Scottsdale Tour Roundup— Cacti and Cowboy Pentimento


For this northerner, driving from the Phoenix International Airport to Scottsdale never fails to energize. You remember that the cacti have personalities, some seeming to strut akimbo while others are reaching for a yoga sun worshipping pose.   It’s early May—and so many are flowering you pinch yourself with the good fortune of arriving then, Heat be damned!—admittedly a viewpoint much easier to take from inside an air-conditioned car.

Were these anthropomorphic cacti what called the ancient Hohokam people to settle in these hot and arid Sonoran Desert lands?

Did the cacti seem welcoming to the would-be farmers who followed the original Scott of Scottsdale to make their fortunes in Pima cotton, apricots, oranges and more using the Hohokam-created canals?

Did consumptives from the North coming to this area for cures similarly find mystery and magic in this desert flora?

Did one of the most famous sickly émigré to this area, Frank Lloyd Wright, especially loathe the area’s first telephone poles because they grabbed stature from these stately cacti dotting the landscape and horizon?


Unlike you, these earlier Scottsdale denizens couldn’t find cacti miniatures in their local Home Depot. Nor did they know the luxury resorts and spas, golf resorts, gourmet restaurants, art galleries, world-class music and art museums, and baseball spring training camps that put Scottsdale on the tourist map for so many today.

Yes, there are many reasons to visit Scottsdale that explain the healthy tourism industry it sustains. Many if not most Americans don’t realize that a considerable number of Europeans who travel to Scottsdale are going there strictly to marvel at Paolo Soleri’s Cosanti. And, for those who think of Scottsdale as just a winter getaway, this writer says Think Again!

Mouse over the pictures in this accompanying picture mosaic and click to find an account of a Scottsdale stop during an early May tour.

Above and beyond these tourist hot spots, this writer suggests that a trip to Scottsdale is first and foremost a chance to re-kindle your childhood or Spaghetti Western born musings on all things cowboy and Indian. This is found less in the so-called Western Spirit museum and more in the simple photographs in the tiny Cave Creek Museum or Scottsdale Museum. You’ll find it less in the cowboy and Indian trinkets in the downtown tourist shops and more in the amateurs taking a stab at riding the bulls.

This is especially so for those of us who travel a lot and have seen things like espresso nowhere-to-be-found in Bangkok to a Starbucks-on-nearly-every-Bangkok-corner in less than a decade. The Scottsdale equivalent of this is summed up by the population and city limit snapshot summary in the tiny Scottsdale Museum.

Walk over Soleri’s bridge and marvel at canals that go back to the Ancient Hohokam times. Find Native American stone carvings greeting you in Taliesin West, or their kitchens hidden among the shading rocks at the luxury Boulder Resort, or join a finale line dance with descendants of the Hohokam’s descendants.

A pentimento of sorts—your mental picture of cowboy and Indian times peeks out from underneath the spankin’ new Scottsdale of today.

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