It's been a few days since my last entry, and a lot has happened! I'm sitting at a hookah bar / coffee house / art gallery right now watching Garrett grade papers for some advanced calculus class. Geez. I hate math.
Anyway, Thursday I ended up spending a large part of the day wandering around campus. I have my dates a little mixed up, but I was in the Physics and Optical Sciences building doing a lot of writing, reading and chatting with friends on AIM. U of A has a "Center for Creative Photography" on campus, which is really just a fancy word for their photography-specific art gallery. They did have a cool exhibit going on that was free and open to the public, so I walked around that for a couple of hours while waiting for Garrett to get off work. --->http://www.creativephotography.org/exhibitions/ The photographer whose work was displayed is Linda Connor, and it was a very cool exhibit. Check it out at the link listed above.
Thursday night Garrett and I went to this Salon that some of the hardcore science guys organized. It goes on every week during the school year and takes place at a pub on University Blvd. They get free appetizers and cheap drinks in a reserved room in the back. It was an intellectually stimulating discussion (I guess that's the whole point of a Salon, right?) and I really enjoyed myself.
The bike rides have been great. During the week we've been riding up to campus (it's about a 3-4 mile ride each way) and in the evenings after class and local activities, we ride back home. The weather here seems to be perfect most of the time, and I'm really starting to wish I'd bought a nice road bike a few years ago. Traffic in this city canbe pretty ridiculous, and they really like to randomly close major intersections. In most cases, riding a bike seems to be the thing to do.
Friday night the Physics guys typically meet up at a bar of their choosing for drinks and conversation (that's all anyone does here - drink and talk) and we went a little ways off campus to some crappy little bar with writing all over the walls (it reminded me a lot of Soundpony in Tulsa, but without the cool music). We all got pretty drunk, and after a few Guinesses and some hefeweizen that I'd never heard of, we were happily snapping pictures and shooting videos, listening to all of the stories about stupid things Garrett had done when he was drunk at parties (we'll leave the details out), having beer chugging contests (oh, how I missed those), and being somewhat loud and obnoxious. So wonderful. Garrett's friends are all super-fun, and I'm starting to feel like a part of the group after only the first week here. It's certainly going to be sad when I have to leave. :(
We've all had a bit too much to drink - everything is obviously hilarious---->
Yesterday (Saturday), Garrett and I began the day early and drove out to the Coronado National Forest / Mt. Lemmon. It was the coolest thing ever. So, you start at the base of the mountains on the Northern edge of Tucson, and just start driving up this winding road that goes on for about 30 or so miles to the summit at 9,157 ft. At the bottom of the mountain, you see all the cacti and desert vegetation.
The base of the mountain ---->
About a third of the way up that ends, and you begin to see more normal plants and trees. At the top, you have pines. This is, of course, the craziest thing ever. I mean, according to the little plaques that line the vista points on the way up, you end up seeing every type of vegetation that exists from the southern US to Canada on this one single drive up the mountain. I do believe that Tucson and the surrounding area is the only place in the US that has this variety of plants all in one location. Pretty sweet, huh? Anyway, we pulled off the road at a lot of points to take pictures and enjoy the views.
Windy Point ---->
The only time I remember doing something so similar was when my family went to Yosemite when I was 12, and that was over half my life ago. Geez - I really need to get out more. :) The best place we stopped on the way up was Windy Point, which certainly lived up to its name. We got out of the car and climbed around on a bunch of rocks. I'm pretty sure if there had been a place where I could have tumbled to my death, that would have been it. The rocks were pretty slippery, and that wind was a force not to be reckoned with. Once we had walked around there for a bit, we continued our drive to the summit, stopped in a small town called Summerhaven, and continued on another two miles to Ski Valley for lunch at this wonderful German restaurant called "The Iron Door." We had one of the more creative and attentive waiters I've had serve me in a long time, and somehow we ended up getting a free dessert. That was okay by me. (See picture for an example of the super-yummy food)
Yeah, this was awesome - turkey sandwich w/cranberry sauce and cream cheese---->
During the winter, there's obviously skiing at Ski Valley, so they have a small system of lifts that take you up to the top of Mt. Lemmon. We didn't ride the lifts, but we did drive up a short road to the very top where the lifts dropped people off, then proceeded to get out and walk around. We continued our hike to a small ranger station that sits on a ledge and overlooks the mountain range and the city below, and that's where the coolest part of my little tale takes place.
The view from the top of Mt. Lemmon (the trees were burned by a massive fire in 2003) ---->
Where the lifts end ---->
So, as we hiked up to the station, we saw two old guys standing around talking, and I asked them if we were allowed to take the stairs up to the station and look around and take pictures. It turns out that one of the men was the guy who lives there 5 months out of the year and watches for fires, helps stranded hikers, etc. His name is Glynn Thompson, and his official title is "conflagration detection specialist". He and his friend (who also had a great story, by the way) invited us inside and entertained us with stories of the fires he had seen, where he had traveled and worked, and even a few jokes for good measure. :) I made a comment to him that if I lived in a remote cabin 5 months out of the year, I'd probably be tempted to write a book. He then handed me a small card with his name and info on it that listed the details of a book he wrote. The book is entitled "The Raving Eunuch Monks" and Glynn was the recipient of the 2008 Schopenhauer International literary award for said book. It's on sale at Amazon. He has another book that's due to be printed in October of 2009. Whoa. Talk about a kick ass story. He invited us to drop by again if we were in the area, and I'm thinking we just might take him up on that offer. I'd like to bring a video camera up there and interview him...maybe write up a piece for a local indie paper? That would be fun.
Driving back down the mountain at sunset ---->
We're tired, but awfully happy ---->
After we drove down the mountain and got back home, we had a sushi dinner and went to the arcade. I got a chance to play DDR (that's Dance Dance Revolution for all you non-nerds out there) at a real arcade for the first time in years, and it was GREAT. I'm still pretty decent, just a little more out of shape than I'd like to admit. ;)
SO...now we're to today (Sunday), and I'm sure you've had just about enough of my rambling for one evening. Today was a little less eventful than some of our other days, but still completely awesome. We went out to the Coronado National Wilderness (not to be confused with the aforementioned Coronado National Forest), and shot guns. Mmhmm, we just stood around firing guns all afternoon. We took some videos (which I'll attempt to edit and post either on here or on Facebook at some point), and it was freaking cool. Towards the end of our shooting party, Garrett pulled out the strongest bullets he had for his biggest gun, and cautioned me against firing it because it would kick pretty damn hard. I, of course, did not listen. It wasn't nearly as bad as I thought it would be, but was still apparently entertaining for all the men standing around to see little old me holding that big gun and screaming with joy after it went off and (didn't) hit the water bottle I was aiming for. Yep, I'm just that good.
I look at bit too happy, but I'm not quite sure why ---->
So....we went to Arby's for a late lunch, Garrett left his wallet there (and went back later to get it), we did some laundry, I met his landlords, we drove out to the coffee shop, and now we're back to where I began this post. Whew. Aren't you glad I waited 4 days to make this ridiculously long entry? :)
I hope everyone is well. Thanks for reading.