Monday, 14 May 2012

Tucson, Arizona

When we first met, my partner - Ric - was living with two men in the northeast Bay Area suburb of Concord. Every Christmas they went to Tucson, Arizona where the climate is drier and warmer. Eventually they decided  to look for a home down there, found one to their liking, sold the house in Concord and moved.

John, Terry, Ric and I still kept in touch and - in early July, 2005 - they invited us to come down for a visit.

My involvement with Ric over the past eleven years has meant that I have done a lot of flying and have flown on some airlines for the first time. Our trip from Oakland to Tucson was one of the 'first timers' - we flew on Southwest Airlines.

When one flies fairly frequently one comes to believe that all airlines are virtually the same which is not the case. Sure, the inside of one aircraft looks - except for decor - much like the cabin of another. The differences arise by the different ways the passengers are handled.

With Southwest seats are not assigned but are allotted on a 'first come - first served' basis. We were fairly early for the flight and went to enter the lineup for the seating. In front of us were a 'beautiful people' couple who dropped their luggage closest to the doorway leading to the ramp and then went to the cocktail lounge. Those of us who were gathering at the gate grumbled at the rudeness shown us  - and then received retribution. Some ten minutes or so before our flight was to leave there was an announcement of a gate change. All of us in line moved our luggage to the new gate, went on board, and selected our seats. The 'rude couple' were now the last and had to sit in the rear of the aircraft. Served them right!

Always - if I can - I select a window seat so I can watch the terrain passing below. This was not a direct flight to Tucson but via LAX.

When we landed in Tucson we collected our bags and had to wait for a while before our host appeared. John is a trained chef - at one time he owned and operated a French restaurant in Seattle (I had eaten there long before we knew each other) - so shopped carefully. A ride with him in his BMW meant visiting a number of markets while on our way to his house.

Upon arriving at the house - a beautiful two story home in a cul de sac with similar houses on either side and all of them built on the brow of a 'wash'. Up on a neighboring tree was perched a most unusual tenant of which we had been forewarned  - a great horned owl! Often he was up on the roof above the front door.

Before leaving Toronto  I had thought of the chief 'boarder' so bought the usual hedgehog squeaky toy. I had it in my hand but behind my back. Rex was beside himself with excitement so I showed him what I had and then tossed it towards him. It was not out of his mouth (except when he stopped to eat or drink) for the rest of that day.

Jack and Terry had a pool in the yard in Concord  but it had no stairs by which to get in or out. Twice, while he was still a puppy, Rex had fallen in and had to be rescued. Therefore he was terrified of the pool - even the one in Tucson. There was a gently sloped set of steps into the shallow end but Rex could not be coaxed to come into the water with us. Instead he would stand and bark where the garden hose lay. I would grab it, aim it and squirt him. He loved that!

Near the pool - and under a bower - was the dining table so that was where we ate dinner each evening. It was beautiful watching the sun setting behind the western mountains and then the stars appearing one by one in the clear and dry desert air.

John very kindly took us sightseeing while we were there. On our fist excursion we drove southwest along the Ajo (pronounced 'Aw-ho') Highway to Mount Kitt and the observatory up there. Unfortunately, it was later in the afternoon when we arrived and it was closing. However, we remained there for quite a few minutes enjoying the views.

                                                     The Mount Kitt Observatory.

                  Terry, John and Ric enjoying the view. Tucson can be seen in the distance.

The dominating mountain peak near Tucson is Mount Lemmon. In the side of that mountain is Salinas  Canyon and that was where John took us on the following day. It was very hot (above 100 degrees  Fahrenheit) when we hopped on a funky little tour bus for a drive into the canyon.  

                                                 Thimble Peak in Salinas Canyon.

 In Salinas Canyon - and beside the public washrooms - was this giant saguarro cactus.

 The giant saguarro was in bloom (sort of) and here are the pretty flowers.

                                              Also, nearby, were some prickly pear cacti.

On our third day  in Tucson Jack drove us to the top of the highest peak in the region - Mount Lemmon.
The drive up was quite a climb but the highway was a good one. At about three quarters of the way up we came upon some hoodoos which are weird rock formations sculpted by the wind. The photo is not all that clear but those odd sculpted rocks are above the road tunnel.

From the top of Mount Lemmon (which is high enough that there was a noticeable cooling of the air compared to what we encountered down below) there was a magnificent view.

                                  Except for the trees in the foreground, all is hot and bleak.

On the fourth day we flew back to Oakland. Again the carrier was Southwest Airlines however, we went via San Diego instead of LAX and we did not encounter any fellow passengers who were rude.

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