"I don't even know how you tell the story of all the things that happened during your visit. Impossible and unbelievable."
My brother, Ian, sent me that text Sunday afternoon as I made my way back home following a visit to see him in Somerton, Arizona. While I won't go over every excruciating detail of the trip, I think some components of it are certainly worthy of a short(ish) travelogue.
Thursday afternoon MLB: Immediately after I landed at Gateway Airport, we drove to Mesa's Sloan Park for a spring training baseball game between the Texas Rangers and Chicago Cubs. I'd never been to a spring training game before, but for the most part it was what I might have predicted. Over a roughly one-hour time period in which only an inning and a half was played, the teams combined for such stats as two passed balls, five walks and two errors, with the only real hits of note being a pair of not-exactly-mighty two-run singles. A lot of guys I've never heard of played, and the Rangers topped the Cubbies 5-0. Still, there weren't any complaints to be had about being outside watching a ballgame on a beautiful day.
Friday morning golf: We hit the Cocopah Rio Colorado Golf Course in Somerton for an 8:30 a.m. tee time, shortly after enjoying a tasty and extremely inexpensive breakfast at the accompanying restaurant. It was my first round of the year, of course, and the first in 16 years for Ian. I'd certainly suffer a significant self-esteem decline in the event of a deeply depressing defeat.
Well, I did earn the win, but it was by no means a Brooks Koepka vs. Rory McIlroy duel for the ages. Along the way, Ian somehow managed to sink a long par putt from off the second green that we'll both remember forever. I struck some good shots, but also managed to send a drive at a seemingly impossible 180-degree angle. We both found water twice on the eighth green, and we each almost certainly hit houses that not even walled-in yards could protect. Even a few dogs were brought to near-maniacal barking by our erratic drives and fairway wood play.
Friday afternoon bowling: The Cocopah tribe also has a bowling alley in Somerton, and it was here where Ian and I both tried to improve upon our wretched September 2019 scores at the lanes in St. Peter. I think I rolled higher scores as a 10-year-old than the double-digit 10-frame tally I wound up with last time. Anyhow, I managed to come out on top both games, even though we're still by no means ready for the Saturday afternoon Pro Bowlers Tour telecasts we both enjoyed so much as youths. Earl Anthony would have surely scoffed at our relative ineptitude.
Friday evening Border Patrol scolding: Ian's community of Somerton is about 15 miles or so from the Mexican border, so even though I don't have a passport I wanted to get as close to foreign territory as possible. So, we drove down to the Arizona border community of San Luis and strolled around a bit downtown, where hundreds of Mexican citizens were walking toward the border station to cross back into their homeland. Ian thought many of them were returning from work in the fields of Yuma County, where a majority of U.S. lettuce is grown.
We walked toward the border until I could finally spy what amounted to probably half a city block of San Luis Rio Colorado, the 300,000-population city on the Mexican side. All I could see was a narrow street and an array of close-together and dilapidated buildings. Ian suggested we turn around, and we did — and I was confronted moments later by a Border Control agent who wondered just what I was doing and where I was going. We'd apparently crossed some territorial line we shouldn't have, though there was no visible line to be seen. Fortunately, all was OK after a brief but slightly panicked-on-my-part conversation. Was I somehow mistaken for "Breaking Bad" mastermind Walter White?
Friday evening earthquake: A quake that measured 5.5 on the Richter Scale at its Baja, California epicenter hit around 9 p.m. or so. That's the first time I've experienced this type of natural phenomenon, but I didn't realize it at first — even though Ian's dishes and other items were shaking slightly. I simply thought it was the effect of a smooth, delicious old fashioned Ian had concocted for me earlier.
Saturday morning Wiffle Ball: The final score from Joe C. Cardenas Memorial Field: Ian 4, Ryan 3. Nothing much to see here, unless one likes watching a couple of middle-aged buffoons play a game they've loved for more than 40 years.
Saturday afternoon at Yuma Territorial Prison: The only real tourist stop we made, this legendary facility operated from 1875 to 1909. It also housed quite the cast of colorful criminal characters, some of whom can be learned about at this historical site. There's also a cemetery on the property where prisoners who died while in jail were buried, and there's a memorial there listing these individuals. Included: a marvelously named Native American named Bat Dish, who became the object of much fantasy and speculation through the remainder of the day. Needless to say, a virtual flower has since been left for Bat Dish online.
Bat Dish's revenge?: Ian and I stayed overnight Saturday at a Mesa hotel, as I had an 8 a.m. flight to return to Sioux Falls. At about 2 a..m., our slumber was abruptly disturbed by someone who was desperately trying to open the door to our room. Was it Bat Dish sending an earthly agent our way after we'd spent far too much time mocking his name?
Looking through the door's key hole, Ian could see an extremely inebriated male completely wipe out before stumbling toward the door yet again. We called the front desk, the cops were beckoned and order was eventually restored. Needless to say, it wasn't the soundest of night's sleeps after that.
There's much more I could report, but this is already way too long. I already hope another visit can take place sooner than later. After all, there's a little place called the Grand Canyon I wouldn't mind seeing.