This article is part of the The Great American Reach Around series.
The end is here! We have reached the last stop on our journey around the world. It's the lucky 13th installment of the Great American Reach Around and we are bursting at the buttons with foreign representatives. I'm not going to get all maudlin here at the beginning (I'll save the touchy-feely comments for the end) because we have so many great articles.
Two cities, one state; Arizona. It is a state I have written about many times and have visited more than I care, but I'm no local. For the ground-eye-view of Arizona I turn to Rick in Tucson and Jeffrey in Phoenix.
Following their articles we have our final parade of foreign GARA reps and I would like to think we have saved some of the best for last. Mark K. is covering Santiago in Chile, Valerio is covering Italy, SinSalvador is on point in Denmark, Maria is here to tell us all about Spain, and Zagreb is covered by Ozren.
The first thing I thought when I got off the Greyhound bus in Tucson was "Well I'm not in California anymore." I'd been in Phoenix for two months and noted that other than all the cacti, it wasn't all that different from where I spent most of my life, Southern California. But it is instantly apparent that Tucson is a different sort of place all together.
You'll hear from Phoenicians that Tucson is poor and dirty (despite the relatively short distance between the places there is a heavy rivalry). They kind of have a point. About a five mile radius around the freeway is either industrial, abandoned buildings or a downtown that looks like some sort of post apocalyptic zombie/old west mashup movie after 5:00 PM, with tumbleweeds rolling past skyscrapers.
Once you get away from the freeway, things improve pretty fast. You have a scenic, fairly well laid out clean, modern suburb (minus the grass. There is almost no grass here outside of parks). I say "the freeway" because, basically, there is only the I-10. It is somewhat appropriate. Despite the fact that Tucson has roughly a million people (including the surrounding areas), making it larger than many east coast cities, a lot of Tucsonians still look at it as a quaint town. Anywhere worth going can be reached by a surface street and somehow this isn't that big of a problem other than rush hour.
Much like the rest of Arizona, Tucson is generally conservative. Yet a strong liberal contingent definitely exists, and the wannabe cowboys and hippie artists manage to coexist. The Desert Museum highlights the unique plant and animals of the desert and The Pima Air Museum has one of the largest collections of retired historical and military planes, along with various artifacts from the space program. Despite the lack of creativity in naming things, somehow it also all fits together. Add this up with wide open spaces with plenty of trails to hike and a national park to explore and you have a whole lot of variety.
The weather is nearly unbeatable for nine months out of the year and crazy summer monsoons that you should experience at least once and you generally have a nice place to live-and you're only about an hour and a half from Phoenix if you want to experience something a little more fast paced.