After lunch Allan and Ben talked business with Mike and so I wandered outside into the sunshine and tried to follow a ball game that was in progress on the field.
Scottsdale Stadium is an eleven thousand seater baseball field that was built in 1992 and although it wasn’t full there were quite a lot of spectators watching the game. Baseball is basically English primary school rounders but Americans don’t like to admit this and they have added all sorts of rules to make it completely incomprehensible to anyone who is unfamiliar with the game.
Baseball makes the rules of cricket look simple. I have no idea who was playing I only knew, because Mike told me that the stadium was the home of the Phoenix Firebirds of the Pacific Coast League. As a matter of interest the Firebirds moved out a year later and in 1998 this became the home field for the National League’s Arizona Diamondbacks.
Baseball also has a vocabulary all of its own and Arizona is a popular location for Major League Baseball spring training and is the site of the Cactus League. The only other location for spring training is in Florida and that is the Grapefruit League. Because of the climate, spring training has been a long tradition in Arizona since 1947 but despite this the state did not have its own major league team until the formation of the Diamondbacks.
By mid afternoon business was concluded and I was totally confused by the ball game when Mike and the others collected us up and took us back to the Best Western for some free time.
Although it was late Winter we thought that it was agreeably warm so we made straight for the swimming pool and the hot tub and had an enjoyable hour or so swimming and relaxing. Although we found it warm, compared with February temperatures in England, this did surprise some of the American guests several of who remarked how foolhardy we were to go swimming when the temperature was barely 20º. One man in an Arctic parka, hat, gloves and scarf called across, “Hey, where are you guys from? Alaska?”
Later we were going out with Mike and the sales team again so this was a good opportunity to rest a while before the drinking started once more.
We waited in the bar for Mike to pick us up and after a couple of beers he arrived and drove us south for a short distance out of the city to a cowboy steakhouse restaurant called the Rustler’s Rooste.
According to legend the original site of the restaurant was on top of a butte in the foothills of South Mountain and it was a hideout for cattle rustlers and outlaws. The South Mountain recreational area is claimed to be the largest municipal park in the world and it has a commanding position overlooking the city. Mike parked the people carrier and we stood and admired the views over the city that was stretched in front and below us like a scene from that Robert DeNiro/Al Pacino film Heat.
From the outside Rustler’s Rooste looked disappointingly functional and not especially exciting but inside things were really buzzing. Through the doors we walked over an indoor waterfall and then to get to the dining room there were two options, the stairs were the traditional method of getting down but there was also a slide that curved around a central stage area and which was both quicker and more exhilarating. We took this option of course and one by one were deposited swiftly into the dining area that had two large plate glass windows that provided a magnificent view of the city lights.
Rustler’s Rooste served cowboy food and a sign on the door said ‘Better come hungry’, so it was a good job that we had Dave and his reliable appetite with us! There was a fabulous menu with an extensive choice of food including rattlesnake as a starter.
None of us had ever had that before so we just had to have some but although it sounded dangerous and exotic I seem to remember that it tasted rather disappointingly like chicken. It looked so much like chicken that the sharing platter included what looked like a snake rib-cage to try and convince customers of authenticity. Even after twenty-five years I still think it was chicken.
After that we had the full cowboy meal that consisted of crispy shrimp, barbecued chicken, cowboy beans, seafood kebabs, fries, barbecued pork ribs, corn on the cob, and a big juicy beef steak. It was all cooked perfectly and I suspect rather better than a simple cowpoke’s meal out on the open range and the cowboys wouldn’t have had the nine layer chocolate cake to finish either, I’m fairly certain about that!
The best thing about the Rustler’s Rooste was the entertainment because there was live music playing all night as two bands took it in turn to play good old country music which had people line dancing and playing cowboy in between the courses.
My favourite part of the evening was when a man brought a live snake into the room and then, in a carefully rehearsed way, dropped it and it slithered about the floor scattering diners in all directions. We were assured later that it was not a venomous variety and perfectly harmless of course but it did scare the shit out of an awful lot of people at the time.
It turned out that Mike lived out of town on the open range and he knew an awful lot about rattle snakes and he amused us with serpent stories all the way back to the motel.