Sometimes when you take a trip expecting nothing, you end up pleasantly surprised. That’s exactly what happened when we took a family trip to Arizona.
Arizona in July. Who the heck would make that a vacation destination?!? Those attending their grandmother’s 100th birthday, that’s who. As the Phoenix airport exit doors opened, we were greeted by a blast in the face of blazing heat that made us feel as if we opened the broiler of an oven door. It was 9 am.
A quick trip to the rental car agency to pick up our sweet minivan (you know you’ve been a mom too long when you get excited over a minivan) and we were on our way to fabulous Tucson (or Tuscon, or Tuson…honestly, who the heck really knows how to spell it?), the home of Ruth Burin, Brett’s grandmother. Although it was 10:30 in the morning, we knew where our first stop would be; I-10, exit 159, also known to the Burin family as “the best exit in the history of the world.” Signs along the ramp pointed to some of the greatest fast food restaurants known to man. Chick-fil-A, Jack in the Box, and the king of all fast food, In-in-Out Burger. I could not wait to get my hands on a single with fries and a chocolate shake! Mmmm…it’s the stuff dreams are made of.
With our bellies full, we continued our 120-mile journey to Tucson. Along the way, we began to wonder just what the heck we were going to do for the next three days beside the hotel pool and hanging out with the elderly. The Grand Canyon?..too far. Area 51?…wrong state. Mexico?..possible but we left our passports at home. On a whim, Brett mentioned Tombstone. Yes, Tombstone! Only an hour southeast of Tucson it was going to happen, and we were excited!
Having made this decision, we focussed on the drive at hand. Sand, tumbleweeds, cacti, and mountains surrounded us on all sides, and the heat continued to climb. It was 1:00 and 106 degrees. We decided to stop at a roadside souvenir shop to whet our whistle and see what we could find. Cowboy, Native American, and alien merchandise filled the store, and we had a ball exploring it all. Back on the road, we passed The Rooster Cogburn Ostrich Ranch. It looked utterly cheesy and totally awesome! Monster truck tours, ostrich racing, and stingray petting were all right up our alley. However, the ranch was closed, so we put it on our list to do the next time we are in Arizona.
Arriving in Tucson, we were once again in awe of the plethora of fast food restaurants available. If you want it, it’s in Tucson. I knew this was going to quickly become a few days of complete overindulgence resulting in a few looser notches in our belts. Our hotel was selected for its close proximity to Grandma Ruth. We did not expect much from the Hilton Tucson East, especially because it is under massive renovations. However, the slight inconveniences of the renovations were quickly forgotten due to the incredible staff. Everyone from the front desk to the restaurant (Israel was probably the best waiter we have ever had) was genuinely incredibly nice and helpful. They even helped us arrange a special birthday dinner for Grandma Ruth and made sure every detail was thought through. She was so happy, and so were we.
Birthday celebrations over, we hitched up our rides and headed out to Tombstone, home of the O.K. Corral, Doc Holliday, and the Earp Brothers. You don’t get any more wild-westy than the streets of Tombstone, Arizona. Our first stop was the Boothill Graveyard, resting place of 250 souls. Many of the inhabitants of the graveyard met untimely deaths, one even having been hung by mistake. Now that’s a big oops! From there, we mosied on over to downtown Tombstone. Ok, I will admit this place has become a total tourist trap, but that is part of what makes it fun. The main street is still a dirt road, and many of the original buildings still stand as they did in the 1800’s. The famous O.K. Corral remains at one end of the street, offering reenactments of the famous gunfight multiple times daily. Of course, we had to see the reenactment of the famous historical event, so we bought our tickets and thoroughly enjoyed the show. The actors were funny and did a great job entertaining the audience. Life in the wild west was all the movies make it out to be and more. It was rough. Gunfights, prostitution, even Chinese mafia. You just can’t make this stuff up! After sightseeing, shopping, a stagecoach ride, and a few sasparillas, we left Tombstone, and all agreed it was a fantastic day.
What do you get when you visit Arizona? You get cacti and tumbleweeds, cheesy entertainment, and great food, odd finds, and friendly people. You might even take home a few extra pounds. We didn’t expect a lot out of our trip to Arizona, but we had an awesome time and decided we would love to go back. After all, we only scratched the surface of Tucson. Next time we will explore the Observatory, The airplane Boneyard, and The Biodome. Three days is only enough to scratch the surface. Grandma, when you turn 105, we will be back with our boots, our bellies, and our sense of adventure ready to go!