Arizona Articles

Arizona Travel: Westin Kierland and the FlowRider (Surfing in the Desert)


Today I have a guest post from Kate Eschbach. The day after my family returned from a trip to Arizona I was invited to visit the Westin Kierland and experience the FlowRider… the timing couldn’t have been worse for my family but luckily for Kate’s family they were right nearby. I’ll be writing about the Westin again, my kids are going to have to experience surfing in the desert too. 


We arrived Friday afternoon at the Westin Kierland and we were introduced to the FlowRider and Steve Richardson, the “Wave Master”.

The FlowRider is a water boarding simulator. It combines surfing, snowboarding and skateboarding into one amazing ride. Riders will be able to feel the power and force a wave. The Westin Kierland is able to accommodate anywhere from 300-500 riders per hour – so you do not have to wait too long to enjoy your 15 seconds of fame – or more if you can stay on that long.

It is designed with a trampoline like surface, making the inevitable wipe out much less likely to end in injury. They stress that riders of any age are welcome! You must be 42″ tall to body-board and 52″ tall to flow-board.

My nine year old son and twelve year old daughter were not sure that if they were going to brave the cold snap we were having here in Arizona, but as soon as they turned on the FlowRider and Steve was showing them tricks, the kids were heading over trying to figure out what size wet suit they should put on! The idea of learning to surf in the desert was just too tempting.

Since you are either riding the FlowRider or waiting your turn to ride, there is a very nice seating area and restaurant for parents and others to sit and relax if they choose to just cheer everyone on.

As the kids nervously walked up the side, I hoped that they would really enjoy this and just go for it!

And they did! Nate was the first to go and from the minute Steve helped him on the board, he was all smiles!

I was still breathing a huge sigh of relief that no one had asked me to put on a wet suit.

Steve was at the top of the FlowRider, helping them get on and giving them pointers and another adult was at the bottom. I felt absolutely at ease watching them head up to the top to ride again with huge smiles on their face! By the end, all the kids knew each other’s names and were cheering for each other.

That night the kids just couldn’t stop talking about how much fun they had! They called Grandpa just to tell him all about it. (Grandpa grew up in Corpus Christi, so surfing is second only to walking.)

The kids are already begging me to go back again. The FlowRider is the perfect addition to their Adventure Water Park which already includes a 900 foot lazy river and 110 foot water slide. This summer, the Westin Kierland will be holding a week long camp, and I can’t wait to research that!

Plus, I would love another excuse to stay at the Westin Kierland. At sunset, a Bagpiper plays as he walks the hills of the golf course. Mom and I were able to make it to the fire-pit Friday evening just in time to hear it.

“Like” Kierland FlowRider on Facebook or visit for the latest news and events, and Wave Master Steve’s personal blog.

You’ll have to try it someday. The view is stunning and the service is outstanding. All evening, they made my family feel like rock-stars.

FlowRider no water


This is the FlowRider without any water. Remember you’re in the middle of the desert.

Kate Eschbach Photography FlowRider


Here are Kate’s kids trying out the FlowRider. These aren’t kids who have ever surfed or been on a boogie board.

Kate Eschbach Photography first time on FlowRider

First time boogie board on Flowrider

It looks like someone’s getting the hang of it.

Elena Shaka

Beecker Carve



fun on the flow rider

Steve Richardson Wave Master


Max Sing

desert surfing
It looks a tiny bit different when the pros give it a go.

And every evening at the Westin Kierland Resort and Spa pays homage to the contributions made by the Scottish Immigrants who developed Arizona’s railroads, mines and towns. Here you’ll see bagpipers at sunset.

Kate Eschbach Photography bagpipers


On a personal note, Scottsdale is a fabulous vacation spot with amazing shopping and The Westin Kierland Resort and Spa is right next to the best of it.


Atrophied Writing Muscles


On Christmas Day Mr. G, the kids and I packed up a swanky new Lexus RX F and headed to Arizona. Why Arizona? Obviously because Mr. G’s offices aren’t in Arizona. That was the one and only reason we went there and I’m thrilled we did. There had been some shakeups at Mr. G’s network and in August when it was time to start planning a winter vacation we genuinely had no idea where he’d be working or if he’d be working so nothing had been planned. Sometime around December 20th things firmed up and the three of them sat at the dinner table, looked at me and said, “Where are we going on our vacation?”

Apparently I’m a travel agent now? One with super powers.

In addition to all of this we’d been to the Beverly Hills Library to renew the kids’ passports in late November (make a weekend appointment there and it’s totally civilized – you’re welcome). As I stood there with Mrs. Public Servant and asked for a expedited service she gave my husband a lecture about how it’s a waste of money. She lectured my husband while I held the checkbook in my hands. Let that sink in.

It worked. Even though I explained to Mr. G that I’d like to try for a last minute trip to Mexico if he was able to get away Mrs. Public Servant told us that the passports wouldn’t even get to us on time and we were just wasting our money. I asked her to stop interrupting and told her I enjoyed wasting money, we were in Beverly Hills after all. Isn’t that the money wasting capital of the world?

Without a rush the kids’ passports arrived in the mail on December 24th. We could have been in Mexico. I hate that lady.

In any event we took off to Arizona and stayed at the Biltmore in Phoenix. Don’t do it. We had a really great time in spite of the fact that the restaurants are abominable, there isn’t enough hot water for a family to shower and the furnace clatters and wakes you up at night. It was an oddity that we had a great vacation in a not great hotel.

Family Road Trip

We cut our time short in Arizona and headed to Las Vegas for some wholesome family fun. I hadn’t been to Vegas in much too long and I loved the shopping and the food as well as Blackjack Switch. It’s this really fun game of blackjack where you play two hands at a time and you can switch your second cards to make better hands. Of course the rules change a little so blackjack only pays 1-1 and dealer busts on 23 but pushes on 22. I spent several hours playing cards and it was cheap entertainment.

We went to see Love at the Mirage. It was Mr. G’s first Cirque show. The kids and have been to four or five of them and we enjoy it but we don’t quite rave about it. Also I like the Beatles but I don’t love the Beatles. Love is different. It was spectacular. The music was the Beatles unlike anyone has ever heard the Beatles and the stage show had more dancing and less acrobatics than most Cirque productions, that might be one of the reasons I enjoyed it so much. It’s a small theater with half of the action happening overhead. We bought seats in the middle price point. If I had it to do over again I’d have bought the cheap seats.

I haven’t written much. I haven’t even answered emails since before the holidays and I’m really happy too. I guess a real writer would be aching to get pen to ink or fingers to keyboard. I’m happy I’m just a blogger and that we’ll enjoy 2013 together.



She Just Wasn’t My Dog but Jane is 100% My Daughter


canal in tempe arizona near aunt cheladas

Today was the first day of actual volleyball (don’t even ask me why I had to leave my house before dawn on Monday) so we scheduled a dinner on the hotel property. We thought driving the kids around Tempe might be a little bit much.

When you walk from The Grand to Aunt Cheladas (could I make that name up?) there’s a golf course to cross and then a tiny bridge over a manmade canal. The girls were walking ahead of me and I was hanging back to have a much needed phone call with my husband (whom I am officially missing terribly) when I noticed my daughter veering off from the path to the restaurant and running next to the canal.

“There’s a dog in the river!” She was upset and running alongside it. The dog was paddling and being taken downstream. As Jane was running and sweet talking the dog would turn toward her and try to climb the concrete embankment and just as quickly fall back in. She had a square head like a hound dog or a Catahoula Cur but her torso was spotted like an Australian Shepherd. The girls thought she looked very thin and I thought she looked strong and lean like a hunting dog ought to.

I sent a half dozen girls back to join the others at the restaurant while Jane and I followed the dog downstream. There was a dam of sorts, like a screen meant to gather trash perhaps, and the dog was able to climb it and pull herself out of the river without injuring herself.

She was magnificent and afraid. She was as large as any Catahoula I’d ever seen and I thought I’d pegged her breed until I saw her tail. It was thick and long like a raccoon, soaking wet it was thicker than her legs.

She shook herself off and then ran off toward the highway where she finally settled down in the dirt and watched the cars go by.

Jane was convinced there was another dog in the tunnel. I offered to call 911 knowing full well there was no other dog and if there was we couldn’t possibly save it. I called fake 911 but accidentally dialed 911 and promptly hung up.

Remarkably someone from the Maricopa county 911 system called me back. I explained the dog dilemma and they put me through to a phone tree for animal control. I hung up.

I convinced Jane to go join her group at Aunt Cheladas and we both walked back there feeling horrible about the giant dog at the side of the road. She sat with her friends and I sat with the moms and when I recounted the entire experience to the other chaperone I ended the very short story with, “and I’m not sure if she’s my dog.”

“What would you do if she is your dog?” My co-chaperone asked.

“I suppose I’d ditch the plane tickets, rent a car and drive the three of us home.”

I left the restaurant through the front door and walked down the Arizona highway where my maybe dog was still resting. When I got close to her I whistled a bit and watched for her for any shows of aggression. I got to within 20 feet of her and she leapt to her feet and began walking across eight lanes of traffic. My heart raced and I screamed while cars braked to avoid her, she galloped past them taller than I’d imagined and easily visible to sedan and SUV drivers alike.

She wasn’t my dog and I tried to not cry but still a tear escaped.

I turned to walk back to the restaurant and looked on in horror as I saw my daughter standing next to the canal watching me and the dog who wasn’t mine.

Chaperoning is for Suckers


This morning I was up at 6 so that Jane and I could get to the local high school by 7.30. Buses pulled out at 8 and we arrived in Blythe midday and then Phoenix, Arizona mid afternoon. Blythe was predicably disgusting with men sitting on milk crates rolling joints and drinking from brown paper bags while we decided which fast food restaurant we’d poison ourselves at.

We arrived at the hotel in the hottest part of the day, 119 degrees to be exact. We had four busloads of volleyball girls disembarking and not a bellman in sight. The hotel rooms are filthy and sitting her on the bed I feel like I’m on a clean island and I’m afraid to step on the floor barefoot since I’ve moved chairs and found potato chips and dirty tissues under them. I’ve scrubbed and dusted and thrown out no smoking signs, clearly they are meaningless as the room smells like a cigarette.

I’ve been to WalMart and I cannot believe the prices or the sadness that permeates that store. It’s the size of of a city and filled to the brim with things that we shouldn’t want and definitely don’t need.

I’m driving a Chevy 15 passenger van and although it’s a 2012 model it has over 20,000 miles on it. I hope that the air conditioning holds out on us and I really hope that I’m able to not crash into people.

The girls are a delight. They are sweet and enthusiastic, they are polite and lovable. Granted, this is day one.

Mr. G has called to find out where the dog leash is, when we’re coming home, if Alexander’s friend Steve wants to sleep over and he wants to know if the housekeeper is coming. I’m not a great communicator with him. These things probably should have been in a note, but we have text messages and I like hearing his voice when he calls.

Should I survive this trip there will be wonderful tales to tell.


The Four Seasons Resort: Scottsdale, AZ


So far, so good


The Four Seasons Scottsdale is ready for my kids

The Four Seasons Scottsdale is ready for my kids