For most of my life, everyone I know has lived in close proximity to me. I’m from a family where our furthest cousins live only 90 minutes away, and the vast majority of my friends stayed in Wisconsin or neighboring states for college. Since I started working with the NUTmobile, that has changed a lot. Not only are a lot of my friends from home all over the place now, but I am also working within a huge network of people from all over the country, so I have connections with people far beyond the Midwest. I never imagined that Phoenix, AZ would be a place where I know a lot of people and have a sense of community, but that has definitely become the case.
My older brother and his family moved to Arizona a few years ago, and getting to see them a lot was definitely a highlight of my two weeks there. One night I drove Shelly to their house and parked across the street – this was a first because I don’t know many people out west or spend a lot of time in actual houses or neighborhoods. When I was about to leave for the night, a cop rolled up and asked me to wait. There was a boy down the street that he knew and he wanted him to be able to see the NUTmobile. I waited for them to come, and by the time they arrived, several more of the neighbors had come out to see what was going on with the giant peanut. My brother and his family got to meet a bunch of their neighbors they’d never spoken to, and my niece and the other kids got to go inside the NUTmobile. Not to toot my own horn, but it definitely made me feel like a cool sister and aunt, and it was nice to feel like I helped bring their neighborhood together with a little excitement.
If you read my last blog about Phoenix, you know that we formed a squad there called Madison Vibes consisting of my team, Gregory Plaza and Madi Grover. Not only did we get to reunite with Greg (who is a PHX native) but Madi also flew in for the occasion! A lot of our time back together was spent reliving the cool things we had done in July: hiking Camelback Mountain and failing to reach the top again, eating at two of my favorite restaurants from the road – Postino’s and Culinary Dropout – and hitting up Bikini Bean on the regular. We also had a brief visit from fellow Hotdogger/Elise’s boyfriend, Dogger, who we introduced to many of these Phoenix gems. After Mads & Dogger left, the four of us remaining made a very long day trip to the Grand Canyon and Sedona, where we took in way too much natural beauty for one day and nearly got lost on a trail in total darkness.
One of my favorite nights in Phoenix was when we went with a huge group to Top Golf. Our group consisted of past Peanutter Harrison Plaza and Greg Plaza, Tyler and Alexa Esparza (who are siblings of one of the other Peanutters), Madi Grover and our team of three. Even though I had just met the Esparzas a few days prior and had really never spent more than a couple weeks with the others, it felt like we all had a lot to talk about because of our common links. We had a great time making fun of each other’s horrible golf swings and eating Top Golf food (which is surprisingly delicious) and we ended the night with some dancing at Devil’s Advocate, one of my favorite bars at Arizona State University.
We also happened to be in town for Harrison and Gregory’s birthdays, which we were even more excited for when we found out that Harrison’s girlfriend Lexi (who is also a Peanutter from last year) was flying into town to surprise him. During Peanut Prep we only had one night overlapping with the last Peanutter class, so I was really excited to get to spend some more time with Peanutters who were fresh off the salty streets. We spent a whole night with Harrison and Lexi talking about our job and life on the road, which, again, was awesome because we had so much mutual understanding and a lot of similar experiences. When Gregory and Harrison’s birthdays finally rolled around, we all celebrated together by going to Old Town Scottsdale and getting peanut butter and jiggy with it like only Peanutters can.
Like I said earlier, this was my team’s second time in Phoenix and we were in town for two whole weeks, so we did a lot of repeating our favorite things from our previous trip there. For the first time on the road, I wasn’t most concerned with what I wanted to see in a city, but more about who I wanted to spend time with. In a way, Phoenix started to feel less like a vacation and more like a home: we were hanging out with our usual group of friends at all of our usual spots. My partners who have to listen to me grumble and complain about this job sometimes probably get so annoyed by how often I say this in my blog posts, but I am so grateful for this job. It’s crazy to me that somewhere as different and as far from home as Phoenix, AZ has become so familiar and filled with friends, and I have nothing but the NUTmobile to thank for it.
More cashews and cacti coming soon!