Going East to Find the West

For one accustomed to the deep tones of foghorns on the bay, the howls of coyotes were unnerving at first. My friends thought I was crazy to leave San Francisco for the wilds of Arizona—although Scottsdale isn’t exactly wilderness—but after 15 years of city life I was ready for a casual lifestyle, coyotes and all.

Sunny Arizona looks pretty good in the dreary days of winter, so I’ve had my share of visitors. Two San Francisco friends who are passionate baseball fans invited me to tag along—in exchange for the use of my guest room—on their annual junket to Cactus League spring training. Baseball comes alive in the intimacy of a small ballpark. Eager little boys fall all over themselves, and everyone else, chasing foul balls—that is, when they’re not devouring man-size grilled bratwurst with mustard, peppers and onions spilling over the bun. We settled into the balmy afternoon, checked out the new players, and ganged up for autographs with all the other groupies.

Another memorable weekend, my husband and I introduced a group of Moroccan diplomats to Southwest hospitality. He’s involved with the Scottsdale Sister Cities cultural exchange program and is working on forming a relationship with Marrakech, which sent a delegation to check us out. We took them to Pinnacle Peak Patio, a 50-year-old cowboy steak house in north Scottsdale. Outdoor seating at a wooden picnic table with red-checkered tablecloth, live country music, massive slabs of beef grilling over fragrant mesquite—the setting was about as authentic as you can get. Then the meal came and
several of the Moroccans were served a plateful of charred cowboy boot. Their eyebrows rose, mouths dropped open, and then laughter. They’d ordered their steaks well done. Not a good idea.

We took the delegation to Old Town Scottsdale to hunt for souvenirs. Small family shops here carry authentic western art, colorful woven rugs, Southwestern baskets, leather belts and, of course, silver and turquoise Native American jewelry and distinctive multicolored Zuni pieces. The Moroccans all bought cowboy hats.

Lately, Old Town Scottsdale is becoming trendier. Cool nightspots like Kazimierz World Wine Bar on Stetson Street attract a hip crowd. Dimly lit, with live music Mondays and Thursdays, the bar is identified only by a heavy wooden door with a sign that reads “The Truth Is Inside.”

Gently terraced grassy plazas with cascading fountains lead from Stetson to a wide pedestrian bridge that crosses the Arizona Canal into the Waterfront area, with its new stores, restaurants and high-rise luxury residences—developments that lend credence to Scottsdale’s nickname “Beverly Hills of the West.” Just across the street is Scottsdale Fashion Square, the largest shopping destination in the Southwest.

One reason I moved to Scottsdale is its reputation as a premier golf and resort destination. And one of my best golf experiences was the day I was paired in a charity tournament with Alice Cooper, the musician. I had recently seen him in concert with the Rolling Stones and it was hard to believe this down-to-earth serious golfer was the same person who had rocked out on the stage. We complimented him on the unique silver coin he was using as a ball marker. “Oh, this,” he said. “I just picked it up on my Australian tour last month. The next one who gets a birdie can have it.” Lucky me, I got the birdie and the shiny silver coin!

Five-Star Samplings

Locals have been known to check into one of the valley’s luxurious five-star resorts and make like tourists. My favorites at the moment are the Phoenician, for its elegance and glamour, the Hyatt Regency Scottsdale Resort & Spa at Gainey Ranch, for its fabulous water playground and 10 pools, and the legendary Arizona Biltmore, a part of Arizona history. The Biltmore was constructed in 1929 under the careful eye of consulting architect Frank Lloyd Wright. I love to peruse the hallway featuring memorabilia from visiting stars of that era, like Marilyn Monroe and Clark Gable. Every U.S. president since Herbert Hoover has stayed at the Biltmore. To learn more about Wright’s “organic architecture,” visit his Scottsdale winter home, Taliesin West, now a working architectural school and open for tours.

Go Tribal!

While there are over 200 golf courses in the Valley of the Sun (Greater Phoenix), some of the best daily-fee courses are tribal-owned casino courses—designed by top golf architects, expertly managed and free of any encroaching real estate, and hence blessed with views of mountains and desert and wide-open spaces.

Here are three local favorites.

Talking Stick Golf Club, owned by the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community, talkingstickgolfclub.com

We-Ko-Pa, owned by the Fort McDowell Yavapai Nation, wekopa.com

Whirlwind Golf Club, owned by the Gila River Indian Reservation at Wild Horse Pass, whirlwindgolf.com