I’m happy to announce the release of my latest book, “Awesome Arizona: 200 Amazing Facts About the Grand Canyon State.”
It just felt like someone needed to come out and say it. Arizona is awesome! Arizona is rugged and gorgeous and historic and weird and funny and utterly magnificent. It’s full of surprises, not what most people expect at all. I’ve been madly in love with Arizona my entire adult life, ever since I arrived as a wide-eyed college student.
I wanted this book to express my passion for this remarkable state while also dispelling some of the misconceptions we all hear. “Awesome Arizona” is packed with information, anecdotes, travel tips and historic tidbits, all sprinkled with humor. It’s part encyclopedia, part love letter, and meant for anybody who cherishes the 48th state like I do, or who wants to learn more about it.
The book includes a blend of big important facts along with some small intriguing ones. Arizona is the sunniest state, the state with the most national monuments and the only state that contains one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World.
Arizona is also where you’ll find the world’s largest Kokopelli (Camp Verde), the world’s largest rosebush (Tombstone), and the nation’s only tumbleweed Christmas tree (Chandler).
So let me offer a small excerpt of this unabashed celebration of Arizona. Here are five fun facts from “Awesome Arizona: 200 Amazing Facts about the Grand Canyon State.”
The U.S. Postal Service delivers mail by mule to only one location, and that’s in Arizona
In the age of drones, instant delivery and overnight shipping, one place still takes it on the hoof. USPS mules carry mail, food and supplies down an 8-mile trail to the Havasupai people, an American Indian tribe who live in the village of Supai, deep in the Grand Canyon. It is known as the most remote community in the lower 48 states.
The Havasupai have resided within the canyon for more than 1,000 years and are known as the “people of the blue-green water.” They are the guardians of an exotic corner of the canyon that seems like a tropical island paradise featuring a series of cascading turquoise waterfalls spilling down red cliffs.
Mules also deliver the mail to Phantom Ranch along the Colorado River in Grand Canyon National Park, but those chores are handled by Xanterra, a park concessionaire. If you happen to be spending the night at Phantom, you can send a postcard or letter to the surface world. It will get stamped: Sent by mule from the bottom of the Grand Canyon. Pretty cool, right?
The second smallest bar in America is in southern Arizona
Belly up to the bar isn’t just a suggestion in this pocket-sized waterhole; it’s a floor plan. The Room 4 Bar in Bisbee holds only four bar stools and a tiny two-chair table, so a basketball team plus coach packs the place. The 100-square-foot drinking establishment only seems spacious when compared to Key West’s Smallest Bar (72 square feet), the nation’s teeniest hooch hut.
The Silver King Hotel, a former boarding house for miners, has been restored while maintaining the historic integrity of the old building. Five distinctly individual rooms welcome guests. The former Room 4 was converted into the wee saloon. Festivities often spill out into the lobby and onto an adjacent patio. And when bands perform they set up there so you don’t have to worry about a bass player sitting on your lap during a set. 43 Brewery Ave., 520-432-3723, www.bisbeesilverkinghotel.com/room-4-bar.
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The world’s largest kaleidoscope store sits atop an Arizona hill
Nellie Bly Kaleidoscopes, located in downtown Jerome, is the biggest brick and mortar kaleidoscope store in the world. They carry some cute little toy ones but most of their color spinners are handmade by more than 90 artists and range in size, style and price. They also have vintage scopes, acquired from private collections. Bring your good peeping eye and prepare to be dazzled.
Fill the object chamber of a kaleidoscope with just 10 pieces of glass and they can arrange themselves into more than three and a half million patterns. Scottish inventor David Brewster created the kaleidoscope back in 1816 and received a patent the following year. He was interested in the properties of light. 136 Main St., 928-634-0255, www.nellieblyscopes.com.
We introduced the Sonoran hot dog to America. You’re welcome
The Sonoran hot dog is the saguaro cactus of wieners, an Arizona icon. While the messy concoction originated in Hermosillo, Sonora, it exploded on this side of the border in Tucson.
The Sonoran is a special kind of sin, a hot dog wrapped snug in bacon and then grilled, fusing the meats into a smoky flavor bomb. It is then tucked into a soft boat of dough called a bolillo, a split-top roll fluffier and sweeter than traditional buns and closed at the ends to contain the avalanche of additional ingredients. Piled around the bacon-swaddled dog are whole pinto beans, diced tomatoes, grilled and fresh onions, mustard, mayo and jalapeño sauce.
This is what the borderlands taste like, that casual blending of cultures and flavors. The all-American hot dog gets a Mexican makeover. This is folk art. This is street music. Every bite unleashes a spicy, smoky, salty, creamy crescendo. The offhand elegance of the dish takes you by surprise and rocks you back on your heels as you ponder the years you’ve wasted shoving less complex wieners in your face. You begin craving another before you’re halfway through the first one. It will cure a hangover, mend a broken heart, and raise your self-esteem. The Sonoran hot dog is the reason why food carts and taco trucks exist. The memory of your first leaves a permanent tattoo on your taste buds. Try one and you’ll know you’re in Arizona.
Of course, I always get my Sonoran hot dog without mayo, which I consider to be the devil’s ointment.
The rain in Arizona smells heavenly
It’s easy to overlook creosote in the desert. The plants often grow where nothing else will, and are spindly but tough. They produce a wild spray of thin branches, each covered with small waxy leaves. When that waxy oil gets wet it releases a very special and pungent aroma — one that you never forget, with notes of hope, joy and contentment woven in.
If there is a more seductive perfume than rained-on desert, I don’t know what it could be. It’s a fragrance that means home to Arizonans. Those big fat raindrops kiss the ocotillo, dance among saguaro spines and water our vast herd of lizards. And while that’s happening the land unleashes a musky, earthy fragrance, all heart-meat and hyacinth. Scientists have named the aroma petrichor. But it is so much more than the smell of wet creosote. It is angel breath. It is the scent of almost forgotten love. It is the juice of a billion stars, a flavor intoxicating, comforting and evocative. When rain falls in the desert, you can feel the earth smile.
For a while, we get to believe in miracles again. Anything seems possible. It has rained in the desert.
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Meet Roger Naylor at these book signings
Roger Naylor is giving presentations about “Awesome Arizona: 200 Amazing Facts About the Grand Canyon State” across Arizona. The hourlong talks include a slide show, Q&A and book signing. Here are some of my scheduled talks over the coming weeks. All are free. See more on the Events page of https://www.rogernaylor.com.
- March 28 in Tucson: 2 p.m. at the Western National Parks Association Store, 12880 N. Vistoso Drive. Registration is required; go to https://wnpa.org/. 520-622-1999.
- March 29 in Sierra Vista: Noon at the Cochise College Center for Lifelong Learning, Room G106, 2600 E. Willcox Drive.
- April 8 in Cottonwood: Noon at the Cottonwood at Cottonwood Library, 100 Sixth St. 928-634-7559.
- April 11 in Phoenix: 6 p.m. at Changing Hands Bookstore, 300 W. Camelback Road. 602-274-0067.
- April 26 in Sedona: 10 a.m. at Sedona Heritage Museum, 735 Jordan Road. 928-282-7038.
- April 29 in Prescott: 2 p.m. at Peregrine Book Company, 219A N. Cortez St. 928-445-9000.
- May 2 in Payson: 1 p.m. at Rim Country Museum, 700 S. Green Valley Parkway. 928-474-3483.
- May 6 in Phoenix: 11 a.m. at North Mountain Visitor Center, 12950 N. Seventh St. 602-343-5125.
- May 8 in Flagstaff: 12:15 p.m. at Riordan Mansion State Historic Par, 409 Riordan Road. 928-779-4395.
“Awesome Arizona: 200 Amazing Facts About the Grand Canyon State” costs $16.95. It is available in stores and on Amazon. Signed copies can be purchased through www.rogernaylor.com.