Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Tucson in the springtime

Greetings from another of our favorite winter stops, Tucson, AZ. We're enjoying the warmth and breezes of springtime in the desert. The flowers have been really great this year. The roadside from Ajo, across the Tohono O'odham Nation (formerly known as the Papago, or desert Pima Indians) was carpeted with orange and yellow poppies. We stopped over in Sells, AZ for lunch at the Desert Rain Cafe, a restaurant specializing in traditional foods ofthe Tohono O'odham people. Dishes include tepary beans, agave sweeteners, saguaro syrup, cholla cactus buds, prickly pear cactus jellies. We had a wonderful lunch and wandered down the road to the recently finished Cultural Center and Museum. The cultural center included exhibits on traditional and contemporary life of the People of the Desert. We noted that their nation is divided by the international border between the US and Mexico. Before 9/11 it was quite easy for tribal members to cross back and forth, since it was their own lands. But ever since it has become a nightmare with new border security and the atmosphere of distrust and danger as these lands are also remote and favored by human and drug smugglers making them a prime focus of Homeland Security efforts to seal the border. These people are again caught in the middle.

Here in Tucson, the smell of orange blossoms is everywhere or at least in the residential neighborhoods where I ride my bike. We've settled into a mobile home park in the central part of the city, close to lots of great sites and restaurants, yet in a quiet, older neighborhood I get to ride my bike along some very well marked and relatively safe trails through the city. We've enjoyed some hikes, restocking our natural foods and pantry at Trader Joes and Sunflower Markets, outdoor festivals and of course sampling some of the many wonderful ethnic restaurants. In fact, Tom took an afternoon cooking class which resulted in a wonderful meal of Oaxacan Black Mole with rice, fried bananas, chayote (a mild summer-type squash),a good wine and a shot of tequila!

Another afternoon was spent listening to music provided by various local bands all powered by the sunshine via a portable solar electric system. Tucson is a very energy aware town with lots of programs and focus on energy efficiency, solar electricity and water heating systems, and the value of water and water conservation in the desert.

Although this represents the values of the 21st century Tucson, we also had an opportunity to view all around us here evidence of the area from the 18th century with historic adobe buildings including the church and convent at San Xavier de Bac, just southwest of the city limits on the eastern edge of the Tohono O'odham nation. This church as recently completed a major restoration of the interior to when it was constructed by the Jesuits and Indians in the early 1700s when this area was still claimed by Spain.

There's so much to enjoy and savor here in the area, and the weather has been fantastic. But, our time is coming to an end here and we expect to be moving along this weekend towards a visit with friends in the Phoenix area. We'll miss our friends here, and will look forward to return in another year to explore additional parts of the city and the region. Until next time, happy trails....


Betty said...

YOu found the restaurant that features native foods. Remember when we went searching all those years ago? I need directions. I want to try it next winter.

After couple stormy days in the central valley, I arrived this am in Petaluma. Sun is out, but probably not going to last. Flowers are not as good here as the desert, but they need a couple more weeks. Betty

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