Because I have several friends and family members who live in Arizona (there seems to be some great migration from WI to AZ, who can imagine why???), I have spent a lot of time in Phoenix in the past. Although I personally am a huge fan of the sun and have zero problems with 100- degree weather, Arizona has never been my favorite place in the world, and I still feel that way. However, our week in Phoenix was hands-down my favorite so far.
To give you a sense of just how good our time in Phoenix had to be in order for it to be my favorite week, I have to start by telling you that it started off on the saltiest note possible. Just after we crossed over the Arizona border, we accidentally missed a commercial vehicle weigh station, and poor Shelly was pulled over by a DOT officer almost immediately after. We thought we could talk (and cry) our way out of the stop, but we were wrong. We drove off with a whopping three tickets, a sense of failure and a burning hatred for AZ and everything in it.
I felt a little better when we got to our hotel that night because we all got our own king suites complete with walk-in closets, and it was full of neat outdoor courtyards. However, those outdoor areas were infested with cats (my least favorite animal) and I had several run-ins with them during the week including (but not limited to): a black cat staring at me so menacingly that I sat frozen on my bench for over an hour and a kitten hissing at me and forcing me to ditch my breakfast and phone at a table because it apparently wanted them more than I did.
Don’t worry, things turned around. That night I met up with my older brother RJ and his family who live in Phoenix. As a special bonus, my week there just happened to overlap with my other brother Joey’s trip, so I got to see him as well! I can’t even put into words how nice it is to see family on the road, and I especially enjoyed showing my 4-year-old niece Mackenzie the NUTmobile (and schooling both of my older brothers at ping pong).
One of the best parts of Phoenix was that Elise’s younger sister Madi came to spend the week with us. She flew in early our first day and came bearing gifts from the one and only, Brenda Grover (Elise’s mom). Our package was filled with Planters blue and yellow tissue paper, and I nearly cried when we pulled out a bucket and baseball hat that were embroidered with each of our names and Mr. Peanut. This gift was so sweet and unexpected that I think my heart grew three sizes that day and I still wear both of my hats all the time.
The four of us spent the rest of the day lounging by the pool, breaking only to head over to Bikini Bean, a coffee shop where the baristas are girls in bikinis. It was slightly uncomfortable, but they made some of the best coffee I’ve ever had and happened to be right across the street, so we became regulars for the week. In the evening we headed to Arizona State University, which was just down the road, and ate at Postino’s where we tried all types of bruschetta that was so good it made Elise declare bruschetta as her new favorite food.
The next day we got up early (which didn’t really matter because it was already over 100 degrees) and attempted to hike Camelback Mountain. We got about halfway up — if I’m being generous — and decided that we didn’t want to die that day so we turned back and hit the pool yet again! That night we headed back to ASU for dinner at Culinary Dropout (shoutout to past Peanutter, Harrison Plaza for this BOMB recommendation). The food and drinks there were unrivaled by anywhere we’ve been so far — the best was warm pretzel rolls with cheese fondue as an appetizer — but most importantly, Culinary Dropout is where Madi bought her Madison Vibes t-shirt (you’ll understand why this is important later). After dinner we took a long walk around the ASU campus and enjoyed an Arizona sunset — the best I have seen in this country so far!
On Thursday, we met up with Gregory Plaza (twin brother of previously mentioned past Peanutter Harrison), who rolled up to our hotel in his sick cube car. Gregory just happens to be pretty high up in Top Golf (if you’re not familiar, Top Golf is a driving range where you play against each other and get points for different distances) so we got to play for free! Afterward, Gregory took us out to Devils, a popular ASU bar, where we danced the night away and learned that Gregory basically knows everyone (Conner likes to call him the Kim K of Phoenix). That night, Madi wore her Madison Vibes shirt, and since the five of us all hit it off immediately and had such great “vibes” as a group, at some point we just started referring to ourselves as Madison Vibes and the name stuck.
Once Madison Vibes was formed, we pretty much spent the rest of our time together whenever we weren’t working. Gregory took us out to Mill Avenue to check out the nightlife on Friday. Prior to this, I would’ve told you that Wisconsin was a “party school,” but now I’m not so sure — ASU was absolutely packed and wild like nothing I’ve ever experienced (don’t get me wrong though: On, Wisconsin!) On our last night in Phoenix, Gregory took us out for ice cream at the legendary Sugar Bowl and then to a restaurant where he hosts karaoke (Gregory is the coolest person ever). He absolutely nailed “Humble” by Kendrick Lamar and “Billionaire” by Bruno Mars before dedicating “Valerie” by Amy Winehouse to Madison Vibes — I’m not sure how he knew that it was one of our favorite NUTmobile jams, but it was awesome. We ended the night with Conner and Gregory doing a duet to “Same Love” by Macklemore, which brought Elise and I to tears.
I’m still mind-blown about how fast and how much I came to like both Madi and Gregory. It usually takes me a long time to warm up to someone or consider them a friend, but Madi and Gregory are two of the nicest, goofiest and most genuine people I’ve ever met. Elise, Conner and I honestly had such a hard time saying goodbye to each of them, and even though we only got to spend a week together, I have no doubts that #MadisonVibes will live on. (Actually I can attest to this because we still talk to both of them nearly everyday)
I was dreading writing this post because I truly didn’t know how to do this week justice (and I’m still not sure that I have), but Phoenix was the time of my life! I’m not sure whether it was seeing family, the sun, the amazing restaurants and bars or the new friends that made it so good, but probably it was just the perfect combination of all of these things. When I found out we were going to Phoenix I felt indifferent about it, but on the last day of this week we got a new event on our calendar: Phoenix, October 9th-16th. I started a countdown immediately.
That’s al(mond) for now!