Monday, April 6, 2015

Southern New Mexico and Arizona Trip

Jeff had a few days of vacation he needed to use and honestly, although I would love to go diving, I cannot imagine enjoying a "tropical" vacation at this point. I am afraid I would take a long plane ride only to get off and not enjoy the humidity, the bad food, the garbage and stray animals. When you vacation you don't really see all that stuff but after 7 years of it I am not ready to return. At least not to the Caribbean. We decided to head south and off to Tucson. It was a whirlwind trip that involved a lot of driving without all that much time in any one place. We found some places we want to return to and others we will skip. Definitely was nice to have a change of scenery.

First stop was White Sands. We drove 4 1/2 hours or so to Alamagordo, NM stopping at Elephant Butte (big lake/dam) and in Truth or Consequences (town name is more interesting than the town but we had a nice lunch). White Sands is amazing! Even though it had rained it was just a weirdly bright and strange area of gypsum dunes. Despite the overcast, cloudy day it was still very bright but probably not as white as usual. I was hoping for a sunset (cloudy) or sunrise the next morning (cloudy) but it was not to be. These were not interesting clouds. We headed off to a Space Museum and then headed out of town toward Tucson.

It took about 5 1/2 hours of driving for us to get there. There were interesting mountains on all sides with interesting rock formations and vegetation. When we got closer to Arizona the landscape changed and there were the giant Saguaro cactus and organ pipe cactus everywhere. No one was on the road and the roads were wonderful the entire way - such a pleasure! We didn't reserve hotels ahead of time so we had to figure out where to stay. This proved to be kind of a bummer since we hadn't really figured out what we wanted to do or where it was. Thankfully Tucson is small like Albuquerque and nothing was far away. I absolutely do not like hotels and don't sleep well. They are all overpriced (it is a bed for christs sake) but the difference between an $89 hotel and a $115 one is worth it. The Alamagordo one is not to be repeated. There was one in Tucson too close to the hi way and one we did like best of all of them except for some kind of annoying fan or ventilation system that was always on. We slept the best we could and did day excursions. On the first night we ate at a nice seafood place and plotted our couple days. We had visions of doing all sorts of stuff but Tucson has a surprising amount of stuff to do. Our hit list included a mine tour of the Asarco Mine, the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum, the Tohono Chul Gardens. A church was close to the mine and I am a sucker for the creepy statues and displays you find in churches and I appreciate the architecture. We managed to do only these things and other stuff on the list have to wait.

We went to the mine on day one but it was too muddy for them to take the tour up the roads. We went to the Tohono Chul Gardens instead for a couple hours. The gardens were nice and I got a few ideas for our courtyard. Next we went to the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum for the rest of the day. You can spend HOURS at the place. It is a zoo-garden-aquarium (sort of) and it is extremely well done. Exhibits are thoughtful and natural...we had a nice lunch with a prickly-pear margarita...wandering for hours looking at super cool cactus and animals and  and and....

I was stuffed from lunch so Jeff got a light dinner and we were off to a different hotel. Once we found that we settled in. Went to the jacuzzi then to bed. The next morning was the mine tour which was amazing in all it's destructiveness. They had a nice museum and a nice tour. It is a huge open pit mine. It was pretty amazing what they go through to extract a little bit of copper from tons of rock. They actually seem to do a decent job of recycling water and restoring habitat but it is still a hugely destructive operation like most human activities. It was very interesting. We had to skip the space museums on this trip since we were headed back. We stopped at the Mission San Xavier del Bac which is an 18th century adobe Baroque church. It was beautiful and had all the creepy crap I like about churches...elongated fingers, fake bodies in glass, creepy candles and "offerings" little bowls of water...etc. Copper rock and barrel cactus at Asarco mine.

 All these carvings look like wood but are adobe.

We decided to head to Bisbee because we had heard the name mentioned in novels and elsewhere. It was not at all what we expected. It turns out that March is the high season in Arizona. There was some odd music thing in town and no where to stay so we had lunch, cruised the town quickly and since the mine tour there was fully booked we headed home. We saw a lot of stuff but didn't see a lot of what there is to do. I would consider flying to Tucson next time so we could actually do more or maybe drive the northern route to Sedona or take more time. There were space museums, observatories, museums (including photography museums) and botanical gardens. I would definitely be better planned next time since now we know how long a drive it is. All in all we had a nice time and it was a different kind of vacation for us!

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