The main reason for visiting Tucson was to see my great-aunt Hazel, a lady I’ve always admired. At 90, she gives even Barbara a run for her money.
She is the family matriarch, and as such holds lots of history in her head. We heard lots of good family stories.
Hazel and her now deceased husband Julius, who lived in Shaker Heights, Ohio, bought a house in Tucson 29 years ago, when they first decided to winter there and be closer to their son Robert. Eventually, they went full-time.
Tucson has grown a lot since then, with a lot of the empty desert having filled up with housing and developments.
But it retains a gentle character: lots of local businesses, good food and plenty of nature nearby. Plus, it’s nowhere near as hot or built-up as Phoenix.
We had a wonderful long weekend visiting with Hazel, Robert, his kids Michael and Alyssa, and another of Hazel’s sons, Philip, and his wife Nancy, who live in Ouvray, Colorado. It was fun catching up.
Our top attractions in Tucson were • the excellent Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum, which is a zoo, botanical garden and museum all in one. We particularly enjoyed exhibits on hummingbirds, bees and bobcats. www.desertmuseum.org
• San Xavier del Bac Mission. Daniel and Barbara went early one morning, after dropping Hazel off at the airport, and enjoyed the sunrise over the sparkling white built-in-1770 Spanish mission with nary a fellow tourist. Daniel, the girls and I went back early Sunday afternoon, when there is an Indian market. We all ate what seemed to be the specialty: fried bread with fillings like beans, cheese, chili con carne and chiles.
• The Gem Show, an international convention held each February in Tucson. Robert took Barbara and Daniel on a whirlwind tour of the exhibition, and everyone ended up taking advantage of wholesale prices to buy some jewelry. I was the one who really lucked out here, Daniel came back with a bonanza I totally don’t deserve.
• El Corral Restaurant, a real southwestern eating place. We took Hazel here on our last night in town, and the food (and margaritas) was excellent. Especially recommended are the steaks, grilled salmon and tamale pie. Yum!
The other highlight of Tucson was meeting up with two other Airstream families and fellow bloggers at Fort Lowell Park playground:
- The Luhrs – Rich, Eleanor and Emma – we had met at the beginning of our trip in the Badlands. They traveled full-time in their 29.5-foot trailer for three years, before settling down under a real roof in Tucson. Whether or not he’s on the road, Rich works on his magazine, Airstream Life. www.airstreamlife.com/maze
- The Lins – Dan, Marlene, Ava and Mila – we met online having seen a link to their blog on Rich’s own website. In a 25-foot International, they are on the road with 3-year old Ava and five-month old Mila. Very exciting to meet new friends on the road! www.malimish.com
Claire – On maternity leave from career as editor of monthly finance trade magazines, and occasionally a freelance translator. Half-American/half-English, raised in the suburbs of New York, has lived in London for almost nine years.
Daniel – Furniture designer/maker based on London’s Columbia Road flower market, for ten years, also an aspiring painter and DIY supremo. On one-year career break to reconsider options. English by birth, but mother is half-American and spent part of her childhood in Bronxville, New York.
Sophia – 3.5-year old spitfire who loves school, singing, swimming and being a big sister
Lulu – Born May 8 of this year, a model baby who eats, sleeps and gurgles.
Special guests – American, British and international friends and family who drop in along our trip to see whatever part of the country they fancy. They’re welcome to travel in the car with us and sleep in an adjoining tent.