Mobile Version of ADOT Bike Map Now Available

Susan Stocker | Lake Havasu City

From our friends at the Arizona Department of Transportation:

PHOENIX ­­­– The Arizona Department of Transportation is making it easier for residents and tourists to bicycle throughout Arizona by updating the free Cycle Arizona Bicycle User Map available at and adding a mobile-friendly version.

To help cyclists plan their routes, the map includes information on shoulder widths, grades and traffic volumes for the state highway system. It has links to resources on laws and policies, local bicycle paths and U.S. Bicycle Route 90, created in 2015 to span 573 miles between Arizona’s eastern and western borders and connect to a national network of bicycle routes.

In addition to PDF versions with statewide and regional views, there now is an interactive version compatible with iOS and Android mobile devices. Users can click on lines and icons to see where there are frontage roads, extreme grades, narrow bridges and places to visit such as state and national parks, trailheads and rest areas. They also can get contact information for resources such as local chambers of commerce.

“The mobile version makes this a great traveling companion for anyone who’s passionate about bicycling, including the many riders who travel to Arizona,” ADOT Director John Halikowski said. “We take everything from safety tips to local points of interest and literally put it in the palm of your hand, making transportation truly personal.”

A 2013 ADOT study showed Arizona is a destination for out-of-state bicycling enthusiasts due to its weather, newer infrastructure and scenery, among other factors. It found that bicycle tourists contribute more than $88 million annually to the state economy.

Michael Sanders, ADOT’s bicycle and pedestrian program coordinator, said producing the mobile-friendly map involved reviewing feedback from constituents and researching how other states offer information for bicyclists. The map was produced in collaboration with the Arizona Office of Tourism and Arizona Council for Enhancing Recreation and Tourism.

“The Arizona Management System championed by Governor Doug Ducey challenges all ADOT employees to continuously improve this agency’s value to its customers, and those customers include the many bicyclists drawn to our state’s scenic highways and byways,” Sanders said. “These updates will make it even easier for bicyclists of all comfort levels to enjoy the best of what Arizona has to offer.”

To learn more, visit and click on Arizona Bicycle and Pedestrian Maps. To request a free copy of the Cycle Arizona Bicycle User Map, call 602.712.8141 or send an email to [email protected].

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From a Reader: The Spirit of the Cowboy

Julie Knight | Sonoita

From time to timeArizona Highways receives poetry submissions from readers. Dianna Cunningham, a resident of Northeast Phoenix, sent us this one in response to our August issue (on newsstands now) on Arizona's Western culture. Thanks so much for sharing it with us, Dianna!

The Spirit of the Cowboy
By Dianna Cunningham

The cowboy embodies
the spirit of the west.

Like his father before him,
he lives life to its best.

His passion for living
shows in his face.

His bedside companion
is the wide open space.

Hard work and honor
are always his style,

Every new challenge
he takes on with a smile.

He’s mastered the art
of working the land

And when a friendship is needed
he’ll lend you a hand.

While others search for fortune and fame
and chasing the dream of the glory;

The cowboy’s dream lives on forever
As part of the great western story!

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Reflections of Frank Lloyd Wright's Youngest Apprentice

Vernon Swaback became Frank Lloyd Wright's apprentice when he was just 17. | Emily Balli

In early May, I took a tour of Taliesin West, architect Frank Lloyd Wright’s winter home and architecture school in Scottsdale. Like anyone who has the opportunity to visit, I was in awe of the architecture, beauty and history of the building. During the tour, the guide mentioned that there are only a handful of Wright’s apprentices still living. His youngest apprentice, Vernon Swaback, who worked aside Wright at just 17 years old, is one of them. He’s now in his late 70s and resides in Scottsdale, where he owns his own architecture and planning firm, Swaback Partners.

I got in touch with him and asked if he’d be interested talking about his experiences at Taliesin West. He graciously agreed, and before hanging up the phone, he mentioned that years back, he had written an article for Arizona Highways. I searched the archives and found his November 1988 article, Frank Lloyd Wright: A Personal Perspective. In the piece, he wrote eloquently about his experiences with, and observations of, his beloved mentor, a pioneer and innovator who is often named one of the greatest American architects.

Today, Swaback’s memories of Wright haven’t faded. When asked his experiences as a student at Taliesin West, Swaback lights up and speaks as if it were just yesterday that he was sitting at the drafting table with Wright.

Swaback grew up near Oak Park, Illinois, where Wright also lived for a time. Since high school, he says, he dreamt of one day working with Wright. Having visited and seen many of his buildings in Chicago, Swaback admired his work before he even knew his name. In October 1956, Wright unveiled his rendering of his famous (but never built) Mile High Illinois skyscraper in Chicago. Although Swaback didn’t truly meet Wright at that time, he did get a photo taken with him and the mayor of Chicago.

It was during the unveiling that Swaback had the chance to meet some of Wright’s apprentices. He knew he wanted to become one, and he wrote a letter to Wright, hoping to catch the attention of his architecture hero. Just months later, 17-year-old Swaback interviewed to be Wright’s apprentice at Taliesin in Spring Green, Wisconsin. His parents drove him to Wisconsin for his interview, and upon their arrival, they were ushered into Wright’s private studio.

“When [Wright] came in, it was like … I can’t explain it,” Swaback says. “It was just like, How in the world did an Earthling like me get to be in the same room as this person? I had pretty much assured my parents that I thought there was no way I would ever be selected. That’s not what I was thinking or hoping, but it helped them.”

At the time, he was studying architecture at the University of Illinois, and when Wright asked him why he wanted to leave the university, he answered the question in a way he never had before. “Because they’re beginning to teach preconceived ideas,” Swaback replied. He says Wright looked at his mother, and then at his father, and simply asked, “Where does he get it? From you … or from you?” Swaback says he knew then that he was in.

Later on that day, Wright, Swaback and his parents were outside and Wright stared up at the sky. “I was sure that my father expected him to say something like "e=mc2,” Swaback says, laughing. “And instead he said, ‘I’ve been watching that little cloud. Isn’t that wonderful?’ That was Frank Lloyd Wright. He was the simplest of men … not complicated, but brilliantly connected to the workings of nature, the aspirations of people and the difference between the space within or what something looks like.”

During his first two and a half years studying at Taliesin West, he worked directly with Wright on a number of projects. He slept in a tent outside and worked outdoors constantly. Swaback says every moment of every day with Wright was a lesson. It wasn’t just lessons in architecture. It was about how fragile beauty is, and about the importance of detail.

“From morning until night, it was just filled with meaning,” Swaback says. “There wasn’t anything we did that wasn’t purpose-centered. For example, when I slept in a tent, I would get more of an understanding of the cycles of nature, the climate, the movement of the sun. Walking from there and to breakfast, I would see the incredible creativity of the Sonoran Desert.”

He also says he appreciated how every apprentice at Taliesin West was treated as an equal, no matter where they came from.

“There were people here when I was here that were of royal birth and had a palace back in Italy,” Swaback says. “Others were the decedents of captains of industry and were multimillionaires, and I had nothing like that. The difference between that and a society elsewhere is that no one would know the difference between who was a millionaire and who had nothing. Because the having of things in this atmosphere wasn’t something you owned or were given. It was all about who you were as a human being.”

In 1959, Swaback says, he and his fellow apprentices were shocked to hear that Wright had passed away at age 91.

“I was working directly with him on a watercolor rendering of the plan of Monona Terrace,” Swaback recalls. “He went to the doctor for something that we thought was routine. Because he was lively as a teenager when he left. And he never came back. I am certain that is the way he wanted to leave this world.”

After Wright’s passing, Swaback stayed at Taliesin West for 21 years and eventually became the director of planning there. He left in 1978, at age 38, and started his firm. He’s written several books about Wright and other topics. He says there’s no question that Wright’s work will continue to inspire architects for years to come. However, he hopes to see architecture and the world move in the direction of building communities like the one that existed at Taliesin West back in the 1950s.

“If humanity is to have a future, the lessons reside in the history of this place,” Swaback said. “History is not made by the creation of technology that has the power to remove us from the face of the Earth. There is no history when that happens. For the rest of my life, for as long as I’m able to keep going, I’m far more interested in the architecture of life than the architecture of a building. That, to me, is the greatest lesson to be learned from that man.”

To learn more about Taliesin West, Frank Lloyd Wright or Vernon Swaback, visit or

 — Emily Balli

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Wildlife Officials Battle Invasive Snails on Salt River

A cluster of apple snail eggs clings to vegetation. | Courtesy of Arizona Game and Fish Department

A popular aquarium pet is becoming a nuisance on one of Arizona's best-known waterways.

As Cronkite News reported last week, officials from the Arizona Game and Fish Department are trying to eradicate apple snails from the lower section of the Salt River, northeast of the Phoenix area. The snails likely were introduced to the river via the aquarium trade.

The snails have shells that can grow up to 6 inches long, a Game and Fish official told Cronkite News. They also eat a lot of vegetation and have few predators in the area, because they don't taste good, she said.

Adding to the problem is the fact that apple snails reproduce rapidly. One female can produce up to 15,000 offspring in a year, Game and Fish said. And the snails can carry a parasite that can cause meningitis in humans.

The department perodically conducts removal events with workers and volunteers. One such event, earlier this summer, removed about 3,500 egg masses and more than 700 apple snails from a section of the lower Salt River.

To find out more about volunteering for a removal event, visit the department's website.

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Phoenix Suburbs Get High Marks for First-Time Homebuying

Photographers know Gilbert for the waterfowl at its riparian areas, but first-time homebuyers have reasons to love it, too. | Yasmina Parker

Several Phoenix suburbs are among the nation's best cities for first-time homebuyers, according to a new ranking.

The ranking by WalletHub, a personal finance website, placed the Southeast Valley town of Gilbert 10th in the nation for those buying their first home. Its neighbor to the west, Chandler, ranked 11th, while Peoria, in the Northwest Valley, was 13th.

Also making the list's top 30 were Scottsdale, at 22nd, and Surprise, at 30th. Phoenix itself was 45th on the list.

The ranking scored each city by affordability, real-estate market and quality of life. In the affordability category, Gilbert ranked fourth nationally, while Surprise was seventh. Chandler ranked 10th for affordability, while Peoria's real-estate market ranked 10th.

WalletHub said the study compared 300 cities of varying sizes across the United States. Broken Arrow, Oklahoma, took the top spot for first-time homebuying, while Berkeley, California, came in last.

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Grand Canyon Seeks Input on South Rim Lodging Project

Courtesy of Grand Canyon National Park

Grand Canyon National Park is planning to demolish and rebuild an aging motel complex at the South Rim, and members of the public are being invited to weigh in.

The National Park Service is forming a plan for Maswik South, a set of six prefabricated motel-style buildings in Grand Canyon Village. In a news release, park officials said the buildings, which were constructed in 1971, have exceeded their "expected useful life" of 40 years, and that surrounding areas are in poor condition and out of compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act, among other issues.

The Park Service says it wants to demolish the buildings and construct up to five new structures that would provide 120 guest rooms, up from the 90 currently provided at Maswik South. Some of the rooms would include kitchenettes to better serve families, the Park Service says. A new road would also be built to reduce traffic congestion in the area.

Through Friday, July 27, the public can comment on the proposed Maswik South rebuild. To comment, you can visit the project's website or write to Superintendent, Grand Canyon National Park, Attn: Maswik South EA, PO Box 129, Grand Canyon, AZ 86023. After the public comment period is over, the Park Service will analyze feedback and begin an environmental assessment of the project.

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Celebrate the WNPA's 80th Birthday in Tucson This Weekend

Audrey M. Arnold | Saguaro National Park

A Tucson-based nonprofit organization that supports the region's national parks is celebrating its 80th anniversary this weekend.

From 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, July 21, the Western National Parks Association is hosting an anniversary celebration at its National Parks Store, located at 12880 N. Vistoso Village Drive in Tucson. Cake and coffee will be served, and all visitors will receive a free gift with any purchase.

The WNPA has been a nonprofit education partner of the National Park Service since 1938. Purchases at the store are tax-free and support parks across the western United States.

To learn more, visit the National Parks Store website.

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Sing a Song to Summer

Chelly Hall | Near Eagar

The following appeared in the June 1970 issue of Arizona Highways.

Summer is here. It's that time of the year. Our portion of our planet and the sun have moved into that particular position where at times you might imagine if you get out into the noonday sun you are an egg being fried sunny-side up, but such imaginative tremors come only from not understanding nor knowing what summer in Arizona really is like.

Hot? Of course! Yet nearly a million people live in Arizona's two largest areas — Phoenix and satellite cities of the Salt River Valley and Tucson, both essentially desert areas. We know from observation as well as exposure they seem to do as well or even better than folks in other parts of our fair land where oppressive humidity makes a summer day sheer torment.

Remember, there are essentially two summers in Arizona — summer in the desert and summer in the mountains. A desert dweller in a few hours can be in the heart of a high, cool forest, testing his skill against wily trout, wonderfully content with a relaxing and invigorating weekend or vacation far from the beaten path.

And, of course, the miracle of modern air-conditioning has transformed a desert summer into a delight forever. You sleep cool, you live cool, you work cool, you shop cool! A million desert dwellers cannot be wrong. We present them as witnesses for our defense and eulogy of our desert summer.

— Raymond Carlson, Editor

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