February 2009


Reality Check

Visions of blogging danced in my head as we started this Southwest trip. After a week I have to face reality that I can’t keep up with blogging as fully as I want – if I want any sleep. For the rest of the trip I’ll add short posts with a few pictures each day with “more” info, details and visuals coming later. Follow along and please don’t forget to check back later.

Tucson Plays – Rodeo, Golf, Baseball

Late February, it’s that time of year when Tucson gets serious about playing. The tradition of La Fiesta de los Vaqueros celebrates its 84th year in 2009 with professional rodeo and the world’s longest non-motorized parade. Schools close for two days and some businesses close to participate in the parade. The rodeo parade even has a museum.

When the event started in 1925 the Arizona Daily Sun headlined, “Cowboys are asked not to shoot up the town.”Prizes at the first rodeo parade included a 750-pound block of ice, 100 pounds of potatoes and a “Big Cactus” ham, whatever that was.

The PGA tour stops in Tucson this week with the Accenture Match Play Championship. Unlike most of the tour tourneys Match Play pits player against player each day eliminating half the field – much like the NCAA Basketball March Madness. Spectators and media from around the world are abuzz this week with Tiger Woods returning to completion after knee surgery last June. Tiger won his match Wednesday but was eliminated on Thursday. After Friday’s play all eyes are on 19-year-old Rory McIlroy from Northern Ireland. Accenture excitement continues through the final rounds on Sunday.

Major League Baseball’s spring training games started this week. The Arizona Diamondbacks, Chicago White Sox and Colorado Rockies train in Tucson. A schedule of games with other Cactus League teams continue until the end of March.

Tucson weather this week couldn’t have been better – afternoon temperatures in the 80s and clear skies with just enough evening clouds for colorful sunsets. Play on!

 

 

Is It or Isn’t It

“Voted Tucson’s best pizza for 20 years in a row,” proclaims Magpies Gourmet Pizza. Some reviews cry foul, no way is Magpies best. Wanting a change of pace this evening we decide to see what we think.

We chose “The Magpie” made with a ricotta tomato sauce, mozzarella cheese, Magpie’s own sausage, pepperoni and fresh mushrooms. The 10″ small was the right size for us to share along with a side-order sized Greek salad – which was crisp and fresh.

We went to the Magpie’s on Oracle north of Ina Road. It appeared most of their business is delivery or takeout. Television noise filled the eat-in area; we decided on one of three outdoor tables. The evening temperature was perfect and pink sunset entertained as we waited. We were told it would take about 20 minutes – this stretched to 30 or 35.

Bob says he’d grade the pizza a B, better than average; I thought it was good but no where close to exceptional. I guess the verdict is still out, is it or isn’t it the best pizza in Tucson?

Ring the Bell for Books

If you love books of any genre, listen up.

Directions:

  • singing-wind-mailboxFrom Interstate 10 in Benson, Arizona
  • Take Exit 304
  • Drive north 2.25 miles on Ocotillo Road
  • After the cattleguard turn right onto the dirt road – a Singing Wind Road sign and the distinctive mailbox marks the spot.
  • Pass through the green gate
  • Drive 1/2 mile to the ranch house
  • Wonder if you’re in the right place
  • Exit car
  • Read well-worn sign and ring the ranch bellsinging-wind-bell
  • Proceed to the front door
  • Ignore the barking dog – sounds fierce, actually the official greeter
  • Open door
  • Meet Winifred Bundy
  • Listen – and pay attention – to her detailed tour of the shelves
  • Browse and buy

I’m fairly certain our visit to Singing Wind Bookshop is the most unique book buying experience of my life. Following the sandy lane pass rusting ranch equipment we’re not at all sure we’re in the right place. Stopping in front of the ranch house we’re still leery. A barely readable sign says ring the bell and a note on the door says enter, the barking dog makes me not so sure. Bob’s hanging back in the car, having none of this.

winifred-bundyFinally getting up enough nerve to open the door I come face-to-face with Winifred Bundy. The first words out of her mouth are, “Let me give you a tour.” By tour she means a very detail explanation of how topics are arranged on the floor-to-ceiling shelves in three rooms. If you don’t pay attention you’ll miss her quips and puns. There may be a test later.

We’re on the second wall when three more customers arrive and introductions are made. I stick my head out the door and tell Bob he needs to come in – this is not to be missed. We start the tour again from the beginning. That’s okay with me because my eyes had already glazed over by the time we got to mythology. I’m not at all surprise when I later learn she has two master degrees in Library Science.

“Up above the door is finance, sometimes I think they should be in fiction,” Winifred deadpans. Turning a corner the commentary continues, “Here we have male fiction – not the US mail. There will be more puns.” Her tour is spiced with author tidbits and critiques, “Western Jewish history – very important.”

A staff member arrives to finish the tour, Win explains she has to get to Tucson for a funeral.

cowboy-reader3While one can find selections from art to zoology, books of the Southwest and Western Americana are specialties. The selection amazes. If you’ve listened to Win’s tour you’ll know where to browse for that special title you’ve been seeking. All books were new when they were put on the shelf – that may have been a long time ago. Meaning you might find some real bargains in older books. Singing Wind offers limited availability in some out-of-print materials. They’re willing to search for special requests and will take mail orders over the phone.

childrens-room1The children’s room with antique rocking chairs makes me wish there had been a place like this in my childhood.

Collectors and casual readers keep arriving. I can imagine spending most of a day among the books. The staff member says, “We have picnic tables out back, you can bring a sack lunch and spend the day.”

Singing Wind will celebrate its 35th anniversary in May 2009. Winifred Bundy has created a magical book place and is always ready to guide an interested reader through the world of the written word.

When You Go: Singing Wind Bookshop is open daily 9am – 5pm, including Sundays and most holidays. Cash and checks accepted for payment, no charge cards. To find Singing Wind just follow the directions.

New Mexico Home Cooking

With cousins in Las Cruces we like to make that an overnight destination on our way to Arizona. We offered to take the family to dinner, instead we had the perfect evening in their home. Dinner was homemade enchiladas the-twinsmade with the local chiles. I had never had enchiladas served with a fried egg on top – there’s always something to learn. The meal was perfect with the bonus of plenty of uninterrupted time for conversation and catching up. The twins entertained after dinner playing their solos from a recent competition and introducing us to Guitar Hero.

I’m sorry I can’t give everyone the address and phone number to make reservations. I know you would enjoy the evening as much as we did.

Real New Mexican Food

During an Internet search I found multiple references to Pete’s restaurant in Belen; reviewers recommending the real New Mexican cuisine. No Tex-Mex here.petes-exterior

Pete’s stands across the street from the historic Harvey House next to the busy Belen railyard.

Founded by Pete  Torres in 1949, the restaurant follows his philosophy sixty years later. Pete believed chile was basic to New Mexico. He valued authenticity – his recipes are followed closely using fresh ingredients, and consistency of what the his customers receive.

Having skipped lunch we’re eager to dig into the crunchy tortilla chips and spicy salsa – highly recommended by Bob. The chile relleno plate entices Bob and fulfills expectations with perfect crisp rellenos, rice, beans, dinner salad and sopapillas.

relleno-plate-at-petes

Pete's Chile Rellenos

The staff willingly met my request to make a substitution on the stuffed sopapilla entree. I wanted to try both the chicken and beef instead of two of the same. They came smothered with green chile and accompanied with a choice of rice or beans. Flavors were exactly what I’d looked forward to. The spiced ground beef impacts intense but well balanced flavors. I’m certain it would make a great taco. Just planning ahead to my next visit.

I evesdrop on a table of locals discussing the high quality of Pete’s burgers. No doubt they’re good but I’m sticking with traditional New Mexican.

Too full for dessert but interested in the pineapple cream pie we ordered one slice to go. The yummy bedtime snack makes us wonder why we’ve never before heard of pineapple cream pie.

We agree with Pete’s motto, “We’re not the best because we’re the oldest; we’re the oldest because we’re the best.”

When You Go: Pete’s Restaurant, 105 North 1st Street, Belen, NM, 505-864-4811.

monday-sunset

A brilliant sunset greeted our arrival in Arizona this evening. We stayed at Whitewater Draw Wildlife Area watching thousands of sandhill cranes and snow geese settle in for the evening until the sun was nearly behind the mountains. A kaleidoscope of sunset hues kept us sighing with appreciation on our westward drive toward Tombstone. Welcome to  Arizona.

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