Here There and Everywhere

Expat wanderer

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 🙂

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 🙂

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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 🙂 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

Sunset Over Tucson

I miss all the Kuwait sunrises, and the daily photos I would post, every sunrise different. Tonight, as we head home from Zeman’s Ethiopian restaurant in Tucson, I catch the sun setting in Tucson:

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April 18, 2015 Posted by | Adventure, ExPat Life, Kuwait, Road Trips, Sunsets, Travel | , | 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. 🙂

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