You'll have trouble spotting a single saguaro in Encanto-Palmcroft, a lushly landscaped district of upscale, period revival homes in central Phoenix. The neighborhood was developed between the 1920s and the 1940s, when the desert was a wasteland to be conquered, not an ecosystem to be celebrated. So Encanto-Palmcroft is full of homes mimicking the architecture of Italy, England, Spain and France sitting on lawns so green they could have been airlifted from Ohio. These yards, with their roses and hostas and spongy Bermuda grass, scream "$300-a-month water bills." Throw in the attractive middle-aged women walking tiny, yappy dogs on the sidewalks, and you would never know you were in the middle of the Sonoran Desert. Which is precisely the point.
Reservation casinos and poker nights at the pub are all well and good, but we need a taste of the real action that only Sin City can supply. We wanna Viva Las Vegas double quick, so we're looking for a sure-fire escape route that'll allow us to blow town and speed toward America's playgound like yesterday. Sure, you could take so-called scenic routes by way of Flagstaff or Lake Havasu, but we've rented a pimped-out 'Stang for the road trip. The way this baby's purring, odds are we're gonna get there in six hours or less, especially since we'll be driving Highway 60. With four lanes of freedom ahead of us, and a 75 mph speed limit, it's nothing but sweet sailing ahead, at least until we get to Wickenburg and connect with Highway 93. Things are a smidge slower the rest of the way into Nevada, as we drop to two lanes and 65 mph. Hey, if we get bored, we'll just take a gander at the roadside crosses along the way, ace, doing our damnedest to keep from becoming one.

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