Day 78 – Scottsdale to Tucson & Saguaro National Park

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We were again in not much of a hurry to leave, and in fact if we could, would happily have stayed another couple of days, but we had to push on and keep to schedule! After another good breakfast at the hotel we got ready and got going, planning to stop at the Saguaro National Park on the way to Tucson. Unfortunately we got to the park around 1pm, pretty much the hottest part of the day, so there was no chance of going for a proper walk or anything like that. The area surrounding the park is very bleak and we didn’t expect too much from the park, but it was really interesting. We got some information at the Visitor’s Centre and watched a short film on the significance of the giant cacti and the land to the indigenous tribes in the area. Saguaro can grow to over 20m tall and live for up to 200 years, and only produce their first ‘limbs’ when they are 75-100 years old. We then went on the suggested drive and the cacti really are amazing and there are thousands of them! We did a short walk to go and see the petroglyphs though I was paranoid of stepping on a snake and walked really slowly while trying to look under every bush and shadow! Fortunately the snakes didn’t get us and we spent an interesting hour or two in the park before driving on toe Tuscon. The satnav led us via an interesting route so all in all it was a nice drive with enough to see.
I checked into the hotel Tucson City Center Hotel in Tucson with a certain amount of trepidation as I’d read some rather bad reviews of the hotel, along with some good ones, and it is sometimes hard to judge what a place will be like. I booked the hotel as it was cheaper than the other option I had in mind and sometimes it is worth the risk! I even went as far as going to check the room before we unloaded the car. The room was ok at first glance, and the aircon worked, which is very important as temperatures were around 40 degrees again! The hotel turned out to be ok and had a nice pool and grounds, but I can see where some of the bad reviews came from. While the room itself was clean and nice, the hallway carpets were really tatty and patched in places and the communal areas were dirty in a lot of places. Another place that would look so much better with just a little bit of attention and a coat of paint. Still, we stayed in the Firebird Suite so that was good! This was also the first and so far only place they insisted on seeing our passports at check-in, where usually a driver’s license will do – I’m not sure if our very posh British accents sounded like Mexican accents to the receptionist, but as they are so close to the border here they seem to have a lot of illegal immigrants and are super careful.
We unloaded and set out to explore the town almost straight away walking very slooooowly, as you do when it is very hot outside! At least there was a bit of a breeze, but we were still sweating a lot! We walked around the historic areas and eventually walked up 4th Avenue where we indulged in a few drinks at an Irish bar (O’Malley’s Bar & Grill) and (Bison Witches) before having a pizza and beer at the Sky Bar. The pizza place is called Brooklyn Pizza Company and is right next to the Sky Bar and they seem to belong to the same people as you can order a pizza from next door and have it in their bar. At the same time there were a lot of people ordering their pizzas and stopping by the bar to have a drink while waiting for their order, so it is a win-win situation for them! The pizza was ok, but far from the best pizza I’ve ever had even though it gets some rave reviews to that effect! We ordered a 16” pizza between us but ended up with some leftovers as usual. Instead of walking back through the town which would have been a longer route, we took the most direct route back to the hotel where we got a table outside and ordered another couple of drinks. It was still oppressively hot and I had to make do with red wine with ice in it to make it drinkable! Weirdly enough we ran into a couple that were staying in the same hotel as us in Scottsdale and we got talking to them on our first night there, so we ended up having a couple of drinks together and chatting about our travels.

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