The Singing Saguaro

Tucson, Arizona was once just a dot on the map for us, but after this past weekend, it’s quickly becoming a favorite. With its breathtaking Catalina mountains, darling historical district just adjacent to a thriving downtown and home to the University of Arizona, Tucson has a fantastic mix of arts, music, food, and sport. It’s a small enough city that the local endeavors stand out but large enough to find your own niche subculture. If there is one word to describe Tucson, it would be artisan.

Happy CampingWe had a few performances in Tucson, including an evening at Monterey Court. A formerly an old run down motel, owners Kelly McLear and Greg Haver redeveloped Monterey Court into an artisan enclave.

The stage was lovely, the food was amazing, specially for a reuben fanatic like me, and Greg was a very gracious host. We had a small but kind crowd come out despite the cold temperatures. And the icing on the cake was a little treasure of a vintage camper Christmas ornament that one of the local venders left behind.

The Hollands! at La Cocina, Tucson, AZWe also performed at La Cocina, Tucson’s venue with a menu. La Cocina sits in the heart of the historic district and has a warm, festive, communal feel. In fact, the reason we wrote them about a performance was because of their self-proclaimed sense of community.

Liz, our server and bar tender for the night was especially welcoming and made us feel like part of the family. A few more faces came out, as it was a little bit warmer than the night before. One kind face stayed through the whole show and introduced herself after. She had heard of us through our friend and comrade, Seth Martin! I immediately hugged her and invited her to dinner at our campsite the next night. What a pleasant surprise to find kinfolk in this fantastic city.

Catalina State ParkWe parked at the Catalina State Park for three nights. We paid $27 a night and had water and 50 amp electricity. The park was well cared for, with friendly guides/officers, hiking trails, and the bathrooms were pristine.

Our friends Jamie and Max stayed with us for the weekend, as Max joined us on bass/guitar at our shows. It was truly the highlight of the weekend having guests on the bus again. We actually met Max two years ago our first time through Bird City. He was living at the Kineo Community House and jammed with us during our impromptu performance at the house. Max married Jamie 10 months ago and it was so refreshing having newlyweds on the bus. Two hands are better than one and the Perry’s work well together. They added a sense of balance to our first weekend back in the saddle, so to speak. We shared story, meals, hikes, a fierce game of Settlers of Catan, Ticket to ride and made music.

A second highlight to the weekend was our hike in the spectacular Saguaro National Park.    We actually started in the State Park and hiked on the border of the National Park, but the Saguaro Cactus were everywhere. The beauty of this area was found in breathtaking mountain range with its the subtle greens and browns, and an occasional orange hue thrown in. There were horse trails as well, which made the hiking even more romantic.

The Singing Saguaro

At one point the sun was wafting between the clouds when I noticed a large Saguaro at the base of a massive rock wall, above that was the mountain range. As the clouds moved the sun would cast a light rolling up towards the large cactus and hold like a spot light for just a moment, and I imagined a tenor singing a ballad of love and passion. The sun would continue to elevate up the rock face and a golden hue would shine, continuing on the sun beams rose up into the mountain where a choir of smaller Saguaro sang the final verse. I sat and watched about three rounds of this movement, before our group lead on. I’ll take that memory to the grave as it was a little taste of heaven.

4th of July Family Caravan

The Blumreich family, our first community caravaner’s, joined us over the 4th of July weekend.

blumreichbus.jpgWe picked up Eric, Jodie, Emma and Clara on a Thursday in front of their house and began our trek south towards the beautiful town of Galena, IL. Our first stop Beloit, WI for the Blumreich annual family gathering. We enjoyed a potluck style meal, played yard games, sang songs and enjoyed fireworks.

The next morning we packed up and drove about three hours before pulling into the Palace Campground, which sits just outside of Galena. We discovered this little gem last summer and knew the Blumreich’s would appreciate the vintage aspect of the facility, including an old school pool with diving board and mini-golf course. Everything about the campground reminds us of camping back in the 1970’s and in a world that is constantly upgrading there is something nostalgic about that. It would be the ideal setting for most of the Chevy Chase ‘Vacation’ movies.

PalaceCampground.jpgWhen we arrived at the campground and set up three tents, one for Jodie, Eric and Clara, one for Graciana and Emma and one for John and Les (Eric’s parents). Then we all settled in for a fantastic weekend.

We enjoyed swimming, mini-golf, a trip to the city center to see all of the historical artifacts and shops. We shared meals, bon fire’s and song. We observed each other families, with the most encouraging conversations revolving around the joys and woes of parenting teen’s and pre-teens.

It’s no easy task to be a parent to any age group and it’s affirming to share our journey with other parents in order that we might know that our struggles are perfectly normal, that we aren’t the only ones going through it, and that we are not alone. Likewise, it was good for our children, specially our 16 year old’s, who sometimes believes that the grass is greener on the other side. They were both able to work through drama, share dreams and desires, and hopefully gain perspective by being in such close quarters.

thehollandsgalena.jpgOur ultimate purpose for going to Galena was to perform for the Galena Performing Arts Festival, which rounded out the weekend nicely. The concert was held in the historic Grace Episcopal church and was a fantastic setting. Seating about 80, we packed the house to over 150.

We were a little leery about how our children would transition from enjoying the lazy weekend with friends to performing, but they did a fantastic job. Funny enough, that day, I had spent quite a bit of time myself in the pool and personally couldn’t hear much during our performance with all of the water in my ears. However, everyone else picked up the slack and this one will go down as one of our favorite settings and behind the scenes moments. Including, Eric’s helpful hand in set up/tear down, Emma’s thoughtful prayer for us before our show, a tender moment when Craig introduced Graciana as our “beautiful” daughter, Banjo’s fun antics on stage, and the Malik family driving in from Mt. Vernon, IA to see us and say hello.

On our drive home, I asked Eric for constructive feedback on what it was like to travel with our family. He responded, “your future guests will have to be pretty laid back.” Ha! I know we beat to a different drum and we are thankful that the Blumreich family took the plunge to be our first caravan guests. We are thankful for their willingness to swim upstream with us merrymaking nomads. We love you Eric, Jodie, Emma and Clara.