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To Phoenix

sunny 22 °C

Leaving Yuma took quite some time, what with my wander around downtown and lunch. Maybe if I took the normal road, I would have been in Phoenix by dark but I was determined to follow US 80 as much as possible. At least it wasn't hard to find: my hotel was on it, as were most of the older pre-chain motels in Yuma.

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Sorry the pictures are a bit washed out. It was a bit odd driving on a road sometimes no more than 100 metres from the Interstate, but it was quite a relaxed experience, at least until my road abruptly terminated in the Interstate (it did this twice). It was also quite odd to see communities of quite nice looking houses served by dirt streets. And so, as dark fell, I found myself in a wee place called Gila Bend, which probably only exists because it is on the Interstate interchange. It had a bunch of motels and some fast food places and a garage with some antique buses and trucks parked out front. I picked my motel purely on price, and it was a motel I was reluctant to take my boots off inside or even get under the covers. Perhaps I should have stayed here

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I thought McDonalds would be the best choice because its the same everywhere you go, right? Well, the burger I ate made me feel queasy, which has never happened to me before. All in all, I was quite glad to be on the road: this time sticking to US 80 paid off: it is essentially a rural road. I had no idea that they grew cotton in this part of the world.

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This is the Gila River, which broke the wee dam years ago.

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Tractors come here to die.

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Phoenix made itself known many miles from its first buildings: even the wee dirt tracks were numbered Avenues, starting in the 300's. On the way through I proved that even if guys can multitask, maybe they shouldn't. I was backing up and trying to get the right composition of a photo in the viewfinder when I suddenly felt the rear wheel leave the ground: it was suspended over a ditch. Luckily the cheapest car in the world has front wheel drive. At Buckeye, I stopped for an excellent lunch at cafe 25-35 (a spicey chicken sandwich thingey served with a pile of crisps) Buckeye has one scenic landmark, Hobo Joe, but somehow I forgot to look for him. He's pretty obvious - 25 foot tall - and had been installed outside a coffee shop which went bust.

My road took me right into the heart of downtown Phoenix which I must say did not impress: they seem desperate to pull down any building with any sort of character and replace it with a glass monster. At least the original Courthouse and City Hall (they are same building) is still standing:

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there is apparently a Police museum in it but I could find no way of getting in. So, that was about it for me and downtown Phoenix: I popped up to the fabulous library

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before checking into my hostel. What a wonderful place that is: when I got back from my visit to the Musical Instrument Museum (I'll post separately about that wonderful place - it alone justified the detour up to Phoenix), there was a group of young Swedes creating music (they called on my help to translate a song from Swedish to make sure they had caught the idiom correctly) and an older guy from Illinois who sang a few of his own songs.

In my wandering around, I came aross a brilliant cafe called Lola. For the first time since I arrived, I found a cafe which understood that if I wanted to drink in, I didn't want a takeout cup and I didn't want an enormous mug: they had the balance between coffee and milk just right.

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There were two major art galleries I wanted to see in Phoenix but somehow it was late in the afternoon before I left the Phoenix Art Museum, so I ended up skipping the Heard. A major attraction for me was the somewhat off-kilter art of a local artist, Philip C Curts: an extensive collection was on display. These are just the ones that stood out for me from the maybe 100 pieces.

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There were also two special collections devoted to Chinese art. The first was quite broad-based, and has things like 7th century tomb statues,

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ceramics and lots of scrolls (with a wee guide to how to understand Chinese scrolls - I never knew they tell a story by starting at the bottom and then moving up). There was also an incredible sideways scroll, to be read right to left, which portrayed one hundred Court ladies doing what Court ladies do. Here's just one

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In another collection, there was a group of paintings by Chinese painters who were painting immediately after the Chinese Cultural Revolution (during which being any sort of artist or member of the intelligentsia would be met by the full power of the State). They had security to make sure I couldn't take any photos, but they seemed pretty innocuous to me, just scenes of daily life. I think the point is tht you really have to wonder why this sort of work would be objected to.

I really liked the vivid detail of this work by Pieter Schoolwerth

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Same picture but two details

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I liked Big Gen X by Kelly McLane

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and this piece that I was not supposed to photograph

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The next photo was impossible to get right: a room had been sealed off so its really dark, mirrors installed around the walls and then lots of Christmas lights went through various sequences: it was an unusual experience and a bit freaky as the exit was hard to find.

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This was oddly moving: it is the remnants of a church which burnt to the ground

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And on the same theme, here is a very modern Mexican take on an old story

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The last thing I looked at was a collection of miniatures

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Tempe and Scottsdale are allegedly the places to go in Phoenix: the former for art and restaurants and the latter for the University and bars. I didn't really take to either place, but did like the Sugar Bowl: an old fashioned ice cream parlour (it has been going since 1958!and still has the same owners (it is quite pink).

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This post brought to you with the support of the Utopia Public Library.

Posted by NZBarry 09:25 Archived in USA

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