|Day 1 - July 25, 2004 - A.J. and I packed up the Honda Pilot and
headed out on our trip. We started out from San Marcos late in the
afternoon, with a goal of driving to Phoenix that night (while it was a
bit cooler). We made a pit stop at
More to pick up some beer, soda (including
Jolt Cola) and
energy drinks, and hit the road in earnest. The drive east on I-8
was interesting - I had never taken that highway to the east. We
stopped for dinner in Yuma (A.J. was introduced to
Popeye's Fried Chicken), and
almost ran out of gas near Gila Bend. We drove through Phoenix to
Mesa and found the Motel 6 in Mesa,
where we spent our first night.
Day 2 - July 26, 2004 - Rise and shine early after a night of monsoonal rain. Our first stop was a McDonald's for breakfast. After a quick Egg McMuffin we set off for Emerald Park in Mesa.
Emerald Park - Our first stop was a pleasant nine-hole course in Mesa. We got started pretty early in the morning. The grass was still wet from the heavy rain that had passed through the night before, but by 8am the air was heating up and it started to get steamy. This course runs around the periphery of a park that is designed as a flood watershed for the surrounding neighborhood. The park is configured like a bowl, so there are a number of shots that either go up or down the gentle slopes. The course is mostly open, but the few trees available are used well. It was pretty early, so we saw no one else at this park. Good for a casual round if you're in the area.
Mesquite Grove - We found this course on the south side of the metro area, in an area where there is a lot of growth and development going on. This park is built right next to a high school, which may attract some younger players. The nine baskets each had two tees associated with them, in a layout that basically went out 9 then back in. It was very hot and dry on the day we played and quite dusty. The mesquite trees/bushes were very rough to land in - big thorns and lots of-em!! The layout required a variety of shots - a good challenge. Because the shule is so nasty you want to have a spotter on the wooded holes. We found an unmarked disc at this course (I think it was an XL) that became my "over the water disc" for quite a while. We were so hot and thirsty when we finished (over 100░) that our next stop was a Ralph's grocery store that was air-conditioned, which we used to bring our temperatures back down.
Moeur Park - This was a nice little 9-hole course with, get this, a natural water source that comes into play. After Mesquite Grove we definitely wanted to jump into that river 'cause it was so dang hot. It was a little narrow which adds to the challenge. Whoever designed this course definitely made use of the little amount of land that they were given.
Vista Del Camino - This was definitely a good course to think a bout when designing courses because it had a lot of good things that a park should have. it played along a little valley with a lake and a lot of trees. Too bad for us though, we could only the first 8 or 9 due to the setting sun. The next day, we played the course with a local 5-some. One good thing was that the water sprinklers came on and provided some relief for us. Another plus is that up the street there is a store with a disc golf section which is very helpful for people new to the sport.
Day 3 - July 27, 2004 - Muscles are a bit fatigued, skin a little burned, body a bit dehydrated, yet we press on! Day three is the first morning where you wake up tired. We fight the urge to roll over and hit the snooze button (well, one of us does) and head out into the early morning heat to finish off the rest of the Phoenix-area courses. First stop was back to Vista Del Camino to play the whole course, then out northeast to the Fountain.
Fountain Hills Park - After a small drive to the suburb, we played Fountain Hills Park. Too bad for us, the fountain was not working. It was still a very nice course with water that came into play on about half of the holes. One thing that was fun was seeing all the people show up for the fountain and then it not going off. On our way back to Phoenix we saw a Mr. Taco impersonator and that was Se˝or Taco.
Buffalo Ridge Park - At first, this course seemed quite challenging and hard to navigate. Luckily for us, a couple of locals showed up as soon as we did and we tagged along with them. I must say, this was a pretty awesome course. It had a lot of great shots going up and down the Buffalo Ridge. Without those two guys, we probably wouldn't have made it past hole one.
Conocido Park - This course was similar to Vista Del Camino except without the elevation and water but with a lot more trees. The holes were pretty lengthy and challenging. There are only nine baskets, so the locals play nine, then turn around and play them pretty much in reverse to get 18.
Thunderbird-Paseo - We made it to this 9-holer at the end of our second day in the Phoenix area. We had little trouble finding the park - I think it had to do with the street numbers changing as we moved from City to County jurisdiction. What the directions should tell you is that this course is built in the middle of a flood control channel. It's a great use of virtually undesirable land. While we were playing we came a cross quite a bit of trash and debris that must have washed downstream .
Once we finished playing the 'Bird we picked up a pizza and hit the road. Our next stop was Flagstaff, where we found a Motel 6. The drive north from Phoenix to Flagstaff was amazing, as a summer storm blustered and blew as we drove north in the dark. Lots of wind, rain and lightning which ended well before we hit Flagstaff around midnight.
Day 4 - July 28, 2004 - Flagstaff is at a higher elevation than what we are used to, so the air is a little thinner and a first morning greeting is the headache that comes with elevation. We bid adieu to the motel 6 and headed out to find Thorpe Park, one of the courses used for the 2003 Pro Worlds.
Thorpe Park - What a great course! It plays through a pine forest with gentle slopes throughout. Once you get a few holes into the course you wind away from civilization and it becomes very peaceful, only the occasional sound of plastic slamming into big pines followed by a muffled #%$@&! One skill that's useful for courses like this is being able to throw skips off the pine straw. By the time we finished 18 holes we were experts. As we were getting started with our round we saw an interesting sight. Apparently there was someone (or a group) running some kind of cross-country marathon, we think to raise awareness and funds to fight cancer. Hmmmmmmm, cross-country athletic marathon to raise funds and awareness - sounds like an interesting idea...
We did a little exploring old downtown Flagstaff. Really cool - looks of little shops, places to eat, galleries. We stopped at an outdoors shop called Peace Surplus, cuz we heard that they carried golf discs. They did have a pretty good selection, and they also had maps of the local courses, including some object courses that weren't in the PDGA directory. We headed towards NAU for our next course. On the way we stopped and had lunch at Bun Huggers. Big burgers, put on your own fixins', and lots of old west decor. It was fun and filling - just what we needed. AJ had a bacon cheeseburger, of course. He has that at pretty much every burger place we go to. I think he is compiling a ratings book on that particular menu item. But I digress...
NAU DGC - The NAU course was a little tricky to find. Once we found the right place to park it was a bit of a walk through some woods and a clearing to tee #1. I gotta think this course was designed by a lefty. I don't think I ever threw that many anhyzer drives in one round, ever before. No complaints, though, as it was an enjoyable round. The big downhill hole along the power lines was fun! One thing we learned about playing at elevation is that your shots don't curve as much as they do near sea level. Something about the air being less dense so there are fewer air molecules to rub against the disc and cause friction. OK.
We hit the road mid-afternoon to head back west on I-40. AJ caught a few Zzzz's while I sped along. With a few hours before sundown we made it to Kingman, AZ. First stop was Vons to replenish our water supply, but the we headed to Firefighters park, which was just down the street.
Firefighters Memorial Park - OK - so you have about 5 acres of open land with a few small collections of pine trees and you want to build a park. First add playground equipment, next some picnic shelters, then restrooms (of course). When you're done with that you can throw in 9 poleholes and baskets, randomly distributed through the trees. This course was really pretty forgettable - I really can't remember any distinguishing characteristics. We did play 9 holes with a nice couple who were driving cross-country to head back to grad school from California. Aside from that that hour is almost a complete blank. Was fatigue setting in?
If fatigue wasn't setting in at that point it would a few hours later. We drove north out of Kingman towards Nevada, watching a big thunderstorm off to the northwest. We did get some of the residual wind, but no rain. Along the way we crossed the Colorado River via the Hoover Dam. You know, the post-9/11 America can be a pretty freaky place. We had to stop at a major security checkpoint before we could approach the dam. There's nothing like contemplating the fact that authorities are expecting someone to be packing a nuclear warhead to kill the buzz of seeing a cool tourist site. Anyway, we stopped at the viewing area and got out to gawk at the huge pile of concrete blocking the river. It was almost as much fun to watch the various flavors of foreign tourists spill out of their buses to snap photos.
We made it to Las Vegas late in the evening. I decided to stick to our low budget for a room, so we bypassed the various casino hotels. After all, all we were going to do was sleep for a few hours and then head out for golf. So we found the Motel 6 near the Strip, which was also close to our first course of the next day.
Day 5 - July 29, 2004 - Ahhhhhhh, Vegas! The wild nightlife, high stakes gambling, beautiful showgirls, cheap buffets...we saw none of that. We were hear to play disc golf, dammit, and that's what we did - with a passion!
Sunset Park - Our first stop was Sunset park, which is rather close to the Strip and McCarran International Airport. It has 24 holes, with multiple pin placements. This is another course that is laid out around and in-between softball fields and along the periphery of the park. It is a good and challenging deign, with a mix of shots required. We played early in the morning, and were fighting the sprinklers as we worked our way around. We were the only souls out there. This looks like it could be a great roller course, but the ground was so wet from the sprinklers that rollers weren't possible.
Have we mentioned yet that it was really hot in Las Vegas? By the time we finished playing Sunset the sun was high in the sky and the temperature was in the 90's. We headed off to the other side of town to find Freedom Park.
Freedom Park - This had to be the most frustrating stop on the trip (after the flea-bag Motel 6...). Have you ever been to a park where you can see the baskets, but you have no idea where the tees are and what hole is which because there are NO TEE SIGNS or NUMBERS ON THE BASKETS!!!! We tried our best to put together a round here, playing from where we thought a tee should be. Too bad that the map that is now available (see hyperlink) wasn't around back then. It's a nice enough park, with picnic areas, restrooms, a skate park, etc., but don't go without a map.
Mountain Crest Park - So we go from one of the most frustrating experiences to one of the best, just in a matter of minutes. Mountain Crest Park is a beautiful little park on the northwest side of Las Vegas. It's basically a rectangular piece of land given to the city by a home builder (as a condition of being able to build houses), but the city did a great job with this park. Aside from the disc golf course there is a community center building, a great playground for kids with water-spray toys, beautiful landscaping, basketball and volleyball courts and some nice trails. Oh yeah, and restrooms. The golf course is fun too! The layout was moderately challenging for such an open piece of land, and it's clear that the disc golf course is a central focal point of the park. A must stop!
Peccole Ranch - Our final stop before leaving Las Vegas was the mysterious course at Peccole Ranch. This course is located on a greenbelt that runs throughout the master-planned community of Peccole Ranch. Disc Golf is probably #4 on the priority of uses of this property, behind: #1 - Providing a pretty backdrop behind homeowners' back fences, #2 - Hosting a paved walking trail that runs throughout the greenbelt as a resource of the homeowners, #3 - Acting as a storm water runoff channel for whenever the monsoons hit, and #4 - a disc golf course. It really is a drainage channel - to get between some of the holes you have to walk through tunnels that go under the streets. This is a *very* tight, technical course, with lots of opportunities to go O.B. in backyards. The locals warn you to not climb into backyards, as the cops have been called for tresspassing! Play it with a putter.
Actually, the last stop before leaving Las Vegas was In-n-Out Burger. Double-double, fries and Coke, please!
We hit the road - I-15 heading south back to SoCal. It was several hours before we made it back to the L.A. Basin, as traffic leaving the slot machines was pretty heavy. We made it to Rancho Cucamonga, home of Innova, well after sundown.
Ralph Williams Park, Rancho Cucamonga, CA - We pulled into the parking lot at this park well after sundown - technically we were tresspassing, as the park closed at dusk. Oops, I guess it was too dark to read the signs. This isn't so much a golf course as a golf practice area, I guess. The holes weren't numbered as far as I could tell - no tee signs, etc. But it was cool grass on our bare feet and chains (that we were afraid to crash, fearing the cops...). I wonder if Dave D. and the Innova boys ever come here to try out their new toys....
Once we had stretched a little bit it was time for the last leg of the day's journey. We drove on down the 215 to Arcadia, near Santa Anita Racetrack and found (could ya guess?) a Motel 6 that has rooms available at 1am.
Day 6 - July 30, 2004 -
Oak Grove DGC @ Hahamongna Watershed Regional Park, La Ca˝ada Flintridge, CA - Early on the foggy morning of our last day on the Tour we headed to the birthplace of disc golf - Oak Grove. This was A.J.'s first pilgrimage to the disc golf Mecca. Oak Grove is a funky course. Pieces of the old layout still exist here and there, but it is clear that the course has had to stretch and grow in order to accommodate modern golf discs. In my mind I can see old Ed Headrick trotting around, trying to figure out where to put his new inventions. I imagine what it would have been like to play the course with old World Class Frisbees and Midnight Flyers - throwing discs into those first single-chain baskets instead of hitting trees or mailboxes or fire hydrants. We fell in with a couple of locals who helped us navigate the course (it's the birthplace of disc golf but it DOESN'T HAVE DECENT TEE SIGNS!!!) and had a fun game.
La Mirada Regional Park, La Mirada, CA - Another important spot in disc golf history. We made it to LaMa around mid-day. This course was home to many Wham-O U.S. Open Championships and U.S. Championships, well before the PDGA got rid of its teething ring. It's a beautiful park - rolling hills, lots of grass, a lake in the middle of the front 18 holes and a variety of trees. The course always has 27 holes available, and you can get maps to see what the "Championship 18" layout is. This, however, was where Rizbee's arm went dead. Probably around hole 10 or 11 I just couldn't throw hard anymore. I tried, but I couldn't get more than 250 ft out of my drives. Bummer. We went all they way around, 27 holes, but thank goodness we weren't keeping score.
It was still early/mid-afternoon, so we stopped for a quick visit to Discovering the World, in Buena Park. I have been doing business with Dan since the early 80's - by mail order when I lived in Florida - so it's always fun to stop in and shoot the shit. We had a good chat and picked up a few discs and headed down the road to our last stop.
Central Park, Huntington Beach, CA - We stopped here, but didn't play. Frankly, we were pretty much played out. I know I couldn't throw another shot - maybe A.J. could, though. No matter what, we just stopped in the parking lot and checked out the bulletin board. Maybe HB will make it on the list of another tour?
5 days, 1,135 miles, 18 courses, 292 holes - what a journey. This was a great way to unwind and a great way for a father and son to bond and enjoy each other's company. We had a great time, learned a lot about ourselves and each other. An we immediately started thinking about what the next year's Tour would bring...