Grill'n in Phoenix

Have you ever stayed at a hotel that seemed pretty decent but had an unusually high amount of police activity?

You sure?

That must just be us.

Our hotel in Perris, a small town about 75 miles east of LA, was just a little too perfect.  Thanks to Priceline, it was not a chain hotel although it had all the hallmarks of one.  In fact, it looked like it had been a Hampton Inn in the not-too-distant past.  Everything was great on the surface.  However, when I went back to the car last night to bring some bags in I noticed a police officer in the lobby taking notes while an older gentleman spoke to him.  Of course I had to make my way through the lobby about ten times in order to hear their conversation.  The best I could figure was that someone had been abducted.  Or perhaps I got that wrong and, no, I’m pretty sure someone had been abducted.

DAY 51/Crossing the Desert to Get to the Desert

Visiting family in Hemet, CA

We left this bizarre crime scene and headed on to the little hamlet of Hemet.  What’s in Hemet, you ask?  Karla’s cousin Patricia and her husband.  These two have apparently had quite the life.  For many years they owned a chocolate shop with 40 locations around the world from Trump Tower in Manhattan to Taiwan.  In their semi-retirement they chose this small town in the desert west of Palm Springs to open a cafe.  Entering the shop I could see why they’ve done well in their business endeavors.  The place was dripping with charm.  The food wasn’t bad either.  We enjoyed a brief visit before hitting the road again.

Some have called her my genetic clone.

By early afternoon we made it to Phoenix and the home of another cousin.  This time it was Karla’s cousin Vicki.  Ever since I met her I have loved visiting Vicki.  Her home is so inviting and she enjoys a fun visit.  We went to dinner and then relaxed for the evening.  And they say there’s no rest for the weary.

DAY 52/Grill’n in Mesa

“How far is Mesa?” Karla asked Vicki.  Except, she pronounced it /MESS-uh/ claiming that this was the authentic Spanish pronunciation.  “Uh, Mesa is about 45 minutes in traffic,” replied Vicki.  Except, she pronounced it /MAY-suh/ claiming that this was the authentic right pronunciation.  Even though Vicki’s only lived in Phoenix two years I’m going to side with her on this one.

Our day started with a trip to the pool.  “Gee,” I said, “We’ve got the whole place to ourselves!”  Soon enough I figured out that it was because of the 112 degree “dry heat” Phoenix is so famous for.  The locals aren’t stupid.  Even a pool outing can be insanely hot on a day like this.  After we toweled off and changed we went to a movie.  This is the first movie I’ve seen in a couple of months.  We saw The Secret Life of Pets and I laughed.  Pretty sure dads are just supposed to accompany their kids to kids’ movies and not pay any interest to them.  Sorry, it was actually funny.

Then we set out for Mesa.  However you pronounce it, Mesa is a neat little town just east of Phoenix.  One of the landform features I really like about this area are the saguaro cacti.  If you want to really get into a pronunciation battle we could have fun with that line.  I prefer /suh-WAH-ro CAC-tee/.  Since I’m writing, you’ll agree and we can move on.  Mesa is home to Jackie (Bell-Oudry) Akhurst, ’08, and her husband Nick, ’10.  Almost to the level of Therese Peters, Jackie was most eager to host tonight’s event.  She has an awesome online presence and I felt like I knew the family already by the time we arrived.

Also joining tonight were Angela Gaetano, ’05; Mark Doran, ’10; Susan (Hayles) Maciborski, ’00, and her husband David; Therese Weber, ’16; Andy Tatum, ’09 and his wife Anna; and a few little ones here and there.  I enjoyed a great conversation with our newest alumna, Therese, who had just moved to the area from the Dakotas, though I cannot recall which one.  We talked about one of my favorite subjects – education.  She is about to begin work as a teacher in a charter school in Phoenix.  I hope after our event and our time together that she knows she can call upon me or any number of our alums for tips of the trade.  If she wants to be successful in her field she may wish to place me lower on her call list.  My first tip is this: “Wine is a teacher’s best friend.”  When you think about it, though, these kind of connections were also a big part of why we’re doing this.  Remember that survey you all took?  More on that later.  After “regional events” an alumni portal ranked pretty highly.  One purpose of that portal would certainly be to connect alums so that we can all help each other.  “I’m a teacher.  You’re a teacher, too?  And just starting out?  How can I help?”  See…

Shortly after sitting down to dinner we were all jolted.  No, it wasn’t the gin and tonic’s I had been pouring.  In unison, everyone’s phone alerts sounded.  I checked my screen.  “From NWS Scottsdale… Impending death approaching from SW.  Kiss family goodbye.”  In reality it said something to the effect of “a duststorm may pass over your area”.  Nick told us these warnings are somewhat frequent but not too worrisome.  “What do you do if you’re driving in one,” I asked.  That’s when I found out you should pull as far off the road as possible, take your foot off the brake, and turn off all the lights in your vehicle.  I’m not sure how this is supposed to help anyone but if you ever find yourself in a duststorm in Phoenix (or Mesa) don’t say I didn’t warn you.

By the way, the food was awesome.  Much love and thanks to the Akhurst family for preparing this meal and opening their home to us.

Mesa/Phoenix crew.

The Akhurst’s littlest ones, Austin and George, was such a cuties.  Knowing that this was our last event on the road made me a little sad.  Watching the kids, especially young George, though, gave me a fleeting glimpse of hope that this won’t be our last dance with the alumni of Christendom College.

The final push home comes tomorrow.  Stay tuned to see how long it takes us to drive 1100 miles.  Then ask yourself this… Are they really going to drive 1100 miles in one day?  They’re crazy!  But you knew that by now.

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