Tucson, July 2020

Also known as my birthday road trip.

Before we start … a few things you need to know about my birthday:
– I hate it.
– It sucks.
– People suck at remembering it (including my own family/parents).
– It’s at a terrible time.

It’s July 5. The day after a holiday. In a very hot part of the summer. This year, I had a few things going against me:
– near a holiday
– on a holiday weekend (fell on Sunday)
– during COVID

The whole point of going to Tucson in the first place was to do a birthday ride up Mt. Lemmon (since, you know, Tucson is 100 degrees this time of year and I figured biking up to 8000 feet would at least take us out of said heat for a little bit). That plan got tossed out the window partially with COVID (hill training, I have none), but also because of the Bighorn Fire that started in June and closed down the Catalina Highway. Birthday plan? Gone.

We were considering not even going to Tucson … but I committed to putting together some donations for some local Tucsonans who were bringing a load of stuff to their family back on the Navajo reservations and I didn’t quick whip up another couple masks for nothing, dangit. So we went and tried to make the best of it. It worked. Kind of.

Thursday, July 2

Like our last trip, we woke up, went for a run, and then got on the road. All in all, day one was extremely similar to our May trip – stop for lunch in Moab, stop at Wilson’s Arch, spend the night in Flagstaff (but this time eat in at Texas Road House as opposed to getting take-out).

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Bagel sandwich from Sweet Cravings in Moab.

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Messing around at Wilson’s Arch (it was a lot less windy this time around).

Food Eaten: egg/oj/coffee/lemon bars at home; Starbucks; car snacks; Sweet Cravings in Moab; more car snacks; Texas Road House (Flagstaff)

Friday, July 3

The original ORIGINAL plan was to try to do an open-water swim somewhere outside of Mesa, but my National Parks interagency pass had expired and I wanted to try to get that renewed first (swim spot was on National Forest land). So, we drove straight on through to Tucson (with a tiny stop in the Phoenix metro for B to get a pound of coffee at Coffee Bean). We did stop at the Pinal Air Park again and found this:

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Farewell tour 747 for Delta.

We stopped by Saguaro National Park West to try and renew my pass … but couldn’t. And learned the guard booths at SNP East also currently weren’t staffed. I got a phone number to try to get a hold of someone to get a pass mailed to me as, according to the person I talked to, online orders were taking about three months.

Checked into the hotel and then went off to wander a bit.

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Bookman’s was back open and they had this neat display inside one of their Speedway locations.

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Art on Fourth Ave.

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Fourth Ave.

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Happy rainbow saguaros along Fourth Ave.

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Art on Fourth Ave. Part of my plan this trip was to see a lot of Tucson’s street art/murals (I had a list). This was one of the pieces on that list.

I did some restaurant research before heading down … but not clearly enough as the place I was hoping to hit up for dinner (Cafe Santa Rosa, for authentic Native American cuisine) was closed for the holiday weekend. Of course. So disappointing food on the patio at the hotel it was.

Food Eaten: Chick-fil-a, Starbucks, In-N-Out, random stuff on the patio at the J.W. Marriott Starr Pass

Saturday, July 4

Despite not having a technically valid pass, we went on over to SNP East to get in a trail run/hike that morning anyway.

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Cactus hugger.

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All the gorgeous blooms we saw in May turned into fruit.

We tried a new place for breakfast in Ghini’s French Caffe.

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I had a standard egg breakfast.

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B had a croque madame.

Definitely not the worst place. I’d go back again, but probably to try their lunch menu.

From breakfast, more murals!

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Downtown.

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Pano to get this whole one – the Running of the Pinatas (downtown).

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Hotel McCoy.

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B went for the mini wings.

On the back side of this same building, they had a series of mini murals painted about Tucson. I took pictures of them, but I’ll put here what they said:

There is something special about Tucson.
Something not so tangible. More conceptual.
It is a place to find your truth, find your courage, find your you.
This city, its sky bursting with stars, fills your heart,
Leaving you, somehow, someway, homesick
Before you’ve even parted paths.
Come here for a day, a year, a decade, a lifetime. Be born here,
Raised here, or transported from a land afar, the desert doesn’t
Discriminate, offering its magic to anyone who plants their feet
On its dusty terrain.
Find healing in the sun, redemption in the monsoon’s rain.
Here, amidst the saguaro and the wren, there is peace.
There is possibility. Alchemy to help through the pain.
You are where you are meant to be, a child of the earth, a spirit free.
Let yourself go. Surrender to the music of this sweltering city.
Drink the spirits, devour the cuisine, journey through the culture.
Adventure into the backdrop the everyday sightseer never sees.
Dry in heat, abundant in heart, here you will find what you seek
And encounter those you are destined to meet. Love?
In this wild west, you’ll stumble across it, expose it,
Explore it, and, perchance, lose it.
But will it be worth it?
Yes, one million times, yes.
Tucson is a place you will not soon forget.

(I know, right? Chills when I read it. SO TRUE.)

We called ahead for our (late) lunch spot to make sure they were open, learning the lessons of the night before. When doing food research for Tucson, I came across a lot of lists of Black-owned businesses. Some of the barbecue places intrigued me, and I settled upon Original Mr. K’s BBQ. It was originally meant to help fund an Afro-American Heritage Museum. The museum (as far as I can tell) no longer exists, but the restaurant does. It’s both Texas- and Louisiana-based, but also hybridized with Tucson by using the desert mesquite wood. It was delicious and I could have bought them out of their cornbread.

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Inside.

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Fooooooood.

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Two thumbs up from me.

We had a few other plans for the afternoon (namely, visit a sign museum), but I kind of hopped a curb trying to access an eegee’s and the curb had metal covering it (the f?) … and I got a flat. I couldn’t find my tire parts kit so we just used the roadside help with our insurance. The guy that came out put on my full-sized spare with a huge caveat (12-year-old spare; they typically don’t like putting on anything over 8), but eh, it worked. We were a bit blah after that, so the rest of the day was very low-key back at the hotel (hanging out at the pool and skipping dinner).

Food Eaten: Ghini’s French Caffe, Starbucks, eegee’s, Original Mr. K’s BBQ.

Sunday, July 5

Probably should have waken up a LOT earlier than I did this day. Ate breakfast at the hotel as we planned to just ride from where we were staying as opposed to driving anywhere (… since obviously original birfday plan of Lemmon wasn’t happening).

Then hoped for 37 miles (for 37 years), but it was like 90 when we started at 8:30, so we only got in 25.

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My butt.

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This is 37.

We got back and B had a minor over-heating issue, but he ended up being okay (thankfully). As it was kinda late in the morning already, I just got coffee from the hotel ‘bux and then had it with the birthday cake I dragged to Tucson from back home.

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Birfday Kim and Jake’s!

The rest of the morning was spent hanging out at the pool as I wanted to get some water slide and float time in.

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Love my dino float.

Then, it was off to wander the rest of the afternoon.

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Ranch fries and one of the new summer salads at eegee’s. Fries? Awesome as usual. Salad? Eh. Fast food salad. Take it for what you will.

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More street art. This is called “Serape Sunrise.”

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Near Fourth Ave.

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Mayahuel, goddess of agave. Still probably my favorite piece in Tucson.

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Because of course.

Dinner was at probably my favorite restaurant in Tucson, but it wasn’t the best meal I’ve had there. A lot of weird problems with my draft beer (just tasted so weird) and my tamale was overcooked. B’s fajitas were awesome though.

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Mmm, cheese crisp.

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After dinner, we decided to try a new ice cream place out, too, in the Hub Creamery.

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Tasty.

Then, because it’s me, I wanted to close off the day by getting a sunset. We thought maybe Tumamoc Hill, but it was insanely crowded, so we just popped over Gates Pass into Tucson Mountain Park to catch it.

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Food Eaten: breakfast at J.W. Marriott Starr Pass, Starbucks, Kim and Jake’s cake, eegee’s, Casa Molina

Monday, July 6

We decided on a hike that morning closer to home, as it were, by doing one of the trails basically on the hotel grounds (but actually just in Tucson Mountain Park).

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Of course these three came with.

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It was a really nice change of pace.

Back to the room to shower and then grab breakfast before heading to my tire appointment.

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Tried Donut Wheel, as I heard it was good. Like so many doughnut shops … the glazed was good, the chocolate was not.

My Discount appointment went quicker than expected, so that was good. Discount Tire is the greatest when it comes to tires. Seriously. Buy your tires there. Always.

Post-Discount, it was off to the Bookman’s on the north side to sell my brother’s ancient old Atari Lynx and then we drove around getting the last of the street art I wanted.

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Desert lungs.

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Gila! There’s also a lizard as part of this around the corner.

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Quite possibly the most 2020 piece of street art ever.

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Gila mural number two.

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Beaver around the corner from the Gila (as part of a very large mural).

We went back to the hotel to pack in the midst of some of this mural exploration as well.

Food Eaten: K&J cake, Frank’s/Francisco’s, Donut Wheel, Starbucks, Lucky Wishbone, eegee’s, snacks from AJ’s, Empire pizza

Tuesday, July 7

Ugh, this day. We left town relatively early. The original plan was to stop and wander in Sedona a little, but then we decided it was best to just get to Moab in order to maybe try to finally renew my stupid parks pass. Of course, we get to Moab and there’s no one staffing the booths at Arches. Dinner in town and we decided to try again in the morning.

Food Eaten: Waffle House, Starbucks, Taco Bell, Fiesta Mexicana (Moab)

Wednesday, July 8

We tried Arches again in the morning, but STILL NO ONE. I guess in theory we could have still explored the park like planned, but I was so frustrated and upset at this point.

To salvage the rest of what was kind of a meh trip overall … I took a detour to my favorite state park.

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Oh Rifle Falls, I love you.

Then, just home.

Food Eaten: random hotel breakfast sandwich, Starbucks, Eagle Diner … dinner was something back home … Jimmy John’s, maybe?

*****

The street art was good, sure, and there were a few good moments, but overall … don’t plan a holiday weekend birthday in the desert during a pandemic. Don’t be me.

Vegas/Tucson Adult Spring Break 2019

Thanks to Ironman training, I haven’t really traveled much this year. I’d had a couple trips tentatively penciled in (tagging along with the husband), but none managed to pan out.

Then, B and his dad were planning on going to the Wild/Knights game in Las Vegas in late March. I was thinking, hey, I want to go too … why don’t I drive down and bring the bikes? And maybe we can go to Tucson after? Well, the game didn’t pan out, but the trip did.

Thursday, March 28

Since the game didn’t work out, B decided to go up to visit his parents in Minnesota for a few days while I made the drive out to the desert. Instead of doing Denver to Las Vegas in one shot, I decided to split the drive and spend the night in Page, Ariz., hoping for Horseshoe Bend at both sunset and sunrise.

I left Denver pretty early Thursday morning and trucked on through to Fruita. My first planned stop was Colorado National Monument. I was ideally hoping to run there, but the massive death plague (… allergies? bronchitis? still a mystery …) that hit me put the kibosh on that. However, I still stopped in to see it.

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Totally worth the detour.

I also saw a sign for a Dinosaur Hill and I wasn’t not stopping there, either … so I did the small hike at the site.

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From there, I cut down at Crescent Junction/Moab in Utah and moseyed on down that way toward Page. I almost stopped at Arches, but decided to hold off.

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Driving.

I honestly don’t remember what I ended up doing for lunch this day – I think random snacks at a 7-11 somewhere – but dinner was a sushi place in Page that ended up being pretty tasty. Horseshoe Bend was ridiculously busy at sunset, but it was pretty.

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Didn’t get a picture of the dinos last time through.

Friday, March 29

Dawn at Horseshoe Bend was much better. And much quieter as things tend to be.

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After getting some photos, I headed back on the road to Las Vegas. I almost timed it perfectly to get in the same time B’s flight did, but not quite. I picked him up, we grabbed a simple and quick lunch at Chipotle, and then checked in to the Bellagio. Dinner ended up being at the buffet because we couldn’t really think of anything else and it’s an easy way to eat a lot of salad.

From there, we split up – B dropped me off at the Neon Museum, as I was FINALLY going back at night (… thinking that I’d need something to do while he was watching hockey) and he had a few errands to run.

The Neon Museum is awesome regardless of when you go, but I would suggest going both day parts, especially as they continue to restore more signs.

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I also got tickets to see Brilliant!, an art installation in the north gallery (a gallery I didn’t get to see last time I visited back in … 2014?). Brilliant! was AWESOME. In the next few photos, the lights you see are NOT restored; it just looks that way.

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Saturday, March 30

The original plan for this day was wake up, go for an early run, hang out in the spa, maybe by the pool, and gamble. A very low key, chill day.

Actual plan was a bit different. As I was still pretty sick – and coughing to the point that I was sleeping on the bathroom floor away from B so we could both get some z’s – I got forced to urgent care that morning in order for some definitive answers. I had puzzled out bronchitis with a nurse friend of ours … but urgent care people said allergies. I’m still unsure as to which it actually is/was.

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Bellagio conservatory earlier that morning.

Breakfast prior to urgent care was at Blueberry Hill off strip. Coffee post urgent care was, to no one’s surprise, at Cafe Lola.

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The cappuccino was probably the worst I’ve ever had there (booooo) but still pretty good. The pasteis de nada (Portuguese egg pastry) was delicious as always.

Post-coffee, off to pick up my medication, get a car wash, and back to the hotel. B still wanted to run, so he hit up the fitness center while I grabbed a book and hung out by the pool. He joined me after and we both decided against the spa. We ate lunch at the Pool Cafe and then decided to gamble some.

Most all gambling for me was TERRIBLE this trip, btw. After a couple good trips, I finally had another bad one. Booooooo.

Dinner was at In-N-Out, as it is.

Sunday, March 31

We left Las Vegas pretty early to get to Tucson as we had an important detour along the way. Breakfast was just crap at Starbucks, as it’s easy. And stupid.

Our detour was Grand Canyon National Park – somewhere neither of us had ever been to. We didn’t have/take the time to hike, but we will definitely be returning at some point.

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Such well traveled little dinosaurs.

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Lunch was at a KFC at some Route 66 town nearby (I forget which one) and then we continued the drive down to Tucson. Neither of us were all that hungry, so dinner was Cold Stone and french fries.

Monday, April 1

Since we were staying at the Doubletree Reid Park, we got free breakfast every day at the hotel, so that was food every day.

I think B made me do a virtual visit with another doctor this morning since I was still dying, but I don’t 100% remember.

We tried a new lunch place in Baggins Gourmet Sandwiches and it was really good. Have never tried them in Tucson before but we will definitely return. I tried running at Reid Park – got about a fifth of a mile in before hacking and dying. B continued on … but not me.

Dinner that night was an old Tucson standard – eegee’s and Lucky Wishbone.

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B wanted a bit of pool time so he did that and we both decided on a drink by the fire pit – beer for him and a glass of wine for me.

Tuesday, April 2

After breakfast at the hotel, we decided to forgo Starbucks for coffee (like we did the previous morning) and headed to Le Buzz over by Mt. Lemmon. I had hoped to get some time on the mountain this trip, but alas, that was not to be.

Post-coffee, we spent some time at Bookman’s buying books before heading to Choice Greens for salad for lunch. B got on the bike today while I attempted to blow up my giant T. rex tail pool float I bought the previous year. It took forever, but I was successful!

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I am also ridiculous, but you knew that.

After a couple hours in the pool, we headed off to dinner at our favorite Tucson Mexican food spot, Casa Molina … and ate a ridiculous amount of food. Oops.

Wednesday, April 3

Wednesday was hike around cacti day … which we are realizing needs to be way earlier in the trip. Like first night. It’s where we’re both the happiest.

The first stop of the day was at Saguaro National Park West over by Gates Pass … which we had never actually been to – we always hit up SNP East.

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We saw a snek! I’m pretty well zoomed in on this rattlesnake – they were off trail and still pretty calm. No rattling out of them!

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The desert was nicely in bloom.

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Saguaro blossom!

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Petroglyphs.

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We stopped back by the visitor’s center again after hiking to let them know about the snake and then got lunch since we were both starving. Food ended up being a lot of repeats – lunch at In-N-Out and yes, dinner was at Casa Molina again. Regrets we have? Zero.

I forget what we did most of that afternoon post-lunch – probably mostly packed – but I did want to get some sunset pictures over at SNP East so we did go do that before dinner.

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Desert skies are amazing, man.

Thursday, April 4

We were up super early to drive back home, since we’re in the time of year where Tucson/Arizona is an hour different (silly daylight saving time). Breakfast was at Waffle House since not much else is open that early.

The drive was mostly uneventful, which is nice, but we did get a killer sunrise.

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Lunch was at a Jimmy John’s in Albuquerque (that was highly obnoxious to get to) and dinner was pizza of fail when we got back home … since we didn’t have much food in the house.

*****

I would argue this was one of our worst Las Vegas and worst Tucson trips. Partially because I was sick and partially because we didn’t have the best plan going in. Or the plan got shifted so terribly because I was sick. Still, time in the desert is a good thing and I know I needed to get out of town.

Tucson, January 2018

I seriously go to Tucson/Arizona enough at this point that I’m just titling these posts as to when I go. Which I’m pretty sure I’ve also intro’ed with before. *shrugs*

In any case … I had a serious, serious hankering for Mexican food. Not the green chile-based crap that you mostly find in Colorado. Oh no, I wanted the deliciousness I get in Tucson. As I don’t work … I felt like adventure. I was considering going on my own … but B wanted to come … so we went together.

We tried getting Hamilton tickets in the DCPA presale the morning of Monday, January 25th … but our random lottery numbers were way too far down. I also in theory had a Global Entry appointment that afternoon, but thanks to the government shutting down, that was also cancelled. So, we decided to get a bit more time in Tucson and bust out of town Monday.

Dinner was at K Bob’s in Las Vegas, N.M., and we stopped for the night in Albuquerque. Got up earlyish Tuesday morning and continued on driving. I mostly just snacked for lunch and dinner was at the glorious, wonderful Casa Molina. Cheese crisp, beer, bean burrito … and instead of a green corn tamale, I decided to try a chicken enchilada.

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It was pretty dang delicious.

After dinner, we met up with our friends Seton and Debbie for a drink at the Tucson Hop Shop … and to pick up Girl Scout cookies. Mmmm, Thin Mints.

We found out late Monday night that the government was reopening, so I called on Tuesday to try to reschedule my Global Entry appointment at DIA. Yeah, unless I wanted to walk in that day, they weren’t going to help. I got on the site to reschedule when we got to our hotel … and the next appointment in Denver? July. Not helpful. I checked Tucson … February 3. Also not particularly helpful. However, I saw a spot for Nogales (the border) … they had a ton of spots open. I picked an early spot for the next morning.

So, Wednesday morning, we woke up early, got breakfast at the hotel, stopped for coffee, and then took I-19 south out of Tucson to Nogales, Ariz., just at the border. 20 minutes later, Global Entry appointment was taken care of, easy peasy.

We stopped at Mission San Xavier del Bac on our drive back to Tucson. I’m pretty sure I’d been there before – I did have a great-aunt who was a nun, after all – but I definitely didn’t remember it. So, we stopped.

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The Mission is the oldest intact European structure in Arizona, which is pretty dang cool. It also still has Mass to this day, even as they continue to renovate it. Plus we saw a few crested saguaro on the drive, so that automatically made it worthwhile.

After, we drove back to Tucson to pick up a tote bag at a visitor’s center that I won off the @visittucson Instagram feed, Bookman’s to check out the used books, and then some In-n-Out Burger for lunch.

Afterward, we spent some relaxing time by the pool (even though Tucson was kind of cold … well … comparatively) before heading off to Saguaro National Park. We picked up a few items at the Visitor’s Center (because it’s been closed most every other time we’ve been), went for a short run, and then caught the sunset – something I’ve been trying to do for a while.

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B and saguaro.

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Crested!

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Sunset.

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Almost doesn’t look real.

Pics taken, we did our standard Tucson meal for dinner – Eegee’s (where I tried their flavor of the month – prickly pear – and it was weird), a stop at Wienerschnitzel for fries and good ketchup, and then Lucky Wishbone. I got my usual shrimp, but B actually decided to try their fried chicken:

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It was surprisingly good.

While tasty as always, I think I might actually be able to skip Lucky Wishbone next trip. And only mooch off of B’s eeg.

Headed out early the next morning and decided to do the whole drive in one day.

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New Mexico state monument as seen off a rest stop somewhere near Truth or Consequences. Have always wondered what it was for. Monument was closed. Remains a mystery.

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El Camino Family Restaurant, Socorro, N.M. (no web site). Lunch stop. Average BLT. Glad I got cheese on my fries.

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We get bored, we take selfies. Okay, I do.

Dinner to make it quick and easy was Golden Corral in Pueblo, Colo.

Short little jaunt, but always nice to head to Tucson for a visit.

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.

On April in Tucson

In mid-April, we chose to drive down to Tucson to buy new tri bicycles, something I discussed on our tri blog. However, it was also a nice mini-vacation, getting away from the snow in Denver … but sadly not avoiding the wind. I won’t get into the triathlon-side of things here – you can click the link above for that – but I will tell the story of the trip through some of the photos I took.

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We left in snow.

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Crossing the border into New Mexico.

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Breakfast at Frank’s/Francisco’s. So good. All this food also cost us less than $20.

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With my Lucky Wishbone and eegee’s for lunch.

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B and B Cactus Farm. Essentially a free desert botanic gardens. This was also one of the first times I’ve been able to see cacti in bloom, which was unbelievably awesome.

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Brandon enjoyed the cactus.

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Gustave enjoying driving around the city.

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Brandon and In-N-Out.

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The old Swan location, still standing, but no longer in use.

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We are not mature.

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I *heart* Lucky Wishbone.

We visited my “Aunt” Maxine after this, an old friend of my family who has known me since I was a baby. She’s … I think 99? 98? but in any case, nearing 100-years-old … and is still quite sharp.

We headed out of town after two short days, driving up to Scottsdale to visit some of Brandon’s family (Aunt Judy and Uncle Bernie, whom we stayed with in November) and then back down south so we could hit up Hatch for some chile stuff for my brother.

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The desert on our way out of town.

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Water mirage on the road ahead.

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Chile shop.

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The not-so-impressive Rio Grande.

After Hatch, we stopped in Truth or Consequences, N.M., for lunch at K-Bob’s steakhouse.
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We were a bit exhausted at this point.

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Food perked us up.

We slogged home, not reaching our beds until midnight, but one last thing of note: a bit before reaching the New Mexico/Colorado border, Fiona the Rav hit a milestone:
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IMAZ Trip

In November, Brandon and I also drove down to Tempe, Ariz., to volunteer and ultimately sign up for Ironman Arizona.

I recapped the volunteer experience on our tri blog, but I wanted to share the basic trip here.

We left late Wednesday night after I got off work, planning to do most of the drive overnight. We made it into New Mexico and to a rest stop not too far out of Las Vegas, N.M. where we stopped to crash for a few hours. After about three hours of sleep (and the two of us shared driving/napping duties), we woke up and continued on, stopping in Socorro for a breakfast sandwich from a gas station, where I saw this across the way.
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We got back on the road and save for gas, didn’t stop again until we hit Arizona and The Thing.
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The Thing is a piece of roadside Americana (if you will) that has been around as long as I can remember. We’d drive down to Tucson for Christmas when¬†I was a kid and always pass it by. My brother and I would always want to stop (you see billboards for it for at least 50 miles, if not more) but we never did … well, at least until a few years back. I can’t remember now whether it was high school or college, but we finally saw it. I’m not going to ruin the surprise, but it probably wasn’t worth the stop. Luckily, it was only around $5 for the three of us (dad, brother and I; mom stayed in the car) to see it.

So, as Brandon and I did this, our second desert drive, I talked him into stopping. I figured we needed a break (we needed food anyway) and this kitschy roadside crap is worth seeing at least once, right?

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After The Thing, we powered on to Tucson for lunch. The standard stops ensued – eegee’s for a slushy, Wienerschnitzel for fries, Lucky Wishbone for fried shrimp and garlic toast (for me) and then on to In-N-Out for a double double protein style (for Brandon). This delicious (but bad for you) food is the reason why we’re going to Tucson AFTER we do IMAZ next year.

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Lunch (and then gas) and then on to Phoenix (well, Scottsdale) to Brandon’s (great) aunt and uncle’s house which would be our home for the weekend. It was great to see Bernie and Judy and meet their dachshund, Sophie.
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We had a meet up with some of our fellow MX12 VIPers on Friday, so we headed down to Mill Ave./Tempe Town Lake.

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Mill Ave.

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Meet up.

After, we met up with one of Brandon’s friends from college who owns a Trek bike shop in West Phoenix and then some more In-N-Out (mainly for me).
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Saturday, we checked in for the four different areas we were volunteering for and then worked bike check-in, which was fun and informative.
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When we were done, we met back up with Uncle Bernie and Aunt Judy, who took us up to Greasewood Flats, a really cool restaurant up in the foothills.
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After a fun night, it was time to sleep, for we had an early wake-up call since we had to be at Tempe Beach Park at about the same time as the athletes.

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Pre-race.

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Athletes on their way.

We stripped/peeled wetsuits, took a break, and then it was off to sunscreening.
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After sunscreening and another break, we volunteered at the TriSports.com-run run aid station, which had a disco theme.
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After that shift ended, it was off to the park again to camp out so we could be (first!) in line to register for next year.
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Given that online registration sold out in 40 seconds this year, this ended up being a great idea.

We took the rest of Monday pretty easy and then hit the road early Tuesday, taking the northern route out of the Phoenix area and Arizona and back to I-25 off of I-40, something I’d never done before.
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(right near the 25/40 interchange)

Then back home with plenty of time to enjoy Thanksgiving.