Tucson, May 2020

If you know me/us, you know we like to travel. A lot. B does it for his job. Thanks to the shitshow that is our current world (… although less so, now), B hasn’t gone anywhere since this all began. Neither have I.

However, with things opening up a little … we decided that for our mental health, we both needed to get away. So that’s exactly what we did. And of course, where did we go? Tucson.

Tuesday, May 19

We didn’t leave super early like we normally do, mostly because we weren’t trying to make it to Tucson in a day. We woke up, went for a run, and got on the road about 8 or 9 am. We went a slightly different route, going through Utah and into Arizona that way.

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We stopped for lunch in Moab, which officially makes it the longest amount of time I’ve ever officially spent in Moab. We were also able to sit and eat in a restaurant for the first time in like two months, so that was nice.

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Arches National Park was closed (we probably would have stopped in had it not), but if you keep driving out of Moab, you come across Wilson’s Arch, seen here. You can hike up to it, but it was super honking windy, so we nixed that idea.

Our stop for the night was in Flagstaff, Ariz. Dinner was takeout, although we found out when picking up the food that we could have dined in. Whatever.

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Not where we stayed, but it was a super cool sign. We were technically on Route 66 at this point.

Food eaten: egg at home, Starbucks, car snacks, Spoke on Main (Moab), more car snacks, Texas RoadHouse (Flagstaff)

Wednesday, May 20

We woke up relatively early on Wednesday as we had a destination in mind for that morning and we wanted to get there when it opened.

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Wait, what’s this? Apple orchard?

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Yep, just part of Slide Rock State Park! I’m sure you’ve seen pictures of it on Pinterest or it written about on travel sites. The rocks in the park/on the river are super slippery and form a natural water slide. It’s not that long, but it is super fun. There’s also a place you can jump from ledges into the water … which we both did after some hesitation.

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Taken after sliding down the rocks.

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Ledge jumping.

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When the bucket list item is worth it.

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Further up the river.

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We’ll be back, Slide Rock.

After Slide Rock, we deck changed at the car back into normal clothes and got back on the road. We didn’t stop in Sedona, but we did drive through – so cute. Will also need to return there at a later date to explore.

Our next stop was the Phoenix metro area. The drive down was absolutely stunning, particularly when we first started seeing the saguaros. We went down in the middle of blooming season and saguaros in bloom? Gorgeous.

We got lunch first and then did a short stop just for me.

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Been meaning to find this piece of interactive Kelsey Montague art for a while. Hoped to do it on either the January or (non-blogged about) March trip, but alas. Then a stop at a Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf for more at home coffee for B in Scottsdale and Cadence Running Company in Gilbert for me for another pair of running shoes. B took over driving the rest of the way into Tucson and we detoured in Marana to the Pinal Air Park to mournfully look at all the parked airplanes not being flown thanks to the virus-reduced schedules.

We stayed at a new hotel in Tucson – the Westin La Paloma – mostly because we found a decent deal AND they had a lap pool. Pools in Arizona had opened on the 15th and this triathlete hadn’t swam in 75 days.

We checked in, tossed all the crap in the room, and got in a tiny swim. Really pretty tiny since I really felt the pool layoff (I tend to get nauseous my first swim or two back from a layoff, and this was no exception) AND I really needed food. But it was SO NICE to swim again.

Then dinner, and bed.

Food eaten: Chick-fil-a, Starbucks, In-n-Out Burger, eegee’s.

Thursday, May 21

I woke up early ostensibly to swim, but I realized I really needed food first. So food was had first. We called around to a few places to make sure they had dine-in (not everyone did), but Baja Cafe, the place Seton and Debbie took us back in January did, so that’s where breakfast was. From breakfast, it was off to Saguaro National Park (East) to go for a short trail run/hike.

There … I saw something very special.

For a bit of backstory, during this quarantine/shelter-in-place, I’ve reconnected with an old friend from the grade school days. She’s now actually a legit shaman and has been running in-person moon circles in California for a few years. However, as all of our lives have been transferred online (more than they already were), she decided to host an online circle. Since it was free and I was curious, I signed up. And then I did three more (and paid by the end gladly). During the moon circles, we do a guided meditation into our heartspace. I’d seen the Sonoran desert in three of the four and a Gila monster in the last two. The first time, it just showed up and the second time as an actual spirit guide. And then I started seeing them everywhere – all on my random desert feeds I follow on Instagram and even as a mural on some building off I-25 that I drive past all the time and SOMEHOW just realized that it had a Gila on it (I’d already noticed the awesome trout). So, on this trip, I had a feeling I’d see one in the wild. You need to remember, however, that spotting them is extremely rare. They spend something like 98% of their lives underground. In all my trips to Tucson (which is many), I’d seen one once and even then it was only crossing the road. I’d never seen one up close, so to speak. Both B and I thought that might change this trip. And it did.

But it might not have even happened. As we did our run, we ran a different path at the fork in the trail than I/we usually do. We could have just turned around and went back from whence we came, but I wanted to go the normal route. We would just finish the run distance whenever we came to it and then could just hike back.

On this whole run, I was constantly scanning the surroundings, looking for a Gila. And then I finally told myself, stop. If you consciously look for it, you won’t find it. (and you might hurt yourself for not paying attention where you’re stepping on a rocky trail.) So I finally started to let go. And as we approached one of the washes you cross … I saw something, stopped my Garmin, and squee’ed.

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B: “Why did we stop?”
Me, pointing: “Loooooook!”
B: “Where? What?”
Me, more emphatically: “LOOOOOK! IT’S A GILA!”
B: *squees with me*

Little lizard wanted nothing to do with us – we tried being quiet as we got closer (iPhone cameras, or at least ours, don’t zoom well and I wanted to actually get a damn picture) – but no, they waddled off and away from us. Which was adorable (go find one scampering off).

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You almost never see pictures of them straight, but this was the clearest I could get. And even then, this is the edited, enhanced, insta version.

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Wandering off into the desert.

Man, that made my trip. No joke.

We finished up the last little bit of the run and then continued wandering in the park a little.

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Saguaro blossom.

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Ahh, cacti.

After Saguaro, we considered riding … but swam instead and then just spent most of the rest of the day outside by the pool. Dinner was our one take-out meal in Tucson, as there was no way I was missing out on a cheese crisp (that came in a pizza box) and green corn tamale from Casa Molina.

Food eaten: Baja Cafe, Starbucks, food from one of the random Westin La Paloma restaurants, Casa Molina

Friday, May 22

Friday, we woke up and decided to try a brand new place for breakfast that I had seen referenced on the social medias – Joe’s Pancake House on Kolb.

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We both love low-key breakfast joints … probably more than we like the fancy/hipster ones. Plus all that food cost us like $15, which is even better. I like places like Frank’s/Francisco’s where you can get a killer food deal.

After breakfast, it was a bit of driving around exploring … partially to get me to some murals.

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I realized too late that I completely forgot about the new Tucson Together mural (and I need to find out where it is) … otherwise I would have tried to find that one, too. We also hit up a rock shop and then lunch.

Most of the afternoon was spent doing some admin work and lazing about the hotel room, but we did end up going on a bike ride before dinner and DATE NIGHT IN AN ACTUAL RESTAURANT AGAIN. We also tried a new place on the west side that we’d driven past a few times but never actually stopped.

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Inside.

It was DELICIOUS. B’s steak was fantastic and every time I grabbed a bone from my ribs, it just came out, leaving the meat behind.

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You kind of see that here. If you went outside to behind where that sign was, you can actually see the pit/grill they used. My kind of place. Highly recommended.

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The mud pie wasn’t the best I’ve had, but it still wasn’t bad.

After dinner, we quick hopped over Gates Pass for the sunset. Unfortunately we’re in the time of year where Tucson has like two clouds, so it wasn’t as fabulous as it was in January.

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One last stop for a few more “bucket list Tucson photos” finally got me this sign:
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and driving to it got me this one:
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(For those not in the know, Magic Carpet was the BEST MINI GOLF EVER back in the day in Tucson. Fun, interactive holes, two courses … it was the greatest. R.I.P. I miss you Magic Carpet. One of the few Tucson things I deeply regret never being able to have B experience with me.)

Food eaten: Joe’s Pancake House, Starbucks, eegee’s, Baggin’s Gourmet Sandwiches, Daisy Mae’s Steak House.

Saturday, May 23

After one last swim for who knows how long (*cries*), it was on the road to get out of town. This was a weird Tucson trip in that we didn’t go the I-25-Hatch-I-10 route at all. Part of it was because that New Mexico still is pretty locked down, but part of it was also to experience some different stuff. We drove north out of Tucson to Phoenix and then detoured toward Kingman as B wanted to see how quiet Las Vegas was (and to extend the trip a touch longer).

This made it a drive neither of us had done before and one totally worth it as we drove past the tiny Arizona town of Wickenburg that looked TOTALLY AWESOME and became yet another place that we need to go back to and visit. Seriously, this is why I love road-tripping and taking weird back routes. You stumble upon the greatest stuff.

Nevada/Las Vegas was weird. I tried going to a JoAnn’s to find Vegas Golden Knights fabric to make more masks, but that was a massive fail and a half. What wasn’t was finally being able to visit the new Cafe Lola location in Henderson. Even though they didn’t have my pasteis de nada (boo).

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Roped off. No influencer pics for you!

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Weird feeling compared to the Summerlin location, but I think that’s more the fault of the current state of things as opposed to anything they could control.

B wanted to drive the Strip – that was weird, seeing all of the normally open doors shut and barred. When we left it was the happiest we’d ever been leaving Las Vegas. Usually we wouldn’t be that excited to get to our evening destination (Cedar City), but alas.

Food eaten: Waffle House, Starbucks, In-n-Out Burger, Cafe Lola, Brody’s Mexican, Crumbl Cookies.

Saturday, May 23

Our final day was the most boring day – just a drive day.

Or so we thought … as it decided to start spitting snow in Vail and then didn’t stop precipitating (snow until just after Georgetown and then steady rain) until we got home. Yay.

Food eaten: Starbucks, Einstein Bros. Bagels, home snacks, food at the brother and sister-in-laws.

A little surreal to travel, but it was a much needed trip for both of us.

#tucsonthingswemiss

Biking up Lemmon
And icy cold eegee’s
Looking for Gilas and green corn tamales
Browsing in Bookman’s; well that’s just sheer bliss
These are all the Tucson things that I miss

Eating cheese crisps at Casa Molina
Seeing roadrunners
Quail and javelina
Saguaro sunsets that no one can diss
These are all the Tucson things that I miss

Tours at Old Tucson and Mission del Bac
So much of the food; you know it all rocks
The Desert Museum and snakes that do hiss
These are all the Tucson things that I miss

In these hard times
Where life’s not “right”
And I’m feeling sad
I simply remember my Tucson delights
And then I don’t feel so bad
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#tucsonthingswemiss, 4.13.20

The VisitTucson Instagram page asked us to make a video of us talking about the Tucson things we miss, and, well, with many apologies to Rodgers and Hammerstein, I came up with this. No I’m not sharing the video. If you want to see it, I’m sure you can figure out how.

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.

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.

Tempe Trip 2017

Also known as our yearly trip to Ironman Arizona. Since 2012, we’ve only missed one year (2014). Other than that, we’ve been down every year. Probably will actually skip next year, however. Maybe.

In any case, I’m not going to share anything from the race, but rather the trip surrounding it. I’ve also been apparently forgetting to take pictures with my actual camera half the time (Instagram stories are wicked fun, yo), but I still did get several. Two of the food ones were phone pics, though.

Wednesday, November 15:

A very long day of driving. But! Did see the sun do a cool effect somewhere on I-40/Route 66. Forget whether this was still in New Mexico or the Arizona side of things, though …

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Ate: egg at the house, snack at Starbucks, lunch at Golden Corral (mmm, salad), dinner at Logan’s Roadhouse, various homemade car snacks.

Thursday, November 16:

We stayed at the (really new) Hilton Garden Inn ASU, which was about three miles from Tempe Beach Park (that is, IMAZ ground zero). Alas, no free breakfast, so we went out at a place I found on the interwebs, Matt’s Big Breakfast. Matt’s has a few locations around the area, but we ate one just down Rio Salado. B had The Hog & Chick (their basic meat and eggs and potatoes) while I had the daily special … eggs benedict.

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Menu.

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Hashbrowns were terrible. Eggs Benedict wasn’t bad (although only one of my eggs was poached properly). They also pretty much forgot about B’s toast, which was sad, because it was good homemade sourdough.

After breakfast, a stop for coffee (mmm coffee) and then off to the Desert Botanical Garden, which, yay, FREE with our reciprocal membership. Because, if you know me/us by now, you know we love looking at cactus.

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Chihuly pieces.

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They had a butterfly exhibit. This is just one of many photos I took in there.

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Good to know.

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Building on site.

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Oh look, photo op site.

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(After saguaros,) my favorites – purple prickly pears.

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Poor Lonely George.

After the Gardens, it was off to the spring training home of the Colorado Rockies (okay, and the Arizona Diamondbacks), Salt River Fields.

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I may have brought this sweatshirt solely for a photo op.

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Super cool.

Afterward, we grabbed lunch, went back to the hotel to get a workout in, and then headed off to B’s great aunt and uncle’s house for dinner and conversation.

Ate: Matt’s Big Breakfast, Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf/Starbucks, Sweet Tomatoes, homemade food made with love by family.

Friday, November 17:

We wanted a bit of a lighter breakfast so we headed off to a Whole Foods for their oatmeal bar. Was not nearly as good as the ones ’round these here parts. I had a coffee social with my SMASH teammates, so we headed to Tempe to go FINALLY hike the A mountain (I think?) that’s right on the ASU campus and behind the mill on Mill.

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Dinosaurs enjoying the view.

I really don’t remember much of this day, weirdly. I know I did the coffee social, and I know we checked out the expo … and I know I went back to the Tempe Mission Palms to go to the SMASH warehouse sale … but I think the rest of the day was fairly low-key.

Ate: Whole Foods, Starbucks, random snacks thanks to the coffee social, In-N-Out, Gordon Biersch, Cold Stone.

Saturday, November 18:

We had the Tempe Friends and Family 5K this morning, so we woke up a bit earlier to head down to Mill – not only for a parking spot, but to grab breakfast at NCounter. We’ve eaten there quite a few times before and love it. Some pre-race oatmeal with a side of eggs was perfect.

If you really want to know how the race went, you can pop on over to the tri blog.

Post-race, we got coffee and checked out the expo, buying some general Ironman merch (as well as IMAZ stuff sans-date, since we have done it before).

As we’ve picked up curling this year, B wanted to go see the curling club … so we did that.

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Yes, we’re nerds.

We technically got invited back to curl on Sunday … but ended up passing on the offer.

Lunch was at a little teriyaki place at Tempe Marketplace which was pretty tasty. We were trying to keep it a little low key as that night was date night!

We needed to figure out a November date night and I figured this trip would be a perfect time to do it, so we found a nice place in Scottsdale called Olive and Ivy. When researching the trip, this place kept popping up a lot as well as everyone saying “eat on the patio,” so we decided sure, let’s eat here … and get reservations on the patio. Totally worth it.

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Art on the river outside. If you look to the left and see the bistro lights, that’s Olive and Ivy.

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Menu.

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View from our table.

We split some bruschetta.

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We tried:
Prosciutto: fig preserve, port salut
Mushroom: roasted garlic, crescenza
Brussels Sprout: whipped goat cheese, crisp prosciutto, sherry gastrique

The Prosciutto had too much arugula on it, but otherwise it was pretty good. The Brussels Sprout was missing … something, and the Mushroom would have been better had it been warm (but it was still my favorite. Despite our server trying to tell me it was terrible).

For dinner, B had the Veal and Spinach Ravioli (parmesan, mizuna), while I had the Sea Scallops (creamy polenta, roasted brussels sprout, bacon gastrique).

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It. Was. Delicious.

Ate: NCounter, Starbucks, Yogi’s Grill, Olive and Ivy.

Sunday, November 19:

Entirely a day of cheering on athletes. I had 14 people I was tracking. Two made it to Kona and, unfortunately, two didn’t finish.

Of note, though, was our “dinner.” My friend Katie said we had to go to Culinary Dropout, as it is her favorite restaurant in Tempe. As we basically grazed and snacked all day, we didn’t eat a full meal; rather, we each got a salad and split two appetizers.

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Soft pretzels and provolone fondue. SO GOOD.

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Cheddar and potato pierogies. Also quite delicious.

It was pretty tasty. Not sure if it’s my *favorite* place in Tempe, but was quite delicious.

Ate: hotel breakfast buffet, Starbucks, Cabin Tempe (not recommended), ice cream from the Baked Bear, Culinary Dropout.

Monday, November 20:

I dropped B off early to Sky Harbor as he had a trip that started Tuesday … but given the drive and flights and blahblahblah … he had to leave that morning. I grabbed some coffee and headed down to Tucson so I could pick up some tamales. As I got there before the tamale place opened, I took some photos around town.

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Some of my favorite street art in Tucson. Off 6th.

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Lost Barrio.

Tamales picked up, I started the drive back, stopping in Las Vegas, N.M., for the night.

Ate: Starbucks, random snacks from gas stops, Cracker Barrel.

Tuesday, November 21:

A short day – even with a weather/accident delay outside of Larkspur (and a stop at the grocery store), I was still home by noon. Hooray.

Ate: hotel breakfast, Starbucks, home cooked goodness.

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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Tucson Spring 2017

If that “live where you vacation” thing is accurate, we’re probably going to end up moving to Tucson at some point. Probably when we’re old. When we can handle the 100+ degree temperatures in the summer. Probably. Maybe.

This trip was originally hopefully going to be in early May and comprise of a training camp, but then we kind of took a month off of training and we realized the May dates weren’t going to work but we still really wanted to go and long story short … we went in early April, instead, when we were originally in theory supposed to be in Chicago for the Frozen Four.

I think we were both happier in the desert sunshine as opposed to the rainy Midwest.

Tuesday, April 4:

We knew it was probably going to snow the day we headed out of town, but we didn’t realize it was as bad as it ended up being. I’m pretty sure the storm I was supposed to hit on the first driving back from Albuquerque got delayed and combined into this one. That meant that the three hours it normally takes to get across the border into New Mexico? Took over five. Walsenberg to Trinidad should take maybe a half-hour. It took us double that.

From home to probably just before Santa Fe, N.M., we were driving through snow and ice. Southern Colorado after Colorado Springs through the border was us going 20 to 25 miles per hour (35 if we got lucky), seeing multiple cars off the side of the road, seeing a car spin out in front of us heading up Raton Pass, feeling us fishtail at one point.

All in all, it meant a good seven hours of white-knuckle driving. It was TERRIBLE.

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Front of my car. Photo taken in Las Vegas, N.M., where it was thankfully just rainy.

We rolled into Tucson right around 8pm Tucson time so really 9pm our time. A 12.5 hour drive (usually) turned into a 17 hour drive.

Wednesday, April 5:

We were staying at the Hilton Tucson East, more on the southern (and obviously eastern) end of town.

Wednesday was actually fairly chill, just driving around and exploring. We stopped somewhere if we felt like stopping – like at the La Encantada shopping center – but it was mostly just enjoying the fact that we were finally on vacation.

We went for a short bike ride that afternoon and played some cards by the pool, but all in all, it was a very chill, agenda-free day.

Thursday, April 6:

Thursday was an earlier wake up call due to where we wanted to hit breakfast (food post coming later this week) and then we went trail running up at Sabino Canyon.

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After the run, we went back to the hotel to shower and then went off to Tohono Chul Park to go look at cactus and use our botanic garden reciprocity. Because we like “free.”

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It was awesome and peaceful, just like any good botanic garden should be. We explored almost all of it, except for one of the longer trails because we were both getting hungry at that point.

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Crested saguaro! With a face!

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Tucson life goals: see a blooming saguaro done!

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Gorgeous blooms.

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Accurate.

We hit lunch and then were so stuffed from lunch that we spent a super lazy afternoon flopped at the hotel. Dinner really ended up not being a thing that night.

We did venture back out to Sabino Canyon to try to get my elusive sunset shot, but once again … fail. I finally did my version of one of B’s standard photos, though.

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Friday, April 7:

Friday morning saw us head to Saguaro National Park where we ended up purchasing the annual national parks and federal recreational lands pass. Since I’m quitting and we normally try to get a Rocky Mountain National Park pass, we figured the nationwide pass was a smart idea. As long as we do five more visits to parks/rec lands (easy as we need to hike a lot this summer), it’ll pay for itself. Seemed like a no-brainer.

We went to Saguaro mostly to hike around. And obviously take pictures.

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B and saguaro.

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Dinosaur perspective.

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“These are my people.”

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Hehe, it’s wavy.

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Dead saguaro.

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Desert.

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All the blooming ocotillos were stunning.

On the drive back … Tucson life goals: see a gila monster in the wild done! Almost ran the little bugger over with my car so unfortunately couldn’t get a picture.

We hit up lunch after Saguaro and that afternoon, met up to shop at SMASH HQ so I could try on some things before I bought them. Plus lots of time spent chatting with Hillary and Maik is never bad.

Dinner that night and then a way less stressful drive home on Saturday.

Arizona Trip, November 2016

Way back at the end of November, I road-tripped down to Arizona. This was ostensibly to volunteer at IRONMAN Arizona, but I also spent a few days in Tucson at either end, because why not.

Thursday, November 17:

The drive. Very long, very windy day. Worst gas mileage I have ever gotten.

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Sunset.

Friday, November 18:

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Dinosaurs at the hotel. Stayed at the Comfort Suites at Sabino Canyon.

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I may have killed many tumbleweeds the day prior … My car still had one in its jaws.

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I wandered the Fourth Street District a bit, trying something new in Tucson. I came across this guy, a remnant of the ancient old Magic Carpet Golf mini golf course, i.e. the best mini golf EVER. R.I.P.

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Lunch was all-you-can-eat sushi at Sushi Garden. I technically should have been charged for some of my food, as I didn’t quite finish it, but the waitress was awesome and let me slide. Much appreciated!

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I spent a bit of time that evening trying to get the elusive awesome sunset saguaro shot. As you can see, I didn’t quite get there. Someday …

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I am so thankful that I can, because I know so many people who just don’t get the desert’s appeal.

Saturday, November 19:

Drove up to Tempe. Saw this guy on Mill:
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Hung out at the IMAZ expo, both simultaneously experiencing some FOMO and also VERY glad to not be racing. Ran into my friend Simon, because why wouldn’t I run into someone I know. Picked Brandon up from the airport.

Sunday, November 20:

Spectated IMAZ.

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Got the hardest high-five ever from Simon here at the bike turnaround.

Mostly spent most of the evening volunteering at the TriSports.com aid station, having a blast as always.

Monday, November 21:

Drove back down to Tucson.

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Got lunch at delicious Lucky Wishbone.

Checked into the J.W. Marriott Starr Pass.

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Went to Casa Molina for dinner.

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Mmm, cheese crisp. Weird Sonoran thing, but delicious.

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Dinner, with a demolished green corn tamale (the only tamale I will eat).

Tried out the Screamery for ice cream.

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I tried the Mississippi Mudpie, which is an “infused coffee ice cream with hand-made dark chocolate cookies and chocolate swirl.” It was … okay. Not sure we’d return. We’re both really realizing that we don’t like “fancy” ice cream.

Tuesday, November 22:

Went to the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum, since we hadn’t gone in several years.

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Rare crested saguaro!

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Creative and funny.

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Standard “Brandon hugging a cactus” photo.

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Saguaro.

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Squeaky (Gustave) on a cactus.

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All the frogs!

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Cranky roadrunner.

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Dinosaurs in the desert.

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Brandon’s ideal backyard.

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The Desert Museum has sting rays now!

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Chilling back at the hotel.

We tried out the Catalina BBQ Company, one of the (off-site) hotel restaurants for dinner, partially because we had heard good things about it.

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I had the pulled pork; it wasn’t bad. Fries were pretty terrible, proving my theory that fries at barbecue joints just aren’t good.*

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Brandon had the pork, wings, and the macaroni and cheese. Everything tasted okay buuuut …

Wednesday, November 23:

… we think the wings gave Brandon food poisoning, as he was super sick for the drive home.

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Not a fun time. Except for the food poisoning, though, overall a good trip down to the desert with a few new experiences.

* Notable exception being, of course, the Germantown Commissary.

Tucson Spring 2015

Creative blog titles I have not.

I’ve gotten badly behind on here, for a very, very good reason – we bought a house. There will be a post on that soon, but I’ve got to get caught up on the befores, first.

First, Tucson. This trip was initially planned as a mini training camp for us, but as house stuff got overwhelming (the pre-closing process is awful, man), it ended up as more of a stress-relief trip.

We went a different way – out I-70 through Utah and down into Arizona, as we were staying with Aunt Judy and Uncle Bernie for a night and we didn’t want to go I-25 to I-40, as that was mind-numbingly awful last time we did that drive. 70? A much better choice.

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Utah hills.

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Monument Valley.

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Family.

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Desert first – a roadrunner in the wild! I ended up seeing a few this trip …

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Cactus.

We also decided to play a bit of tourist this trip and see a few things we hadn’t before.

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Saguaro close-up.

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One of those things included the Titan Missile Museum, which I had never seen as a kid, understandable as it opened in 1986 and my dad really didn’t think about it, I guess? Still, as a (U.S.) history nerd, it was cool and a piece of Cold War history.

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(The old-style Jeep was there as a movie about an explosion at a different missile silo was being shot on site.)

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Missile itself.

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Missile from above, outside.

Another tourist place that I hadn’t been to in years and Brandon had never been to was Old Tucson, a film studio where many Westerns have been shot (Rio Lobo, Rio Bravo, parts of McClintock to name a few).

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(And clearly “The Last Outpost.”)
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(Dance photos from the Can-Can show.)

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Most-photographed locomotive ever.

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I found a bike.

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Taken because Cripple Creek? Is in Colorado.

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Seen on a ride.

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I hadn’t been to Colossal Cave in years and Brandon was interested … so in we went.

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Dinosaurs outside.

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Sunset on our last night.

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Triple T truck stop and where we grabbed a very early breakfast leaving town. I’d always seen this place, but never stopped … glad we did. I love greasy spoon, truck stop breakfasts.

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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