Tidewater Traveler - April 2009

A Carefree Vacation


George W. Sellers

   A Carefree vacation! You might be thinking – shouldn’t every vacation be a carefree vacation? After all, most people take vacations to get a break from the normal routine of work, school, clubs, organizations, chores and, often, other people. Numerous people take vacations to leave a set of worries and stress inducers behind - to relax - to have no worries for a time – “Hakuna matata!” as one animated Disney character proclaims. So, why shouldn’t every vacation be a carefree vacation?
    Is this an article about how wonderful and stress free it is to cruise; and how all your worldly cares will melt away? No. Is this an article that describes getting into a comfortable motorcoach, settling back next to a clear picture window in a cushy recliner with footrest, individually controlled temperature and audio, with a driver, a guide and helpers at every stop to move luggage, and make things happen? No, it’s not that.
    Then, could this be an article about feeling an 85 degree tropical breeze caress your bare skin on a Caribbean island so remote that TV and cell phone signals haven’t found it yet? These all sound like wonderful stress-reducing journeys, but none of these are the carefree vacation of which I write.
     This white concrete bench is a little hard for an extended sit, or perhaps I need more under-padding to endure it longer. I can’t leave yet; the sharp edge of the shadow has not yet reached the goal I set for it. The shadow is being projected onto a courtyard of colorful tile and stone. The shapes of the tiles and patches of stone combine to create a large pattern similar to the rose points of a compass.
    Blocking the warm Arizona sun to create the shadow is a rusty steel structure that extends about 50 feet upward at an angle of about 45 degrees. Its shape reminds me of a drafter’s drawing tool; or it could be mistaken as a giant inverted shelf bracket that has been nailed to the ground with its long end pointing up to the sky. I imagine that the artistic sundial may have been the collaborative efforts of an architect, a sculptor, an astronomer, a mathematician, a welder and a representative from the local version of the Sanford & Sons junque yard.
    Concentrating, I can see the shadow creeping across the lines, dents and pebbles of the pavement. I realize that this sounds like I have gone beyond carefree, and may have slipped into a mild sun-induced coma. I’m okay! I’m just appreciating one of the local landmarks.
    There are lots of sundials in the world, but the one holding my attention at the moment is located near the corner of Ho Hum Drive and Easy Street in the sleepy little Arizona town of Carefree. No, really! That’s the name of the town – Carefree, Arizona. Carefree, a town of less than 4,000 residents, is located about 35 miles northeast of the Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport. The more popular tourist destination of Scottsdale, Arizona, is only about 20 miles due south of Carefree. According to official records, only 38 people are considered residents of urban Carefree and the rest are labeled as rural dwellers.
    Carefree shares a small but impressive mountain with an adjacent village called Cave Creek. One can drive all the way around Black Mountain in less than 10 minutes without rushing. Yet it is the kind of land formation that attracts attention and causes drivers to pull to the side of the road to get a better view.
    Black Mountain looks like a huge compound boulder that was dropped into the Arizona desert, and then folks gathered around it to build the village of Carefree on the south side and Cave Creek on the north side. Most fascinating are the homes that have been built on and into the mountain. Clearly there is some architectural inspiration from Frank Lloyd Wright, as many houses appear to be part of the rock formations of the mountain with cantilevered patios and balconies and large expanses of glass. The mountainside looks like the fluid creation of an artist working with rock and glass.
    Both villages feature a variety of art galleries, shops of local craftsmen and restaurants. Cave Creek’s stores and restaurants seem to reflect more of the American Southwest and Native American cultures, but also tempt appetites with many other food styles, including a Crab Shack (not sure I would visit the desert Southwest to enjoy the local seafood!). Some of Carefree’s galleries, shops and eateries seem to be a little more upscale – a little trendier. The restaurants of Carefree offer a meld of international cuisines, including Mediterranean, Italian, French, Spanish and Caribbean.
    Surrounding the Carefree/Cave Creek area one sees acre after acre of desert sand interrupted with scrub-brush, tumble weed, saguaro cactus and an ample peppering of small rocks and boulders. Some of the most endearing attributes of Carefree, Arizona, are the names given to its streets and byways. You can forget it all on Carefree Drive, Peace of Mind Trail and Never Mind Trail. You can mosey on over to Meander Way, Leisure Lane and Languid Lane. Imagine programming your GPS to find Easy Street, Lazy Lane or Primrose Path. You can grow tired looking and then rest up on Ho Hum Drive, Hum Road, Ho Road, Tranquil Trail or Sleepy Hollow. And, when you have nothing else to do, you can go out looking for Elbow Bend Road, Nonchalant Avenue, Lucky Lane, Serene Street, Pleasant Place or Paradise Valley.
    Long Rifle Road puzzled me a bit, but made me wonder about the crime rate of Carefree, Arizona. I wondered if anyone around Carefree had enough energy to commit a crime. And then I saw something that made me feel very comfortable about crime in Carefree. A marked patrol car rolled by – not just any patrol car - the markings were of the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office. Carefree is in the stomping ground of Sheriff Joe Arpaio, “America’s Toughest Sheriff.” If you’ve never heard of him, you need to Google Sheriff Joe Arpaio.
    Elected in 1992, Sheriff Joe is famous for his Tent City Jail. He says, “If our soldiers have to stay in tents in the desert to protect our country, why should convicted prisoners have better living conditions?” Sheriff Joe’s clients work on chain gangs; wear pink jumpsuits and underwear; and they do not have the privileges of smoking, coffee, porno magazines or fine food. His goal is that his guests will not want to return. Maricopa County is huge, encompassing the greater Phoenix area and many smaller towns.
    Hmmmmm! Who knows! If there were more Sheriff Joes in the world, there might be more Carefree vacations!
    May all of your travels be happy and safe!

George Sellers is a Certified Travel Counselor and Accredited Cruise Counselor who operates the popular travel Web site and travel planning service SellersTravel.com. Comments or suggestions about Tidewater Traveler articles may be directed to George@SellersTravel.com.