Our Arizona Adventure, Part 4: the Unexpected

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On our way home, we got hit by something completely unexpected. Snow. Ice. Winter. In places where the temperatures in winter rarely dip below 50, we drove in a landscape of white. Now many of you will look at this and say, “Yeah? So what?” In Houston, we are used to getting a dusting of snow about once every 10 years. In Arizona, it is pretty much limited to the mountain areas and the northern part of the state. We were driving from Las Cruces, NM to Kerrville, TX the day the storm hit, and I became terrified. We were surrounded by drivers who had NO EXPERIENCE driving in these kinds of dangerous conditions. I was in a car with drivers who had NO EXPERIENCE driving in these kinds of dangerous conditions. I was not a pleasant passenger to say the least, and the dozens of semi trucks spun out along I-10 did not raise my confidence.
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We stopped in Van Horn, TX to change drivers and eat lunch at Papa’s Pantry. This sign greeted us in the entryway of the restaurant.  The place was packed with weary travelers, and the parking lot was filled with ice scrapings.  The coffee was hot, the food all needed a little more salt, and the servers were clearly stretched to their limits, but overall it was a pleasant place to stop in an unpleasant situation.  My son got a sandwich made with homemade bread, which was delicious, and I would highly recommend to anyone if they find they have to stop along that section of I-10.

This pretty much cemented a feeling I had already had of absolute loathing for West Texas.  On our last road trip west, we stopped in Fort Stockton, which is where EVERYONE stops halfway across West Texas, because there are barely any other sizable towns in West Texas.  My mother and I immediately took a dislike to Fort Stockton, which gives the impression of nothing more than a way station for guys coming and going from the oil fields.  Bars, buffets, and overpriced hotels.  We avoided it like the plague this time – which makes for a very long drive across the wasteland that it West Texas.  No towns, no roads, no cell towers, just mountains that Arizonans laugh at, oil derricks, and wind farms.

It’s depressing as hell for this child of the piney woods.

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Our Arizona Adventure, Part 1: the Bad

IMG_4101 My next big adventure (as I mentioned) was another cross-half-the-country road trip to Arizona.  Only this time, we were going to be going in winter instead of summer, and we were aiming for Phoenix instead of Yuma.  Oh, and instead of just me, my mom, and my kids, we were adding both our husbands to the mix.  In a minivan.  But that is just the beginning of the list of not nice aspects to this trip.

The occasion was not a happy one this time, unfortunately.  The clan on my mother’s side was gathering for a memorial for my grandmother who had passed away this time last year.  It took so long for us to get together because we have become quite far flung these days.  And actually, we are not the family members which traveled the furthest – my cousin who is doing graduate work in Germany gets that badge – but I think we are definitely the ones who drove the furthest (about 2700 miles total, including driving around Mesa/Phoenix for 5 days).  But we had to coordinate schedules for people coming from Germany, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, California, and Washington State, ranging through 4 generations.

And my father’s idea of a good time involves eating.  Good eating.  Greasy eating.  Both of my parents are from Arizona, umpteenth generation desert rat, and they were both raised on good Sonoran style Mexican food.  Then they moved here to Texas, and my father has been disappointed ever since.  To put this in context, Taco Bell is a very good representative of Tex-Mex – not too spicy, meats tend to be ground and sautéed rather than stewed and shredded, heavy reliance on flour tortillas, limited assortment of vegetables (lettuce, tomatoes, jalapeños), and a very tomatoey flavor to all the sauces and salsas.  My father would add that it has no flavor.  I’m not sure I would agree with that, but I will say Sonoran style takes way more time, Tex Mex is much faster to cook.

IMG_4127 All that being said, we went to Arizona, not California.  If you are trying to watch your calories, Baja (Southern California) style Mexican food is MUCH better, filled with fresh vegetables, corn tortillas, seafood, and light methods of cooking.  And on top of that, my father had intended on having our dinners dictated by restaurants given the Triple D Seal of Approval.  Luckily for my husband (who is in training for his next marathon) and I, Guy Fieri did the unthinkable and never visited a Mexican restaurant while in Arizona.  I will agree with my dad on this one – that’s like going to Texas and avoiding the BBQ, brisket, or Chicken Fried Steak, the foods that, in a way, define Texas cuisine.

Oh, and did I mention the fry bread?  And the Navajo tacos made by topping that beautiful fry bread with authentic chorizo, lettuce, tomatoes, and cheese?  Made by Tohono O’odham natives?  So. Good.  So.  Many. Calories.

IMG_4035This was about to be a test of my (extremely weak) willpower, whether I could avoid eating back all of the 75 pounds I have lost so far.

More good news: My son brought home a cold from somewhere, and my father got one at about the same time – we are pretty sure they were different colds, though.  But it meant that just in time for our 11 hour drive to El Paso (stop one), four out of the six of us were dripping and sniffling and coughing and miserable.

So just how did I end up smiling?  Next up, the planning.