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Arizona: We don’t dial 911

June 23, 2012

Sweat trickles down my nose, hangs on the tip and then falls to the court. It doesn’t last long there, the heat quickly erases the stray drops. It’s early in the morning, but Phoenix has already tipped 100 and promises to get even hotter as the sun begins its slow creep across the cloudless sky. It isn’t good weather for tennis. Phoenix’s slow public courts don’t help with our rhythm, the ball grips and kicks up around my ears. My feet grip to the court too, but then they refuse to let go. Our neighbours ask us how we can play in this heat. At least some of the locals are struggling too.

Phoenix is a place best experienced between air-conditioned bars. It’s a mecca of Western memoribilia, cowboy boots and live music. Old Scottsdale provides us with a bar stool, some greasy nachos and a lone country crooner. It’s a nice place to be as long as your far away from a tennis court. As we walk home, we realise the steaming streets are empty.

Phoneix locals head north to escape the summer, and on a friend’s advice we do the same. Our first stop is Prescott, famous for Whiskey Row and not much else. We’re keen to escape our camp site for as long as possible and commit to watching the end of the US Open (golf). We’re joined by less than fresh locals sucking on snuff and beer, their conversation peppered with horse-racing terms and talk of the upcoming rodeo. Prescott may not have many attractions, but it has more personality than you can throw a horseshoe at.

Jerome is another small town with more than its share of character, and we head there after some more severly average tennis in Prescott. I’m drawn to the old mining ghost town up the hill. Being a Monday, Jerome is quiet and we walk amongst old rusty automobile parts and broken down buildings almost alone. I say almost, because local men use the area as a logging company, but they look as old as the town itself. One white-bearded character in denim overalls splits logs for the few tourists present. He mumbles some conversation and poses for some photos, but you get the feeling he does it out of obligation. He’s a man of hard work and few words, the way they used to be before hair products crept into men’s bathrooms.

We may have only spent a few hours in Jerome, but the place leaves an impression, and it has to if it doesn’t want to be forgotten the moment we hit Sedona. Rocks the colour of a fiery sunset surround a small town and despite their imposing beauty, they seem protective rather than menacing. The camping we do here has to be about as good as pitching a Walmart tent and eating out of a cooler gets. If we had the place to ourselves, I might even get to like camping. Alas, the screams of toddlers murder the peaceful quiet of the woods, and we spend the day as far from people as we can get. In Sedona, that’s 1800ft up a red rock, taking in the beauty of Arizona. Not a bad place to be as we reflect on our time in Arizona and plan our next leg in New Mexico…

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