New Orleans and Palm Springs are directly connected by 1,780 miles of Interstate 10. That’s 25 hours of driving so we spent two nights in Texas on our way to Palm Springs.
Our first stop was San Antonio, a city I’ve previously visited for a conference but that Chad had never been to before. We had a little bad luck with a traffic backup in western Louisiana that cost us an hour, but we were still able to arrive in the late afternoon around 4 p.m. We checked in to our hotel (review below) and unloaded, then drove down to San Antonio’s main highlight, the Riverwalk. It was a lovely day and there were plenty of people out, and the boat tours of the river were even running (with masks, of course). There were a lot of people in and around the outdoor restaurants but very high mask usage so we felt good there. Apparently, alcoholic beverages to-go are also allowed in San Antonio, like New Orleans, but we decided to save getting a beverage for a return visit in non-COVID times. I’d brought along leftovers to heat up in our hotel room for dinner, which worked out well.
The next day we spent the morning working and then took a picnic to Brackenridge Park. It was really nice there and we especially enjoyed the Japanese Garden. Then we left San Antonio behind to drive almost five hours to Fort Stockton. There we just checked in and heated up the second round of leftovers I brought along. I really just chose Fort Stockton for having inexpensive motels right along the highway (lodging review below).
Our final driving day we had just under nine hours to Tucson and made it in good time. Our Airbnb host (review below) was kind enough to let us check in an hour early and we unloaded and picked up our grocery order from Target. We celebrated our arrival with a nice beverage on our backyard patio, enjoying the warm temperatures we didn’t quite get in New Orleans.
Since we had a full week for Tucson, arriving on a Wednesday, we did typical work days on all the weekdays we were there, but most we finished off with a nice desert hike. This is pretty much our ideal lifestyle, though Tucson was not as charming as many places we’ve been.
On the Saturday we were there, we spent the day in the western part of Saguaro National Park. We had a really great day, but it is definitely desert and our 8-mile hike was pretty grueling. The saguaro cacti were really impressive and even though it was a weekend, it wasn’t at all crowded. However, I think Saguaro is probably our least favorite of all the national parks we’ve been to.
It did give us a great opportunity to use the hiking bandana masks we bought with some of our Christmas money (thanks again, Mom and Dad!). These were a great purchase with a nose clip to make sure it fits tightly on the face and two layers of fabric with a filter in between. They’re very easy to pull up when someone is coming your way that you know you’ll have to pass on the trail without being able to maintain six feet of distance. I definitely recommend them for anyone doing a lot of hiking during COVID-times.
On Sunday after our usual family Zoom calls, we went to the eastern section of Saguaro National Park and enjoyed a great three-mile hike from the Douglas Spring trailhead. On the way home, we picked up our usual Super Bowl fried chicken (the one time a year we eat fried chicken) and then watched a truly abysmal game as the Chiefs lost to the referees. Hopefully, when they go to the Super Bowl next year for the third year in a row, the results will be better.
The other highlight of our time in Tucson was date night out at a Mexican restaurant called Guadalajara. They had happy hour margaritas and salsa made table-side, and we were able to get a vegetarian version of one of our favorite things to order – a molcajete (served in a cast-iron bowl). It was a great meal and though it was a little chilly, just nice to be out to dinner.
I’m really glad we chose to spend a week in Tucson on our way to Palm Springs, though I’m not sure it is a place we’ll prioritize returning to. But we enjoyed our week, especially the sun and the cacti.
Best Western Alamo Suites San Antonio, TX – We loved the spacious, clean room. We didn’t like that there was no in-room coffee, though coffee was available in the lobby. Take-away breakfast choices were limited but ok. Wifi access was just so-so. Great location right by the highway but a five-minute drive to the riverwalk, and surprisingly quiet being so close to the interstate.
Days Inn Fort Stockton, TX – Friendly front desk person at check-in. The room was a good-size and ok on cleanliness, though definitely on the older side. It is nice to have the motel-style outside entrance to the room during COVID. Good highway hotel when driving across Texas!
Tucson Airbnb – We had a great week in this home. We especially loved all the art on the walls. The apartment is really comfortable and clean with fast, reliable wifi and a well-equipped kitchen. We liked having the bedroom upstairs with plenty of closet space. It was also nice having a cozy living room to hang out in.