I cannot believe how quickly three months went by. As many of you already know, our next location is Denver, Colorado! Or, more specifically, Aurora (a suburb of Denver). Now, before you start getting your panties in a twist about how Colorado can’t really be considered a “travel” location because I am from Colorado, let me just tell you that there is a huge difference between Denver and Colorado Springs. Jason and I have very little experience…actually NO experience with living in Denver, so we’re still, in a sense, getting to know someplace new. Not to mention being within an hour of both our parents for the first time in over 8 years will be an adventure in its own right.
But the real reasons why I took this next assignment is because it is at Childrens Hospital of Colorado (ranked #9 in US News and World Report for Pediatric Oncology) it’s with their outpatient infusion center AND they aren’t open on weekends or holidays AND we’ll be able to drive home for Christmas. So…needless to say all of that played a huge part in the decision.
In retrospect, Jason and I realized that during this adventure and exploration, I need to come up with a measuring tool- an empirical way to determine the likelihood of living somewhere. After all, one of the main reasons for doing this travel nurse thing is to figure out where we want to settle down. The following categories have all been part of consideration: food, libations, outdoors, transportation and, of course, work. Jason and I tossed around the various ways to grade each category but the easiest seems to be the usual 1-10 scale. Don’t worry, this is nothing like the pain scale. Speaking of the pain scale, if you want a good chuckle you should check out Hyperbole and a Half.
I want to make it very clear that my opinion on Phoenix or Arizona says nothing about the people that live there. I actually considered listing people as one of the categories but I realized that, as my brother in law so sagely put, “you are going to meet awesome people everywhere you go”- and so far, he has been 100% right. While living in Phoenix, we met some amazing people, and I was able to reconnect with old friends from elementary, middle, and high school as well as college. Each reunion was a little reminder of how far I’ve come but it also harnessed me to my roots in a very odd, roundabout way. For example, when getting together for the first time in years with a dear friend of mine from high school, we actually got shooshed by an old lady at the cafe for being too boisterous.
It was a beautiful reminder of how much fun we always have together and it was great to realize that we can still make each other laugh so loud that we disrupt the little old ladies looking for peace and quiet. So…I am banking on the fact that we will meet and reconnect with people everywhere we go and they will all be just as amazing as they were in Phoenix.
I suppose I should just get on with it because that’s what everyone wants to know, right? The grade?
We really lucked out in our area of Phoenix. Arcadia is a neighborhood known for it’s grub and we were not disappointed. The cafe I mentioned before? The one where Izzy and I were chastised for being overzealous with our laughter? That was Essence Bakery, known for all things French, including amazing macaroons, croissants, and (of course) bread! Taco Tuesday at Los Taquitos offered $1 street tacos filled with all sorts of delectable meat. Gadzooks was like Chipotle but with enchiladas. Federal Pizza did some amazingly crazy, yet delicious, stuff with their pies, and did I mention the complimentary salted caramel cookies at Chelsea’s Kitchen? So…why not give Phoenix a 9 or 10? Because, even though we were impressed with a lot of the restaurants in the area, nothing really “wowed” us in Phoenix. We kept comparing it to Durham…Tastiest Town in the South, and that is a tough act to follow.
I realized after listing libations that narrowing it down to Phoenix just isn’t fair. I wouldn’t dream of judging Denver based solely on its breweries when everyone knows the best breweries are in Boulder and Ft. Collins…though Denver has some decent representation as well. So, in all fairness, when judging beer, I have to include the numerous breweries in Flagstaff. We never were able to get up to Jerome, but I hear the vineyards are amazing. I was able to try both a red and white blend from an Arizona Stronghold Vinyard and I was thoroughly impressed, but disappointed that I couldn’t find it in stores. They also have this amazing brewery in our neighborhood (of course) called O.H.S.O. For my NC friends, imagine that Durham and Carborro had a baby and that baby became a brewery/restaurant-complete with outdoor seating, numerous bike racks, and dogs EVERYWHERE. It’s a place where both professional and home brewers can share their brew craft with the masses. It was…beautiful. But, again, the comparisons are always present (that’s what this whole grading thing is about, right?) and I can’t feasibly give Arizona a 10 when we have the ever present beauty of Colorado beer right at our fingertips. In short, Arizona deserves a slow clap for their beer and wine representation.
I have to give Arizona a high score because of Havasupai. I’m sorry, but it is just too majestic and amazing and beautiful to ignore.
And then there’s Fossil Creek
And the Mogollan Rim
You can see why the West is so captivating. It’s expansive and wild. When we went to the Mogollan Rim (great tip, Jules!), we actually found seashells embedded in the rock on the top of the giant plateau. Seashells. You know, just a friendly reminder of how small you are in this universe and how young humans are compared with the rest of the world. Yet, Phoenix itself didn’t have a whole lot that really impressed us as far as outdoor opportunities go. Again, not entirely fair as we were there during the hottest time of the year. We could easily get away from the heat by driving an hour or so into the mountains, but for all the boasting of hiking trails just a short distance away, Jason and I were kind of underwhelmed by the hikes in Phoenix proper. I think a lot of this has to do with the fact that Phoenix has an immense amount of urban sprawl, and you can’t really get away from it very easily. There is a canal trail that you can run on and ride your bike on but it doesn’t offer a lot of open space because there really isn’t a lot of open space there. The Salt River was SUPER fun, but I think that had a lot to do with the company. (I wish I had pictures of this, Ashley!)
I know this post is getting a little lengthy, and honestly it’s sounding a little whiney, too. So, I’ll try to wrap it up.
Phoenix is NOT a bike friendly town, but I think that stems from the fact that most of the people riding bikes were riding on the sidewalk…on the wrong side of the road…without a helmet. Seriously, if you bike stupid, then you’re not making a good case for bike lanes. Just sayin’.
The bus system was pretty unreliable and a bit inconvenient (buying a multipass ticket required me to drive to a metro station downtown). There is this neat little metro train that goes to a bunch of the urban sprawl places I spoke of but we never used it. I imagine it is quite handy. However, Phoenix is incredibly easy to navigate and because it is on a grid system, the traffic doesn’t seem too bad. In short, not a fan of the available alternative transportation.
PCH was amazing, please see my previous post.
Phoenix Average Score: 7.4
I think this is a perfect summation. We really loved Arizona, but admittedly, Phoenix would not be our first choice. Maybe Flagstaff…if they could open a PCH branch in Flagstaff, we’d be golden!