18 July 2015

Arizona Vacation!

[I'm going to make an effort to get back to blogging, not as often as I used to but at least to document memorable events]

Flickr photo album

The family just got back from almost a week in Tucson, AZ.  We had a delightful, fun-filled time with the Tucks.  I think Isa swam every day we were there.  Plus they have two dogs (one of which is Isa's, "they just take care of it for me") so she started and finished each day with playing catch and teaching tricks with them.  She was in heaven. We packed a lot of things in so we had at least one outing each day.  Here's the highlights:
  • Thurs:  alarm @ 4:15AM to get to airport for 6:10 flight. Flew through Chicago to Phoenix on American Airlines.  Then we got on a small US Airways jet to hop to Tucson but after pushing back and sitting for awhile we got the news that we had a mechanical issue and would need a new plane.  So we de-planed onto the tarmac in 100 degree Phoenix heat.  Luckily it wasn't too long at all and we were on a new jet and on our way.  Phoenix to Tucson was the shortest flight I've ever been on.  26 minutes from wheels up to wheels down.  Once we got to Tucson, we were taken on a super, all-access tour of the University of Arizona.  We were on the floor of the basketball arena, on the turf of the football stadium and zipping around campus in a golf cart.  Very cool. And Martin is a top-notch tour guide, and not just for the university!  He always had background information, geographical explanations, weather insights, historical facts, etc to made every outing more interesting and meaningful.  First meal:  El Guerro Canelo.  I tried to sample it all but made sure to have a 'Sonoran-style hot dog' as seen on the FoodNetwork.  Their 'caramelo' was one of Sylvia's favorite things she ate the whole trip.
  • Fri: While the girls stayed home to play, I got up and went to work with Martin.  He got me into the Rec Center and then left to get his work done.  I spent the next few hours working out, trying out battle ropes and throwback trampolines, running on the Mall, shopping in the retail store, watching a little Wimbledon (incredible match between Federer and Murray) and finishing it with a dip in the pool.  Martin took me to St. Mary's Mexican Food for a scrumptious birria (stewed beef) & bean burro.  It was the best burro I've had since Pablo's closed.  Afterwards, we picked up the girls and went to Colassol Cave but opted for the horse ranch instead of the actual cave. Isa got to go for a short horse ride and also lead a mini-horse around.  She didn't stop talking about that horse ride for the rest of the week.  Her and Elle sluiced for gems with good success.  We capped the day with a great meal at La Guadalajara, complete with table-side custom salsa-making and wonderful mariachi music. 
  • Sat: Relaxed in the morning, watching the women's Wimbledon final (Serena is a beast.) and then headed to Teresa's Mosiac Grill for lunch.  It was mentioned in a recent NY Times article and Bobby Flay came there in 2010 for a huevos rancheros throwdown. (I hadn't watched it until we came back.  Check it out, it's a fun show.) Along with incredible panaramic views, we could watch the woman at the grill, hand-patting out tortillas.  She makes 500 a day.  With that we were fueled for an afternoon of learning at the International Wildlife Museum (similar to Bird and Mammal Hall) and a drive up through Gates Pass in the Tuscon Mountains.  In the evening we checked out the Downtown Second Saturday festival and ate at El Charro, the oldest Mexican restaurant in the United States.  I tried their famous carne seca - a sun-dried, shredded spiced beef, sort of like a chipped beef jerky, very unique. 
  • Sun: 7:00 mass at Sts. Peter & Paul and a Bruegger's Bagel and we were off to the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum.  Lots to see and do, part zoo, part nature preserve, part education center.  The high every day we were there was ~98-101 and the sun is intense.  So by noon, it is best to be indoors. We stopped at St. Mary's Mexican Food again on the way home for more delicious food.  Spent time relaxing, cooling down and looking at (and laughing at) old family photos.  Isa talked people into a late evening swimming outing to the University pool.  Pretty awesome to be able to go in after hours, have the place to ourselves and be able to use any of the three pools, 5 diving boards, hot tub and dive tower. 
  • Mon: Pima Air Museum had several hangars full of aircraft and history and we/I loved exploring it all.  They also have tons of aircraft outside for you to walk through.  We also took a tour on a charter bus through the neighboring "boneyard" on Davis-Monthan AFB.  Technically called the 309th Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group (AMARG)  Our guide had VAST knowledge of not just the aircraft models but their history, current events, and interesting anecdotes. An awesome spectacle. Davis-Monthan AFB is home to a squadron of A-10's, one of my favorite planes, so it was a treat to see and hear then in the skies throughout the week.  
  • Tues: Sabino Canyon, part of the Coronado National Forest in the Santa Catalina Mountains was our pick for a morning of hiking.  Sylvia, Isa and I explored and hiked about 3 1/2 mile of the park.  It was really pretty and such different landscapes. Mountains, cacti, low trees and brush.  And it was HOT!  Did get to see a few good birds (Greater Roadrunner, Pyrrhuloxia, Cactus Wren).  Lots of lizards.  It was a fun family outing.  We met up with everyone for lunch at BK's, a super tasty meal of tacos al pastor, great salsas and cold horchata. We shopped a bit at the UofA bookstore and then hit the pool for some swim stroke help from Martin for Isa and I. Some delicious slushie drinks from Eegee's and then we went over to the city track meet and watched Elle and Isa run. A very cool community event and the girls had a great time.  Late dinner at Pionic (custom-made personal pizzas) finished a packed day.
  • Wed: Breakfast, packing and a sad airport dropoff.  A great vacation for sure.