Wednesday, November 24, 2010

TuckSun AZ

When I made the flight reservations for my trip to Tucson AZ, the gal at the other end of the fone kept pronouncing it as "Tuck-Sun, Air-ee-zonia".  No matter, I got to where I need to go, and a rose by any other name and all that.
This trip came up a bit unexpectedly, and was not a vacation, nor a holiday. I have a wonderful cousin there, whose health is flagging, and so she decided to move back home to Michigan., and be closer to her family. So, after a one day layover at home (aye yup, just one day after returning from Charleston SC, really!) I was in the air and went Westward Ho!
So from a hot, wet climate, to a cool, comfy climate, to a warm, very dry climate, in the space of about three days. Yeah. Boy howdy did my body ever scream at me! I actually had laryngitis for the next four weeks! It was so dry in Tucson, that I drank over a gallon of water in two days, and hardly ever seemed to need to go to the bathroom. Every morning when I woke up, my throat was feeling burnt and parched!
Ah well, all in a week's worth of Life. My fave Aunt, Lynne had flown there separately, and she and I would pack up cousin Laurie's stuff into boxes. Then, Laurie's sis and hubby would fly out, we'd all pack up the rental truck, and Paul would drive that, as Laurie's sis , Kim, would drive Laurie and her car back.
So, you see, I don't have a lot of memories of wonderful touristy adventures during my time there. I do, however, have some fond memories of talking, and joking with Auntie Lynne, and Cousin Laurie. Laurie and I never really knew each other well at all, having only met one time prior. But hey, family is family, and you do what you can. Laurie is a woman of no indeterminate opinion, and has a very direct view of Life, and no problem sharing. So we all enjoyed the company quite well!
Nor was my trip all work and no play. for one lovely late afternoon, Auntie Lynne and I drove thru the Sagauro National Park. They have an amazing 7+ mile loop you can toddle thru, and get an idea of the landscape there. We were graced by not only a wild boar that walked across the road, but later a dramatic sunset over the mountains!
Tucson is on the floor of a valley, surrounded by five mountain ranges, at about 3,000 feet above sea level! This creates a rather unique environment, and a scene of stark beauty, and dramatic detail all around. One particular morning, as I was leaving my hotel, I saw, and HEARD two Stealth Fighters (from the nearby Air Force Base) scooting around the inside rim of the mountain ranges. It sounded like a rock concert when they make the sound go around in circles, and it was LOUD!!
I enjoyed the people of Tucson, everyone was quite friendly to me, and somehow could just tell that I was an "Out of Towner"? Especially in the Circkle K, where English was clearly not their Mother Tongue *chuckle* But I still received good, if a bit cool, service. Everyone at the hotel was very friendly and helpful, and also the restaurants seemed to have good help.
And speaking of eateries (you just knew I was gonna talk about food, didn't ya?) anytime you go to Tucson, I would highly recommend El Charro Cafe!  They have been awarded as "One of the Top 50 Plates in the Country", and I believe it! We were at the Broadway location, but heard many good things about the others, especially downtown. This, my friends is what authentic Mexican Cuisine (yes, you can put those two words together in the same sentence) is all about! Oh, and while you're either reading the link, or at the table, make sure to scan thru the history of the place! It's as amazing as the food. So our intrepid little party of Michiganders dined there on our last night together. A very enjoyable time with family that all got along (miracle) and a great eatery. The next day we all took off for the return to home trip. My aunt and I flew home to the arms of our waiting, and muchly missed spouses. And the rest of the gang toddled their way across the States, and also arrived safely.
Sometimes a trip is not really a holiday, but there's nothing that says you can't enjoy it anyways! We did some good for a family member, and in a real, physical way. Plus we all got to get to know each other a bit better, and enjoy the company as well. And so what if Tucson has no humidity? It's not like I'm ever gonna hafta live there *chuckle*

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

A Brief History of Charleston...

A long time ago, a bunch of white guys from Europe came over in smelly boats, stole the land from the native people, and then largely killed them off. Then the white guys imported a different bunch of native people from another continent, and made those people do all the really hard work. No, you won't read that in the real history books, but that pretty much sums it up. Happily, Charles Towne has never stopped trying to improve upon itself, and grown to be a true Grand Old Lady of the South.
It is impossible to walk or drive around town without bumping into some fascinating history along the way.
Barb and I always make it a point to get to know some local history wherever we journey to, and let me tell you there's plenty of it here! Just about each and every building has some historic significance. The Bureau of Architectural Review was established in 1931, and decreed that any building that is 75 years or older, cannot be torn down. So, yes, each year more buildings are added, but far more importantly, these buildings are also being restored to show their beautiful heritage.
everyone knows of the great earthquake in San Francisco, but did you know that before that, in 1886, Charleston had it's own earthquake and fire? The locals here had a clever idea to help strengthen the remaining buildings. In between the floors, they would attach bolts thru the length, and width, and secure them with nuts to tighten them up. So you see a lot of these black discs in between the floors of a lot of the property here. But in the oh oops category, years after some engineer type realized that they had all tightened the screws too much! So now, if another tembler rolls thru town, those are the buildings you really, really don't want to be in. Oh, oops.
And if you're the sort that enjoys Churches and Cathedrals, you will be in heaven here (all puns included). With about 90 different churches in Charleston, there is a wide variety of faith, and also history. You will also want to look at the link for Churches of Charleston, simply breathtaking.
But I suppose that were wondering when I would get around to the War Between the States, or the War of Aggression by the North? Yup, that's what they call the Civil War down here. And yes, they do have a rather different opinion as to it's causes than do the folks that live North of the Mason Dixon Line. Be that as it may, the opening volley of that conflict was right here in the harbor. Then towards the end of the war, when Charlestin was under seige by the Union, the very first submarine successful attack was performed by the CSS HL Hunley. It was to be a "one and done" however, as shortly after the submarine sank a war sloop, it too sunk under mysterious circumstance.
But going back before the war, you probably didn't know that Charleston was one of the most affluent cities in the State. In fact, there was far more wealth accumulated here than in New York city! This was largely due to rice plantations, and the back breaking labor done by slaves. Ironically, the slaves on the Rice Plantations were actually treated better than on other plantations, which could tend towards brutality of punishment. On a rice growing and producing facility, if you worked towards a certain daily quota, then you could even get a day off! Unheard of really. but after the end oof the war, and the slaves were freed, no one could operate the rice paddies at any where near a profit. Somehow I think that the former slaves were just fine with that.