Remembering Phoenix Deluge Day 2014

At about 2:30 a.m. on September 8, 2014 I was awakened from my sleep by the sounds of hurricane force wind and horizontal rainfall pounding against the side of the house. By the strobe produced by periodic flashes of lightning, I was able to see the palm trees arched in a leeward direction through our second level bedroom picture window. Once I realized it was just rain, I went back to sleep. An hour later the sounds woke me again, although this time they were louder and more intense.

My inner weather geek had to see this awesome spectacle of nature, so I sprung from bed and slipped downstairs. When I looked out the back patio door, I was shocked to see the water line about 4 inches from the door. Initially, I squeegeed some of the water to the edge of the patio until I realized water was beginning to flow from the side yard onto the patio. Repeated flashes of lightning revealed that our pool was close to overflowing if the rainfall continued at this rate. (And it did continue for a few more hours.) That would mean even more water coming toward the patio door. To avert that potential issue, I plugged in a sump pump and ran the water to our front yard via garden hose. Later I would realize just how important that move was when I discovered many of our friends and neighbors are dealing with water damage inside their homes.

As daylight came around, I could see that between both sides of our house and the stucco walls that enclose our property was 2″ to 3″ of standing water. My concern shifted to whether water would seep into our house from the sides. Thankfully, we had enough breaks in the rain throughout the morning to allow water to percolate into the ground. Once I was comfortable that we were not going to get flooded, I turned on the news to see what was going on around the metro.

Local TV stations showed numerous video clips of motorists stalled in standing water throughout the city. We’ve come to expect such displays of Darwinism during monsoon season, but usually car floodings take place in out of the way places involving some knucklehead trying to drive through a flooded wash. The scenes on my TV showed dozens of people stuck in water up to their car windows in the middle of Interstate 10 – the city’s primary artery for east-west travelers.

Video: Morning commuters on I-10 stuck in flash flood

There was more unforgettable footage including:

  • The lower two-thirds of our church’s auditorium was flooded
  • Water rose all the way to the rim of a 10-foot basketball hoop in a Mesa community
  • Some guy cruised around his neighborhood on a Jet Ski in Gilbert
  • Another guy piloted a radio controlled boat around the cul de sac
  • First responders helped carry babies to safety from their parents’ cars stuck in a daycare parking lot
  • A 911 call from an elderly man captured his panic moments before his bride drowned in a flooded wash

I didn’t think to snap any pics of the high water at our house, but thankfully one of the local TV stations published this slideshow of images from around the area.

During one newscast I watched, they reported that the September 8,  2014 rainfall was the greatest amount ever measured in one day. (Most cities around the metro received between 4 and 6 inches and records go back about 75 years.) Additionally, the one-day total was more than double the total of rain received over the prior 9 months. We don’t get a lot of rain in Phoenix, but when we do it can really leave a lasting impression.

AZ Bucket List: The Grand Canyon like you’ve never seen it

On the last weekend of May, 2014 I bagged the proverbial elephant on my Arizona Bucket List: A hike to the bottom of the Grand Canyon. This 3-day, 24-mile round-trip on foot adventure was arranged by our church and I was immensely blessed to be a part of it. It would do no good to try and put the experience into words, but I took some photos to share a glimpse of it with you. Below is a sampling of the photos and the full album is on my Shutterfly site.


AZ bucket list: Carefree

Carefree wasn’t on my Arizona Bucket List before I visited the town, but it should have been. I took my parents and my teen daughters to Carefree in mid-March 2014 as our impromptu Plan B. You see, my parents were visiting us in Phoenix from deep in the heart (more like lower extremities) of Texas. Before their arrival, Mom mentioned that seeing the desert in bloom was on her bucket list.

We had planned to visit the Desert Botanical Gardens in Phoenix on the free day they offer the second Tuesday of every month. Just us and about half the people in Phoenix! The morning of our planned visit, the entry line (of cars) was backed up about a mile from the place. It’s at that point we were greeted with a sign that read “Free Day lots full.”

That’s when we resorted to Plan B. I remembered that in my search for desert demo gardens online, I stumbled onto an article about a garden in the Town of Carefree – about 25 miles north of Phoenix. So, guided by the GPS, off we went. The drive into town was unexpectedly rural and beautiful, with distinctive rock outcroppings and native plants lining the highway. Starting about five miles before the town of Carefree, you see interpretive signs identifying various plants growing in their natural state.

In the center of town is a meandering 4+ acre demonstration garden with water and shade features, along plenty of places to sit down. Adjacent to the park is a row of unique business that cater visitors. (See photos below – click for larger view.)

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I had visited the Desert Botanical Gardens in Phoenix a couple weeks before we drove to Carefree, so I had a good frame of reference. The gardens in Carefree were every bit as beautiful, just on a smaller scale. The best part of our visit: It was FREE and we parked right next to the garden walk with absolutely no lines or hassles.

My Arizona Bucket List

Image of Grand Canyon
One of many lookout points along the south rim of the Grand Canyon.

I’m creating this list for my family and me, but thought I’d share it for anyone else who might be interested. We just moved to AZ in 2012.

I became aware of many of these sight from the Arizona Highways Magazine TV show and Facebook page. If there are other sites you would recommend, please leave them in the comments box below.

Must see:

  • Chiricahua Mountains
  • Grand Falls, aka Chocolate Falls
  • Sunrise Ski Resort
  • Lake Powell
  • Petrified Forest
  • Rooster Cogburn Ostrich Ranch (don’t judge 🙂 )
  • Sabino Canyon
  • Saguaro National Park
  • Meteor Crater
  • Town of Winslow

Have seen:


Tempe, Arizona Ironman Triathlon 2013

I heard that the Ironman Triathlon competition was being held in nearby Tempe today, so I had to have a look.

I remember watching highlights from the Ironman in Hawaii on ABC’s Wide World of Sports when I was a kid. The graphic images stick with me today of people crossing the finish line and having virtually no control over their muscles after a day of grueling exercise consisting of a 2-mile swim followed by a 112-mile bike ride, followed by a 26.2 run (i.e. marathon). Today I witnessed it in person.

The Tempe course is great for spectators because you can see the athletes at numerous points in their journey, such as the start and end of the swim and bike ride, plus the run portion at the 4-, 12- and 26 mile points. Hat’s off to these amazingly driven individuals.

Here are some photos I took. Plenty more of professional quality at

A warning to my neighbors about pigeon droppings

Dear neighbors,

Consider yourselves warned. Two days ago, at the advice of a gardening blog, I sprinkled a generous helping of crushed red pepper in a section of my front yard to keep the rabbits from chomping the grass down to the crown. It appears to be working as I haven’t seen a rabbit on my yard since the application.

Neighbors beware: This pigeon was spotted eating crushed red pepper in my yard.
Neighbors beware: This pigeon was spotted eating crushed red pepper in my yard.

Here’s the problem: The pigeon shown here, which I have not seen in my yard before, spent several minutes this morning pecking around in the same area.

I haven’t researched the effect of crushed red pepper on the digestive systems of birds. But if a high concentration of spicy food has near the impact on this pigeon that it has on my belly, I’m just saying you may want to park your cars in the garage for a few days.

My first visit to the Grand Canyon won’t be my last

panorama of Grand Canyon

Two weeks shy of my family’s June 1 anniversary of living in Arizona we finally took a weekend to go see the state’s crown jewel: the Grand Canyon.

So many people ask me if I have been yet, and I always felt a little weird saying no. I have really had no excuse other than, “we’re too busy.” We found an empty weekend on our social calendars, so we took the drive four-hour drive to see it.

In a way, I thought of seeing the Grand Canyon as a bucket list item. Been there, saw that. Check! I had seen plenty of pictures and videos, so I knew what to expect; or so I thought.

What I wasn’t prepared for was literally losing my breath the first time I walked up to the edge of the south rim. If photos are two dimensional and real life is 3-D, the Grand Canyon is definitely 4-D. I can’t explain the fourth dimension, but it’s there.

My first visit to the Grand Canyon definitely won’t be my last. As I stood there at one view point looking down to see a few dozen hikers making there way on the trails like tiny ants, I couldn’t help imagining myself in their shoes. The wheels started turning and I have already begun to plan my next trip.

Our church sponsors a hiking trip each June where you hike down to the bottom of the canyon on day one, then stay two nights in a lodge, and hike back out on the last day. The trip is completely booked for this year but you can bet my wife and I will be near the top of the list when they open it for registration in 2014.

Here is a brief slideshow of some 2-D snapshots of the Grand Canyon.

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Not so stealth cell phone towers

We’ve all seen them: The cell phone towers disguised to blend into the surroundings after complaints of the unsightly, high-frequency transmitters dotting the landscape. Below are a few of the more original cell phone towers in disguise that I have come across.

Cell tower disguised as tall pine tree
This one doesn’t look too bad. Only trouble is trees like this don’t grow in the desert.

Cell phone tower disguised as a cactus
To the untrained I this cactus cell tower wouldn’t stand out at all when it has it’s lid on. See it laying on the ground?

Palm tree cell tower
This one’s a little better. I doubt many of the motorists on the adjacent 202 freeway ever noticed the cell tower here considering how fast they typically drive.

Stadium light cell tower
Who’s going to notice the extra hardware on this ball field light pole when they’re watching the game?

Undisguised cell tower
They didn’t even try to hide this one. Perhaps code didn’t require it since it’s buried deep in an industrial park.