is in a tough reelection battle, facing a Republican primary challenge from radio talk show host and former U.S. Congressman J. D. Hayworth. He invited the former Alaska governor to speak at rallies in Tucson and Mesa last weekend.
We attended the Saturday rally in Mesa and watched Palin whip up the crowd with her fiery rhetoric and folksy charm. She was interrupted by two protesters who were promptly dragged out of the auditorium – one by his hair.
I’m not a fan of either political figure, but it was entertaining to be at the event, which was attended by 3,000 people.

Photos: South Mountain Park (top), and Sarah Palin and John McCain at the March 27 rally in Mesa, Ariz. (Photo from the McCain reelection campaign)

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