Sunday, March 31, 2013

Tucson Street Rambles

I hadn't been to Arizona for 13 years,and my strongest memories of it were of the Grand Canyon.  This time there were different reasons for travel: reconnection with old friends, a hope of seeing the desert in bloom, and finding a place to explore and soak up its flavors.  Phoenix Botanical Gardens gave us the desert in bloom, and there was a reconnection with a friend in one of Phoenix's suburbs.  Sprawling, metropolitan Phoenix meant that exploration was done by car, however, not on foot. Even when exploring under brilliant blue skies in a Ford Mustang convertible with its top down, the flavors passed us by at high speed.  A side trip to Tucson solved that lack of flavorful experience.

One of the joys of finding a walkable city or town is the chance to truly experience its history and culture.  If it is safe and walkable, that means that you can wander practically anywhere, then relax at an outdoor cafe or bar and people-watch.  As I've said in other posts, this to me is just as relevant as taking a guided tour through a museum. (Not that I am against visiting museum, I'm just saying that rambles are also a valid way fo getting to know a place. I enjoyed the hours spent in Phoenix's Heard Museum.)

The photos in this post try to capture some of the impressions that Tucson made.  The funky Congress Hotel as a base of stay, with a St.Patrick's Day early celebration that would begin at midnight.  The farmers' market across the street from the hotel with its high octane coffee beans sold by Cowboy Joe.  The streets and plazas with their colorful blend of new and old architecture.  The outdoor restaurant where the evening was spent enjoying the sound of The Wayback Machine (our friend was a guitarist/vocalist in it).  The Sunday morning quiche flavored with jalapenos and served on the hotel patio.  The nearby Tucson train station where a Silver Spike celebration was in progress.  These experiences, in my mind, are what travel is all about. Flavor!

Thank you for visiting.  I hope that you enjoyed your stay and will stop by again.  In the meantime, may your travels be interesting and enjoyable.


Saturday, March 23, 2013

Tucson: Wandering Through De Grazia's Gallery In the Sun

At the edge of Tucson, Arizona is an excellent spot to visit and gain a feeling of its land and culture. Wandering along the arid pathways lined with cacti and hardy small trees of the Gallery in the Sun gives a sense of the environment that helped shape aspects of Tucson's culture.  Mingled with these landscapes are works of art by De Grazia, tributes to Arizona's past and present.  All of this is bordered by mountainous views and infused by heat that creeps up on you as the day grows longer.  This was a place off of the beaten path  well worth the effort.

The images in this post are examples of the reason that it's good to travel beyond your present horizon.  While I would not want to spend an extended time in this harsh, dry land I can gain an appreciation of its natural beauty and formative forces.  I can also gain a better understanding of the feeling of dislocation that a person raised in such a land feels when visiting the watery, tree-crowded environment that my own Wisconsin offers.  That, in my mind, is what travel is all about.

Thank you for visiting, feel free to stop by the tavern again..  Until then, may your own travels be interesting and enjoyable.


Sunday, March 10, 2013

Southwestern Thoughts-Why We Travel

I'm just a couple of days from taking a trip to revisit Arizona, a place I have only visited once over a decade ago.  Last time, it was to visit a friend and to also see the Grand Canyon.  This time, it will also be to visit friends, temporarily escape Wisconsin's end of winter,  and to explore new places around Phoenix and Tucson.  I'm sure that it will be an excellent trip.

As I've mentioned in prior posts, I have this urge built in me to go beyond my present horizon just to discover what is there. The land of Arizona, like the land of New Mexico that is seen in these photos, is very different than that on the western shore of Lake Michigan where I live.  When I visited both Arizona and New Mexico, I appreciated the land's natural beauty, but my eyes were constantly searching for a body of water.  Yes, yours truly is a "water person" by nature.  Whether that condition was caused by my Maine childhood or the genetics of my Irish heritage is irrelevant-that's just the way it is!

I just finished "Coyote Cowgirl" by Kim Antieau, a wonderful novel that mostly takes place in Arizona.  One of the things I got out of the read was a better appreciation of the nature of a desert environment.  This started me thinking about something I've discussed before-the idea of the traveler stretching his/her boundaries by traveling outside the present comfort level with a mind open to new experiences.  After all, if you want "the same", why travel?  I'm really glad that I reread "Coyote Cowgirl" and received this mindjolt just before revisiting Arizona.  I hope that it will encourage me to look at what I see with fresh eyes. If that happens,  I'll be able to fully savor both what I see and do during the short time that I'll be there. Thank you, Kim Antieau.  In a few weeks I'll be more than glad to share images and thoughts from the trip.

BTW-if anyone is wondering why all of the photos in this post are from New Mexico rather than Arizona, there's a very simple explanation.  When I visited Arizona in 2000, I had just started using a "compact" camcorder that recorded images onto VHS tapes (yes, pre-digital camera for me). I have yet to transfer images from VHS to computer and then to photos.  Given that, you might say that I'll be exploring Arizona with new eyes this time around.  I'm looking forward to doing so and visiting friends whom I haven't seen for a very long time. In terms of environment, it will certainly be an experience very different than last February in Florida. Different isn't bad, it's just different.

Thank you for visiting, please feel free to stop by the Tavern again.  In the meantime, may your travels be interesting and enjoyable.


Saturday, March 2, 2013

Florida: Wandering Through the Mangroves

One of the aspects of travel that I really enjoy is the chance to experience nature’s diversity.  At times, it’s like being either an interplanetary explorer or a time traveler. Recently I went from Wisconsin’s winter wonderland to Florida’s Gulf Coast.  Once you are there and travel away from its urban areas, you are in a totally different world.

Imagine landing by sailboat 500 years ago or on a ship from the planet Mars and “discovering” Florida’s Gulf Coast.  Along the pristine white beaches are the gnarled roots of mangrove trees.  As you wade or paddle though shallow waters, you are surrounded by intense greenness and the movement of previously unknown living things on land and below the water’s surface.  This “new” place is not one to be explored with ease.

Breaking the spell of the previous images, I admit that I am exploring while wandering along a raised cordwalk in a nature preserve.  I am only armed with a digital camera.  Still, without crowds of other observers of nature around me, my mind can easily slip into the previous scenario.  Much of Florida’s Gulf Coast has been developed (or even overdeveloped) by mankind. One of the things done right, however, was to create areas of nature preserves where present and future generations can experience aspects of the original Florida. For that, they should be commended.

To me, diversity is what travel is all about.  The land shapes the people and its cultures.  As you travel from place to place, you have the opportunity to explore that diversity either in museums or, if you feel comfortable doing so, in person.  Wandering around city streets will give you some aspects of that experience.  Doing the same in a wildlife preserve will give you others.  Personally, I feel that if you want to gain a broader understanding of a place you need to do a little of both.

Thank you for visiting the Tavern, I hope that you enjoyed your and will come back again.  In the meantime, may your travels be interesting and enjoyable.