OK, so maybe, just maybe, Tucson isn't the craziest place in Arizona. After spending 48 hours in Prescott-Prescott Valley last weekend, I may have to reconsider my long-held belief.
I was in Prescott because the girls' basketball team I coach went to the state finals. And for the second year in a row, the Class 1A State Basketball Tournament was held in Prescott. Not Phoenix or Tucson or even Flagstaff, but Prescott. The politicking that set that in motion is a story all by itself.
Anyway, my team was a No. 4 seed, and we got smacked. We were probably a year ahead of schedule; six of my top seven players are two freshmen, three sophomores and a junior. We should be good for a long while; thanks for asking.
Anyway, about Prescott and Prescott Valley: The place is a hoot. And my referring to it as one place would probably start a fight at either end of that Highway 69 corridor. You see, when you first drive in from the east, you come upon Prescott Valley, all shiny and new, with subdivisions and golf courses, chain restaurants and, well, more chain restaurants.
Then, as you continue west on 69, you go for a couple of miles where there isn't a whole lot to see, and then you come upon Prescott, all artsy and folksy and Arizona-y. It's a schizophrenic place; I parked next to two cars with respective bumper stickers that read, "Global Warming Is a Lie" and, "Save the Verde (River)."
It's as though somebody grafted this week's instant Phoenix suburb onto Bisbee and then sat back and watched the zaniness that ensued. Except, for good measure, there's also an Indian reservation that juts down between the two communities. The Yavapai-Prescott Indian Tribe only has about 1,400 acres, but it's prime land, including a majestic hill, atop of which is the Prescott Resort and Bucky's Casino. According to the Web site, the tribe has approximately 158 members, but if Bucky's keeps doing boffo business, I'd expect that number to increase as people update and/or dust off their genealogies.
We stayed at a motor lodge in Prescott. Yes, a motor lodge. And whatever you're envisioning, take it down two levels. The remote control didn't even work on the TV; I might as well have been sleeping outdoors. Part of the reason for that was we didn't clinch a spot at state until the last weekend of the regular season, so most of the lodging in the area was booked. Not only was the Class 1A girls' basketball tournament there, but so were the 1A boys' basketball tournament and the state wrestling tournament for several different classes. Yep, the hotels were booked solid, and they were selling lots of Awesome Whatevers at RubyTGIAppleChili's.
The part of Prescott we were staying in was probably not the best (God, I hope it wasn't the best!), but it was OK. On the way to and from the motor lodge, we got to drive through the downtown area. It reminded me of Bisbee and Durango, Colo., and lots of other Western towns that are a little worse for wear, but solid and full of character. Not to mention characters.
Prescott Valley, on the other hand, is a town on the make. They've got a shiny new arena, Tim's Toyota Center, near the brand-new mall and the brand-new hotels. The center was hosting the wrestling championships when I was there and will be hosting high school basketball championships for the next couple of weekends.
In a way, you have to give a nod to Prescott Valley's aggressiveness. They're not Prescott, and they don't want to be. I'm not really sure what they want to be ... Reno to Phoenix's Vegas, perhaps? All I know is that the two places have polar-opposite vibes. Prescott's got the history, but Prescott Valley has the adrenaline.
While I was there, Gov. Jan Brewer made an appearance at the Prescott Valley Public Library. Apparently, she does exist. She even did a Q&A for the Prescott Daily Courier. Maybe it was a dry run, working her way up to the Yuma Sun in a few months, and then, by 2016 or so, perhaps the Arizona Republic.
The big news while I was there was that Prescott, Prescott Valley and the Salt River Project reached an accord over the pumping of water from the Big Chino aquifer. Both Prescott and Prescott Valley are running dry, and they need a new source of water. They want to drill wells into the Big Chino, but the Salt River Project, which uses water from the nearby Verde River to slake part of the Phoenix area's ever-growing thirst, protested.
The three sides spent seven figures arguing over it in court, but will now do most of their arguing out of court. Under the deal, in exchange for the Salt River Project dropping its objection, the twin communities (please don't tell them I called them that) will get to drill their wells and pump the water 30 miles to the towns, but they have agreed to monitor what they pump and replenish the Verde River if its level begins to fall.
Of course, there's no mention of how they might do that replenishing (waterless Tuesdays?), but this is Arizona, and who needs details?