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Betty Nolan with Merchant Named Raphael in his Nogales, Mexico Store
Part 1: Memphis to Oklahoma City, Route 66, Tucumcari, N.M., and Sante Fe
Part 2: Taos, N.M., Williams, Ariz., Grand Canyon, Desert Drive to California
Part 3: Palm Desert and Palm Springs, Calif.
Part 4: Honolulu and Oahu Island, Hawaii
Part 5: Tubac, Ariz., West Texas and Hope, Ark.
Art Colony and Golf Resort at Tubac, Ariz.
Shopping in Nogales, Mexico
Drive Across West Texas Oil Patch
Friday, July 9, 1999 – To Tubac, Arizona
We got up early and loaded Sally for the long drive to Tubac, Ariz., leaving
Casey’s apartment at 9 a.m. We had briefly visited Tubac twice before during long
weekends in late winter and had wanted ever since to spend some time in the scenic art
colony. It is located south of Tucson, perhaps 15 miles from Nogales, Mexico. Before
getting on our way, we made a stop at the Clark Construction temporary office and met
one of Casey’s co-workers. We then said our good-byes and got on the road, heading
south on California 111, bound for a quick look at the eastern shore of the Salton Sea.
The Salton Sea is huge lake of salt water that was trapped below sea level
centuries ago. It has a high saline content, but some fish are able to live in it. We briefly
stopped at an access point next to a long-closed motel resort and in a matter of moments
dozens of flies flew into the car when we opened the doors. It was disgusting. Several
dead fish bobbed in the small waves and two men fished off a jetty. We quickly departed
and shooed flies out the windows for miles. We thought that the flies came into the car to
escape the oppressive heat, which must have topped 100 degrees.
We drove south on 111 through the Imperial Valley, the nation’s winter vegetable
garden and passed though many miles of produce and alfalfa fields. The hay was
obviously grown for a number of large cattle feeder lots. We saw several truckloads of
sugar beets and lots of evidence of Mexican migrant workers. What housing and
commercial structures we saw were pretty shabby. Unless you’re a head of lettuce, the
Imperial Valley is hot, dusty and miserable place to be.
At last connecting with Interstate 8 near the border town of Mexicalli, we headed
east to Yuma, Ariz., driving by lots more produce farms. Some of the farms had barracks
style housing for the Braceros labor. We saw several U.S. Border Patrol vehicles. Near
Yuma, we passed by the remains of what I believe was a giant feeder lot we had seen on
our big camping trip 18 years earlier. There was a small mountain of cow manure back
then that was so pungent that it made our eyes water and us pinch our nostrils for miles.
My guess is that the economics of compliance with environmental or animal care
regulations resulted in its closing. We also passed by the tiny settlement of Agua
Caliente, which we remembered from a gas-stop in 1981 as being a bigger place back
then. All that remains now is a building or two and they didn’t look occupied.
Connecting with Interstate 10 below Phoenix and then with Interstate 19 just
south of Tucson, we drove through several rain showers before arriving at Tubac Golf
Resort just before 5 p.m. We checked into a huge and plush casita, the finest suite we’ve
ever had at any resort or hotel. For less than $100 a night at the off-season rate, we had a
complete living room with separate dining area, a porch looking out at the golf course, a
fireplace, refrigerator, large bedroom and an enormous bathroom. Our tiny room in
Honolulu could have fit in the bedroom of the spacious Tubac casita. The big resort pool
and hot tub were just a few steps down a sidewalk bordered by blooming rose bushes and
One of the things that attracted us back to Tubac was its appeal to our differing
vacation activity preferences. For me, there was a great golf course. For Betty there was
the proximity of the art colony and its dozens of shops selling the crafts and artwork of
the village’s residents. We had previously stayed at Rio Rico Resort and Country Club. It
is an elegant place a few miles down the road that was once part of the Hilton chain and
has a Robert Trent Jones golf course rated among the best in Arizona. Since our last stay
at Rio Rico, I had learned that Tubac’s course and environs had been used for much of
the filming of the classic golf movie, “Tin Cup,” starring Kevin Costner. It was the
setting for the film’s opening round of the U.S. Open qualifying tournament.
Our previous two visits had coincided with the annual Tubac Arts Festival, a great
event that draws thousands of winter visitors. The names of the galleries and shops
suggest the atmosphere of the place: Cloud Dancer Gallery & Jewelry Design Studio, La
Pinata, Chile Pepper, Turquoise Tortoise, Silver Fox Trading Co., Tubac Ironworks &
Boutique, Buffalo Roam. It’s a great place, in a way a throwback of sorts to the liberated
We had a good dinner at the resort restaurant that night, salmon for me and pork
ribs for Betty. Afterwards I enjoyed watching the stars from the resort’s hot tub and pool.
The late crooner Bing Crosby headed a group of investors that bought the resort site from
the Otero family, which had acquired the first land grant in the territory from the King of
Spain two centuries ago. The resort opened in 1961 as the Tubac Valley Country Club,
and has been visited by many celebrities over the years, including two Presidents, we
were told. The resort restaurant is set in the historic Otero hacienda, a charming structure
that overlooks the golf course.
Saturday, July 10, 1999 – At Tubac
We drove from our casita a half mile or so to the Village of Tubac, said to be the
oldest town in Arizona. It was founded in 1752 by the Spanish, just about the time the
English were expanding their interest in the American Colonies on the East Coast. The
Spanish missionaries, led by Father Kino, arrived in the area in 1691, converting the
native Indians and using their labor to build missions, ranches and farms. In 1752,
Spanish troops put down a revolt by the Pima Indians and established a fort, called
Presidio of San Ignacio de Tubac. The presidio was moved to Tucson in 1776 and Tubac
eventually fell under Mexican rule. Following the Gadsden Purchase of 1853 by the U.S.,
Tubac briefly surged to new life, with a population of 1,000 and regular Butterfield Stage
Coach service. The protecting Federal troops were transferred to the battle lines of the
Civil War in the 1860s and the area fell prey to Apache raiding for 20 years. Geronimo’s
surrender in 1886 brought peace, Tubac gradually became an important center for the art
and history of the Southwest, with many galleries and several museums.
We poked around some of the crafts shops and decided to have lunch at the Café
Fiesta, where we had yummy soup and sandwiches. Mort Greenes, a New Yorker who
was helping his daughter manage the place while on his vacation, recommended that we
eat dinner at the Cow Palace, 10 or 15 miles up I-19. We did and found the food to be
pretty good and reasonably priced. The locally famous, garish saloon and restaurant has
been visited by such celebs as Kevin Costner, Whoopy Goldberg, John Wayne and Frank
After lunch, I played golf course and Betty sunned at the pool. The course, one of
three area “musts” recommended by Golf Magazine (the others are Rio Rico, which I
played indifferently on previous visits, and San Iganacio Country Club), is one of
Southern Arizona’s classic layouts. It meanders through the old Otero Ranch and along
the banks of the Santa Cruz River, which was only a trickle during our stay. Off the blue
tees, it is 6,777 yards, with a rating of 72.4 and a slope of 128. I opted for a mix of the
white and gold tees, where the distance dropped to a tamer 5,770 yards, the rating to 66.9
and the slope to 113. The greens were well watered, true and generous. I shot a
remarkable 38 on the front 9 due to some unusually accurate chipping that set up a
personal record of only 12 putts for the side. I one-putted six greens and two-putted three
greens. Unfortunately, my game reverted to normal on the back 9 and I scored a 48,
taking 19 putts in the process, for a total of 86 for the round. Still, that was the best score
so far of the trip.
Sunday, July 11, 1999 – To Nogales, Mexico
I got into the hot tub after a light breakfast and found that the immersion did
wonders for the muscle soreness I often experience after playing 18 holes. I had the hot
tub and sparkling clean pool to myself, which was delightful.
We drove through the big Tubac Golf Resort arch (through which Don Johnson
hit a golf ball in “Tin Cup”) at 9:30 a.m. for the 20-minute drive to the Mexican border
town of Nogales. Betty shopped for a couple of hours with me in tow and seemed to get
some good bargains in silver jewelry, liters of liquid vanilla and a couple of bottles of
tequila. My only purchases were a western belt for myself and a Christmas crèche for the
neighbors who were tending to our mail. It seemed that the 100-plus degree heat of the
summer off-season had definitely reduced the number of tourists. We were among the
very few Anglos that we discerned in Nogales on this morning, giving us the full
attention and possibly even better prices from the merchants. The memorable
shopkeepers we dealt with were Jesus (pronounced Hay-soos) and Raphael.
Driving back to Tubac on I-19 from the border, all northbound traffic was
diverted to a U.S. Border Patrol temporary checkpoint. With Sally’s top down and me in
my Hawaiian shirt, I guess we didn’t look like undocumented aliens so we were waved
through. But some of the other cars and all the trucks are inspected for stowaways, who
when apprehended are held in an air-conditioned bus parked nearby. I read in a local
paper that the Border Patrol had apprehended more than 20,000 undocumented aliens in
the district the previous month. (We passed through another Border Patrol checkpoint the
next day, in South Texas).
We again had lunch at the Café Fiesta and Betty bought a very nice, copper
garden fountain at Tubac’s Lee Blackwell Studio, which shipped it to our Memphis
home. We had visited the studio on our previous trips and had long coveted one of their
distinctive fountains. A woman metalsmith – who surprised me with her lack of
familiarity with the National Ornamental Metal Museum in Memphis – said several of
her friends had moved out of Nogales, Ariz., because of the constant flood of Mexicans
pouring through the border town and the property of its residents. It’s difficult for
Americans to comprehend just how desperate Mexicans and other third-worlders are to
get to the U.S., and its tremendous opportunities.
I returned to the golf course for the afternoon and Betty returned to Tubac village
to do some more shopping. Due to my tee time in the afternoon heat, I had the delightful
course all to myself until I ran into traffic on the 12th Hole. I drove the ball into the wide
fairways quite well and enjoyed more consistency with my irons than I had the previous
day. I shot a 41/42 for an 83, one of my best scores of the year. I love the course and feel
it is one where I could break 80 if I were at the top of my game and playing under ideal
We spent some time in and around the pool late in the day, followed by a light
supper of Café Fiesta takeout sandwiches and a bottle of a nice Chardonnay. Whether by
design, distance or economics, Tubac Resort TV only picks up a few local stations. So we
watched a PBS show about ocean storms and had an early bedtime. Having such a big,
luxurious place to relax and play in was a perfect way to end the “vacation” segment of
our trip. Now we were faced with a very long, tiring drive home.
Monday, July 12, 1999 – To Midland, Texas
We were on the road before 8 a.m., heading north on I-19 to Tucson and I-10,
where we turned east to cut across a scenic section of Arizona and New Mexico to El
Paso. The desert was the greenest we had ever seen it, with running rivers and shallow
puddles in the hardpan here and there. The Ocotillo cactus was an emerald shade of
green, almost surreal like the flora of Ireland. The frequent afternoon showers and
thunderstorms we drove through are called “monsoons” by the locals, who say June and
July are the wet months in the desert here.
I was surprised to see that El Paso was so busy and congested with traffic, despite
the multilane expressways through the city. It has grown unbelievably since we drove
through 18 years ago. I was also struck by the persistent odor of petroleum in the “oil
patch,” the Odessa-Midland section of Texas, where there are forests of idle oil well
pumpers. Some of the horsehead-like machines still nod their heads up and down to
pump the remaining oil from the ground, and the oilfield support industry seems to thrive
in the area. But it is plain to see that most of the oil has been pumped out and long since
converted to gasoline. We stopped at the Midland Sleep Inn and had an unremarkable
dinner at Carrow’s Family Restaurant, recommended by a motel clerk who either was on
secret retainer to the local eatery or whose knowledge of food was limited.
Lewis Nolan with Cutout Cutups in Hope, Ark., Souvenir Shop
Tuesday, July 13, 1999 – To Hope, Arkansas
We left Midland shortly after 9 a.m., headed for Dallas on what we knew would
be a boring drive through flattish West and North Central Texas. We passed through
Nolan County and its population center, Sweetwater, where we learned that Sweetwater
is the home of the world’s largest rattlesnake roundup. A few miles down Interstate 20
was Stink Creek. We skirted Fort Worth and Dallas on a beltway that may have added a
lot of miles and time to the drive, stopping for a much-needed lunch of something other
than McDonald’s. We actually sat down for soup, salad and tasty sandwiches at a
Schlozky’s. After 9 ½ hours driving and faced with at least 4 more hours to get to
Memphis, we decided to stop for the night just across the Texas border at Hope, Ark., the
birthplace of President Bill Clinton.
We stayed at a tired Quality Inn, where my AARP membership got us a discount
and a decent room for $33, including a chincey Continental breakfast. Hope is in a dry
county, but a “private club” in the motel parking lot allows motel guests to buy drinks.
Linda Lou’s is the name of the roadhouse, which could be a redneck movie set complete
with country characters, country band and barnyard humor on the walls. The place stunk
of cigarette smoke. I finished my gin on the rocks (Linda Lou didn’t have any vermouth)
in a hurry. We had an excellent, country cookin’ buffet dinner at the Western Sizzling
Steakhouse, where one of President Clinton’s cousins works as a cashier. While the
cousin was off this evening, there were a great many Clintonesque souvenirs for sale in
the restaurant’s gift shop and we bought a few, including postcards for our Republican
friends and a first day letter cover for my collection.
Wednesday, July 14, 1999 – To Memphis
With the help of a free, self-guided tour map from the restaurant, we drove around
Hope and looked at the two-story, frame house where President Clinton was born. It was
the home of his grandparents and has recently been restored by the town. The town is
more neat and spruced up with flags and repaved streets than Southern towns of similar
size we’ve visited. Hope is obviously taking advantage of the tourism potential of having
a former resident in the White House. We stopped to take some photos of Clinton’s
boyhood home, a nice but small frame house on a shady street.
We didn’t delay our departure for lunch and were soon on the road to Memphis,
thankfully with the trip’s last sack of fast food. We arrived home in less than four hours,
glad to see that our house was still standing and our yard was in good shape. It was great
to be back home with so many terrific memories.
The next day, a big stack of newspapers from the past four weeks was delivered
and I had several days’ worth of reading ahead of me to catch up on the news of
Memphis. It also took a few days to work our way through a big pile of mail and to return
to our normal summer routine of working in the yard, swimming in the pool, cooking
some great meals and generally enjoying being at home together.
- Trip account completed Oct. 28, 1999
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