Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Well, Color Me Arizona

We arrived in a mercifully warmer Tucson, Arizona this day and promptly colored in the new state for the Visited States map on the blog dashboard. It was a beautiful and easy drive. Felt as though driving from New Mexico to Arizona was all down hill. There were long stretches of many miles where I never put my foot on the accelerator at all. Coasting is good for fuel mileage! We joked that if we didn't need the power to the steering and the brakes we could have just "shut 'er down" and saved even bigger.

At a rest stop near the border between the two states, we pulled into a trucker slip next to this BIG RIG. It seemed both a bit funny AND a touch adorable that this SMART CAR WITH TOAD had the "attitude" that it needed to pull in with the big boys. The driver told me his "rig" was getting over 40 miles per gallon. You go, boy! No way can we hold a torch to that level of economy. True, we do have a bit more room to move around and store belongings. But when it comes to turning heads at the truck stop, the hands down winner goes to BIG BLUE here! And no, it's not a PhotoShop con job- it's the real deal....

Who can identify these berries, seen on a tree at the truck stop above ? No leaves on the tree to help with the ID and it's a species I have no familiarity with. Talk about a seasonally correct decor!

This spectacular landscape was not a special stop- just part of the Arizona rest stop referred to above. These trees are beautifully manicured Mesquite. There were only a couple magazines that I can recall being part and parcel of our household when I was a kid. One was National Geographic. That's still what I pick up in the doctor's office to this day. And the other was Arizona Highways. Now if I'm being honest, I can't say I recall reading with great intensity the articles in that magazine. But the pictures were ahead of their time beautiful, and many of those images are still in my mind's eye. Only a few hours in the state and I can see why that magazine did such a good job - they obviously had a lot of good raw material to work with.

And this is the RV park at Rincon West in Tucson. 1100 sites! Yikes! At this park you really NEED the map they give you for the park when you check in. Even a GPS is helpful inside the park. What a beautifully manicured garden park this is. You can see below that rigs are parked in a "square" around a courtyard of sorts. I haven't seen much evidence of grass elsewhere in Arizona so far, but the grass here is perfect. The desert style gardens throughout the park are terrific. It's not really busy here yet so they are letting us keep the car at the adjacent site. We have our very own Mesquite tree- two of them actually. Views of the mountains from the site. The exploration begins tomorrow. So far, so good!

While I haven't tried to get any airplane pictures yet, I should note that we are near the airport and at times during the day we have been in the flight path of landing planes, both commercial and military. Surprisingly it isn't very noisy though. And some of those planes are magnificent.

Lots of people who follow the blog send us tips from time to time. Quite a few of them are in regards to where to have an interesting meal out in a particular place that they are familiar with. Suggestions are always welcome; they help us learn as we go. I thought I would talk just a bit about our "philosophy" in this area. We don't eat out very often - hardly at all in fact. When we do, it's usually a special treat or occasion....or because we are on the run and didn't have the time to fix something ourselves, or maybe just because we think it will make good copy for the blog, like tackling a 9 pound lobster in New Brunswick. But what we really enjoy is learning what ingredients, fresh or otherwise contribute to the cuisine of the area. Then when we shop, we pick and choose what looks good and try to prepare our own meal with area specialties. I help however occasionally, with the actual cooking because Marilyn is a great cook. Chef MJ. She has perfected many a dish in many a genre. Compared to her meals, many restaurants (not all, but many) pale in comparison. I am most productive in the areas of dehydrating, smoking, jerking, and grilling - from drying rose hips for tea to jerking game or fish or specialty meats, or a nice turkey leg or sausage slow roasted in the smoker, maybe even using a piece of mesquite harvested from the desrt. We use herbs we find along the way when possible and we are sure of the safety of their use. We make it fun. We try to learn something from the process. As regards economy, one can buy the best ingredients and prepare them close to perfection very effectively and far more economically than the price of a single meal out. Quality up; entertainment value of sorts; cost down. Sounds like a plan to me. But of all the dining options that we could discuss at any given time, the best meals and the best times are always shared with family and friends.

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