I have to admit that Tucson Arizona wasn’t on my top ten list of places to visit. However, Tucson has one thing or should I say one person no other place has; my mother. It had been a while since we’d seen each other. I thought a pre-Thanksgiving visit would bring us together near enough to the holidays to enjoy the celebration yet allow us to avoid escalated holiday airfare rates. I invited a family friend to join me and I arranged for the flight reservations. Complimentary “transfers from and to the airport” by private car were included, provided by our hosts. No small bonus feature since I opted against a connecting flight to Tucson and arrived nonstop into Phoenix, two hours away from Green Valley, my final destination. My mother and her husband have a beautiful Spanish style home in an active life-style gated community. Fortunately for me, the home has a comfortable extra en suite bedroom. That’s a fancy way of saying that the bedroom has its own private connected bathroom. It also meant no hotel bill and no need to request early check in or late departure times. Twenty four hour privileges were granted due to my V.I.P. status with the owners of the residence. As a bonus, this “luxury resort” vacation included satellite TV options, fresh towels daily and two delightful petite canine companions. Combined, the dogs didn’t come close in size to the one German Shepard who shares my New York residence. However, what the dogs lacked in height they more than compensated for in personality and anticipation of walks around the neighborhood. I was happy to comply.
As with most all-inclusive hacienda away from home resorts, this package included cooked to order meals, unlimited snacks, beverages and as a bonus, complimentary sightseeing. We travelled by private car as the only passengers tended to by a dedicated driver who also doubled as tour guide. Indeed, my mother’s husband was gracious, patient and enthusiastic at sharing the local attractions and it appeared as though he enjoyed visiting the sites as much as we did. On our first jaunt, we headed straight for the border for a little town called Tubac. If you’re wondering what’s in Tubac I can tell you there’s very little to do. However, it is an amazing artist’s colony with pottery galore and all things Southwestern. The caveat here is to not become too enamored of any piece that will either not: A. fit in your luggage or B. match your New York style decor. It’s best also to not make an impulse buy that will later have you wondering what you were thinking when you purchased that hand painted metal cactus with matching warthog. The gifts I chose, conveniently fit into my pocketbook. I like to think that this is further proof of my experience as a traveler. Walking through kitschy souvenir shops and authentic artisan collectives is sure to work up an appetite and serve as inspiration for a midday meal. Our driver/guide knew an authentic and interesting place to have lunch and we decided to go with his suggestion. When you first approach Wisdom’s you are greeted by a 12 foot chicken. I’m not sure what the oversized hen represents, but clearly and cleverly, it does catch your attention and perhaps, that’s all it needs to do. Both my mom and her husband a.k.a., our chauffeur, assured us that this was the best “South of the Border” food we would find between here and Phoenix. The atmosphere in the cafe was casual and rustic and the margaritas were served in hefty mason jars as 2 strolling musicians serenaded us. We ordered lunch and enjoyed the mess as re-fried beans spilled out of our oversized burritos. Since there’s no better indulgence than dessert in the afternoon, and after all this was a vacation, we finished with fruit filled burritos smothered in vanilla ice cream. As a novice regarding Mexican cuisine I have nothing to compare the quality of the food with. But, I enjoyed myself, as did my dining comanions and I definitely didn’t leave hungry, so I would give it high marks. We hadn’t actually crossed the Border but were still required to pass through an Immigration checkpoint as we began our return to Tucson. I would like to commend Border Patrol for the patience and humor they displayed while this enthusiastic tourist snapped photos of the Officers at the checkpoint. They seemed to appreciate my delight at watching the patrol dogs in action. No questionable people were detained during our brief drive through. Since we had the time, and it was on the way to “home’’, we decided to change the day into a touring double header and drove into Madera Canyon. It’s located in the Coronado Forest and tucked in between Mt. Hopkins with an elevation of 8500 feet and Mt. Wrightson with an elevation of 9800 feet. The canyon is best known for bird watching but the only birds I saw were engaged at a feeding station set up at the Santa Rita Lodge. No smart bird would turn down a sure meal and we were rewarded with seeing wild turkeys hanging out with hummingbirds and Mexican Jays providing an international aviary experience. It was a full yet fun day that reminded me that there are so many places in this world to explore and so little time. I rarely revisit a destination no matter how much it was enjoyed. However, the lure of family and fun is sure to bring me back to Tucson again and hopefully soon.