How does an Aggie end up at the Fiesta Bowl cheering on the Baylor Bears? It’s not like I have turned against my beloved Aggies. I watch them every chance I get and certainly I am considered by most a “die-hard Aggie”. However, since my daughter Madeleine is a senior at Baylor University, I have found myself rooting for the Bears on more than one occasion. I even own a green Baylor shirt that I wear at the appropriate Baylor events. So when some friends called to toss around the idea of a Fiesta Bowl trip, it was certainly worth consideration. Let’s see…Fiesta Bowl in Phoenix, Arizona…in the winter time…sounds warm to me. We’re in! We quickly secure six tickets on Stub Hub, book airfare, and arrange lodging.
Ruthi and I drive from Dallas to El Paso where we pick up Johnny and Laurie, who flew from Dallas to El Paso. We continue our road trip to Phoenix. After fulfilling Laurie’s lifetime dream of viewing “The Thing”, a cheesy tourist attraction along I-10, we arrive in Tempe, Arizona just in time to check into our hotel, meet up with Bill and Kelly, and make our way to the Baylor pep rally at the Scottsdale Plaza Resort. The Baylor Band was playing, the crowd was cheering and everybody was drinking Dr. Pepper. It was a typical, fun, crowded, Baylor party. Judge Ken Starr, Baylor President, revved up the crowd with a rousing speech about the great Baylor football season. I participate in the obligatory “SIC’ EM BEARS” cheer; but I DO NOT physically lift my hand like a bear claw. Couldn’t go that far, but I did enjoy the revelry and excitement of the crowd. Our friends Bill, Kelly and Johnny are all Baylor grads so they were all in on the cheers. After the pep rally we have dinner at Bobby Q’s restaurant where I was able to watch the Aggies play in the Chic-fil-A bowl on TV. Nice comeback win Ags!! Gig em!!!
The next day we all moved to new lodging at the Cibola Vista Resort in Peoria, AZ. Cibola Vista is a beautiful resort with wonderful up-scale accommodations. Thanks to Bill and Kelly’s generosity in sharing their timeshare, each couple occupied their own one-bedroom condominium. After lunch at the local Red Robin, we arrive at the University of Phoenix stadium in Glendale early enough to park surprisingly close to the stadium in a very affordable cash lot. After a walking around a bit admiring the stadium and shopping for Fiesta Bowl souvenirs, we make our way to our seats. Being the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl, we found a bag of chips and salsa in each seat. The game was good, although I expected Baylor to win. It didn’t appear to me that Baylor took their opponent, the Knights of the University of Central Florida, very seriously. Despite the loss we have a great time enjoying the atmosphere (and our chips and salsa!).
The day after the game we make our way to the Verde Valley Railroad in Clarksdale, AZ for an afternoon ride through the canyon. Verde Canyon is beautiful with its towering red rock formations, and clean, green waters. The train rolls past Indian ruins, through a 680-foot man-made tunnel, over old-fashioned trestles, and under clear blue skies. We bought tickets for seats in one of the first class cars with comfortable chairs and refreshments on board. Large windows provide unobstructed views of the valley and river below. We spot bald eagles flying above the canyon. The cliffs of the canyon are a favorite nesting spot for the American Bald Eagle. When we return to the Phoenix area, we enjoy a delicious dinner at the Elephant Bar in Glendale.
We spend the next day at the Desert Botanical Garden in Phoenix. It is a beautiful sunny day, which should be no surprise since Phoenix is sunny 85% of the time. The Desert Botanical Garden is home to several trails and exhibits displaying many different plant species found in the desert. We are treated along the garden trails to a beautiful exhibit called “Chihuly in the Garden”. Artist Dale Chihuly is renowned around the world for his architectural, glass, art works. On the way back to the resort we stop and buy Papa Murphy’s pizza to enjoy as we play games and laugh well in to the night.
After we all enjoy breakfast at Corner Bakery, Bill and Kelly fly back to Dallas. Ruthi, Johnny, Laurie and I decide to take a road trip to Tortilla Flat in the Superstition Mountains. On the way we stop at the Goldfield Goldmine, and do the touristy thing. We walk around the town, do some shopping, and tour the goldmine. We proceed on to Tortilla Flats via the Apache Trail Scenic drive. The Apache Trail takes us on a winding mountain road along the path of the Salt River, past lakes, canyons, and incredible desert views. Tortilla Flat is an authentic remnant of an old west town, nestled in the midst of the Tonto National Forest. We eat a delicious lunch at the Tortilla Flat Superstition Saloon surrounded by hundreds of dollar bills that have been posted all over the walls. After shopping a bit, we head back to Phoenix to pack and prepare for Ruthi to take Johnny, Laurie, and me to the airport for our 2 am flight to Dallas.