tldr; food, friends, and family.
We arrived in the Phoenix area on Saturday evening dirty, tired, and a bit hangry after an impromptu 5-hour drive from Red Rock Canyon. Luckily, my cousin Brant, his girlfriend Candice, and their shy but sweet pup Zoe, welcomed us to their cozy, plant-filled, apartment with open arms.
After a restful night sleep in their guest room, we also crashed their Valentine’s day plans (at their encouragement) and joined them on a hike in South Mountain Park. It was a beautiful, sunny day, and a great hike. We loved all of the interesting rock formations, especially squeezing through Fat Man’s Pass and ducking through Hidden Valley Tunnel.
After our hike we headed to Short Leash, a local restaurant, for brunch. With outdoor seating under sunny skies, a local live musician, specialty hot dogs and decadent donuts, it was the perfect spot.
Once we’d rested up and worked up a bit more of an appetite, we drove out of the city a bit to an Olive Oil Mill that Candice had told us about. We sat outside underneath the olive trees and shared a heart-shaped pizza, a charcuterie board, and a bottle of almond-flavored white wine.
It was a great Valentine’s Day and our first truly relaxing weekend in a while. After the Olive Mill, Choi let me know that he’d booked us a hotel for the night, thinking that we’d have spent the day climbing and then driving from Las Vegas to Phoenix all day. Even though we’d already spent the night before away from the van due to the surprise bad weather at Red Rock Canyon, I wasn’t about to turn down another spacious room and a hot shower!
Living in a van, we take full advantage of hotel amenities. We used the free wifi to start watching a new show on Sunday night and to work on Monday morning. We took our dishes in from the van, rinsed them in the sink, and spread them out on a hotel towel to dry. We even used the ice machine to fill up our ice chest!
We spent the weekdays in the Phoenix area, mostly just working from a park and the parking lot of a library to take advantage of some free wifi once we got low on our hotspot data. We also got to eat some excellent food and see a couple of Choi’s high school friends who now live in Scottsdale, Lyndon, his fiancé Danielle, and another friend, Daniel.
You know how we loved the curry pizza that we tried outside of Joshua Tree? Well, we think we found a restaurant that tops that pizza. Golden Restaurant and Bakery is a somewhat understated Mediterranean place with an extensive menu and great prices. We loved this restaurant so much that we aren’t even ashamed of the fact that we visited it three times during our week and a half in the Phoenix area.
In between working and eating, we managed to sneak in a bit of outdoor activity during the week. We took a bike ride along Phoenix’s amazing bike paths which passes through several parks and winds around through the city. We walked along a creek that flowed through El Dorado park, where we spent several days working. On Tuesday morning, I went on a 7 mile trail run at Pima Canyon, a trail on the other side of South Mountain Park. Choi spent the evenings playing soccer with his old high school friends, Lyndon and Daniel.
Our second weekend in Phoenix was just as relaxing as the first. On Friday night, Choi’s friends took us to downtown Scottsdale to check out the city. We got dinner and margs at a fun taco place and got to see the lively culture of downtown Scottsdale. We enjoyed a lazy Saturday morning, filled with bagels, laundry, and watching a soccer game at Lyndon and Danielle’s. In the afternoon, we played cards and had a picnic lunch in yet another park. Once the day started to cool down, we headed to Piestewa Peak, a short but steep hike just north of the city.
The sunset views from the peak were incredible and the gusty winds made the hike even more exhilarating.
Sunday morning we decided to get some chores done on the van before meeting Brant and Candice for one last brunch. We were feeling pretty productive until we remembered that we hadn’t emptied our grey water tank in a while. We quickly found ourselves dealing with a minor water crisis in a Target parking lot as stale, smelly water overflowed from our grey water tank and seeped across the floor of our van. We grabbed paper towels to try to slow the flow and eventually managed to find a drain to dump our water. After washing out the tank with hydrogen peroxide, vinegar, and popcorn kernels (a trick Choi found online) we dumped baking soda all over our floors in attempt to neutralize the funky smell and met up with Brant and Candice, hoping for the best.
At some point during the week, Choi and I talked about how one of our favorite things about our nomadic life is getting to visit loved ones along our travels. Our week and half in the Phoenix area was filled with smaller outdoor adventures but lots of time with friends and family. It was a welcome rest for us and a great way to recharge as we head off to spend lots of outdoor time climbing in Hueco Tanks next week.
Phoenix, we love your delicious food, your gusty winds, your pastel sunsets, and your many trails. Most of all, we love our friends and family who inhabit you. Along We Go!