TITLE: Running on the Road: Carefree, Arizona AUTHOR: Eugene Wallingford DATE: April 14, 2006 9:06 AM DESC: ----- BODY: (The sixth stop in the Running on the Road series. The first five were Allerton Park, Illinois, Muncie, Indiana, Vancouver, British Columbia, St. Louis, Missouri, and Houston, Texas.) Back in 1998, the still relatively new Hillside Group spun off a third conference in its "Pattern Languages of Programs" series, the mysteriously-named ChiliPLoP. The name is a double entendre, one part based in the southwestern US culture and cuisine that are spicy by national standards, and one part based in the conference's intent to bring together patterns folks working intensely in groups on "hot topics" of interest. Since the beginning, I have been a regular, meaning that each spring I travel to Arizona for a great three or four days working on patterns and interacting with the some of the most interesting folks I've ever met. The first three years of ChiliPLoP were held in the rural area 50 miles northwest of Phoenix, at the wonderful Merv Griffin Wickenburg Inn and Dude Ranch. At the time I was still just a casual runner, so I jogged about the compound on gravel and sandy paths for 20-30 minutes at a time. In 2000, Merv donated the ranch to a charity, for use as a camp for wayward boys, and ChiliPLoP had to surrender its great Western luxury and find a new home. Since 2001, ChiliPLoP has been in Carefree, northeast of Phoenix, at the Spirit in the Desert retreat center. That may not sound exciting, but it has been a great place to hold a working conference -- quiet, with lots of open space and kitchen area, autonomy, and a great staff. And, more to the point of this article, Carefree offers great running. Carefree is a young town of about 3000 people up the road from Scottsdale and neighboring the older and larger community of Cave Creek. It's basically a tourist community, with restaurants, trinket shops, and art galleries. Many of its residents live in expensive homes in the land that rings the small center center. When I run in Carefree, I go for three different kinds of outing. In Town My shorter runs tend to be in and around the town area. There isn't really much town, but the streets in the vicinity of the retreat center wind around, folding back in on each other, making it possible to run for a few minutes without ever running in quite the same place. Just south and east of town, the roads are like the country roads I remember in rural Indiana, with a few houses, narrow streets with no shoulders, and little traffic. I can easily piece together a 5-6 mile run by aimlessly wandering streets with names like Bloody Basin, Nonchalant, Long Rifle, Sidewinder, and Breathless. The Outlying Areas Farther to the east but especially to the north, I get into the "wild". There are still homes to be found, but they are fewer and harder to see, hidden atop hills and behind the desert's flora. These runs are much hillier, with a few big hills and many, many smaller but still significant rises and falls. I like to run early, and I often see javelinas and coyotes out -- the javelinas in packs, sometimes near the roads, and the coyotes alone or in pairs, scouting the ridges above the roads. My favorite runs are north of town. I take Tranquil Trail north across Cave Creek Road and follow streets where they lead me. Occasionally I hit a dead end at the top of a steep incline, so I double back to the latest choice I made and make another. We all study about backtracking algorithms in our CS courses, and I've tried them all as I explore this area. I don't worry much about distance, because the hills change my speed profile so much; I just run for an hour, or ninety minutes, being sure to stop moving farther from town near the 2/3 mark. One run of this sort is the strength work-out I need for a week, replacing any speed work-out or hills I might do at home.