TRAIN TO TUCSON – alternative travel for an old man!

 

One of the main fears that old people have is losing their driving options. Most of us are addicted to cars. We have been  driving the 450 miles from our home in Albuquerque to see our grandchildren in Tucson for years; but, since I turned 79, I am rethinking my driving before someone else rethinks it for me. Our sons watch us…

We were making the trip over two days, with a nice stop and a visit to the hot springs spa at Sierra Grande Lodge  in Truth or Consequences, NM; however, now we need to think a bit further out. My no-driving future may be closer than I think. Time to experiment with a few alternatives.

Last week, we drove to El Paso; a straight 270 mile shot on I-25. We took the Amtrak from El Paso to Tucson. Cost $50 each, each way. The train was 3 hours late out of El Paso, but except for the usual stress that old people feel about sitting around in a train station, not a problem. Coming back we got into  El Paso 45 minutes early, which meant that we could drive back to Albuquerque before dark. Since it was Saturday afternoon, there was not much  traffic on the freeway. Dark and large trucks worry old people.

Our son met us in Tucson and the next morning we rented a car from Enterprise, who picked us up. Thus we had a car in Tucson. We turned it in on Friday at 5 and got a ride to the train station the next morning. You can save a bit of money if you go through Costco Travel.

The coach train seats were great; much better than coach airline seats.

The food was questionable. Take a look at the train menu. Next time, a picnic lunch.

Boarding was a snap. We lined up, the conductor scanned our e-tickets and gave us a paper slip with our seat numbers. We had to climb a narrow stair-case to the upper level, but, you can’t have everything when you are old. No elevator.

The train, including the bathrooms, was clean.

The observation car was comfortable with tables; and, many people with laptops, cell phones and card games.

There were electrical outlets, but no wi-fi on the Southwestern Trains. Since I am addicted to my blog, I use a personal hotspot from T-mobile; (I pay $5 extra a month for extra gigabytes and T-mobile works all over the world.)

Note that cell phone reception is not the best between Lordsburg NM and Tuson, but…

The train was not crowded; about 20 % full.

You share tables in the dining car. We were seated with an interestig man from the Phillipines who was seeing the world. He started out working on Costa Cruise Ships, heard about truck driving in the US, and came here. He is an American Citizen and drives refrigerated trucks across the US. He was going to New Orleans to pick up his car, then to Chicago to start a new truck driving job in the Northeastern part of the US. He has no overhead and plans to return to the Phillipines after Australia and New Zealand

He is also working on a blog, but has not yet published it.

In El Paso, we parked in a secure garage for $10 per day. It was about 2 blocks from the train station and a block from the bus station. It is manned 24 hours a day.

The El Paso train station is an imposing old building; but not marked in any way. So  we drove around it a few times and ended up back on the freeway before someone pointed it out. Downtown El Paso is confusing. Next time we will recognize the train station. Experience works, even in old age.

The train station is large, not used much: one passenger train a day in each direction. It has vending machines, one of which takes your money and does not vend; but, there is a warning sign. All the usual junk food. Nothing healthy. Cookies, candies and chips. No restaurants close by.

Three unplanned hours of waiting.

The net result: when we really can’t drive  we can take the train, even though it will mean a bus ride from Albuquerque to El Paso, which can be arranged through Amtrak. You have to walk from one station to the other.

Since there are no longer any non-stop flights from Albuquerque to Tucson, we are considering flying through Las Vegas.

Another option that I will have to try alone, since my wife is not interested, is the bus to Tucson. It is reasonable, goes through Phoenix and leaves and arrives at decent hours, albeit 12 hours apart.

The lesson learned is that I have several relatively safe options to get to Tucson; all of which I will try before I have to use them. Even at my age I can figure out what to do now that I have done it.

We can adapt to our age.

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You should check out alternate means of travel.

THINK OLD!   TRAVEL MORE!

 

 

 


SONORAN HOT DOGS IN TUCSON!

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.

Today, I went on Yelp after searching for the best Sonoran Hot Dogs in Tucson and came up with El Sinaloense, a hot dog cart that is permanently parked on North Alvernon.

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.

To find a Sonoran Hot Dog near you: Google   “Sonoran Hot Dog”+ name of your town. or, if you live out of the Southwest, Google   “Sonoran Hot Dog”+recipe, and make your own.

And, of course, mine turned out:

 

 

THINK OLD!


TUCSON JAPANESE FESTIVAL – a local event worth a visit!

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.”

THINK OLD!