Here There and Everywhere

Expat wanderer

Three Trips Out

I must be feeling better. This morning I got an important quilt sandwiched – yes, even in these humid 90Β°F + temperatures, I was down on my hands and knees, pinning the three layers together. The colors are so beautiful it was truly a labor of love.

And – AdventureMan has been asking me about our next road trip. Oh, he is so subtle! He talks longingly of road trips we’ve taken, places we’ve stayed and loved, and how much he loves to be on the road. I understand; I get restless, too! So last night I began sketching out a two week road trip through the “four-corner” states.

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I have a sister who loves this part of the United States, and I have heard from her for years about some wonderful places I have never seen. Bryce Canyon. Zion National Park. Arches National Park. There isΒ some Native American territory I want to cross and a couple places we’ve stayed before, and loved. Best of all, there are two adorable little toddlers I haven’t seen for over a year, and my arms hunger to hug them – Little Diamond’s children, no longer babies, growing growing so fast.

 

I just did a first draft – haven’t made any reservations yet. I’ve been getting advisories from Trip Advisor about flight prices from here to Denver; it’s one of the changes we are going to make, not making ourselves drive hell-bent-for-leather for three days just to get to where our vacation will start. We are also driving fewer miles and staying more nights at each stop. We discovered on our Vancouver Island trip how much we enjoy that style.

We’ve been thinking about this trip for quite a while.Β We are eager to visit Montana, and we are eager to do more exploring in Alberta and British Columbia and the Canadian Rockies, and we are also realizing, after all these years, that it is more rewarding for us to focus on a smaller area and explore it at greater leisure. We’ll spend three nights in Santa Fe – a place we fell in love with last time we visited.

We already have two other trips planned and finalized, but we really needed a good road trip together πŸ™‚

 

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August 29, 2016 Posted by | Adventure, Arts & Handicrafts, Beauty, Cultural, Environment, Geography / Maps, Quality of Life Issues, Road Trips, Travel | , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Wildflower Bakery and Cafe in Sedona, Arizona

“Wow!” exclaimed AdventureMan, when we finally found the Wildflower Bakery, “If we had known where this place was, we’d never have gone anywhere else.”

It’s not that easy to find, if you don’t know Sedona. You have to know where it is, and you have to know where to turn, and turn again. It’s not intuitive.

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When we got inside, there was a VERY long line, and I needed coffee. There was another place, for pick up orders, so I called and ordered a coffee, but I was standing too close to the ordering place and he looked at me and said “you can’t do that; you have to go stand in line.” So I did.

It was worth standing in line for.

Great coffee. So many wonderful options that it was hard to choose a virtuous oatmeal, but I did. There were so many wonderful looking breads, and croissants, my great weakness, and cinnamon rolls, and bear claws, and all the things the finest kind of bakeries carry.

There is a large seating area, and although it is very cold, a Japanese family chooses to sit outside, and then the woman and daughter come back inside, while the man and his son remain outside to eat. The coffee is wonderful.

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Even my virtuous oatmeal came with delicious additions, and was garnished with the thinnest slice of toasted buttered cinnamon bread I have ever seen, or gobbled.

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AdventureMan also had oatmeal, but he also ordered a fruit bowl, which was gorgeous.
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The smells were so seductive, so delicious, and AdventureMan is right, if we had found the Wildflower Bakery first, we would have passed on some of the other places (not the ones featured here; I only write about the ones we really like.)

But our next time in Sedona, we know where to find it!

April 23, 2015 Posted by | Eating Out, Food, Quality of Life Issues, Restaurant, Road Trips, Travel | , , , | Leave a comment

Positive Energy at The Hideaway Restaurant in Sedona, AZ

“This is a very strange onion soup,” I said. “It has crispy crunchy onions on top, but it has mushrooms in it.” Mushroom soup was the special soup for the day, but I had ordered onion.

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We have wanted to try the Hideaway ever since we got to Sedona, and today is the day. We have to look to find it, it really is hidden away. It is at the end of a little strip/court mall, with a difficult entrance. You are supposed to enter at one place and exit at another. I say this with authority, because we did it the other way, LOL.

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As soon as we found the Hideaway, we knew it was for us. It overlooks a vast wadi full of trees and brush and a creek. It reminds us of places we’ve stayed in Botswana, you can almost hear the elephants crashing through the trees if you listen hard enough. We are sitting out on the verandah, looking at the menus, and everything on the menu sounds really good, a little different from the norm, very creative.

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This is the view above the tree line:

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There is a large seating area inside, too, but the day is so gorgeous, everyone wants to sit outside.

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I ordered the onion soup and a bacon, lettuce and avocado sandwich. AdventureMan orders a salad and a pizza.

AdventureMan is eating his salad, listening to me discuss how odd this “onion soup” is. “Mushroom soup is the soup of the day,” he reminded me. “They probably just made a mistake. Send it back!”

I can’t send it back. It isn’t the onion soup I ordered, I’m pretty sure, but I can’t stop eating it. It is unbelievably delicious.

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AdventureMan says this is one of the best pizzas he has eaten in his life, ever, and we have had a goodly number of pizzas πŸ™‚

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My salad and my Bacon, Lettuce and Avocado were delicious, but paled in comparison to that soup. I loved the freshness and variety of the greens, and the fresh taste of the sandwich, which was way too much food after that exquisite soup.

AdventureMan had a beer, I had a red wine. Both local, both very very good. We don’t drink so much anymore, but we enjoy it more.

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When the bill came, at the end of the meal, there it was, as clear as could be:

Mushroom Soup

I didn’t even make a squeak. I didn’t even tell the server she had made a mistake. That mistake was so delicious. This was probably one of the best overall meals of our trip. Wonderful environment, fabulous views, tasty food in copious amounts, good beer and good local wine, great service and reasonable price – life is sweet.

April 23, 2015 Posted by | Adventure, Botswana, Eating Out, Food, Restaurant, Road Trips, Travel, Wildlife | , , | 2 Comments

Sedona, the Beautiful

We are up before sunrise (having our bodies still on Central Time has its advantages) and head for Red Rock Upper Drive, where we wait for the first rays of the sun in utter privacy, except for a family of hikers, with their hiking sticks, who shout ‘good morning!’ as they hike past our viewpoint and head on up the hill.

And here it is! Our first Sedona sunrise! (We didn’t get up for any of the others, LOL)

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The early light hits the red stone opposite:

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And every morning, there were balloons over Sedona while it was still cool in the mornings.

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It is still chilly in the early morning, but Spring has begun. By noon, it will be in the 70’s (F).

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This was one of my favorite formations, in Boynton Canyon, near the hiking trails. It reminds me of Petra, and our camel treks into the lands of Lawrence of Arabia.

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Lots of hiking trails here:

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This totally cracked us up. We know primitive roads. We went over a road in Tunisia that Montgomery used when he flanked Rommel’s forces. THAT was primitive. I was outside the car, guiding AdventureMan over ruts as deep as our Volkswagon Bus. These roads are not paved, but they are passable. Primitive is in the eye of the beholder.

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This is the only purple cactus I ever saw. Clearly it is related to the prickly pear, if it is not a prickly pear. I wonder if it is like hydrangeas; that you can change the color of the prickly pear by adding iron or something else to the soil? This was at an entrance to a new housing development that is just beginning; the houses will have pretty spectacular views.

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Sedona is beautiful. Everywhere you look, there is something beautiful to see. Of all the beautiful places, Crystal Creek park was my favorite. It had all the elements – red rock formations, a rippling creek, and a hungry heron. It also reaches a powerful vortex, at the base of Cathedral Rock, and we hiked the trail, took photos, enjoyed a lot of positive energy, but I don’t think we were sensitive to the vortex.

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Red Rock State Park is another of those wonderful parks created and maintained with public funding, and manned by happy volunteers. We met several here, this wonderful guide, who gave us a first rate explanation of all the geological formations, and volunteers who ran the gift shop and museum/gallery.

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Sedona has stolen our hearts πŸ™‚

April 22, 2015 Posted by | Adventure, Beauty, Birds, Cultural, Environment, Jordan, Living Conditions, Local Lore, Road Trips, Spiritual, sunrise series, Travel, Weather, Wildlife | , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Sedona Airport Vortex, Watching the Sun Go Down

I do not want to be insensitive, or to offend anyone who understands vortex energy and has experienced it in Sedona, and finds him/herself consequently “on the path.”

In fact, I do not consider myself an insensitive person, so although I am by nature a little skeptical, I was willing to give vortex energy a chance.

I never experienced it.

In fact, every time someone started talking about vortex energy, I had a hard time keeping my face straight.

I DO believe in positive energy, and in energy, and how we interact with one another.

It may be a language misunderstanding; I do believe in holy places, and I have experienced the feeling of knowing I stood on holy ground.

Sedona is reputed to have special energies, and special sites for this energy. I only know this much because I went to a blog called LovesSedona.com where they explain the energy sources and where to find them and how anyone who comes within a quarter of a mile and has any sensitivity at all will feel the energy of the vortex.

We were near every one of the four vortexes; right at one. I felt awe at the beauty of Sedona, unending awe at this beautiful place. We met some wonderful people. But a special energy? I guess I am just not sensitive enough, but I allow that YOU might be, so I refer you to LovesSedona.com, from which I share the following information about Sedona Vortexes and their energy:

What is a Vortex?

A vortex is the funnel shape created by a whirling fluid or by the motion of spiraling energy. Familiar examples of vortex shapes are whirlwinds, tornadoes, and water going down a drain. A vortex can be made up of anything that flows, such as wind, water, or electricity.

The vortexes in Sedona are swirling centers of subtle energy coming out from the surface of the earth. The vortex energy is not exactly electricity or magnetism, although it does leave a slight measurable residual magnetism in the places where it is strongest.

There are four main energy vortexes in Sedona. The subtle energy that exists at these locations interacts with who a person is inside. The energy resonates with and strengthens the Inner Being of each person that comes within about a quarter to a half mile of it. This resonance happens because the vortex energy is very similar to the subtle energy operating in the energy centers inside each person. If you are at all a sensitive person, it is easy to feel the energy at these vortexes.

If you are planning a trip to Sedona, here is a map to help you easily locate the four main energy vortexes. On the map, a diamond indicates the location of a vortex. Although the Sedona area has many hiking trails that only a vigorous hiker can enjoy, the vortexes are all easy to get to, and no strenuous hiking is required to get to any of them.

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One of the Sedona traditions is to go up to the airport and watch the sun go down from the airport viewpoint. It is supposed to be a very special Sedona experience. This is what it looks like in low season. There are probably three hundred and fifty people here to watch the sun go down, take selfies with the sun going down, take photos of your friends with the sun going down, etc.

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When you go, there are many many many many people, in fact if you have ever been in Key West to catch the green flash of the Key West sunset, you will have a deja vu feeling. This is a very funky kind of gathering, everyone is there, locals, tourists, probably a pickpocket or two.

We got there just in time to park, walk over, and catch the sunset. Sedona is laid back and has a wonderful sense of humor about all this, and individual Sedona residents volunteer to be The Ambassador, who shows up and maintains some order and good will as the people stream to the viewing place and then stream back to the parking lot.

It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that it is going to be chaos once the sun goes down. As everyone else is watching the last gleams of the sun (and it is getting pretty chilly, I might add) we head for our car to head back down the mountain before the teeming hoard. The Ambassador on this night is a very tall woman, dressed as a Sheriff, I think, but a Sheriff in a dress. She is very good at keeping order.

We have made reservations for massages while we are here, and are trying to find where it is. When we get our confirmations, it is at a different location than we thought, so we have to find it again. I am confused because the lady says it is nearer to where we are staying than the original site, and the place where we think we are going is almost next door to the hotel. After a while, I figure out that where we have reservations is NAMTI, and the spa near us is NAMASTE, not the same. NAMTI is only a block away, we find it and we know where we will be going tomorrow.

A totally great day in Sedona, Arizona.

April 21, 2015 Posted by | Adventure, Environment, Events, Living Conditions, Local Lore, Road Trips, Sunsets, Travel | , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Red Rock Barbecue in Sedona, AZ

This restaurant was a lot of fun. The sun is low in the west, and our tummies are still on Pensacola time; Arizona is on God’s time, which is the same as Pacific Coast time, as they do not go on daylight-savings time. So we are a little early, but that is fine, we have other plans for later in the evening.

We snag a wonderful table out on the deck, a table with a wonderful view of Sedona’s red rocks, and also of the parking lot and our car, and a mini drama taking place. Someone hit a car and didn’t stop, and the Sedona police had caught the guy who did it and were working out the details with the victims, and getting the insurance (or not) information from the very remorseful hitter. Oh well, none of our business!

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What is not to love about this view? We sit with our drinks, just soaking it all in. We are so delighted to be in Sedona, and to be able to spend some time here. This is a place we want to take some time in. We explore now, but we also know we are coming back.

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AdventureMan loves to try pulled pork. We had to take pulled pork home!

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I tried the rib tips; there was so much, I had to take rib tips home, too.

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The management and service here were great, so friendly, happy to tell us about local lore, special things not to miss. We had a great long dinner, very mellow.

April 21, 2015 Posted by | Adventure, Cultural, Customer Service, Eating Out, Environment, Food, Law and Order, Living Conditions, Local Lore, Quality of Life Issues, Restaurant, Road Trips, Travel | , , | Leave a comment

The Southwest Inn in Sedona

When you look for a hotel in Sedona, there is a confusing profusion.

“Sedona has been discovered,” my best friend from college tells me. She named her daughter Sedona, and she is one of the reasons Sedona is high on my list of places I want to experience. She had described Sedona in glowing terms, some forty years ago.

It took forever to figure out where we wanted to stay. We don’t like bedbug motels, and neither do we like resorts. We don’t like paying for services we don’t want, and we don’t mind paying for services we do want. We like relatively small, and we like our privacy. We are introverts. We want to experience Sedona.

After a lot of research, we chose the Southwest Inn in Sedona, and it worked for us. We had a lovely spacious room with a balcony, very quiet, in a part of town where we were only about five minutes from any where we wanted to go.

As we drove in, we loved it. There were hummingbirds dive-bombing the tree where we parked, and we watched the as we unpacked the car. We had an upper level in a two level building, so we had to haul our goods up stairs, but I had my FitBit and I needed the credit for stairs; we didn’t mind the stairs. We loved the brown adobe finish, and the private balconies with the views of the red rocks.

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Breakfast was in this cheery, sunny breakfast room at the top of the entry building. They had home-made breakfast burritos, frozen, and two microwaves in which to heat them up, as well as pastries, cereals, fruits, juices, coffee, tea, water – one step up from continental breakfast, and it is included in your room. Many people take their breakfast back to their room to eat out on the balcony.

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The hotel had a hot tub and a nice swimming pool and lounging deck, which we never used our entire time in Sedona. We kept intending to, but there was always too much to see and to do!

Our room was fine, spacious enough, good sized bathroom, but I didn’t take a photo and it wasn’t special enough that I can remember a single detail, other than the lovely balcony and the view, and oh, yes, it had one of those Southwest corner fireplaces, very fun. It was fine; it housed us well, and you can spend a lot more in Sedona and get a lot less. We wanted Sedona style, and we felt this fit the bill; it fit in well with local aesthetics, and it was quiet and modest with little luxuries, but without excessive showiness.

We also liked the management, very laid back, and very thoughtful. The room had nice things in it – bathrobes to wear to the pool, a nice coffee maker, the fireplace for cooler evenings. When I needed more shampoo, the man at the desk gave me a big container and asked if I wanted conditioner, too. They had a large, elegant dispenser of cool lemon water in the lobby, as well as coffee and tea all day long. There was a graciousness to it all that I liked, a generosity of spirit. They were very helpful telling us about things we needed to do (join the crowd at the airport vortex to watch the sun go down, for one) and the roads we needed to take. We followed all their advice, and it paid.

Our hotel was full of European hikers, families and people who, like us, look for a good value for the money.

April 20, 2015 Posted by | Adventure, Civility, Customer Service, Fitness / FitBit, Hotels, Living Conditions, Local Lore, Quality of Life Issues, Road Trips, Travel | , , | 2 Comments

The Arizona Sonora Desert Museum and the Tonto National Forest

There is nothing so lovely as the American Southwest in the Spring. This is a glorious day, and we are on our way to an amazing park, the Arizona Sonoran Desert Museum, with is a huge indoor and outdoor park and museum. It is one of the best stops on our trip.

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There is a huge parking lot, and we got there around the time it opens. We were still in the third row away, but the rows go on and on forever, and we wondered why so much parking? As we left, we understood. We had been there about three or four hours, and the parking lot was filling up fast, buses, travelers from every state and many nations, coming to this beautifully thought-through museum.

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One of the things we are picking up on is that everywhere we go, there are people our age, physically fit, volunteering. We saw this at the Benson – Rio Grande Valley Park in Texas, where I thought they were the happiest volunteers I had ever seen, and then again, at Tombstone, AZ, participating as characters in the daily dramas. People our age are living their dreams, and we met a lot of really happy people, working for various parks and volunteer agencies.

I volunteer in several areas, and one of my favorite is with the Gulf Coast Citizen Diplomacy Council. The Department of State sends delegates here to meet with counterparts in specialized areas – environment, juvenile justice, fair election processes, women entrepreneurs – it can be anything. You never know what comes next, which I love. Another part of it that I love is introducing our foreign delegates to the volunteer experience, whether it be dishing out hot meals for the homeless or packaging food for the food bank. For most, it is a new experience, and the idea of giving your time voluntarily to work to help others is a revelation. They are so often surprised at how good it feels.

This is what we are coming across again and again. At this museum, there is a volunteer passing out maps, and others selling entrance tickets. There are volunteer rangers, volunteer guides, and volunteers answering questions. They are happy, they are fit and tanned (LOL, yes, this is Arizona!) and they work for free. They are doing what they want to be doing. It is a joyful experience to find all these happy volunteers, and to benefit from their expertise. It is a joy to us; I feel so proud and humble to be a part of this kind of community.

This museum is so first rate. These are the bronze sculptures at the entry:

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Museum entrance:

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There are all kinds of walking trails, and every exhibit is also reachable by wheelchair.

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The museum cactus display is gorgeous along the wonderful walking paths:

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They have a wildlife display with all kinds of snakes and frogs. This is a poisonous frog:

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AdventureMan and I separate; he has a mission, he wants to see the Butterfly garden and what is planted there. I take a few trails, and then head for the gift shop. I also have an agenda πŸ™‚

In the wonderful gift shop, where I found unique and really fun gifts for grandchildren, grand-nieces and grand-nephews, I also saw two of Mary Doria Russel’s books about this area, about the legendary Doc Holliday and Wyatt Earp. There were also books and puzzles about bugs and desert creatures, and wonderful edibles, hot sauces, salsas, BBQ rubs. Great gifts.

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It is a wonderful visit, but even this early in the season, by noon, it is getting very warm. We decide to head on for Sedona, and because we are not so fond of big city traffic, we skirt Phoenix and stop for lunch at one of our favorite places, Whole Foods. What a treat!

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We wanted to take the scenic route to Sedona, so we went through the Tonto National Forest. At the beginning, I started laughing and said to AdventureMan, “It’s a Saguaro Forest!” Later, the Saguaros stopped, and small scrubby pines began, and then taller pines, and taller, thicker pines until we were in a truly dark forest with a lot of trees. Driving was a lot of twisting and turning on this road, and we were glad when we headed out towards Sedons.

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We knew we were getting close when we saw the beginning of the famous red rocks. This is the view from our hotel balcony:

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April 20, 2015 Posted by | Adventure, Beauty, Community, Customer Service, Eating Out, ExPat Life, Fitness / FitBit, Generational, Geography / Maps, Gulf Coast Citizen Diplomacy Council, Hotels, Interconnected, Living Conditions, Quality of Life Issues, Road Trips, Shopping, Travel | , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Tucson, The Giant Saguaro and the City Mountain Park

We are so excited. This is one of the highlights of the trip, a visit to the Sonoran Desert, home to Saguaro cactus. Those are those huge cacti you see in movies, in commercials and in cartoons, you’d think they are common, you see them so often, but they only grow in a very limited area of the United States and Mexico, and no where else in the world. We want to see them.

I’m not fond of cactus for my own garden; I don’t like prickly dry things, but I am a huge fan of cactus in it’s native environment, where it looks so right. In the midst of aridity, it is green and living, and one of God’s imaginative creations, perfect. The Saguara, and the other cactus, so many of them, are awe-inspiring.

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I tried to limit what I posted here, we took so many photos. We could have stayed here for hours. There are hiking trails, and the weather early in the morning is cool, the sky a deep, cloudless blue. The morning light is our friend, and these cactus are amazing. Each one so different, and so interesting.

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You can see this Saguaro forest stretching up high on the mountain

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I called the one the “Praise the Lord Cactus” because to me, he looks like an evangelistic cactus πŸ™‚

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Look how fat they get! And how sometimes they are fatter at the top than at the bottom. In fact, they are often fatter at the top than at the bottom; the bottoms seem more vulnerable, like to rot or damage of all kinds.

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It’s Spring, and many of the cacti are blooming!

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I wanted to do this once in my lifetime; now I think I want to do it more than once in my lifetime πŸ™‚ I want to come again in the Spring, when the temperatures are temperate, and you can see the blooms and experience this beauty without the scorching heat.

April 19, 2015 Posted by | Adventure, Beauty, Environment, Gardens, Living Conditions, Quality of Life Issues, Road Trips, Travel, Weather | , , , , | Leave a comment

Tucson, and the Great Saguaros, and Zeman’s

On our way to the interstate from Tombstone, we see our first giant Saguaro, one of the reasons we wanted to stop in Tucson. It is awe-inspiring, just growing in someone’s front yard, about two stories high. Did you know that these giant cactus only grow in a very limited environment? Tomorrow, we are going to the Saguaro National Park; we can hardly wait.

Meanwhile, we check in to our very odd Residence Inn. It is near the Tucson airport, and it looks like a resort, but when we go to use the pool, it isn’t even filled, it is being repaired. Repaired? It looks brand new.

It is in an area with a lot of other new looking hotels, near the airport, but while in other places there are usually a lot of restaurants around the airport, in Tucson, there are few, and not ones we care about.

Using our Trip Advisor research, and our Google Maps App, we find Zeman’s. Zeman’s is Ethiopian, and gets great reviews. We love Ethiopian food, and because most of what we order is vegetarian, we also know it is really good for us.

It is an easy drive into the big city, and we find Zeman’s right where it is supposed to be. We are warmly welcomed when we go in, and take a look at the menu.

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They do something we really like; they have a combination where you can order one meat and two vegetables. We ordered two combinations, as did most of the other customers, and it was delicious!

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We really loved the ground beef, which was exotic and spicy, and the collard greens, also exotic and spicy, but with different spices. I always think of Vargese’s Cutting for Stone when I eat Ethiopian food. When I read it, I felt like I had grown up in Ethiopia.

It’s in the university part of town, and most of the customers appeared to be students and faculties who enjoy good eats at reasonable prices. Zeman’s is exactly that. Tucson is blessed to have such a delightful restaurant. I understand there is another Zeman’s and even a third one in the planning. πŸ™‚

April 18, 2015 Posted by | Adventure, Africa, Books, Eating Out, Food, Hotels, Restaurant, Road Trips, Travel | , , , , , , | Leave a comment