Sunday, December 20, 2009

Tucson Dec 2009

Since mid-September, I have been going to Tucson. As of my last trip, I have probably gone about 5 times. My 18 months or so in San Francisco (Feb 2008-May 2009) spoiled me: the people I worked with always going out, someone to have dinner with, everything walkable, close-by sites for weekends (wine, woods, parks). The first week I was out in Tucson, the people in the office I am in barely said "boo". The woman whose case I was taking over, after the first meeting, never even came over to see how I was getting along. That first week I was walking out to the elevator to go to lunch, I saw her coming back with colleagues from lunch, and her sole interaction was to suggest someplace I could go to lunch (alone). Not one time since I have been out there has anyone, even once, invited me to lunch, much less for a drink. So, it's a good thing I can cope with being by myself!

The first week I was there was in mid-September. I asked for lunch suggestions from the person whose office is next to the borrowed one I was in. He named a couple of places but said they were too far "in this heat". Recognizing one of the landmarks, I commented that it was probably less than a half mile, maybe close to a quarter. Still, he said, it is so hot, you will melt. Well, I guess to them it was hot; the temp was about 95 (based on weather reports), but there is something to be said for no humidity. Because when I went outside, it felt more like the low 80s. I didn't break a sweat walking that less-than-half-a-mile.

The office is right downtown. But the downtown area is really not very busy. The few times I have walked the less-than-half-a-mile to the actual middle, there are few people on the street, less cars, and the restaurants have plenty of space. Even at night, I have ventured to some restaurants in town, and the streets seem to roll up by 6PM, and there are few people in the restaurants.

So, what is the attraction in Tucson? The scenery is jaw-dropping gorgeous!

(view from hotel room: morning)

(view from hotel room: evening)

No matter where you are in Tucson, you can always see mountains. And they change. Depending on the time of day, the amount, and direction of sunlight, they can appear sand colored, indigo, blood red, or colors that defy description> Even calling them sand or indigo is not correct--these are colors that were never in your Crayola box, even if you had the set of 64!

(view from hotel room: different morning)

I never get tired of looking at the mountains, which can be distracting when driving in rush hour traffic! You often hear people use the term "breath-taking" when describing something. I think it could be an apt term for the mountains for this reason: when I look at them I think what it must be like to be at the top, then I think about climbing up the mountain, and I know I would be totally breathless if I could even MAKE it up there!

This last trip, I was in Tucson for 2 weeks. On Saturday, I went hiking, a huge accomplishment for me, since my right knee has not been working properly for over a year. However, it has been a couple months at least since I was in pain from it, so I thought it might be a good time to try hiking (one of my joys!) again. I picked a state park close by, and as I drove to the main trailheads, found a 1 mile hike to pre-historic Indian ruins. It was a nice warm-up hike. Then, down to the main trailheads, a chat with the ranger, and I was off on a 2.5 mile, fairly level hike. It was supposedly a popular hike, but there were times when I was completely alone, there was no noise anywhere, literally. I would stop and hear...nothing--only the fuzziness in my ears from the total silence.

As you can imagine, the place is teeming with wildlife: coyote, snakes, bobcats, javelina (sort of like wild boar, but not). Not that I saw any of it, they sleep during the day for the most part (altho, I was pretty terrified that I might see a snake, because it was kind of cool but sunny). However, I did get this pretty good picture:

Guess that's why they call them the Arizona Cardinals. Who knew?

It gets cold in Tucson. No one bothered to tell me, I found out the hard way and ended up single-handedly boosting the economy of Tucson one Monday night. Well, early evening: everything closes at 530 or 6PM, except restaurants. I'm guessing it has to do with so many retired people all of whom go to bed early. The only problem with that theory is, when you go to restaurants, I don't see signs for "early bird specials" like you do in Florida. In any event, if you want to shop, you gotta do it before 530 or 6.

Tons of people in Tucson drive pick-up trucks; I bet at least 50% of the vehicles are pick-ups. I mean BIG pick-up trucks, the full sized Dodge Ram kind. And then they park where it says "compact cars only". Are they thinking it's a compact compared to a Hummer?! Sure, sure of course they drive pick-ups, it's the West, right. Well, it's not like all these people live on ranches and gotta drive on dirt roads. Rarely do you see the pick-up with dust sprinkled on it, or spatters of mud leading me to believe it's a status thing. Or, they just need someplace for the gun rack, and a gun rack doesn't look so cook in a Toyota Prius. Then they drive the speed limit! If the speed limit is 40, most people drive between 38 and 41 mph. Which can be frustrating, since they even drive that in the left lane!

Whatever quirks there are in Tucson, it is more than made up for with the mountains, mountains, mountains, the clean air, and the big sky. There is a sense of timelessness and serenity from the combination of these elements.