What I Love About Tucson

“Like” might be a better word to describe my view of Tucson (The Old Pueblo) because it has taken every second of our 6+ years here to appreciate this part of Southern Arizona. In keeping with my current sunny outlook (me, sunny – snort), I am focusing on the positive aspects of living in a red-neck, gun-toting more conservative state. Actually Tucson is known for being fairly progressive as befitting a university town. That is one of the positives – The U of A.

university of arizonaSome folks would tout the men’s basketball team (NCAA champs 1997). I like the women’s softball history with 8 NCAA championships and 21 appearance in the Women’s College World Series. More important than sports are the cultural events, museums, and jobs that the UA brings to the decent sized community (~1,000,000 in the county).

The environment was what brought us here from the glorious Gulf Coast of Texas (not being sarcastic). The combination of mountains and warmth and amazing biodiversity within short distances is hard to top. We live at 2700′. Behind us are the Catalina mountains at over 9,000′.

catalina mountains

Driving home

Traveling from our green Sonoran desert to the top of Mount Lemmon in 1.5 hours is equivalent to traveling to a Canadian climate zone. We do have the most southern ski area in the U.S., assuming there is snowfall. What about that heat? It is hotter than hell. Despite our average June temp of 101º, step into the shade, add some mist and breeze – ahhh. It really is not that big of deal unless one plans to do heavy outdoor activity May-September. Intense hydration and acclimation are a must. Two healthy adults died in May while hiking this year already. The trade-offs for the heat are the views; the desert critters that surround us (bobcat, coyote, quails, birds, bats, snakes! mountain lions!); amazing greenery year round; eating out doors at Thanksgiving; wearing sandals all year; moaning because 60º feels cold; running in the rain storms; watching lightning dash through the clouds. Our budget has to include bird food and extra water for the irrigation system that keeps our native trees going when nature falls behind.

Along with environmental factors I must include the low pollution (excepting dust storms) because of the emphasis on tech, tourism, and the university. There is little light pollution. The number of observatories on surrounding mountains has resulted in regulation of night lighting. I had forgotten that one could see the Milky Way! Hiking – wanna hike, just go find a canyon or mountain. Trails galore exist for all levels of hikers. Biking – Tucson is one of the top cities for bikers.

Biker riding El Tour de TucsonEl Tour de Tucson is one of the best organized perimeter races in the U.S. – just ask our tourist promoters. Come next November and ride with 9,000 others along a variety of routes. Oh my, how could I forget golfing! There are so many resorts, but the best deals are found at the public courses that are as nice as many resorts in other states.

The population is diverse though the city is very segregated. Over 35% of Tucsonans are Mexican-American, which accounts for our great food! I had to become accustomed to Sonoran style Mexican food after a life of Tex-Mex.

eating Sonoran hot dogs

My family eating Sonoran hot dogs

(We just found a wonderful place where I can eat my “primal-ish” method and top off fajita meat with an outstanding salsa bar assortment.) I thought there would be many Native Americans here – nope. Only 3% of the Tucson population is Native American. The Tohono O’odham Nation and Pascua Yaqui Tribe have the closest reservations, and they do have casinos in town.

Lots of festivals to attend from the largest Gem and Mineral show, semi-annual street fairs that close down half the city (exaggeration), Tucson Meet (Eat) Yourself, Festival of Books, Mariachi Conference – oh, go see the tourist site.

Lastly, we are close to many wonderful places, for instance, the Grand Canyon, Sedona, the White Mountains, Flagstaff. And, yes, there are rivers and lakes in the desert state. Just don’t ask me to discuss regional politics.

grand cabtib

Finally, it’s a pretty quiet town. I hadn’t realized what a big city gal I was until we moved here. A few bars are hopping all night, and I’m certain life nearer the university is more active, but there are not 5,000 restaurants or grocery stores open 24 hours. For this reformed fatty, that’s a really good thing.


Spring In The Desert

Last week it was 95°. On Saturday it was 55° and rainy in Tucson with about 9 inches of snow up in the Catalina Mountains behind our house.

Catalina mountains

Catalina Mountain Snow in April

We decided to drive up the Catalina Highway – about 30 miles from our house at 2600 feet to the top of Mount Lemmon (well, close to the top), which peaks out at 9,157 feet. Supposedly the brief trek is the equivalent of traveling from Mexico to Canada ecologically and climate-wise. In the one hour it took to drive, the temperature dropped from 60° to 31° when we reached the little town of Summerhaven near the ski “resort”. Yes, there is skiing in Southern Arizona, but not this year. Usually there are about 180 inches of snowfall. This year I’m not certain there have been any days open for skiing, it has been so dry.

Tree blooming in the snow

Unidentified tree blooms in Summerhaven


icy tree bud

Icy tree bud

I made Sue stop and take a picture of me standing in the snow while her parents tried to get over their car sickness (evil snicker).

Snow bunny

Once back in the desert I shot a few blooms around the neighborhood while walking the pets.

Ocotillo with mesquite tree and saguaro cactus

Mexican bird of paradise bloom

Mexican Bird of Paradise






Generic cactus blooming

Cactus under palo verde tree






Finally, say goodbye to my in-laws! They left today with Sue escorting them home. Thank goodness since they had major travel delays in Chicago. I’m afraid they would have bounced back without her in tow!  (I’ve already reclaimed my space, emptied their crap out of the house, the pantry, and the fridge. Ah, peace…)

Adios ’til next year.


Sue & parents

Wedding Rings and Falling Down

The community of weight losers/dieters has its own lingo, and one of the terms frequently used is “NSV” for non-scale victory. As I continually state, my focus is on behavior around eating and physical activity (more about my thinking process later). Yesterday, however, I experienced a marvelous NSV, which almost made me cry – almost. I was able to wear my wedding ring for the first time in many years, and I don’t mean just squeeze it on for a few minutes but actually put it on for good.

My ring is unique, or at least it was designed just for me. For years I wore it, re-sized down for my big weight loss in ’91, then gradually stopped wearing it as I regained and relegated the symbol of our commitment to a special glass container within my jewelry box. Now it is mine again. Those of you who are married, imagine not being able to wear your ring for years. Those of you who aren’t married, imagine regaining a part of your body, a piece of your identity, reconnecting with a long-lost friend.

OK, before this turns into a “you-complete-me” kind of moment, here is a picture of my aging hand (aging more quickly from the Arizona dryness) proudly displaying the ring. The gem is iolite.

wedding ring with iolite gemFeeling grand and connected with my body, I decided to try a gentle walk with my bum knee. I choose a path toward Sabino Creek near our home assuming the gravel would easier on my knee than asphalt. The creek still flows from the wet winter and mountain snow thaw. (Yes, Virginia, there is water on occasion in Tucson.)

small creek in the desert

We ambled along the path as the creek dropped farther below us. I so wanted to get closer to the water (cue ominous music). Several hundred yards later we could hear the water flowing over another small dam, and determined to get closer, I  bushwhacked off the nice level path toward the babbling brook. Honestly, the rocks did not look that craggy (they weren’t), the pitch did not seem that steep (it wasn’t), and I felt very nimble (I’m not) – that was until my knee collapsed  and 238 pounds of unbalanced, untoned me pitched forward toward cactus, stones, and mesquite trees. Throughout the slow motion fall, my brain screamed not to break anything. I managed to land most gracefully on a large rock, scrapping one-third of the skin off the top of my right hand a la 2nd degree burn injury, thorns stuck in my ass, with my lovely partner rushing to my prostrate form – to take a damn picture of my butt. Imagine my disgust as we walked/limped up the hill, me proudly trailing of blood, only to find a level path (complete with a mediation labyrinth courtesy of Canyon Ranch) from the path to the creek a mere 20 yards from where I had started my misadventure.

Today I am sore everywhere except my head – even my toenails hurt. My right knee is alas doomed to visit the orthopedic surgeon. BUT, my ring remains on my left hand.

We get up; we fall; we get up again. One day I will run. Well, maybe walk rapidly.