Photo taken near Monument Valley, Utah

Friday, March 13, 2020

Saguaro National Park and We Meet Fellow Bloggers!

At LazyDays RV Resort, Tucson, Arizona...

While waiting for the orthotic inserts for Sandy's boot and shoes to be fabricated and sent to us, we decided to take a ride out to the Saguaro National Park, about 15 miles west of Tucson. We're usually pretty happy to hang out out our RV park because of how nice it is, especially for a KOA, but this was such a nice day, we just had to do some sightseeing: 

Sometimes we have raised eyebrows about KOA parks, as many are old, run-down and expensive for what you get. This one is anything but that. It is beautiful, expertly managed, with each site having gravel for the RV, asphalt for the accompanying vehicle and a concrete patio with table and chairs. Most sites have fruit trees from which you're invited to pick. 

You barely get your trash set out any time of day before it's picked up, and you won't find a weed anywhere. Yes, it's a little pricey at about $60 a night, but life is short, so why not treat yourself once in a while?

Our trip out to Saguaro was in the usual format--Sandy in the back  seat with her bum foot elevated and my position in the front as chauffeur. It would have been fun to wear a chauffeur's cap, driving perhaps the world's only Honda CRV limousine.

The fairly new national park (designated as such in 1994) is relatively small, with a very nice visitor center looking out over what appeared to be a forest of saguaro cacti. For some reason, I neglected to take a photo of the visitor center itself which, while fairly small, seemed quite adequate for the number of visitors on this day. Inside was a theater with repeated showings of a video that stressed almost entirely the desert customs and culture among Native Americans, their connection with the saguaros being their belief that, since the Indians came from the earth at birth and returned to the earth at death, they are also part of the earth and, thusly, the saguaro itself, thereby necessitating the need to respect the earth, the saguaro and all things that come from the earth--or something like that. Well, okay, we get it, but so much time was spent with this mysticism, no time was left for imparting any knowledge about  saguaro itself--not even one fact.  It seems these are the times in which we live--cultural identity is cooler than the objects for which the park was named and which we came to see.

A very nice desert garden formed the front couple of acres of the visitor center, with concrete walkways throughout. Following are a few photos taken in the area. 

In this one, I liked the contrast between the saguaros and the eroded rock layers in a draw viewable from the visitor center:

The next photo shows the saguaros growing impressively from a rocky hill where there seems to be little soil for their stability and nourishment:

The desert marigolds were in full bloom, surrounding the cacti at the side of the road:

The following photo shows a Teddy Bear cholla, named for its seeming fuzzy cuddliness. That would be a mistake, as its thorns pull away easily and are painfully sharp:

I caught this view out the car window as we were driving back to Phannie. I never get tired of these beautiful vistas here in the Southwest. The beauty of the Sonoran Desert is simply amazing:

We returned to Phannie fairly early, as this was a pretty ambitious day for Sandy's foot. Besides that, she had to rest up for a much-anticipated visit with Cheri and Dean Peine, who happen to be in Tucson for a few days. We've been reading their blog, Travels with Bentley, for a long time, and we always like to add to our list of bloggers we've actually met in person:

We drove out to where their fiver, Bentley, was parked west of Tucson and chatted for a while before taking a small tour around the city. In easy, nonstop conversation, we learned more about each other, then set out in the car, heading first to Sentinel Mountain, for  a bird's-eye view of Tucson and its environs:

We then made a stop at Amy's Donuts, an offshoot of the famed and larger Amy's Donuts in Colorado Springs. Their claim to fame is an epic selection of donuts, the likes of which we've never seen before. Ever had an Elvis donut? We'll, you can get one at Amy's.

Dean and Cheri had never experienced Amy's before, so we all went in and bought a few goodies. Then, returning the favor of a foodie find, they informed us of one of their own favorite carb hangouts, Breadsmith, which just happens to have a store here in Tucson. Armed with this information, I told Siri to take us there at once!  It was late in the day, and they were sold out of most items, but not sold out enough for us all to get some really tasty bread:

Okay, I can just sense you out there, getting all judgmental and wagging your fingers! Well, I'll have you know that these loaves of bread are chock full of whole grains, fruit and nuts, so there's not much room left for carbs, right?  Besides, we need to get stocked up for the coming Corona virus famine!  And, just so you'll know, we didn't contribute to the toilet paper shortage; we're pretty well stocked up on that. (Don't get me started on this stupidity.)

After scoring all this "health food" from Breadsmith's, we had Siri take us to El Torero, a Mexican restaurant supposedly run by a talented and innovative chef who is part of another family restaurant dynasty here in Tucson. 

So, here we went again, taking our new friends to an untried Mexican restaurant--shades of our treatment of Doug and Michelle; you'd think we would have learned by now. However, I thought I had an ace in the hole on this one. I was doing some clothes shopping the day before, and I asked the clerk--a Tucson native named Mark, who seemed pretty sharp--for his opinion of the best Mexican restaurants in town. He put his fingers to his chin and thought a moment before giving me a list of four--of which El Torero was near the top. As good-naturedly as possible, I thanked him but left him with the understanding that there could be consequences if he guided me wrong. 

"Don't make me come back here to return these clothes," I said. "I'm counting on you, Mark, and my reputation is at stake." I was trash-talking him, of course, but I noticed he wasn't smiling any longer. After leaving, I pulled up Yelp and checked out El Torero, finding that it has great reviews, so I was a little more comfortable. Dean and Cheri agreed to join us as guinea pigs, so off we went. 

I began to get nervous as we turned down the street in a questionable part of town where the restaurant was located. It took a while to spot the small pink facade that was almost hidden from view across a small dirt parking lot. I winced and thought back to my conversation with Mark, the store clerk who recommended this place. I convinced myself that a jury would side with me, once they heard my story.

I parked Mae and turned to the other guinea pigs. "Are we up for it?"

I saw their eyes darting from side to side, clearly nervous but not wanting to offend. They replied with a surprising bit of gusto: "We can do this!"

Buoyed by their response, I turned off the engine and said a little prayer as we made our way across the parking lot to the front door. Once inside, the restaurant was larger than expected, but there was only one table occupied!  

"Sit anywhere," said a smiling waitress. 

"No kidding," I thought. I was beset with a feeling of doom, as I remembered the fairly busy restaurant where we had taken Doug and Michelle for their debacle--and there were many fewer patrons here at this place. This couldn't be good, I thought.

A perky blonde waitress came over and, in chatting us up, asked us from where we hailed and then, learning we were from Texas,  revealed that she, too, was from Texas and claimed to have recognized instantly my accent. (For the record, Texans have a right to have a unique accent, as we were once our own country for nearly ten years. A lot of us would like to go back to that status, but we wouldn't include Austin, which has been ruined by too much immigration from the left coast. We would carve it out and let it be its own country, named Austifornia. After it collapses, we'll just invade and take it over again.)  But I digress.

The menu was huge and included names of dishes I had never heard before, but the descriptions sounded good. As it turned out, the food was delicious and plentiful, and the enchiladas they served may have been the best I've ever eaten. They served something called a green tamale that was uniquely tasty. They also had a house hot sauce (not salsa, but sauce in a bottle), that was so good I could have drunk it, except I was worried that it might be fatal to do so. In fact, I bought a ridiculously high-priced bottle to take home with me:

Now before you get all judgmental again about our foodie extravagances, you should know I have few, if any, costly hobbies or vices. (Well, flying airplanes isn't exactly cheap, but I don't do that too often.) Sandy has become pretty economical too, now that her shopping has been curtailed by the limited space available in Phannie. Nowadays, if she has plenty of iced tea and doesn't have to cook, she's relatively happy (therefore, so am I). 

So, in the whole scheme of things, my designer hot sauce is a pretty cheap high. I don't even want to know what's in this stuff; I hope it's not something illegal.

It wasn't too long before the restaurant began to fill up, thankfully. We all agreed that the visit to El Torero was a success, and we had a great deal of fun during the meal. Oh yes, and Mark, the guy who recommended the place, is off the hook.

After we took them home, we bade Dean and Cheri goodbye, grateful to have turned these cyber friends into real ones. Godspeed, y'all! Hope to see you again soon.

Thank you, Lord, for this wonderful life; 
please forgive me if I fail to appreciate it each day as I should.

We don't stop playing because we get old; we get old because we stop playing. 
 ---George Bernard Shaw

"I get up every morning, and I just don't let the old man in." ---Clint Eastwood



  1. I'm convinced that the Food Network needs a new show called Phannie and the Foodies: Touring America. Your heartfelt delight in finding excellent eats + your candid exasperation with restaurants that don't measure up + your sense of humor laced with a wee bit of sarcasm = a hit show that would give Guy Fieri a run for his money.

    1. HaHa! If only! I hope readers have fun with my nonsense; you're kind to say so.

  2. I agree with Mary ^^^^^ Doug of Doug and Michelle

    1. Hi, Doug! Thank you for that. I just find it hard to take myself too seriously. Glad to have you along!

  3. Well our paths nearly crossed again as we were hiking at Saguaro Natl Monument the last two days... we leave for Las Cruses, NM this morning..

  4. Well, fooey! Who knew? I'm so glad that you still have good health and good limbs for hiking. We've sort of worn ours out, so enjoy your enviable ability as long as you can. Hopefully, we'll meet up one of these days!

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