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Tohono Chul Park: Nature, Art, Culture, and a damn good brunch.

22 Sep

Yes, I have been a complete blog slacker in the past few months, I know. Let’s just pretend that a fresh new blog post is like waiting for a fine wine to ferment. Or for a long lost love to realize what they were missing all those years. Or like finally hitting it big after all those losing lottery tickets. No?? Well, it was worth a shot. Admittedly, this lapse in blogging has had more to do with my weekend social life than being an avid adventurer living the dream. Don’t judge! I contest that part of the adventure of being a travel PT is the blending into a new culture and, in my case, falling into the role of a Tucsonian townie in recent weeks. Rest assured, my dad’s ongoing prodding to post some updates and photos to my blog hasn’t gone completely unnoticed. Here’s the start of some good (and photo worthy) stuff that I’ve been neglecting to share…

A couple months back, I visited the Tohono Chul Park here in Tucson. This botanical garden (and tea room) is tucked just off of regular city streets and provides a unique blend of nature and art in a desert oasis. I keep hearing this reference to “there’s something spiritual about the desert”. Well, this place is truly unique and enticing. Perhaps what I assumed was the sweltering sun pushing me toward a heat stroke was actually a spiritual desert moment.

We started off with brunch on the patio before wandering the park…

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History and Hokeyness in Old Tucson

12 Jul

Winding on the mountainous road leaving Tucson in the distance, I blithely anticipated Old Tucson would be a hidden treasure tucked between the hillsides.  Certainly tucked away… in the middle of nowhere… it dawned on me that I just might be entering that pesky force field that sucks me into tourist traps once again.

Famed as the studios where many classic westerns were filmed (Arizona , in 1939, was the first), there is an interesting veil of movie history draped over this hokey, low budget theme park.   More than 300 films/tv productions have been created here, but it was a little hard for me to imagine film casts and crews making well known scenes amongst the western facades that seemed so cheaply staged.  The movie credits are quite extensive (check out the Old Tucson website for a full history) with a steady stream of productions flanking the Western primetime of the 1950’s.  Most in that era were unfamiliar to me, but there were quite a few productions that caught my pop culture interest.   I wandered around recognizable sets from Three Amigos, Tombstone, Young Guns, and Little House on the Prairie.  I posed beside “The Reno”,  an 1872 locomotive that carried passengers from President Roosevelt to John Wayne and starred in nearly 100 features. Character actors reenacted a shootout scene from The Quick and the Dead.  Horrendous cabaret ladies made me wince as they sang classic numbers accompanied by film footage shot at Old Tucson.  A miniature train ride around the perimeter of the studios provided many a view of desert dirt and scattered props.  Overall, I think the hokey outweighed the history.

Sedona Photo Essays: Fay Canyon Trail – Part Two

17 Jun

After doubling back, we kept our eyes peeled for a trail that was only marked by small piles of stone.  This trail, which leads up beneath the Fay Canyon Arch, was once a marked trail until there were rock slides that created its current condition. 

A moderate climb to the natural arch (photo center, in the distance), steep at times and with precarious footing…

Half way up… and a hesitant moment to ponder the trek back down…

Exploring behind the arch… a piece of history…

Absorbed in the magnitidue and character of the red rocks…

Cradled  in the shade of the arch…

Sedona Photo Essays: Fay Canyon Trail – Part One

17 Jun

Fay Canyon Trail (perhaps about a mile) was the first of several short hikes we did throughout the span of one day.

From the roadside, with sprawling red rocks in the distance, the dusty trail begins…

Skirting jutting red rock formations…

Weaving along the tree shaded path… 

With a dramatic view at the end of the trail…

From here, we back track about half the way in search of an unmarked trail that will lead us to the Fay Canyon Arch…

Ch-ch-ch-ch-changes for a travel PT…

11 Jun

Choosing your travel housing and getting it right the first time (especially when trying to figure it from a distance in an unfamiliar place) doesn’t always happen. For me, my originally planned location was a good starting point because of its proximity to family despite its significant distance from my workplace. But with the passing of time, getting to know your surroundings, and getting to know the (not so hospitable) people within your new community can lead you to the conclusion: “Get me the hell away from this place!” I’m still sticking to my recommendation to fellow healthcare travelers to strongly consider the RV-ing route for this exact reason. Lower cost rent, monthly/weekly/daily rate options, and the ability to take your “house” with you at the drop of a hat continue to be an advantage.

However, I am learning the challenges to RV’ing in the Tucson area, where you really have to be selective about the community you pick in the sand sea of senior citizens. At my last location, the (older) population was not of the hip variety (if they even had their real hips) and pretty intolerant of a 30-something professional in their lair. (Mind you, I was not in a community exclusive for 55+. There were hellians tearing around on trikes and 40-something trailer trash milling around—that’s right, I went there.) It doesn’t take long to pick up on the vibes of the “regulars” who reside at an RV park that are not interested in a transient person invading their space. I actually got confronted for “casing” one of the mobile homes while trying to take photos of the Super Moon with my telephoto lens. These experiences, culminated with a climactic over-dramatized incident involving my dogs, led me to speed up the process of moving on to sandier pastures. As a PT and an RVer, I’m grateful for the housing freedom to be able to scope out other options and pick up and go as I see fit. Currently, I’m settled in to an RV park that is in a much more desirable location, managed by welcoming and professional folks, and doesn’t appear to have an express ticket on the gossip train. All pluses in my book!

Watching the sun set behind the mountains from my RV site…

Montezuma Castle: An Arizona Cliff Dwelling

30 May

A little history…  In 1906, President Roosevelt declared four sites in the U.S. the first National Monuments.  Montezuma Castle, near Campe Verde, actually has no connection to the Aztec empire that is its namesake.  This cliff dwelling, which was inhabited by the Sinagua people for over 400 years, is nestled in limestone along banks of Beaver Creek.  From Tucson, it was easy to catch this monument en route to Sedona.

 

 

 

Butterflies of the Desert Botanical Gardens

28 May

Delicate, vibrant, and a symbol of change, butterflies delight me!  I could have spent all day photographing these whimsical creatures in the butterfly garden of the Desert Botanical Gardens in Phoenix, Arizona.

Strolling through Tucson

20 May

Tucson has mapped out a walking tour of the city which was reminiscent of following my beloved Boston’s painted sidewalk line, “The Freedom Trail”, but without as many interesting historical sites here.   But despite my walking tour snobbery, this was a nice way to catch a glimpse of the city (although I didn’t quite finish it… so perhaps I missed something absolutely amazing).

Sentinel Peak (a.k.a. “A” Mountain).  In 1915, University of Arizona fans celebrated a victory by white washing a huge “A” on the mountain.  The tradition remains with a permanent red, white, and blue “A”.

The Arizona Superior Court of Pima County campus is speckled with traditional Spanish architecture and Sonoran landscaping.

To date, my best local meal has been at El Charro Cafe.  Pairing mouth watering spinach/artichoke/mushroom enchiladas and a cerveza brewed locally by Barrio Brewing Company in a dining space peppered with cultural zest, makes El Charro heaven.  This warmly colored restaurant, established in 1922, proudly distinguises itself as “the Nation’s Oldest Mexican Restaurant in continuous operation by the same family”.

The historic Hotel Congress was built in 1919 and is where the infamous bank robber John Dillinger was captured.

St. Augustine’s Cathedral

A creative, vibrant arch covering an outdoor stage on the Cathedral’s grounds.

What is it about the great American tourist trap?

16 May

Plunked on the side of the interstate where the desert sand whips and tumbleweeds roll is Rooster Cogburn’s Ostrich Ranch.  Its sun-battered roadside signs spark interest, luring me toward the exit.  Surely a magnetic force field sucked me into its vacant dirt parking lot… what other logical explanation is there for a grown adult partaking in a random desert version of a petting zoo owned by the fictitious True Grit US Marshall?

I easily entertain the notion that one particular Miniature Sicilian donkey is most definitely smiling at me and has to be the Donkey from Shrek.  After all, why wouldn’t Rooster Cogburn himself have the REAL Donkey residing in his park?

Like an elementary school girl, I timidly extend my hand with a ration of pellets to the cluster of Fallow deer.  What was Bambi’s girlfriend’s name anyway?

I’m pretty sure it was the Ostrich Rancher extraordinaire (and most definitely not the infamous Rooster Cogburn) who taught me the secrets to duck and lorikeet feeding.   

And then there were the ostriches.  Despite the wondrous picture painted of these (really creepy when up close) creatures, I am here to refute that image.  Case in point: the sign that reads “Yes! Ostrich bite!”  Although they don’t actually have teeth, they have sharply snapping beaks.  And freakishly long necks with which they aggressively lunge forward to snatch pellets from your sensitive, much slower fingers.  No wonder there is a disclaimer freeing Mr. Rooster Cogburn and his associates from responsibility for any ostrich nips.  Good thing my fingers were a less easy target than those of the not-so-lucky kiddos nearby. 

Have you secretly enjoyed a tourist trap as much as I enjoyed this one?

(The material of this post is simply my personal anecdote.  I think everyone should consider having their own unique experience at Rooster Cogburn’s Ostrich Ranch.  And don’t hate on ostriches.)

Back on the Blogging Radar

10 May

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I didn’t realize how long I had been off the blogging radar! When on an acute care PT schedule which is free flowing and often without a traditional “weekend” of two consecutive days off, time escapes you. With only one day off for every 5 worked for several weeks, not only have I lost time to play tourist, local explorer, outdoor adventurer, I have also lost my daily routine. Losing track of the mundane laundry, bills, errands, etc. to a whirlwind of workdays starts to affect the work-life balance.

And, thus, the blog has suffered. Rest assured, loyal readers, I have lots of fun experiences, photos galore, and perspectives on local healthcare up my sleeve! (And a schedule with three “real” weekends in a row coming up!)