Arizona, January 2020

… will I eventually end up living in the desert given how much I travel there? Yes. Yes I probably will.

In any case, I had two (well, three) main reasons to go on this vacation:
1. Free Desert Museum tickets from Visit Tucson that I had to use up before the end of April;
2. Rock ‘N’ Roll Arizona half-marathon in Tempe; and
3. seeing B’s mom who’s trying out wintering in Scottsdale.

I mean, we’re probably going to head back down again for spring training, but that’ll be such a short trip without enough time to head to Tucson. So, this trip.

Wednesday, January 15

We left early as we always do … basically early enough to hit up the Starbucks in Pueblo as it opens. Despite the obnoxious construction going on I-25 between Castle Rock and Colorado Springs, it was a fairly uneventful drive.

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Though we did stop at a rest area to pee, and I saw this little gorgeousness.

As we’ve learned we need to see cacti first thing, we exited I-10 a bit early to go straight to Saguaro National Park (east side). This … was a genius idea. Particularly as the sunset that night? I have been WAITING for a sunset like that. You’ll see.

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… and B was worried it wasn’t going to be awesome …

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Literally in love.

Then finally off to check in to the hotel and hit up Casa Molina for dinner.

Thursday, January 16

This trip also ended up being a good excuse for me to be able to support some friends and get some green corn tamales. The kid of our good friends, Seton and Debbie, sold tamales over Christmas as a Boy Scout fundraiser. Since we all know I love me some green corns, I commented that “oh man, I wish.” Debbie said that if I knew I’d be in Tucson somewhat soon, she’d just freeze them for me. Sooooo … I bought two dozen green corn tamales. We met them for breakfast (at a new place, Baja Cafe, that was delicious) and tamale exchange.

After breakfast, it was off to use our passes to the Desert Museum. It had been a few years since we’d gone, so we were happy to do so.

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Snory Gila.

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… is it a desert trip if B doesn’t hug a saguaro?

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We paid extra to go play with the stingrays. I got super splashed. Which was kind of hilarious.

It started sprinkling as we left the Desert Museum and then it started raining in earnest on our drive back. We got eegee’s and tried their flavor of the month – tangerine. Tasted like a Sunkist … which I like, but it also meant that it was SUPER sweet. We also spent some time at a few of the Bookman’s locations, trying to sell some more of B’s old Nintendo games and picking up some books.

We got in a quick workout back at the hotel – just a run on the treadmill as opposed to our hoped-for bike, but we did get to see a rainbow.

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Dinner was January date night at El Corral (which we’ve done before, but hey, it works).

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Note to self: skip the bread, skip the fries, only order the prime rib.

Friday, January 17

We woke up, ate breakfast at the hotel, got coffee, and then got on the road. Our eventual destination was the place B’s mom’s renting in Scottsdale, but we had a few stops first.

Stop one was Cadence Running Company in Gilbert. A tri acquaintance owns it (who unfortunately wasn’t there as he was at a tri camp), but we were both able to find new running shoes. We’re both sick of specialty running in Denver, so why not try a new place in a different state?

Then it was off to downtown Phoenix to pick up my race packet for Sunday’s half-marathon before finally making it to Scottsdale. We ran a few errands with his mom, squeezed in a super quick bike ride, and then enjoyed a dinner with some of his family that lives down in the area.

Saturday, January 18

We started off Saturday morning by walking to breakfast at Randy’s, a place right around the corner from where B’s mom is renting. It was a cute local place (but beware: cash only). She had to return some stuff to the mall, so we went and got coffee while she did that. Then it was on to lunch and to see her sister and brother-in-law in Mesa (and to steal a whole bunch of the fruit off their trees). B and I got the golf cart tour of their community while the sisters visited.

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Saw this amazingly awesome saguaro during the ride.

The rest of the evening was fairly low key with a bit of race prep. B made me my standard breakfast-for-dinner which was amazing.

Sunday, January 19

Most of Sunday morning was dedicated to me running my half-marathon … which if you’re curious about how that went, go here.

Post-race, back to shower and relax before doing a late lunch in Old Town Scottsdale at a place called Cien Agaves.

They had a cheese crisp on the menu so we tried it … definitely not the best we’ve had. Everything looked a touch spicy on the menu, so I decided to chance the cheese enchiladas.

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My mouth was on fire the whole time. Also not the best enchiladas I’ve had. Probably would not go back.

We walked around Old Town Scottsdale for a tiny bit afterward before heading back.

The rest of the evening was super chill, mostly just getting all packed up.

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Evening sky.

Monday, January 20

We rolled out of bed super early and left around 4am. I made a quick egg at the house, but our first real stop was in Payson – for gas and for more food (tried out BoSa Donuts – pretty good – and, of course, some Starbucks).

Once again, the drive home was fairly uneventful which is always nice.

On Tucson in August

I went to Tucson at the beginning of the month so I could go to tri camp.

I drove down a day early, on August 2nd, so I didn’t have to rush getting to the first swim session on time.

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Driving.

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This really doesn’t do the clouds justice.

Tucson was still in monsoon season – or at least the tail end – and I experienced rain on my drive in. I don’t believe I have ever seen the desert that green – or, at the very least, have ever experienced it humid, which it was. Completely crazy. I texted my dad about it, and he said the best thing about the desert post-rain is the smell, and it did smell amazing, even by my hotel.

I didn’t take a lot of pictures during camp – my main focus was to get through it, and I did that. I did get to experience a new part of the region, though, in Sonoita and Parker Canyon Lake. The latter, about two hours southeast of Tucson, was like being in a whole other state. The saguaro? Didn’t exist down there. I felt like I saw more trees than cacti.

Post-camp, B came down so we got to spend a day together. Before I picked him up from the airport, I stopped for breakfast at Bisbee Breakfast Club.

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Menu. I had the Daredevil.

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Food.

I wanted pretty standard, so I went with pretty standard, but it was good. I’d go again to try something a bit more fancy for sure.

After I picked up B, we mostly just drove around. Neither of us wanted a crazy day (plus it was hot … that summer in the desert thing …), so it worked out. I showed him a lot of what I did in camp, which included driving where we rode at Gates Pass.

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You get a sense of how green everything is here. We even saw some blooms still on the saguaro, which is RIDICULOUS.

Besides driving around, I also wanted to bring home some green corn tamales for the family. I found a different place to try – La Mesa Tortillas – which was the smart move. Their tamales are so much better than Tucson Tamale Company (in my opinion), and their tortillas are to die for. Seriously. We bought some on a whim and it was the best decision.

We decided on a nicer dinner, so chose El Corral. I’m pretty sure I’d been there before, but it was probably somewhere back in the early 1990s, so I didn’t remember too much about it.

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We started off with their spinach artichoke dip, which had too much spinach in it to be good. Would not recommend (unless you like more of a spinach dip) or get again. For dinner, so many things looked good. Ultimately, B got their prime rib (delicious), and his baked potato was one of the best I’ve had. I got a combo, with mesquite grilled chicken (just a tad too heavy on the pepper; otherwise perfect) and their baby back ribs (cooked well; just didn’t like their BBQ sauce).

The main reason we chose them over another steakhouse we were looking at was solely for dessert. They had a mud pie on the menu, and a good, proper mud pie is hard to find.

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Not bad. Too much chocolate mousse, not enough cookie crust.

We were going to split it, but then B realized that the seasonal fruit cobbler was peach, so he ended up with that instead.

We met up with our TriSports friends Seton and Debbie after dinner at a local pub for a drink (well, B drank) as a great way to close out the trip.

The next day, a nice long drive back home with a killer sunrise.

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Dining in Tucson: Spring 2017 Edition

I’m pretty sure I’ve done a “Tucson dining post” but I may have just thrown in my food in past Tucson posts. Not sure.

Tuesday, April 4:

Leaving town, we snagged standard breakfast – Waffle House and Starbucks.

For lunch, though, we decided to try something a bit more … local … in New Mexico fast food chain Blake’s Lotaburger.

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We stopped here in Socorro, N.M., and weren’t that impressed. Slow (even for cooked-to-order), scatter-brained … and truthfully, really pretty mediocre.

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We will probably not be eating there again. Mostly because we don’t like eating much fast food, but yeah. No.

Dinner was our standard round-up of an eegee’s, fries from Wienerschnitzel, and fried shrimp for me and steak fingers for B from Tucson institution, Lucky Wishbone.

Wednesday, April 5:

We originally thought we’d get some sort of breakfast at the hotel, but apparently we weren’t fancy enough for it. So, quick google search later, and we found Oink right down the street from our hotel on Broadway.

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(I think he wanted to die.)

Oink was FABULOUS. Plus our server, Michelle, knew her shit. Great server in that she got us to buy more than we probably wanted. This place does flights of bacon (they have eight different flavors of bacon), and we were iffy about it, but finally did a half-flight, getting Applewood Smoked, Chef’s Choice, Honey Cured, and Sugar Cured. The latter two were the best by far.

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(Bacon flight, my food with a side of tomatoes, B’s omelet).

I love eggs Benedict but I rarely get it because really, it’s not good for you, and it’s super hard to find a good one. For some reason, I decided to try theirs (traditional), and it was DELICIOUS. B couldn’t decide what he wanted to do, so Michelle asked him if he trusted her and ordered for him. The amount of food that poor guy got …

He got the above omelet, the Oink Omelet (“A massive FIVE egg omelet, with bacon, sausage, ham and cheddar cheese.”), and a side of pancake. But not just your regular old buttermilk pancake. Oh no. Strawberry Cheesecake pancakes.

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“Our delicious pancakes drizzled with homemade strawberry sauce and cheesecake sauce.” They were way too sugary for me.

After that INSANE(ly delicious) breakfast, we did a later, light lunch at Choice Greens on Speedway.

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Choice is basically your standard choose-your-own chopped salad type of place (nothing all that special), but for us? It was just what we needed.

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B’s salad.

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My salad.

Dinner was at Casa Molina Del Norte on Campbell, pretty much only for the cheese crisp.

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Mmmm, cheesy.

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And the green corn tamales, my favorite. I also had a bean burrito while B got a chicken burrito. Delish.

Thursday, April 6:

Breakfast was purposefully early on Thursday so we could hit up the early bird special at Franks, on Pima just off of Alvernon.

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Franks is awesome because of ‘Don’t Worry, Be Happy,’ the “If you are here before 9am, Monday-Friday Special” (holidays excluded). For $1.75, you get two eggs, home fries or hash browns, and a biscuit, slice of toast, or tortilla. We each got the special and then added on drinks and a side of bacon, because bacon.

Lunch was the all-you-can-eat sushi at Sushi Garden on Broadway. I had greatly enjoyed it when I was doing Tucson solo back in November, so decided to bring B there. As is fairly standard with all-you-can-eat sushi (with all-you-can-eat lunch buffet added) … we pretty much rolled out of there.

As a result … dinner … wasn’t much of a thing. We did stumble on a brand new gem on the U of A campus (Campbell and Speedway) in Desert Dream Ice Cream.

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In that day’s edition of “it’s a small world,” the owners used to (well, still technically; in the process of selling) own an ice cream shop in the small town of Boothbay Harbor, Maine. My family and I vacationed there way the heck back in the day and, when shown the picture of the ice cream shop, I’m pretty sure I ate there, too. Because our family always ate ice cream on (summer) vacations.

They’d apparently just been open for a few weeks and are still trying to grow the business. For their sake, I hope they do well, because that Mud Pie ice cream I got? On point. I’ve mentioned here several times how we prefer more “traditional” ice cream places, and this place hit that. So good.

Since the ice cream kind of settled our stomachs from the sushi disaster, we also grabbed a quick snack at Wienerschnitzel just for some protein. Mmm, corn dogs.

Friday, April 7:

While we weren’t able to manage climbing Mt. Lemmon on this trip, we hit the Lemmon climber’s coffee shop for breakfast in Le Buzz Caffe off Tanque Verde.

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Brandon got a bit more of your standard breakfast in the Two by Two by Two (two buttermilk pancakes, two eggs, two strips of bacon).

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I got orange juice (because most places in Tucson have fresh-squeezed and it is SO good) as well as the ham and cheddar quiche. The coffee was great – I’ll mention that first off – and so was the OJ, but the food? B thought his was mediocre and I felt there were too many herbs in my quiche. We’re not sure we’d come back for an actual meal. For some caffeine and a sugary snack (they had some divine looking pastries)? Absolutely.

We couldn’t be in In-N-Out territory without stopping at least once, so that was lunch.

Dinner that night was at Pinnacle Peak, part of Trail Dust Town off Tanque Verde and Kolb.

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We sort of felt like steak (mmm, mesquite) and wanted to avoid whatever place we went to down near the airport a few visits ago, so decided to hit up Pinnacle Peak. B had one of their regular steaks (mediocre) and I had their ribs (pretty tasty, actually). It was what it was – slightly kitschy, not fancy … it worked. I also grabbed a scoop of ice cream from one of the other shops in Trail Dust Town afterward.

Saturday, April 8:

We were planning on hitting up Omar’s Hi-Way Chef Restaurant for breakfast at the Triple T truck stop since we knew it was good … but apparently they are no longer 24 hours. Since we had no other options for breakfast on that side of town … we decided to go try and find a place in Benson. And we did.

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We stumbled upon the Farm House Restaurant (no web site) off the main drag (4th Street) in Benson, Ariz. Technically they weren’t even open when we showed up, but the guy (from Pueblo, Colo., originally, in that day’s edition of “it’s a small world”) says that if he’s up early, he just goes in and opens up early. Ahh, small towns.

It was a fairly standard breakfast – eggs and bacon and hashbrowns. Neither of us was impressed with the carb side – B did not like his biscuits and gravy and my banana nut muffin was super dry – but it did the trick.

Lunch we took a huge gamble and stopped at a Furr’s in Albuquerque. I hadn’t eaten at a Furr’s in … 25?ish? years? … back when they were still a cafeteria. Apparently they’re a buffet now … and they’re terrible. The two redeeming parts of my meal? The fact that the “servers” asked you if you wanted lemon for your water (yes please!) … so the water, and the cottage cheese. That was tasty. The rest of it? Never going again. Don’t go there. Urp.

Dinner was at our house … but no way was I cooking after being in the car that long (and we didn’t really have food in the house), so pizza it was. Hooray for Domino’s.