The house is cantilevered out from a mountainous rock pile. Everything about it is as new as next week, except for the view of the giant saguaro-cactus-strewn desert that is much the same as it was when the Hohokams trailed across the Continental Mountains into the valley 2,000 years ago. It sits very much at home in this desert landscape, for the building materials are a camouflaging sandstone, and the flat roof has been graveled in pebbles from the desert itself. The owner goes up the crunchy path to his study, stepping carefully to miss the needle-sharp cacti that line the walkway. A gigantic boulder protrudes halfway into the house, with a wall of glass that frames the view set right into a groove in the rock. The Westerner steps to the house intercom and says tersely: "Betty, turn on the waterfall."
This is landlocked Arizona's famous Valley of the Sun, where the living is lush and water now springs into the desert on command, where million-dollar houses and 36-hole golf courses, luxury resort hotels and canyon lakes are being built at such a clip that soon California and Florida may well start wondering where all the tourists went.
Arizona's message is now getting to a growing group that does not suffer from asthma, emphysema or arteriosclerosis. "We are getting a lot of bounce-backs," says one native. "By that I mean young people who go out to California, find it isn't what it's cracked up to be and bounce back here to stay." Even the Scottsdale Chamber of Commerce insists that its average citizen is probably 36 or younger.
Yet something about the dry, ultraviolet air of the living desert preserves all the old myths. It is hard to discard the notion that only elderly millionaires can enjoy the luxurious life of the famous oasis resorts in the Valley of the Sun. After all, you do see quite a few grizzled types on the streets, and there is that sign that seems to carry status a step too far in front of the Millionaire's Club in Scottsdale. The myth was no myth, however, when the palatial San Marcos Resort opened at nearby Chandler 59 years ago and when the Wrigley family commissioned an apostle of Frank Lloyd Wright to design the now stately Biltmore in 1928. In those days the trip from New York to Phoenix took two days and three nights on the train. In fact, it was a heck of a long way from anywhere outside Arizona to the Valley, so people only came if they intended to stay awhile. Winter guests arrived for the "season"—January to Easter—and you had to have the time and money.
For all that, life in the oasis was never quite as sedate as legend would have it. The sun and bracing dry air revived even the most mummified and sent them out onto the golf courses and bridle paths to enjoy the huge imported palms, the purple mountains and the groves of fragrant orange and lemon trees. Yet compared to the yeasty active types arriving nowadays those visitors seem like denizens of the Petrified Forest.
The new resorters are not juvenile go-go types. They are the mature, hard-driving, golf-bag guys—executives, scientists, doctors, lawyers and engineers, who work hard and play harder. Chances are they were first introduced to the Valley's superb golf climate and some of its 36 different courses during a blue-chip business convention or professional seminar in the off-season months just before or after the January-to-March high season. Liking Arizona, they came back and brought their wives, who fell hard for the combination of desert beauty and simulated roughing it.
As a result, new vitality and energy are being pumped into the area. The Valley of the Sun is swinging—especially its golf clubs. Many more golf resorts are planned, the seasons are growing longer, hotels are staying open year-round, package rates are better and even the saddle horse is coming back into its own. In addition, these younger, more vital visitors are demanding new attractions to go with golf, poolside lolling and resort living. They want skeet shooting and jeep rides into the back country and desert-trail riding. They have discovered that a small airplane can take them skiing, fishing, boating, water skiing or big-game hunting in a matter of minutes, all in Arizona. For these people, the Valley is bursting with polo, trotting, Thoroughbred and quarter-horse racing, dog tracks and bowling alleys. And Maricopa County is developing a Sun Circle Trail for hikers, cyclers and equestrians which will be 125 miles long and will completely encircle the little resort towns that surround Phoenix.
These are the city's beguiling, diamond-studded decorations. There is Paradise Valley, where property sells for as much as $20,000 an acre. Barry Gold-water lives here, perched on a hilltop, his short-wave antenna higher than anybody else's. There is Scottsdale, which calls itself "the West's most Western town," to the consternation of a host of urbane sophisticates who despise such a corny image. There is Carefree, a splendid new resort 20 miles to the north in a beautiful saguaro-cactus forest; and Litchfield Park, developed around the attractive Wigwam Country Club resort, where the Goodyear Company is building a model community for 90,000 by 1990. There is Chandler, where the San Marcos has just spent $42,000 on new sod to keep its golf course open all year. There is the little college town of Tempe, its streets filled with Arizona State students, and there is Mesa, the Gateway to the Superstition Mountains and the Lost Dutchman mine. There is Wickenburg, with its fabulous dude ranches, typified by the Rancho de los Caballeros—and a host of other pleasant spots with appealing names like Surprise, Queen Creek, Bapchule, Ocotillo, Komatke, Buckeye, El Mirage and Palo Verde.
Thirty-five years ago Phoenix was such a little hick hole in the trail west that they ran a sprinkling wagon up and down the two main streets to tamp down the dust kicked up by horses. The morning after the 18th Amendment went into effect, the sprinkler wagon was filled with the town's entire stock of wine, beer and whiskey, and that is what it sprinkled, while parched cowboys ran after the spray, catching it in their felt hats.
Phoenix retains remnants of this Wild West past. Sheriff's sales are still posted on open bulletins in the heart of town. Indians straight out of Central Casting stand on street corners in blinding turquoise shirts and dusty black hats. At the Big Apple, the waitresses, far from being topless, pack real six-shooters. But mostly Phoenix is a smart modern urban community, turning a clean smiling face to the visitor. And why not? The tourist is the butter on the Valley's tortilla, the chili pepper in its hot sauce and the salt around the rim of its Margarita. "This area lives on tourists. I think most people here realize that, and they don't resent tourists a bit," says Scottsdale Society Writer Lina Juliber. "We draw just about the nicest people in the world, and they come to us from all over the world. We are lucky. For some reason, we simply don't get creeps like other resorts."