(Benson, AZ) Ken and I have never seen the saguaros live and in-person before. JoAnn and Doug were gracious enough to help us plan a day to make the most of our visit around the Tucson area.
Saturday was the perfect day, with cloudless blue skies and temps in the low 70’s.
I’d highly recommend a visit to Doug and JoAnn’s page journaling this day by clicking here since along with Doug’s narrative, JoAnn did an especially good job of getting some good scenery shots.
Doug drove the 80+ miles round trip to the Saguaro National Park which is on the Southwest corner of Tucson. On the way we stopped by a health food store that the Dubrouillet’s had found and then as we got close to the park, stopped at a roadside vendor so Ken could pick up some native mesquite honey.
We found out it was a ‘free’ weekend which is not really a good deal for us since we all can get in on the Golden Access Passes for free anyway and prefer to avoid crowds. But, Doug quickly noticed that all the goodies in the gift shop were also at a discount in honor of the Martin Luther King weekend.
We are all book hounds and ended up leaving with several good finds.
My find was a beautifully illustrated recipe book “Southwest Slow Cooking”. There’s nothing better than a slow cooker to do the work for you back at the rig while you are out exploring, especially with our love our Southwestern flavors.
We watched the film in the Visitor’s Center and then proceeded to some hiking trails that JoAnn and Doug had found most scenic on past visits. Ken and I were both surprised by the sheer number of saguaros in this area. It seems strange that within a matter of miles you go from none of these majestic cacti to an abundance.
We were actually very lucky that we largely had the trails to ourselves, able to really get a sense for the nobleness and sacredness of this special area. It gives off a feeling like few other places we’ve visited. The very air feels different here. The saguaros invoke a kind of reverence, looking like an assembly of sun worshippers reaching up to the sky.
JoAnn and I talked about how ‘living’ the desert feels, compared to the impression most have when talking about deserts as stark and barren.
Apparently those who came long before us felt similarly about this space since they have left their mark, to last for thousands of years as petro glyphs.
We took it slow on our walks, stopping and looking a enjoying how it felt to be in the midst of the saguaro.
We then drove in to Tucson to have a meal at Miss Saigon’s. Ken and I had never experienced Vietnamese food before. Doug and JoAnn had enjoyed this restaurant on a prior visit and were ready for a second visit. We all enjoyed spring rolls as appetizers and then a variety of delicious entrees that I can’t pronounce! The order went: Joann and Cindy will have 47, Doug 49 and Ken 59, numbers are always good on these kinds of menus!! Ken had a good time getting advice from the friendly and fun waiter. I really liked the various sauces that you could add, some with quite a zing! Although it was middle of the afternoon this restaurant was busy, especially with college students from nearby University of Arizona. We would definitely recommend this restaurant if you are in the Tucson area and enjoy varied Asian cuisines.
The final stop was decided when earlier in the week, Ken and I let it be known that we’d never shopped at a Trader Joe’s. A real day of ‘firsts’ for us!
This is one really cool place to shop and very dangerous for our pocketbook since we could find no end of tasty looking offerings. In this case, the limited RV freezer space was probably a blessing since it deterred a real buying binge! We did buy my first bottle of the famous Two-buck Chuck (now $3) which we figure will come in handy during Quartzsite happy hours!
Our drive in Tucson happened to take us by the University of Arizona Medical Center where Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords is recovering (Jan 16 status here) from the attempted assassination. In the pictures I mentioned earlier, JoAnn got a shot of the crowds that still, over a week after the shooting, keep vigil outside the hospital. Memories of our first time in Tucson will always be linked to having been here during this tragic event.
Doug and Ken were both nursing major sweet tooth attacks as we approached Benson and the truck just veered itself in to the Old Benson Ice Cream Stop where we all indulged in an ice cream to put a sweet final note on the day! Doug and JoAnn are Blue Bell fans while Ken and I enjoyed Kahlua and the Black Walnut cones from their 44 different soft serve offerings.
We were all back to our rigs and our furkids just after sunset, ready to kick up our feet and relax after a wonderful adventure with friends.