My girlfriend lives there. I got to go visit her once (I live in France.) It was a shock - The country was so different from any thing I had ever seen. Such a prosaic, alien land ranging from pine laden mountain crags to lunarscape petrified forests. The scenery was mind blowing to the extreme and the climate made it all the more so.

I could list some of the best sites but I wont. Having found surreal lonely places I would like to keep them that way. If I told you they were beautiful and worth visiting then they would cease to be.

Phoenix is a horrible dead grid covered city filled with old people looking for sun and kids thinking they're cool with their guns and fast cars.

Around here, we call it Arid-Zone-A. We were going to be the 47th state, but there was a brief problem in the state's constitution, and while we were correcting it, New Mexico beat us in. Home of the Grand Canyon, and very little else of note. It's not hot everywhere in the state- large portions of the state are at pretty high altitudes. Arizona is the southwest corner of the Four Corners. The capital is Phoenix, but the state university (University of Arizona) is in Tucson. Large portions of the state have problems getting enough water- this includes major cities like Tucson.

Unless you live in Maricopa County, your school will get very little funding.

In a weird twist of Arizona politics, the feds set up a sting operation on some state representatives who were, well, corrupt. They caught one woman on tape after being offered money saying "You got MY vote, honey!" in an emphatic manner. She pleaded not guilty at her trial. If you want to know the political situation in Arizona, that about sums it up.
Arizona is something of a conundrum. It is a young state, and as such it lacks the heritage or long standing cultural history that other states in the US enjoy. Most of its uniqueness is derived from being part of the sunbelt of the nation and as such it has a reputation as being artificial and superficial. That is true of the larger cities, who take their lead from places like Los Angeles and Las Vegas but lack the prestige of those places. The less developed areas of the state, however, prove to be much more interesting and worthwhile to experience for the casual traveller or the permanent resident alike. Below, I will attempt to explain the contrast between the two.

Urban Sprawl

The land itself is not conducive to the kind of modern living that most expect in a major urban center. The weather is incessantly hot and can reach upwards of 120 degrees farenheit during the summers. This is uncharacteristic of a desert in that this temperature does not fall considerably in the city, even at night. The unusual weather is caused by the heat island formed by the thousands of tons of concrete which has been poured on top of the natural top soil. Normally, the desert floor has very little capacity for absorbing heat and thus after dark it can become quite cold. This is still true in the outlying regions which have not been developed commercially. Inside the cities, however, the concrete remains hot even after dark and the ambient temperature remains high because of it.

I stated that the undeveloped regions of Arizona maintain their original desert appearance and are extremely representative of what the Southwest looked like before concentrated urbanization began. This is true, but the pace at which the land is being developed is alarming. The urban sprawl is pushed further and further into the natural landscape as the developers purchase cheap land and create massive planned communities. This sort of rapid expansion is most apparent on the outskirts of Phoenix, and more specifically Maricopa County. There has been a great argument over whether the mass development of planned communities should continue, and the conflict has risen to such a level that recently an arsonist began setting unfinished homes on fire to protest their development.

The ever expanding cityscape has created an urban sprawl of highways and freeways which interconnect the various population centers. Arizona's major cities have very poor systems of public transportation for their size. The primary mode of public transit is by bus, and even those are under used. Light rail was suggested, but ultimately was discarded as a pipe dream. Thus, intercity travel in Arizona is characterized by long, sun stained days in cars on highways which literally bleed heat on to weary travellers.

Outside the Cities

Outside of the sprawl, Arizona has many quirks and aspects that go unnoticed by most everyone but those who happen to be fortunate enough to work and live outside of Maricopa County or perhaps Tucson (two of the most populous areas). There is a part of Scottsdale, known as Old Scottsdale which is billed as a historical district, but it is really just another strip mall. If one wants to truly experience the history of Arizona, it is necessary to go to the small towns which pepper the desert terrain.

The small towns exist as satellites to the larger cities, and provide the open land necessary for things like cotton farming and copper mining, which are two of Arizona's largest industries. Places like Superior and Miami are less than 50 miles outside of Phoenix proper, but they are largely forgotten by the city dwellers. These small towns are extremely vital to Arizona's economy, however, and should not be overlooked. In addition to the modern mining towns a spattering of ghost towns and historical recreations exist, but most of these are quite tacky as they slant heavily towards entertaining tourists and away from accurately presenting history.

Another important aspect of Arizona's culture are the Native American communities which have carved out their own niche in the modern world. The tribes present in modern day Arizona include the Ak-Chin, the Navajo, the Havasupai, the Yavapai and the Apache. Many of these tribes have capitalized on their sovereign status and sometimes central location (such as that of the Gila River Reservation) by opening casinos and profitting greatly.

In addition to the pockets of civilization that exist outside of the central cities, Arizona's natural landscape is extremely impressive. Sights like the Apache Trail and of course the Grand Canyon are as impressive now as they were a century ago.

"Mining towns losing residents" from the Arizona Republic.

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