Home now and reporting from my easy chair! The events of the last 2 days plus the jet lag have taken the wind out of our sails – in other words we are dragging. Here’s how the last 2 days played out.
We traveled west on I-10 out of the mountains to the plains of Eastern Arizona/Western New Mexico. Tough driving too as we were heading into the sun most of the time. About noon we started looking for a likely lunch spot – we like to get off the highway and find local diners whenever possible. Got off at Willcox, Arizona and had just about given up finding food when we came upon the “historic” section of town and started smelling barbecue – beef that it, we were in cow country.
Big Tex BBQ, Willcox, AZ
Oh yeah, brisket to die for! The whole town carried the aroma of freshly smoked meat. The entry for the restaurant is an old railroad dining car and there’s a big smoker out on the corner that was billowing smoke. When we parked the car, Dana saw a truck for an industrial company he was familiar with and said this must be THE place to eat. Also had cowboys and cops eating there, can’t go wrong when the locals frequent a joint. The waitress was so friendly. The brisket we had was tasty and tender, we had potato salad for a side and it was OK, Andy had a hamburger and fresh cut fries, which he shared with me, they were delicious.
We tried to have pecan pie, just to stuff ourselves even further, but they were out, so we decided to save desert for later.
Left the restaurant and walked the streets. Came to a park dedicated to hometown hero Rex Allen.
- Rex Allen statue, Railroad Park, Willcox, AZ
Now, Rex Allen was a 50’s western star, and he did a lot of work for Disney, voice overs for movies and documentaries and some cartoon voices. His horse, the “miracle horse” Koko, is buried in the park, and Rex’s ashes were scattered in the park, he died in 1999. He is pretty much this western town’s claim to fame, and they have a Rex Allen Festival every year, rodeo, country music, etc. Used to be a big cow trade center, but now it’s mostly Rex Allen. Of course, we had to visit the museum too.
Rex Allen Museum and Cowboy Hall of Fame, Willcox, AZ
We had been walking the streets of the town when a wind storm blew up and I am not kidding when I tell you that the sand and dust hitting us actually hurt. We ducked into the museum and we were welcomed by a trio of older folks, volunteers manning the museum. They actually sort of “pounced” on us, I don’t think they have too many visitors. Now, we had no prior plans to visit this place, but it was truly fascinating. Cowboy movie memoribilia, photos, posters, etc. Here’s just a taste of what was there:
Costumes.. only one case!
Did I mention he was a singing cowboy?
One of Rex's guitars
I guess we thought it was cool because we grew up watching old westerns (ala Roy Rogers) and Disney films. Andy, of course, was fairly bored but it was air conditioned and he tolerated it for our sakes. I won’t bore you with Rex Allen’s whole story, but if you would like to know more you can visit the museum web site at www.rexallenmuseum.org
We were ready to move on after our lunch and museum break. We wanted to get back to tour the Cactus Forest in the eastern section of Saguaro National Park. We got a little lost trying to find it but a call to the visitor center got us back on track. I think the outside temp was 95 degrees when we got there, and I can tell you it is a DRY heat, my skin and lips were suffering. We headed into the visitor center and found that they had some non-human visitors:
Javalinas with 2 babies, in the shade of the visitor center
Sorry this photo is fuzzy, I took it through glass. We were hoping to see javalinas on this trip, but from a safe distance as they can be nasty. This crew had been visiting a water hole near the visitor center and found a nice shady place for a nap. Andy thought the babies were cute (which they were). We watched a video about the Saguaro then headed out on the 8 mile car trail through the cactus forest.
Those spiky things on top? Cactus fruit, too late for the bloom
The cactus "forest", 8 miles of this same scenery
OK, I knew this photo would not look like what I was actually seeing, miles and miles of giant saguaro. Check Dana’s site, his photos are probably better. But at some point I said, how many photos of cactus are we going to take? We finally speeded it up, it was amazing and wonderful how many giant saguaro there are, and again, thank goodness for people and government who set aside these wilderness areas for us to enjoy forever.
Finally it was back to the hotel, dinner and swimming as in my previous post. Oh, it was lovely!
Saturday, EARLY, we got breakfast at the hotel and headed to the Tucson Airport.
At least we had a great view while we waited for our flight to depart....
The flight was overbooked and they asked for a volunteer to go on a later flight – I wanted to stay in Tucson another day but they weren’t offering another hotel night as an incentive so I decided I would come home with the guys LOL!!
None of us were looking forward to flying home, Andy insisted he was only going on one plane, we told him he had to go on two to get home. He still said “only one! – I sympathized. Flight to Houston was uneventful – they pretty much take off straight up over the mountains, you feel like you’re going up in rocket ship. Had a high sodium snack, crackers, cheese spread, salami slices, plus dried fruit and a Hershey bar. Andy declined but we had purchased a bag of pretzels and a Pepsi for him before we left so he munched on those.
Only 40 minutes between flights in Houston, so we hustled between terminals, and it was a LOOOONG way. There was a train in between which helped but it was still a hike, and no time to eat. On the Houston/Cleveland flight we were offered a turkey sandwich, which we could still not get Andy to eat, so he had a bag of Fritos and coke. The sandwiches were pretty good for airline food and came with the bag of Fritos and another Hershey bar. We also were able to watch the movie “Paul Blart: Mall Cop” which made the time pass faster.
Final comment on air travel – you have to really want or have to get some place to put yourself throught the hell that is air travel on Continental, and probably most other airlines. The security check alone is one big pain. We are planning to drive for our next vacation.
We were starving by the time we got off and decided to eat at the Big Boy on Brookpark Road, familiar and delicious, especially the onion rings! Also treated ourselves to dessert one last time, apple pie for Dana and Brownie Ice Cream for me.
Then glad to be home at last. All in all, it was a great vacation, everything pretty much went as planned, nobody got sick or had to go to the emergency room, loved the Arizona/New Mexico sky. We immediately noted the humidity in the air here, since we had been dried out for a week, and it felt good. We have a precious commodity here, and that is water. We don’t even think about it.
That’s it for my Tucson travel blog. I will be posting some photo galleries and will let you know later where – got to do some editing first. Be sure to check out Dana’s blog and thanks for reading!