(A click on any photo enlarges it to screen size.)
|Southern Arizona is all about the saguaro cactus.|
|Cholla are pretty common, as well.|
Another license plate caught my eye - ROX(heart)ZZZ. (Couldn't figure out how to import a heart image into this document.) I wondered if Roxanne loves a guy with a really unique name or whether she just loves to sleep.
Our accommodations in Tucson, at the Copper Court Casitas, were finer than we're accustomed to on our western wanderings. That's because your dollars go a lot farther here than they do in California.
|Home Sweet Home in Tucson|
It rained almost nonstop for our first two days in Tucson. It let up on Friday, and we took the light rail downtown to the Tucson Museum of Art. It was the beginning of a weekend celebrating local artisans. Entrance to the museum was free, and dozens upon dozens of artisans displayed their wares on the museum grounds. A good time.
|Dancers at the Art Museum|
|University of Arizona Campus|
|A Good Day for the Wildcats|
Brought my camera and was excited to see the photogenic sky and mountain peaks. When I prepared to take my first photo, I discovered that my battery was still in the charger back at the hacienda. I was so annoyed with my forgetfulness that I stomped for a hundred yards or so, until the hard earth beneath my feet and the rising grade brought me back to the present, where life was beautiful to the naked eye.
Ben and the boys arrived on a Wednesday for a week's respite from winter. Ellen followed the next day (and returned early also, because of work demands). While they were here, they livened things up for Carol, Rowdie and me.
The Sonoran Desert Museum
Years ago, when Carol and I visited Ben and Ellen at Fort Huachuca, where Ben was stationed, we caught a glimpse of dark shapes moving ahead of us as we walked their dogs, Bella and Spud, through the neighborhood in the dark. Those shapes were javelinas, down from the hills in search of food-rich trash cans in the neighborhood. But I didn't consider that a sighting. For all we knew, they were super large raccoons, or pygmy deer or visitors from Mars. At the desert museum, there was no doubt because they napped in broad daylight, no doubt resting up for nighttime forays for food.
As we wandered the acres of the desert museum, Wesley and I showed each other our photos. I gave him occasional tips regarding lighting, perspective and composition. He eagerly tried to apply his new knowledge. It was a special time for a grandfather.
|Sonoran Desert Museum|
|Javelinas resting before the nocturnal hunt|
Hiking with Family
On another occasion, we all traveled up to the foothills of the Santa Catalina Mountains for a hike in Ventana Canyon. It was a moderately challenging hike, which Wesley and Julien undertook with enthusiasm. Again, Wesley and I shared photos and ideas.
Ben and I lagged behind the others to accommodate six-year old Julien's slower pace. He may have been slower, but he was no less enthusiastic than the rest of us. He never tired. It was a rocky path. Ben, a patient father, showed his son how to ensure safe footing by picking a path around the larger boulders that littered the trail. Julien delightedly ignored his father's counsel and went straight at each boulder, seeing each one as a new challenge to be conquered.
|Ellen, Ben, Julien and Wesley on the trail|
I warned Julien about trail snakes. They are small, strong, very fast and have a wicked sense of humor, I told him. If a hiker is not watching where he places his feet, a trail snake will at the last minute slither across the trail with its tail wrapped around a big stone which it will drop in the hiker's path. If the hiker's foot finds the stone and the hiker stumbles, you can hear the trail snakes snickering from behind nearby cactus.
Trail snakes are related to the snow snakes found in Minnesota. Anyone who has cross country skied
in Minnesota has a tale about being tripped by a snow snake that has wrapped itself around a ski to throw the skier off balance and face first into a snow bank.
Hoping for an opportunity to have a restaurant dinner with Ben and Ellen, I approached Darrell, our host, and asked him if he knew of any local teenage baby sitters. He responded by saying that he and his wife would be happy to watch the boys while we had our night out. Darrell has been a friendly and helpful host, but this generous offer put him at the top of the A-List of hosts. The boys had fun. Their parents and grandparents had fun. Poca Cosa was lovely - a Mexican restaurant serving fresh, well-prepared foods (and very good margaritas).
A Friend Visits.
We had barely tidied up the house after the Morrison clan had departed when our good friend, Pam Behnen, arrived from St. Louis for a long weekend. Highlights of Pam's brief stay included lots of good conversation with a friend we don't see often enough, Sunday night watching the Oscars, a trip to Mission San Javier del Bac and lunch at The Little One (more on this in a minute).
San Javier del Bac was founded in 1692 by Jesuit missionary, Father Eusebio Francisco Kino. It is the last in a string of twenty-four missions he founded stretching down into Mexico. Each mission is a day's ride on horse from its neighbor.
|Saguaro, Carol, Pam at Sabino Canyon|
We arrived at the mission early on Saturday morning. When we were ready to leave a few hours later, local Mexican and Native American vendors had begun to set up their food stalls for the crowds that would arrive later in the day. We had delicious,freshly-made fry bread. I looked longingly at the enchiladas, tacos and chili that was being served up, but we had other things to do.
|San Javier del Bac|
The Little One is related in some way to Poca Cosa, sort of a friendly, down-to-earth cousin who's always glad to see you. The Little One is a "hole-in-the-wall" downtown working class restaurant serving delicious, authentic Mexican fare. It is a friendly place that welcomes families and everyone else. A poster on the wall reminds you to not leave without getting your hug from the owner. It's friendly to the environment, as well. You can get take-out, but remember to bring your own container. And, of course, it has great fresh salsa and homemade tortilla chips.
|The Little One - Love it on its own terms|
Walking the Dog
Rio Vista Park is a five-minute drive from our Tucson residence, at the northern end of Tucson Blvd. The park is bordered on the north end by a paved bicycle path that parallels the Rillito River, more of a river wannabe these days, a wide dry channel of sand, rock and scraggly bushes, awaiting revival by heavy rains in the distant mountains. The park is also one of Rowdie's favorite haunts. I take her there most afternoons. We call it Vole Hole Park.
When Rowdie leaps down from the back of the RAV4, she leads me away from the playground, picnic pavilion and a large swath of short brown grass suitable for frisbee throwing or sitting and playing a guitar to the desert scrub at the edges of the park. There, in the parched and hard-packed earth, she seeks out the seemingly endless holes, a couple inches in diameter, that are home to some variety of desert rats. She explores each hole, sticking her snout right into the opening, hoping to catch a whiff of the residents. Occasionally she lingers, perhaps picking up an exciting scent. She never tires of the hunt.
Gallery in the Sun
"I want to be notorious rather than famous. Fame has too much responsibility. People forget you are human." So said Ettore Degrazia, a painter who was born in Italy and spent most of his adult life in the Tucson area. We had never heard of Ettore Degrazia, but he was a fairly prominent painter in the mid-twentieth century who had studied under Diego Rivera. His Gallery in the Sun is nestled in the foothills of the Santa Catalina Mountains and, in my opinion, not to be missed. His watercolor collection of paintings, The Way of the Cross, on display for Lent, is stunning.
|The Blessed Virgin by Ettore Degrazia|
|What an imaginative artist like Degrazia can do with a beer can|
The Musical Instruments Museum
Settled in comfort in our hacienda, with lots to do close at hand (including hauling a book and a glass of wine out to the patio), why in the world would we drive two hours up to Scottsdale? Lunch with our friend, Linda Hoch, was a good enough reason for us. We were to meet at the Musical Instruments Museum, where we would roam galleries and then eat lunch at their café. I was not enthused by the museum idea. Looking at violins, harmonicas, flutes and what-have-you was not my idea of a good way to spend the day. There are hikes to be taken, for crying out loud. And spring training games!
How wrong I was! The Musical Instruments Museum was, to get to the point, one of the most interesting museum experiences I have ever had. Each gallery highlights a region of the world, country by country. The designers of this modern museum have used visual and auditory technology to create a sensual wonder. As you approach a country exhibit, your headphones treat you to the sounds of the musicians playing local instruments on the video screen. Below the screen are the same instruments on display. Time flies as you wander from Africa to South America via the Middle East. Your feet begin dancing without even consulting you.
|Linda, Carol and Me at the Musical Instruments Museum|
As with the Sonoran Desert Museum in Tucson, if you spend any time in the Phoenix area, get yourself to the Musical Instruments Museum. Take advantage of the discounted two-day pass, because there's too much to absorb in one day. Make time for a delicious lunch at the café.
A Morning on the Bike, with Camera
It was a fine weekday morning, the sun quickly warming the day, when I got on my old ten-speed bike and, with my camera bag on my back, set out to explore the sights of Tucson. I had no destination in mind, no place I had to be and no schedule to keep. A good morning it was! Here is some of what I found.
|Spring Break, A Quiet Campus|
Fantastic murals in an otherwise unremarkable downtown:
|Hot! Hot! Hot!|
|Product of A Fertile Imagination (perhaps chemically enhanced?)|
Sunday Afternoon at Tohono Chul Park
Tohono Chul Park is a small botanical garden not too far from our place. A local craft show drew us there on a warm Sunday afternoon. Wonderful Native American weavings.
|Artist at Work|
|The Source of All Life|
Hiking - A Four-Week Inventory
Miles hiked: 15 +
Hares observed: 1
Long-horn Sheep: 2
Pools of water: 4
Infants carried in packs: 11 (Two young mothers carried two infants, one in front, one in back!)
Cactus: 10,000 +
Falls taken: 1
Winter in Minnesota can be treacherous. I have a theory that somewhere in every neighborhood lies an ice patch with your name on it. The trick to survival is to avoid finding that fateful patch.
After two months and many miles of hiking without incident in the rocky, hilly terrain of the California countryside and the Arizona desert, I was finishing the last hike of our winter adventure. We had trekked a few miles up into a lovely desert canyon and now I was in sight of the parking lot. In a flash, both my feet left the ground without my permission. I was airborne. I came down hard, sliding down the trail. I ended up with an ugly abrasion on my left knee and a deep sense of gratitude that there were no broken bones or painful bruises.
I had stepped on a safe-looking flat rock sprinkled with invisible grains of sand as effective as any ice patch. I had found the fateful patch with my name on it!
|The Tucson area begins and ends with saguaro cactus.|
We're back home in Minneapolis now, happy for the experiences of the past two months but grateful to be in our own home, close to our family and friends. We have returned to the routines of our daily life. I hope you've enjoyed this journal. Until the next time, I wish you all good health and interesting journeys.