Dateline: Arizona. Phoenix. Desert. Flat. Brown. And not just a little bit mind boggling.
First impressions: clean, pleasant, nice people, new, not-as-cheap as I remember it from our last visit 45 years ago (and again about 20 years ago) but, of course, still cheaper than Canada. Gasoline is $2.05 a gallon. With exchange and the imperial gallon, I am guessing the equivalent of $3.00 a gallon. Food seems practically free except in restaurants. Limes were 19 cents in the store, free on the neighbourhood trees. Same for oranges.
One of my chores is to squeeze the one hundred or so already picked oranges from the trees in the yard.
But the biggest first impression is this: Infrastructure. We are living in a distant subdivision in the southeast area of Phoenix, basically the equivalent of Mission or outer Abbotsford in the lower mainland. Hell and gone. Way out in the desert. All the houses are new. All the shopping centres are new. Everything is new….within the last ten years for sure. Even the cars!
The area is still under-developed with a mile of desert between walled communities and then another mile or more before the next one. This area is in transition from cactus and burros to walled communities sporting fake grass and manicured cactus. NOT highly populated. Not yet, anyway.
But, still, the highway system is better than anywhere in Canada. By a HUGE margin. Seriously. Even Toronto. Within five minutes of driving I am on a six lane (one way) freeway heading into downtown Phoenix. Overhead cloverleafs with other highways passing over and under me appear every ten minutes or so and NOT just one level either. Four or more overpasses are the norm.
And they are attractive. No graffiti. No dirt. Attractive native patterns cast into the concrete. All the ‘grounds’ around the highways are manicured, landscaped and free of litter.
You drive along at 65 miles per hour, four or more abreast, flying by sagebrush and sand heading towards a shopping centre intersection with huge big box stores and acres of parking. These places are so big that, should you need something else from another store across the street, it is at least a five minute drive. You can walk but no one does. There is no pedestrian traffic.
Mind you, we are still orienting. It may be different elsewhere. It has to be. This area in the southeast is new. Phoenix is not; it has some age. We just haven’t seen it yet.
Still, there are two large airports that we have seen. There is the aforementioned phenomenal highway system. There are incredible shopping centres. Everywhere. And much of the population lives in clean, new, adobe-esque style walled communities, it seems.
It is all brown and flat. And, to be honest – I can’t really see (yet) why the huge investment in this, a rather inhospitable environment that does not have major industry, has been made. Why?
So, my curiosity is piqued. We’ll go exploring soon. But one thing is evident – Canadian infrastructure is closer to Mexican than American.