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!)

Where the Sonoran Desert transforms into a Sci-Fi world

30 Apr

Within the expanses of the Desert Botanical Garden is a place where an alien world exists.  With creeping Argentine Giants and looming Saguaros, this is where nature meets science fiction.  The imagination can run wild when surrounded by such striking landscapes…

…More posts on Phoenix’s Desert Botanical Garden to come…

A love affair with wind chimes in Sedona

28 Apr

Every now and again, you just need a goofy blog post. This is that post. It’s well known that my mom’s enamored with wind chimes. Turns out, Sedona is like kindling for this love of things that sound sweetly in the breeze. Although I poke fun, I genuinely enjoy her blithe enthusiasm on the quest for Sedona’s chimes. (Secretly, I have a crush on windchimes, too.)

The love affair unfolds…

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Photo Essay: Hiking Kartchner Caverns State Park

27 Apr

Before our cavern tour, we set out on a hike of the Foothills Loop Trail.

Surrounded by the Whetstone Mountains…

This 2.5 mile loop offers varied terrain as you climb inclines, circumvent hills, and hike along side valleys.

At a look out point.

Pausing for a photo op– there’s Mom!

We’re always on the look out for wildlife…

 

But all we spotted on this hike was a lizard (possibly a Sonoran Spotted Whiptail?)… in the parking lot.

I went to Kartchner Caverns and all I got was this lousy picture of a postcard.

24 Apr

You’re probably thinking: “Aren’t travel PTs rollin’ in the dough? You can’t afford to buy a freakin’ postcard?”  Although I wish the first part were true, yes, I did drop 25 cents to actually buy this postcard.  As I addressed it, I realized I should snap a picture since I didn’t have much to show of my excursion through Kartchner Caverns State Park.  I’ll tell you why…

Nestled in the limestone base of the Whetstone Mountains, 50+ miles southeast of Tucson, Kartchner Caverns was once a hidden treasure of Arizona.  When happened upon by two cavers, Gary Tenen and Randy Tufts, (you can thank me when you win Final Jeopardy with that little fact) in 1974, they entered the cavern through the Blowhole.  As the two spryly squeezed through this natural entry, a space the size of a metal coat hanger stretched into a circle, they quickly realized the breadth of their discovery.  Fearing the exploitation that would fall upon this unprotected treasure, the men kept it secret for several years before enlightening the property owners.  The Kartchners, cavers, and eventually the state of Arizona, worked painstakingly to protect and preserve this living cavern.  Yes, it’s aliiiiiiive!  Which means with a continued water source and a maintained humid climate, the cavern continues to evolve.  And let me tell you, these folks are serious about keeping this bad boy alive.

Before embarking on a tour of the Big Room, our guide intrigues us with the story of discovery and smacks us with the following rules:  no cameras, no jackets, no bags, no touching (or a marker will be tied to the railing closest to the scene of the crime).  As our tram weaves its way to the manmade entrance of the caverns, a vault-like door looms ahead.  With a two person team of guides, one in front and one in rear, we enter the first of several chambers.  Once our group is inside, the outer door seals shut.  Only then is the next door open for us to proceed.  At one point we walk beneath a mist to “decontaminate” us to protect the cavern from loose particles that we could leave behind.

After my recent sight-seeing at Carlsbad Caverns, I wasn’t sure I would be all that impressed with this space.  I was as wrong about that as I was about my certainty in winning the Mega Millions.  This cave is breathtaking.  It’s a combination of feeling a little overwhelmed by the walls tightly hugging you and the intricacies that are crammed into such a space.  Where the magnitude of Carlsbad is fascinating, the intimacy of Kartchner was its true magic.  Dimly and enticingly lit, your eyes trace the cavern walls as the guide speaks the story of this cave’s life.  The lines where water once filled the cave nearly to the brim, the pencil-thin formations that lengthened by droplets over thousands of years, painted a picture of the cavern’s evolution.  With formations that artistically bring to life their namesakes of cave bacon, fried egg, turnips, soda straws, and Strawberry Room, who needs pictures?   Well, a few would have been nice.  But this lousy picture of a postcard will have to do.

Snow lover meets Snowbirds

17 Apr

RV park living is a whole different culture.  Particularly here, where there are still a lot of “snowbirds”—seniors who migrate to the desert’s winter warmth, fleeing the arctic blast of the northern US or Canada.  Imagine the raised eyebrows and questioning stares as an unfamiliar “young girl” toting a six pack of beer walks into their St. Patty’s Day party.  Now, I love me some senior citizens; it’s part of why I love the areas of physical therapy practice in which I often work.  Seniors, however, are often more guarded with outsiders to their circle.  All this situation needed was a little ice breaker, right?  That came quickly while I watched a frosty white haired lady being whisked around the dance floor, shuffling precariously backward.  My PT switch clicked on and commented, “You know, so many backward steps are a hip fracture waiting to happen.  They’re going to fall down… aaannnyyy… minute…”  And BAM! Down they tumbled.  It was actually relatively graceful, but I hear a mild Irish buzz may have aided that.  As we hoisted somebody’s sweet grandma off the dance floor, everyone quickly knew who I was and what I did for a living.

Although not incredibly social with the part-timer who is at least 3 decades younger than most of them, RVers collectively are politely friendly folks.  I rarely drive by a person without a smile and a wave exchanged.  But now, as the desert slowly heats up, the snowbirds are migrating back to their northern homes.  I do look forward to the upcoming days of less inquisitive (slightly judgmental) eyes and less yappy miniature dogs.

Home sweet home away from home

14 Apr

A modest, no-frills RV Park houses my traveling abode.  It is equipped with a few amenities such as pool, laundry, shuffle board, decent shower room, lots and lots of… gravel.  And dust.  Beyond the borders of the chain link fence, are open agricultural spaces.  Cotton, I hear, in one green space.  Wheat sprouting in another.   They must be growing dirt on the third side.   The first sound and sight of a low flying plane sparked panic until I realized it was a crop duster.  At night, the soothing tones of a nearby train’s mellow whistle drifts through my windows on a regular basis.

  

 

    

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Canvassing the Caverns: Carlsbad

9 Apr

Nestled beneath the Chihuahuan Desert of the Guadalupe Mountains, Carlsbad Caverns holds an expansive maze of wonder deep below the desert surface.  Once I arrived at Carlsbad Caverns National Park, I had approximately 3 hours to spend exploring.  The park ranger devised a plan to maximize my available time.  I would descend into the cave by elevator, explore the Big Room, then hike out via the NaturalEntrance Route.

Equipped with my audio tour guide, I quickly descended via elevator 755 feet.  The Big Room, although relatively flat, is a sprawling 8.2 acre space of decorations that seem delicate and graceful despite their massive limestone foundation.  In the dim light, it is difficult to capture the magnitude or infinite details of the formations that have formed by drops of water over hundreds of thousands of years.

As I observed the line for the elevator to ascend the cavern —a 1.5 hour wait!— I smirked, “Hah! I will hike out of here in about half the time you people are standing around doing nothing!”  I quickly realized, as my lungs heaved to rip from my chest and my heart pounded such that I could feel my pulse thumping inside my face, that the only “bad” in Carlsbad is the hike out!  Sure, smart people take the downhill hike and then finish with a leisurely elevator ride.  But the idea was to have the opportunity to experience more of the cave – the Main Corridor and out to the Natural Entrance—without standing around wasting time.  The only catch was that all hikers had to be up to a certain point by 3 p.m. (to ensure everyone has enough time to finish the climb before they close the Natural Entrance’s gate).  Otherwise, the ranger would be waiting to send me hiking back down into the cavern to then take the elevator.  Huh??  I guess it doesn’t have to make sense; it’s just how it is.  This sense of urgency made most of us hikers feel the need to charge forward which, between the hoofing it full speed and gasping moments of recovery, didn’t really correspond with “seeing more of the cave”.  Nevertheless, I did make it out with time to spare.  As I trudged out into natural light for the first time in hours, red-faced and frizzy from the cave humidity, I had completed the climb 20 minutes faster than the ranger predicted.  Who’s bad ass now, Carlsbad?

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