Back to the cold

We rode the bus back to Nogales, Mexico, then crossed the border and picked up a rental car and got a really lousy motel in Nogales, AZ.  Fortunately it was only for one night!  We were in time to meet our friends Judy and Don at Wisdoms for dinner.  If you’re ever near Tubac, AZ,  check it out.  They are famous for their fruit burros (burritos) and the rest of their food is great, too.  Had a great visit with Judy and Don to boot.

Next morning we went to Tubac for the regular Tuesday morning bird walk and to see all our friends from that area.  I guess most all of them were there, too, as 45 people showed up and we only found 43 birds! It was still fun to see everyone.  Sue Emerson had Sally Hills visiting, both from back home and we went out to lunch with them after the walk.  Then we ran a few errands and went up to Tucson where we had a nice Airbnb reserved for our time in Tucson.

We hadn’t gotten much sleep the last few days so we were beat and Wednesday was a day to do laundry and shop and recoup.  We did end up at Ft. Lowell Park for a walk to see some birds but basically crashed early.  Ft. Lowell is a city park that has a pond where they have some domestic Peking ducks mixing with the wild ones.  You can see the evidence of their promiscuity in the strange colors on the Mallards in particular.

pond ft lowell

The next day we went back to the Green Valley area (the rental wasn’t that far away) to have a picnic at Madera Canyon–one of our favorite places.

Judy and her friend Carol who was visiting met us there.  The birding was kind of slow but we did get nice looks at Red-naped Sapsucker and Rufous Hummingbird and 29 other birds.  After a beautiful day we went back to Judy and Don’s house for dinner and root beer floats!  They are from Iowa but moved permanently to Green Valley two years ago.  Their house is on a golf course with a patio facing it.  With lots of feeders around they have great birding in their backyard.  We saw 21 birds just sitting there having appetizers.

The next day we spent in Tucson going to Agua Caliente Park and picnicking at Saguaro East National Park. “Agua Caliente, literally meaning hot water, is a unique 101-acre park that features a perennial warm spring and pond that is home to an exceptionally rich mix of plants and animals. Agua Caliente Park has a long and interesting history with evidence of human habitation dating back about 5,500 years. In 1873, a ranch and health resort was developed to promote the curative properties of the warm springs.”  There were lots of ducks and turtles on the water and nice birds in the trees.  Our picnic at Saguaro East was somewhat bereft of birds as we only saw 6 while we were there.  Still a lovely place to picnic and have a hike.

The weekend was all Tucson Festival of Books and it was fabulous.  For those of you who aren’t familiar with this event it happens at U of A and they take over the whole campus. There are hundreds of authors and other exhibits.  If you follow the above link you can get a sense of what is offered.  They usually have over 100,000 people attending it. We were fortunate to get into quite a few of our first choices.  We started off with a program on Memoir with Amy Tan and Mary Karr.


They were great together, each one trying to one up the other with whose mother was worse!  If you’ve read their books you’ll understand why.  After this panel we grabbed some lunch and went to get in line for the next presentation.  We were early enough to get there in time to see almost half of the panel which was with 3 sports writers — Scott Simon, who just wrote a book on the Cubs winning the pennant, Leigh Montville and Erica Westly. Next came a mystery panel with J. A. Jance, T. Jefferson Parker, and James Rollins.



These 3 authors had an interesting discussion which included the point that none of them likes to outline.  They were quite adamant about it.  In the next panel of 2 mystery writers, Sophie Hannah (who has been conscripted by the Christie family to write more Agatha Christie books)  and Craig Johnson (author of the Longmire series),

craig johnson

both talked about how they couldn’t imagine how anyone could write a mystery without an outline.  In fact Hannah (who is British) said that when authors say they start out with a few characters and let them take them where they will it was a bit “twee”! It was all entertaining and gave us new ideas for books to read.

After the day’s presentations were over there was a free concert of the Rock Bottom Remainders.


This is a rock band made up of authors that changes depending on who happens to be nearby for an event.  This time it included: Dave Barry, Sam Barry, Amy Tan, Mary Karr, Ridley Pearson, Mitch Album, Alan Zweibel, Scott Turow and a few more we didn’t catch the names of.  They are really fun and do a lot of fun things; Amy Tan dresses up in leather, boots and a whip and sings “These Boots are Made for Walking”; Scott Turow wore at least 3 different wigs, one Rasta, one Elvis and one looked like a head of tinsel when he sang “Wild Thing”.  Dave Barry wrote a song about being in love with a proofreader who would never be caught saying “between you and I” and Mary Karr did her ‘slut’ song about the ‘me too’ movement. All very fun.

Sunday we only saw 2 presentations but they were good ones.  First was Billy Collins and Juan Felipe Herrera who were both poet laureates of the US.

Herrera and Collins

We found Collins somewhat disappointing as we had heard him many times on Prairie Home Companion and Fresh Air and really enjoyed him but he didn’t seem like he was really into the presentation.  Herrera on the other hand was terrific and very enthusiastic.  In the afternoon we saw a solo presentation from Scott Simon.


He is such a charming man and so compassionate I love to hear him talk.  If you haven’t tuned into Weekend Edition Saturday on NPR to hear him and his morning essay you are missing a treat.  He always brings along his lovely French wife and his 2 adopted Chinese daughters and this time their dog, Daisy.  He also brought his cousin Pam Simon who worked for Gabby Gifford when she was shot.  Scott and his wife are friends of Gabby and her husband also and he teared up talking about it.  His presentation was a sweet way to finish off the festival.

The next day we volunteered to help organize and clean up the thousands of signs that were taken down, throwing out those that were damaged or dated and entering the others in a data base for next year.

Our last day in AZ we went on another Tubac bird walk.  This time there were 34 birders and we found only 32 birds.  It’s migration time for Common Black Hawk and Zone-tailed Hawk so we spent some time at the Hawk watch site and saw a bunch of them.  Then we went out to lunch with some more friends at a lovely restaurant in Amado called Firefly. We sat on the porch overlooking a beautiful pond and garden and view of the Santa Rita Mountains. It got up to 85 degrees that day.

Next day we left the beautiful weather and sunshine and came back to Massachusetts where it was cold and snowing when we arrived.  It isn’t springtime here yet but it’s coming.  Next weekend we’re off to Stamford, CT, for another fun weekend of helping with judging at the American Crossword Puzzle Tournament.

Until our next adventure,


Nancy & Denny









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