Saturday, January 30, 2016


Today is Saturday January 30th, 2016.  Tomorrow were catching a morning bus to Hermosillo, Sonora, Mexico where will stay overniht at the Hotel San Sebastian and fly to Oaxaca via Mexico City on Monday, February 1.

It's been wonderful spending time with our daughter Katie.  She is a ball of energy.  She has a full time job as a researcher for the University of Arizona as well as being a very active singer/songwriter and a professional life coach.  She is deeply involved in the Tucson music scene and recently released her fourth solo CD called "The Aviary." Here's a link to a video of one of the songs from the CD "Wood"

Highlights while in Tucson....

Golf at Randolf Park course. (excellent shape, first-class municipal course)

Mission San Xavier (striking architecture,  creepy statues of saints and virgins,  beautiful setting on Native American reservation, great bean burrito with charcoal grilled tortilla)

Birding at Sweetwater Wetlands (Ruddy Duck, American Widgeon, Cinnamon Teal, Northern Shoveler, Coots, Pied-bill Grebes,  Ladderbacked Woodpecker,  Red Naped Sapsucker,  House Finches,  Coopers Hawk, Roadrunner, Green Winged Teal.)

Hiking and birding at Sabino Canyon.( humming bird doing spectactular display flight where it hovered six feet above ground then ascended rapidly straight up to a point where it became invisible it would then fall straight down and make a loud "cheep" as it nearly hits the ground.  We watched it do this over and over again.  Spectacular! Also Roadrunner, Phaenopepla (sp.?) Brittlebush and Globe Mallow in bloom and, of course, the stately Sahuaro.

Tacos at  Taqueria Pico de Gallo in South Tucson.  (muy saboroso, birria taco made from goat meat,  very authentic,  a muy "in" place for Tucsonians)

A wonderful dinner of carne asada tacos and beans at Katie's new home cooked by her very talented boyfriend and musical collaborator, Ben Nisbet.  Fun meal also included fancy Manhattans made with a special  "High West" rye whiskey recommended by Ben.

Lunch at Beyond Bread with my sister Anne and her daughter Heather.  Anne lives near Phoenix and Heather is a pediatrician visiting from Australia.  Wonderful, relaxed time of family connection. 

Friday, January 29, 2016

Alabama to Tucson

Our travels to Tucson from Alabama were relatively uneventful.  Each day, except the last, we drove about 500 miles.  Birmingham - Shreveport - Big Spring TX - Deming NM and a 200 mile sprint to Tucson on Monday, January 25th. 

Some moments....

Very heavy rain as we were leaving Birmingham. Throughout Alabama and Mississippi saw dozens of utility repair trucks heading north to deal with storm  damage expected from winter storm Jonas that was slamming the northeast.  Roanoke was buried in snow the day after we left. Storm left 30 to 40 inches of snow in much of the area we had traveled through.

We were in heavy traffic near Jackson, Mississippi and were passed by a truck pulling a full double decker car carrier.. Truck made a quick lane shift and the trailer started wobbling so severely we were sure it was about to tip over and spill cars all over the highway.  Driver got it under control but it was a very close call. Scary.

Couple, our age, sitting in a booth at a Wendy's restaurant somewhere in Mississippi.  Man looking tired, beaten, head bowed with oxygen tube running to his nose.  4-5 yo child in a stroller next to booth moaning and continually beating its head on the back of the stroller. The back of the child's head had a large patch of bare skin where the constant beating had worn the hair away.  My assumption is that this was their grandchild they had decided to take under their care.  What a sacrifice.  What a different path than ours.

Young woman at the same Wendy's came over to us, smiled and asked us how our meal was. Can't imagine that happening in New York.

Louisiana weather miserable.  Cold, 35 degrees, wind, 25 miles per hour. 

Gambling a big deal in Louisiana.  Shreveport had huge casino hotels like Los Vegas. Every motel and convenience store had its own little "casino" with video gambling machines.

Eastern Texas - lots of pines, rolling hills, huge houses with big metal gates, and the "Silverado Cowboy Church."

Vast flatlands of west Texas looking like prime tornado territory speckled with forever bobbing oil pumps and thousands of huge whirling white wind mills stretching across and beyond the horizon. Big Spring had the feeling of a town way past it's prime.  Many boarded up, broken down buildings surrounding the town's only high rise, a ten story abandoned hotel. Nice sunset though.

New Mexico had a homey, friendly "Welcome Center"  and the motel we stayed at in Deming (Quality Inn) was by far the best one so far - china plates and cups/in house bar and restaurant/quality decor and furniture and it was one of the least expensive so far. Very windy in Deming.  Wind was 35 mph when we were checking into motel.  I had to lean backwards to get the car door shut and then had to crawl under the car to remove a large tumble weed. 

 We met a couple from Quebec in the parking lot and compared gas mileages.  I told him I was disappointed that our Prius was only getting 44 mpg.  He told me that was about what he was getting about the same mileage with his non hybrid Sentra.  He said he was keeping it at 65 mph whereas I've been regularly going 73 to 75.  I slowed down to about 70 for the rest of the way to Tucson and the mileage improved right away.  Will try to keep it under 70 on the way back East in March.

Day Two - Roanoke to Birmingham

 Roanokee is abuzz with talk of a major snow storm that is expected to bring over a foot of snow tomorrow (Thursday) afternoon.  We left a day early on this trip to avoid this storm and it looks like we mede the right choice.  Stayed at a ho hum Quality Inn.  The road from Roanoke to Bristol (I-81) winds through the eastern portion of the Blue Ridge Mountains and is probably the most scenic section of interstate highway I’ve ever traveled.  Its sinewy path winding climbing and falling through hills that were beautiful and inviting despite the leaflessness of the trees and the snow covered ground.  Very surprising to find such beauty on an interstate

As we entered Tennessee at Bristol the road was still clear but there seemed to be more snow, maybe three to five inches, and the plows had only cleared the traffic lanes leaving both shoulders snow-covered.  An older woman with dark brown dyed long hair and wrinkly face received us warmly at the Tennessee “Welcome Center.”   She said that last night weather was terrible around Bristol and that there were many wrecks.  Here’s a pic from the parking lot.  It just didn’t seem like enough snow to cause a lot of accidents. 

Taken at Tennessee Welcome Center in Bristol
Not true.  During the ride between Bristol to Knoxville we saw 10 to 15 abandoned cars off the road in the medium. The worst accident we saw was a overturned tractor-trailer on the right side of the highway.   This behemoth was laying on its side covered with an inch or two of new snow.  The top of the cab a big jagged hole about three feet across.  It looked like the driver had to kick his way out. The people we talked to blamed the high number of wrecks on southern drivers not used to driving on snowy roads.

The rolling hills of east Tennessee were very attractive but the small farms and towns seemed  more run down and poorer than Virginia.  Lots of musical related billboards etc.

Our traveling goal for the day was Birmingham, Alabama via Chattanooga.  Trip was uneventful after the apocalyptic car wreck section near Bristol.  Alabama “Welcome Center” had this “monument” in the courtyard.  

It was surrounded by five flag poles.   Only four the the poles had flags.  I’m assuming the empty pole used to have a Confederate battle flag.

People at reception center were very friendly and said that many New Yorker “snow birds” make their way to Alabama.  

Day One

Woman trainee at McDonald's training our age struggling to deal with hamburger tech register interface.   Trying to escape from facing stock market “slump”  being bombarded by multiple blaring mac  monitors plus a wall full of bing bang video game monitors for kids and FOXNews breathless rabid  reporters shouting out the latest threat to our freedom oozing from the fetid marshes of Obamanism.  Trying to sit and enjoy a grease dripping sausage /egg burrito vowing to eat healthier for the rest of the way and feeling it was good to get that out of my system.

New York and Pennsylvania rest stop men’s room urinals no partitions between urinals men end up leaning away from each other to preserve privacy.  Virginia “Welcome Center” complements its warm sophisticated red brick colonial architecture and courteous almost gentile reception desk staff with a serious bow to civility by placing substantial barriers between urinals.  All of a sudden, in restaurants, motels, rest stops it seems like people are “nicer.”    Northern Virginia, rolling through the fabled Shenendoah valley is visually satisfying. Farmsteads look prosperous and peaceful.  Rolling fields accented by mountain ridges on both sides.  Horse farms with well-kept white fences.  Grazing cattle.  Stacks of round bales of hay.  Unpleasantly interrupted by giant structural steel crosses and huge billboards proclaiming ‘READ THE BIBLE! ABSOLUTE, TRUE, FINAL!   Covered about 500 miles on our first day.  Approaching Roanoke