Larry Preston

Champion of Endless Optimization (CEO) at Digital Opera & Raceday. Happy stoic, aspirational minimalist, recovered big hair 80’s rock star. Author of “Star Fire Kids – Midnight Blue Express”.

Phoenix 2020

The opportunity presented itself to head to Arizona over the winter, so I jumped on it.

I’d never been there, I have some friends there, and I’ve always wanted to check it out. So I rented a place in the northeast corner of Phoenix, about ten miles south of Cave Creek. The idea was to be there from late December through March, get a couple of projects done, explore the area and spend the winter in the sun instead of the cold of Minnesota or Colorado.

I packed only the bare essentials into my trailer, loaded up the jeep and Pixel the Wonder Cat, and headed out. If you have ever attempted to travel with a cat, you may know it’s not so easy; most cats HATE it and will not hesitate to tell you how much they hate it for the trip duration. Not Pixel. She loves it. She sits on me or stares out the window having the time of her life.

Nonetheless, it is a LONG drive from where I left in Minnesota to Phoenix. I split it into three days, stopping in Topeka, Kansas, and Albuquerque, New Mexico, before getting to Phoenix.

The trip went about as smoothly as possible, and I was very appreciative of the sun coming out somewhere in Iowa and staying out the whole way until I left Albuquerque. My GPS picked some back roads in the mountains there, and I found myself taking the long way through a snowstorm that extended my trip into Phoenix by about four hours.

Finally found the sun somewhere in Iowa.

Snowstorm near Flagstaff

Hotel room at the Biltmore.

The place I had rented out was not available right away, so I planned a short vacation at the Phoenix Biltmore, a luxury hotel featuring some stunning art-deco architecture. It looked good online, and I bet normally it is… except most of it was under construction. The room was great, the two restaurants and the available amenities were great, but it was a bummer that the spa, exercise rooms, and the main courtyard were all full of cranes and backhoes. This Biltmore is a historic place, built when not much was in Phoenix, and it was often visited by Aerol Flynn, Frank Sinatra, Sammmy Davis Jr., and Ronald Reagan many more. Would I go back? Yes, it would be worth checking out again now that the construction is done.

In the first week I was there, I celebrated that my mortal coil has remained with me for another year by going to Sushi Roku in Scottsdale, and it bordered on magnificence. For me, Sushi has a high bar to compete with the Sushi Den in Denver, and this place was one of the closest yet. Highly recommended from the menu: The Beef Wagu. That was mind-blowing but pricey, so you have been warned.

Near the end of my trip, I discovered (by accident) the Fairmont Scottsdale Princess, a sprawling, more modern resort that is fantastic, and next time, I would book this place instead. But that’s part of why I wanted to take the trip was to learn about the area, and learn I did. My first hike was Piestewa Peak, followed quickly by the Apache Wash Trail.

Beef Wagu at Sushi Roku

Fairmont Scottsdale

Spa day. I earned it.

Fairmont Scottsdale

My main project was a huge client website, and winter is the busy season for Raceday. So once I was able to, I quickly set up the office and got to work. I also headed out many mornings to work at a random coffee shop – something I am extremely grateful I can do from time to time.

Primary office in Phoenix

Carefree coffee shop office for the day.

Cave Creek coffee shop office for the day.

I also went to many meet-ups to expand the universe of developers, designers, and marketers for Digital Opera. I got to tour the Godaddy Offices in Tempe, got some awesome demos of some advanced Ruby on Rails tools, and went to several WordPress-related gatherings, including WordCamp Phoenix 2020.

What I primarily learned at all these things is that I don’t do well at these sorts of things. I can stand up, speak, play guitar, or sing in front of a crowd and be as comfortable as I am in my sweats working in my office. But put me in the crowd? Nope. It’s just not my bag, and I’ve been that way for as long as I can remember.

American Chopper bike at GoDaddy’s office

Ruby on Rails Meetup at Godaddy

WordCamp Phoenix 2020

I looked at a lot of houses as a way to gauge moving down there and as a way to learn about the area. To that end, wonder realtor Jessica Pile did a flawless job of helping me. I saw some houses I liked, but nothing I fell in love with. I really think I’m going to have to build a custom house to get what I keep seeing in my head.

Other than that, the outdoor activities, restaurants, and explorations were all great. It was sunny and about 70 degrees pretty much the whole time I was there. Many thanks to Vance, Mr. and Mrs. Smith, T.J. and Bev, Scott and Sue – I’ll be back!

Me and Vance Elfering checking off a bucket list item by going to the famous Barret-Jackson auto auction.

Me and Ronnie Reagan

Restaurant on Lake Pleasant

Lake Pleasant

Hiking buds and Tour Guides Scott and Sue!

Um, there’s only one “The” Larry.

Sue, me, Scott and the Superstition mountains.

Camelback mountain – my last hike before heading north.

I went up Camelback the hard way, and this is what most of it looked like: Straight down over boulders.

The top of Camelback is worth the hike.. and this was the last time I was in any kind of crowd as news of Coronavirus was just starting to spread.

Jeeping with the roof down.

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