Featured photo for Tempe, AZ

Tempe, AZ

Phew, made it to Tempe! I have limited Internet time here at the Tempe Public Library (which I have to say is super nice, probably even nicer than Boulder‘s, though not as nice as Cerritos, CA’s titanium-walled, shark-infested library), but here are some notes:

First, the drive down here. I took I-70 through western Colorado, and then Highway 163 through eastern Utah, both of which were gorgeous and major surprises. I stayed overnight and did a run at Arches National Monument in Moab, which I will post photos of next week after I return to Fort Collins.

Northeastern Arizona was also a surprise, though not in the best way. First there was the weather, which was terrible! Gauging by the color of the ground, I’d guess it had been pretty sunny here during the winter, but on the day I drove, I encountered showers, pouring rain, freezing rain, hail, snow, 50+ mph winds, and near-white-out conditions.

I also stopped by the Grand Canyon and got some glimpses of it, but just as I arrived at the South Rim it started snowing maddeningly, and thus I could not see anything. Will post photos of what I did see when I return.

The weather only began to clear up about 75 miles north of Phoenix. I camped overnight at Cave Creek Park and completed my journey to Tempe this morning. Unfortunately, I arrived at Town Lake just as it was being closed to Ironman open-water swimmers… darn. Well, tomorrow I will get in my swim practice, and maybe Saturday as well.

Anyhow, about Tempe. Before I came my friend Bill (who will be in the Ironman race also) “warned” me that Tempe is teeming with beautiful women, as in “lots of tanned, blue-eye blondes that go to Arizona State.” It turns out he was not exaggerating.

Also before I came, another friend had told me, “you will love Tempe… it’s just like Fort Collins, being a college town!” Well, this is sort of true. That they are both college towns is correct, though Tempe feels more like one since there seems to be a higher concentration of college students here. They both have lively downtowns with lots of character, and lots of sun. This is about where the similarities end.

Tempe’s downtown is larger and quite beautiful. Green, fully bloomed trees and colorful plants grace the ultra-clean streets of downtown, and there is Town Lake. On the flip-side, Tempe’s traffic and parking are sort of a mess, and downtown is very noisy due to 1) all the jets flying into and out of the nearby Phoenix airport, 2) trains, 3) traffic, and 4) crowds. In look, sound, and feel, Tempe’s downtown kind of reminded me of San Diego’s.

The rest of the town is very sprawling. There seem to be six-lane roads everywhere. For a city that is so dry and warm it is amazingly green however. There are nice desert formations, hills and plants (e.g. plenty of cacti).

Anyhow, that’s it for now. I just talked with Sharon, and she, Bob, and Russ are on I-10 somewhere in the Californian desert and will arrive here in a few hours. Hooray!


Okay, I am back in Fort Collins where I belong. I (and at least one of my friends) came out of Tempe not liking the town as much as when I first arrived. There are a few reasons for this:

  • A chaotic traffic system. Due to a conspicuous dearth of left-arrow signals, it is very difficult to make left turns in places since the oncoming traffic is so dense. Speaking of which, traffic seemed worse than in most cities the San Francisco Bay Area! While this may because of the extra 2300 triathletes that were there that weekend, my neighbor (whose brother lives in Tempe) assures me that everytime he has gone to visit, “Tempe has had the worst traffic of any place I have visited.”
  • Noise. The Phoenix airport must be really close by, because there are planes landing or taking off just a few thousand feet above Tempe’s downtown every three minutes. A number of highways (202, 143, I-10) also go right through or by the town. A train that blares its horn incessantly goes through Old Town Tempe. Cars are everywhere.
  • Rude people. Of course there are plenty of nice folks here too, but there seem to be more rednecks here than I’d like. I remember being in a pretty nice Japanese fast-food restaurant (Kyoto House), and there was a guy in his 40s or 50s eating a meal at a table. As one of the employees walked by him, the guy said rather loudly, “Is there a reason the music is so loud?” Even though it didn’t seem that loud—and if it was, didn’t the guy notice it when he first came in and could have chosen not to eat here?—the employee replied softly, “I’ll see if we can turn it down.” The asinine man then responded, “Don’t bother, I won’t be eating here again.” A few minutes later, he left all of his trash on the table and left. While this is probably not representative of people in Tempe, I did not get the feeling that people here were any more friendly than those in California, and were certainly much less friendly than people in, say, Fort Collins. There also seemed to be a lot of aggressive drivers who did not use turn signals and who had bass thumping needlessly from their cars with no regard to others.
  • A strange lack of grocery stores. There are Circle K’s and other convenient stores on every three blocks, but it is almost impossible to find a grocery store. My friend Bob and I drove around the city for about 30 minutes before finding a Safeway. Bob thinks that maybe college students prefer to stop in a convenience store than a big grocery store.
  • Weather. Some people like the dry heat, but I found it just too hot and dry for my tastes. The air really sucks all the water out of you, and despite drinking water all the time, I was getting mild headaches and seemed to remain mildly dehydrated. Things are particularly bad when there is no cloud cover. The upside to all of this, I guess, is that the winters here are pleasant.

Below are photos from the days before and after Ironman Arizona.

Photos not created by Felix Wong may be subject to copyright.
Felix Wong in his Pro-Motion wetsuit for the first time in a year.
Photo: Jose Cortez
Sharon emerging from Town Lake.
Photo: Jose Cortez
Sharon was also happy with the water temperature.
Photo: Jose Cortez
Here we are at the official pasta feed the Friday before the race.  You can see Russ, Josh, Bob, Sharon, Todd, and Bic in this photo.
The usual Ironman speeches were given and "Ironman count" done.  From the latter, we learned that over 900 athletes here were doing an Ironman for a first time, and that one guy had done 47 of them.
Phil enjoying his meal.
Photo: Jose Cortez
Todd and Bic.
Photo: Jose Cortez
Town Lake in Tempe, which was closed to all swimmers outside the hours of 8:00-10:00 a.m. the days before the race "or be instantly disqualified."
Ford is the major sponsor of Ironman events, and it used the venue to showcase its SUVs well.
We ate at Lorenzo's Pasta & Pizza in downtown Tempe, twice!  The $2.75 piece of ziti pizza I ordered was huge enough to constitute an entire meal.
Sharon, Bob, his wife Christine, and his friend Lenny at Lorenzo's.
Sharon and Bob ready for an open water try.
Photo: Jose Cortez
Phil, Bob, Sharon, Felix, and JC with the Ford Ironman banner.
Bob, Phil, Felix, Bic, and Sharon all ready for a dip in Town Lake.
Photo: Jose Cortez
Felix, Bob, and Phil commence open water practice.
Photo: Jose Cortez
Felix Wong submerged in the water.
Photo: Jose Cortez
Felix Wong stroking along.
Photo: Jose Cortez
Russ after some open water practice.
Photo: Jose Cortez
Phil was happy after his swim.
Photo: Jose Cortez
Felix, Bob, and Russ all agreed that the water felt pretty nice.
Photo: Jose Cortez
Bob and Sharon get ready for an open water swim in Town Lake a couple of days before the triathlon.