Photo: Gregory E. Clifford/Shutterstock

7 Ways You Can Tell a Northern Arizonan From a Southern Arizonan

by Mary Sojourner Jul 14, 2017

1. Ah, nature

A Northern Arizonan might get stranded hiking on the San Francisco Peaks and need a mega-bucks Search and Rescue bail-out; a Southern Arizonan has definitely shot a saguaro cactus only to have it fall on him, impale him, and kill him.

2. Shorts

A Northern Arizonan wears tights, socks, and river sandals with his/her shorts in the winter; a Southern Arizonan wears shorts, flip-flops, and a tank top all year round — even when visiting Flagstaff in January.

3. Driving

A Northern Arizonan knows how to drive on the notorious and insidious “black ice,” which forms on highways and roads. It can’t be seen, even in daylight, and it’ll spin a vehicle out faster than an elk can jump out of the forest; a Southern Arizonan thinks that having 4-wheel drive means you can drive as fast as you want, slam on your brakes, and tailgate in all seasons.

4. Waterplay

A webfoot Northern Arizonan’s waterplay must-haves are a kayak and a river raft. We keep an eye on the snowpack because we know that come spring, snowmelt will charge the Verde and other local rivers. We know to sign up for a permit to run the Colorado River through Grand Canyon and be prepared to spend what can feel like eons waiting for it to come through. A Southern Arizonan with a hankering for the aquatic, piles tubes, beer, and tunes into the back of their truck and heads for the Salt River, where they’ll float for miles with hundreds of other partying tube-rats.

5. Real Mexican food

A Southern Arizonan will come for a weekend in the North Country, see chain Mexican restaurants, and brag about how their city has the real deal; A Northern Arizonan will point out to the Southern visitor that they need to get off the main drags and hunt down local mama and papa Mexican food — we’ve got Sonoran, Michocoan, Oaxacan cooks all over the northern part of the state. And, there’s fry bread everywhere, which if you close your eyes when you take the first glorious bite, comes close to being a sopapilla.

6. Flash floods

A Southern Arizonan (unless they’re a Snowbird) knows not to drive into that dip in a city street when there’s a thunderstorm a few miles away; a Northern Arizonan stops, pulls to the side of the road, and watches a ten-foot wall of water, branches, oil cans and the occasional cow come roaring down what was a few minutes ago, a dry wash.

7. Immigration

A trick distinction, because while Northern Arizona gets labeled the “Berkeley of Arizona,” there are open-minded intelligent people in both parts of the state. True, groups like the Three Percent United Patriots can be found patrolling the Arizona-Mexico border, but visiting in Phoenix or Tucson (when the heat has faded away to bearable), eating in restaurants or talking with people at the gas station, you can meet folks who — if they’re willing to discuss the topic — come at it from all sides.

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