Day 2 – The big city in Arizona – Phoenix. The sheer size of the city offered a challenge in its own as we navigated this giant metropolis to find all of the donor landmarks. Phoenix is the fifth most populous city in the nation, the most populous state capital in the United States, and the only state capital with a population of more than one million residents. It’s big.
We started off on a great note. After getting on the road by 8am, we arrived on campus at Arizona State University in Tempe just before 10am. Our goal for the day was to run a 5k in the morning on campus, spend most of the day finding the other landmarks, and then spend the early evening climbing Camelback Mountain. Somehow, as we ran through Arizona State, we found ourselves on the route of a 5k for kids. You know what’s great about a 5k for kids on campus? You know the mascot must be somewhere.
Sure enough, we ran into Sparky, and I thanked my pal Keith Wysocki for his donation. We thought about Keith later in the day when the Cornhuksers pulled off their first victory of the season. Sorry Keith, had to throw that in there.
Arizona State is one of the top five largest universities in the nation (by enrollment), and our run through campus was surrounded by high rises going up to accommodate these students. Despite the rapid growth, the campus remains very beautiful, and it was great backdrop for our run.
Two nights earlier, Travis and I attended the Arizona State vs. Stanford football game at Sun Devil Stadium, and I took my first thank you picture of the trip, thanking Mike Scarlatelli. Scar is a Phi Delt legend who I get to see a few times a year at Fraternity conferences, and he has always been quite generous with his support of my trips. Thanks Scar!
Back to present day – Our next stop after Arizona State was the Tovrea Castle. Tovrea Castle is a historic structure and landmark in Phoenix. Originally intended as a centerpiece for a resort and later a private residence, the castle is now part of the Phoenix parks system and is designated as one of the Phoenix Points of Pride. It towers above the city, and it’s quite the site. We were a bit disappointed that we couldn’t get into the grounds, but we found a nice place for a picture. I thanked Brad & Mindy Carlson again for their donation.
We ventured into Downtown Phoenix for our next two stops, the first being Chase Field. Chase Field is the home of the Arizona Diamondback, and the building towers over the Phoenix skyline. I had a chance to attend a Diamondbacks game years ago. I thanked Scott Lynch for the first time today. Scott is a regional volunteer for Phi Delta Theta and fellow fan of Gritty, the new mascot of the Philadelphia Flyers. Travis offered a great question for the day – Where do the Diamondback go for Spring Training? A great question that still leaves us in search of an answer.
The Arizona State Capitol building was our next stop. The Capitol was swarming with activity today with some kind of festival taking place. I wish I had a counter for number of state capitols that I’ve visited. I always find them interesting, and the diversity of the buildings throughout the United States is fascinating. I thanked Andrew McGuire for his donation. Andrew is living the good life as an ex-pat in the Netherlands right now, and I’ve enjoyed watching his travels through the interwebs.
We jumped in the car and made the trek to Glendale and Sate Farm Stadium, the home of the Arizona Cardinals. Wow, what a stadium! You can see it from miles away, and it features the first fully-retractable natural grass playing surface built in the United States on top of an AirField Systems drainage system. An opening on one side of the stadium allows the playing field to move to the exterior of the building, allowing the entire natural turf playing surface to be exposed to daylight and also allowing the floor of the stadium to be used for any other purpose without damaging the turf. We saw the turf outside, basking in the Arizona sun. I thanked Scott Lynch again for his professional sports themed landmark selections.
A favorite aspect of the annual running trip is connecting with people I haven’t seen in years. Rich & Nancy Hansen are the parents of Sarah (Hansen) Wechsler, a great friend of Tillie and mine. We got to know Rich and Nancy during our time in Ohio, and Rich and I have always connected over our running ventures. He’s run 13 marathons, many in support of Team in Training! They have since moved to Arizona and were kind enough to treat Travis and me to lunch in Old Town Scottsdale. It was a wonderful break in the craziness of our day in Phoenix.
Rich picked one amazing spot for lunch – The Rusty Spur Saloon. The small restaurant/bar was jammed packed with patrons, had a country singer on stage, and was filled with amazing decor and taxidermy. I pulled out one of my Runner’s Choice thank you signs and thanked Rob & Julie Waltz again. The two of them would adore this little spot, and it felt great to thank them here.
During lunch, Rich pointed out a family sitting directly behind us wearing Walk to Defeat ALS shirts. What are the odds? Sitting directly next to a couple who had just come from an event supporting ALS. We chatted for a bit about the disease, and it provided me with a reminder about why I do this annual running trip. It was great to meet the Anders!
Just east of Old Town we found one of Robert Indiana’s famous Love sculptures. These sculptures have popped up all over the place, and it always makes for a great photo. I thanked my sister Anne and my brother-in-law Don for their donation. I think I have thanked them in front of multiple LOVE sculptures over the years, and it always makes a of sense. I’m lucky to have such a loving sister who supports me in everything I do and holds me accountable when it is needed! I also want to thank Norm Janoff, President of the Arizona Road Racers for equipping me with great long-sleeve shirt for the trip. I hope to wear it a bit more in Northern Arizona when it’s not 90 degrees! With over 1,200 members, Arizona Road Racers is the largest and oldest running club in Arizona and is one of the largest of such clubs in the USA. The Festivus 5k/15k/15k relay is one of their races, hosted over the holiday season in Phoenix.
Another view of Old Town Scottsdale. Neat place!
We jumped in the car again and headed to see a Frank Lloyd Wright masterpiece. Taliesin West was architect Frank Lloyd Wright’s winter home and school in the desert from 1937 until his death in 1959 at the age of 91. Today it is the main campus of the School of Architecture at Taliesin and houses the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation. We didn’t have time to take a tour, but we were able to capture a photo of the grounds. The area around Taliesin West is absolutely gorgeous. I thanked one of my biggest running trip supporters, Mike Hyatt. Mike’s generosity has always amazed me, and I love spending time with him when our paths cross and bantering back and forth throughout the year when my Cyclones take on his Oklahoma State Cowboys. Thanks again Mike!
Our big goal for the day was to hike Camelback Mountain, no simple feat. I had the chance to hike it years back with some colleagues, and I had forgotten how much of a challenge it is. We decided on the Echo Canyon Trailhead as our starting point and met Greyson Geiler, our trusty sherpa for the hike. It’s been great getting to know Greyson as he sits on the board of the LiveLikeLou Foundation, a non-profit organization that supports ALS research and ALS families. The launch of the LiveLikeLou Foundation as a national non-profit organization has been a major piece of my life these past few years, and it brings with it very meaningful work that I have enjoyed greatly.
A shoutout to the Arizona Road Racers again for Travis’ Thanksgiving Day Classic shirt. Camelback Mountain offers out of this world views, and we took them in over and over again during our hour and half hike that covered 1.23 miles and an ascension of 1,280 feet.
Halfway through the hike, I thanked Mike Hyatt again. Look at that view! I’ve already taken flak from my buddies back home via text for the double hat look. No shame on this end! Gotta cover that neck from the sun and keep the sweat to the old dirty hat when you’re hiking in 90 degree weather.
A view from the top.
At the top of Camelback, we gave our battered legs a rest and took a bunch of pictures. I celebrated a successful hike with another thank you to Mike Hyatt.
A group shot of the three of us at the top. Thanks again Greyon for pushing us to the top! We look forward to leg cramps in the morning!
Some Phi Delt love from Greyson and me.
Griff and I catching our breath.
We rounded out the night with dinner and drinks with Sam Eastman, a colleague who has been generous enough to offer up his apartment for two of our first three nights in Arizona. I’m mad at myself for not getting a picture with Sam, but I’m thankful for his friendship. I’ll be bragging up Sam a bit more during our time in Flagstaff.
The final thank you of the day was at the Goldmine, an underground tap and barrel by Goldwater Brewing Company. Goldmine is housed in a former shooting range and offers a neat place to enjoy a beer with friends. I thanked Taylor and Haley Abel once again for their donation and their encouragement to enjoy a great beer after a great day.
We got on the road at 7am, looking for one last photo on Dynamite Blvd. in North Scottsdale. We found it, and the scenery was beautiful. I thanked my Aunt Colleen and Uncle Tom. Tom always likes to throw out a photo challenge on my trips, and I think I’m 7 for 7 on finding them. Onward to Sedona.