Days 1-4: Tucson

And we’re back after a brief 5 month break. Work has been done. Shots have been received. In 4 days, I begin the final and most difficult of the three Triple Crown long distance trails: the Continental Divide Trail.

This time I’m starting at the Mexican border. North of that, there are around 3000 trail miles through New Mexico, Colorado, Wyoming, Idaho and Montana to the Canadian border. It’s longer and not as well-traveled as the PCT.

On top of it being longer and wilder, I’m going to finish up northern California on the PCT once I get through the majority of New Mexico, go back home for a wedding at the end of July, then probably come back for another leg before going back for my sister’s wedding in November. With this late start and all the time off, I will not be finishing the CDT this year. Not a chance.

(I won’t be finishing the PCT either for that matter. The Lionshead fire closure and the Bobcat fire closure are still in effect. Maybe next year.)

Day 1

Anyway, the story kicks off this time with goodbye hugs with Dad at the lakehouse preceding a 2 hour Mother’s Day drive to the airport with Mom.

The airport was pretty crowded for a Sunday. The last time I flew out of Atlanta was to go to California last year, and no one was flying, so it was easy to enforce social distancing. They didn’t even bother this time. Security took an hour, and I arrived at my gate just a few minutes before boarding.

It wasn’t an hour into my flight before breakfast was wearing off. I devoured the snacks they handed out. It was a four hour flight–long enough to watch two movies and a TV episode–and everything went well. My backpack was one of the first bags onto the carousel and 3 minutes later I was on my way to my hotel.

I realized that I had forgotten my phone charger and wall plug somewhere on the way, and when I found out it was too early to check in, I asked about chargers. They let me have a leftover cable from behind the desk, but I had to walk a mile to buy the part that plugs into the wall. Which was fine because I wanted to check out the city anyway and the weather was beautiful.

I was starting to feel quite peckish on the way. It had already been 3 hours since the cookies and small bag of almonds on the plane. So I stopped in a brewpub for a chicken sandwich, fries, and a sampler of their beers, all of which were quite good. I slowly ate until it was time to check in, then returned to the hotel.

I took an hour nap at this point, did a bit of hike planning, then did a movie watch party with some Atlanta friends. By the time we finished the movie, the food truck that had opened downstairs was closed, so if I didn’t want to be dying of starvation by morning, I had to go for a walk.

It’s kind of crazy how many things Atlanta and Tucson have in common. They both have an old Fox Theater. They both have Insomnia Cookies. And the very building I’m staying in would not be out of place downtown. Anyway, I found a little Mediterranean restaurant and got a great meal of shawarma, hummus, gyro meat, dolmades, Greek salad, and pistachio baklava.

I was already in bed by 10PM and sleepy. But that’s the same as 1AM back home.

Day 2

Woke up at 6 am and went to the bathroom, got a shower, and then went down for breakfast, only to find that the cafe did not open until 8am. So I got a cup of coffee and went back to the room to Google nearby breakfast places. None opened before 8. Tucson in general hardly opens before 8. So I drank my coffee, laid in bed and starved for half an hour.

Shortly after 8, I went down to the cafe and got an omelet with avocado, goat cheese, and ham, a combination made up on the spot, and it is literally the best idea I’ve ever had for an omelet. It came with toast and jelly and potatoes and I had a fresh-squeezed orange juice too. Kanpeki!

After a little time back in my room chilling and calculating how much food I would need to buy, I took a walk down the Safeway to do some shopping. It was about a mile and a half away but I wanted to walk it just for the sake of seeing more of the city. Along the way, I talked to a man who told me all the busses were free, and it turned out there was a bus stop right in front of the Safeway, so I wouldn’t have to walk my 360 dollars worth of groceries all the way back to my hotel.

An hour or so later, I was on the bus with my bags. After one of the bags started to spill out onto the wheel well, a man came up and told me he was going to reach over me to get something. I reached back and found that one of my sleeves of Gatorade chews had slid out of the box. But the guy didn’t seem to believe I was telling the truth that it was mine. Very strange. He really wanted it, I guess. But they’re very expensive so really I’m glad he noticed it.

After dropping the food in my room. I went out again to the grocery store deli to get a Cuban sandwich and some other stuff for lunch (and something to eat when I woke up the next morning so I wouldn’t have to starve before the city opened) and then the post office to get some boxes. Then back to the room again.

I ate my lunch and then hung out for a couple hours watching videos and talking to Mom on the phone before deciding to catch a bus uptown to do the other part of my shopping at REI. It was a 45 minute trip there. 30 minutes to spend a hundred bucks on fuel and food and nuun immunity. 45 minutes back.

Then I dropped my stuff in my hotel before leaving again immediately. I walked south to Barrio Brewing for dinner. When I was in sight of it, I had to wait another ten minutes for a train to go by, but finally I got to go inside and try some nice beers. I also tried an official Sonoran Hot Dog with the beans and spices. After my big lunch, it was all I had room for, and also I meant to take a picture but I forgot.

After that, I walked back to the hotel the same way I went and that was it for the night. I turned in and blogged and got too sleepy to think straight.

Day 3

Having gone to sleep later, I woke up a bit later, but I could skip breakfast because of the snacks I had bought. I went out after 8 which meant the cafe was open and the free coffee was gone. I had to pay 3 dollars for a cup of coffee to give me enough energy to get my box packing done. I borrowed a tape dispenser from the front desk and got started.

After packing one box, I realized I had forgotten to buy Apple Cider mix, so I walked over to the nearby Johnny Gibson’s and found some. I also got a Gatorade to rehydrate and some pop tarts for the next morning’s breakfast.

Halfway through packing the second and final box, I realized I had been right to be confused about there only being 3 grocery bags in the seat to my left when I thought there had been four on the bus back. That guy who confronted me about the Gatorade chews must have stolen one of my bags, because I had 23 fewer lunch tunas than I had bought. I would need them, so I had to go back to the store and buy them. I only needed 19 though.

The Johnny Gibson’s had no tuna, so I head for the bus station. Instead of going straight for the Safeway, I took a different bus to the Yoshimatsu Eatery for lunch. It was voted best Japanese restaurant in Tucson, and reviews raved about their okonomiyaki. It was every bit as good as promised. I had a lovely green tea daifuku for dessert and a Japanese craft IPA throughout. I wanted to try their curry but I was full. I went out and caught the bus south to the Safeway.

Along the way, I got to take a passing glance at the University of Arizona. I got off at the Safeway and bought the tuna and got on another bus back to the hotel. Finally I could finish packing my boxes and my pack.

It took some time still, though. There was a lot to pack in four different places. I wanted to leave some of the food in Lordsburg while I hiked by to it, so I bought a tote bag from the front desk since the plastic bags from the grocery store weren’t tough enough and kept ripping.

By 6:30 I had the food and snack situation for the hike sorted. All that remained was shipping the boxes, and that would have to wait until morning when the post office opened. So I left and caught a bus uptown to check out Dillinger’s Brewery.

On the bus, I hopped on Grubhub and ordered that curry I was wanting to the brewery. (The brewery did not serve food.) I got to the brewery a little after 7, and my food arrived some 20 minutes later, halfway through my first flight.

The curry was amazing, and most of the beers were as well. In fact, Dillinger had the best beers I tried in Tucson (and the only sours!) I may try to finagle getting some of them shipped to Georgia in questionably legal fashion.

A Dillinger founder, Aaron told me all about what normally goes on around Tucson, about the beer scene, about how the hotel I was staying in normally hosted an annual reenactment of the shoot-out in high John Dillinger was finally captured (as that was where it originally took place), about the difference in types of hops and how they are used.

After trying 10 different beers and keeping Aaron past closing time, I caught the bus back downtown, but I wasn’t ready to call it quits yet. I headed over to Insomnia Cookies on the way back and got some warm double chocolate mint cookies. There was an unreasonably good guitarist busking and singing against a wall on the corner and I stopped on the way back to listen to his new material, dropped a tenner in his case. He gave me a sticker for his old band, but his new material is not on Spotify yet.

Then it was time for hotel and bed and blogging. And sleep. One last half day in Tucson, then Lordsburg, then, finally, the trail!

Day 4

I woke up in time for the free coffee this time, and after doing the morning routine, I headed out at 9 to mail my boxes. I got back just in time to receive a call from Mom. I was inspired by the call to check what time that afternoon my bus was leaving. I had misread or misremembered the time. It was leaving at 9:35am. It was 9:36am. I had missed it.

No ticket exchanges possible day of, so I dropped another 40 bucks on the night bus, leaving at 8:05pm and arriving at midnight. I called the hotel in Lordsburg and they made sure I could check in then. Upshot: I would have an entire extra day in Tucson. Downside: I still had to be in the lobby at 6:15 am the next morning to catch my shuttle to the terminus, so I would only be getting some 5-6 hours of sleep plus whatever I could get on the 2.5 hour bus ride. Ah well, hiking isn’t hard even when you’re sleepy.

But I didn’t need to be out of the hotel room until 11am, so I finished packing and then laid down to relax for a while. I turned in my key at 11am promptly, and left my pack at the front desk before heading out to see a bit more of the city.

I walked down Historic 4th Avenue to Sky Bar, which seemed like a nice place to have a drink and pass the time until the good restaurants opened for lunch.

At noon exactly, I went over to BOCA Tacos and Tequila, a famous restaurant whose head chef Maria is competing on the current season of Top Chef. I had 4 tacos and a nice fruity beer from one of the locals. Included were 5 fresh housemade salsas. I put some on the tacos, then ordered a bag of chips to dip in the remainder.

After that I walked to a nearby park to sit under a shade tree and watch a show with Sushi that we’ve been watching every Wednesday.

After that, I found my way, with some effort, to the beautiful beer garden at Borderlands Brewing, the second oldest (I think) brewery in Tucson (after Barrio). It was a hot day, but the beer garden has awnings and spray misters strung overhead. I sampled a nice flight of IPAs and sours.

Then it was almost 4, when the front desk guy’s shift ended. I needed to get my bag from him in case his replacement didn’t know me. I got back just before 4, claimed my bag, and sat down with my stuff in the lobby, plugging my phone into an adjacent outlet. I got a peach ale from the bar from one last local brewery, then fired up Mitchells vs. the Machines on Netflix.

About a third of the way into the movie, the new front desk guy (the same one who had checked me in and I had a fine experience with) came over to L me the owner didn’t like anyone using that outlet. I told him I needed my phone charged for the bus. He said he’d charge it at the front desk and did. That left me with nothing to do but stew while I waited.

Eventually I got up to ask him for a deck of cards. He didn’t have one, but he said I could go upstairs and use the lounge while I waited. So I carried everything back up and sat in the lounge and worked on a jigsaw puzzle until after 6pm when I could finally check in to my bus. I took my stuff back downstairs, reclaimed my phone, then walked (directly through a parade for Palestine and Colombia, who knows) to the bus station.

It turned out there were power outlets inside, so I kept watching the movie. I finally finished the movie about an hour into the bus trip. I highly recommend if you are a fan of A Goofy Movie or The Amazing World of Gumball or maybe Cloudy with A Chance of Meatballs.

I tried to nap a bit in the last hour of the trip but couldn’t get comfortable and never fell asleep. I arrived at the Lordsburg Greyhound stop early, and toted my bag to the Econo Lodge. I got the owner up in his socks to check me in, asked for a 5:30 wakeup call, and was in bed by 12:16, but still not particularly sleepy somehow.

Well, since it involved no hiking whatsoever, I have given you an extra long first post to get things started, dear reader. The schedule will be once a day from here out, though the posts will again be shorter, each covering only a day. Here we go!


First Post

I’ve got all the new and replacement gear I need now. Expecting to start hiking on Jun. 5. Stay tuned for pictures from my early May shake-out hike and pictures of all my gear together.