Monday, March 7, 2011

AZ: Tucson Town

Text: Greg
Photos: Greg and Trina

We left the diner after a late lunch in Florence and tried to imagine the night of camping that lay ahead of us, rain pounding down, tent flapping in the cold wind, soggy dogs snuggled up to us. We were thus able to completely justify springing for a motel room for the night. Plus, hey, we'd been out for three nights already and could probably use showers. We'd get cleaned up and get a good night's sleep. Ha, ha, ha, ha, ha.

The two motels in Florence were both booked full with mud-covered refugees from the nearby Renaissance Festival, so we continued on southward toward the bright, welcoming glow of Tucson that we couldn't begin to see because it was so foggy and wet.

As we rolled into the city, the sun peeked out from under the clouds and set the Catalina Mountains aglow for a few short minutes. After that it seemed that most of the glow was coming from row after row of carbon copy strip malls. We drove a long way through town but didn't find the strip of the cool, classic motels where we imagined ourselves spending a quiet night. We ended up just off the interstate in a motel that seemed just fine. Until we tried to sleep.

On the balcony above our room, all night long, staccato Spanish mingled with the clip-clop of high heeled shoes. Transactions went down, exchanges were made, services were rendered. Each time another, uh, customer passed by, the dogs would leap off the bed to protect us, barking and growling. All night long. Well, not really all night. Just until 4:30 or so. This was punctuated by speeding motorcycles, trucks and emergency vehicles passing by on the interstate highway. We could have slept better in a cold, wet tent flapping in the wind.

We did get cleaned up, though. And after a late morning, we decided to make it a "town" day. We'd explore the local art scene and check out the town. But we hadn't done much planning, so our results were somewhat underwhelming. We stumbled on one gallery that we liked, but most of the other art was too southwest kitsch for us. We did walk around the Presidio district and see a few of the designated tourist sights, but were drawn, rather, to the older homes and buildings in the area and to the winter gardens. We completed our day by stocking up on more food and snacks, even though the truck was still overflowing with food and snacks that we'd brought from home. Then we got out of town.

It was still chilly, windy, and a little bit wet when we drove east and hit the dirt road up Reddington Pass. There was a piece of the Arizona Trail near the top that we wanted to check out the next day. But as we ascended the ragged switchbacks, we wondered if maybe that was a dumb idea. Both sides of the road were lined with trash. The heaps of trash and the plastic shopping bags stuck on bushes and cactus were concentrated at several informal "shooting ranges" that we passed, where gang-banger types in hooded sweatshirts were blasting away with pistols, rifles, shotguns, and maybe even fully automatic weapons. We kept driving.

A few miles away from the most active shooting sites, we turned off onto a side road to find a camp. We rejected several on the basis of the accompanying heaps of broken bottles, piles of busted plastic, and mounds of shell casings. Then found a spot where very little shooting had been done, and called it home for the night. We set up our tent and a tarp barrier against the wet wind. Not long after dark, the sound of distant gunfire died down and we slept peacefully through the night.


  1. Well, that may have been an underwhelming (or even disappointing, bothersome) experience, but your words and photos make me wish I had been there....

  2. Cheryl,

    We can usually make the most of just about any situation -- as we did here, and as we did in the next part of the story which will likely be the next post about an epic unplanned shuttle of doom in the area described above -- but the state of the BLM lands that we've seen outside of Tucson and Phoenix is nothing short of gross. Many camp sites are so littered with broken glass that it's not even safe to let the dogs out of the truck. We relied on 4WD (or 3WD as the case may be - yet another post to come) to get us past the more accessible (read: trashed) spots and into the more pristine places... stay tuned!