Tag Archives: desert

Cycling Home in the Desert Summer

bicycle commuterI wrote the most beautiful poem yesterday on my bicycle ride home from work. Something about cauldrons of bubbling tar and heat scorching your ankles in the shade. But, as typically happens when you physically exert yourself in 108* heat, my brain turned to mush somewhere prior to half-way home, and I can’t remember much besides the fact that I was still composing this epic when I arrived home.

summer sunTucson summers are oppressive.

mesquite in the sunlightToday I peddled home in the first monsoon of the season, tepid desert raindrops dripping down my elbows instead of sweat. My sunglasses were to keep the rain out of my eyes instead of the sun. I wove through puddles, spitting water and dirt and grit behind me, grinning from ear to ear after having turned down no fewer than 8 offers to drive me home. Are you kidding me? Pass up the first monsoon of the season? No way.

It was just the beginnings of the storm. The rain wasn’t very thick and it didn’t start thundering until I was almost home. I arrived home not-very-drenched and much cooler than yesterday.

The desert does some strange things in the summer. The clouds will appear out of nowhere, billowing across the mountains and spreading over the city, black and rolling. The thunder will rumble and the rain will start, rarely with warning drops. The temperature will drop 30 degrees in 15 minutes.

You can see the very tips of the mountains from our backyard.

You can see the very tips of the mountains from our backyard.

“High humidity” here is approximately what I used to get in the “dry” winter, and the moisture doesn’t hang around long, sizzling and evaporating off pavement that has been baked in the sun all day. Unsurprisingly, a little bit of water doesn’t dissipate all that stored heat very quickly. But the air does cool down, and I had the odd experience of being in two worlds at once, my head in the cooled air above and my feet in the steam rising off the road.

I expect the grass (weeds) will start growing in my yard again and the cactus will puff up and the flowers will pop out for another round. The ground is still so hard I don’t know how anything grows in it, but grow it does – through the cracks in the sidewalk and around the river rock lining the pathway and across the hard-packed dirt of my backyard.

sad cactusI have my window open, something I haven’t been able to do for a month or so. I tend to push it to the very last moment before I close the windows, pull the shades and the curtains, and wait for the sun to go down. Lately it doesn’t cool down until 3 or 4 am, so they stay shut and the a/c stays on. But tonight I have the windows open, breeze blowing through, birds chirping in the trees, thunder rumbling in the distance, and the smell of the desert after the rain drifting through the whole house.

Tucson summers are beautiful.

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Desert Wildflowers

Spring has been around for a while here in Tucson, and we’re starting to get into our 90° days. Which means summer’s 100+ are coming around the corner, and I’ll be hunkering down in the shade with a cold drink and a red face.

But until then, here are some pretty wildflower pictures from around Tucson from the past few weeks!

Daffodils are not native to Tucson - but a brave soul planted some in the desert.

Daffodils are not native to Tucson – but a brave soul planted some in the desert.

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Wildflowers growing among the rocks

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Blossoming ground cover

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My City bike – free for riding around to meetings during work!

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Happy Chickens at a local elementary school

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Lazy days in the hammock

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Arizona Desert Museum

The last Sunday adventure that we went on was to the Arizona Desert Museum. It’s pretty cool because the museum is somewhere between a hike through the desert and a zoo. There are many different desert animals there, along with displays of Arizona’s geological history and how deserts work, but you often feel like you are on a desert path with nothing around.

Desert Mountains

Desert Mountains on the drive to the museum

Prairie Dogs

Prairie Dogs!

Nate Saguaro

Nate with a Saguaro – the things you take pictures of when you’re not “from” the desert

Saretta Saguaro

My turn with the cactus

dead cactus

What a saguaro looks like when it’s dead

Javelinas

Javelinas

Water Fountain

They have water fountains all over the museum. Can’t let that dehydration sneak up on you. We took our water bottles, but it was nice to be able to fill them up.

Red Dirt

Red dirt in the desert

Play

He wanted to play!

My new favorite cactus

My new favorite cactus – too bad I forgot what it’s called already

Hummingbird

In the hummingbird aviary

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Finding Fall: a Corn Maze and a Pumpkin Patch

The weekend before last (the same weekend we had a Friday night picnic) we went in search of some fall activities. I was pleasantly surprised to find that Tucson has pumpkin patches and corn mazes too! I don’t know why I thought it wouldn’t be “a thing” here; I guess I thought maybe pumpkins wouldn’t be ripe at the correct time or something. There are also some apple orchards, but they are farther away so we didn’t go to them. Instead, we picked a farm about an hour outside of Tucson that had a pumpkin patch and a corn maze and started our first journey outside of Tucson by car.

I was amazed to realize that we’ve been in Tucson for 4 months and we have never driven out of Tucson (well, the Tucson Metropolitan Area, if you can call it that). We have not ventured into the desert, to the mountains, or even to Phoenix! Every time we leave, it is by plane. So we filled some extra water bottles (isn’t that what you’re supposed to do when you drive in the desert?) and began our journey.

Into The Desert

The drive was really pretty. The Sonoran Desert is actually quite green. I spent the whole drive looking around and saying “This is so cool! Look! There are trees, and cactus, and you can see mountains everywhere!” I’m sure that was great for Nate, who was trying to, you know, drive.

We really weren’t sure what to expect when we got there. We had never been to a corn maze in the desert. Would it be like the ones in Ohio? Would it all feel off? At first we thought it was going to be weird because almost everyone else there had kids. But we were quickly so lost in the corn maze that it didn’t matter.

Corn!

Corn! Just like in the Midwest!

WHAT HAPPENED was that we entered the corn maze and almost immediately got on what we can only assume was the emergency access path that went around the perimeter of the corn maze. We knew we were in trouble pretty quickly because the path was straight and there were no other paths branching off of it. So we walked all the way around the corn maze, in the heat, with the sun beating down on us, and THEN got into the maze and started from the other end. Don’t worry, we brought our water bottles so we didn’t die of dehydration.

Sun

We didn’t buy a map for a dollar at the ticket booth because we figured “how hard can this be?!?!” See how well that worked out for us? But once we were actually inside the maze, we did find all of the numbers to punch on our little punch cards fairly easily. Except for the last two, which were supposed to be the first two, and by that time we were hot and tired and hungry and thirsty and maybe a little bit cranky.

Pathways in the Corn

Pathways in the Corn

But it was fun! It was fun getting lost in the corn and giggling when we figured out what had happened. It was fun taking separate paths that always came together again. It was fun trying to be the first one to spot the next marker.

Flower

It was fun spotting the little flowers that grew in the corn.

together

We did eventually make it out of the corn maze. We had an incentive – there was kettle corn! There were some food and beverage stands, a petting zoo, a bull you could ride and get your picture taken with, and a few craft stalls.

Kettle Corn

Kettle Corn!

We didn’t get a pumpkin. One of the side effects of autumn heat is that it makes your pumpkins rot really quickly. Our neighbors carved some and they wilted within about 2 days. So we just watched as families took the tractor ride out to the pumpkin patch and came back with their big orange loot.

Pumpkin Patch

They grow them big in Arizona

And of course you can see the mountains.

Mountain Pumpkin Patch

Right next to the pumpkin patch? Cotton! Now that’s something you don’t see in Ohio!

Cotton

Tucson

Tucson in the Distance

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