First off, HAPPY EARTH DAY! I'm so glad I'm spending time in such a beautiful place on this holiday. So on that note, let's recap yesterday and everything that's happened so far today. I'm sure you're dying to know. ;)
Yesterday was my first official full day in Tucson. In the morning Garrett and I woke up and drove to the top of Sentinel Peak for a great view of the city. The mountain is situated right by Garrett's house on the southern side of the city, and the road goes up one side of the mountain and wraps around in a loop. After that little drive, we went on another short excursion to a neighboring mountain. I should note that all of the mountains here in Tucson are covered in many different varieties of cacti, all of which are absolutely stunning (and a bit scary - ouch!). It's a real trip to be driving up the side of the mountain and seeing cacti where the trees should be. Garrett tells me that the Saguaro cactus is very rare and there are strict laws protecting it here in the state.
After we got done with the drive, we went back to his house and had some yummy roast beef and swiss sandwiches, chips and fruit, then set off with our swimsuits to Tanque Verde Falls for some light hiking and swimming. Really, the "Falls" part isn't completely accurate - Tucson doesn't get a lot of rain this time of year. The hike didn't take too long, and the place was completely deserted because of the time of day we ended up going. That was the best part by far - no noises except for a cool breeze and the sound of trickling water falling over the rocks. We found a nice swimming area where the water was clear (and f&^%ing freezing, I might add), and stayed there wading around for about an hour or so until more people showed up.
We left the area in mid-afternoon, and after all the sun exposure and hiking, we decided we'd just go back to the house to rest and relax a bit before going out and meeting some of his Physics friends for dinner.
The place we ate a was called 1702. It's a little pizza parlor close to downtown, and apparently Garrett and his friends have a regular Tuesday meetup there. I know I'm certainly looking forward to being there once a week while I'm here. :) The pizza was amazing - they give you a slice that costs about $8 and you literally need two hands to pick it up. Of course, they also put it on a tray and provide you with your own personal pizza slicer, so I don't think you're supposed to eat it with your hands... ;)
Oh, and the beer selection was superb. I'm thinking I should move to Tucson just for the beer. They had a great sign up on the wall for this one beer I'd never heard of called "Delirium Tremens" with a big pink elephant on it. Apparently, I was the only one that found that to be ironic and funny, since no one else at the table seemed to know what DT's were. I guess PhD Physics dudes don't know everything... ;) Does anyone remember the funky pink elephants from that one scene in "Dumbo"?
After dinner, Garrett and I went to the liquor store to purchase a couple bottles of the aforementioned beverage, went back to his place and sat out on the lawn in the backyard. It was so relaxing being able to wind down at the end of a long day with a cold beer in my hand, good company, and a lovely view of the lights of downtown Tucson in the distance.
Fast forward to this morning. If all my mornings here in Tucson could be like this one, I'd be happy to just stay here indefinitely. We woke up to a gorgeous clear blue sky, got dressed and ready for the day, got our things together and set off on our bikes to make the 3-mile trek to the college. On the way we stopped and had breakfast at a lovely little cafe, grabbed some maps and brochures at the Tucson visitor center, and then made our way around the art galleries of downtown to the main street of the U of A campus (which is totally awesome, by the way). Garrett took me around and showed me a couple of his labs and offices, the student union and the optics building (which is where I'm sitting now as I type). I'm sitting in a large patio area of sorts, with a great view of the main campus plaza complete with mountains in the background.
I didn't bring my D300 along with me yesterday or today, mostly because I'm going to be here for a month and I made a little promise to myself that I would try and spend the first few days focusing on things without having a big camera between myself and the scenery. That, and I'm making a mental note of all the cool locations that I want to photograph so that I can return with the express purpose of getting a well-composed shot (proper lighting, angles, blah blah blah). Luckily, Garrett has a nice littleCoolpix that he's been carrying around, and I always have my iPhone...
I miss my Tulsa friends, but I couldn't be happier right now. This trip is going to be so good for me, you have no idea. :)