Our Arizona Adventure, Part 5: Recap and Reviews

So here is a list of where we went/ stopped at with a brief heads-up:

Restaurants

  • Rudy’s Country Store & Bar-B-Q 24152 West Interstate 10, San Antonio, TX 78257 – One of our favorites back home.  We thought we were just going to go to an HEB to get gas and some deli sandwiches as we had an 11 hour drive to get through this day.  But when we saw Rudy’s at the same exit, plans changed.  Then we found out this was the ORIGINAL Rudy’s, and we got super excited.  And then we ate the food.  Yeah, this is one time when the franchise is actually better than the mom and pop original.  The ribs and turkey were both dry – not good.

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  • Sutton County Steakhouse 1306 N Service Rd, Sonora, TX 76950 – Google Reviews We stopped here on our way home after making it through the ice storms.  There’s not really a lot open in Sonora, TX, and we were trying to avoid chains as much as possible.  This was a good choice.  None of us had the steak, so I can’t comment on it.  But my dad had the little chicken fried steak, and the bite I had was delicious.  It only took up half the plate (which is little by Texas standards), wasn’t covered in a layer in breading thicker than the steak itself, and was super tender and well seasoned.  The salad bar gets some flack in the reviews, which is understandable if you don’t take location into account.  $3.25 for a very small variety and thick bottled sauces is not great for a big city, but having non-buttered, non-fried vegetables was worth the price, especially because the waitress let us have one salad bar as a substitute for the potato that normally came with the grilled chicken fingers my husband and I ordered, and charged us for the second.  We were surprised to get french fries on our plate anyway, but we were both good and passed most of them to a child, and left the others on the plate.  My daughter order a Chicken Caesar Salad Wrap, which was huge and pretty, as you can see.  If you go in with the right expectations, it was quite good.
  • Papa’s Pantry 515 Van Horn Street, Van Horn, TX 79855 – Google Reviews I already reviewed this place last time, so I will just say again, if you have to stop in Van Horn, TX, this is a pretty good place to stop.
  • Moonrise Spirit & Sushi 1320 North Zaragoza Road, El Paso, TX 79936 – Since my dad was not feeling well while we stayed in El Paso, we took the opportunity to go for sushi near our hotel (my dad hates fish).  This was a mistake.  The rice was cold in the rolls.  Like the roll had been made, then refrigerated, not made fresh when we ordered it.  The sauces were nice, except the dragon sauce – which was very mayonnaise-y, and American style mayo at that (not Kewpie), and not spicy at all.  I ordered one of my standard rolls, a spicy salmon roll, and it wasn’t spicy, and I had a hard time finding the salmon.  For what we got, the prices were far too high, and the free alcoholic drink at the end of our meal could not quite make up for that fact.  I don’t recommend this place.
  • Si Senor 1551 East Amador Avenue, Las Cruces, NM 88001 – Google Reviews My husband and I ordered a Cambray Burrito Plate with shredded chicken and green chili, which came with two burritos, beans and rice.  The burritos were HUGE.  The shredded chicken was dry.  The chili was good.  The chips came with four different sauces: red, green, a chile/sour cream sauce, and a chorizo/bean sauce.  And each dinner came with a sopapilla.  I liked the green sauce, but I wish the had put some inside the burrito, too.
  • El Charro Cafe 311 North Court Avenue, Tucson, AZ 85701 – Google Reviews Traditional Sonoran style Mexican restaurant that has been in business for 92 years?  Featured on food Network’s Food Paradise?  We’re in.  The carne seca was delicious, but dry.  The red chili was spot on.  The chips and salsa alone had us deciding we would come back on our return trip.  The lunch portions (which may be the same as their dinner portions) did not seem to be as hugs as they seem in the video I linked to.  Highly recommended.
  • Rania’s Kabob Grill 1674 North Higley Road, Gilbert, AZ 85234 – Google Reviews My husband and I shared the Butternut Borani, which was thick slices of butternut squash stewed in a tasty tomato sauce with a side of AMAZING Kabuli style rice (cinnamon with raisins, like I make sometimes at home, actually) and naan.  My vegetarian cousin had the same thing.  We all thought it was excellent.  Hubby and I also had a skewer of chicken for some protein, and it was perfectly cooked.  The sauces were all delicious, the naan was fantastic.  My daughter got the spinach rice, which was very tasty.  Highly recommended, and not expected at all!
  • Sushi Q 8841 North 19th Avenue #4, Phoenix, AZ 85021 – Google Reviews This was a hard place to find, around the corner from where we thought it would be in the middle of a construction zone, but I’m glad we did!  We ended up coming here after going to Castles and Coasters, and got there 40 minutes before the break between lunch and dinner ended, but they opened the doors for us and welcomed us in.  Quite a difference from the place in El Paso.  The rolls were all fresh made, questions were all answered, the fish was delicious, the rice was the right temperature, and since we were dining with my vegetarian family members, my kids decided to try the inarizushi and loved it!  The pricing was also very reasonable.
  • Rancho De Tia Rosa 891 North Higley Road, Gilbert, AZ 85234 – Google Reviews And of course, we had to have Mexican food while in the Phoenix area, not just Asian and Afghani!  We found this place as one of the few places near our hotel that could accommodate a party of 12.  I found the red and green salsas served with the chips WAY too sweet, and not spicy.  My uncle even requested the spicy sauce, and it wasn’t that spicy, but it was better.  It had a nice flavor, but there was still that cloying sweetness in the back.  My husband and I shared the Nuevo Chile Relleno (he loves chile rellenos).  This was delicious.  I loved the fact that it was stuffed with pork instead of cheese.  It was flavorful.  And it was small enough to offset the fact that I was trying to chip myself to death. 🙂  I wouldn’t say this was my favorite Mexican food of the trip, but I would certainly go again – I just wouldn’t request it.
  • We also ate at a local Subway and Sweet Tomatoes, but those are chains.  They were both good examples, but they’re chains.

Hotels

  • Hampton Inn – My mom and I decided we really enjoy staying at Hampton Inns on our last cross country trip.  The quality and cleanliness is fairly consistent across the chain, and though it is usually more expensive than some other nearby hotels, that price includes a full hot breakfast that usually has fairly healthy options.  Generally there are an assortment of cold cereals, oatmeal with toppings, juices, milk, yogurt cups, fresh fruit, a waffle maker and batter, hard boiled eggs, an assortment of breads and pastries, and two urns of coffee (mild and robust), decaf, and hot water with a dozen different types of tea.  There is also two hot dishes which get changed up each morning, so you don’t get bored with the same thing every morning.  The three times we stayed at a Hampton Inn this trip, we saw biscuits with Canadian bacon and cheese, biscuits and gravy, Western omelettes, scrambled eggs, and sausage patties.  We stayed at the El Paso East, Las Cruces, and Kerrville Hampton Inns.
  • Arizona Golf Resort 425 South Power Road, Mesa, AZ 85206 – Google Reviews This place is clearly in the middle of a transition period.There is a lot of structural work that needs to be done overall.  The fitness room is kind of a joke.  The golf course looked well maintained (to my unknowledgeable eye).  The breakfast buffet was almost literally the exact same thing every morning, with only variations on the fruit offering.  We stayed here because we got a discount since my grandmother’s memorial party was also here.  The meal we were served at the memorial (chicken in a mushroom sauce, pasta in marinara, sautéed squash, caesar salad, and antipasto plate) was delicious, but I could feel the butter going straight to my hips.  The rooms were clean, the towels bright white, and everything worked in our room.  From the constant glimpses I got of the maintenance guys, I know that this was not always the case in other rooms.  It’s not really a resort in the way I normally think of resorts.  It is clearly a hotel devoted to golf and the golfers.  For what we needed, it was adequate and budget conscious.  If you only need a place to stay in Mesa, this may not be your best option.  If you are looking for a luxurious resort, then you might need to wait a few more years for the 80’s decorating to get updated and the repairs to be completed.  Staff was all pleasant.

Attractions

  • Castles and Coasters 9445 North Metro Parkway East, Phoenix, AZ 85051 – Google Reviews We really liked this place.  We came here to let the kids have a few hours of not-serious time after the graveside service.  If you or your kids are coaster people, you could easily spend all day here, possibly a weekend.  I’m not sure it would stand up to a long weekend, though.  Two big coasters, lots of little coasters, and four putt putt courses.  Food was standard amusement park fare, and we only briefly glanced at the arcade on our way through to the ticket booth.
  • Amazing Jakes 1830 East Baseline Road, Mesa, AZ 85204 – Google Reviews Look, you know if you need to go to a place like this.  Bowling, later tag, go karts – something to burn off the kids’ energy.  We wanted something fun for the kids to do on New Year’s Eve, and this was the only option we found that didn’t involve copious amounts of alcohol.  The buffet, though – if you are worried about your food, I would skip it.  The pizza is barely better that at CiCi’s Pizza.
  • Lost Dutchman State Park 6109 North Apache Trail, Apache Junction, AZ 85119 –  Google Reviews Highly recommend!! This has great hiking trails for both walking and running, low elevation and high, easy trails and trails so hard they suggest 5-6 hours for a 1 mile stretch (2000 ft. elevation gain!).
  • Goldfield Ghost Town 4650 North Mammoth Mine Road, Apache Junction, AZ 85119 – Google Reviews Again, highly recommended!  We felt like we needed to something nice and touristy with the kids, so after hiking at LDSP, we stopped here for a couple of hours.  We got a nice lunch (my husband and I split a grilled chicken sandwich with a side salad, while the kids split a chili and cheese dog and fries).  We got a lot of great info from a friendly cowboy, who was doing jeep tours the day we were there but also participated in the gunfights on weekends.  We got the combination Mine Tour/ Mystery Shack/ Train Ride tickets which were very reasonable – $21 for adults and $13 for the kids (but you have to pay with CASH).  But the train ride was a good 40 minutes with a fabulous tour guide, and the other two tours were just plain fun!
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Our Arizona Adventure, Part 3: the Adventure

IMG_4032  One of the castles at Castles and Coasters.  We spent an hour and a half playing putt putt, and then walked around to let the kids ride rides.  Avoided the amusement park food like the plague.

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View of the Superstition Mountains from the parking lot at Lost Dutchman State Park.  This was where we went for a wonderful hike with my aunt, uncle, cousin and his girlfriend.  Having my aunt and uncle along was like having our own park rangers hiking with us explaining what all the different plants, animals, and land features were.  My husband went trail running while the rest of us took a more leisurely pace for 2.75 miles around the base of the mountain range.  Since we’re from 0 feet above sea level here in Houston, I wasn’t sure how well I would take to massive amounts of elevation gain, but the 200 feet we gained over the course of the hike was perfect.  My husband’s trail got him much higher, and his quads are still killing him for it.IMG_4112After hiking, we took a nice touristy stop at a nearby ghost town.  We did the mine tour, the Mystery Shack tour, and the train ride, as well as tasting prickly pear fudge – which is delicious, btw.  I highly recommend getting 1/4 pound and splitting it 6 ways, like we did. 🙂

No pics, but we also went to an indoor amusement park type place, called Amazing Jakes.  The kids got to run around doing laser tag, bumper cars, mini coasters, and things like that.  Then the four of us played a round of bowling with a new friend.

We were staying at the Arizona Golf Resort.  I can’t vouch for the place as a “resort”, it was nice enough but the amenities are clearly geared towards the golfers.  However, it was lovely watching the jackrabbits scatter as my daughter and I walked along the the edge of the golf course.  And since it is such a big property, between walking from the room to the main building and all of the walking around at activities, I got 10,000 steps in pretty easily without stepping foot on one of the treadmills in their fitness room – the ones that I was pretty sure wouldn’t be able to take my weight for more than 5 minutes.

New Shoes

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. . . and old shoes.  They are lost the exact same shoe, except I couldn’t find the old model number, which kinda irks me.  When I put those shoes on, they were as comfortable as if I had been wearing them for years – like old denim.  They were the first shoes I had bought in over a decade that were the right width (I have WIDE feet, and generally have to get a size or two larger than my actual foot just to get the width I need).  It made me think I could actually get my real shoe size.  I hated the style of the shoes (very orthopedic looking), but I quickly learned to ignore that in favor of shoes that actually FIT.

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But after 444 miles (according to my FitBit, so add some from before I got it), these shoes were ready to be replaced. The trip to Salt Lake City finally did them in.

The new shoes aren’t quite as perfect on the inside, and even more orthopedic looking on the outside – but they don’t cramp my toes, which can’t be said of 99% of shoes out there.  After 100 miles, they’ll be perfectly beat up and broken in. 🙂

(BTW – did you know that you should replace your shoes every 300-500 miles?  And if you are getting 10,000 steps in a day, on average, that means they should be replaced 4 times a year!)

What DID work – exercise

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(trying to take a picture of yourself on a treadmill is hard)

Since I am trying to get in better shape, I made a promise to myself that I would get down to the fitness center in my hotel (with FOUR treadmills) every morning and start the day with an hour of walking.

Okay, so I never did an hour.

And I even skipped a day.

But I was walking all over downtown and all through the Convention Center and all over my hotel and all over 3 different airports, and ended up doing over 60,000 steps during the course of my trip.  I DID go to the fitness center every day except one (I forgot my alarm doesn’t go off on weekends and barely got ready in time for the business session) and did a minimum of 30 minutes every morning.

Then I realized how spoiled I am by my treadmill at home.  Because I am so large, we had to get a very fancy model with a motor that could take my weight.  It also has some serious fans.  Even the ancient treadmills at my gym have little fans built in.  These dinky Precor models at the hotel did not, though, and I think that was what contributed to my shorter workouts more than anything else.  I did love going outside after my walk into 45 degree weather to stretch out, though. 🙂

But one of the things that made me happiest during my trip was my feeling of capability.  When I was asked to take another spin around the Hall of Exhibits, I said sure – I can do that.  When asked if I wanted to go to various parks and squares around downtown, I said sure – I can do that.  Letterboxing?  Climbing up and down stairs?  Pulling a suitcase full of swag back to the hotel?  BRING IT.

I didn’t go to the party – Saturday was very long, and I was pleasantly and mentally exhausted by the end of it.

Unfortunately, all the walking and activity really just kept pace with all the rich splurging I did at meal times.  I tried not to go overboard, but I did have pasta, a burger, beer, desserts, and mexican food.  Overall I didn’t lose, but I didn’t really gain either – which I count as a win.

So from now on, unless the adventure is hiking, backpacking, camping, or some other kind of activity – I am definitely going to be hitting the gym at every hotel I stay at.  Even if it’s just for 30 minutes because their stupid treadmills don’t have fans.  Especially on our next road trip.  Sitting for 7-11 hours with snacks at hand is gonna suck.

Where did I run off to?

July, huh? Dang. It’s been a while. Sorry.

Partly what I have been doing all by myself is just having “summer brain” . With my kids home, it makes it so much harder for me to get anything not kid related done. And, not being a professional blogger making any money off this site, it definitely falls to the bottom of my priority list.

The two other things that have been sucking all my time away from me, though, is Girl Scouts and my health.

Last year I was one of two people on our Community Leadership Team (used to be Service Unit Managers, or Steering Committee). This year I am again, the beginning of a two year term. This eats quite a bit of time,but the real problem is that our Registrar retired at the end of last year. And nobody stepped up to fill the position. Or the Recruitment Specialist position. Or the Placement Specialist position. Which were all three what this woman did. We have nearly 900 girls in our Community, and our Council has given us a membership goal of nearly 1000 for this year. We can’t do that without a Registrar/Recruiter/Placement person. So I stepped up to share the job with one of my fellow CLT members. So July and August was a haze of trainings and paperwork and trying to get a handle on the new processes we were now in charge of.

Just trying to find out which troops want new girls this year is like pulling teeth.

Health is a little easier to explain. On June 25, I started a big adventure: to lose 200 pounds. I have been a solid size 28 for some time now, but I haven’t really had any health issues from my weight. I’m not diabetic, not pre-diabetic, have low blood pressure, and can out-hike my troop. I am a very good cook, and cook from scratch as much as possible. When I visited the nutritionist, she actually was asking me for recipes and only had concern about how much I ate, not what I ate.

But other than hiking and camping, which I don’t do every week unfortunately, my life is very sedentary. Or was. Everything I enjoy doing , is something you sit for: computer, sewing, jewelry making, etc. etc. So the nutritionist advised me to continue doing water aerobics, or some other low impact gym class 3 times a week, pushing myself but not straining myself; as well as walking 5-7 minutes after every meal.

Now I have a treadmill.

*grins*

I hate working out, but I love my treadmill, because it is getting me where I need to be. My husband and I looked for one that could hold my weight, and could help him with his triathlon training. It also has the ability to do a range of incline from 15 degrees to -3, and it has programs that take you along an actual trail, include visuals. Which also makes it perfect for helping me get in shape for hiking and eventually backpacking.

In the past two and a half months, I have lost 37 pounds. I figure it will take me about 2 years to get where I want to be size wise. And I hope to be in better shape than I have ever been. I’m going to be setting up a consultation with a trainer friend of mine in the next couple of weeks to help me with that goal.

But I don’t plan on putting my adventuring on hold until I get there.

In exactly 5 weeks, I will be sitting in the Salt Palace, listening to questions and discussion about the three voting topics at the National Council Session. I will have gotten up at 5:30 am to do an hour on one of the 4 treadmills in the fitness center at the hotel I am staying at, and still have time to shower and get nice looking before the Council Session starts. I will probably have lost another 10-15 pounds in that time, which might have dropped me another dress size. I will already have taken in some of the shirts I bought at the beginning of the summer that don’t fit me now. I will still have been squished on the plane ride to Salt Lake City, but maybe I didn’t need to ask for a seatbelt extender (which I totally recommend for any of you plus size ladies out there, I got one for my trip to Florida two years ago, and I am so glad I did!). I plan on being at the Adult Party and shaking my big butt, cuz it’s a good workout. 🙂 And fun. I hope to see you there.