It was not our express intent to make this fall’s trip south a tour of America’s iconic Route 66, but we definitely hit some of the major stops where newer highways intersect the cities made famous in the song lyrics: St Louis and Joplin Missouri, Oklahoma City, Amarillo Texas, and Albuquerque New Mexico. At that point we veered south, while Historic Route 66 continued west to Flagstaff.
So here we are in the first of two winter destinations: Tucson, Arizona.
We’ve been in Arizona before. Ted visited the Phoenix/Scottsdale area at Camelback on business years ago for Random House of Canada (then, now Penguin Random House), and we visited Sedona, Flagstaff and the Grand Canyon when the boys were teenagers. Tucson is completely different. It is not as hot as the Phoenix area, does not have the spectacular red rock formations and New Age vortices of Sedona, and is not at Flagstaff’s high elevation, but we’ve been wowed in our first couple of days.
The Catalina foothills are gorgeous. We wake up each morning to the sight of their craggy peaks below a bright blue sky. The vegetation is incredible: bird of paradise in full glorious bloom, palm trees, eucalyptus, blue palo verde with its distinctive olive green trunk and branches, creosote bushes with their tiny blossoms, prickly pear cacti, huge “organ pipe” saguaro (pictured above on the hillside), flowering crossvine, teddy bear cholla, barrel cacti, mesquite trees with their distinctive bean pods, and desert grasses of every description. This is not blooming season for most of the cacti, yet there are still red, yellow, and white flowers to be seen on trees and bushes.
We are in a condo complex beside the Rillito (Spanish for “little river”) River, which is currently a bone dry 7 mile long riverbed, about 8 feet deep and 250 feet wide, fed by equally dry cement culverts. During the rainy season there are regular flood warnings, but right now it is hard to imagine the plant life on the riverbed submerged, although we’ve seen YouTube videos of fast-moving water churning through. On both sides of the river is a trail loop that attracts bicyclists, joggers, and walkers (like us), and leads to Phillips Square, a beautiful little restaurant/shop complex with stone fountains and colourful tiled walls and walkways. More importantly, it leads to Trader Joe’s for wine and groceries (note the order of importance).
The nearby Campbell Avenue Bridge over the river is apparently home to hundreds of Mexican free-tailed bats, but none have been visible during our daytime stroll.
We’re here for just 1 week before flying to Santiago, Chile for a 27 day cruise up the west coast of South and Central America, but we’ll be back for the month of January to explore all that the Tucson area has to offer.
So much to do and see – so little time. Retirement sure is busy!