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Roughing it in Mesa


Sabra and I are nearing the end of our two-week getaway to Mesa, Az., today, and the feeling is bittersweet.
We’ve had a marvelous time here visiting old friends, hiking up mountain, playing golf, taking in a couple of Cubs games and simply soaking up some sun and heat while folks back home endure a cold spring to follow the cold winter.
Sometimes I feel sorry for the people back home, but then I lay in the sun until the feeling goes away.
Old friends John and Lori were our hosts on a side visit to Tucson. Sabra and Lori toured a desert botanical garden while John and I did some serious off-road, 4-wheeling in the Superstition Mountains. John has a souped up Jeep, and we made it up a few slopes that’d be challenging to a moon lander. The next day my right shoulder was sore from hanging on to an overhead strap.
Returning to Mesa, we continued a tradition of hiking five miles out and one third of a mile up the Gold Canyon on the Peralta Trail to view Weaver’s Needle. The 1,000-foot-high column of rock makes for quiet a vista. The Needle’s shadow, legend has it, marks the location of the Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine so the hike has everything from cacti to romance. It also made my knees sore and sciatica flare.
For baseball, we first took in a Cubs/White Sox game played at Camelback Ranch in nearby Glendale. I wore my brightest orange hat, the one with the full brim which might be seen by satellite, to the game along with a white T-shirt with a big, blue Cubs logo. This annoyed a few Sox fans but I say if you can’t take a joke then go get a bucket of beer. The Cubs won that game which makes me think this might be year they win it all.
To get to the other game, at the Cubs’ brand new stadium in Mesa, we first rented a tandem bicycle, which is often referred to in bicycle circles as a divorce lawyer’s best friend. The cycle was an old Schwinn painted orange featuring fat tractor style seats and ape hanger handle bars. A single speed with a kick back brake we found it fun to ride but a little dicey to stop. At one corner we lost our balance and I banged my left elbow into a bus. Thank God I feel against and not under it.
The Cubs new park is beautiful but so was the old Hohokam park, which is becoming the new home for the Oakland A’s. Their old park is in turn becoming the home of the ASU team. It’s a get up and move one over dance that has been going on in the Cactus League for nearly a hundred years.
Actually, the first spring training camps were in Florida as Major League Baseball’s farthest west team until the 1950s was the St. Louis Cardinals. Arizona only had a small toehold on the teams coming to the desert until the 1940s. As teams started to sign African American players they sought a venue less racially charged than the Deep South and the Cactus League blossomed.
Tickets to games at the new park were sold out for the entire week we here but we tootled off on our bicycle built for two nevertheless, hoping to pick up tickets from a scalper. Nary a scalper was to be found but three complete strangers approached me and offered free tickets, even if they were for the cheap seating on the grass in the outfield.
The game against the Los Angeles Angels was a good one and we left with Cubs ahead, 4-2. Surely, this is the year. Unfortunately and too true to form, the Cubs gave up six runs after we left to lose 4-8. To my sore back, aching shoulder, scraped elbow I added bruised ego.
We should all have it so rough.