Tag Archives: Arizona

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…


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.

Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses, and your illegal border crossers…

26 May

With this post, I am bringing back into focus one of the key themes of this blog: exploring new professional practice. Although I have written posts on learning the logistics of travel PT, this is my first to catalog new perspectives I’ve gained from my clinical/professional experiences. Although this post focuses on my experiences with healthcare and illegal border crossers, I love my work and I respect those I provide my services to– regardless of their circumstances, social status, origin, etc.

Despite my years living in central Texas, my first professional exposure to the issues of the U.S.-Mexico border has been here in Tucson. Seeing the dark green clad Border Patrol trolling the hallways and parked beside hospital beds has become nothing out of the ordinary. But with growing experiences and conversations, I feel more and more like a five year old whose reply to every statement is, “But why?” On any given day, the glaring perplexity makes me want to give America an open-palmed slap on the forehead and say, “Are you for real?! This is crazy!”

So let’s get a few things straight about the lingo. When I interviewed for my travel assignment, I was delicately told I would work with a significant population of “undocumented immigrants” to primarily assist with discharge planning. Okay, an interesting choice of nomenclature, I thought. Up on the hospital floors, you hear “border crossers” mostly. Without sounding too insensitive, I don’t understand why we must mince words. These folks are illegal immigrants. (As a side note: Not all border crossers are Mexican. People from many countries attempt to use the U.S.-Mexico border as an illegal gateway.) They are crossing the border with no respect for a (failing) immigration system or the laws/regulations of our society. Although my opinion is a common one, the public’s opinion is quite varied. There is a mix of distain (of the “free ride”), frustration (with a flawed U.S. system), and sympathy (for those who “surely are fleeing a place where they can’t get the care they need—how sad!”). I can understand and have personally experienced each of these feelings during my time here. But, instead, let’s look more closely at the ass backward approach to healthcare for those injured during their ill-fated border cross.

While attempting to cross the border, many get injured. Most often these injuries occur by trying to scale the fence (I mean, really, how likely is that plan to be successful anyway?) or when running away from Border Patrol. Frequently we see spiral fractures of the tibia, trimalleolar fractures, etc. So these folks are brought to our hospital and receive all kinds of diagnostic testing and medical consults for their injury. They occupy our hospital rooms, watch cable, and receive good care. Then they get orthopedic surgery. Some with external fixators placed, some with internal fixation, almost all with a weight bearing restriction. Who pays for these services? America does. Then comes the “PT eval and treat” order. We provide our skilled services for evaluation, assessment, patient education and discharge recommendations for durable medical equipment. Who pays for these services? America does. We communicate with the physician, the case manager, the social worker. They want to know our recommendations for mobility to be able to cross back to Mexico. But in the next breath we are told, “Well, they are a border crosser, no funding, so we can’t get them anything.” Crutches are usually the only guarantee. They want to know what type of vehicle they can mobilize into for transport back to the border, and if they can safely walk (or hop) back into Mexico’s custody since U.S.’s Border Patrol cannot physically cross the border with them to assist. The orthopedic surgeon gives the patient discharge instructions. Some state a follow up is required in a few weeks—a follow up for which some patients have in fact attempted to re-cross the border. It’s a bitch when this time your external fixator gets caught in the fence (true story). This last bit makes me want to slap some ortho docs in the forehead. Where is the awareness to their patient’s situation? Where is the responsibility to the patient to make reasonable recommendations for follow up? Where is the social responsibility to the U.S. to not encourage abuse of our systems?

Given this scenario, the greatest frustration amongst the physical therapists I work with is this: Why is it that a U.S. and/or hospital system will pay for thousands of dollars of medical and surgical care for illegal immigrant (who choose to climb the fence, who are running away from being caught for something illegal) but then refuses to see it through and provide assistive devices that cost less than $100 to ensure their safe mobility?

I, along with many of my PT colleagues, will tell you that it doesn’t take an Oprah “a-ha!” moment to see that this is a ridiculous system and misappropriation of U.S. / healthcare dollars, physical resources, and clinician time. A fellow PT posed a novel concept: As military personnel are frequently trained in medical care and triaging, why isn’t Border Patrol utilizing a medical triage where these injured folks can be stabilized with essential care and returned to their country of origin for further medical intervention? We can provide care to meet the emergent, basic needs all humans deserve. But must we provide medical care that many of our own American citizens cannot afford or do not receive?

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.)