I have been coming to Tucson for over twenty years and have never tried a Sonoran Hot Dog. Recently I have been reading Anthony Bourdain’s books, Kitchen Confidential and The Nasty Bits, in which he advocates seeking out the authentic cooking of the place you are visiting.
It was raining, unusual in Tucson, but we parked behind the cart and the tent that covered it and ordered our hot dogs with everything. It was one of the best hot dogs that I have ever eaten; even better than those at The Dog House in Albuquerque, of Breaking Bad fame.
Two hot dogs, two drinks came to $6. We ate in at picnic tables. There was one cook who turned out hot dogs in minutes, complete with hot peppers.
The hot dog wrapped in bacon and in a special bun has onions, tomatoes, salsa, mayo, mustard and cheese. The Sonoran Hot Dog is unique to Tucson with over 200 places serving them; mostly from carts or food trucks parked in vacant lots. I have discovered a few in Albuquerque, but have not tried them yet.
Well worth the trip. Now, every time we come to Tucson, a Sonoran Hot Dog will be on the menu.
On Friday, January 26th, I followed hundreds of bison being rounded up on Ted Turner’s Ladder Ranch, near Truth or Consequences, New Mexico. The tour was sponsored by Ted Turner Expeditions and was the 2nd annual Bison RoundUp. The tour part of the roundup lasted for 2 days and the bison on the 250 square mile ranch had been collected over the last several months. This was the last collection of bison and herds of 200 to 500 bison were driven into pens where they would be weighed, tagged and checked before being released.
The roundup lasted about 5 hours each day and involved 4 cowboys on horseback and 4 on ATV’s keeping the bison in line. The bison followed a truck that they mistook for a feed truck. Behind the herd, 15 of us who had signed up for the tour watched from ATV’s.
The 28 Turner Ranches are home to 51,000 bison.
The roundup is not advertised and will become an annual event. I received an e-mail invitation since we had stayed at the Sierra Grande Lodge in T or C, New Mexico, which is owned by Turner. The first class restaurant serves bison and the Lodge has natural hot springs spa tubs available to guests along with massages.
Turner Expeditions offers numerous other tours on the various ranches; all directed toward conservation and the preservation of natural habitats.
The Ladder Ranch has no paved roads, is 29 miles from T or C, and is near the Amadaros Ranch, another Turner Ranch. It is also near the NM Spaceport and Elephant Butte Lake. There are several vinyards that produce good wine. Turner’s Vermejo ranch is in Northern New Mexico, near Philmont Scout Ranch, where I first ate Bison in 1955.
The cost was $175 plus tax for a 7 hour day including driving time to the Ladder Ranch.
The guides were great and informative – they knew all about the flora and fauna on the ranch and a lot about the history.
The bison roundup is fascinating; with real cowboys and bison that are genetically pure .
In addition to bison, we saw a 40 Elk in a line and numerous birds. The ranch is a wildlife paradise and all of the ranches offer photographic expeditions.
I was told that there were about 27 bison bulls for 1500 cows, and that last year all but two of the cows had calves; however, I was unable to verify this.
And, of course, if you want to eat bison:
or, it is available at Whole Foods.
Dale Chihuly is a glass sculpture who creates large masterpieces of blown glass. I recently visited the exhibition at the New York Botanical Garden where Chihuly’s works were displayed on the grounds.
I am at a loss to understand how the glass sculptures can survive in an outdoor, park setting.
Chihuly Exhibition at New York Botanical Garden until October 29, 2017. I saw it in the Bronx. This blog is updated as it is now as the Vanderbilt Mansion in Asheville, NC.
If you get a chance, you should visit his works which are displayed around the world and visit the exhibit in the Bronx. (Closes the end of October 2017.)
Visit the Chihuly web page to learn about the sculptor and his works.
If you are in New Mexico, there are two Chihuly works in the dining hall at United World College in Montezuma, New Mexico. UWC is also interesting, located in a renovated Castle built in 1881. UWC is worth a visit and the idea of a castle in New Mexico that is more than 100 years old is something to think about.
The exhibits and the collections all seem to be in places that are interesting on their own, even without these exhibits.
In 1971 a bunch of homeless people (hippies) took possession of an abandoned military base in the center of Copenhagen, Denmark and Freetown Christiania was born.
A few years ago I visited Christiania in Copenhagen, Denmark. It has become one of the major tourist attractions in Copenhagen and home to about 600 people; and took me back to the 1960’s. Since 1971, Christiania has evolved and has become a co-op instead of a squatters’ habitat.
When I was there, there were signs warning about marijuana which was freely sold, although illegal; there were simple restaurants; there were all sorts of craft stands; and houses in various forms of construction. The organization was informal but in 2012 they voted on who could live there and had developed some form of ownership and property rights.
The hippies resisted all efforts by the government to remove them. They have entered into contracts for utilities and trash; and , have obtained not only the right to own the property, but have government loans to finance the property.
The set-up is largely like a co-op with the existing residents voting on new residents and making the rules, such as they are.
It is located a 30 minute ride or a 45 minute walk from the Central Train Station. You might still get illegal marijuana with little apparent risk from the authorities, but there may now be internal restrictions. Times are changing and hippies are growing older. Maybe they should look to medical marijuana?
It is worth a visit; especially if you grew up in the 60’s and it is going strong today. I don’t know how many of the original squatters are still there, but they would probably be in their 60’s.
It may even give you a few ideas as you grow older; and, feel the need of a delayed alternative lifestyle.
For more pictures and reasons to visit Christiania, see : Buzzfeed
Google: Christiania for up-to-date information and “alternative tours.”
I can’t help but update this blog to show you the New York Times review of the restaurant NOMA near Christinia.
If you are old, the Kindle, or a similar e-reader, is the “book” for you. It is cheap and small. You can take it with you on trips. Get an adapter if you go overseas, but it works fine. Just go to Amazon.com.
For old people, like me, the best thing is that I can adjust the print size. Have you tried to read a paperback recently with your eyes?
I was flying back from Kosovo a couple of years ago and stuck my Kindle in the pocket of my soft-sided suitcase, which I then checked. Wrong move! My Kindle got smashed and was unusable. I had to buy a new one, but I was able to download everything I had purchased from Amazon.com onto the new one at no charge. Then a few years later I was able to download everything on my I-Pad, again at no charge. However, I still use the Kindle with its large print capabilities.
Kindle books are cheaper that hardbacks. And, you can get free books and cheap books from Amazon.com.
In Albuquerque you can check out Kindle, and other e-books, for two weeks for free. I presume that most libraries have this program. And, old people whom I know frequent libraries, so…..
Your Kindle will also handle magazine subscriptions. The magazine on Kindle is better than trying to pack magazines for a trip; and, if you are like me, magazines tend to accumulate and accumulate and accumulate. Go Kindle.
It is small. See my post on geezer’s clothes for life. My kindle fits in the bag along with all those clothes.
Finally, the Kindle holds a huge number of books, both in the Cloud and on the Kindle. I keep travel books, especially about a dozen Rick Steves’ books, along with books I reread, such as Walden. My Kindle has over 500 books, including mysteries, the Complete Works of Shakespeare, Thoreau and Emerson; not to mention a half-dozen books on how to blog when you are old.
I am trying to reduce the geezer to his essence. Pretty soon I will be able to travel by Wi-Fi and my grandkids can just download me whenever they want to see me; otherwise I will exist as some sort of permalink.
On January 20, 2018 I attended the 2nd Annual Tucson Japanese Festival at the Pima Community College Downtown Campus Center on a rainy Saturday afternoon.
When I visit a town I look for events that may be unique and unusual. I am interested in something that I don’t know about and that is out of my comfort zone. The Japanese Festival was an ideal event.
Parking at Pima Community College was easy. The lines were long for food items, but worth the wait for unusual offerings, including Takoyaki Balls, (Octopus balls) which were prepared by cooking ground octopus and spices in electric Takoyaki Ball Cookers, which you can find on Amazon.com.
The Festival provided a half-day of activities including; Mochi pounding, Martial Arts, Japanese dance and Japanese flute performances.
Most large towns have unique ethnic communities and are worth visiting, and Tucson is no exception. Just Google the city and the ethnic group that you are interested in. Tucson has an active Japanese community which provides many interesting events.
Of course, if you are like me, the idea of Octopus Balls is intriguing. I went to the Japan Centre for their recipe. You can now add an Octopus Ball cooker to the small appliances that your kids will inherit, but in the meantime can prepare Octopus Balls for your friends in the “home.”
This post had to be edited to announce that Sparky’s won the Green Chile Cheeseburger Challenge at the New Mexico State Fair.
Sparky’s is the place to stop in Hatch, NM. It is just off I-25, 185 miles South of Albuquerque, NM and 38 miles North of Las Cruces, NM. The population is 1673; with 12.3% over 65. Thirty Thousand people show up on Labor Day for the Hatch Chile Festival. Hatch green chile is known throughout the Southwest and can be found in any New Mexico grocery store.
Sparky’s is a great stop if you are going from Albuquerque to Tucson and taking the Hatch-Deming by-pass to I-10. The by-pass passes huge dairy farms, a solar farm and a wind farm, not to mention cattle ranches and fields of green chile, and of course the omnipresent immigrant check-point.
Sparky’s has collected every large fast food statute that you can imagine and has placed them along the highway and around Sparky’s.
You can order the green-chile cheese burger and have it cut in half if you are old; or, even if you are not. The geezer is a big advocate of shared plates. You order/pay at the counter and find your own seat. It may be outside or next door where there is a stage, sound equipment and the largest collection of cookie jars that I have ever seen. If you are over 70, it is nostalgaville. Things you haven’t seen since the 40’s.
On Friday, Saturday and Sunday, they have bands you never heard if you are over 70, playing country and the blues. It is closed on Mon, Tue and Wed. so plan your trip carefully.
You might think that you would be out of your comfort zone at Sparky’s; but take it from the Geezer, you will feel right at home. The Geezer is an advocate of leaving your comfort zone, as long as it doesn’t hurt. Beats the usual turnpike fare.
TWO (Traveling While Old) requires food. I don’t eat in fancy restaurants; and, I am cheap and dress “old.” McDonald’s is good for the “senior coffee” and the free Wi-Fi, and there are lots of other places that you might find more interesting than fast food hangouts.
Off-the-wall alternatives are available. Here are ten to consider. Use the internet to find times and locations.
1. Hospitals: Long hours, usually healthful food, but almost always a fried option. In Albuquerque try University of New Mexico Hospitals, cafeteria.
2. Universities: They have to feed students, faculty and staff and have a variety of food and long hours. The prices are reasonable and it is fun to see what you looked like fifty years ago. You can also find cheap movies, lectures and other activities. Parking is a pain, consider the bus; many have free shuttles to free parking. Certainly out of your comfort zone.
3. Museums: The US is catching up to Europe with museum cafes and restaurants. Visit exhibits and discover special events. When you search for the museum, check for cafes and menus. Plan a meal there; and, look for unique menus and specials tied to art. It may surprise you. And, frequently they have wine.
4. Cooking Schools: Every large town has a cooking school; attend, learn something and eat what you cook. I took my 14- year-old granddaughter to Paris and the thing she seemed to like best was the cooking school. She learned to make macaroons and received a box to take home to her parents. In Paris, sign up in advance.
5. Food Trucks: You can spot them parked on vacant lots, along the street, or at shopping centers. They are fancier than the usual hot dog carts found in downtown areas. Web pages list food trucks and give you a location and time. In Albuquerque on Wednesday noon they gather at the Talin Market, in the International Zone. The market is worth a visit just to see the variety of foods. Don’t be afraid. Move outside your comfort zone. Food trucks offer a variety of foods, often cooked by creative new chefs who can’t afford a fixed site.
7. Senior Centers: All towns have Senior Centers. You can usually find a cup of coffee, breakfast and lunch, although you may have to order lunch a day in advance. You can eat cheap food with other old people. There is usually a bulletin board that lists things to do; day trips, computer help, etc. You may have to join, but that is usually cheap. I have never had any problem just walking in and looking around; having a twenty cent cup of coffee and a twenty-five cent box of popcorn. I have also discovered cheap trips where I don’t have to do the driving. Think Crown Point rug auction.
8. Whole Foods: Groceries, but also – sandwiches – salad bar – prepared foods and a place to sit and eat. The food is good, varied and available all day. Good for a coffee and a bagel in the morning; sandwiches for lunch, salad bar, and a whole variety of food for dinner, to eat in or take back to your motel room, along with a bottle of wine in Albuquerque and Tucson. At 73 you don’t want to be picked up for DWI after a few glasses of wine at a restaurant. Watching a movie in your hotel room with a good bottle of wine, and a variety of food from the deli is not all bad; besides they have nice deserts. Most motel rooms are quieter than restaurants.
9. Diners, Drive Ins and Dives: This show on the Food Network takes you to places all over the country. Interesting to visit, a mini-goal for your trip, and, you can always check them out on-line. I have enjoyed the ones that I have visited, both in Albuquerque and Florida.
10. Costco: If you have a card, you can’t beat the hot dog and drink for $1.50.
Look beyond the restaurants in the guide books. Experience the community and learn something new while getting interesting food at a fraction of the cost of a fancy restaurant. Besides, all of the above places are usually fairly quiet, have no music playing, and are convenient. Important if, like the geezer, you are old and deaf.
A final, tongue-in-cheek idea. Large Assisted Living facilities will usually give you a free meal if you listen to the sales pitch and take the tour. You should really take a look at a few of these as they are closer than you think.
Above all, consider sharing a plate; even if it costs you $3.
The Albuquerque Journal announced that the Pecos Benedictine Monastery was having an open house. I attended and discovered a quiet place to visit. It has about a dozen monks and numerous volunteers. They support themselves by holding retreats and by allowing private retreats. Look at their web page; pecosmonastery.org. Trappist monks bought the place in 1947. It has been transferred to several religious orders since then ending up as the Our Lady of Guadalupe Abbey today.
The Abbey is about 20 miles from Santa Fe, NM in the small town of Pecos. The Catholic Church in Pecos dates back to 1862. This is rural Northern, New Mexico, midway between Santa Fe and Las Vegas, NM.
There are numerous guest rooms, several chapels, a library and of course friendly monks. There is a common room with wi-fi and they have the necessary equipment for retreats.
The bedrooms are simple, but fancier than what I imagined a monk’s cell to be like; having seen a few in Europe. They have private baths, a desk and a closet. No phones, no TV’s; just the simple basics. This is a monastic place.
The Abbey has 1000 acres; of which about 4o can be planted and used for buildings. That leaves about 960 acres along the Pecos River for contemplation.
We did not stay overnight; however, if you want to and if you take the AARP discount, it is $67.50 per night and that includes three meals and all the quiet you want. There are common areas with WiFi and each room has a desk. It will be a great place to get caught up on a blog.
It is not for everyone; however, if you are the geezer’s age, overwhelmed by this electronic society, and looking for a new social setting, there is something relaxing about the place.
I couldn’t help but compare it to long-term care facilities that I have visited; and, at some future point, if they would have me, I would much prefer to live at the Abbey, rather than an in-town assisted living facility. There is plenty to do and it might give some purpose and meaning to the end of life.
Anyway, you might want to try it; or any monastery. Most take guests, even in Europe, and they are all over, need the money and certainly need volunteers.
An old book that I like is: A Guide to Monastic Guest Houses, 2nd Edition by Robert J. Regalbuto which is available on Amazon.
And, if you are really interested, some of the Refugios that I stayed in when I walked the Camino de Santiago are in monasteries.
Star of Teatro Dei Pupi SicilianiIn Syracuse, Sicily (Italy) I attended a performance at a small puppet theatre; about 30 seats. The performance lasted an hour and was interesting because of the work that went into making the puppets, the skills that the puppeteer need to manipulate the puppets, and the historic nature of the theatre.
It was a simple theatre; wooden seats; small stage; and, the puppeteer came out after the performance. It was in Italian, so my deafness was not a problem. It was one of those out-of-the-way things that makes trips interesting/
This was on a Rick Steves Tour of Sicily and was one of many events that I would not ordinarily come across.
The tour took all the seats. Each puppet was controlled by sticks and each had a person operating it. The puppets were about three feet tall.
If you have grandchildren and room in your bags, there is a shop:
There are only a few of these theaters left. If you get a chance, visit one.
For more on these theatres and other locations in Sicily see: Teatro Dei Pupi Siciliani.