Neither Kulani nor myself had ever been to Tempe before the Ironman race. For those not in the know, as we were, Tempe is only minutes from Phoenix, similar to a Provo/Orem relationship. And jutting up right next to Tempe is Mesa.
Tempe is designed rather geniously. Being in the dead of the desert, city managers planned the community in a compact way utilizing water resources. From an outsider's viewpoint with little knowledge in urban planning, it felt very chic and resourceful. Arizona State University is located in the heart of Tempe. ASU had a party-school feel to it, with bars lining many of the streets leading to ASU. Perhaps I'm wrong about the assumption about it being a "party" school, but that's what my gut says.
Even though there is a shortage of water, the beauty of the area is still magnificent. The freeways are lined with decorative rocks and colorful, low-water plants. Not much grass grows anywhere, but cacti can be seen everywhere.
Every restaurant we ate at had awesome service. Even the fast-food joints seemed to be full of people who enjoyed their jobs and enjoyed serving you. For example, upon asking for hot sauce at Church's Chicken, the attendant gave us a huge handful of hot sauce with a big smile on his face. He didn't act like the hot sauce packets were small pieces of gold being withdrawn directly from his bank account. We ate at IHOP twice because the service was so great. The IHOPs around here seem full of surly waitresses wanting us to leave as soon as we arrive.
On Saturday night, we desperately wanted to watch the BYU/Utah game but knew of no place to watch the Mountain network besides a sports bar, which isn't very appreciative of children. From a friend of a friend, we found Nielsen's Frozen Custard shop in Mesa owned by BYU alums. They had a big television in the parlor that carried the Mountain. Other BYU alums also congregated at the ice cream shop as together we watched the Cougars take a pummeling from the Utes. The ice cream helped heal our hearts of the beating.