Saturday, July 05, 2008


We were especially excited about our visit to Tucson. Rob spent almost 6 years living in Tucson in the 1990s, and it still holds a special place in his heart. With its stunning scenery, cultural progressivism, and plethora of outdoor activities, Tucson has grown on Carley as well.

This photo was taken without permission from this University of Arizona webpage.

Tucson is also home to Rob's brother Chris and his 9-year-old daughter Adrianna. Big thanks to Chris for letting us all crash not 1, not 2, but 3 nights! (This was the only place we stayed more than one night.)

We had a great time here, and each morning we awoke to a nice swimming pool. There was also a hot tub (left in the photo above), but with temperatures over 100 degrees, that just didn't seem too appealing.

Rowan made lots of progress in learning to swim here, and he loved getting to spend time with his sweet cousin Adrianna.

Wherever Adrianna went, so went Rowan. It was nice having him follow someone else around for a change!

Surrounded by vibrant desert and stunning mountain ranges, Tucson is a mecca of outdoor activities like hiking, camping, mountain biking and climbing. It's also a mecca of photo opportunities. The photo above was actually taken 45 minutes east of Tucson, just off Interstate Highway 10 in Texas Canyon.

This eclectic yard full of art made from scrap-metal is notorious around town, and it's located just a few blocks from a house where Rob lived 10 years ago.

Despite the 100+ degree summer heat, we made it out for a few excursions, including a stroll through the spectacular Sabino Canyon.

At the base of the canyon, this little paved trolley road follows Sabino Creek a couple of miles through rugged terrain into the heart of the Santa Catalina Mountains. It's really nice in the spring when winter runoff fills the creek with little waterfalls, swimming holes, and all kinds of wildlife. However, by July the creek was almost completely dry, so we could have left our swimsuits at home. (And yes, if you click on the photo to zoom in, you'll see that the yellow road sign depicts a person crashing a bicycle and flying over the handlebars!)

We also made a drive up the winding Mount Lemmon Highway to Windy Point, an incredible vista of the city below, surrounded by craggy outcroppings and cliffs. Up here at more than 7000 feet elevation, it was nice and breezy, and the temperature was down in the 80s.

We continued the drive up to the summit of Mt. Bigelow, at around 9000 feet, where swarms of ladybugs can be found on the ground, plants and trees. A couple of miles further up the road is Mount Lemmon, home to the southernmost ski slope in the United States, at 9157 feet elevation.

In addition to the excursions, it was a treat to meet up with several of Rob's long-time friends, including:

Peter, who recently returned from a multi-city stint managing REI stores and is probably headed back to school for another degree.

Marybeth, who's back in Tucson after stints in Seattle and Tampa, and is now a manager at the renowned fabulous restaurant Janos.

Kate and Andy, who recently returned from a year in South Africa, where Kate taught middle-schoolers on a Fulbright exchange scholarship. (The photo above was taken from Kate and Andy's excellent South Africa blog, since Rob forgot the camera when visiting with them.)

Aly and her friend Stephen. Aly's back in town after 2 years in Western Africa (The Gambia) with the Peace Corps and a few years in Portland, Oregon, getting licensed as a massage therapist.

After a very satisfying couple of days relaxing and catching up with old friends, it was time to hit the road again. Next stop: California!

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Wednesday, July 02, 2008


After what seemed like endless hours chugging along I-10 across the barren West Texas desert, we pulled into a little oasis.

Balmorhea State Park is a small park with a giant spring-fed swimming pool. Built by the New Deal-era Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930s, the pool is up to 25 feet deep in spots and contains various plant life and small fish.

The nearby San Solomon Spring feeds the pool with 72-degree water year-round - very nice for swimming on a hot summer day.

"Mmmmmm, pizza!" (Pizza is Rowan's favorite these days.)

We spent the night in the campground, which was mostly adequate - except for the deep mud and giant puddles left by the afternoon's thunderstorms. Also, the neighborhood was a little bit cramped for our style - definitely not much privacy in these campsites! Nevertheless, it was nice to be in the desert, with the beautiful landscape, interesting wildlife and gorgeous sunset.

We hit the road early in the morning, before hardly any other campers had emerged. We had another long day of driving ahead to finally get out of Texas and make it to Tucson, Arizona.

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Tuesday, July 01, 2008


Austin is another one of those cities we really like visiting. It's a mid-size city with a large prestigious university, a vibrant music scene, lots of unique and affordable restaurants, and a decidely eclectic and progressive culture.

This photo was taken without permission from the Austin Wikipedia page.

Since we'd been here before, we knew just where to go to kill some time while our friend was still at work:

Barton Springs! Part of the huge Zilker Park just west of downtown, this area has all kinds of attractions, including canoeing on the nearby river. The most popular attraction is the large pool filled with spring water in the middle of Barton Creek.

Rowan got his second swim of the day. However, the water here was much cooler than the swimming pool in Houston, and he'd had enough after a few minutes.

Kina, on the other hand, loved her rare opportunity to swim after sticks thrown in the water. Thanks to the progressive Austin mindset, they've designated a dog area just downstream from the pool where people swim, and it's quite a popular spot as well.

The best part about Austin was visiting with our friend Cori, who does inspiring work with a non-profit that sets up environmental education camping trips for teenagers in Austin's public schools. We loved hearing stories from some of her camping trips! Not only that, she also makes hula hoops! Big thanks to Cori for giving up her bed and sleeping on the couch so we could stay at her house, and also thanks for the hoops!

After 3 nights of staying with friends in cities, it was on to the wide-open desert of West Texas.

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Monday, June 30, 2008


Houston is a giant city - 4th largest in the U.S. It's the hub of the oil industry and only a few hours from the border, so millionaires and Mexican restaurants abound.

This photo was taken without permission from the Houston Wikipedia page.

Houston is Oilman country, and this "Nobama - Drill Here, Drill Now" pickup truck that passed us characterizes the prevailing ideology. Not surprisingly, you have to drive past dozens of miles of petroleum refineries and chemical plants to get there from the direction we came.

So what brought us to Houston? A visit with Carisa and Clay, and their daughter Abby! Carisa is one of Carley's good friends from High School, and it's always great to catch up with her.

Dinner at Lupe Tortilla was superb, with tasty margaritas, excellent fajitas, outdoor seating...

...and a cool sandbox playground for the kids!

At 2 years old, Abby is quite a character - endlessly charming and impressive. Rowan was completely smitten, and was still saying her name at the end of our trip 3 weeks later.

Abby can even play the harmonica!

Abby was happy to share her toys and even her bath with Rowan.

The next morning a dip in the neighbor's pool was delightfully refreshing... was a session in Clay and Carisa's legendary massage chair.

"Until we meet again...a kiss!"

On to Austin, Texas

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Sunday, June 29, 2008


Our first stop was the Crescent City, one of our favorite places to visit. With it's cultural gumbo and musical traditions, it always stirs the imagination and evokes memories of action-packed visits past.

This photo was taken without permission from the New Orleans Wikipedia page.

Special thanks to our friend Denise, who closed her cats in the back part of the house so she could put all of us us up for the night - dog and all.

Since we've been to New Orleans several times, we completely skipped the touristy French Quarter. After a long day of driving, it was nice to go for a stroll at "The Fly", along the levees of the Mississippi River, in the giant Audobon Park (named after the guy in the 1800s who painted and cataloged all the birds in North America).

After sitting in the car all day, "stroll" was a little too slow for Rowan, who was wound up and ready to run.

Denise lives Uptown in a vibrant neighborhood just off of Magazine Street, with all kinds of restaurants, coffee shops, art galleries and shopping just blocks away. Here we had an excellent dinner at a highly-rated, campy (beer bottles come in a little paper sack!) but delicious new restaurant called Ignatius.

At Ignatius we met up with our friend Cathy (sorry, we spaced on getting any photos with Cathy!), and after dinner, Cathy and Rob headed out to the legendary music club, Tipitina's.

This photo of Tipitina's was taken without permission from the Tip's Wikipedia page.

Tipitina's was named after a song by local piano legend Professor Longhair, and this bust as well as other prominent "Fess" images adorn the interior.

The performers this evening were a mish-mash of local hotshots playing in celebration of Johnny Vidacovich's birthday. (on drums above) Like many New Orleans musicians, Johnny's musical talent and innovative style have earned him a big name among music afficiondos, but he stays about as far from commercial mainstream as possible, playing variations of funk/jazz/rock in collaborations with other local virtuosos.

Joining Vidacovich was June Yamagishi on guitar (from Papa Grows Funk) and Anders Osborne on guitar and vocals.

With one of Rob's favorites, Robert Walter (of Greyboy Allstars and 20th Congress) on organ, the show was full of funky soul, excellent grooves and hair-raising solos.

After a quintessential night in New Orleans, it was time to turn west and head on out to the giant state of Texas. Next stop: Houston

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