New Years Eve in Tucson

Usually on this day I am writing about my life during the past year, but at the moment I am still trying to integrate my life of the last month. Quiet time for reflection consists of a few moments here and there as the miles pass, and then I am usually either writing or trying to knit on bumpy pavement. As we speak.

Yesterday was fun as we looked up two different sets of friends that Mo had in Tucson. The first people, Joe and Joan, have been friends with Mo since she and Carol lived in Monterra in the 70’s, and were actually married at the ranch there. They lived in a typical Arizona country club, with winding streets and generic houses that went on for a long way, but their home inside was lovely and their xerixcaped gardens were great. They have only lived there for a little more than 2 years, moving from Grass Valley in California and they loved it. We visited with them at their home for a time before going to Wes and Gayle’s home just a few miles away in the same area. Gayle called while we were traveling and suggested that we all come there for dinner instead of trying to go to a restaurant. She said, “I’ll just throw something in a pot, so it’s not a bit of trouble.” Mo had thought that it might be nice for the two couples to meet, but till now that hadn’t actually happened.

Wes and Gayle are Mo’s next door summer neighbors back in Rocky Point, but they are only there for 3 or 4 months a year and then come back to Arizona for the rest of the time, especially the winter. They had a truly lovely home on an acre or so along a typical Arizona arroyo with palo verde trees and cactus all around. The home was like something out of Sunset magazine showing contemporary desert living, with a barbeque patio that rivaled most kitchens I have seen, a big southwest style outdoor fireplace/over, with adobe walls and a beautiful waterfall. The waterfall was very similar to the one at Joe and Joan’s home, so I guess it’s the thing to do in the desert when you have no grass, you need some kind of water here and there.

The inside of the home was every bit as memorable with all the southwest décor that is so open and full of light. There were big windows with views on three sides of the mountain ranges around Tucson and we watched the sunset while eating some kind of incredible appetizers made with corn tortillas, shrimp, avocado and cilantro with a great pepper kick. Gayle also made lovely Cosmopolitans, which were new to me and a surprise as well since I didn’t think I liked vodka at all. Could do that again!

From appetizers in the living room we ambled to the dining room for a meal that was surely more than “something in a pot”. We had some kind of famous southwest chicken soup called “posole” that had hominy in it, but it wasn’t anything like the hominy I remember because this was really really good. They also served corn salsa, and green corn tamales that they brought back from Puerto Vallarta, beef tamales, and chicken enchiladas. After dinner she brought out the liqueurs with desserts and a can of whipped cream which made us all laugh. It was fun.

It was nice that everyone had a chance to get to know each other and I got to know Wes and Gayle a bit better so that when I get back to Rocky Point and they are there it will be fun. Gayle likes to walk and to play “hand and foot” so that’s a good start. Although her heart is here in Tucson so they may not be going back to Rocky Point many more times.

Mo and I were worn out and not up to the New Year’s party thing so we left around 10 and traveled back to the rv park and slept right through the whole thing. I put the tv on the channel where the ball was supposed to fall and don’t remember another thing. LOL

We stayed at a park called Cactus Country RV, which was just off I-10 near Houghton Road east of Tucson. It was a great choice, with really friendly staff, and in spite of being very nearly full, it was incredibly quiet. Maybe it was the direction of the desert wind, but I never heard a sound from the freeway that was about ½ miles south of us. Also, they have the night lighting restrictions in place in this part of Arizona as well and the sky was dark and brilliant with stars since the moon is in it’s waning phase and wasn’t up yet.

It’s interesting to see how we are treated in different parks. Most of the parks are geared to wintering snowbirds with lots of activities and amenities for long term stays. As a result, short timers or overnighters aren’t treated as well now and then. In this park, though, there was none of that, and I would definitely go back and stay here if traveling through Tucson, and if visiting would choose this one as a home base.

Flagstaff to Albuquerque

We are on I-40 again, approaching the New Mexico border. I should have known that Mo and I couldn’t get through the desert without doing a side trip or two. At Holbrook, we took off on the old Route 66 to go to the Painted Desert. The most amazing thing we found unexpectedly was Jim Gray’s Petrified Wood Company.

It was amazing, with a huge lot filled with logs of every shape and size, and inside the shop aisles upon aisles of petrified wood, jewelry, huge tables made of stone and amethyst geodes, and even a pond and a waterfall. On the walls up high were all sorts of Route 66 memorabilia, photos, old license plates, coke bottles. The place was just too much fun. We bought some “mother road” refrigerator magnets, a book about the Petrified Wood national park, and an ironwood road runner for Mo’s collection.

Continuing into the park, we ambled along the quiet roads completely enjoying the silence, the distant views, and all the shapes and colors off the old betonite clay deposits that were a major factor in the process of petrification. Since silica is the main mineral that transforms the wood to stone, a good source of silica is needed in the waters that buy the wood to preserve it. Ahaha, volcanic ash! Huge piles of ash from all the volcanic activity in Triassic times 225 M years ago. The piles of ash, full of silica, helped create the stone. Then the ash weathers to heavy clay after millions of years, gets colored by iron and manganese and creates tourist opportunities for people like me and Mo.

It really was a great little park, though, with nice trails and beautiful views. Another nice part was that they allowed dogs on the trails which doesn’t often happen in a national park, so of course Abby got her morning walk.

It was a nice side trip and now we are back headed east. Last night was really comfortable after we settled in, even though it got down to 20 degrees. We were warm and cozy with the little electric heater that we use so we can save on propane. It’s also much quieter than the big heater.

We just crossed into New Mexico, and there is pink rock and golden mesas topped with dark green juniper. I am always amazed at how the landscape changes so much at state boundaries. This one is a great example. We moved from the huge flat plains of Arizona where you can see for 120 miles to the mesas and arroyos of New Mexico in just a couple of miles. Georgia O’Keefe country, pink and gold and juniper green.

Evening in Albuquerque. We settled in to our campground in plenty of time for daylight setup which was really great after our experience last night! Funny thing that the rv campground is right next to a Camping World which any RV’r knows is like REI for hikers. Super fun. So we shopped there a bit and I found the perfect chili pepper lights for the awning. I love the stupid little light thing, and Mo said, “no flamingos, but I suppose I could tolerate chili peppers”. So I have been hunting chili peppers. Of course, I probably won’t put them up until we are going to be somewhere longer than a single night, but you wait, pictures will be forthcoming.

We unhooked the baby car and headed downtown to the “Old Town” of Albuquerque, settled in 1705, just a young baby city compared to 400 year old Santa Fe, but still old by US western standards. It had a real pasea and town square, which Moana really loved. That was her favorite part of traveling in mexico and we enjoyed this one as well. Not as big as the square in Santa Fe, but still fun, although pretty quiet since it was a Monday night. There are Christmas lights going up and the luminaries everywhere which is so enchanting in New Mexico nighttime.

The restaurant was in an historic home.

Lots of history here and really great service and good food. The waiter brought me exactly what I wanted, in pieces ala carte instead of those groups of things that are always way too big. I had some kind of Spanish chili relleno that was different, and sopapillas with green chili soup. Perfect. Oh yes, the marguerita was perfect as well.