April 28, 2013

Three Days in Tucson: Day Two

Me: Hi, my name is penguin and I am a dunkinaholic.
The Group: Hi Penguin
Me: It was 509 days since my last drink of Dunkin Donuts coffee until we went to Tucson
The group: Tell us more.
Me: OK, Here is my story
After day one in Tucson and a nice dinner, while driving home we passed a DD about 500 yards from our hotel door. I knew this is where we would be on Day 2, bright and early, and we were. When we got inside of the store, I smelled the coffee and fresh baked goods and broke out into a cold sweat. By time the lightly toasted bagel, smothered in cream cheese and hot coffee, large, arrived I had developed the shakes. We sat outside and after each sip, an “ahh” escaped my lips. It was the best morning of my life but then I realized I had given into the crack infused coffee dream and had a problem. The new DD in Las Cruces will open in May and it is a quarter mile from our  home. What should I do?
The Group: Get on line there NOW! What are you waiting for?
Me: I knew you would understand.
(the above is a dramatization of the actual event.)

Our first goal for day 2 was the Sonoran Desert Museum. Everyone we told that we were going to Tucson, and I mean EVERYONE, said to go there. It was a bit of a ride but worth every single mile. We knew we only had limited time and dove right in. The museum, most of which is outside, features a 2 mile paved trail, through various areas of desert features like a butterfly garden, a bee garden and the like. The flowers and cactus along the way were spectacular and we planned to go as far as the hummingbird exhibit. We were not disappointed. There were hundreds of hummers all around and I got to see my first hummingbird nests ever which was wonderful. We spent a total of about 2 hours there and enjoyed every second.

Flowers along the Museum Trail

Hummer in action

Docent and Harrison Hawk

Next up was a drive through the western part of Saguaro National Park, which is so different and more rustic than the east part. The views there were more spectacular and the cactus and flowers seemed to be in a more natural desert setting.

Saguaro in the afternoon sun

Having ignored the dogs in their crate in the hotel for several hours, we treated them to a trip to the local dog park where they ran around with other dogs their size for over an hour. They really seemed to enjoy themselves. Their second treat was a hamburger from a fast food joint which they also loved. Overall Skippy and the Desert Rat did well on the trip and that makes it easier to plan future trips.

We went to dinner at a place that served Mexican and was also recommended. President Clinton dined there when he was in office in 1999. The margaritas were great, the chips and salsa excellent and the meal itself was very, very good.

Day two was complete and we were all very tired. Enjoy several photos I took on this day in Tucson.

My new Hawk buddy!

April 7, 2013

Pensamientos al azar sobre el Three Days in Tucson*

Random Thoughts on Three Days in Tucson

We just returned from 3 days vacationing in Tucson, AZ and had a great time. But before I talk about the trip, some commentary. I was a little hesitant about going to Tucson, perhaps the racist capital of the southwest. I decided to just deal with it but it very early reared its ugly head. We were looking for a steak house for supper and found one that was universally touted as being the best of the rest. However, as I researched it there was a comment - This owner is RACIST - which piqued my interest so I looked it up. It seems that the owner, angry old white guy, is a racist and bigot. He has a Karaoke bar and refuses to allow anyone to sing songs in Spanish there. Like that will keep our brown friends from crossing the border, no Karaoke. So I have decided to dedicate this series of blog posts to this big jerk. I figure he will never read it because the title is in Spanish and that just encourages undocumented aliens. And to this bigot I say “Usted seƱor es un idiota.”

Now for the trip. This is how Day One went.

The early drive over to Tucson was uneventful and maybe the easiest 4 hour drive I have ever made. No traffic, no rush, no problems. We decided that the first stop was to be the east section of The Saguaro (pronounced swar-o, not sa-GOR-o) National Park. I love National Parks and this one met if not exceeded my expectations. We got in on my handicap pass, drove the 8 mile loop and took lots of photos, several of which are here at the end of this post. We stopped to walk the dogs, now veteran vacation travelers and nicknamed Skippy and the desert rat, and had a picnic lunch in the shadow of 20-30 foot tall saguaros.

We checked into the hotel, rested a while, and then went out not to that Racist Restaurant but to a place called “El Correl.” As we walked in, a gentleman leaving said hello to us so I asked him how this place was, and he responded, “it is great, I recommend the prime rib.” No one needed to twist my arm about this. We had a fresh salad, tossed at the table, a pitcher of Sangria (little light on wine and too heavy on ice, fruit and soda but good) and perfectly cooked prime rib. Unfortunately, there was no doggie bag for our boys.

On the way home, we drove around the city a bit and found a Dunkin Donuts! With a Baskin Robbins inside!! Marking the site for the next morning we drove home only to find one right around the corner of the hotel. I was in heaven. More about this in Day Two.

Some pictures from day one.

View from the Saguaro National Park picnic area.

Dead cactus with woody spines that the Native Americans used

Dead vs. alive

Late day sun on a cactus

Rather majestic cactus

April 5, 2013

First Photowalk

My friend Rob, from the photo club, came up with an idea for a photowalk. He is part of the group teaching the digital photo workshops at the State Park with me and several times in the various classes and in discussions afterwards we have gone on and on about practice. The class students understand the need to go shoot. I have, over the last year and a half, 
greatly increased my time out photographing with an obvious increase in the quality of the photos I have made. As Malcolm Gladwell theorized in “Outliers”, 10,000 hours of dedicated practice in a given field or area of expertise allows a person to become truly “expert”. I have taken that advice to heart. In the last few years I averaged about 500-700 images a year. This last year I shot more than 3000. A lot more practice.

Rob is from southern Texas and he and a group of buddies would just go out and stop at an area of interest and take photos. Afterward they would meet to compare pictures and notes and use this as a way to improve as photographers. When he mentioned this to me, I encouraged him to embrace the idea here and thus the “Photowalks” were born.

The first walk in late February, attended by 6 people ended up in the Mesilla Plaza, a very picturesque part of town. I have posted event pictures from there before, Dios de los muertos, Christmas Eve and the Farmer’s Market there. Below are some of my shots from that day. 

You should have the bad photo before this one. The photo club will.

This pickup just says NM to me.

Blue skies between the branches

Love these street lamps on Mesilla Plaza. 

Again the deep blue skies of New Mexico

Lamp shadow...

More budding trees.