An ongoing adventure of travel and living while using a wheelchair. Tim has been disabled from birth. Darryl is his father and caregiver who travels with him.
Email us at
All content, images, and video copyright 2009,2010, 2011, 2012 and 2013 - Darryl, Letty, and Tim Musick
After spending a day in Tombstone it’s time to see Tucson proper. The weather that had been threatening finally called in its debt and rain started coming down as we got back into the city.
Seems that’s how it goes for us, plan on a sunny getaway and we’ll get cold and rain. Plan a trip to the snow and we’ll get a heat wave.
Watch the Video!
In the morning, we have a nice breakfast at the hotel…seriously, they have a great hot breakfast buffet…and make our way to downtown Tucson to see what we can find. It is downright cold this morning.
Pulling into downtown, flakes start to fall. That’s right…it is now snowing in downtown Tucson. In the desert. In Southern Arizona. Just a few miles north of the border. Where lawns don’t exist but Saguaro cacti do.
It looks like our bathing suits are just going to take up space in the luggage for this trip.
We find a spot to park on Congress Street on the east side of the city center. It’s cold and snowy so we duck into the lobby of the beautifully restored Hotel Congress to get all our jackets, mittens, and hats on.
The manager comes up to us. He just wants to point out the accessible routes to all the areas of the lobby and invites us to come in and take as much time as we want to get warm.
That’s how hospitality is done, folks.
It is indeed an inviting place to sit for awhile, have a cup of coffee, and warm up in the tile walled room.
Out back, we cross the street to the old, restored Tucson train station. Here you’ll find Maynard’s Restaurant and Maynard’s market. We wander the aisles of the small store where you’ll find an upscale selection of food, wine, and beer plus some reasonably priced sandwiches and other prepared food to go.
Letty and I get a cup of weak coffee and it’s back out into the cold, cruel world.
Back on Congress Street, we stop at the Chicago Store. It’s a large music store with just about any instrument you’d want to find. It’s also like a musical pawn shop where local musicians can sell their instruments and budding musicians can buy them. I get just a couple of items that I needed for our audio studio back home.
We continue to walk around in the light snow flurry but, although there seems to be a big surge towards restoration of the area, it’s still got a ways to go to be lively.
Back in the van, we head up First Avenue for lunch. Today, it’s at BK Tacos. You might have seen this place on the Food Network or the Travel Channel. The specialty here is the Sonoran hot dog. This starts with a bacon wrapped hot dog…a truly evil and delicious combination…and then piles on beans and salsa. Most people also load up on the shredded cheese from the condiment bar. It’s known as a chili dog on steroids…a pretty apt description.
The dogs are very good. I also have a couple of their good al pastor tacos along with some creamy guacamole and hot sauce from the condiment bar. It’s good enough to order seconds.
Tonight we’re going out on the town. Specifically to a show at the restored Fox Theater on Congress Street back in downtown.
When I was researching this trip, I saw that country singer Mark Chesnutt was going to be in town so we stopped in and bought tickets on arrival. The wheelchair seating is in two boxes on either the left or right side of the orchestra and only 8 rows back from the stage. Their actually very good seats.
At show time, the place is only about a third full so it was far from a sellout. The first act, Mark Connors…a local singer, was not great. The headlining Mark, Mr. Chesnutt, was great and...if you’ll pardon my French for a second...kicked ass.
The partially filled auditorium made up for the lack of bodies with the full-throated cheers and screams at Mr. Chesnutt’s act. Security was tight, though, no pictures other that what we could grab with our phone or download a public domain copy could be had, so I apologize for the lack of photos.
The next day we wind down a bit, go shopping at some of Tucson’s many pawn and thrift shops, and spend the evening reminiscing at the hotel’s happy hour before settling in for one more night.
We need to be well rested for that all day drive back to L.A.
I just found out that one of my favorite Scottsdale restaurants, The Coyote Grill, is no more. For you snowbirds or anyone else who finds themselves in Scottsdale, here are some of our remaining favorite dining options:
Scottsdale, Phoenix's tonier next door neighbor, continues to be a big draw for us. It's a wonderful, accessible city with some truly world-class hotels. In the off season (the hot summertime), those hotels can be had for a song.
It's also a place where dozens of outstanding restaurants call home. Here are some favorites we've found along the way...
THE GOOD EGG is a local chain of coffee shops. Although open all day, the specialty here is breakfast. We've had some delicious omelettes along with more traditional fare such as pancakes and bacon & eggs. All were very delicious and the service was top notch with reasonable prices.
REATA PASS used to be located way out in the middle of nowhere. It's an old 1882 stagecoach stop from the old west days that is now a steakhouse and bar. The middle of nowhere has now turned into just another neighborhood of huge, sprawling Scottsdale but this short stretch of Alma School Road will take you back to the days gone by. In the warm months, big juicy steaks are grilled under the stars while you're serenaded by country and western singers. The food's delicious and the view of the mountains and stars can't be beat. Prices here are very reasonable but you need to check with the bartender for the accessible route to the dining area. It's also a very long drive from downtown Scottsdale. Don't come here in the off season before April, though. The outdoor section is closed in the cooler weather.
OLD TOWN TORTILLA FACTORY has an unfortunate name. It's kind of corny like the Old Spaghetti Factory and makes me think it will be kitschy...and maybe fun...but the food might not be so good. Nothing could be farther from the truth at this dinner only restaurant in downtown Scottsdale. The restaurant is housed in an old adobe residence with outdoor dining available on a cool tiled patio. There's a really neat fountain out there that spews fire along with the water. The bar (the tequilaria as it's called here) is located in another building across the patio from the restaurant proper. We had some delicious chorizo laced nachos for an appetizer followed by saucy chicken enchiladas and a Mexican style chicken croquette dish laced with Mexican crema. Very delicious and reasonably price at around ten dollars.
THE VILLAGE TAVERN located at the Gainey Village shopping center is like one of those classic national park lodges inside. The high ceiling is held aloft with huge, wooden beams with a big fireplace at one end of the dining room and the open kitchen at the other. Portions are huge here and prices are a little north of the mid-teens but the staff does not frown upon splitting entrees. My wife and I split the rib eye steak dinner here, which was very succulent, and had a double decker cheesecake for desert (cheesecake on one layer, chocolate mouse on the other...mmmmm!) and left with a bill under $35 dollars.
ALTO RISTORANTE located in the Hyatt Regency Resort is one of the most unique restaurants in Scottsdale. Yes, they have delicious Italian food served in more-than-we-could-eat portions. I had a huge veal chop while my wife had a salmon pasta. Desert was a delicious thing called a Sandolino with berries covered in creamy custard served in a flaky pastry shell shaped like an Italian gondola with a chocolate stick for the gondola pole (the sandolo in the dish's name refers to a shallow-draft type of gondola in Venice). The waiters sing...constantly. It takes a little getting used to but you do and they are very talented along with being good servers. The crowning glory after all this is that after dinner, you are escorted to the adjacent lake where you are treated to a gondola ride around the lake serenaded by the gondolier. The prices here are reasonable for a good Italian dinner and include the gondola ride afterward. With that thrown in, I'd call this place one of the biggest dinner bargains around.
-Darryl Picture courtesy of Wikimedia Bernard Gagnon under CC-BY-SA license
Over the years, we’ve been to destinations across Arizona. The Grand Canyon, Flagstaff, Prescott, Oatman, Bullhead City and Laughlin, Phoenix , Scottsdale, and Yuma have all seen our van pass through. One glaring section was missing, however, the southeast corner of the state.
It’s midafternoon when we finally pull into our hotel, the Radisson Suites located east of downtown Tucson on Speedway Blvd. We have a true two-room suite with a separate living room and bedroom. The bathroom area is also two rooms, the bathroom itself and a dressing area outside with a closet and a sink.
In the bathroom, there is a bathtub with a shower seat provided by the hotel, a roll-under sink, and a no-step shower. Not quite a roll-in, but you could put the shower seat there and transfer to it in the shower…as long as you’re not too wide. The bedroom has a flat-screen LCD TV while the living room has an older picture tube model.
Outside is a large pool in a lush, landscaped courtyard with a spa and a large firepit for the evening. A restaurant and bar off to the side provide a generous breakfast buffet in the morning, meals throughout the day, and a happy hour at night. The breakfast was included for an extra ten dollars.
After unpacking, we eat our first meal in the city at Rosa’s Mexican Food on Fort Lowell Road. This is Willie Nelson’s favorite place to eat in the city. It’s in the back of a nondescript strip mall and is your usual Mexican restaurant. We start off with mediocre margaritas (made with mix, not from scratch), some really good enchiladas and chile rellenos, and finish off with sopapillas which are fried dough covered with honey and served with whipped cream.
Except for the margaritas, it was all very wonderful and inexpensive.
We take a quick drive over to downtown Tucson, which is in the middle of redevelopment. It looks like a fun place. I stop off at the restored Fox Theater there and pick up some tickets for a concert the next night.
With that done, we get a bottle of wine, some bread, cheese, and settle in for a quiet night in.
Except that it wasn’t that quiet. A large group of kids were in the hotel making a lot of noise late. I slept right through it but Letty and Tim had a rough night. Had I’d known, I would have called hotel security to shut them up.
In the morning, I went in to take a shower. The shower head was set to the widest possible spray and I could barely get any water on me. The water took…and I timed this…9 minutes to warm up. The bathtub shower head was limp and in serious need of Viagra…it just wouldn’t stay up.
After breakfast, we took our concerns to the manager who moved us upstairs to a similar room with working fixtures. We also complained about the noise and did not have any more problems with it during our stay. The water still took 9 minutes to warm up, though.
After eating and moving, we drove out of Tuscon. Along Kolb Road, on our way to the Interstate, we saw hundreds of military planes, sealed up against the elements, stored on the tarmac. This is Davis-Monthan Air Force Base and the planes are part of AMARG – the Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group – which maintains over 4,000 aircraft here in readiness and for surplus.
After the planes, we get to Interstate 10 and head east. Our destination, 70 minutes away, is the old historic town of Tombstone, better known as the locale of such wild west sites as OK Corral and Boot Hill.
Once in Tombstone, we drive around the old part of town and have a devil of a time finding parking. We learn that the lot on the other side of Highway 80 designated as OK Corral parking can also be used as a general parking lot for the town and it’s also free so we park there.
Luckily, traffic is not so intense here so crossing the highway is no big concern.
Letty and Tim have been debating through the morning about attending the gunfight at the OK Corral in the afternoon. Tim’s disability has the effect of his eardrums not being able to tense up at loud noises like normal folk so he really dislikes loud, sudden noises. Letty wants to see it and offers to put in earplugs and cover those up with shooter’s headphones. Tim tentatively agrees…we’ll see.
We start off by going to the visitor’s center. While the gentleman there is friendly and lots of brochures are available, he won’t provide us with prices for the various attractions around town. We are told we’ll have to visit each one and ask. I think that’s what a visitor’s center should do but…
Off we go, strolling down the main street, mixing in with cowboys, gunfighters, soiled doves, and more. While some of these people work here in those costumes, it also seems like a lot of the locals just like to dress this way. There is also a contingent of people who also like to come here and play dress up.
Our first stop is to wet our whistle. We go into Big Nose Kate’s Saloon. I have to ask one of the employees to open the second side of the double-door so that Tim can get his wheelchair through. He shows me the trick of pulling on a chain attached to the door that releases it…a little tip that would come in handy time and time again as we visited the various shops in Tombstone.
We belly up to the bar…or roll up to it in Tim’s case…and have a shot of tequila. Letty visits the gift shop, located down a tiny, narrow, spiral iron staircase downstairs and I request some outlaw country songs from the singer while Tim and I sip our shots.
It’s crowded, but it’s a lot of fun and you need to spend a little time in the saloon where Doc Holliday and the Earp’s used to hang out in.
We continue up the street, visit the lobby of the Bird Cage Theater, turn around and stroll slowly back towards the OK Corral at the other end of town.
Along the way we see a little plaque saying that Wyatt Earp’s brother was murdered in the shop we were standing in front of. Of course, we have to go in there and find the spot.
Finally, at the other end of town we arrive at the OK Corral. It’s 12:30pm and the gunfight is at 2. Tim is having none of it and offers to wait in the car during the show. I can’t really let him do that, so the gunfight is scratched from the schedule. It’s $10 dollars to go into the corral and see the gunfight. If you don’t want the gunfight, then it’s only $6 so we opt for the cheaper ticket so we can at least visit it.
Inside, at the site of the real gunfight, there’s an audio show with some rudimentary robots standing in for the Earp’s, Doc Holliday, the Clanton’s, and McLaury’s. The recreated gunfight takes place in an adjacent arena.
We look around, take in some exhibits including a prostitute’s shack, and then visit with the blacksmith who is very friendly and makes a custom horseshoe for Tim.
After that visit, we head back to the other end of town…far away from any gunshots…and have lunch at the Longhorn Steakhouse where we have some very good burgers while waiting for the gunfight to end.
One wonderful thing about Tombstone is that we did not find anything to be inaccessible to wheelchairs. There are basic...very basic...accessible restrooms at each end of town and it's a very easy 3 block stretch from end-to-end.
After lunch, we drive to the north end of town to the little western cemetery there better known as Boot Hill. Here is where the town buried it's dead back in the wild west days. The dead from the OK Corral are buried here, as are numerous criminals who were hanged...some "legally" as their headstones say.
Not to forget, the infamous Lester Moore...you know, "four slugs from a .44. No Les, No More."
The cemetery is mostly wheelchair accessible. It's dirt, so expect so bumpy, rocky paths but for the most part, you'll be able to visit it. It's also free, although a donation is requested.
Back in the car, we settle in for the drive back to Tucson.
There’s more to come, stay tuned for part 2 of this trip.
We're working our way through the American Southwest. This week, it's Yuma as we work our way over into Arizona. Yuma is at the convergence of California, Arizona, and Mexico...
Watch the Video!
In the old days, cowboys would come here looking for a good saloon, a bath, and maybe someone to spend the night with. Today, we’re looking for a full breakfast, a big room with a comfortable bed, and a good wifi connection.
Near the western end of town, reminders of the old days sit across the freeway from each other. The Territorial Prison on a bluff looking over the Colorado River held the area's ne'er do wells within its thick, rock walls. Those who were more upstanding…or maybe just lucky at not being caught…would have a cold beer while playing cards across the way at Lute's Casino.
For this trip, our hotel would be the Springhill Suites, just off of Interstate 8 at the 16th Street exit. Our room would be a large, semi-suite with a living room and a separate bedroom area with a king-size bed. There is also a full-size sofabed in the living room. The bathroom is large. You have your choice of a tub and bath chair, or a roll-in shower.
We don't need a roll-in so we opt for the tub.
The $81 rate includes a full, hot breakfast. No one would mistake it for gourmet, but the eggs, sausage, toast, and waffles are good and wholesome.
Nearby is another alternative, the La Fuente Inn and Suites where the price is nearly the same, the suites are really big rooms, it's not quite as accessible (no roll-in showers), but they do offer a great hot breakfast, have a really fun happy hour each night, and a beautiful pool area.
Seven miles to the west, back in California, we start the trip by walking over the border to Mexico in Los Algodones. A medical tourism hotspot catering to snowbirds, today we're just making a fast shopping trip to get some great, cheap premium tequila and some medicines to stock up our medicine cabinet with. Letty also gets some big bottles of vanilla for cooking.
Back in Yuma, a trip to the old territorial prison is in order. At a cost of $8, it's not cheap, but what a step back in time. Walking through the sally port, you see the massive, iron reinforced adobe walls. Other parts of the prison use solid rock walls five feet thick.
Small cells with chamber pots line the corridors. Some have rings embedded into the ground to chain the prisoners in place. The dark cell, used for punishment, is indeed a scary place. An iron grid on the floor outlines the spot where the former cage was. It is imperative to watch your step in this dark room.
The entire complex, save for one cell, is accessible to wheelchairs but some parts may be bumpy.
For dinner, we go over the freeway to Lute's where we sit among the memorabilia hanging throughout the room. Dinner tonight is the Lute's special, which is a cheeseburger topped with a sliced hot dog. It's good, cheap, and kind of a gutbuster.
The sun comes up late here in the winter…Arizona does not participate in daylight savings time. At 7:15 in the morning, the first rays pop up over the eastern mountains. We have a final breakfast at the hotel before packing it up and heading back on the road.
Yosemite is always a beautiful place but throughout the year it sports a different wardrobe. The summer brings throngs of tourists and a great mass of exposed flesh among the washed-out summer hues. Spring brings wildflowers sprinkled among the carpet of the forest. In winter, it hides under a stark but beautiful blanket of white.
When the chill of fall arrives is when the park really shows its true colors. So put a log on the fire, grab a mug of your favorite hot drink and come on along for the tour.
At the top of the page is a view of Yosemite Falls framed by a rainbow of foliage.
It had rained the day before so Yosemite Falls...the tallest in the country...was really flowing good.
The pond in front of the Awahnee Lodge provided a quiet place for reflection.
Just a random shot with the fall colors in front of the more evergreen pine trees here.
Half Dome was shrouded in the remnants of the Veteran's Day rainstorm. There was a light dusting of snow on top.
Sorry, I don't know the name of this precipice but it looms over the Awahnee Lodge.
And we wrap up the tour with this cozy sight in front of the Awahnee. Just makes you want to cuddle up with a cup of hot chocolate in front of the huge fireplace in their lobby.
In part 1 of this trip, we introduced you to the little Mexican border town of Los Algodones, a very popular destination for medical tourism.
We came for the eyeglasses but there are many other medical options in town, especially dentists who seem to operate an office every twenty feet or so. Touts will sit out in front of practically every business but instead of offering strippers and other unsavory fare, they will be trying to get you in for a low-price dental or optical exam. Many pharmacies also line the streets selling brand name drugs for less than their U.S. counterparts. Other medical services abound here from normal general practitioners to plastic surgeons but opticians, dentists, and pharmacies pretty much rule the roost here.
Watch the video for this trip!
It’s 2 ½ hours until we need to go back to Algodones Optical to pick up our new glasses. Another thing we like about Mexico is the abundance of really premium tequilas at low prices. Although there are many liquor stores here in town, we end up at twin purple stores of the Liqui’s empire.
On the east side of the street, the largest of the two stores offers a literal supermarket of booze attached to its pharmacy. Across the street, a smaller version of the purple monster offers a slightly more relaxed version along with its own pharmacy and furniture outlet.
Tasting bars are set up in each store and the staff is more than happy to pour out a few drops of any tequila in the store to taste so you can know if you like it before you buy it.
The uncles, Heliodoro and Hector, are two of the finest tequila aficionados I know. I’m getting there, beyond a novice, but not quite there yet. Tim’s just starting out.
Before you think too judgmentally about me, know that a fine tequila is as tasty, smooth, and delicious as a fine cognac. It is not to be guzzled in quick shots down your throat before the gag reflex sets in for a quick buzz. If it is really good, it is best enjoyed by itself…no lime or salt…sipped slowly for the smooth warmth of its taste. Try a shot of Cuervo Gold followed by a shot of Hornitos Reposado…both similarly priced mid-range tequilas…to see what I’m talking about sometime.
We taste a few samples, some good, some not so good, and a couple of outstanding examples. Since each adult can bring back a liter of alcohol duty free, we buy six bottles of various platas, reposados, and añejos (see our Cocktail Hour for October 17th…Tequila Tasting with the Tios…to see how they turned out). Since the bottles are 750ml and we’re allowed a liter, we fill in the gap with 100 and 200ml bottles of various brands.
An example of how much you save is the Clase Azul reposado I bought. This is the unanimous pick for the best tequila we tasted today. At Beverages and More, a 750ml bottle is $90. I got two 375ml bottles for $30 each, or $60 for 750ml…2/3 the price of BevMo.
After our tequila shopping, we continue on for a few blocks because Letty wants to buy a galvanized bucket at the local hardware store. Nearby is a nice, little town park with a few taco carts along the perimeter. We take a seat at a nearby table and the cook comes over to take our order. Some fresh cooked-on-the-spit al pastor, quesadillas, and the delicious Mexican Coke take the edge off of our appetite.
On the way back to the downtown area, we make one more stop at Liqui’s so we can pick up a supply of various prescription medications and over-the-counter drugs at deep discounts (if your prescription is not a controlled substance or easily abused, it’s not a big deal to bring back a few months worth of drugs – otherwise you’ll need an ironclad prescription from your local doctor. Check the U.S. Customs web site for more information).
With that, it’s time to go back to pick up our glasses. Once we’ve got them adjusted properly, we head back across the border. Luckily, it’s the off-season for the snowbirds (who should be starting to arrive as you read this) so there is no line at the border. One time we came here right after Thanksgiving and the walk-across line was over 4 hours. The line for cars went way beyond our vision.
Today, there’s no wait and the border guards are friendly (that is not always the case). A quick glance at our passports (mandatory now), tequila, medicine , and we’re waved through.
At the exit of the checkpoint, a hundred feet or so north, is an old canal. It’s worth noting that 105 years ago the levee on the side gave way and it flooded for two years. The waters settled 70 miles away and created the Salton Sea which, of course, is still with us today.
The uncles want to do a little gambling, so we make a stop at the Quechan Resort back up the road.
It’s a big casino, mainly slots and poker. I take the time to go have a cup of coffee in their café while the rest of the group feeds the slots and plays a few hands. Gradually, one by one, we gravitate to a nice little sports bar, watching baseball playoffs while waiting for the others to finish.
It’s a nice little casino and an even better looking hotel. I’m not much of a gambler so the games don’t leave too much of an impression on me.
After the casino break, we run to the border. Crossing over the Colorado River, we head to Yuma’s big historical site, the old territorial prison.
In use in the era before Arizona became a state in 1912, the prison was the facility for many of the West’s outlaws. If you remember the move 3:10 to Yuma , this is where they were heading.
A Picture in the Museum Shows What it used to Look Like
It’s $5 to get in and, no, there is no discount for the disabled. Seniors, military, students and kids do.
Once inside, there are great views of the Colorado River back across to California, a nice little park, a guard tower (inaccessible to wheelchairs), and a time line of the prison leading up to the old Sally Port.
What we look like now...
The museum inside has many displays about prison life, how they were processed, punishments, prison crafts, and so on. One display explains how when prisoners were processed, they had their mug shots taken in front of a special mirror so that both a front view and a profile of the prisoner could be captured in one shot. There is a mirror on display that visitors can use to make their own mug shots…
...and what it would have looked like back then.
Outside of the museum is the actual remains of the prison. Heavy iron doors are mounted on 4 foot thick walls made of either iron reinforced adobe or rock. One cell is unlocked so visitors can go inside. Although the path along the cell block is accessible, wheelchairs cannot get inside of this cell.
Down the path to the end of the cell block is the dark cell. Here, prisoners served discipline time when being punished in this interior, windowless cell. With a little effort, wheelchairs can get inside here. It is very dark and the remains of an old iron cage are on the floor…watch where you roll or step!
At the end of this building, a low passageway leads to the exercise yard and some newer cells. We noticed iron rings in each cell that prisoners could be chained to.
Outside on a rocky hillside are piles of rocks marking the graves of prisoners who are buried here in the cemetery.
After our prison tour, we head back to the hotel and hang out in the patio having hotel pizza and beer, along with tasting a few samples of our newly acquired tequila (see the video of that here).
One more night of rest and it’s back on the road back home, stopping for date shakes in Mecca.
Our sight restored, medicines and liquor well stocked, and our bodies rested up, we end our trip early in the afternoon when we arrive back home.
Copyright 2010 – Darryl Musick
All Rights Reserved