A flock of Canadian geese visit one of the many private lakes found in Phoenix, AZ
Over the long weekend my family and I made our way down to Phoenix, Arizona with the goal of purchasing a property down there. Never has the time been better for future snow birds (or snow vultures as Canadians are now being referred to in Arizona) to look at purchasing a place down in the sun. Interest rates are low, property prices continue to plummet and the Canadian dollar is still well north of 90 cents. If our offer is accepted, in a few weeks we’ll be the proud new owners of a lovely two bedroom lakeside condo currently facing foreclosure. The list price for the property is similar to what a kitchen renovation would cost you in Vancouver. Hard to believe.
Despite the fact I’ve previously traveled throughout the American southwest, this was actually my first time visiting Phoenix. Other than knowing it was stinking hot in the summer and the largest US city in terms of geography, I knew little else. We departed aboard Alaska Airlines from a cool and rainy Seattle and arrived on the hottest day of the year so far in Arizona. It was a bit of culture shock as the thermometer hit the 100+ Fahrenheit shortly after we touched down. It took a little getting used to, but all that heat was rather nice for my rain weary bones.
After renting a Prius hybrid to get us around, we headed out of the airport and toward our hotel located in the northern part of the city. It didn’t take long to realize that Phoenix has to be one of the “best” examples of urban sprawl known to man. Unlike Vancouver, rarely do you see any buildings above two stories, with most of the housing stock consisting solely of single family homes. Think of all the single family housing stock in East Vancouver and multiply it by a factor of about 20. There are also massive freeways that cut through every major city in the Phoenix metropolitan area.
Thinking about walking anywhere? Think again. Most of the city is only accessible by vehicle. Granted there are shopping squares at every major intersection, but unless you live right next to them you pretty much need to drive to get there. On a warm sunny morning, we checked out Google Earth to see if there were any parks nearby we could walk to. As luck would have it, the aerial satellite showed what appeared to be a nice man-made lake less than 4 blocks away from us...so off we went on foot to explore.
Walking there was rather eerie. The extra wide streets were bare of pedestrian traffic. In fact, on the way to the lake, we were the only pedestrians anywhere in sight. That’s likely because the streets are oriented to the car and leave little doubt in your mind that pedestrians are an afterthought. When it takes you about 34 seconds to cross the intersection, you know it was built to facilitate vehicular traffic.
When we finally arrived at the lake we were surprised by what we found. There was a big metal gate blocking off the entrance and it had a sign that read “Private Lake. Members Only. No Trespassing”. Ironically we saw a flock of Canadian geese leisurely eating grass just on the other side of the fence. It led my wife to quip “there are some Canadians more welcome here than others.”
Every “planned” neighbourhood in Phoenix has gated communities. Some are more gated than others, but high concrete and metal fences rule the day. They provide local homeowners with a false sense of security and can hardly be described as warm and inviting. Yet they are a very prominent feature on the Phoenician landscape.
After four sun-drenched days, we headed back to rainy Seattle then drove back to Vancouver to end our mini-holiday and hunt for real estate. Phoenix may not be perfect, but it does offer sun, sand and oh so perfect little communities that make it appealing for a so-called "snow vulture" like myself. If nothing else, having a place in Phoenix should provide many good story ideas for future posts.
- Post by Daniel (yes...I will continue to post when my schedule permits. Thanks to everyone for all your kind words over the last few days. It is much appreciated.)