Originally when I planned my foray from Quartzsite further into Arizona I was going to revisit Sedona but a few days before I left I learned that Rosson Crow had an exhibition opening at the Museum of Contemporary Art Tucson and changed mental course. This is definitely one of the joys of traveling alone-I relish the freedom to follow my impulses as they come and change course on a whim. I didn’t really know what to expect from Tucson. I knew it was probably the most quirky part of Arizona but let’s be honest, that’s not really necessarily saying much. But Tucson was cute with its own distinctive charm and I am quite excited to visit again in May as it will be the first stop on my giant road trip through Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, and Utah. I will have more time to poke around the western jewelry boutiques, the saguaros will be blooming, and wildflowers will be painting the hills. Given LA’s absolutely abysmal rainfall this year there will surely be no super bloom, so I am looking forward to getting Spring where and when I can find it.
I got into town at night and headed for The Shelter, a cold war/bomb shelter themed bar with great decor, including a plastic sign of JFK with flashing pearly whites. This is the kind of spot with lots of regulars and people of all ages, a true dive of the best kind. I loved it.
The next morning I woke up and had breakfast at Frank’s, an adorable little spot without pretension and with the nicest staff. The food was also delicious and cheap. (And Jovita, they welcome dogs-HAHA)
I was then on my way to Saguaro National Park. This park is two sections split up by Tucson itself. Apparently the western half known as Tucson Mountain District is more “manicured” than the wilder eastern side called Rincon Mountain District and since I knew this was going to be a short visit with the real one to come in May I opted for the western side, figuring it was that one best experienced with less time. This was the first day of the government shut down so the visitor center was closed and I couldn’t get a map, and as a result frankly didn’t know what the hell I was doing. I ended up on the graded Bajada Loop Drive and hoped it would work for a low clearance car. Thankfully it did and was actually the perfect primer for the park. It was an overcast day that threatened to pour at any moment but happily the skies waited to open up until just as I drove out of the park.
After the park it was time for the cacti I had come all the way to Tucson to see in the first place. MOCA Tucson is near the historic 4th Avenue. It’s a strip of bars, restaurants, thrift shops, and boutiques with a hippie edge that reminded me of a little Haight and Ashbury in San Francisco, though there was a mix of more hipstery-vibed restaurants and tattoo shops as well. The museum was quite small but I was happy with it. Rosson Crow’s show, “Westification” is an exploration of the American culture of manifest destiny and how we influence other countries while at the same time tend to think only of ourselves. It was truly engaging and I loved the colors.
I had no expectations for Tucson going in but came home with enough curiosity to come up with a laundry list of other places to visit when I come back: staying at Hotel Congress, Mission San Xavier del Bac, Little Toro Designs, Rollie’s Mexican Patio, Exo Roast Company, Owl’s Club, Wooden Tooth Records, the Surly Wench, and lord knows what else.