Time to move on, then. Leaving Scottsdale this morning, we began our journey northwards, towards Prescott.
The flat Sonoran desert landscape opened out in front of us as we made a hasty left turn into a car park because we’d spotted a Container Store!
We’ve talked at length about our impressions of Scottsdale and what makes it such an alien landscape, particularly for those of us who live in cooler climes. To begin with, the building is low rise and mostly hidden from the road by walls. As a result, there’s not a great deal to see. Most structures are coloured in the same palette as the landscape – a variety of shades of stone, which also means they blend into the general scene rather more than elsewhere. We’ve found it strange not to see people on the streets, walking and going about their business but having experienced the heat at first hand, can quite understand why they don’t! As we drove out of the urban sprawl, we realised too, that there are no signs or billboards – that’s rather unusual over here, I think.
Soon, we were driving through a different landscape; a harder, more gritty one than before. The soft tones were replaced by craggy hills and the road opened out into more of a wide motorway, travelling uphill gently.
The characteristic cactus landscape of the Sonoran Desert became less populated
and eventually, the cacti disappeared in favour of lower-growing, more shrubby plants.
I began to make lists of the strange placenames and we began to count down the miles to Prescott, which is situated a mile above sea level.
Coming into town, we noticed more green, less beige. A softer, more temperate place, a good ten degrees cooler than we’d left behind us.
We’d arranged to spend the afternoon and evening with Ray, a good friend of Mary’s who we’d met previously when he lived and worked in Los Angeles. We looked forward to meeting him again, to catching up on his news and of course, to the privilege of seeing Prescott through the eyes of a local. To get a good overview, Ray took us first to the top of the hill by the Yavapai casino which offered spectacular 360 degree views of the city and beyond. The Butte there on the horizon is a particular landmark of Prescott.
We stood for a while, making the most of the cool(ish) breeze and learning a little about what makes Prescott tick.
Those peaks far away in the distance are over towards Flagstaff, a good hundred miles from here and where we’re headed tomorrow.
We had a great afternoon, mooching around the town centre, stopping in the square to learn a bit of history. Passing a chap wearing a gold star on his belt, standing outside the courthouse, I just had to ask if he was the sheriff. His colleague standing alongside him laughed and told me he’d bought the badge in a dressing up shop across the street – though he was the court bailiff, it turned out. Well, sometimes you just have to ask, don’t you?
Seeing that commemorative stamp on the poster outside the courthouse led us to the post office, where I hoped to buy a couple for my journal. Sadly all were sold out until August, but our visit (and lengthy wait) in the post office queue reaped an unexpected reward in the form of some found art. A chap came in to gather mail from his mailbox, opened and took out the card from an envelope, which he then discarded and left on the table beside us, putting the card into his pocket as he went. On the back of the envelope was written “eating sardines and thinking about my dad “ Of course, we made up the poignant back story to all of that…
We rounded off our time with Ray with dinner at the Hassayampa Inn, built when Prescott was the bustling capital and cattlemen would stop by when they were in town. Now on the Register of Historic Places, we loved the decor of the lobby and spent some time admiring the details, including a beautiful painted ceiling.
The rest of the evening was filled with entertaining conversation and plates of prime rib – delicious.
Prescott – what a fascinating place!