- Where We Started: Green Valley, Ariz.
- Where We Ended: Green Valley, Ariz.
- Miles Driven: 0 (7,658 total). While we did a lot of sightseeing on Thursday, my uncle did all the driving, giving me a happy break. In order to keep the mileage tracking simple -- i.e., looking at the odometer -- we're not going to count any of Thursday's miles.
- New States: None.
- States So Far: 15 (Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Florida, Mississippi, Louisiana, Tennessee, Arkansas, Missouri, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona)
THE DAY'S HIGHLIGHTS
We spent the day with my Uncle Vinnie and Aunt Theresa, who are among the few people on earth who have logged more road miles than Joan and me. Like me, Vinnie loves to drive and explore back roads. While we've explored every corner of the U.S., Vinnie has done drives like this in dozens of foreign -- and sometimes dangerous -- countries. His stories make Fred & Hank Mark America sound like amateur hour. After all, we've never been charged by an angry elephant on a safari, or been forced to produce a knife to get a cab driver to the location requested by the passenger. If Vinnie and Theresa ever start their own travel blog, I'm shutting this one down immediately.
We had mentioned to Vinnie and Theresa our desire to go to Tombstone, Ariz., the site of the 1881 Gunfight at the OK Corral, so we set off in their Tahoe to start the day there. Instead of the boring highway route, Vinnie took us down the unpaved Box Canyon Road, where we checked out the various types of cacti and the gorgeous landscape. If there's one piece of travel advice I would give anyone reading this, it's to always try and find non-interstate ways of reaching places. Unless you're in west Texas. In that case, find the interstate. Immediately.
Tombstone is really just a tourist trap at this point, but I have no issue with that. If the best chance of keeping the town in good financial shape is to go kitschy, I say go for it. There's a three-block stretch of Allen Street that's blocked off to all traffic except stagecoaches, and lots of folks in period clothing to set the tone and try and sell you on whatever tour they're hawking.
We had a nice time in Tombstone, though if you ever go, don't budget a whole lot of time. The town is also full of the anachronisms that I always find humorous.
Fred and Hank were able to get out of the car and tour Tombstone with us. It's a dog-friendly place, with water bowls all over town. We tried to get them into one of those old Western photos, but couldn't find a photographer who was available while we were there.
Fred wonders why he's standing in front of a pirate in Tombstone, Ariz. Is there some part of Tombstone's history that we're missing? The fact that Tombstone is nowhere near water may explain this pirate's demise.
After lunch, Vinnie decided to take on a another dirt-road drive in the Tahoe. We took a 25-mile ride between Benson, Ariz. and Tuscon, which featured a number of interesting sites along the way. The first one: The most oddly placed yacht club in history.
Yes, on a dirt road in the middle of nowhere, mere hundreds of miles away from any open water stands the San Pedro Yacht Club. I can find no information about this club on the Web. This fact did not surprise me. It would have been interesting to have driven up to the small structure located here to find out what that was all about, but it struck me as the kind of thing someone does and is never seen again. Maybe the club was founded by the pirate Fred posed with in Tombstone.
We kept bouncing down Redington Road, and soon came across a rare crested saguaro cactus. These is still dispute in the scientific community about what causes these; some say its a genetic mutation, others say it's due to a lightning strike or freeze damage. Either way, they're striking, and even in cactus-filled Saguaro National Park, there are only 25 of these crested cacti.
Farther down Redington Road, we visited a fascinating Western graveyard that -- based on death dates -- seems to be still be in limited use, but for the most part, has been abandoned.
Throughout this ride, the dogs got some off-leash time outside of the car, and were generally obedient. At one point, Hank crossed under a barbed-wire fence, but a treat lured him back out. At other times, scents were more powerful than our commands. But, sometimes, they listened.
We reached Tucson -- the end of the dirt road -- around dinnertime, and after chowing down on some excellent pizza, Vinnie and Theresa dropped us back at the hotel and we got some much-needed sleep.
FHMA PROGRAMMING NOTE
- You may be wondering why you're getting a second update today. The most observant readers may have realized we were a day behind, though I'm guessing many of you did not. The posting of this update now has us completely up to date. We are now back in real time. Thanks for your patience as we tried to get back up to speed.
- Tombstone is filled with cowboys in period grab hawking various shows that might entertain you and will definitely deplete your wallet of some cash. My favorite: The guy hawking the comedy gunfight. Because, really, what's funnier than a gunfight? But it wasn't that which got my attention. It was when he added mini golf as another attraction. Yes, comedy gunfight AND mini golf. Now I've always heard Wyatt Earp was a quite talented with a putter -- he had the windmill down pat -- but c'mon. By the way, this pitch horrified Joan even more because she HATES mini golf. With a passion. Needless to say, we didn't play.
- Sign of the Day: Above the door at the restaurant where we had lunch. Gotta love the direct approach.
- Random iPod shuffle song of the day: "She's a Woman," by Jeff Beck. Back when I was in high school, I loved Jeff Beck's first two all-instrumental albums, "Blow by Blow" and "Wired." I won't lie, both these albums have aged poorly, though some songs -- like "Freeway Jam" -- have held up. "She's a Woman" is the cover of a Beatles song and definitely has not held up. Trivia note: Beck later made another all-instrumental album called "There and Back," which has held up better, and one of the songs off that album -- "The Pump" -- is featured prominently in the film "Risky Business."
- Most-Played Albums: Since we were in Vinnie's car all day, I have nothing to add here. But we'll be in the car a lot today, so check here tomorrow.
- Lunch: The OK Cafe, Tombstone, Ariz.: Tombstone is one of those towns where the name of every restaurant plays off the famous gunfight that occurred there. Having said that, I'm not sure using "OK" in your restaurant name shows much confidence. Would you go to the "OK Doctors"? Anyway, my buffalo burger was good, but Joan was unimpressed with her BLT (hey, it's a BLT, what do you expect?). Jim Nutrition Rating: 2 stars (out of 5). Buffalo burgers are leaner, but because I added fries, that small nutritional advance was quickly repelled. Restaurant Rating: 2.5 stars (out of 5). Hey, so the name was right after all. In fairness, we got there right before closing, and they were nice enough to serve us, and that most definitely counts for something.
- Dinner: Costco, Tucson, Ariz.: Yes, Costco. Vinnie and Theresa needed to stop there anyway, and assured us they had excellent pizza. And while we've eaten a fair amount of unhealthy food on this trip, I can't recall any time we've had pizza, so we were excited. And, you know, it was really good. It was very cheesy, which I like, and with excellent crust. A surprise, to be sure. Jim Nutrition Rating: 2 stars (out of 5). Hey, at least I didn't have fries. Restaurant Rating: 3.5 stars (out of 5).
- We've made two stops in Tucson at Eegee's, a great local haunt which has great ice slushees, which they call "eegees." We made a few stops here back in 2003, and while I was always a fan of the lemon eegee, Alyson Hurt's recommendation of half-lemon, half-strawberry has been a revelation. We're planning on making one more stop before heading north.
- Jim Weigh-In: Believe it or not, I only gained a half-pound over the past 10 days. Despite my horrific eating, we're getting a lot more exercise than when at home, and the lack of beer-drinking can only be helping. I have now put on two pounds on this trip. It's amazing it that little.
- The other attraction at Costco was the other diners. While we were eating, an odd scene unfolded: A woman rolled her cart into the indoor dining area. Among the items in the cart were a roasted chicken (cooked and ready to go), a big bag of romaine lettuce, a container of sushi and some uncooked baking potatoes. Also in the cart was her kid, who looked around five. While she was talking on her cell phone, her son was desperately trying to get at the chicken. Still on the phone, the mother pulled out the roasted chicken and put it in front of him. The kid immediately attempted to break off a leg, but was unsuccessful. The kid became increasingly agitated. But since mom is still on the phone, she doesn't seem to notice. Instead, she gets herself a plate, opens a Costco-sized bag of lettuce and fixes herself a plate of lettuce. Lacking any dressing, she then wanders over to the condiment bar and uses a combination of ketchup and relish as her dressing. Meanwhile, the boy finally gets a leg off the chicken and proceeds to eat only the skin. The mother -- yes, still on phone -- then peels as much skin off of the chicken as she can and shoves it in the child's mouth. I have no idea whether we were witnessing a family in crisis or just bad parenting, but it was a bizarre scene.
- Quality Inn Green Valley, Green Valley, Ariz.: We stayed a second night here, and there's not much to add, other than Joan is laundering like a crazy person. Hotel rating: 4 stars (out of 5).
COMMENT OF THE DAY
- Today: Through eastern Arizona and toward Santa Fe, N.M.
- Tomorrow: Santa Fe.
- The Day After Tomorrow: More Santa Fe, and Four Corners.
BONUS BEAGLE PHOTOS
Hank at an overlook near Tucson. Hank, despite having lots of room all the way in the back of Vinnie and Theresa's Tahoe, made a few leaps over the back seat to join the humans. This little guy has some hops.
They say owners eventually start to look like their dogs. I have always had beagle ears and a beagle appetite, of course. Anyway, this is me taking a photo of Fred, who's behind the dusty window of the Tahoe. A ghostly Hank is off on the right. (Photo by Jim. Obviously)