January 20, 2002
I first came to Arizona in 1990 on a southwestern vacation with the fam. I returned in 2002 on a business trip.
As I am wont to do, as soon as I secured the rental car (a Buick Century), I headed out on the Quest. I visited the Capitol, and then struck out westward on I-10.
Before leaving for Arizona, I spent quite a bit of time figuring out where to go. Some of the more ambitious itineraries included the Four Corners, Santa Fe and New Mexico, and an interesting little voyage up north through Utah, down I-15 into Nevada, westward to make my Art Bell pilgrimage to Pahrump, and then south into California, back into Arizona, then home to Mesa down US-93.
That turned out to be a little too ambitious, so I took the easy way by heading west towards California. I figured that I will still have to return to Nevada anyway to visit Carson City, which is close enough to the California border that I could get the Nevada sign then.
It's quite an interesting ride. Once you're out of the Phoenix area the speed limit is a generous 75, though with a brand-new car at my control, it had very little difficulty getting up to 85 and 90. On this ride I drove 100 for the first time.
The scenery is spectacular though peculiar. The land is flat, as flat as Kansas or northeastern Arkansas. But at the same time there are jagged little mountains all over the place. It's almost as if someone cordoned off a mountain range and filled it almost but not quite to the top with concrete. Flora includes saguaro cactus and scrubby little bushes.
If ever there was a dragstrip, this was surely it. A few curveless stretches of highway I'm familiar with are the Pennsylvania Turnpike (12 miles, then a slight curve, then 5½ miles), US-1 in New Jersey (15 miles, with traffic lights), and I-78 in eastern Pennsylvania (about 15 miles). I clocked a straightaway on I-10 starting just west of Tonopa at just under 39 miles.
One thought I had on this trek was how this road and this car were the only things keeping me alive. If you're stranded out here, especially in the summertime, you're toast.
Despite the loneliness and isolation of this stretch of road, about 20 miles before the border I happened on the small town of Quartzsite. After seeing virtually nothing artificial beyond I-10's right-of-way, all of the sudden you can see nothing but RV after RV, all in a field, parked, waiting for something. And there was actually a traffic jam on the surface streets of longer than a mile! But drive for two minutes on I-10 past the Quartzsite exits (17 and 19), and you're back to nothing but rugged country. I never did find out what was going on there.
Anyway, back to the show. From what I can surmise this is the typical Arizona welcome sign. If you look closely you can tell that the star is not one piece. It features the state flag and "The Grand Canyon State Welcomes You."
Back in New Hampshire I remarked about how I wasn't smiling in any of the pictures and how I'd fix that in the future. I took this picture with my new digital camera and a small pocket tripod that was about six inches long. I had placed the tripod on the hood of the car after roughly lining it up, set the timer, then assumed the position. Just as the camera was about to take the picture a tractor trailer came zooming along in the right lane, sending a huge whoosh of air that shook the entire car and knocked the camera on the pavement. Fortunately the camera is OK, and I set up another picture, this time sticking two legs of the tripod under the wipers to kind of hold it in place. So that's why I'm not too happy in this picture.
January 26, 2002
January 20, 2002
The Arizona State Capitol is located on the west side of Phoenix, inside the I-10/I-17 beltway but not really in the heart of downtown. Just take Washington Street west out of downtown, and it'll be just past where it splits into Adams and Jefferson Streets at 15th Street.
It's an interesting building; I had to walk halfway around it before I even knew which side of it was the front. Even now, I'm not too sure. I hope I got it right.
Anyway, since the original capitol building was so small, when Arizona expanded its statehouse it took separation of powers to the next step: It placed the House of Representatives and the Senate in different buildings. Most states (with a few exceptions, including Nebraska, which has a unicameral legislature) have the two chambers for each house at the extreme opposite ends of the capitol. Congress is the same way; the Senate chamber is all the way on the north side, the House of Representatives all the way on the south. In fact, when I was in Washington for the impeachment of Bill Clinton in 1999, they had a formal escort to bring the House managers out of the Senate end of the Capitol. Unfortunately I missed that as I had to run and get my car out of the parking garage before it closed for the night, and by the time I got back it was after 4:30 so the Capitol Police wouldn't let me back in, even though had I not left I could have remained in there.
In the late 1950's, the states were each presented with a full-size replica of the Liberty Bell. Arizona's is featured prominently in the little three-sided courtyard between the capitol and the two legislative buildings.
July 3, 2003