My firts trip to Arizona wasn’t just a random vacation. My sister and brother-in-law recently moved to Arizona which now naturally makes it a “must” on my “places to explore” never ending list. So far I’ve stepped foot on the desert land only once (don’t worry sweet sister, you’ll be seeing me pretty soon) but I’ve come across some interesting observations and of course, have heard plenty from the new residents and other locals.
Now, I’ll be honest with you, I never cared for places like Arizona AT ALL. I love forests, mountains, rivers and the desert seemed a little bit too… dead, for my liking. Unless we are talking Egypt desert, I think I’d dig that. As far as Arizona goes, meeeeeh.
Then I actually went there and realized, ya know it’s not so bad after all? Here’s everything I learned so far from my first trip to Arizona!
Don’t eat the oranges from the trees.
A little random for a start, I know, but this was the first thing my sister told me after visiting Phoenix. Actually I found it very intriguing how much attention is put into landscaping. They will form a hole in a fence, to fit around a tree before they cut it down (see reference below) Even the palm trees in Pheonix were ten times prettier than any I’ve ever seen in Florida.
You know that L.A scene in Shrek where Donkey is driving in a convertible, staring up at rows of giant palm trees perfectly lined up along both sides of the road? I swear I saw that exact same street in Pheonix, minus the Hollywood sign. (I probably looked like Donkey too..)
Though there isn’t much grass, everywhere you look, the beige stones are accompanied by perfectly green ferns and little cacti. The city even plants orange trees along the roads that garnish the streets. To assure that they are always full of fruit and looking top notch, they inject it with.. well I actually don’t know what, but something you do not want to eat.
They do look real nice though!
Everything is at least 20 minutes away.
Or just about. It may look close on the map or your GPS, but really, it’s not. Plan accordingly as you will be driving a lot.
With that said, you will need a car.
Because there is no public transportation. Or at least I do not recall seeing any. There are bikes you can rent out and ride around, but I wouldn’t recommend that because there is a really good chance you will die of a heat stroke.
Also, if you rent a car or take yours, I advice against leather seats. Your butt will thank you later.
Keep an eye on your gas level and tank up every chance you get.
When travelling between cities or sites like Sedona or the Grand Canyon, you will basically be in the middle of no where, with few rest areas and gas stations. It’s a good idea to keep your tank full and do a little bit of research if you plan on driving into the far, far away.
So basically anywhere.
Night driving is really dark.
Because there is no lights.
This is actually kind of neat, in my opinion, because you really feel like you’re in the great outdoors with the mountains by your side and the stars shining bright above, but if you are use to driving on busy, bright highways, this may feel really unsafe. Especially if you are in areas like Flagstaff which is known as the International Dark Sky City.
In my opinion it was actually really nice. Just watch out for the wildlife, because I have seen deer jump onto the road and karate kick someones mirror off.
The southern charm goes out the window once you hit the road.
The people of Arizona are some of the most genuinely nice people I met in a long time. Anywhere you go, be it a coffee shop, a restaurant or a grocery store, people are generally super nice and helpful without seeming like they are forced into slavery by providing you with some good ol’ customer service.
HOWEVER. Do not expect that southern charm when you get behind the wheel because hoooly smokes there are some angry drivers out there! You will almost definitely get honked at, at least once for a reason you will never discover and you will have someone get mad at you for driving too slow even though you are actually going over the speed limit.
Check your shoes before you put them on.
Arizona is home to many, many, many, MANY little creatures who would just love to chill in your shoes. From scorpions, to spiders, lizards or snakes, I suggest you check just to be sure and never EVER leaver your shoes outside. Ever.
A lot of these critters are poisonous and though they won’t necessarily kill you, I wouldn’t risk possibly losing a toe or two.
However, the creepy little wildlife can be pretty fascinating. One of my friends I made while visiting Pheonix, told me that it’s actually common for some of the locals to go on night hikes. They bring black lights and look for scorpions which then glow in the dark.
Even if you hate anything that crawls, you gotta’ admit, that sounds pretty cool.
Just because a cactus doesn’t look like it has spikes, it doesn’t mean it doesn’t have spikes.
Drastic weather changes
I learned this the hard way. Or the fun way. Let’s call it the fun way.
Arizona is known for the dry heat and record breaking temperatures that climb up and up during the summer months. But though Pheonix may be warm and sunny with 80+ degrees F, driving just two hours north, can get you stuck in a snow storm…in May… for real.
The elevation is the game changer here. As someone who lived for years in flat, swampy Florida, I was real stoked to see some mountains. Well I got a night full of snow as a bonus! This is true for places like the Grand Canyon that tends to be 15-30 degrees F cooler than places like Pheonix.
It’s just one of the things I loved about Arizona, the amazing versatility it brings to the table!
No I didn’t just make that word up to see if you’re paying attention.
Haboobs are sand storms that occur in Arizona (and other places on earth). It’s actually kind of cool because a haboob is basically a thunderstorm that just collapsed and started spewing air in all directions. Actually that sounds terrifying… but it’s not something to be too frightened by!
So first of, they happen only a few times a year and are kind of hard to miss. Everyone in the state of Arizona gets warned via text (sometimes, not always) of a Haboob coming on down.
I imagine it’s also kind of hard to miss a giant cloud of red and orange approaching in the distance. But who knows, maybe you’re too busy looking down at the ground looking for scorpions. Once you do spot one, be aware that they move REALLY fast, so don’t take it for granted if it looks like it’s far away because it could come get ya faster than you can say “haboob”.
Will I die?
Probably not if you seek shelter and don’t do anything careless like, attempt to drive in one of these bad boys.
It’s also a very good idea to stay inside during the storm. Though the wind isn’t necessarily ‘blow me away’, there may be branches and such flying around and no body likes getting hit with one of those. There’s it will probably feel very unpleasant when a bunch of sand jams into your skin like little needles at 25+ mph.
Another danger to be aware of is the Valley Fever you can catch if a lot of the dust from the storm ends up in your lungs. This is especially dangerous for those with asthma or a weak immune system.
Because dry heat is real and you will look like a raisin. Just saying.
Save your battery
While driving through Arizona you will lose signal for the most part. Unless you’re staying in the city, don’t rely on your phone for GPS because it won’t get ya far! But your phone will continue to attempt to get service (what a trooper) which will drain your battery real quick! So while driving through places where you see your service die, like the Grand Canyon or anywhere between Flagstaff and Page, just switch your phone to airplane mode. This way your phone won’t waste battery trying to gain signal that isn’t there.
The Governor of Arizona, Doug Ducey, is the co-founder of Cold Stone Creamery. Some of the best ice cream in America!
I’ll probably wait for the exhaustingly hot summer months to pass before I go pay my sister a visit and explore Arizona some more but just from this one visit I’ve come to realize, don’t judge a place till you go see it yourself. Because you might surprise yourself, and actually like it!