Alaska 2
  New Zealand

My current job sends me to Tucson, Arizona several times a year. I've been out there enough to tour a good bit of the city and surrounding area. This page is comprised mostly of random anecdotes and pictures from my trips out west.

On this page you'll find: Where to eat in Tucson, How to launch a nuclear weapon, Lots o' planes, and San Xavier Mission,

Giant Steaks for All

The two best places to eat in Tucson, assuming you're in the mood for a big honkin' piece o' cow, are Pinnacle Peak, and Little Abner's,. Pinnacle Peak is basically a tourist trap, not unlike Wall Drug or South of the Border. Nevertheless, it's worth a trip to the North part of town. The recommended steak is the "Cowboy", weighing in at two pounds even. Smaller steaks are also available, but you have to be willing to order the "Cowgirl" or the "Ranch hand." Also note that if you enter the restaurant wearing a tie, it will be forcibly removed from you with pair of scissors and stapled to the wall as a trophy. Judging by the general hideousness of the majority of ties so displayed, I tend to believe that locals use this policy to intentionally dispose of their most unbecoming neckwear. Little Abner's is in the Northwest part of Tucson, and is a much smaller & simpler place than pinnacle peak. The food is just as good, however, and the atmosphere can be better. There's also ample outside seating, and nothing beats a big steak, a warm summer night, and a star-filled desert sky.

The Titan Missile Museum

This museum about half an hour south of Tucson consists mainly of a giant hole in the ground that is partially filled with a now-inert inter-continental ballistic missile. There's an above-ground museum that covers the basics of missiles and the effects of nuclear weapons. The tour down into the facility is the highlight. You descend a metal staircase deep down into the earth, go through the ubiquitous two-foot-thick metal door, and walk down a long, partially lit, eerily quiet hallway to the command center. The tour guide explains the procedure for launching the missile, and you get the chance to actually sit at the console and turn the key to start the launch. The launch confirmation lights flash on in sequence up to the "hatch door open" light, at which point a launch failure notice light illuminates because the hatch door has thankfully been welded in place. Even though you know that there's no warhead on the missile and that the fuel has been removed, it's still quite an unnerving experience, especially if you A) lived through the cold war, or B) saw "Wargames". Nevertheless, be sure to yell "Take that you red bastards!" as you turn the key.

The idea of a museum dedicated to one of the most devastating weapons known to man may seem a little macabre, but it's an important part of history and an unforgettable experience to say the least. I didn't think to bring my camera along, but pictures would convey the atmosphere that well anyway. For pictures, directions, hours, and more detailed info, see the museum's webpage

The PIMA Air Museum

The PIMA air museum features a wide variety of military and civilian aircraft housed mostly outdoors. There are several engines, a few rockets, a Nordic bombsight from World War II, and LOTS of planes. Allow a couple of hours and be prepared to walk. PIMA's webpage has all the info you'll need and more pictures than you could possibly want. A couple of my favorite shots:

Vought F4U Corsair [Yashica T4S]

A Vought F4U Corsair, one of the more successful American planes of WWII. Note the folding wings, which minimize the necessary storage space aboard carriers. Also note how the wings dip down where the landing gear are mounted. This increases deck clearance and allows for a larger propeller.

SR - 71 Blackbird [Yashica T4S]

A Lockheed SR-71 "Blackbird" spy plane, holder of numerous aeronautic speed & distance records. It's amazing how something so big can still look so fast. Unfortunately, it's roped off and you really can't get very close. To the left of the Blackbird in the foreground is a D-21 drone used for surveillance.

A-10 Warthog [Yashica T4S]

This is an army A-10 "Warthog" ground attack plane. It's not beautiful from any angle, but it's very intimidating to those unfortunate enough to be standing on the business end.

San Xavier Mission

One of the first missions established in the southwest, this very picturesque church is still used for services. Inside there's a small museum detailing the early history of the mission. For more information, check out this informative but unofficial webpage.

Altar at San Xavier [Yashica T4S]

The inside of the church is very ornate and very warm, owing to the fact that it's located in a desert and chock full o' candles. I took this interior shot of San Xavier without flash by setting my camera on a ledge and using the self timer. It might be helpful to have a mini tripod for these type of shots, but I've found there's usually a ledge or other flat surface with the appropriate field of view.

 Walkway at San Xavier [Yashica T4S]

A walkway between the main church and some ancillary buildings. Some of the stone is in need of restoration, but the iron work has aged well and has a nice, rustic finish.

Entrance to San Xavier [Yashica T4S]

Entrance to the mission. The asymmetry is intentional, according to those in the know. The gleaming white facade stands in stark contrast to the dulled greens and browns of the surroundings. It must have been quite a site to those traveling through the desert in the early days.

Side view of San Xavier [Yashica T4S]

I especially like the deep blue color of the sky in this photo. It's really just an artifact, though; the bright white color of the building throws off the camera's light metering and the sky gets underexposed. In real life the Arizona sky is much paler during the day.

Hill view through archway at San Xavier [Yashica T4S]

View of an adjacent hill through an archway on the side of the mission. This archway is conveniently located near the gift shop. There's an iron gate that can be locked shut to keep out the coyotes and assorted ner-do-wells.

Cross on the hill [Yashica T4S]

Close-up of the afore-mentioned hill, with monument on top. There's a path that winds up and around the hill, and the view of Tucson from up there is well worth the brief climb to the top. There's also a memorial and some benches at about the halfway point.

Up to the top

Back to the travel page

On to Boston