Mesa, Arizona

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(Mes amis francophone, désolé mais nous sommes en vacances et je ne veux pas embêter Mme pour travailler sur mes traductions. Pendant nos vacances mon blog sera sans une traduction française.)

I’m visiting my daughter in Mesa, Arizona. I like it and I could imagine finishing my life here. It is quite hot as it is in the middle of a desert (yesterday it was up to 111°F, almost 44° C, but it is dry heat so it is livable and, of course, everyone has air conditioning.

I would imagine that very few of you have heard of Mesa. But I’m sure that most of you have heard of Phoenix, the biggest city and capital of Arizona.  Well, Mesa is the eastern suburbs of Phoenix. Here’s a map of the Phoenix Metro Area if you’re interested in seeing the layout of the region.

Mesa has been a settled area for a long time. Here’s the first paragraph from the Wikipedia history of Mesa: “The history of Mesa dates back at least 2,000 years to the arrival of the Hohokam people. The Hohokam, whose name means “All Used Up” or “The Departed Ones”, built the original canal system. The canals were the largest and most sophisticated in the prehistoric New World. Some were up to 90 feet (27 m) wide and ten feet deep at their head gates, extending for as far as 16 miles (26 km) across the desert. By A.D. 1100 water could be delivered to an area over 110,000 acres (450 km2), transforming the Sonoran Desert into an agricultural oasis. By A.D. 1450, the Hohokam had constructed hundreds of miles of canals many of which are still in use today.” You can see one of the modern day canals running through the middle of the city in the photo above.

The city’s modern history began on July 17, 1878 when Mesa City was registered as a 1-square-mile (2.6 km2) town. There was little growth until the development of air conditioning and the aerospace industry. The population in 1960 was 33,772, in 1980 it was 152,404, in 2000 it was 396,375 and in 2013 it was 457,587, making it the third most populated city in Arizona and the 38th most populated city in the US!

Here are a few photos showing things I like or find interesting in Mesa:

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As I mentioned Mesa is in the desert. Some people accept that reality and have gravel in their yards along with cactus and a few small trees and bushes. Others want to have their green lawns which seem a great waste of water.

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And we happen to be here at the time of year when the cacti are flowering! This big Saguaro has small white flowers at the end of each arm.

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One of the enjoyable things about Mesa is that it has lots of space to grow into with the desert around it and there are few buildings higher than two stories. As you can see in the first picture and this one the view goes on and on. Here you can see some mountains far off to the north.

Another benefit of a city growing into the desert is using that space to create large comfortable streets, as you can see in the photo above. The main avenues, like this one, have three lanes of traffic on each side, another lane in the middle for turning left and bike paths on both sides of the road.

The less important streets have two lanes on each side, the middle lane for turning left and bike paths on each side.

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And the smaller residential streets, like this one where my daughter lives, are wide enough to have two cars parked on each side, without being on the sidewalk (because the French often park half on the sidewalk and half in the street) and enough room for two cars to pass between them.

Another thing that helps drivers is that there are large visible street signs on the corner of every street. One of my pet peeves about France is that you often can the name of a street when you’re driving. All of this makes driving in Mesa smoother and easier.

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On the front of the Mesa buses there are bike racks. Sorry I don’t have a better photo but it wasn’t easy finding one with a bike on the rack and I had to try and get a photo as it was driving by. If none of the passengers on a bus has a bike, it is folded up. If a passenger has a bike, the driver lowers the rack, the bike is placed upon it and the passenger takes it off when leaving the bus. It’s a great idea that I’ve never seen in France.

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This is something about the US that I really appreciate but many of my French friends would find unacceptable. This grocery store is open seven days a week from 6 am to 11 pm. This picture was taken on a Sunday morning at 6:30. With the jet lag I often get up early and take a walk before the sun gets too high and the temperature becomes too hot.

A certain number of stores in US cities are even open 24 hours a day. Many French consider this a form of modern day slavery. But there are a lot of people happy to work nights to make more money. And I’m happy to be able to go the grocery store during my 6 to 7 am walk if there’s something I know we need.

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The downside to Mesa’s, and the whole greater Phoenix area’s quick economic development in the past 40 years was the over-investment in houses, apartments and commercial property. The photo above is an entire shopping center that is fenced off and not being used. And many existing shopping centers have a number of empty stores that they can’t rent.

And due to the excessive housing and apartment construction, the 2008 crisis which saw house prices fall throughout the country hit the Phoenix area quite strongly. House prices began picking up only last year but then dropped again.

But that means if anyone is looking to move and wants to get a good house for a low price, the Phoenix area could be the place for you!

In any case, I’m very happy here and I am looking forward to my future visits!

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