Southwest Roadtrip Redux:



Saquaro Ribs and Jet Trail


Ostriches Wait for Us Under Picacho Peak


Curious Ostrich


Excuse Me While I Lick The Sky


Squeezing Mt. Lemmon from the Ashes


Airplane Graveyard


Max and Ginny Dance to Nan Vernon's Moon River



Max and Ginny Take the Cake


Baby Ferns and Manzanita Trunk


Self-Timer Malfunction

> Leg 1. Red Meat Wedding 

Leg 2: Southwest Roadtrip Music: reviews of new Nick Cave and Tom Waits

Leg 3: Native American Graffiti

Leg 4: Turkey Dancing 


Phoenix to Tucson, November 19-21, 2004

Dťjŗ vu. 

Last time I was in Tucson was when Gore was facing off against Bush and I was staying at some nondescript hotel where the GOP were also staked out in the lobby, at first solemn and drunk, but when the tables turned at 3 a.m. they woke me up with their grand old hooting and hollering. Four years under the Bush regime and here we were, back in the Red state of Arizona, with another four years to go. It had been even longer for Jessósince we moved out to New York. Our excuse (like we needed one) was the wedding of our friends Ginny and Max Cannon (of Red Meat fame), and then to perform the Turkey Dance in New Mexico. 

We landed at Phoenix Sky Harbor just because we liked the name. There wasnít much to revisit in Phoenix besides the Long John Silverís where Jess had her first job. Even in a big city like Phoenix, the differences between New York City and most of the rest of the country are readily apparent. Most of the people you come across can be generalized into two categories: 

1. The Scared  

2. The Scary

And maybe itís just me, but the scary people seem much scarier outside of New York, more volatile and unpredictable. Maybe itís because of the consistent and close contact people have in NY. Take dogs: In NYC, you can reach down and pet any dog because you just assume if itís on the streets of Gotham they wonít bite and are desensitized (for better or worse) to any sudden sounds and surprises; whereas in the rest of the country you donít know what a dog will do because they donít have as much contact with strangers or you donít know what their owners have trained them to doóespecially a pit bull on a tethered leash belonging to some crystal-methed-out trustafarian looking like a Mad Max Road Warrior, wearing dirty black clothes in the desert. Scary. And the other type is the soccer moms and dads who live in fear of these scary people. Regardless of whether they are scared or scary, you will usually find both types driving to WalMart or to the mall in comically big trucks or SUVs.

We stopped at Picacho peak on the way down to Tucson and hiked around in the desert taking pictures and appreciating the open space. Then we stopped at the Rooster Cogburn Ostrich Ranch. Last time we stopped to check out the ostriches, I probably didnít appreciate them enough as I had just finished running the Phoenix marathon (see the cliff notes) and was barely able to walk, let alone defend myself from the sea of pecking heads.
They were still there, dinosaurs that never died, running up to the fence when they saw our car coming, heads protruding and swiveling against the backdrop of Picacho peak. Definitely in the #2, Scary category.

Scary maybe, but ostriches are funny creatures. They seem to have survived unscathed because of their downright belligerent disposition. A look at their scientific name, Struthio Camelus, is a testament to how they defy categorization. It literally means ďSparrow CamelĒ. 

Rooster Cogburn had also added some mangy deer since we we were last here. And to think that this ostrich and deer meat will end up on somebodyís plate... A one-egg omelet large enough to feed a family is hard to pass up though. I settled for an original trucker hat just to support the cause of jolly cowboys throttling ostriches.

Onward to Tucson. 

We arrived just after sunset and drove around visiting our old haunts and all the different houses we had lived in, and saw the changes they had made to the university. For the most part, its still a sprawl of identical strip malls with a Circle K on every corner. And of course we hit up La Parilla Suiza. We have considered taking a trip to Tucson just for La Parilla Suiza. You just canít even come close to this in NYC, i.e. real Mexican food. You also canít come close to the beauts hanging out at the bar while we were waiting for our table, letting loose and singing along to zombie Mariachis doing La Bamba over and over. One guy with a mullet was going so nuts that food and/or beverage was coming out of his mouth while he was singing, or rather, grunting like a crazed caveman that had discovered tequila for the first time at the age of 35. We were also watching the Pistons-Pacers game up until a minute before the infamous brawl started, when we were called to our table. 

We gorged. 

Queso fundido and grilled green onions, guacamole and three different salsas as an appetizer. I had enchiladas suizas with charro beans. Unbelievable. To prep her stomach for thanksgiving, Jess even broke our meat fast to eat chicken pechuga (the last time we ate land dwelling meat was Beef in the Bush of Costa Rica). And the prices are jaw-dropping compared to NY standardsójust a Margarita will run you $10 in NYC, but we got a Margarita, Negra Modelo and bowl of guacamole and chips for $10! And the guacamole is better than the guac at Rosaís Mexicana, which will run you $28 for the same portion. We couldnít help ourselves and over-indulged. The rest of the night we spent recovering at the Radisson in a hot tub under stars you can actually see, and then in a room that was three times as big as our NY apartment. 

The next morning we woke up early and drove up Mt. Lemmon. Itís been over a year since the devastating fire, but it was still charred and barren, beautiful in an eerie way, the granite outcrops more exposed. The highway is all ripped up around Windy Point. We were there early and there wasnít a single climber and it was a clear and brilliant morning, so climbing must have waned in popularity. But just as we were leaving, we ran into Ben Burnham coming down the trail like some sort of old Billy Goat sage of Windy Point, and when I told him I moved to New York City, he told me I must have rocks in my head. Well, maybe I do, but if the rocks are in your head, then they are as a good as real, and at least I don't have bolts holding my head together

We headed back down on our whirlwind tour of Tucson before the afternoon wedding, actually the Tour de Tucson bike race was going on, which hindered us in getting around town and out to Gates Pass. We ended up down at the airplane graveyard, because of all the years we had lived in Tucson, this was one thing we had never really seen outside of driving by it--thousands of junked planes placed on a symmetric grid to die. All I could think about was all of our wasted tax money.

After laying around by the pool and cleaning up, we headed out to Tanque Verde Ranch for the wedding. We still hadnít even seen Ginny and Max, and they were so busy getting ready that we didnít see them until they were coming down the aisle and saying their I doís. Jack V also came out from NY and for some reason there were many other NYers there--our table was all Gothamites (a smart wedding plannerís doing Iím sure). A good time was had all around and it was a classy wedding, complete with the sweet aroma of creosote and horseshit in the air (when they say ďranch,Ē dude, they mean it) and a beautiful sunset over Tanque Verde Ridge. And of course the requisite sarcastic wedding dance self-mockeries had us in stitches. 

We had very little face time with Max and Ginny so we met for brunch the next morning, along with a dozen other out of town folks, so we still had little face time until everyone parted after brunch and we hung out with Max and Ginny in the parking lot of Marie Callender's, and it was just like the good old daysóthe prolonged good-byes because Max has a funny story, anecdote or joke about everything under the sun. They are the same as they ever were, a great couple that finally tied the knot. Here, here!

We got a late start out of Tucson, but managed to get through the Dragoons and the Chiricahuas while it was still light out, of course the sunset was brilliant, and the sky was the biggest thing in the world. We hit Las Cruces around 8 p.m. and it was dead. The only place we could find open was La Posta in the old part of town (Old Mesilla), which was pretty damn good. Green Chile enchiladas. 


Crashed at a Motel 6 and watched the Wizard of Oz.



Green Slabs, Mt. Lemmon Highway

Nosejob Casualties


Cholla, Scaffold and Dead Plane


Onward to:

> Leg 2: Southwest Roadtrip Music: reviews of new Nick Cave and Tom Waits

> Leg 3: Native American Graffiti

> Leg 4: Turkey Dancing

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© 2004 by Derek White and Jessica Fanzo