Valley of the Sun: Birthdays, NASCAR, and the greater Phoenix Metro

Before my birthday and our NASCAR adventure, we had a weekend to enjoy exploring the city of Phoenix. Admittedly, we had no idea (ignorant East-coasters, apparently) that a lot of the cities you hear about in Arizona are actually considered part of Phoenix. Tempe, Scottsdale, and Mesa all fall within the greater Phoenix metro area, so while it’s the 6th biggest city in the country, each area has a completely different feel… a la the boroughs of NYC, if you will. We realized this fact while picking our home base for the weekend, and settled on a casino in Tempe.


I should mention here that we’ve come to realize casinos, when available, can provide some of the best urban boondocking around. Neither of us are into gambling- you need to have extra cash FIRST to make blowing it all fun- but casinos normally prove to be a great place to stay the night. Many offer large areas to park, extensive security, and are free.


I’m also a sucker for good casino buffets, so, you know, there’s that.




Thankfully, the Light Rail happened to run right by the casino. In true NN fashion, we wanted to spend the day seeing as much as we could, so we took advantage of the ride and made our way towards downtown Phoenix. We meandered around the tall buildings, then stopped into a bar near Chase Field to take advantage of some shade and refreshments. Even though spring training was going on all over the greater metro area (think 9 fields being used at once), no events were actually taking place at Chase Field. This meant the downtown area was pretty quiet, so we decided to move on to Tempe.


The instant we stepped onto Mill Ave., we knew we were going to have a good afternoon. It was a beautiful day outside, 90 and sunny, and the buzz of an above-average college town electrified the air.  Plus we happened upon a Hawaiian festival right on the water in Tempe.  Really, it was a unique mix of people: families in town for spring training, kids enjoying a break from class, and snowbirds ready to keep up with the best of them.


The beautifully balmy afternoon was spent making our way through a couple bars, sampling truffle fries, soft pretzels, and more local beers than we'd care to admit. See, that’s the beauty of public transport… guaranteed safe ride home!




While it was fun to be in the city for a bit, come Sunday we were both ready to get back into nature. We made our way to Saddle Mountain for the week, just far enough to feel like we weren’t on the edge of a massive metropolis. As temperatures soared over 90, we reminded ourselves that this was just the beginning as we happily soaked up the warmth. The blazing sun made it difficult to explore during the day, so our nights were filled with sunset hikes and welcomed cool breezes.


We absolutely fell in love with Saddle Mountain, and debated finding a way to go back, but eventually we had to leave. It was time to move into our home for the weekend, alongside thousands of other RVs and many interesting characters. Any guess where?




Yup. NASCAR. I wouldn’t say this fits in the “normal” category for us, but Andy has a soft spot for the sport and we wanted a change of pace for my birthday weekend. Since this time was about us having a celebratory weekend together, we didn’t take many pictures. I can say that we had a blast, even if we did inhale more exhaust fumes (from RV generators, not the cars) than I would have preferred!




Life should be full of new experiences, belly laughs, and the ones you love… and that’s exactly how I rang in my 28th year.


Camping Links:

Campendium - Saddle Mountain

Freecampsites - Saddle Mountain