Sunday, January 3, 2010

With Apologies to the New York Times: 36 Hours in Tucson, the Tucson Cowgirl Way

So happy to see my former hometown newspaper sending a wave out west to Tucson. It seems New Yorkers have a fondness for the Old Pueblo, this city of desert and mountains and magical culture.
New Yorkers also have a fondness for strong opinion so forgive me, New York Times (and Richard Woodward) for adding my two cents to your Tucson-in-36-Hours hit list. I have a list that gets a bit off the paved trail to see a different side of Tucson:

4 p.m.
1) Walk the Wastelands....
....and catch the birds. Tucson’s Sweetwater Wetlands (southwest side of Tucson, off I-10) allows the public (since 1998) to see a variety of birds in a beautiful (yes, this is a wastewater treatment recharge) habitat. Something in me is very very happy to see sustainability working for nature and wildlife. It's a gorgeous, peaceful walk around ponds bursting with wildlife, with the mountains smiling at you in the distance. Brilliant vermillions swoop over you, geese (or gooses) quack in the distance, hawks sail overhead.

6 p.m.
Sure our historic train depot holds heritage and a good nosh... But, remembering that our interstates connect American travelers to souls of the communities they drive through, I'm asking you also to consider a burger (or egg) meal at our funky TTT truck stop, off of I-10. In addition to tasty diner cusine there's a great shop for chrome, lights and all things related to trucking (and a fine little bookstore of southwestern favorites).

8 p.m.
3) On the Edge of TUCSON NIGHTS
Yes we have a pumping indie music scene, and our treasured Rialto is a stop for many a fine band. But if you're yearning for a regional flair I suggest a night with our regional roots -- Go see
Dolan Ellis,our state baladeer, perform at the Arizona Folklore preserve. It's a ways out of town so if you're lazy try some classic flamenco guitar (and dancing) at Casa Vicente restaurant just downtown. A local performance management group called also organizes a variety of Blues, Folk, Bluegrass, Gypsy and World performances throughout the year on Tucson stages.

9 a.m.
I agree, the great Tucson outdoors is the place to be in the winter. Saguaro National Park is a perfect destination, but to see huge saguaros I go out to Sanctuary Cove, way out west near the former Lazy K Ranch (I wish that ranch would reopen!) The Cove has a meditative walk, along a trail that leads you into the hills, for beautiful panoramic views of nature (including huge saguaros) and the Tucson skyline.

5) There's More MEXICAN
I love Cafe Poca Cosa as suggested but it's fun to get down and dirty with a Sonoran hotdog or a great burrito at El Guero Canelo on South 12th. Then you can stay in South Tucson for dessert at one of our fine Mexican bakeries, like La Estrella bakery, also on S 12th.

1:30 p.m.
6) PICTURE Ansel but also Etherton
Absolutely, the Center for Creative Photography's collection of Ansel Adams, Edward Weston and others is impressive. But I am so proud Tucson has the Etherton Gallery on South 6th downtown -- This gallery always provides a stunning display of photographic and other art.

3:30 p.m.
7) BUY Local
If you come to Tucson, please do frequent our malls but for goodness sake go out, appreciate and buy local. We have great shops -- from the eclectic Bohemia on Broadway to Preen on Congress and the edgy new boutique that opened within Eric Firestone Gallery in the warehouse district or the KUZU salon off Kino. For authentic regional jewelry and crafts don't forget the shops at Tohono Chul Park.

5 p.m.
8) Dark skies in the desert
I agree on this one -- It's a beautiful drive to Kitt Peak, where you will spend a fascinating evening browsing unbelievable telescopes and gazing in wonder at our heavens. The dark skies of our area are breathtaking. But I also suggest driving out to a small bed and breakfast specializing in astronomy to appreciate our skies. One is The Astronomers Inn in Benson. Or stay in Tucson and just head up Mt Lemmon SkyCenter run by our University of Arizona.

11 p.m.
9) Salsa instead of COSMOS
After gazing in the heavens focus on those toes late evening. Head over to El Parador for some salsa dancing!

9 a.m.
10) EARLY BIRD the cowgirl way
I'd prefer spending my Sunday more immersed in our regional culture. Attend mass at the San Xavier Mission -- then taste some authentic fry bread in the Mission parking lot, which you'll find being sold by Native American families. Walk the mission grounds and small museum to get a sense of our regional architecture and history.

10 a.m.
11) Defending America
I wouldn't want to end my Tucson sojourn on a somber note (although the Titan Missile Museum is certainly something to contemplate). But if you want to focus on the role ofTucson and our environs in our country's defense, head out for a beautiful ride and a visit to Fort Huachuca, a great US Army Intelligence Center and a fanstastic museum. You can learn about our early spy days, our Buffalo Soldiers and so many other interesting aspects of the southwest and our country's defense.

There's so much to love about our Old Pueblo -- this is just my quick take on a 36 Hour template for your tour. What's your take? Whatever you decide, know that Tucson welcomes you to our unique desert, surrounded by five mountain ranges. Please appreciate-respect-enjoy our nature, art and culture!

Note: Writer Donna Hull comes through and gives us her take of Tucson in 36 Hours (for active baby boomers!) in this blog post. Thank you, Donna!  


Leigh said...

Wonderful counterpoint.
Send this into the Times. They did a good job. You did a FANTASTIC job!
You should write for the NY Times. Wait, you did! Well, you should do it again.

Vera Marie Badertscher said...

I agree with Leigh, and I'm not as prejudiced as he is.

Unknown said...

Thank you, Vera and Leigh!

Anonymous said...

Great job, Monica! Maybe add a breakfast and a stroll through Tohono Chul Park....Thanks for doing this. Tom Buchanan

Erich Hicks said...

How do you keep a people down? ‘Never' let them 'know' their history.

Keep telling that history; read some great military history.

The 7th Cavalry got their butts in a sling again after the Little Big Horn Massacre, fourteen years later, the day after the Wounded Knee Massacre. If it wasn't for the 9th Cavalry Buffalo Soldiers, there would of been a second massacre of the 7th Cavalry. Read the book, “Rescue at Pine Ridge”, and visit website/great military history,

Anonymous said...

Great set of things to do in and around Tucson. Some of these I'm familiar with, but some are new. I'd definitely prefer to spread them out, though, so I could savor every moment. It's a good thing I live in Tucson, so I'll have the opportunity.

Unknown said...

Monica, I enjoyed your choices for spending 36 hours in Tucson. You've introduced me to several new Tucson locales.

Anonymous said...

Geece? Is that two gooces? :)

Unknown said...

Tom, Pam and Southern Lady: Thanks for your comments. There are so many nooks and crannies here in Tucson. Buffalo Soldier: My visit to the museum opened my eyes to the great service of this calvary. And Anonymous: Thank you for correcting me, goose it is! I corrected in copy above.

Tom Hickey said...

As a native New Yorker and now a permanent Tucsonian I could not agree or be more thankful for your perspective! There is no end to ALL the wonders this city has to offer!
Thank you for a wonderful article!

Unknown said...

Thank you Tom! Someday we should have a "New Yorkers for Tucson" coffee meet-up!

D.M. SOLIS said...

I very much appreciate your take on buying local. Well done! Peace and continued good things for you in writing and in life. Sincerely,


Unknown said...

Diane, thanks for your comment. Our earth's future is wrapped up in concepts of sustainability and in respect for culture, nature,forms of folklife...and local sense of place. (PS Your blog stirs my interest in journaling again, thank you!)