If you’re from the Northern parts of the US ( you know, that parts that have winter) the first thing you need to know is that Tucson weather is as good as it is rumored to be. For the most part, every winter day is sunny and the temperatures are from 60 to the upper 70s. Nights are clear and cool, even dipping below 32 degrees occasionally. There are the rare weather systems that roll through. But they are rare. We did have one snow day. One. It was lovely…and the next day it was back to 70 degrees.
That means most of your days you can spend hiking, bicycling, visiting museums, art galleries, parks, tourist traps, etc. But this is the year of the Pandemic, so you can’t say it’s really “normal.” City events and festivals, mineral and gem shows, and anything that might bring a lot of people together are cancelled still. So while we’ve been able to do things outdoors, we’ve really not been able to really engage with Tucson and the surrounding area the way we all really want to. We’ve already decided we need to come back next winter to see what it’s really like. So that reservation is already made.
While we’re taking advantage of all the outdoor opportunities we can, we also can’t sit on the sidelines while we’re in the middle of a worldwide crisis. Karin and I have joined Arizona’s Medical Reserve Corps and have been volunteering three days a week at Tucson Medical Center’s drive through Coronavirus Vaccination Clinic. We all need to do what we can do to help. You don’t have to ask ex-Scout leaders twice.
One lovely aspect of our winter in the Sonoran Desert is that we’re not alone. David and Lang Lavine (along with their little dog Ollie) who live on their boat Sapphire on the D dock at Anacortes Marina just 4 boats away from us are also in the area. They have been in our COVID pod since July, and are among the few folks we’ve seen during the lockdowns. So it has been lovely to visit them where they are camping, go for rides, carefully visit a few breweries, and we had them over for an awesome feast on Christmas Day. It made the holiday a bit brighter to sit around, swap stories of what we’ve found in Arizona and think about sailing when we get back home.
The place we’re staying in East Tucson, Far Horizons RV, is doing its best to protect everyone from the virus while still offering some of the normal activities. Outdoor things are fine, and they are trying to get more going, but it’s going to be hard to do the indoor things such as pottery, silversmithing, billiards and bingo while wearing masks and social distancing. But we’ve been able to play pickleball on the courts outside and that’s been fun for exercise and to meet a few other residents like Mark, Nancy, Phyliss and Mike. All nice folks doing their best to stay safe and still have fun.
So despite the pandemic, we’re still managing to have a pretty nice winter. I’m thinking all the pictures we posted to Facebook was getting under my brother’s skin. I mean he had finally retired in September….but his wife Carol was still working at the bank in Astoria. By January, it became too much. He said, “Carol. We could be in Tucson too.” He called the RV Park, and since so many folks have cancelled, they had a spot just two slots down from us for the whole month of February. Carol always said, “I’m one bad month, or week….or Day away from telling my boss I’m out of here.” That day came in January, and they started heading South. By Thursday, January 28th they too were “Snowbirds” in Arizona.
We even roped them into volunteering with us at the Tucson Medical Clinic COVID-19 Vaccine Clinic. Turns out my brother has a way with people. Who knew?
But it’s not all work. Last week we decided it was time to visit a premier southern Arizona tourist trap. Tombstone, the Town to Tough to Die! Really, that’s the motto. I mean, it’s the town where Wyatt Earp and his brothers shot it out at the OK Corral with the cowboys. Who could resist? Karin and I put on our boots, Wranglers and cowboy hats….Dennis and Carol were having none of that nonsense. But out we drove on “The Old Spannish Trail” (I kid you not, that’s the name of the street in East Tucson that goes East) to find the old west about 55 miles to the Southwest. Now, to be clear here…there’s no way we were going to pay to see a re-creation shoot out, or buy a saloon gal outfit for the ladies in a cheesy western store. But go to Tombstone….sure, we’ll do that. What’s more, I had checked around and knew Tombstone Brewing was a legit craft beer maker….so that was really the destination.
Approaching Tombstone, as you might expect, all the signs and ads on the road started turning very gunfighty. Let’s face it. This is business for these folks and in time of Covid, business has not been good. We found a parking spot, and around noon started walking down the make believe former main street….toward those men in long coats and hats…who were wearing colt .45s on their hips.
I told Dennis and Karin they needed to video me walking down the street making my own “spur” noises…and they needed to be viscous to me. They did not disappoint.
Needless to say, we had a great day. The beer was really good. And we even found a handful of shops where folks were selling actual crafts of leather that they made, not stuff purchased from a generic catalogue of “Western wear” and “Western Trinkets.”
Karin and I also found time on a day off to do something we’ve wanted to do for some time; take a basic firearms safety and shooting class. Now we’re not big gun enthusiasts, but we’re also not scared or worried about guns. We’ve shot many time at targets with family in Idaho, with kids at Scout Camp and such. But neither of us had ever taken a full, formal, Gun Safety Class. Well Pima County happed to have a fantastic shooting sports complex at the Fairgrounds, and we thought it was a perfect chance to get the 101 class to we’re both on the same page and know the current teaching on firearm safety.
It was really an excellent experience. We were the only two people in the class on the Friday morning we took it, and that meant three instructors to give the two of us personal instruction. It was well organized to talk about all areas of firearm safety, allow you to have hands on experience in a classroom setting to load different types of firearms, and then time to go out onto the instruction range to put all the classroom learning into practice, all the while with trained instructors standing just off your shoulder in case there was a question or if they needed to point out something we may have forgotten to do. It was a great experience, and we’d like to go back to take a class in skeet and trap shooting with a shotgun.
So that’s the basics of winter in Tucson. We’re going to keep helping put shots in arms as long as where here. That’s how we get back to normal. We’ll also keep riding, hiking and bicycling, visiting places where its safe such as the Sonoran Desert Museum, Reid Zoo, Saguaro National Park, and come early April we’ll head back North to return to the boat and another summer cruising Puget Sound and the San Juan Islands.
But we will be back to Tucson, God willing, next winter