One of the cowboys could tell there were a few gay boys in our group, and he asked where we were going later. He recommended that we skip the rodeo and head to Charlie’s Phoenix (727 West Camelback Rd. 602-265-0224 www.charliesphoenix.com), the most popular gay bar in town. I felt like a gay Alice in Country Wonderland as I stepped into Charlie’s. Disco lights combed the walls as boys decked out with matching hats and fashionable attire two-stepped on the dance floor while beefy and dashing bartenders poured drinks for the thirsty crowd. Outside in an enormous courtyard, Nevaeh McKenzie and other drag performers entertained their audience. Charlie’s offers free dance lessons throughout the week, and when I go back I’ll definitely check out Two Step Wednesdays with Elvin. For a bit more flavor, Salsa Tuesdays with Juan sounds even more enticing.
Early the next morning, I started the challenging hike up and over the nearby Pinnacle Peak, that rises to an elevation of 3,169 feet. The area was once used by the Hohokam people before being used by miners and ranchers. The trail itself began fairly easy, but I was working up quite a sweat halfway through the 1.75-mile course. I spotted some early-morning horseback riders in the distance and was impressed by the growing number of cacti reaching out of the nooks and crannies of the peaks and valleys of the course. By the time I reached the highest point on the trail, the morning sun creeped through the majestic saguaros and desert valleys. I was warned about early- morning bobcats, and though I didn’t spot any along the trail, one of the hikers I passed was boasting about how a pair of them crossed her path on the walk from her resort to the entrance to Pinnacle Peak. Later that day, I made a pilgrimage to Frank Lloyd Wright’s desert home, the intriguing Taliesin West (12621 N. Frank Lloyd Wright Blvd. Tel: 480-627-5340. www.franklloydwright.org). Designed by Wright in the late 1930s, and constructed with concrete and stone found in the surrounding areas by apprentices who were part of the resident Taliesin Fellowship.
The main structure of Taliesin West was built at the foot of the McDowell Mountain, and served as the architect’s home through 1959. I imagined attending an elaborate party hosted by the Wrights, as I sat in their stunning Garden Room and felt the strong presence of artistic genius in the dramatic Taliesin West living quarters. I sat on one of Wright’s many inverted pyramid stools at first, then jumped at the chance to climb into one of the master’s orange-wing chairs. The property continues to host the Frank Lloyd Wright School of Architecture, a rigorous professional institution devoted to training young architects in the foundation, exploration, and synthesis of architecture. Tours are offered daily from 9 A.M.–4 P.M. ranging from one to three hours in length. The popular Insights Tour features 90-minutes of Frank Lloyd Wright’s world with special trips to the Wright’s living quarters and the Garden Room (costs $35). The more in-depth Behind the Scenes Tour, with additional stops like the colorful Taliesin Fellowship Dining Room is $75.
That night, I was excited to explore Scottsdale Artwalk (Tel: 480-998-4323. www.scottsdalegalleries.com), a 40-year tradition. Scottsdale ArtWalk, considered “America’s Original ArtWalk” takes place every Thursday from 7-9 P.M. along Main Street and Marshall Way in downtown Scottsdale. Free trolleys take crowds of like- minded culture hounds to roughly 100 art galleries in the area. In just a short amount of time I took in now-familiar Southwest landscapes, Native American portraits, and stunning pottery and sculpture.
Back at the hotel, instead of packing for my early morning fight, I pulled out my swimsuit one last time. Rather than heading directly to the Jacuzzi, I plunged into the massive swimming pool and met a charming European couple out for their twilight dip. Their kids were asleep in their suite after participating in the Kids For All Seasons program, where children engage in a variety of outdoor activities like dodgeball and hula-hoop competitions. They asked what I was up to the next day and when I told them I had to leave, they urged me to postpone my flight and stay in the desert. I actually entertained the idea with their excellent recommendations: the Heard Museum, the Scottsdale’s Museum of the West, and more hiking on Camelback Mountain.
It’s easy to say you’ve been there, done that with many great destinations. However, in unique Scottsdale, as the clouds roll past the peaks and valleys of the McDow- ell Mountains, no matter how many times the sun rises and sets over the Sonoran Desert, there always seems to be some- thing new to see and experience.