I'm here in Tucson, Arizona, this weekend, mainly because I had a spot in the BookGoodies tent at the Tucson Festival of Books. It was an awesome experience, and not just because I got to meet a whole bunch of readers, but also because I met a number of other authors who I've only known from our Facebook group.
But the trip has brought to mind another trip -- a vacation with my parents when I was in high school, when we finally made it all the way to California. (We had tried on an earlier trip, only to be waylaid by the charms of Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado. And if I haven't blogged about that yet, trust me -- I will eventually.)
My father was always hugely interested in the Old West. The guy watched two kinds of movies on TV, mainly: war movies (he served in WWII, which I think I mentioned earlier) and Westerns. Needless to say, he was a big fan of John Wayne, but that wasn't the only draw. The morality in all of those movies was pretty simple -- the good guys whomped up on the bad guys -- and I'm sure that had some appeal. But he seemed to like the whole Old West mystique. One of his favorite musical groups was the Sons of the Pioneers, who sang stuff like "Tumbling Tumbleweeds" and "Git Along Little Dogie" in close harmony.
So on this particular trip to California, he mapped out a southern route through Phoenix, and he talked about dropping south to Tucson (which he pronounced "Telsa" -- not only deliberately mixing up Tucson with Tulsa, but mispronouncing it, too, mainly because he knew it annoyed me). From there, we'd head west across the mountains to San Diego.
Besides the whole "Telsa" annoyance, two other things about that trip stand out in my mind. One was how freaking hot it was in the back seat of the car. We were pulling our trailer, and Dad didn't want to run the air conditioning because he was worried the car would overheat. So we traversed the Sonoran Desert with the windows rolled down, in the summer, and all that miserable heat was smacking me in the face. I finally pleaded with my parents to stop so I could get a drink of water -- and when Dad finally pulled over, I chugged about a half-gallon in about thirty seconds. They felt bad, obviously, but they didn't turn on the a/c; instead, they gave me a water jug and a cup. When we finally crossed the mountains and got our first taste of the breeze off the Pacific Ocean, I thought I'd died and gone to heaven.
The other thing I remember is my freakout over the length of the trip. I was playing clarinet in the Municipal Band that summer, and I'd told the director that I'd only be gone a week. When it became apparent that the trip would be two weeks long, I threw a fit as only a 16-year-old girl can. And I suspect that's part of the reason why Dad dropped the side trip to "Telsa."
So here I am in Tucson this weekend, looking at stuff to do in my downtime, and I discover that all of those old Westerns -- all the ones with the saguaro cacti in the background -- were shot here. And Dad didn't get to see the area up close and personal because I threw a fit about having to be back at work.