Friday, November 25, 2005

By the time I get to Arizona, Part One

"Sir, do you realize that your license has expired?"

When you go to the airport to take a trip, that is one of the things you don't want to hear in the security check line.

My trip to Arizona started out very mellow. I nice drive to San Francisco and peaceful parking job at Long Term. Since it was Saturday evening, we had little in terms of that massive holiday rush that usually starts on the weekend before Thanksgiving. My wife and I arrived at the United Airlines ticket counter and did the automatic check-in, a real convienent way to nail down your boarding pass. You simply entered your credit card, and a machine spits out all the boarding passes you need for the trip. Then you show a valid photo I.D. at the security point and off you go to the gate.

That is, unless your license has expired, like mine was. So I went back to the ticket counter where they gave me a special ticket that was considered "extra security" for the boys and girls doing bag checks. I was separated and placed in a machine that blew air on different parts of my body. I'm guessing it was to check for explosive residue. Then I was brought to a different section where they checked everything in both bags and swabbed everything, and I mean everything, for explosives. They asked me a few questions, took my Swiss Card (a credit card sized device that is like a Swiss Army Knife), and I was on my way. They whole ordeal was about 10 extra minutes. I had no problem with the extra security and I had no problem taking time out to have everything checked. The people were very polite, with me and my items, and the horror stories about security that I heard in the past never occurred.

The flight from San Francisco to Tucson was only about 2 hours, and the plane was a small regional jet that was more like a dart than an airplane. It was sleek, quick, and the ride was smooth and hassle free. It was also more expensive than transferring along the way, by the tune of nearly $150. In the end, it is worth it, as we would have to transfer on the way home. We landed in Tucson at about 9:30 at night at a nearly empty airport and a crisp chill in the air. Northern California was just as warm, if not warmer, than Arizona on this day. We were picked up by a relative of my wife, a very nice lady whose bubbly personality is very refreshing. We didn't stay in Tucson, but actually in a very nice retirement community called Saddlebrooke. The master planned community is specifically catered to retirees looking for a very active lifestyle, focused around golf primarily.

Saddlebrook is about an hour north of Tucson, even though it is still considered part of the city. First thing that was noticed about Saddlebrook is how dark it is. At 11 at night, there were no streetlights. Apparently, there is a massive amount of astronomy that is researched in the area, and street lights are prohibited by law to reduce light pollution. Interesting tidbit, but it makes trying to walk home at night a little tough. The second thing that I noticed upon my arrival at my rental was the howling of the coyotes in the distance. The community is surrounded by mountains which are the homes of plenty of mountain lions, coyotes, and something called havalina, some sort of wild desert pigs.

I have to say that I was a little less than active during this part of the trip, and most of the first two days. As a teacher, I find that I decompress during the first few days of the trip to recoup all the energy lost during the school year. I'm so "on" during school, that I just sort of shut down for awhile to rest. So I appreciated the fact that I was in a new and interesting place, but I wasn't terribly awake for it.

More later.
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