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North America

All I Need Is The Air That I Breathe

Jonathan van Bilsen



October 4, 2015

All I Need Is The Air That I Breathe

Much of our aging Canadian population heads to the dry climates of Arizona in an effort to be rid of respiratory complications. The healing qualities of the dessert, however, are not what they are cut out to be. In Phoenix I encountered many ‘Snowbirds’ who fled the cold winter climates of the Northern US and Canada (no doubt some were from Port Perry) and made their home in the sunny, dry south-western US. Many people I spoke with chose the lifestyle change as a remedy for respiratory problems caused by the frigid, damp temperatures of northern climates.

I have always assumed this to be a good thing, but was astounded when I discovered that most ailments not only persisted, but in many cases grew worse. I decided to investigate and met with a healthcare practitioner who specialises in respiratory disease. I was amazed at my findings: 

He explained that the desert temperatures, dryness and general climate goes a long way in healing lung and other respiratory ailments, however, the majority of people are never able to take advantage of these cures. They wake each morning in the comfort of their air conditioned house or condo. They then step into their artificially chilled automobiles and head for offices, malls, fitness centres, etc., where centralized comfort centres chill the air beyond necessity, not only removing heat, but also moisture, vitamins and any other health beneficial elements.

As a tourist haven, the Phoenix area offers endless days of pleasure. There are dozens of malls and golf courses. Scottsdale is well known and is the central hub of the shopping paradise. Areas like Old Town are simply amazing. Laid out as an old western town one can stroll around porch-lined shops, gaze at artistically carved statues and sample the finest in cuisine.

I stayed, not in Scottsdale, but in the south part of Phoenix in a resort called the Legacy; a series of one and two room condos, which appear to be for sale as timeshares. The hotel with gigantic pool, superb golf course and spacious walkways is less expensive than the more publicized resorts of Scottsdale. 

I met a few folks from South America and Chile and we decided to play a round of golf. After nine holes we had to call it quits. The heat was too much and we longed for the coolness of the great indoors. Once there, we relaxed with a cold beverage and some interesting conversations about the homelands of my new friends.

Having seen enough shopping malls I decided to take my rental car for a spin and found myself on the road to the Grand Canyon, located about 3 hours north of Phoenix. The drive was spectacular and when I hit the rocky hills in Sedona my camera went into high gear. Every turn was a photographer’s paradise. The vistas seemed endless and the sun shining on the landscape was brilliant.

A stop over in Tlaquepaque is a must. With several restaurants boasting signature dishes the arts and crafts village is well worth the visit. I found everyone friendly and the articles in the art shops were unique to the region. The entire area is laid out as a Spanish village of days gone by. There are several inexpensive hotels and motels in the area and an overnight stay will make a memorable addition to any trip.

As I neared the Grand Canyon, I grew eager to see the ‘Wonder of the World’. When I finally arrived I stood in awe, as if struck by a bolt of lightning. The scene before me was unimaginable. The Canyon is sixteen Kilometres wide and more than two hundred long. At a depth of 1500 metres I had to strain to see the bottom, but finally caught a glimpse of a small, silver ribbon - the mighty Colorado River. 

Unfortunately I did not have enough time to venture into the giant crevice, but saw adventurers on horseback and on foot setting off to explore the vast unknown. The drive along the top edge of the Canyon was fascinating and the image with every turn is like a postcard.

I made my way back to Phoenix to my hotel and met up with my international friends. We decided to head for Rawhide’s, a reconstructed western town out of the eighteen hundreds. The experience is great and as you walk down the dirt covered Main Street you expect to see Wyatt Earp jump from behind a building at any moment.

Dinner in the saloon was an involvement. Our contact, Cowboy Bob met us and, although he was born in Turkey, he certainly portrayed a convincing role as a cowboy. Inside, along with heaping portions of beef, potatoes and veggies, was a Country and Western band. As we ate we sang along to tunes by Hank Williams, Johnny Cash and Jimmy Rogers. Our waitress, Diamond Lil, as she was known, was friendly and efficient. The boa around her neck added to the authenticity of the establishment. 

After a hearty meal, a little dancing and some great conversation, we headed back to the hotel in order to pack for our respective flights home. Although Phoenix may not be all that it is cracked up to be from a health perspective, it certainly is worth the visit if sightseeing one of the world’s most amazing landscapes is on your agenda.

Jonathan van Bilsen’s photosNtravel TV show can be watched on RogersTV and YouTube. To follow Jonathan’s travel adventures visit

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