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  • Writer's pictureJoe

Raising Arizona

Stop number four on my journey was Phoenix, Arizona. Aside from having my picture taken at the Four Corners monument over a decade ago, I had never actually visited Arizona. I found a great excuse in 2016 when I attended the fourth installment of Whisker Bent and Hell Bound, a superb facial hair competition hosted by yet another excellent group of people, the Canyon State Beard Club. This event happens in early November annually, which is an excellent time to visit Phoenix.

The magnificent Saguaro

My dear friend Riann accompanied me on this journey for two reasons: 1. To see the famous Saguaro cacti, and 2. To visit The Local Donut in Scottsdale. I fully supported both of these objectives (I could just as easily start a blog about the donuts I've eaten while traveling), and both were easily accomplished within hours of having picked up our rental car. The Saguaros are literally everywhere, practically everyone has one in their front yard, and they are indeed impressive. The donuts did not disappoint either. Among the best I've ever had. This photo says it all:

Tears of joy.

This is Riann weeping tears of joy while eating a peach pie donut. I can confirm it was divine. Superb donuts. We bought a dozen and ate them the rest of the weekend. From there, we proceeded to the capitol.

The Arizona State Capitol was constructed prior to statehood from 1898 to 1901, in sort of a, "Hey look at us, wow, we'd make a great state, we've even got a capitol already built!" move. Like doing Mock Trial or Model UN in high school to look good on your college applications. This building housed the legislature until 1960, and was turned into the Arizona Capitol Museum in 1978. The different branches of the state's government have since moved into newer adjacent buildings, but I decided this singular historic capitol would be the place to poop. Plus it's got a cool copper dome.

No guided tour was available, so we wandered about at our own leisure. I prefer to have a tour guide typically, as they hold my attention better and offer their own little personal notes on their favorite pieces of trivia. I tend to just rush through without reading anything if left to my own devices. Luckily, Arizona provides ample opportunity for activities at the capitol museum. There was LEGO replica of the state flag (one of the better state flags), crayons for making a rubbing of the seal of the state of Arizona, and a souvenir penny machine (yet another passion of mine I could blog about). Also, when there are no guided tours, one typically gets free reign over any room with unlocked doors, which means you get to take all sorts of pictures sitting in the Speaker of the House's chair for example, or pretending to give a speech at podiums, etc.

LEGO flag

"God enriches"

Then I found the bathroom and did my thing. Went off without a hitch. Loved the old-fashioned hand-lettering on the glass doors.

Who has at least one thumb and a stupid life goal?

Having already accomplished so much - Saguaros, donuts, the crapitol, In-n-Out (oh yeah, didn't even mention this) - we retired to the hot tub at the relaxing Mesa-Mezona Hotel. A couple poked fun at us on our way to the pool area, saying they could tell we weren't locals because we were in our swim suits and we weren't cold. It was like 87 degrees. It is hot in Arizona, but more shockingly it's dry. Soooooooo dry. Denver is dry, but Phoenix was beyond anything I imagined. So thirsty, so chapped.

Coyote jaws.

Saturday night at the big competition I placed third in my category, the big beards-over 12 inches. This was the first time I'd won a trophy at an out-of-state competition. I was exceedingly pleased and honored to share the podium with the towering Chris McCauley and the legend Matt Gatica. And holy shit you all should have seen Sexy Jesus bring the house down in the Show-Stopper category. The following day, we joined a small caravan of beardos on a trip to the Goldfield Ghost Town, a kitsch-tastic little theme park in the shadow of the Superstition Mountains. This was right at the height of Westworld's popularity, and I was all like, "so which ones can we shoot?"

Can't wait to get back to Arizona for more desert adventures. Still never been to the Grand Canyon. Who wants to hike rim to rim?

Next stop, my date with Charli XCX in, of all places, Lincoln, Nebraska.

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