Prickly Neighbours

I’m not a talented travel writer like my blogging buddy Sue Slaght, but here’s what we’re doing this week:

That’s Hubby mugging with our new neighbours, the saguaro cacti (also prickly pears in the foreground)

That’s Hubby mugging with our new neighbours, the saguaro cacti (also prickly pears in the foreground)

Yes, we’re on vacation this week, and it’s made me realize I don’t get out much.  It’s not that I don’t know what the outside world is like; it’s just that I kinda… forgot.

I had to laugh at myself when we got off the plane in Phoenix, Arizona.  I was harbouring a mental image and expectation of barren desert.  Which it is… outside the city.

And I was thinking Phoenix wasn’t actually much larger than Calgary… which it isn’t, until you add in the urban sprawl that includes about fourteen cities, all of them around the size of Phoenix.

So as a result of these comforting delusions I was semi-expecting an airport approximately the size of Calgary International, which, while not tiny, has lots of wide open spaces and is relatively easy to navigate.

When I got off the plane I nearly turned tail and ran back to beg them to take me somewhere less crowded.  Holy shit, there were a lot of people!

I know you seasoned travellers are laughing at me now, because Phoenix Sky Harbour is small compared to lots of other airports.  But my regular comfort zone is about two people per thousand square feet and I really prefer two people per square mile, so two people per square yard was a bit of a shock.

But I comforted myself with the knowledge that we’d be getting on the interstate freeway and heading out into the desert on our way to Tucson, so I’d soon be on the wide-open road.

Or not.

I10 from Phoenix to Tucson is not ‘the wide-open road’.  Just sayin’.  That’s what rush-hour city traffic looks like where I come from.

And I’m not really an ‘interstate’ kind of person.  I like the back roads, where I can get close to the fields and untouched places and see the indigenous plants and birds and critters.  You don’t see much of that from the interstate.  I glimpsed some big areas of saguaro cactus, but they whisked by in a blur at 75 mph.  I spotted some cotton fields, but they were blurry with speed and distance, too.

Fortunately I’ve had a chance to go out and poke around in the desert for the last couple of days.  I’ve bought my obligatory field guide, and I’ve been having fun trying to identify all the native vegetation.  I recognize the prickly pear cactus from home (it does actually grow in some areas of Alberta), but around here it looks as though it’s on steroids.

We’ve been doing the tourist thing around Tucson, seeing the Pima Air and Space Museum and the Desert Museum and the Colossal Cave so far.  The Biosphere 2 is still on a tentative list, and I’m sure there are lots of other fascinating things to see and do around here.

And my life is complete because I’ve now met a saguaro up close and personal (but not too close – I’m not crazy about cactus spines).

What’s new and exciting in your world this week?

33 thoughts on “Prickly Neighbours

  1. Ella and I spent a month in Scottsdale one week back in the late 90’s. We were staying with friends at one of these seniors’ compounds. We had no vehicle so depended on them to tour us around. Loved the desert and could have spent all my time in it. As to the seniors’ compound, as Tommy Douglas said about the Senate, “When I die please just bury me”.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Great shot of the cacti and of your hubby! Can’t see his face real clear but it does seem that he’s quite a handsome fella! Lucky girl!
    When I left home at the tender age of 18 and traveled by bus from Calif. to Louisiana, I was booked on a through route. No layovers etc. Get there right quick…they said. I was on a Greyhound mail run! All through Arizona, New Mexico and Texas I was seated in front of some old teachers on a sabbatical or something. I had running commentary for what seemed an eternity about every single cactus and cactus flower that we saw. Sand, sand and more sand. We took off road routes, seriously, and the driver left off boxes at different rural houses! After 2-3-4 hours we would return to the same town. I never wanted to see another desert or cactus again! The whole route was only to be a day and a half. I was on that bus for 3 days! Absolute truth. My folks were horrified, my fiance was worried to death, and I was in tears by the end. Talk about a chain of letters to the head offices of Greyhound! As a tourist from outside the continental U.S. I would see the finer things but as a regular citizen from here already, Never Again! LOL
    I do ho e (I’ve ordered a new keyboard) that you enjoyed your visit and had a great time. Oh, when standing by those huge cacti, did you hear any low, constant humming? I heard that someone discovered an enormous nest of bugs inside one. ((((shudder))))
    Loving the new book chart too!!


    • Oh! One more thing. I will admit that the sunrises and sunsets across the desert areas were the single most beautiful thing I have seen! If it just wasn’t for all that in between! hahaha


      • I couldn’t suppress a shudder and a wave of nausea when I read about your Greyhound ‘tour’. Back when I was kid, Greyhound offered what they called an ‘Ameripass’. I don’t know the details of how it worked, but it basically meant you could get on a bus going from or to anywhere in the continental U.S. My parents decided it was the ideal way to take a family trip because they wouldn’t have the stress of driving. Little did they know that bus travel would make me violently carsick. I seem to recall they discovered Dramamine shortly thereafter, and I don’t remember much about the rest of the trip except a blur of misery. To this day the smell of diesel mixed with the horrible deodorizers they use to clean buses will make me instantly queasy.

        I did managed to briefly overcome my antipathy to buses back when I was in my 20s and it was a cheap way to travel, but I swore off buses permanently the time I got stuck on a milk run like the one you described. I stumbled off the bus in Winnipeg after riding for 20 hours (I usually drive the same route in 12). I staggered up to the desk, cashed in my return ticket, and went down the street to book a flight back, not even caring how much it cost. That was the end of bus travel for me.

        I’ve been enjoying the desert scenery, but I’m very glad I get to control how much of it I have to experience!


  3. Love the huge catuses! Or is it cacti? I’ve been to Arizona once (and through it another time), but can’t remember which city we went to, we stayed with some friends, I think it was Tucson. I grew up in London so I can handle crowds, but now I live in a small village and so prefer not to!

    Liked by 1 person

    • That is so COOL! I didn’t realize how old those big guys really are – now I’ll enjoy the saguaro “forests” even more. We were actually almost at Old Tucson, but we turned and went north on Kinney Road to the Desert Museum instead. Guess we’ll have to go back that way and check it out. I don’t have a problem with that – it’s a beautiful little twisty road out there with some spectacular views. Thanks for the heads-up! 🙂

      Liked by 2 people

    • It is, isn’t it? In downtown Calgary we have what we call the +15 system: enclosed glass walkways that join buildings on the second floor above street level. It’s great if you need to get around in bad weather and don’t feel like putting on your coat, but every time I see people hurrying through them I think of gerbils in those clear plastic exercise tunnels. Combine that with the highrises blocking the sky and the sheer number of people crammed into that small area, and the whole thing gives me the creeps.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Oh my goodness Diane thank you for the compliment but aren’t you the one with a scadzillion published books? I think any English teacher would run screaming from my blog for the unorthodox idea that punctuation is a general guideline and meant to be flexible and sprinkled here and there. 🙂

    Might I suggest if you find Phoenix crowded and overwhelming to avoid Istanbul ? 🙂 Hang in there. This traveling thing might grow on you.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. You have prickly pear in Canada? Seriously?

    There was a decorative (ish) patch of prickly pear planted in the front yard of a house we used to live in. I hated the stuff. I would have dug it all up, but there was a bit too much of it and I was going to engineering school and that took about every scrap of time I had.

    Now the house belongs to a couple who have poured love–and water–into the tiny little patch. If the stuff was agave, I’d swear they were trying to put Jose Cuervo out of business. If you look real hard, you can still see a small part of one corner of the house. There’s a tunnel between the driveway and the front door. 🙂

    I’ve had prickly pear jelly and candy, and I’ve had it fried, with and without batter.

    The only good thing I can say about prickly pear is it’s better than having choya in your yard.

    I hope y’all have a great time in AZ. Don’t forget your sun screen!


    • Thanks! I never forget my sunscreen – we redheads are about as close to vampires as it’s possible to come. Ten minutes in the sun and I’m a crispy critter. It’s really ironic that I love being outdoors so much, because I can’t go out for any length of time without covering every inch of my skin.

      Prickly pear is frighteningly hardy. Our low-growing variety is native to the area around Medicine Hat, Alberta (about 3 hours from Calgary), and it’s got the most vicious spines I’ve ever seen. I swear they’re venomous – they sting like an absolute bitch. It survives the winters by dehydrating in the fall and then rejuvenating itself with spring moisture, and it makes a fine security system when planted outside basement windows. I must see if I can find some prickly pear food products while I’m here – I’d much rather eat it than kneel on it.

      And ah, yes, choya (cholla?). Hubby made its acquaintance a couple of days ago – it took a hell of a lot of work to get it unstuck from the bottom of his shoe. It was kinda fun to watch, though… 😉

      Liked by 1 person

  6. How nice that you’re getting away, and somewhere warm to boot! Well, warmer, anyway. I’m currently in New Orleans for a conference. It was 75 degrees F when I arrived and 45 degrees the next day. Ouch. So I suppose it’s colder in Arizona, too. But it’s always nice to get away. Except for the crowded airports–I hear you on that. I got to battle Chicago’s O’Hare on my way here. Good times.

    Have fun in Arizona!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks! The weather has been great here – in the low 70s and sunny, perfect for us winter-white snowbirds. We were walking along yesterday and I kept saying, “Oh, what a perfect day!”. Finally Hubby turned to me and said, “You realize it’s probably like this all winter long here…”

      I laughed because that’s when I realized I’d been subconsciously expecting it to get cold and miserable at any moment.

      And I flew to O’Hare once, but I can’t remember anything about it – I think the trauma blotted it out of my mind. Hope you enjoy your conference!

      Liked by 2 people

  7. Years ago, I went to Phoenix on business. It was my first trip out there. And the conference did something great – they took us out of the flower-carpeted hotel meeting room, and took us on horseback out to the desert. Being a homebody New Englander, I felt I was on a different planet. One of my best business trips ever.

    Liked by 1 person

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