Tucson is centrally located within a few hours of many interesting cities. To choose between Bisbee, Nogales, and Phoenix was difficult, but I am happy with the outcome and enjoyed my time in Arizona’s capital city. The journey took us about an hour and a half back through that beautiful desert landscape. Our favorite ostrich farm was on the way, and the intense looking Picacho Mountain. When we arrived in Phoenix our first plan was to stretch our legs with a great hike, Squaw Peak, recently renamed Piestewa Peak [N 32nd St & E Lincoln Rd on E Sierra Vista Dr] after a Native American soldier who was the first female to die in the Iraq War. It is the second highest peak in the Phoenix Mountains. This is an extremely popular hike filled with people of all walks of life and the lot was nearly full when we got there before 10 in the morning on a weekday, so get there early! The path is 1.2 miles up of gradual uphill and well marked. It is rockily paved in most sections so it is important to watch your footing. On most steep sections of the ascent there are guardrails, and there are a few slight scrambles. You only need hike for a short time before you gain a grand view of the city below, on the day we were there a thick smog was cast over the city. We climbed higher and saw further out into the city. Sonoran Desert flora is all about, you may see squirrels and birds if you keep your head up. My mom isn’t the biggest fan of heights, but she was such a champ! I am so proud of her for hiking her first peak, which had an elevation of 2,610 ft and conquering her fears.
We ate a worthy lunch at an awesome dive named Chino Bandido [Moon Mountain Shopping Center, 15414 N 19th Ave, Phoenix, AZ 85023], which features a fusion of Mexican, Chinese, and a bit of Jamaican creating something totally unique and delicious. Their mascot is a panda in a sombrero, adorable! When you walk in you may be a little confused from the whole system if you’ve never been there. Thankfully the friendly man at the counter was there to help us along. He let us sample all sorts of meats and we really liked the flavor of the jade chicken, but didn’t want it fried. He made sure we got it sautéed instead, and we still got that fantastic sauce on top. Our jade chicken came in a rice bowl and we got tasty jerk fried rice in it, more protein! Don’t forget to order a side of the black beans, something special about these little legumes. Your order gets delivered to your table, and if you get a cup there are free refills and they have non-sweetened ice tea. Bonus, you get a snicker doodle cookie with your meal! Such a fun and affordable joint.
Our last jaunt in the city was to a store called Last Chance [1919 E. Camelback Road Phoenix, AZ, in a shopping plaza], owned by Nordstroms and it is the final clearance store, the only one of its kind. If you like to shop on sale this place is for you. It is a total show too when they restock the aisles and people run get there first! Anyway, lots of great clothing that is Nordstroms quality at ridiculously low prices, couldn’t miss a stop in here and came out with a ton of great finds. We had such a fun filled few hours in this city!