I am finding that on those days when we do not have friends visiting from far away, I often wonder what to do with myself after a full session in the office. When we were on the road I would simply step outside and explore whatever the local area had to offer, because it was always different and intriguing. But now with the knowledge that we are in the same place we were yesterday, I have to push myself outside. It’s easier done when there is someone visiting. They provide me with that extra motivation.
That’s a shame because Tucson really does have an immense amount to offer, if one will just get off one’s posterior and take a look around. On Friday afternoon, Adam and I took a walk down the wash that passes through our neighborhood, following it downstream to wherever it might go. After a few miles of walking and zig-zagging, we’d discovered quite a lot of trail suitable for mountain biking, a massive tree with a treehouse, several large horse properties, a giant pond, several neighborhoods — none of which I even suspected existed. And it was all within walking distance of my house.
I have discovered that you really have to walk the washes and the alleyways to see the hidden parts of Tucson. Behind every house in the east side there seems to be a network of dirt alleys, which range from wide-open roads to single-track mountain bike trails overgrown with desert brush. These alleys were constructed to provide access for utilities, but they are also in some cases used as secret driveways to backyard parking. While the streets end frustratingly at every cul-de-sac, making good exploration almost impossible by car, the alleyways run for great distances without regard for development plat or economic stratum.
Adam and Susan have taken off for a week to do other things, so I’ve lost my alley hiking buddy for a while. But I am still intrigued at this hidden network of secret passages. A trail bike may be in my immediate future. Suddenly there’s a world of inner space to explore, right from my house, and I want to get to know it as intimately as the cotton-tailed rabbits do. A bike is the ideal vehicle for this program, and springtime in Tucson makes for ideal cycling weather.
We had planned to be in west Texas this week, attending a rally and then visiting Big Bend National Park. But circumstances intervened and we decided to cancel the trip to take care of other things. This left us with no travel planned at all, an unconscionable situation. We remedied that a few days ago by planning a trip to southern California for early April. Adam and Susan will be joining us again, along with Ken & Petey. It seems strange that we are going back to the area we just visited in December and early January, but the desert wildflowers are blooming and the weather is much warmer, so there will be things to do that we couldn’t do before. Besides, we never get tired of visiting that particular desert.
Our as-yet-unmet blog friends Bethany and Billy are up in northern California (Mendocino) in their Airstream experiencing the damp fog of the redwood coast. They’re blogging that experience quite well, so we have agreed to cover the southern portion of California. Now we just need someone to handle the central portion of the state and we’ll have it all wrapped up, Airstream-blog-wise.
In the meantime I will keep exploring Tucson’s inner spaces, and I’ll start bringing my camera along too, just in case I spot some interesting critters. The wildlife here is really exceptional. This evening we had a visit from one of the neighborhood’s Great Horned Owls, a creature I have never seen in real life outside of (a) a wildlife sanctuary or zoo; (b) this neighborhood. It’s amazing to me what lives here, and visits regularly. My fervent hope is to encounter some javelinas in a wash somewhere.
I still haven’t gotten over the fact that we now live in a place where we can have a palm tree and a saguaro cactus in our front yard, a Great Horned Owl and Cooper’s Hawk in the backyard, whitetail rabbits and Gambel’s Quail in the alleyway, and the occasional lizard sneaking into the house. (I had to capture one in the bathroom last week and put it outside — easy enough if you’ve got a bucket and fast reflexes.)
This environment isn’t for everyone, of course, but it’s fun when someone comes through for a visit and enjoys it enough to take a souvenir. Bruno and Leila, who visited about over a year ago on their annual vacation (from France), wrote today to say that the palm tree seeds Emma gave them survived the trip back to northern France — and now Bruno has palm trees growing in his kitchen on the cold and gray north coast of France. Our neighbor Dottie, sensing perhaps that we were nutty enough to take them, has given us three more palm trees for the back yard. Eleanor and I transplanted them yesterday. Around here, palm trees are practically weeds, but the novelty hasn’t worn off for us yet.
It’s all part of the inner space experience, I guess. We have to grow a few palm trees and a saguaro cactus to truly feel and appreciate the sensation of living in southern Arizona. In the spring we may even adopt a desert tortoise and give it sanctuary in our back yard (desert tortoises who have lived in captivity can’t adapt back to the wild, and every year there are always a few who need a new home). Eleanor is planning to put out a hummingbird feeder, too. I guess you could call it “putting down roots,” because we are planting and adopting things around our home base nest, but still we do it with a careful eye to future travel and try to avoid getting into things that would limit our options down the road. Fortunately, desert plants and animals are pretty self-sufficient.
It’s a constant battle in my mind between the things that keep us here and the things that send us out on the road. On one hand there are the nesting activities of home and the inner spaces that beg for exploration, and on the other hand there is the call of the unknown and the lure of friends and family scattered across the country. We think we have balance, but I am always questioning it. I suppose that never will end.