Thursday, July 27, 2017

Take a Break, See the Sights

I have a confession to make. I am a transplant. A foreign man in a foreign land. I hail from a faraway place to the west, that strange, crowded, confused land mass known as California.

Although I moved to Arizona over a dozen years ago, I still feel like an outsider- a visitor in my own home. Part of this comes from the fact that for many years I worked for local media and the only time I ventured out was for assignments. Go to the park? I was there for work. Go to a sporting event, a party, a concert? Same thing- work, work, and more work.

I came to the realization that I live in one of the most beautiful places on earth and I need to experience the sights and sounds as a person, not as an assignment, and what better time to do this than spring in Northern Arizona?  A few weeks ago my son was on Spring Break and we decided to have a boys-week-off. Wild and crazy father-son time.

Now, keep in mind I’m not talking Lake  Havasu, Daytona Beach, or Cancun Spring Break, I’m talking Chino Valley the-kids-in-first-grade kinda Spring Break. So we loaded up on party supplies: a cooler full of water, juice boxes, grapes, and chips (much, much different than the party supplies I used in the olden days) and hit the road.

Last year my neighbor was doing some remodeling and his main project seemed to be decorating the street with dozens of 8-penny nails. I got to know the guy at our local tire shop really well, so our first stop was to good ole’ Jerry for some inner tubes. Properly loaded up on flotation devices it was time for our first adventure, Lake Pleasant.

Enjoying the lake on a warm sunny day is something most everyone else in the county has done several if not hundreds of times, but for me, a self diagnosed workaholic, leisurely days on the lake are not something I’m familiar with. So there we were, father and son and inner tubes and juice boxes. What more could a couple of fella’s want? Well, maybe mommy, but someone gotta pay the bills, right?

Lake Pleasant was just that- pleasant. While we only spent an afternoon floating around, we are definitely retuning soon, maybe even a few days of camping. Who knows, we may even invite Mommy along next time. If she promises to behave.

Day two: new places, new adventures. I’ve heard tales of a swimming hole by the name of the Bull Pen. I wasn’t sure what to expect, maybe some wooden benches? Lots of sun flower seed shells? Maybe a few old guys sitting around on plastic 5-gallon buckets of baseballs, scratching and spitting? And why the baseball theme way out in the middle of the country? All I saw driving out was pastures, some cows, and a few bul… oh. Never mind. I get it now.

The bumpy, dusty ride was more than worth it. The Bull Pen was a great spot to toss some rocks, hike around, and do a little swimming, although the water on this March day was still a bit chilly. We’ll definitely have to go back when the heat ramps up. I’ve heard from a lot of our friends that the popular swimming hole was much better years ago, or that there are way better, out of the way spots, but for me, a guy who spends most of every day working on a computer, the Bull Pen was a little slice of heaven.

Days three and four were spent a little closer to home, kite flying in the park, grabbing burgers at a local drive-thru, and a few hours at the arcade. The last few days before my partner in fun had to go back to the elementary school grind, we crammed as much local sightseeing in as we could, cruised Whiskey Row, popped a lot of corn, and stayed up late playing cards and board games.

So what did I learn over Spring Break? Mainly, slow down, take a break, and see the sights. A quick trip to the Valley, maybe hit the Verde River, or even exploring the hundreds of shops, cafés, or burger joints in the Quad Cities area. It doesn’t cost much, sometimes nothing at all, to enjoy what’s right in our own back yards.

Oh, one more thing- never turn your back on a sticky fingered 7-year old Monopoly Mob Boss. He’ll steal you blind.


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