So you may have noticed a few Touristy Tuesday posts are missing. I skipped over our weeks in Phoenix and Albuquerque (although I did blog about the Doggie Dash & Dawdle). Phoenix didn’t make the cut because I was only there a few days before taking off for Washington D.C. Then in Albuquerque Abe and I were swamped with Hotdogger Challenge and didn’t really have a chance to do much in town. I also didn’t run in either city (tapering and then recovering) so it really felt like I wasn’t even there!
Abe and I got back in the swing of being 27′ long hot dog tourists though in Tucson, Arizona. The drive in from Albuquerque was one of the most gorgeous we have had yet. Absolutely unbelievable fall colors greeted us throughout New Mexico. It was so mesmerizing that I made Abe stop along the way so I could get a picture of the Wienermobile with the rich autumn golds and reds.
The drive into Tucson fell on election day, so no one got to see my ‘I Voted’ sticker but we arrived ready for a patriotic evening. We were staying at a Hilton Garden Inn, which I’ll admit I partially booked because of the hotel bar. We should have known that it would be a Republican crowd when we pulled up barstools and the TV was on FOX. Talk about some conservative folks, but I guess that figures when you’re at a business hotel in Arizona, of all places!
The night was actually pretty fun. I made it a rule that everyone in the bar order drinks that were either red, white, or blue. Hearing a businessman ask for a “shot of blue curacao” (not knowing that it’s not really a shot) was so funny and endearing I was almost able to excuse his conservative ranting and raving!
Our first day off in town we admittedly didn’t do much. We went to sushi for lunch and then on the way back into the hotel we spotted the hotel pool.
Who could turn this down in the middle of November.
After making a marginal amount of progress through Dean Karnazes’s 50 marathons book, I looked over at Abe and we simultaneously expressed how bored we were. After a bit of Googling we found two solutions to our boredom: skydiving and hip hop dance lessons. Unfortunately, skydiving wasn’t available until the next day and the hip hop class was that evening. We were stuck still bored.
This hotel had a phenomenal workout facility, and we decided instead of day drinking the afternoon away we would get a workout in. I’ve been telling Abe I wanted him to teach me the basics of lifting since we started in June, but have never actually taken him up on a lesson until then.
See, weightlifting is something I KNOW I should do. In fact, I think it’s something I think I would really enjoy because there are benchmarks, numbers, statistics, and measurable results. However, sine I don’t know how to really do it I’ve pretty much avoided it like the plague. That week in Tucson however I got three dumbbell workouts in! (That’s the best you can do when you’re living out of a suitcase.)
I wish I could say I’ve kept up with it, but hotels since have only had the terrible trio of hotel card: the dreadmill, the helliptical, and the bike. (I’ll post on some of the new fitness goals I’m setting for myself soon!)
That night Abe and I split up – he went to the hip hop dance class (an hour of hell for the rhymically-challenged like myself) and I headed out for a run and had the pleasure of running in this sunset.
The next day was the big day: SKYDIVING!! This was something Abe and I had talked about for months. Afraid of heights, he really wanted to do indoor skydiving, but I just never saw the point of that. Finally – we were electively jumping out of a perfectly fine plane!
We jumped with Arizona Skydiving in Eloy, AZ – midway between Tucson and Phoenix. Their staff deserves a shout out for being absolutely incredible. Almost everyone was awesome – really nice, patient, and enthusiastic. Apparently this is a world-class jump site because they had people from all over the world, from Brazil to the German army! There was also a group of senior citizens who were there to set the world record for the number of people over 60 skydiving at once.
Soon after signing a document in which we acknowledged we were risking our lives we were harnessed up and walking toward the plane.
The scariest part of the entire experience was easily not the jump itself, but the flight up.
They kept the door open and I got more and more anxious as well climbed. I was freaking out in the first two minutes and they said we had quite a bit further to go. After five minutes of panicking I realized I had better just chill out because there was literally no backing out at this point.
And then suddently we were at jumping altitude. Since the door was already open people just started walking out. It was insane! Boom. Boom. Boom. Hooked to my instructor who I would be jumping tandem with, we made our way to the door. Thank god he pretty much pushed me out because there was NO CHANCE I could have done it myself. I may have been paralyzed with fear at that point. You are right there, a breath away from free-falling down to Earth. Even writing this recap I’m getting butterflies!
The feeling falling from the plane was a combination of absolute terror and pumping adrenaline. After what felt like 10 minutes (it was probably a minute) of free fall my tandem instructor pulled the parachute and we jerked upward. The trip down was incredible. I didn’t realize how fast we would be going. It looks slow and steady once the parachute is open, but you’re actually going pretty fast. I wish I had pictures of this, but the coolest part was seeing the Wienermobile slowly get bigger as we got closer to Earth!
I had asked my tandem instructor about landing procedure in the plane and he said, “Let’s make sure the parachute opens before we worry about that.” (Luckily, that’s EXACTLY what I wanted to hear seconds from jumping out of a plane. Not.) The landing was actually pretty smooth and with that we were on the ground! We had jumped from 13,000 feet and made it! Whoo!
I had been worried about Abe since he was afraid of heights, but he followed close behind me!
After the jump Abe and I compared experiences. The instructor that I was jumping tandem with actually kind of sucked. He clearly did not share in my excitement/anxiety/enthusiasm. Abe’s instructor was amazing, really encouraging and even let him steer. My instructor was more like a “let’s get this over with” kind of guy.
Even though I think he took away from my overall skydiving experience, I learned a valuable lesson. People come to the Wienermobile also looking for a magical experience, and every time I talk to someone I am in the same position as that tandem instructor. I am able to make their visit that much more enchanting. Even though I sing the jingle dozens of times each day and hand out Wienie Whistles left and right, for the person seeing the Wienermobile they haven’t had those experiences in years, decades, or maybe even ever. It was a good reminder to always make it special!
Skydiving was just the first adventure of our week in Tucson. We had another when we ventured into Mexico! That’s right – we headed South of the border for dinner Sunday night. We had an event in Nogales, AZ which turns out is directly across from Nogales, Mexico.
I had received a passport for Christmas two years ago from a friend’s mom and this was my first chance to actually use it. After work we parked the Wienermobile and simply walked across the border. We didn’t stray too far because it was already fairly late, but we did have a delicious Mexican meal in Mexico.
We also stopped at a plethora of cart vendors for goodies.
I was disappointed to find out there would be no actual passport stamp for me. Apparently they don’t stamp your passport when you’re just headed over for dinner! Bummer.
It proved to be much harder to get back into the U.S. than it was to go into Mexico. We just walked right in going down, but coming back U.S. Border Patrol had a few questions for us. They were quite unimpressed when they asked me what I ate for dinner and I didn’t have an answer. In this situation the wrong reaction is definitely turning to Abe and asking him, “What was it we had? Flautus? Tortas?” I guess we should have gotten our stories straight ahead of time. Haha! Whoopsie. Luckily we both made it through and returned to the Wienermobile in one piece.
While I didn’t get a stamp in my U.S. passport, I did score one more for the National Parks Passport while in Tucson. Our last morning in town I went for a 5 mile hike through Saguaro National Park, home to all those classic desert multi-pronged cacti.
The hike was beautiful and the perfect opportunity for reflection. Every time I’m in a national park I feel such a sense of gratitude for how beautiful our country is and that we value preserving areas like that.
The next day we high-tailed it out of Tucson, Arizona and headed to Lubbock, Texas. Talk about a long drive that day! On the bright side, we did stop for one roadside attraction that I’ll blog about next week!