Rain.

I’m sitting in the gazebo watching an impressive rainstorm make its way toward us from the Northeast. You can’t see it in the photo above, but off to my right it’s a solid wall of rain. The desert smells amazing right now and it’s good to see some rain move in. I don’t know how long I’ll be able to stay here on the gazebo, this wall of rain moving our way looks quite impressive, but I must say, no matter where we live in the country, Mother Nature is quite amazing.

Relatively Close.

I’m still getting used to the fact that we live relatively close to cities that used to be very far away. The drive from our home to San Diego is reasonable. I see us making that trek, perhaps in the fairly near future.

A New Appreciation.

I know a lot of folks that avoid shopping at Walmart. We’re usually amongst their number. It was easy to avoid Walmart when we lived in Chicago; there’s not that many of the stores on the North Side. We were surrounded by these “Urban Target” stores on street corners, but other than a Walmart Neighborhood Market, it was quite the trek to get to one of the large stores.

Here in Tucson it’s a different story.

With our flat tire adventure on Saturday we found the Walmart in Casa Grande to be of considerable assistance with our tire repair dilemma. They squeezed us in between appointments and while the turnaround time was not quick, it was affordable, efficient, and a very friendly experience.

Technology-wise I’ve always been intrigued by Walmart. They were the first major department store chain to adopt UPC scanning in the 1980s. Before that they had stores hooked up to offices via satellite and employed electronic cash register systems long before the other discount department store chains did so. I know their systems have run on Linux for years (always a bonus, as far as I’m concerned) and after spending three hours in the Casa Grande Walmart yesterday, I appreciate the fact they use their technology equipment for as long as they can. Other stores toss out old systems and put in all new equipment on a too frequent basis; Walmart’s front end registers are a blend of technology from the late 1990s intermingled with pieces of equipment from today. It’s probably done for cost effective purposes, but I appreciate keeping technology out of the landfill as long as possible.

While my husband and I made our way around the very large Walmart, waiting for the tire to be repaired, I couldn’t help but notice how well the store was stocked, how clean the store was (too many stores we’ve been to are a mess), and most importantly, how friendly every team member we worked with or overheard engaging with each other or another customer, seemed to be. There was service with a smile everywhere.

I appreciate anyone that works. In my book there’s no job beneath me. If I were to lose my position as a software engineer and have difficulty finding another, I would not hesitate to fill the void with working the electronics department at Walmart or cleaning hotel rooms for that matter. A strong work ethic, coupled with a friendly demeanor is something to be admired.

And this is what I saw at Walmart yesterday.

Is the chain taking away from Mom and Pop stores in village centers? Probably. Should they pay more? Yes. But the folks I saw at Walmart had a smile on their face and I am appreciative of that fact.

Plus, getting a flat tire fixed for $15 is amazing to me.

Comparison.

It’s been a good long while since I’ve allowed myself to enjoy chocolate milk. I love the stuff. When I was a kid, as early as second grade I required an extra seven cents per day so I could buy an extra milk at lunch time. I would buy one half pint of white milk and a half pint of chocolate milk. Aside from the year the school budget failed and we went on “austerity budget”, the milk at our school was purchased from a Central New York company called Byrne Dairy. They had, and continue to have, convenience stores all over the region.

Once in a while we’d get a quart or half gallon of chocolate milk for home. It was a luxury afforded by Mom and the grocery shopping exercises, but it didn’t happen very often. We’d bring home a half gallon of chocolate milk in a glass bottle and it would be a delight. My sister would finish it off in less than a day.

I’ve always considered Byrne Dairy Chocolate Milk the gold standard of chocolate milk experiences.

My husband and I were at Safeway today and I discovered that while we don’t have Byrne Dairy anywhere near Arizona, chocolate milk is available in half gallon glass bottles. I was a little shocked at the price ($4.99 plus $2.00 bottle deposit), but we took out a second mortgage on the house and I brought home some chocolate milk.

It is very good chocolate milk. It’s not quite the same as Byrne Dairy’s chocolate milk. Though, I ponder to think that Byrne Dairy’s chocolate milk today probably isn’t the same as I remember as a kid. High fructose corn syrup, mass production, and all that.

I still recommend a chocolate milk experience once in a while.

Across The Desert Flat.

My husband and I decided to go for a ride. We headed to the northwest and once firmly outside of Tucson, we exited Interstate 10 and started driving west. There were some pretty mountains in that direction so we pointed the car that way and started playing a game we used to play back in Illinois. Find our location on the car GPS and start following the “yellow” roads. (Our GPS shows main roads as yellow, back roads as white). Soon we were out in the middle of nowhere along a road that followed an irrigation ditch through a lot of desert land. The road quickly turned to dirt and there were no longer signs of any towns close by. We continued our trek. We had plenty of water, we were feeling good, and having fun.

We passed through a wash that had a trickle of water in it. It wasn’t a problem, we made a splash and on we went. It was about five minutes later when a yellow light lit up on the instrument panel and a chime was to be heard. The message said, “Check Tire Pressure”. It showed the left rear tire had lost about 15 pounds of pressure. We spotted a grove of small trees. I pulled near the trees, well of the road, and together we watched our tire go flat.

Luckily, we are two resourceful men and through solid teamwork, we had the tire off and the donut in place in about 20 minutes.

The directions accompanying the jack and “convenience tire” indicated we should not exceed 35 MPH. So we made our way through the desert at this speed and finally gained cell service. The closest service station was 20 miles away but guess what! Service stations don’t really do the service station anymore. We finally made our way to the closest Walmart. They squeezed us in, and 2 1/2 hours and $15 hours later, we were on our way home from Casa Grande back to Tucson.

We still really enjoyed our day.

Yes, We’re Here.

As we venture out more and more in this kind of post-pandemic world, I still have a hard time believing that we see mountains, cacti, and palm trees when we’re driving home from the city. I still haven’t completely wrapped my head around the fact that we live in the desert southwest now. I love it and I fully embrace it, but it’s still feels a little startling to me that we live one mile from a National Park near the mountains.

Folks back East ask, “but isn’t it hot”? It is. We apparently picked the best season ever to move here as we’ve just been through a record-breaking heat wave. And from what I can ascertain from the National Weather Service, we’re going to see the beginning of this year’s monsoon all next week. Excitement! It’s hot, but it’s not sweltering. It really isn’t. I’m more concerned about the intensity of the sun than the heat. Sitting on the patio or in the gazebo when it’s 105ºF is not a big deal, as long as we’re in the shade. We still drive around with our windows down, though we’ve been closing them a little more often with dust blowing around and the like.

We live in the desert. I’m getting used to that. But I know I already love it.

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Sonoran Hot Dogs.

Back when we lived in Chicago we would enjoy Chicago-style Hot Dogs. No one ever had to slap the hot dog out of my hand because I never put ketchup on a hot dog. (That’s a no-no in Chicago).

We’ve found Chicago-style hot dogs here in Tucson but we’ve also discovered Sonoran Style Hot Dogs. Oh my universe. I’ll let the recipe speak for itself.

Socializing.

Earl, Jamie, and I went out for happy hour tonight. We finally had the chance to meet Homer and Matt in person and we had a very nice time chatting and enjoying a few drinks together. We look forward to meeting up with them again soon. I’ve followed Homer’s blog for many years; it’s always a delight to connect In Real Life.

Afterwards we went to a Mexican restaurant they recommended. The food was very good and I look forward to going there again.

A wonderful evening.

Clackity-Clack.

I’m always in search for the perfect keyboard. I type a lot for a living and I need to feel as one with the keyboard.

Since I do all my work on a Mac and because I’m a vintage computer enthusiast, I decided to get a “classic Mac” keyboard with the traditional clackity-clack sounds.

It’s a good thing I work by myself in my home office. Co-workers at adjoining cubes would have flashbacks to ‘Nam with the racket I make on a keyboard.

This keyboard is a delight. The keys are well spaced, the feel is exactly what I’m looking for: not too mushy, a positive response, and a good confirmation sound.

I bought the keyboard from Matias Keyboards. A little pricey but worth it. I’m quite pleased with the build and experience.

Memories.

iPhoto reminded me that six years ago today I was on an airplane and snapped this photo on my way into Detroit. Good times.