My sister, Edith, and I have birthdays five days apart so each year we do something special to celebrate them. With having many fly miles with American, I was able to get both of us round trip tickets to Tucson. We left Cedar Rapids on the 29th of October and returned on the 4th of November. I’ve documented by the day our adventure and I hope you enjoy the read.
October 29: We flew out of Cedar Rapids at 3:40 PM and arrived in Tucson at 9:05 PM with a stop in Chicago. There were no problems and we arrived in good…but tired…spirits. Got our rental car, arrived at the Best Western Royal Sun, checked in and received an upgrade to a suite, got into our suite, and went to bed.
October 30: Sent a note off to Steev and Greta, went to breakfast at the hotel, walked to 4th Avenue and discovered none of the shops were open except Epic Cafe where we purchased coffee. After returning to the hotel, we decided to find WalMart so Edith could get her favorite cappuccino mix; they did not have the mix but I did pick up some flowers for Steev and Greta plus a book for Savanna. We headed over to Steev’s where everyone was home. We decided to go to lunch at Roma; Greta stayed behind to do some work from home. After a delicious meal, we returned to Steev’; Savanna fall asleep during the drive back so she was down for the afternoon. Edith had reserved a massage and facial for me at the Karma Day Spa; what a relaxing, refreshing experience! I need to pamper myself more. We then did another WalMart run so Edith could have another look for her cappuccino mix; we did not find the store so ended up at Safeway where the mix was available. Another return to Steev’s where Greta was preparing a delicious meal of pasta, salad, and bread; Steev got home from work around 6:30 and we sat down for a great feast. Both Edith and I were quite tired so we did not stay to even help clean up. Went to bed upon our return to the hotel.
October 31: After breakfast, we headed to the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum. The 98 acre museum is made up of zoo, botanical garden, art gallery, natural history, and aquarium exhibits. There are 21 acres with two miles of interpreted walking paths, 230 animal species, and 1200 types of plants. Upon arrival, we went to the gift shop so Edith could purchase a hat. She did not find one that she would wear all the time, so I purchased one for myself and loaned it to her for our stay…I also got some cactus candy for Mary and Joe. We hurried outside to get to a spot where they were letting raptors fly. Fun experience. After the flight, we stuck to the main path and wandered around; it was a great time. Had late lunch at Mother Hubbard’s in Tucson; burger was good but took a long time to arrive. We spent the rest of the afternoon lazing around our room; Edith took a nap while I read the paper. We took a walk down to a gas station where Edith bought some lotto tickets. After showering, we headed over to Steev’s; Greta was still at work. She had ordered pizza from Magpie for the evening and it arrived just when she did. It was very good! After eating, they gave each of us birthday cards and brought a cake with candles along with singing Happy Birthday into the living room; that was so kind and thoughtful of them. I cleaned up the kitchen and we the headed back to the hotel where we retired around 10:00. Tomorrow all of us are going for a drive up Mt. Lemmon.
November 1: We had breakfast and relaxed at the room until Steev picked us up around 10:30 or so. Because Savanna has been fighting ear infection, we decided not to take the long drive to Mt. Lemmon but visit the Tucson Botanical Gardens instead. The Gardens consists of seventeen specialty gardens within 5.5 acres; it was originally the home of Bernice and Rutgers Porter, dating back to the 1920’s. The featured exhibit was Butterfly Magic; within the greenhouse, we were able to see some of the most beautiful and exotic butterflies of the world. What a delightful, tranquil oasis; we walked through all the gardens and enjoyed every moment of it! We left the gardens and came back to the hotel to pick up our car; Steev, Edith, and I went to lunch at World Wide Wrappers while Greta went to their home to put Savanna down for her nap. After lunch, we took Steev home and then returned to 4th Avenue where we did some shopping. I found three neat things at the store Greta, Savanna, and Steev gave me a gift certificate from for my birthday. Because Savanna had broken out with a rash the night before, Greta took her to the emergency room; we waited at the hotel until we heard from them on whether we were going out to eat at the Mexican restaurant or staying in. We sat outside and relaxed; when we did hear from Steev, we decided to stay here and give them a night to relax without having to cook and entertain us. So we ate at the motel restaurant and both of us enjoyed our meal. Lights were out by 9:30.
November 2: We went over to Steev’s for coffee and left with them for Cyclovia Tucson which is the local interpretation of an international phenomenon known as Open Streets events. Open Streets events are exactly what they sound like – they open streets to people by closing them to cars for one day, and allow people to explore different parts of their city by jogging, walking, bicycling, skating and just playing. They are non-competitive and there is no start or finish line. There are all kinds of activities, such as rock climbing, that everyone can enjoy. This event had approximately 30,000 people participate. Edith and I broke off from Steev, Greta, and Savanna; we continued to walk the route but stopped at Caruso’s (an Italian restaurant) on 4th Avenue for lunch. On our way back to our car, we ran into Greta who was taking leftover Halloween candy to Steev, who was volunteering at one of the cross street intersections, to hand out to folks are they passed by. That evening, Steev and Greta got a baby sitter and took the two of us out for a birthday dinner celebration at Proper, an upscale restaurant which features fresh, straightforward food with quality ingredients from local and regional sources whenever possible. My lamb curry was excellent! After the meal, we went to another establishment for ice cream…yummy! We were dropped of at the hotel where we made plans to drive up Mt. Lemmon the next day.
November 3: Before leaving on our ride to Mt. Lemmon, we went to Steev’s where Greta had made us scones…delicious!! After eating the scones, we were driving off toward Mt. Lemmon. Mount Lemmon, with a summit elevation of 9,159 feet, is the highest point in the Santa Catalina Mountains and is located in the Coronado National Forest. Mount Lemmon was named for botanist Sarah Plummer Lemmon who trekked to the top of the mountain with her husband and E. O. Stratton, a local rancher, by horse and foot in 1881. The Catalina Highway, also called the Mount Lemmon Highway, runs up the Santa Catalina Mountains from the east side of Tucson up to Summerhaven, at the top of Mt. Lemmon. What a beautiful, curving road; it is no wonder it has been recently designated as the Sky Island Parkway, part of the US National Scenic Byway system. Summerhaven is a very small community and it did not take us long to explore all four shops in the area. We had lunch at the Iron Door Restaurant, across from Ski Valley. It was a relaxing lunch in very pleasant surroundings with a personable waiter. After our drive back to Tucson, we went to our hotel where we packed for our departure the next day and took showers. Greta, who had taken Savanna to the doctor that afternoon, called with an update and invited us over to hang out while waiting for Steev to return home from work. However, he got home before we were able to get out of the parking lot so Steev/Savanna picked us up for the drive to La Indita, a Mexican restaurant, where we ate dinner; Greta had biked to her work place so met up with us at the restaurant. Every time I am in Tucson, I love going to La Indita’s because of the great tasting food in a relaxing and family friendly environment. And they love Savanna! Because of an early flight in the morning, we said our “good byes” to Greta, Steev, and Savanna after dinner.
November 4: Because our flight was leaving at 7:00 AM, we were up at 4:30. Got our bags in the car, checked out of the hotel, and headed for Hertz car rental drop off at the airport. Returned our vehicle, checked in at the American counter, and got through security. Since we had such a short time in Dallas, both of us decided to check our bags. We then found a place for coffee and breakfast. And it was time to board; however, American announced that their aircraft did not have any lights in the main cabin and maintenance was working the issue so there might be a slight delay in departing. After 15 or 20 minutes, American announced it was ready to board so on the plane we went. However, the captain came on the public address system and announced there was still a problem with the electrical but maintenance was working the issue. After another 15 to 20 minutes, the captain announced that our flight was being cancelled so we should disembark the plane, retrieve our luggage, and check back into the American ticket counter to be placed on another flight. Once we got to the ticket counter area, American personnel handed us an 800-number we could call to see if our problem could be resolved before getting to the counter. At this point, Edith took off to retrieve our luggage while I called the 800-number on my cell…and, miracle of miracles, I got a gal on the first try!! She was able to get us booked on a 9:45 AM flight which got into Cedar Rapids around 4:00 PM. Again, we went through Security and, while waiting at the gate for us to board, I called Mary and Joe to let them know the change in travel plans. And, of course, there was a slight delay because of bad weather in Dallas. However, we got off the ground about the original departure time and arrived in Dallas about 1 hour and 15 minutes before our next flight. But there was another problem…there was no gate for us pull into so another wait. FINALLY, we arrived at the gate and had 15 minutes to get from one terminal to the other for our next flight. Needless to say, that flight was delayed about 15 minutes which helped; once we arrived from Terminal C to Terminal B, we heard the announcement of “last boarding call to Cedar Rapids” so I took off running! Made it to the gate where they assured me that we would be able to get on the flight. Once Edith arrived, we boarded and encountered another 20 minute wait before we took off. The flight went well and we arrived in Cedar Rapids shortly after 4:00; it was wonderful to be back home with Mary and Joe greeting us with smiles on their faces.