April 6

Sitting in $300/night room in the Westward Look Resort. Discounted for Jan’s semiannual reunion of her 1965 Stanford-in-Germany Group to $150.  I agreed to accompany her since it coincided with our 55th anniversary the day we arrived and because I remember Tucson as an appealing place from two earlier visits.

The last of these was a reunion I attended was six years ago at Asilomar near Monterey that’s always been associated with an apologetic phone call I received upon arrival from an official saying that the big grant that had been sustaining us at City Farm had been rescinded because the Foundation making it was no longer funding anything in San Luis County.

This time around my experience has been a mixed bag. The official tour the group took this morning recalled the nightmare of taking grandkids to a theme park: endless wait time, exorbitant admission charge, being stuck in a tram with earphone-delivered recorded narrative by a 1950’s style authoritative narrator. No chance to walk or explore the tourist packed canyon.

Yesterday’s solo excursion was also disappointing.  I’d been anticipating the prospect of  exploring the city on an electric bike, but the rental process—all via text message with three combinations to allow access to the suburban storage unit where they were kept, ambiguous instructions, no map, and no lock, left me spending hours on a desolate ring road and then doubling back to go downtown where I was unable to leave the bike out of my sight.




But the group dinner that night in a famous Mexican restaurant was enjoyable—eight people at our table drinking pitchers of margaritas and reminiscing (as always) about Stanford in the sixties. This time I was able to participate by talking about my grad school experience there–Peace Corps expulsion, draft, and meeting Jan soon after she’d returned from Stanford in Germany at a poetry seminar in Free University of Palo Alto.





The day before, I took a solo hike up a busy trail into Pima Canyon, close by this resort, which still offered some mountain solitude, grand rock formations, the primal experience of finding running water in the desert, and a high altitude view of the new Tuscon’s limitless sprawl.


























On the previous day, before the group arrived, Jan and I came across the kind of travel surprise one hopes for: a brilliant concert in a nearby botanical garden by two guitarists and a tenor.



That night we drove to South Tucson for some street food in a neighborhood recommended by the local hip weekly.  It was a little edgy being the only gringos and drinking cans of beer in paper bags.

April 7

I wrote the previous entry alone in our room while Jan attended a Zoom gathering of present and absent reunioneers. It was to be followed by dinner in the hotel dining room and then a planned discussion for the group on an undisclosed topic.  I told her that five hours of uninterrupted sitting was not going to work for me, and she said she understood and that I should feel free to go my own way.  After writing the recollections above, I went outside where the late afternoon light on the mountains along with the extra gas in the car I’d already paid at the airport rental spurred me on to a vehicular excursion.  I remembered a description in a tourist guide of the Mt. Lemmon highway  in the Catalina mountains and traced out a route to get there on my phone.

The challenge of navigating through the new suburbs raised my morale and I reached the base of the ascent less than an hour before sunset. Having texted Jan with a picture and my location I ascended the smoothly curving road which was surprisingly free of traffic, my attention nicely focused on the sensations of steering and the vistas unrolled by changes of altitude and direction.

Stopping briefly at turnouts to allow the occasional car to pass and take a picture, I looked forward to relating my adventure to the assembled group upon return.  The road ended at 8000 feet flanked by small snow banks.  The thrill of coasting down the 27 miles of perfectly banked curves in the settling dark was heightened by the precipitous dropoffs on either side.

As I pulled up to the hotel at the end of the three hour adventure, Jan phoned, extremely distressed with worry.  She hadnt received my text.  The group in the hotel restaurant had been waiting for food for 2 hours and were engaged in a moderated sharing of medical problems.  There was no occasion to describe my exploration.

The next morning after the others departed we drove downtown to the U of A campus and visited the Arizona State Museum.  The  exhibits of indigenous ceramics, basketry and weaving brought us together like the concert several days earlier.



















After afternoon siesta we met Bill, the one remaining group member, and drove back downtown for a great Italian dinner serenaded by a duo of troubadours.


Leave a Reply