Sunday, March 12, 2017

The call - the irrepressible lure - of the open road

A few weeks ago I visited a friend who's a ranger at a canyon north of Tucson. I hadn't seen her in a while and was looking very much forward to our day together. I knew I'd enjoy the drive, but what I didn't expect were the feelings that rushed over and through me on the way up.

It was an exquisite day. Coolish, clouds on the horizon, and that blue, blue Arizona sky. As I exited the development of Tucson and saw the sky open before me, all I wanted to do was keep driving. It's been a long time since HH and I were on the road. We've traveled to many fine places since we settled here, but there's nothing like rolling the tires on the car over miles and miles. I have really missed it.

Last spring I sold my truck and trailer. The trailer was paid for but the truck cost an arm and a leg and at best got 17 miles to the gallon. There wasn't much point in keeping the trailer if the truck was gone, so both of them went. My new car, almost a year old now, sits at 36.8 mpg, which makes me feel less guilty every time I go somewhere. But, still... I often wish I still had that ability to back the truck onto the trailer hitch and take off. Everything's a trade off, isn't it?

This wasn't the road I was actually driving. I turned off the highway onto this road to take this picture.

And this is the road my friend lives on, several miles off Highway 77, the road that goes from Tucson through the Salt River Canyon, which I've written about before.

Saguaros, the iconic cacti of the Sonoran desert, always let me know I'm in home country. They grow only up to 4000 feet elevation, so when I made a few trips between Tucson and northern Arizona, they'd disappear as I drove to Petrified Forest, which is at 5400 feet, and then let me know I was closing in on Tucson again when they began to reappear on hillsides.

My friend and I went on a short hike to one of her favorite spots. This is the wash we headed through, entranced with the shadow play on the mountains. We spotted critter tracks and I kept hoping for a glimpse of bighorn sheep on the slopes near to us, but I was disappointed.

The hills rose around us.

I've been fascinated with Arizona clouds since Petrified Forest. Maybe I never looked at the sky the way I did my first summer there, but they reeled me in and I'm still on the hook.

This is my favorite picture of the day. The sunlight on the hill of saguaros, small and almost fragile-looking before the monolithic hulk of the mountains, the improbably blue sky, the wide open beckoning of space and possibilities, made me almost weep with the beauty before me. I have missed this. I love my home and community, but I miss this beyond my imagining.

The first of the wildflowers, physaria purpurea, was blooming.

A forest of cacti. I know all trees are unique, but they usually look so much alike they might as well be identical. Saguaros are so distinctly unique, however, that you would never mistake one for another.

Another of the earliest wildflowers here, commonly called a fairy duster.

The ranger lady at one of her favorite spots. The rocks make a natural seat from which to ponder your good luck and the glory before you.

The Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum says this about saguaros' growth: "[They] are very slow growing cactus. A 10 year old plant might only be 1.5 inches tall. Saguaro can grow to be between 40-60 feet tall (12-18m). When rain is plentiful and the saguaro is fully hydrated it can weigh between 3200-4800 pounds."

I had my time on the rock and then we had to leave this peaceful place. The ranger lady had work to do and I needed to get back on the road, back to home.

The fire that was lit with this day trip will be tamped down a bit when HH and I hit the road again this week. I'm finally going to a language school so we're headed to Oaxaca. It'll be our first driving foray into Mexico. We have the maps. We have the books. We have the insurance. We have the wanderlust. So off we go.

Thought of the day:

wanderlust consumed her;
foreign hearts
and exotic minds
compelled her.
she had a gypsy soul
and a vibrant hope
for the unknown.
~ d. marie

Saturday, October 29, 2016

I love a (small town) parade

A brief break from Russia pictures, if you please. 

Today was the annual White Elephant parade. White Elephant is the best thrift store around, and that's saying a lot because the entire Tucson area is loaded with them. Much of my house has been furnished with purchases from WE. I don't know why they have a parade but HH and I went to watch it this morning because 1) it's the first time the parade has been on since we moved to Green Valley, 2) I love parades, and 3) our good friend and neighbor Edie was the parade chair this year. Edie lives across the street, and was the first person I met in the 'hood when she came trotting across with a bottle of wine before I'd even finished unloading the first load of stuff from my truck. She's a kind, lovely person, the kind I have a hard time twisting my brain around that she's Republican, but we love her anyway.

I wanted to make sure we had a good spot to set up our chairs so we got to the parade route at 8:00 for the 10:00 start, and even so, dozens of chairs were already there. I'd been concerned about leaving the chairs unchaperoned but I keep forgetting that this is Green Valley. We wandered off to breakfast and came back with lots of time to spare - and were pleasantly surprised that the parade started on time.

The parade began with several banner-toting volunteers from the cadre of about 600 from White Elephant. Right, 600 volunteers run the place. It takes that many to sort, clean, price, display, sell, and deliver tens of thousands of items a year. It takes in a remarkable amount of money, so much so that in 2014 it donated $1.6 million to local organizations like St. Andrew’s Children’s Clinic, Community Health Center, Green Valley Assistance Services, Salvation Army, area community food banks, assorted foundations, local public and private schools, rural volunteer fire departments, community arts organizations, and national disease control agencies. It also, in 2014, established a 4-year scholarship fund for local high school seniors. It's a most efficient organization, and raises that much money being open only three hours a day, six days a week. They don't take credit cards, but do have an in-house ATM. I am intimate with that ATM.

Let's start with vehicles. The Pima County Sheriff was being chauffeured in this gorgeous Bugatti. I noticed his finger pointing at the boy on the sidelines only when I loaded the pictures on the computer, and thought how lucky the kid was that the Sheriff here isn't Maricopa County's Joe Arpaio. He has a thing about minorities, which is getting to be a misnomer in Arizona, and it isn't a good thing.

Pima County vehicles, ready for terrorist threats: the Command Center and two tank-like SWAT trucks.

 A shiny new Green Valley fire truck.

This is from another fire truck, I think from one of the smaller jurisdictions, with a note of thanks to White Elephant.

The Grand Marshal of the parade, the Green Valley fire Chief Chuck Wunder. Speaking of the fire department, they're the folks to call if you find a rattlesnake in your yard, just in case you're thinking of moving to Green Valley.

The local car club had some beauties today.

Plus this work in progress. He got a lot of cheers.

And this Caddy, which gave me an immediate flashback to when I lived in Detroit and they were fondly called Pimpmobiles. No disrespect to the current owner intended.

This bee-utiful T-bird was carrying someone from one of the local school boards.

We saw two animal-driven vehicles, including this stagecoach,

and a pup-powered cart. I've seen this woman and her dogs several times when I'm out walking, but I've never seen her in her fairy costume.

I have photos of just two Green Valley Cadillacs, aka golf carts. They're quite popular here because most everything is within just a few miles and it keeps wear and tear off the car. There are even golf cart lanes on most streets. I looked into getting one but for what they cost I can pay for a lot of wear and tear on my car.

Quick!! Who remembers this song?

This next section was HH's favorite - tractors. Even I identified the Hit and Miss engine idling on the trailer.

As HH commented, really all you need is an engine, wheels, steering, and a place to sit. This is a minimalist tractor.

 A parade would not be complete without the Shriners...

or school bands.

Rio Rico High has some great uniforms.

 Instead of marching, this school has a riding band.

This girl is my hero. She did not falter, wobble, or weave as she walked backward, directing the band. The only thing she could have done that was harder was wear heels.

The cutest of the bunch was this pack of Cheetahs who actually did very well with chanting, some fancy leg work, and pom pom shaking.

There were also some special interest groups such as the Cub Scouts, Border Patrol, the Animal League of Green Valley (a no-kill shelter), the Rotary, retirement communities, commercial businesses, and the Paws Patrol which came with their van,

advertising BARK, Bath & Beyond.

 Veterans of the USS Tucson.

 The local McDonalds franchise holder.

I think there were about 100 entries all told. It was a great way to spend this beautiful, sunshiny morning. Good job, Edie!


Thought of the day:

If you're not in the parade, you watch the parade. That's life. ~ Mike Ditka