"Troon North," came the immediate response. "The service is outstanding; all employees are well-trained and appreciate great customer service. The course is in incredible shape, tee to green. The fairways are immaculate, the sand traps well-manicured, and putts roll on the fast greens true to the line. The views of Pinnacle Peak and Four Peaks are spectacular."
We're sold, and we don't even like to golf. Maybe that's because it really is all about the course of course. This one'll run you $75 or so, per player, and that's in the dead of summer. Could be hundreds in-season. But hey, great view. And bragging rights.
Our favorite training ride, from Town Lake and Mill Avenue to Scottsdale and Chaparral roads, can be done entirely on these paths, for a decent calorie-burning distance of about 15 miles. The scenery's terrific the whole way, and varied enough to keep it interesting, going past rippling lakes and grungy county island properties and pricey Scottsdale townhomes. The path's northern end is near Shea Boulevard, and it can be accessed from a number of points between there and Town Lake for an enjoyable ride of any distance.
Construction of the new condos just east of Scottsdale Road at Town Lake knocked out the path for much of last year, but it reopened in the spring. We're waiting eagerly for the new pedestrian bridge (it'll be okay for bikes, too) scheduled to go up next year over Town Lake, which will make the ride even more pleasant.
About half the time, we'll finish this ride by taking Dobbins Road to South Mountain Park's Central Avenue entrance and steaming up to the radio towers before heading home. We love the winding summit road because it's hard, and there's nothing like the burn we get from doing it after the round-the-mountain ride. Of course, free-spinning down the hill is one of life's greatest joys. From our home, this is about a 50-miler enough to justify a couple of 44-ounce drinks and a long nap.
To get to the park from the Superstition Freeway, take Ellsworth Road way south to Hunt Highway, turn left, then right on Thompson Road, then another right on Phillips Road. It's a long trip even for those of us in the heart of the metro area, but it's worth it for the raw beauty of this 10,000-acre park.
We had fun looping around on eight miles of single-track, old jeep trails and sandy washes. A couple of the downhills may be challenging for the newest riders, but otherwise San Tan consists of tame, but fun, stuff.
Plenty of other visitors were here on the day we visited in midspring, despite the remote location. But the desert has its way of swallowing us, and the eye-pleasing vistas sear in our memory for recall during those long hours in the office. The landscape out here is unburnt, classic Sonoran desert full of fuzzy cholla cactus and distant high bluffs. We won a first-place trophy for our soul.
Mountain bike manufacturers go here when they want to test their equipment to the max. Only experts or fools take the trail all the way from Pima Canyon near the Pointe South Mountain to San Juan Lookout, 15 miles distant, but moderate riders should push themselves to at least sample the first couple of miles. After grinding up the steep gravel switchbacks, which are punctuated by rock steps higher than sidewalk curbs, the easy trails you'll ride will seem a lot easier.
National Trail is a gift to the Phoenix area, and it's as free as the desert breeze, thanks to city taxpayers. We try to be courteous to other park users even as we're careening down the hills.
Allow us to start at the beginning: Our fancy mountain bike is what we call a nervous shifter. She's as nimble and fast as a thoroughbred, but after the first few months she lost her groove, derailleur-wise. The chain kept jumping the gear rings at unexpected times, usually right in the middle of a tough grind up a steep hill. The bike needed an expert's touch, and it didn't find it even after five that's right, five visits to a popular bike shop that will remain unnamed.
A friend told us to try the Landis shop on Warner Road. Less than 25 minutes after we wheeled her in, the wizards at Landis had our finicky steed tuned up perfectly. We were skeptical at first, considering the time we'd put in at the other store. But out on the trail the adjustment held. We can only assume the staff at Landis' three other stores are as good, but we've stuck with the Warner location out of sheer loyalty. We think our bike is in love.
That's why we love the Cowtown store in Tempe it gets back to the idea that a skate shop should be the center of a community. Sure, you can buy the Volcom hoodies and the rest of that trendy crap, but beyond that, there's a sense that the people here actually know a little about the scene they're working in. Scattered throughout the store is a tiny homage to the history of skateboarding an ancient Life magazine featuring a cover story on "the grace and menace of skateboarding" and a book from the '80s called Skateboarding Is For Me are tucked into shelves around the merch. And then there's the store's awesome display of vintage cameras, including a Polaroid Swinger and a Keystone Everflash.
Skateboarding is a sport as much about visuals as it is about performance, and it's cool to see a subtle nod to that in the displays. But the absolute best thing about the shop is its art gallery, MVMNT, which features work by local artists and skateboarders like CR3, who paints on broken decks, and DDGP Design Concepts, the brand name for Dan Diaz's furniture fashioned out of highly stylized skateboards. It's a cool place to wander around and we'd rather spend our money here any day than give it to some tool working the register at the mall.