ONE HUNDRED years ago, Arizona was granted statehood in the United States of America. Being that my family had already settled these here parts long before statehood (I'm a fifth generation Arizonan), I feel a strong connection to the state I call home. So I thought that in honor of my favorite state, I'd share some of my favorite things about it and places in it. Here are a few highlights:
It's perhaps what our awesome state is best known for, being one of the seven natural wonders of the world and all. Dude, it's right up there with Mount Everest and it's only 5 hours from my front door. I've been several times, and my favorite part is not the new fancy skywalk, but that every time I go, even if it's the same time of day, the colors and experiences are different. They're amazing. And I can truly, honestly say that I ♥ this place.
[Photo: Grand Canyon NPS]
FACT: It's illegal to harm a saguaro in Arizona. Doing so can carry a fine of more than $10,000 and a jail term of up to 25 years.
Monster and I have only been here a couple of times because it's a protected riparian area in Southeast Arizona, but I've loved it both times we've gone. It's gorgeous. It's protected by The Nature Conservancy. And it's one of the few places I have successfully communed with wild water and not had a panic attack. And that's only ever ever happened in Arizona. (I'm like three-quarters hydrophobic)
FACT: It's also illegal to refuse anyone a glass of water.
A local chain of Italian restaurants that Monster and I and my grandma love. I was introduced to the restaurants through work, and no one I've taken has ever not liked it. We eat there at least one time a month, and my favorite dish is the Pablo Picasso Salad (Junior) 'cause I can't finish a full-size.
FACT: The state reptile is the Arizona Ridge-Nosed Rattlesnake. I've never seen one. In fact, I've only ever seen ONE rattlesnake in all of my outdoor activities, and it was a Western Diamondback. Arizona has thirteen species.
I'm decidedly a mountain person. I hate the beach. And for seven and a half years, I lived in the foothills of the Superstition Mountains. I've spent too many hours to count hiking through these trails (my favorite is Massacre Falls) and probably just as many sitting on a rock on the side of a trail reading a book. I love these mountains and I love the lores and legends that accompany them. While I'm happy that I moved back to the city for many many reasons, the only thing I miss is seeing snow on these in March and watching the sunset over them out my front window each evening.
FACT: There are 26 units of the National Parks Service in Arizona.
Regardless of your religious affiliation, the Mesa, Arizona LDS Temple is a gorgeous place. It's where Monster proposed to me. And I've spent hundreds of hours by its reflection pool pondering life and meditating. I love the Christmas lights and love the beauty it brings to my hometown.
FACT: Pluto (that thing out there we used to call a planet) was discovered at Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff.
SUPERSTITION RANCH MARKET
It's my favorite place to shop for produce. It's dirt cheap. Like I bought apples there on Saturday for 25¢ a pound. And the week before that I bought strawberries for 2 lbs. for a buck. Cilantro was five bunches for a buck this time and lettuce was three heads for a dollar for romaine and redleaf, and iceberg was 25¢ a head. Get the picture? Love me some Ranch Market.
FACT: Taser International, Cold Stone Creamery, P.F. Changs, and Ticketmaster were all founded in Arizona.
It's not Arizona's only Indie bookstore, it's Arizona's most awesome. The staff is supremely helpful and they all love love love what they do. Not that employees at other bookstores don't, but man, it feels like I've got a friend and a place to adore when I head into Changing Hands. It's just not the same at the others. And their events are the bomb diggity, yo.
FACT: Arizona has haboobs. We don't call them that though. We call them dust storms. But you really are driving down the road and see a wall of dust and sand coming at you from the right. It's not just in movies like The Mummy. And I've had the pitted windshields to prove it. But I'll take haboobs and heat over earthquakes, tsunamis, hurricanes and tornadoes any day.
Just to the east of Tucson lies these caves that were kept a very close secret until they were acquired by Arizona State Parks and developed by them. The result? Pristine cave formations without graffiti, that are still very much alive and very much jaw-droppingly awesome. You have to plan well in advance to get your tickets, but man, it's totally worth it.
FACT: We might reek of desert, but Arizona is home to the largest Ponderosa Pine forest on the continent, stretching from the White Mountains past Flagstaff.
When Monster and I spend a day in Tucson, it's never without at least one stop to Beyond Bread, a small Tucson chain. They have the most delicious sandwiches. And the sticky buns? They're ridic. Seriously. And it's the only standing exception to my "I Hate Brie" rule 'cause they just know what to pair it with and how much to use to make it oh so yummy instead of oh so ew.
FACT: Arizona claims three of the 50 largest cities in the nation: Phoenix (#6), Tucson (#33), and Mesa (#38).
I hope you enjoyed this little bit of me, this little bit of culture from my home state and my little tribute to the place I call home. I'm so wholeheartedly happy that I can call Arizona home and hope it continues to be an incredible place to live for at least another hundred years. And with that, I'll leave you with a couple of lists. Happy Birthday, Arizona!
Sandra Day O'Connor: first female member of the Supreme Court
Jimmy Eat World: a band from my hometown, Mesa
YA Author like Jillian Cantor, Tom Levine, J.S. Lewis, Lisa McMann, James A. Owen, Janette Rallison, Janie Lee Simner and of course that Stephenie Meyer chick. (no means a complete list)
AWESOME ARIZONA EVENTS
And since you made it this far, we're giving away a $20 Changing Hands gift card in honor of Arizona's birthday. Enter the rafflecopter below: