Henry Sanders

Virtual oasis

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A view to the east from Talking Stick Resort, overlooking the golf course and the McDowell Mountains

A lazy, 30-minute drive from downtown Phoenix, in any direction, will lead you to a pool, a casino or championship-caliber golf course. Along the way, you might encounter classy restaurants, printers, barbershops and health spas. But suppose these were in one location? Not even malls have that.

On Indian Bend Road, just past the 101, the buildings of Scottsdale disappear and the desert landscape opens up. Here at the edge of the Salt River-Pima Indian community stands Talking Stick Resort, offering much more than hotel rooms and a swimming pool.

As I walked into the building, I was greeted by a wall of slot machines and blackjack tables. Unoccupied dealers flashed warm, inviting smiles as I passed down the center walkway taking in the noise and revelry. I was headed for my hotel room.

A walk past the casino floor took me through to the hotel. I flashed my key card at a casual security checkpoint and dashed into an elevator. As I walked through the hall to my room, I started noticing the décor. There’s a definite motif of light cherry wood, and the carpet is stylized in long ridges reminiscent of wood grain or sandstone. Everywhere in the resort are vintage photographs of local Indian tribesmen. It’s impossible to resist the urge to stop and stare back at those faces frozen in time.

In my room, I pushed all the buttons and turned all the knobs the moment I arrived. A large high-definition, flat-screen television could keep me here all day, if it weren’t for the limited channel options, surely designed to keep visitors downstairs in the casino. The room comes with a wall safe for squirreling away the piles of dough won at keno. I sprawled out on the soft blankets of my bed and decided my next plan of action.

Designed to operate with some level of self-sufficiency, the resort is a virtual desert oasis. The golf course sprawls out over several acres. There are no less than five restaurants. Slip into the opulent Shadows bar to sip a martini and puff on a cigar with so rich a finish, it spices the air around you. Go to the showroom and dance the night away or take in a live band. (Next month, I just may wander back for John Mayall and Buddy Guy.)

I finally left my hotel room to explore and found much more. Below the casino level is a barber shop, a coffee shop, and a business center complete with computers that can be switched between Mac and PC to suit one’s tastes. A short walk from there finds jovial guests enjoying a swim at the resort’s large pool. As I walked by, families and sunbathers enjoyed a cover band with the talent to play just about any request. One inebriated lady expressed herself through ballet and handstands to their rendition of a reggae song.

The Orange Sky Lounge waits for the sun to set and the crowds to arrive.

But one of the resort’s gems is further out, beyond the main resort.

With the McDowell Mountains as a backdrop, renowned golf architects Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw designed not just one, but two courses for the Talking Stick Golf Club, the North and South courses. The landscaping was intentionally blended into the desert. Stroll the lush wide fairways, and the course seamlessly fades into its natural surroundings – no house windows to break, and a lot of desert to lose your ball in. More than a few golfers fawn over the beauty of the South course.

Back at the main resort, I sat down for a beer and some tasty Cajun seafood pan roast at the Ocean Trail bar. My bartender Jaime was friendly yet professional, without being intrusive. The gumbo tasted like glorified tomato bisque, but it was good and spicy. I had tried to get into the top-floor restaurant, Orange Sky Lounge, but they didn’t open till 10 p.m., and I hadn’t shown up with the right dress code: a collar. I was too hungry to wait so long. Though, I know I missed a glorious sunset up there.

There are several touches to Talking Stick that the casual guest might never see. The resort has created their extravagance with a touch of green consciousness. The first thing you may notice is every trashcan has two compartments to separate garbage from recyclables. But other efforts are beneath the surface. The building was built using close to 90-percent recycled steel. Much of the materials used are nonhazardous and environmentally friendly, from cups and nontoxic fabrics to cork floors and glass used in structural décor instead of plastic. The restaurants serve locally grown food as much as possible, and the appliances are largely energy-efficient models. Runoff rainwater is stored and used by sprinklers.

Besides the usual amenities, Talking Stick makes it almost unnecessary to leave the premises. Guests can benefit from 24-hour, in-room dining; 10 different lounges; a 24-hour fitness center; a salon and a barbershop (shoeshine, too); a florist, and dry cleaning and valet laundry services. The place is practically self-contained.

Self-contained communities are dangerous, though. The idea that you don’t want for anything in a place like Talking Stick Resort means you’ll have to tear yourself away when it’s time to go. I fell asleep gazing at that high-definition flat screen in my suite, and wondered if they’d notice should I overstay my visit.

Talking Stick Resort:
9800 East Indian Bend Road
Scottsdale, Arizona 85256
(480) 270-5555
www.talkingstickresort.com

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