Revisiting Tucson; Beer, Buddies and Big Fat Puncture
Sometimes it's hard to get rid of first impressions. We visited Tucson in November and were a little underwhelmed with what it had to offer. This time we stayed a few weeks at Catalina State Park and spent some time looking a little deeper at the city. On this visit, we found more interesting parts of town, and some cool breweries to visit that escaped us last time. I'm still not sure that it has really endeared itself to me. As much as I love cacti, I don't think Arizona is winning my heart.
Unfortunately the weather was a little crappy some of the time we were there, but we still managed to get some hiking in. We hiked up to the Romero Pools inside the park. It's a moderate hike with some steep and rocky inclines that definitely stretched our leg muscles both on the way up and down. The area is protected to try and enhance the bighorn sheep population, but we weren't lucky enough to see any. We did see lots of beautiful cacti (it wouldn't be a blog post without cacti) and just the very beginnings of some blooms, spring has not quite yet sprung in the desert.
It was a social time at Catalina, where we reunited with some friends we had met before and made some new ones. On our last days at the park we went out for a brewery tour with Dave and Shannon from 2WanderAway. Shannon and Dave live in Bend and we launched from San Diego; both beer towns. We have high standards, so were interested how Tucson might measure up. We visited 4 spots which garnered mixed reviews. Barrio brewing was out first stop, the beer was ok but not spectacular, we chose to eat here too as they have an extensive menu. It was a decent start but we figured there must be better in store. Next stop was Nimbus. I like their funky venue with the monkey theme - I do love a monkey. I enjoyed the Brown Ale but the rest gave their brews only average scores.
The third stop was our favorite Puebla Vida is in downtown Tucson. Their tasting room is small but friendly and because we decided full pints were going to make us too silly, we opted for a flight. They had some really tasty beers. I especially liked the amber, but the stout was also great; our appreciation of stouts is growing. The final stop was Dragoon. They have a very modern and bustling tasting room, I enjoyed a great sour beer called Pony Express while Iain had a Double Red IPA which he also ranked highly. We bumped into fellow travelers Brent and Christine (Horton's Travels) at Dragoon. It's interesting that breweries and laundromats seem to be where we come across fellow travelers!
After the beer tour we joined our friends at a pizza place in the Catalina Foothills. It was great to meet friends Brian and Leigh (Aluminarium), but also get to know new friends, Taylor and Beth (aka The Learning Banks), Julie and Jim (aka Imperfect Destiny), and Clark and Lynn (aka Tales from The Mutiny). Arizona is a magnet for nomads at this time of year. We will miss all this social activity when everyone disperses for the summer.
Just in case you think our life is all rainbows and unicorns; the other thing that happened to us while we were in Tucson was the mother of all punctures on one of our truck tires. As we headed along one of the major highways in the city, the tire pressure sensor alerted us that one of our tires was rapidly deflating. We pulled off to safety and found a very flat rear driver-side tire with a 6 inch metal spike sticking out of the sidewall. We had run over what looked like half of a set of pliers. Iain is very handy but changing the tire seemed a daunting task which he had not yet attempted on our Big-Ass truck. We have roadside assistance and were in an area where we knew it would only take a short time for someone to reach us, so we decided to call for help. Iain watched the technician change the tire so next time if we are in a remote spot he could give it a go. Even though buying a replacement tire left us a few hundred dollars lighter we were grateful that all was safe and glad that we weren't towing our trailer at the time.
We enjoyed our time in Tucson but I just wish the cities we have visited in Arizona were nicer places. I think the problem is I don't like sprawl, everything just spreads out and leaves a characterless landscape of strip malls with big box stores and chain restaurants. Next stop is McDowell Mountain near Phoenix - guess I won't be getting away from Arizona sprawl anytime soon.