Leaving Arizona – Some more good stuff

While Arizona has many flaws, there are some wonderful things that are worth bragging about.

The Arizona Sonora Desert Museum

Truly a wonderful place to get a good snapshot of the ecology of the desert. Well run, fabulous docents, and a great place to get a feel for the diversity of the desert.

We were members every year, and we were certain to take all our visitors to the ASDM.

The Pima Air and Space Museum

Located adjacent to the Davis Monthan AFB, the Pima Air andSpace museum is a jewel. A fabulous overview of the history of flight, and many fabulous planes (including a complete SR-71 Blackbird, worth the price of admission on its own).

A real treat that everyone enjoys.

Cafe Poca Cosa

A restaurant in downtown Tucson, it is a local favorite. We used to take all our out of town guests there. Fabulous food, made fresh every day, with a menu that changes twice a day, it is well worth the drive.

The owner, Susanna Davila, also the principal chef, loves to mingle and interact with the guests. Their bar makes terrific Margaritas, and if you are interested in a less alcoholic experience, their white sangria is fantastic.

Recommendation: Get the Plato, a mix of three of their entree’s at the Chef’s discretion, it is sure to please. No ability to pick what is on the plate (but if you have a shellfish allergy, they will accommodate you), it is the best way to get a taste of Cafe Poca Cosa.

The Musical Instrument Museum

Up to Phoenix now (actually Scottsdale), the MIM is wonderful. When I visited, I expected it to be good, but I was completely blown away.

They have assembled a huge collection of music, musical instruments, and related it to cultures and the spread of civilization.

Music is something that is innate in all of us, and it was fascinating to see the most humble of components, how they were assembled, and then to hear the music that came from it.

Truly a wondrous display, and a worthy trip! If we weren’t moving, we would definitely be annual members. It is that good.

The Butterfly Wonderland

This is a new addition. Also in Scottsdale, the butterfly wonderland is a bit out of the way. It seemed expensive, but with the AAA discount it was better.

You start with a 3D movie that explains the cycle of the Monarch butterfly. It was cool, but not great. Then there is a display of butterflies and moths in their metamorphosis. Again cool, but not overwhelming.

Then you go outside. Wow. Butterflies, Moths, in all different sizes and shapes. Vibrant colors, large, small, they were all there.

Summary

Plenty of great things to see and do in Arizona. If you should visit, I can recommend these (in addition to the standards: Grand Canyon, Lake Powell, Antelope Valley, Monument Valley).

Leaving Arizona – Part I, the good stuff

We moved to Arizona in 2003 for a job. We spent nearly 10 years in Tucson, then in 2012 moved to Chandler for another job.

In general I liked Arizona, and will miss much of what the state offers. This post is what I will miss. Some of it greatly, some of it less so, but I am headed back to a place that has equal yet different charm.

The Weather

While my wife will grumble about the brutal summers, you do get acclimated, and the mild winters are awesome. With planning and preparation you can do outdoor activities all year.

When we lived in Tucson, there was an impressive summer monsoon pattern. Brutally hot in the morning, building clouds by noon, brief but INTENSE rain in the afternoon, and then a remarkably pleasant evening.

The monsoon rains really brought out the fresh smells of the desert.

Chandler/Phoenix, not so much monsoon pattern. This leads to a more brutal summer, as there isn’t the rain to bring respite, and the monsoon storms are replaced by brutal haboob dust storms.

The Critters

Living on the edge of civilization in Tucson was always exciting. We had plenty of wildlife walking through our yard and property. Javelinas, Coyotes, a variety of snakes (venomous and non venomous), wolf spiders, tarantulas, and even our local den of gila monsters.

Our last year there, we had a nest of Cooper’s Hawks and their fledglings flying around the neighborhood. It was always exciting.

In Chandler, the closest we get are scorpions (lots of bark scorpions) and stray dogs.

The People

We were fortunate to make several good friends in Tucson. There was a very nice “homey” community there that felt great to be part of.

We also were quite involved with the local Greyhound rescue organization. Great people and great dogs.

Our neighborhood in Chandler is also full of great families and friendly people. But Phoenix is a major metropolitan area, so it has a much more detached feel to it. I will not miss Chandler too much.

The activities

I touched on this with the weather, but if you like outdoor activities, Arizona is hard to beat. Great cycling, motorcycling, hiking, shooting, it is all good.

From our house in Tucson, less than 3 miles away were trailheads with 50+ miles of great hiking.

25 miles and you are up at over 9000 feet, with a completely different climate. Go to the south, and there is Patagonia, Tombstone, and Bisbee.

The Arizona Sonora Desert Museum is a true jewel of the area, and the destination of choice for our visitors. We were members every year we were there.

And the Pima Air and Space Museum, with their complete SR-71 is a stunning attraction.

Like food? Great restaurants, and the bonus of the summer is that the population drops by the departure of the snowbirds and the students from University of Arizona. Walk into any restaurant, even on Friday or Saturday evening and be seated instantly.

Phoenix is different, but in some ways better. A bit more cosmopolitan, but we haven’t lived here long enough to really get the lay of the land.

Wrapping up

Regardless, I will miss Arizona. It is a beautiful state, it has many wonderful sites from the Grand Canyon, to the Sky Islands, from San Francisco peak to the White Mountains.

Next up, what I will not miss.

Relocating back to Silicon Valley – The Good

Hell has frozen over, and it looks like I am going to be relocating back to the Silicon Valley. I left there in 2003 to take a job in Tucson that I liked, and came to enjoy much of what Arizona offers. A couple times I flirted with going back, including a very tempting job offer.

As we head out to “preview” the south bay, I would like to take a few minutes to reflect on some of the good things there will be about returning to my childhood and early adult home.

  • Family and Friends – Since I lived in the south bay until I was 38, I still have many ties to the area. My step father, and sister still live there. My other sister lives a few hours away by car in the Sierra Nevada foothills. I also still have several friends in the area. It will be good to reconnect with them.
  • Climate and Activities – I love the outdoors and the related activities. Cycling, hiking, scenic drives are all good stress relievers for me. Tucson had great (technically challenging) hiking, but the climate was such that you were limited from May to October due to the heat. It will begreat to have redwood forests, Stevens Creek Reservoir, Fremont-Older, and other great hiking. Being an hour or less from the beach will be a huge benefit (not that I am a beach comber).
  • The Food – Tucson had the best Mexican food I have ever had. But I struggled to find good Chinese or Indian food. The one Korean restaurant was so so, and everybody’s recommendation for Italian, “Caruso’s” doesn’t even rate a sneer. I know that the Bay Area has a much wider selection, and the ethnic communities do have far better restaurants and variation. Yum. And one thing that I greatly missed is good sourdough bread. Yep, Beyond Bread did a passable sourdough, but nothing, I mean nothing compares to real crusty, chewy San Francisco sourdough. Yum.
  • Business – I am not ever planning on leaving my current job. I love it, and at heart I am an instrumentation guy. But, after the barreness of Tucson, and the better but not great employment market of Phoenix, it is reassuring to know that there will be opportunities to find new challenges should I need to. Silicon Valley remains the epicenter of much of the tech world.

There are some plusses to the move, and I will keep them in mind as I am hunting for neighborhoods, weighing commute, quality of life, and where I can realistically afford to live.

Next post: The Bad