Darn you, Puritans!

Eleanor and I managed one more roadtrip, a short one up to the Phoenix area for a little “this and that”: browsing, a little shopping, a late night cruise in Scottsdale, dinner out and a night in a resort.  But that’s it.  She’s got to head back to Vermont so that our child will remember that she has actual parents.

No, I’m just kidding about that last part.  Eleanor will head back, but Emma is becoming as independent as an 11-year-old should.  We have stayed in touch via video chat and phone calls, and it’s obvious she gets along just fine without us.  Her grandparents have done a great job of keeping up with her schedule of play dates, sailing, and summer art classes.  When I called yesterday I was told that Emma was down at the beach making s’mores and was therefore unavailable to speak to her father.

That’s quite a change from the days when we were living in the Airstream, roaming around the continent but rarely far from each other.  People speculated that she would grow up “needy” or improperly “socialized” as a result of our extreme togetherness, which is of course utter nonsense.  Why do people think that being close to your children or parents is a bad thing?  (Little wonder that as a society we treat the elderly with disdain.)

I speculate that it is an old outgrowth of Puritanical beliefs, right along with the idea that we should be ashamed of our bodies.  In any case, the result speaks for itself: the kid is comfortable in her skin, and while she misses Mom & Dad, she’s pretty happy with the other loving members of her family.

Not so easy for me, however.  When I’m alone for weeks at a time I don’t have the support system of the family around me, and it’s a big adjustment.  It’s far too easy to spend the day inside the house, in front of the computer, and not seeing another living soul all day.  That’s a trap.  Pretty soon you can turn into a Howard Hughes-like caricature, savings toenail clippings in a jar and growing a long beard.

I was watching a National Geographic program about Solitary Confinement (in prison) and the inmates were describing what happens to them after too much time alone.  They talked about the need for human contact, and the paranoid thoughts that start to overcome them.  Psychiatrists chimed in: solitary makes you start to feel aggressive toward your jailers, even if you weren’t violent before.  That must explain why I forgot to water the citrus before Eleanor arrived; I was lashing out at the greenery.

I now pity the telephone company guy who is scheduled to come here to look at my DSL line.  If I don’t get out to the mall to walk around and see some humans (OK, mostly teenagers, but that’s as close to humans as I can find in a mall environment), the telephone guy’s life could be in danger.  And he’s a nice guy, “Tom,” who has visited here often because every summer my DSL starts getting wonky.  (I’m on my third replacement DSL modem and I have all the Qwest service guys mobile phone numbers now.)

Of course, my jail cell is not enforced by the penal system, it’s self-imposed.  It’s another darned Puritanical leftover, the moral imperative to do work.  Once in a while I break free of that social boundary and play hooky around town, but it’s difficult for me.  No kidding.  I’ve been self-employed for 18 years and wound so tight about getting the job done that it’s hard to let go even when there’s really not much work to be done.  Today is a good example: the Fall issue is in the hands of the printer.  This post-production period is a classic “quiet time” for the magazine, or rather a “calm before the storm,” because until the issue hits the mail the phone will hardly ring, my email Inbox will be oddly empty, and I won’t be under major pressure to work on the next issue for a few weeks.  So by all rights I should be having fun.

I learned this lesson a long time ago.  I used to be a “consultant,” which meant nobody was looking over my shoulder and I didn’t get a regular paycheck.  So  I worked really hard when there was work to be done, and when there wasn’t I was usually trying to play rainmaker so that there would be work again soon.  On those occasions when I felt like I had done all I could do for a while, I blew off to do something, anything, absolutely guilt-free because I’d earned it.

When I was publishing the magazine and working (2005-2008) the Airstream made it easy.  We’d park it in a place where Internet and phone worked well, until the work was done, then relocate to some nearby National Park and go hiking for a few days in a cellular “cone of silence.”  Usually that meant a short drive, and there we’d be, all together with our home and ready to go exploring.

It’s a bit harder now, with the Airstream up in Vermont, me in Arizona, my other Airstream stranded in Texas, and no tow vehicle handy.  I am quite tempted to pack up the tent this weekend and go somewhere in the cool mountains where the forest hasn’t been scorched in this summer’s fires.  What I’d really like to do is get some Airstream friends to drop in for a few days, but nobody wants to come to the desert in the summertime.  (Wimps.)  Hey, I’ve got 30-amp power in the carport to run air conditioners, so what’s there to be afraid of?

Now you know why I was so desperate to find a backup tow vehicle earlier this summer.  The idea was to launch out to Texas and recover the Caravel, and make a big trip out of it, complete with the comfort of air conditioning.  Alas, now I’m short on time.  I did finally find the car I wanted — it’s the car I sold, the Mercedes 300D.  I should have kept it and put a hitch on it.  Another one in even better condition has popped up locally and I could buy it, but I’d really like to get that Miata sold first.  Any 1980s-era Mercedes, no matter how nice, is going to suck up a bit of money before it’s fully sorted out and ready for long trips.

So I’m sitting tight for now, and looking at the tent… and my laptop.  Sooner or later either the Puritans will win out, or the Airstream-inspired wanderlust will.



Road honeymoon in Arizona

A commenter on the blog last week asked if I was Temporary Bachelor Man or Temporary Honeymoon Man.  Yes, I must admit that we are treating this little three-week summer visit as a series of romantic getaways.  Our goal has been to just have as much fun as possible, exploring places and things that we might have skipped with a child in tow.

We began preparations some months ago, collecting ideas for travel and searching out deals on hotels and restaurants so that we could take fullest possible advantage without spending ridiculous amounts of money.  Summer travel in southern Arizona and the desert portions of California, New Mexico, and Texas is a bargain if you take the time to look for the deals.  Our options would have been broader with access to one of the Airstreams, but we’ve managed to do pretty well nonetheless.  For example, Eleanor has completely mastered the intricacies of the Restaurants.com coupon system, to the point that we are eating out at posh restaurants three nights a week for cheap.

Tucson is great for restaurants.  Within a few miles of our house we can find virtually any cuisine, and we never have taken full advantage of that just because when we are home we tend to eat in.  This little “honeymoon” period is different, so now we are exploring restaurants with complete abandon.  Last week we tripped over a fairly unusual find, a real Cajun restaurant (run by folks from a family that settled in Louisiana in the 1600s).  Normally you can’t get good Cajun food outside of Louisiana — I don’t care what those fancy nouveau chefs in major cities think — but this place is the glorious exception.  I’ll be back there for a little jambalaya after Eleanor has left, I’m sure.

Our specialty this past week has been restaurants in the resort hotels.  A few days ago we tried Azul at the Westin La Paloma, which was fine, and this weekend we may go to Primo at the JW Marriott Starr Pass. These are mostly fun because we never go to the local resort hotels, and so we’ve got an excuse to dress up for dinner and check out the elite scene.  (We also went up to the Ritz-Carlton at Dove Mountain but didn’t eat there since we were just dropping off our niece who was in town for a business trip.)

Before you get concerned about the idea of me dressing up, relax.  This is Tucson, so dressing up only means I wear slacks instead of shorts with cargo pockets, and I pick a silk Hawaiian shirt that has been ironed.  Nobody wears a jacket and tie when it’s over 100 degrees outside, even at night.  I have not worn a tie since sometime in the mid-1990s.  I’m waiting for the ones I bought in 1991 to come back into style …

This time of year the thunderstorms cool things down for a few hours after the rain, but it’s still nice to get away from the heat for an extended period.  Looking at my work schedule I realized I could escape on Thursday and Friday, so on Wednesday we booked a hotel up in Show Low AZ, up in the pine trees above the Mogollon Rim that divides northern and southern Arizona.  It’s about a five hour trip up to there from Tucson, and even longer if you stop and enjoy the fantastic scenery along the way.  The route, pictured above, brought us up and around the Santa Catalina mountain range through Oracle (past Biosphere 2), through lots of rolling desert, past the ASARCO copper mines at Winkelman, and then to the town of Globe — famous for turquoise mining (B on the map).

From there the road starts to get very interesting as it gradually gains altitude and loses it again, three or four times, finally descending through a series of hairpin turns down to the beautiful Salt River Canyon.

This route (between points B and C on the map) is passable with a travel trailer, but you need to be comfortable with long 6% grades (both up and down) and willing to take your time.  There are many overlooks suitable for parking an RV or travel trailer. On Thursday the road was lightly traveled, and we rarely had company at the overlooks.  We stopped at one for a big picnic lunch (our usual crazy leftover smorgasbord) and had the place to ourselves the entire time.

If a teenager holding a can of spray paint can climb it, why can’t I?

Eventually the road climbs for the last time and ends up at 6,300 feet in the town of Show Low.  We had started the day with temperatures of 100-105 but up here it was a beautifully cool 81 degrees with scattered thunderstorms.  We found our hotel and a local Italian eatery, then parked somewhere to watch the lightning bolts in the distance, as the sun set in dramatic clouds of orange and blue.

In the morning we cruised over the Fool Hollow State Park, one that we’ve heard is nice but had never seen ourselves.  The park staff gave us a 30-minute pass (they held a $7 refundable deposit), which gave us time to roll through the entire park.  It’s a fantastic spot, well worth a visit, and so now we are trying to figure a time to drop in this fall.  If you go, book early as it probably sells out far in advance for every weekend in the summer.

Having taken hours to get up here, it seemed like a shame to drop back down the Mogollon Rim into the heat any sooner than we had to, so instead we wandered west on Rt 260 toward Heber-Overgaard, staying above 6,000 feet the entire route.  We made a few stops here and there to explore, and eventually came to the point where Rt 260 begins to descend, at the edge of the Rim.  It’s tough to drive away from the beautiful air up high, so we stopped off and found a secluded place to park near the General George Crook trail, and took in the view for a while.

A tip for you photographers:  doing justice to the expansive views from the Mogollon Rim is difficult without a super-wide angle lens.  I started with my Nikkor 18-200 but couldn’t get the shots I wanted.  I pulled out the Tamron 10-24 and around 12mm I finally started getting a fair perspective. The shot above is at 10mm.

The photo above, of Saguaro Lake, is from the iPhone. Sometimes it does a decent job, especially when there’s a lot of light.  We drove a few hours down the twisting Beeline Highway to near point F on the map and checked out this little lake formed from the impounding of the Lower Salt River.  It’s in the Tonto National Forest, so a “Tonto Pass” is required to use any of the camping areas, overlooks, boat launches, beaches, etc.  (Your $80 annual “America The Beautiful Pass” and/or “Golden Age Pass” doesn’t cover this, despite what you probably thought when you bought it!)

But no pass is required to park at the Marina and take in the view from the upper deck of the restaurant, which is what we did while sipping a couple of cold ice teas.  At this point we were well back into the oven east of Phoenix, but with full shade and the outdoor misting system running at full tilt it was tolerable outside on the deck.

The photo above is another iPhone capture, entering Apache Junction and looking east toward the Superstition Mountains. Lost Dutchman State Park, another one of our list, is not far away.  (Don’t be concerned about the 45 MPH speed limit — in most places the speed limit is a more-appropriate 65 MPH.)

All together, we covered close to 500 miles in two days.  A roadtrip like this would be exhausting or at least boring on the Interstate, but despite lots of long lonely stretches, we rarely felt uninspired.  The back roads of Arizona are vast and dramatic, with variety, color, and life nearly everywhere, and well worth exploring.



Roadtrips in southern AZ

No Airstream doesn’t mean we can’t travel a little.  In the summer heat, the best escape southern Arizona offers comes from the wonderful Sky Islands scattered all around us.  The Santa Catalina, Huachuca, Boboquivari, and Sahuarita mountain ranges are all nearby, and whether by foot or by car you can reach the cool air in piney forests at the upper elevations.

The easiest place for us to reach is the Santa Catalinas, arrayed just north of us and forming the northern border of Tucson.  Hikers in Phoenix are jealous, because we Tucsonians can pop up into the mountains in about 30 or 40 minutes, whereas the nearest escape from the brutal Phoenix summer heat is at least 90 minutes away.  From our house, it’s a quick drive up the twisting Mt Lemmon Highway.  In 25 miles we’re up above 6,000 feet and in 35 miles we’re in the little village of Summerhaven high atop the Catalinas at about 8,000 feet.

That’s where we decided to hike last week, along the short (2.4 miles roundtrip) Marshall Gulch trail that starts just below Summerhaven in the Catalina National Forest.  The trail follows a perennial stream through the forest, with shady gorges, the sound of trickling water, and lots of dry clear air scented with pine.  Every time we hike such a trail I have a moment when I’m taken back to long-ago hikes in the northern New England mountains (Adirondacks of New York, White Mtns of New Hampshire, Green Mtns of Vermont).  Although the plants and animals are different, the little cues of summer are overwhelming.  This is something I love about being here: the ability to move from hot desert to cool northern forest just with a short drive up a Sky Island.

The photo below is one of those poorly-composed self portraits we sometimes take by balancing the camera on a rock.  We were at the peak of our climb and utterly alone, looking at the intersection of a few other trails and wondering if we should continue onward for a longer loop.  We have so few pictures of ourselves that even the fairly lame ones like this end up being keepers.  Eleanor and I have been hiking together for twenty years now, but I think we have less than two dozen photos of the two of us together on a trail.

Our original roadtrip idea was going to be pretty major: San Diego, Palm Springs, and maybe even San Jose, but with all the things we want to do here and the constraint of not having our trusty Airstreams on hand, we decided to stick closer to home and focus on what’s great about this area.  So this weekend we took a long round-robin drive out to Kitt Peak National Observatory (about 7,000 ft at the top) to see the incredible telescopes and take in the views from the top.

There was almost nobody there, which surprised me because it’s a great –and free– destination only 90 minutes drive from Tucson.  It was 106 degrees in Tucson on Sunday, but a lovely and breezy 88 degrees at the summit of Kitt Peak, with scattered clouds blowing by and monsoon showers visible off in the distance. In the photo you can see the aboveground portion of the McMann-Pierce Solar Telescope (the big white thing), and a rain shower off in the distance.

The drive out to Kitt Peak has changed a little since the last time I was out there.  Yet another Border Patrol checkpoint has been established, which you’ll go through on the eastbound side of Hwy 86.  Once fairly rare, Border Patrol checkpoints have become the norm on every road south of Tucson.  The procedure for passing through one is simple enough, usually just one question:  “Are you all US citizens?”  A simple “Yes,” and we’re always waved through.  But it really strikes me every time we pass through one, as a reminder that southern Arizona is just behind the front of a war.  Along the back roads you’ll see huge Wackenhut buses staged in strategic locations for detainee transport, and the white pickups of the Border Patrol are parked along the roads in many places, observing traffic or chasing down illegals.

I have to remind myself that the people who are staffing all these trucks, buses and checkpoints are there for our protection.  They aren’t interested in hassling Americans, they’re trying to plug a porous border.  It’s an impossible goal to achieve fully (and everyone here knows it) but without the massive quasi-military presence the drug-runners would own southern Arizona.  Still, the sheer numbers of people, vehicles, and dollars involved are absolutely incredible to see.  Anyone who thinks that we are not fighting a third war (a sort of “cool war” as opposed to hot or cold), or who thinks the border can readily be “secured” really should come down here and see for themselves.

And yet, there we were, spinning our wheels down a lonely two-lane road that has almost no services along it and poor cell phone coverage, without much care.  We do not travel armed, nor do we feel the need no matter wherever we go around here.  Southern Arizona is safe.  Living here is like living next to the DMZ in Korea, I suppose.  We are tourists to the edge of a war zone, a peculiar concept.  It’s like looking into the grizzly bear habitat from the safe side of a fence, or tapping the glass on the rattlesnake’s enclosure.  The Border Patrol guys are providing the glass.

We’ve been eating some interesting stuff lately, thanks to a few experimental meals out and a few really great meals at home, so Eleanor made a picnic out of our leftovers, which we ate at the summit of Kitt Peak.  For you foodies, we had thin-sliced marinated flank steak, French bread, hummus, fresh figs with goat cheese and a little fruit vinegar, grilled sweet peppers, green olives, and some sort of little Italian pastry that we picked up at Viro’s in the morning (the name of which I can’t remember).  Emma’s chai tea washed it all down.

After the drive back down the mountain, we felt like exploring a little more.  I had long wanted to take the drive down Sasabe Road (AZ-286) to the Buenos Aires National Wildlife Refuge.  This is a beautiful and underappreciated area of grassland and wetland.  There are dozens of free primitive camping sites scattered all over the refuge, and the birding is reported to be excellent.  I think we may plan a Caravel trip down there sometime to hike around and take in the wilderness.

After the Refuge, we took the rolling Arivaca-Sasabe Road east to the little town of Arivaca, another place I’d wanted to check out for a while.  It’s sort of an “end of the road” town, populated by ranchers and folks who seek out funky remote places.  There’s not much there but it makes a good destination for a driving day, and the scenery between Arivaca and I-19 is terrific.  There are a few small cafes and cantinas to visit for lunch or a drink before you head back home.  And of course, not long before we arrived at the Interstate in Amado, we encountered another Border Patrol checkpoint, where the agents expressed some surprise at seeing us. Apparently not a lot of people come through on Sunday just for the drive.

Amado, by the way, is slightly famous for this roadside curiosity: The Longhorn Grill.   We didn’t go in, but I have it on my list (along with the Cow Palace, just across the street) as places we should check out the next time we are coming down I-19.  There’s something about odd roadside stops that begins to attract you, when you travel by road a lot.  I think the mere fact of someone being an individual, bucking the norm of food chains and square boxes by building something unusual despite added expense and (no doubt) hordes of nay-sayers, appeals greatly.

Our travel this week will be a bit limited due to various appointments are have made, but we are making up for that by exploring restaurants all over town.  I’ve noted before that Tucson is one of the best cities I’ve ever encountered for eating out.  We have been here four years and barely scratched the surface of all the great & strange places to eat, so we are doing our best to try places while respecting a reasonable budget and the risk of expanding waistlines.  I’ll talk more about that in the next blog.


Hot days in Arizona

Our three weeks as non-parents have started off well.  After Eleanor landed we spent a couple of nights in Phoenix, taking advantage of the off-season cheap deals on hotels and restaurants.  The coolest day we had was about 109 degrees, which understandably drives off the tourists, but for us it’s only 5-8 degrees warmer than Tucson and we were able to score a nice business-class hotel with full breakfast for a mere $55 per night.  They weren’t making any money on us.

We were free to roam the area with no worries about crowds, so we explored whatever struck us at the moment: the village of Cave Creek, the shores of Bartlett Lake, the high-end shopping of Scottsdale, and various little restaurants all over the area.  We found a few “keepers” along the way, to be added to the list of recommendations that we are collecting for friends who visit the area.  (I’m also building a book of Tucson Tips for our future Airstream guests, which includes the stuff that we like and which is rarely mentioned in the standard guidebooks, like hole-in-the-wall restaurants, favorite hikes, and vista points.)

Restrictions on use of the Catalina National Forest have been mostly lifted now, thanks to a good kickoff of the monsoon (thunderstorm) season, which means we can once again drive up the Mt Lemmon Highway north of Tucson up into the mountains for a little cool relief among the Ponderosa pines.  On Sunday night we drove about five miles up the mountain to the Babad Doag Overlook, and watched the lightning show emanating from thunderstorms passing south of Tucson.  We didn’t get any rain that night at our home but the lightning from 20-30 miles away was spectacular.  We sat on a long stone wall along with four or five other couples and enjoyed a panoramic view of the city lights of Tucson, the distant mountains, and the crazy flashes of lightning bolts striking the earth every few seconds.  This would be an awesome spot for watching the submarine races if there were a few less people …

When the monsoon is active, our days are surprisingly cool, running in the 80s and 90s thanks to the moderating effect of the rain.  This is why July and August are not our hottest months.  But since Monday the weather pattern has changed to be more like June again, which means 0% chance of rain, 100% sunshine, single-digit humidity, and temperatures running on the low 100s.  That keeps us indoors most of the day (or at least in the shade), so we’ve taken to going out around 6 pm for a cruise, just to watch the sunset from some remote spot in the foothills.

Of course, that’s also the time the desert animals start to get active too.  Yesterday at dusk I saw four suicidal jackrabbits dash in front of the car, and one coyote (who was probably chasing a rabbit for his dinner).  Fortunately all of them were thwarted in their attempts to reach the Next World.  If we took an evening walk out in Saguaro National Park we would probably also have good luck finding scorpions with our UV light.

During the heat of the day I am mostly at work (at this point finalizing layouts on the Fall 2011 edition and working with authors on Winter 2011), but since things are fairly quiet we manage to break away for a couple of hours to do a few errands, get lunch, or hit a movie.  I’m not super-familiar with the retail scene in Tucson since I’m not the designated Shopper of the family, so during one movie run I was surprised to discover that the interior of El Con Mall has been for several years yet another one of America’s many dead malls.

I have a slight fascination with dead malls, possibly because we ran into many of them during our travels.  The life cycle of a mall strikes me as an interesting source of lessons regarding marketing, positioning, fashion and continuing investment.  I have a theory that many businesses fail primarily for lack of creative & fresh thought, although the owners who preside over those failures tend to blame “market conditions” or “changing interests” of the buying public instead of themselves.  The movie we went to see was not scheduled to start for an hour, so I wandered the silent (no Muzak, no people), dreary, and shuttered interior of the mall, theorizing why it failed and what could have been done differently.  Seriously, I think that walking & talking though a dead mall with a group of small business owners would be a fascinating and educational exercise.

In the evenings Eleanor has been experimenting with the food that we buy at ethnic grocery stores (Asian, Jewish, Polish so far), which makes dinner a far more interesting experience than going out.The photo shows Tuesday’s dinner of lightly seared Ahi tuna, some sort of noodle, and a medley/salad/chutney/I-don’t-know-what of Asian vegetables.  I didn’t ask a lot of questions — I was too busy eating.  The drinks were Chai tea made from a spice mix Emma put together last year, with condensed milk and palm sugar.

I’ve been asked several times about the tow vehicle hunt.  I have abandoned it, for now.  My criteria for a vehicle were extraordinarily stringent, and I eventually realized I’d made an impossible task.  What I really want is my GL320 back, and I can’t have that until September.  So the Caravel will remain parked in Texas for a while longer, and in October I’ll make the trip back out to fetch it.  Eventually I may find the ideal fun/part-time tow vehicle combination but I’m in no hurry.

The Silence of the Blog

I feel a certain sense of responsibility to post at least weekly when we aren’t traveling in the Airstream, and there’s a sort of editorial guilt that comes up when I realize I haven’t written anything in longer than that.  I hate the epidemic of bloggers all over the Internet who post a few entries saying things like, “I know I have posted in a while but I’ve been busy.  I’ll get up to date this week, so check back soon!”  And of course they never write again…

But hey, if I’m busy, that’s when the posting really happens.  It’s when things get routine or even dull that causes me to  lose my inspiration.

Such has been the case lately.  This has been a quiet season for TBM, something I regret.  The three weeks of bachelorhood have flown by but except for my archaeology tour all the days seem about the same.  I’ve gotten work things done.  The Fall magazine is now well into layout, Brett & I are working on plans for three different events next year (Alumapalooza, Modernism Week, and another event to be named), and various other projects are rolling along nicely, so I can hardly complain.  Still, work is not enough to round out a life, and that is where I’ve fallen down on the job as TBM.

An unexpected barrier this year has been the wildfires in Arizona and New Mexico.  The entire Coronado National Forest has been closed since June 9 due to exceptionally dry conditions.  That means no access to any of the sky islands in Arizona, including the Santa Catalinas (visible right out my back window), the Huachucas (near Sierra Vista), the Sahuaritas (location of last year’s hike up Mt Wrightson with Brett), and the Chiricahuas in southeastern Arizona.

Well, that totally blew a lot of my plans out.  Climbing these mountains is the only way to escape the heat of the desert floor.  I was planning to go hiking, tent camping, exploring, and sightseeing up in most of those mountain ranges this June, but the closure order is absolute: no travel at all, not even stopping at the roadside.  Fines up to $5000.  So I’ve been stuck here and we’ve had a spectacularly warm June, with several days above 110 degrees.  It’s not great weather for much of any outdoor activity.

Paradoxically, a lot of Arizonans don’t use their swimming pools this time of year. Reason?  The water is too hot.  So the preferred form of recreation this summer seems to be going shopping, especially to malls where you can walk around in air conditioning.

I do like the relative quiet of summer.  There’s always a noticeable drop in population when the snowbirds leave in March or April and then again when some of the students leave the University.  It’s a great time to get things done, because you rarely have to wait in line or get slowed by traffic.  On the other hand, there’s not much going on sometimes.  Outdoor fiestas, a great and common feature of Tucson in the winter, are virtually absent.  Who wants to listen to music, dance, eat, and shop crafts when it’s a blazing 108 degrees?

Even the Fourth of July is sort of a muted event. Most of the city appeared to be in hibernation, with hardly any cars on the major roads, and clerks drowsing in the quiet of empty stores. The traditional backyard barbecue with fireworks and s’mores and mosquitoes that we’ve come to expect up in the north is much less appealing here.  I didn’t smell a single grill on Monday.

Well, things are about to change with the arrival of TSP (Temporary Single Parent, aka Eleanor) tomorrow.  She’s flying into Phoenix and so begins our Second Annual Three-Week Childless Couple Event.  I plan to make the most of it.  You long-time readers know that we love to travel with Emma and have done so extensively for about eight years.  But for these three weeks, we get to do the things that adults like, especially things that would bore or gross out a child.  In fact, we’ll probably focus exclusively on things that we couldn’t or wouldn’t do with Emma.  I don’t know if that includes bungee jumping, eating caviar on toast, betting it all on red in Las Vegas, cooking in the nude, or just cruising aimlessly through the southwest, but we’ll certainly consider all those possibilities.

Sadly, if we do some of those things, I probably won’t blog them.  There does have to be a certain amount of discretion here.  I’ll post the PG-13 version, so you’ll hear about the milkshakes and the street hikes.  I can assure you that there will be at least one or two roadtrips, too.  You’ll just have to use your imagination for the rest.