family vacation

Filled With Irony

If I told you that Michael and I liked Texas so much we went back the weekend after our trip to Austin, would you buy it? Well, we did go back to Texas. This time, Dallas. It wasn’t ideal–Texas two weekends in a row. But Michael’s family had an event that we’d planned on going to all year long. Then my cousin got engaged and set the date for her wedding in Austin. We kept hoping the dates would lineΒ up perfectly so we could make one trip to Texas.

Well it didn’t line up that way. Neither of us wanted to spend 12 days in Texas in order to save airfare and we couldn’t take that much time off work. Two trips it is!

We flew from Portland on Saturday morning and arrived in Dallas after lunch. It’s funny. I’ve NEVER been to Texas in my entire life and then I go twice in one month. πŸ˜› Laugh away. We arrived in Dallas in time to unpack and relax a bit at his dad’s house before changing for dinner.

It wasn’t just a normal dinner, it was also the 90th birthday of Michael’s cousin. It was a pleasure to meet her! She was aΒ feistyΒ firecracker of a woman. She was so interesting too. She lost her first husband when she was 23 years old–he was killed in Japan by a suicide bomber. What an amazing story.

Did I also mention that it was stormy and rainy when we arrived in Dallas? We LEFT the rain in Oregon, hoping for sunny skies and warm weather. Instead it was stormy: pouring rain, lightning! Apparently it was the first rain they’d had in six months! Figures.

For dinner we went to Michael’s cousin’s favorite Mexican restaurant — Joe T. Garcias. What a crazy place. It was at least a whole city block big–with four huge parking lots for the restaurant. The place was humongous. Words cannot describe how big. The waitress guided us through a massive banquet room–which was completely full–outside through a large patio into another massive building. (When we left after our dinner the place had a line a mile long, outside into the rain to get in!)

The other funny thing about Joe T. Garcias restaurant is that there are only two entrees: fajitas or enchiladas. That’s it. There’s no menu. You can’t order anything else there. It’s also served family style. They brought nachos to the table for everyone to share (I had one) and then the entrees came out with tacos for everyone to share.

I got the cheese enchiladas (they were small, thankfully) and the beans, rice and guacamole were all served “family style.” Michael got the beef fajitas. I had a few bites.

It was such a fun and unique experience! I’ve never been to a place like that. The food was pretty good, too. The only complaint: it was INSANELY loud there. It was hard to talk to everyone. So after the musicians sang happy birthday to the birthday girl, we headed out.

We went to a nearby fancy hotel that had a nice, quiet bar where we could all talk and actually hear each other. We went to the Whiskey & Rye in the OMNI Hotel.

It was a cute place, dimly lit. Everyone on the bar was glued to the football on the TV. That’s something that’s very common in Texas. Sports, sports, sports. If they aren’t watching sports, they’re talking about sports. If there isn’t a game on, they’ll talk about old games, or ones coming up–including plans to travel to the stadiums. I’m not a sports fan. This pride and fervor that they all seem to have is very foreign to me.

We had a nice time chatting. I had one glass of red wine with dinner and one at the hotel bar. It was funny, when we were at the restaurant I asked for a wine list and the waiter looked at me like I was a weirdo. It was either red or white. πŸ˜› Another difference between Oregon and Texas!

We headed home to Michael’s dad’s house in the pouring rain. It was literally like Portland’s rain–big, constant raindrops. Everyone thanked us for bringing the rain with us. Hmmm not exactly what I wanted! I wanted sunshine! I changed into my PJs and melted into the bed. I was asleep immediately and didn’t wake up once the entire night. That bed was heavenly.

QUESTION: Have you ever been to a restaurant like that that only had a few things to order? Have you ever had back-to-back trips?

Shaking Off The Mold

Arizona Vacation – Day One

On the first part of the journey
I was looking at all the life
There were plants and birds and rocks and things
There was sand and hills and rings
The first thing I met was a fly with a buzz
And the sky with no clouds
The heat was hot and the ground was dry
But the air was full of sound

I’ve been through the desert on a horse with no name
It felt good to be out of the rain
In the desert you can remember your name
‘Cause there ain’t no one for to give you no pain
La, la …

Let me preface all of these posts by re-iterating that I am an Irish girl born and raised in the Pacific Northwest with pasty white skin. All of my vacation photos will be blinding. I apologize in advance. πŸ˜‰

Catalina Park

Michael and I flew from the moldy, rainy, gray Pacific NW into Phoenix where my parents picked us up and drove to Oro Valley. This photos was Michael and I grabbing a beer in the Portland airport before our flight (at Gustav’s Restaurant).


My dad retired this year and decided to rent a house from a friend for 2 months. Escaping the Seattle drizzle. Wise move, Dad, wise move. I have to say that this vacation was by far one of the funnest I’ve been on–ranking right up there with London and Chicago. On Wednesday morning I awoke in the warm desert (far from the bone-chill) ready to get THIS VACATION STARTED! Woot!

That photo was the backyard of the house my dad rented: 3 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms with a pool and hot tub. The pool wasn’t big enough for me to swim my laps in but I imagine it’s a refreshing thing to have when the temperatures reach 100 degrees!

The four of us ate scrambled eggs and bacon for breakfast before we headed down the road to Catalina State Park for the first hike of the vacation. It was the middle of the week so it wasn’t very crowded. I wasn’t sure how my body would hold up. There were a lot of factors: my IT Band, my recent chest costochondritis BS…the elevation (2600 feet compared to Sea Level where I spend all my time). But everything held up.

Catalina Park

We hiked for about an hour and a half and did about 3 miles. It was a nice hike through the washes, up some hills (nothing compared to the NW) and it was a pretty easy hike.

It was cool seeing all the cacti up close. I don’t know why but I really think cacti are beautiful. I love how green, stark and romantic they are. I took hundreds of photos of the different cacti but I will spare my dear readers the monotony of those. πŸ™‚

Catalina Park

Lots of Critters!!

After our hike we went back to the house for lunch and then headed into Tucson. Oro Valley is about a 12 mile drive from Tucson. That first day the temperatures in Tucson reached 93 degrees. It wasn’t miserable though. Which surprised me because anything over 80 in Portland is uncomfortable. Humidity I guess….?

We drove around downtown Tucson a bit, did a walking tour around downtown to see the courthouse and other city landmarks.


Then we saw the San Xavier Mission.

San Xavier

As a recovering Catholic who shuns all formalized religion for my own brand of hippie-worship, I can’t say that I was excited to see a church. In my teen rebel years I would have been defiant about visiting but I have to say that the Mission was an amazing, impressive piece of art. Take the religion out of it and it’s a beautiful specimen of architecture.

San Xavier

The Mission is on Indian land. There were Native Americans with stands set up selling Indian Fry Bread. I’ve had Fry Bread a few times before and this was by far the best I’ve tried. We all shared the fry bread with honey and it was decadent.

The Mission itself is gorgeous. Inside it’s rustic and takes you back to a simpler time. It was quite the enjoyable experience.

The Mission

Despite the 90+ degree weather, I wasn’t uncomfortable. In fact, we were having a great time. I was diligent about sunscreen and making sure I was constantly drinking water.


Since we were downtown and it was reaching dinner time, a quick Google search with my iPhone brought us to the Old Pueblo Grille.


My mission for this vacation was to eat “authentic food.” I love eating whatever the local cuisine is. I wanted REAL Mexican food and REAL Southwestern food. The Old Pueblo Grill was delicious Southwestern food.

Michael and I both ordered the local brew and I enjoyed it a lot too. I ordered the Copperhead Pale Ale and liked it a lot.

They brought these spicy cornbread muffins to the table as an appetizer. Delicious.


I got the Pollo Asada dish that came with half a chicken and the fixings to make tacos with it — plus spicy Mac n’ cheese. Oh. My. God.

The chicken was tender and not dry, with a heaven-sent smokey flavor that you can’t replicate on a BBQ. I don’t know what they did to it but it was by far the best food of the trip.

Michael and I were exhausted by the time we got back to the house. Good food, stuffed belly, full day of activities = crash into instant sleep.

QUESTION: Have you ever been to Arizona? What did you think of it? What was your favorite thing to see?