P.F. Chang’s Rock and Roll – Phoenix, AZ

In my last post I mentioned Patricia and I were taking on the challenge of running 11 half-marathons this year. Our first stop on the tour was on January 19th, in sunny Phoenix, AZ for the P.F. Chang’s Rock and Roll 1/2 Marathon. For this particular trip we did it as a whirlwind overnight trip.

Phoenix Airport

We flew into Phoenix Saturday morning, the flight on Southwest was relatively short so we didn’t leave until around 9am. Our first stop in Phoenix after the airport was the expo in downtown at the convention center. To get there we hopped a light rail train from the airport to downtown. The first thing I noticed as we headed to downtown was just how desolate and well, brown everything was. The entire town seemed to be made up of 2 story brown buildings.

Arriving downtown we picked up our race packets at the fairly packed expo then went hunting for some food.

Cartel Aricha

We ended up checking out Cartel Coffee Lab at their downtown location. There we sampled some pretty tasty coffee’s that they roast, along with some tasty food bites. If you’re ever in Phoenix or passing through the airport be sure to check out Cartel as they know what they’re up to when it comes to coffee (see my coffee review for one of the coffees at: ).

Cartel Croquets

For food we got some beef croquettes which were pretty tasty. If I’m ever back in town I’d love to check out some more of their food options.

After a bite to eat we headed to the Hotel which was located in Tempe, AZ home to Arizona State University (ASU). To get there we hopped back on the light rail where we journeyed by even more short brown buildings. So far Phoenix wasn’t really looking like a place I’d want to live. ASU itself didn’t really give a very good impression either, on getting off the train we saw a guy take a piss on the shelter for the tram stop. He couldn’t be bothered to water a bush directly behind him.

Rock and Roll - Phoenix Start

Rock and Roll - Phoenix Start Line

The race itself was pretty fun, we got up early and walked about a mile to the start. The start line was pretty packed, once we got around to the starting side. The race itself ran through Tempe, then headed north into Scottsdale. Most of the race ended up running past more of those short brown buildings. Sadly the parts of Scottsdale, Phoenix, and Tempe we journeyed by didn’t really give us anything to look forward to.

Top of the race

There were a couple of scenic parts at the end. Mile 10 was an uphill battle and put us at the top of a butte overlooking downtown Phoenix. This was probably the best view of the entire run, my iPhone picture doesn’t really do it justice. On the way down from there we ran through the desert botanical gardens which were pretty in a desolate sort of way. We also ran by the spring training facility of the Oakland A’s which is in Scottsdale.

Ra Ra Riot

The band at the end of the race was one of the best I’ve seen for a Rock and Roll run. The end of the race band in this case was Ra Ra Riot whom I saw last year at the Fillmore in San Francisco. Oddly no one was into the band and it was possible to get right up in front. I felt sort of bad for them since they flew all the way out to Phoenix from New York just for this event. Patricia had a lot of fun and found some energy to dance around despite having just finished a 13.1 mile run.

Four Peaks Brewing Sampler

After the race we made our way over to Four Peaks brewing the local microbrewery where I had a sampler of beer and a sandwich along with some “beer bread”. While the food was  pretty good the beer was nothing to remember. In fact their flagship beer is a scotch ale, one of my favorite styles but the one in the sampler was pretty meh. I thought their best beer was Peach Ale which was as advertised a peach flavored ale. Even that wasn’t top of the heap as I prefer the fruity beers from Lost Coast up in NorCal. In the end none of the beers were really bad, but nothing was particularly stand out either.

Phoenix Castle

Patricia has a friend living in Phoenix and we met up with him at Four Peaks and after dinner he took us on a brief tour of greater Phoenix/Scottsdale. At this point we saw the “rich” side of town which looked a bit less run down than what we’ve seen so far. We saw some multimillion dollar homes, and he took us up a ridge where we saw a castle and the sun setting over the city.

Sunset over Phoenix

After checking out the rich side of town we went looking for some good coffee and ended up back at Cartel Coffee Labs, this time at the original location. Turns out the roastery itself is also a small nano brewery with a tiny 10 gallon brew sculpture.

Cartel Coffee Porter

Cartel Coffee Labs Brew Sculpture

There I had a coffee brown ale which was excellent. It was a nice nutty brown ale with some cold brew coffee flavors. It was definitely on par with Surly’s Coffee Bender which is one of my favorite brews. I also tried a taste of their F.Y.T.I.M. which was a not too hoppy (but still hoppy) imperial IPA. It was probably on par with some of the west coast DIPA’s such as Pliny the Elder.  These guys seem to know what their doing with both coffee and beer which is an interesting combination. Finally we hitched a ride with Patricia’s friend to the Phoenix airport and headed back home to the Bay Area.

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