Thanksgiving in Tubac, Part 4

Tucson Botanical Gardens and Flight to Memphis

November 24-28, 2004 and November 23-27, 2005 (Page updated Dec. 2, 2005)


1. Memphis to Tucson, Mission San Xavier

3. Tubac Village, Nogales and Tumacacori

2. Arizona’s Delightful Tubac Golf Resort

4. Tucson Botanical Gardens and Flight Home


Index to 18 Photos - 2004

Index to 17 Photos - 2005


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By Lewis Nolan


Nov. 28, 2004 – Sunday. Tubac to Memphis


Betty and I were pleasantly surprised this morning when we found a big, Sunday newspaper just outside the front door of our Casita at
Betty at Tucson Botanical Gardens
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Tubac Golf Resort. Many hotels and motels provide complimentary newspapers to their guests during the week, typically USA Today. This was the first time I’d been given a local paper on Sunday. It was the Tucson Daily Star, which was fat with Christmas advertising.


I’ve been an inveterate reader of newspapers for over a half century. I spent half my working life as a newspaperman. I was a reporter and later business editor of The Commercial Appeal in Memphis before switching to corporate communications at the age of 40, a career move that required me to read even more newspapers.


Now retired, I read the CA “cover-to-cover” seven days a week. I opt for “vacation pacs” when traveling and read all the saved newspapers upon my return. I start reading Sunday’s New York Times on the day of delivery and continue to work through it  for several more days. I finally dropped my subscription to The Wall Street Journal (which I served as a stringer from 1978 to 1984) a couple of years ago. It’s a great newspaper. But I was spending so much time with it that books I had bought or had been given were stacking up, unread.


So here it was, Sunday morning in southern Arizona. Checkout time wasn’t until noon. Dark clouds were gathering. Frost was on the ground from the overnight desert chill, discouraging golf practice or long walks. I had a big newspaper to read and a comfortable easy chair to sit in. Life is sweet.


Newspapers everywhere are struggling. Total circulation at metro dailies fell about 10 percent last year, an industry group recently reported. Many Americans are increasingly turning to the Internet and television for their news. Some are just plain tuning out, which is tragic. I
Lewis at Gardens
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can’t imagine how a reasonably intelligent, educated person can go through life not caring about what is going on in the world around them.  Advertising income for the industry is flat overall and down in some categories. Pressure on the bottom line is intense, which has led to stringent expense controls, layoffs and a tightening of the news hole at many publications.


Editors are searching for new ways to attract young adults to their pages while not losing the aging readership they already have. The Tucson Daily Star evidently has taken a soft turn away from hard news, at least on this day.


The front section reminded me of the way the old Women’s Section of The CA used to look, heavy with features pitched to the females that advertisers want to reach. Coincidence or not, but I noticed the masthead is almost completely feminized, with women holding most of the top management positions.


We checked out of Tubac Golf Resort at 11:30 a.m. We had booked a late flight out to give us the day in Tucson. On previous trips, we have greatly enjoyed the Desert Museum, a mostly open-air zoo and botanical display a few miles outside the city. After spending the morning lazing around the resort, we didn’t have quite enough time to make the longer drive and get through the airport hassles on this peak travel day.


We opted to visit the Tucson Botanical Gardens for the first time. We were surprised to learn that Tucson no longer honors the reciprocal arrangements most major gardens provide to members of comparable gardens in
Lewis at Botanical Gardens
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other cities. Our membership in the Memphis Botanical Gardens has been recognized by gardens in Atlanta, Dallas, Flagstaff, St. Louis and Santa Barbara, Calif. I suppose that Tucson – like New Orleans – eliminated its reciprocity a few years ago because it is heavily dependent on admissions from visiting tourists.


Admission was only a few dollars and worth it. But for a city of its size and prosperity, we thought the Tucson Botanical Gardens falls well short of its counterparts in Atlanta, Dallas, Memphis and especially St. Louis. We visit gardens everywhere we go. Betty’s green thumb has made our half-acre lot a garden spot that delights our friends and neighbors. There are a great many gardens in the U.S. that we have yet to visit. But of those we have seen, the Missouri Botanical Gardens in St. Louis is only surpassed by London’s Royal Gardens at Kew.


An affable, talkative retiree from Ohio was working as a volunteer docent at the entrance to Tucson Botanical Gardens. I had an interesting conversation with him about how challenging it is to grow plants in water-starved Tucson. Rather than the lush lawns and towering oaks that thrive in places like the Mid-South and Midwest, gardeners in the desert must be content with water-stingy varieties that are native to the area. Cactus gardens abound.


The docent told me about one of his friends who planted grass in a pot, which he hand-waters and clips with a miniature lawn mower. Small lots are pretty much the rule in Tucson and other desert communities. He
Betty by blooming palm tree
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said that in place of a lawn, most back yards have brick patios, a few elevated flowerbeds and several large pots that are hand-watered. Shade is typically provided by a masonry or wood “ramada.” Many of the nicer homes have swimming pools, hot tubs or fountains.


One of the more interesting sections of Tucson Botanical Gardens is the Xeriscape Demonstration Garden, which shows how to landscape with plants that do not require much water. There is also a home composting demonstration area dealing with various techniques for composting in the desert.


Other areas in the three-acre site include sections devoted to herbs, cactus and succulents, crops grown by Native Americans and desert wildflowers. There is emphasis on “how to” methods, which must be helpful to new residents moving to the area from wetter parts of the country. The “shade garden” provides ideas about several, regional plants suitable for low-sun areas. The “backyard bird garden” gives tips on growing plants that provide nectar, fruit, seeds, nesting materials and shelter.


At mid-afternoon, we stopped for burgers at a McDonald’s that serves the nearby University of Arizona in midtown Tucson. We paid $1.93 a gallon for gas (compared to $1.75 in West Memphis the next day) on the way to the airport. We arrived by 3 p.m., giving us plenty of time to return the rental car and make our way through security. Thankfully, America West has curbside luggage check-in at the Tucson airport.  


The flight to Phoenix was on time, leaving at 5:15 p.m. There were no problems with the connecting flight to Memphis other than the same, cramped seating we had to deal with on the flight out. We - and our luggage - arrived on time in Memphis and we were home by 11:30 p.m. Great trip. We’re talking about doing it again. There are only two things I’d change. One would be to hit more practice balls before playing the first round of golf. The second would be to get moving earlier on the last day in order to spend several hours at the Desert Museum.


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