Trip Report Four: Anza Trail from Nogales to the Casa Grande

What we’ve got here is one doozy of a trip report. It’s got a lot of things: Edutainment. Adventure. Jiminy the Vespa. Tom Mix. Missions. Presidios. Churches. Juan Bautista de Anza. Tucson.

But. You know what it doesn’t have? California. Yeah. What a crappy California blog, huh? Nope! While this trip did not ever leave the state of Arizona, it still relates very strongly to the state of California and its history. Why? Welp… this was the first of many trips that will be devoted to the Juan Bautista de Anza National Historic Trail. If you’re not sure how critically important this trail is to the history of California, I recommend checking out my post about historically important California trails. It’s kinda boring, but also kinda interesting!

Also. I asked Heather for her thoughts on the trip and she gave them to me. Her thoughts are quoted throughout. I must warn you… she’s a much better writer than me.

Anyhoo… Welcome! to the fourth San Magnifico trip report!

Heather and Jiminy the Vespa

Heather and Jiminy the Vespa

(Make sure you click on the pictures to make them bigger and groovier!)

Ok, so Adam has requested that I write an entry for his blog for our trip to Nogales on the Juan Batista de Anza Historical Trail, but I’m not going to do that. Not until he cuts me up a pear; the one I just bought at the store. For a whole dollar. A WHOLE DOLLAR. What the heck people!? They’re always saying… well money doesn’t grow on trees… or whatever, well… pears do grow on trees. One pear should not equal one dollar. STUPID. PS I’m hungry, and I’m seriously not going to write this until I have a pear in my hand and/or mouth.

I’m waiting

Adam has said twice that he would get it and twice that he doesn’t know how to cut it. Ok, he just walked away… and… yep… a third time. “I don’t know how to cut up a pear… so be prepared for that.” Really Adam? Really?

Ok, I seriously just had to take a giant knife away from Adam. He was butchering the poor pear. I am now fed though, and feeling slightly less cranky, so I will actually start writing about the trip. I guess.

Heather's Pears

“Adam: insert the picture of the pears here please.”

Adam just asked if I was still writing about pears so… I should get started.

What a goofball.

First Stop! Lupe’s Mexican Restaurant

Lupe's Mexican Food in Catalina

Super unhealthy and super delicious!

This was our first long distance, high speed scooter ride. We’ve been on moderately long rides before, but those were on surface streets. This time, we took the highway. Going 70 mph on a scooter is really frakking fun, but it’s also quite tiring. Yeesh. You get sore quickly. I’m sure we’ll get used to it eventually, but holy moly… no bueno. I mean… si bueno! It was fun… but also… not. Kinda. You know what I mean!

To counter the creeping soreness, we stopped a lot. One of ours rest stops on our way to Nogales happened to be at a Lupe’s Restaurant. Its original building was bright pink, but it has moved next door to a much more humble location. The pink building is still there and still fabulous, but completely empty.

Anyhoo. What a great place to stop and have an unhealthy, delicious meal. Service was great and the food was ever better! I got some enchilada style french fries that blew me away. Even the basic cheese crisp was extra yummy. If you’re ever headed down to Tucson on the 79/77, I would highly recommend taking a quick break at this lovely roadside diner.

Filled to the brim with greasy food, we got back on the road and headed to Nogales.

Second Stop! 1904 Courthouse in Nogales

1904 Courthouse in Nogales

The trail begins!

It took us a while, but we made it to our first stop on the trail: The 1904 Courthouse. Anza never actually visited this courthouse (ummm… it was built in 1904… duh), but it is important for the trail for two reasons. One. Nogales is officially recognized as the starting point of the trail by the National Park Service. Two. The courthouse (which is frakking beautiful, btw…) holds an Anza Trail “museum” of sorts. It’s not so much a museum as it is a room with a cool view that has some paintings of the expedition on the wall. It’s actually quite nice. Kind of… understated. So yeah. Here’s Heather’s quick take on it…

So, the beginning of the trail is in Nogales. I don’t know if it actually historically starts there. I mean, it probably actually starts in at least the Mexico side of Nogales but the first stop for us was the Nogales on our side of the border. Nogales was not like I remembered it. At all. I went as a kid. I grew up in Tucson, for part of my childhood anyway. I must remember the Nogales on the other side. I kind of wish we had gone over to see if it’s like I remember, but we didn’t have time. We really didn’t spend much time at each stop. Anyway, back to the point. The first stop was a court house in Nogales. It was super cool. I’m not sure if it was a court house at the time, and honestly, I don’t really remember what the significance of this stop was, other than it was the beginning of the trail for us. You’ll have to rely on Adam’s post for that kind of accurate information. We had a little bit of a hard time getting in because as any of you who know Adam and I personally would know… we are slightly awkward socially. And, by slightly I mean… we saw at least 6 people casually exit the building through a door that was locked on our side before we shyly approached someone to ask us if they knew where we should go. Unfortunately the person we asked had no idea what we were talking about. See, this is the kind of stuff that keeps us this way! We tried to put ourselves out there and ask for help and what did we get!? A polite, sorry, I don’t really know, and then a casual exit. How are we ever supposed to face the world again?!

Anyway, we got inside the courthouse which is, like I said, super cool. I don’t think I actually need to describe it do I? I mean… Adam’s going to post pictures right? It was white. It was tall. The steps were really steep… ummm… that’s all I’ve got. It looked old. There. Ok, so inside it was dark and we awkwardly asked a second person for help looking for the “museum” which was totally referenced on a sign printed outside. This guy also had no idea what we were talking about but said we were free to look around. So, we did that. We just sort of walked in a ways until Adam saw a little Juan Batista de Anza Historical Trail marker outside a room. We found it! YAY!

It was like Adam said it would be, just a tiny room with pictures of things related to the trail. Not super cool. We weren’t disappointed or anything, we knew it wasn’t epic or anything. It was in a cool spot of the building. If you look at the outside it would be the window at the very top in the middle, a seemingly important place right? Well, we’re important people and we visit important things… so… that’s just the way that it is. So, Adam and I had a third awkward encounter at this same place. Some kid with a backpack came in and asked us to let him know when we left because he was getting ready to lock up, a good hour and a half early I think… or something like that. He seemed really nice though… so… don’t be mad at him.

Anyway, that was our cue to take our last picture and make our way out back to the scooter. Was I supposed to mention that we are doing this by scooter or did Adam already clear that up? I should mention it now because this place was on an EPIC hill surrounded by other super old buildings on other epic hills. Jiminy hardly could make it up and Adam is very concerned about my safety so he made me WALK back down the hill. By made me, I mean, I asked if it would make him feel better if I did, and he said that if it was ok he thought that might be better. So… that’s it. That was the court house stop. That was the beginning of the trail that we spent the whole day to get to.

Yeah… that hill was epic… ON TO THE NEXT STOP!!!

Third Stop! Tumacácori National Historical Park

Tumacácori National Historical Park

Old stuff is the best stuff…

Oh boy… a ruin!

This place was very cool. Here’s a quick history: Spanish mission established by Father Kino in 1691. He basically just took some land from the O’odham and made this place. That being said… by the standards of those times, he was really pretty awesome and treated the natives much better than a lot of his contemporaries. Also… Mr. Anza stopped by here. So, it’s on the trail.

Heather time!

Tumacácori. Now. That second a should have an accent. Adam… add that for me if you can please… with your internet skills. That means you say it “Tomb” “uh” “cock” “er” “ee”. Just keep that in mind for the rest of your life.

Paisley wants some of my pear, but I’m not sharing.

So, this stop was cool too I guess. There was an old crumbling church that Father Keno, or Kino… can’t remember… he founded it or whatever. They were mean to natives. It was abandoned and taken over and history and blah blah. There were graves there. One was for a child. That was a little weird. I thought it was strange how freely Adam and I got to walk around a lot of places. I think because most of the places that we were going are only frequented by seniors that the staff treat people differently. It seemed like there were less rules. I guess they do have a lot of things roped off or whatever, which always bothers me, but it was also strange when things weren’t roped off. I guess a lot of that has to do with the fact that a lot of these things are kind of reconstructed anyway. I really don’t think the graves were though, and we just walked between them like assholes. I guess you do that at a graveyard though. I don’t know. I guess I have some reverence for history. Do you have reverence? Is that grammatically correct? Someone edit this for me.

Also… there were some volunteers there making authentic corn and flour tortillas with beans. They were pretty much the best things I’ve ever eaten. But yeah… great place. If you ever find yourself just a tad north of Nogales… check it out! For history!

Fourth Stop! Tubac Presidio State Historic Park

Tubac Presidio State Historic Park

Home of Tubac’s Jail!

Here comes some more history: A mission at Tubac was set up around the same time as the one at Tumacácori. Eventually, the Pimas attacked the mission and pretty much destroyed it. The Spanish were not happy. So, once they took back Tubac, they turned the mission into a well fortified presidio. Once again… Mr. Anza stopped by here on his journeys.

After Tumacácori was the presidio of Tubac. The woman here thought Adam and I were not from America. There may be a theme here with two things. One, Adam and I did not fit in with regular patrons. Two, we are socially awkward to the extent that people don’t think we know how to speak English. We were diligent here and watched the video narrated by Will Rogers Jr. I felt like I was learning. It was cool. I really did feel pretty freaking stupid at most of these places. It took me I think much longer than it was supposed to, to figure out what I was looking at a lot. For example, The presidio is mostly underground. I kept wondering why they buried it, and why the whole area would have more dirt than it used to and other silly thoughts. Maybe about 30 minutes into the trek around the area I figured out that what I was looking at was just the remnants of the ground of what used to be a building and that it was slightly covered up by dirt where they built other stuff. Guys, I just figured out how archaeology works. Don’t worry about it. At least I can spell archaeology. That’s something right? Oh my god… when I wrote that… I just watched it get autocorrected. I’m screwed.

Lots of great history here. Much was learned. There’s this stairway to history thingy that takes you underground so you can view the remaining foundations of the presidio. There’s also a really surprisingly big museum detailing the entire history of Tubac. Once again… highly recommended.

Aaaaaaand… off we went!

Fifth Stop! Starr Pass Golf Suites

Starr Pass Golf Suites

Good night… sleep tight…

Our itinerary had us going to Mission San Xavier del Bac next, but we were running late and decided to do it the next morning. Oh well! That meant, it was off to the hotel!

And what a hotel it was!

Turns out… I didn’t just book us a hotel room… I booked us a freaking casita! It was massive and awesome and it had a totally rad view. It was also really fun to get to as it’s located pretty far in the hills above Tucson. The road was full of curves and drops and hills and adventure!

Our original plan was to go to the grocery store and get stuff to make an authentic Spanish mission meal in the room. Something like posole. Well… we decided that was too much work and just went to a Mexican restaurant instead. We did get a delicious machaca soup that was pretty similar to the kind of stuff eaten at the missions. I also got huevos rancheros. Not so authentic, but ridiculously delicious.

Sixth Stop! Mission San Xavier del Bac

Mission San Xavier del Bac

“The White Dove of the Desert”

After a good night’s sleep, we checked out of the casita and headed onward to more history! It was time to go check out the white dove of the desert. History time: Heyo! It’s Father Kino again! He founded this place in 1692. Unfortunately (or fortunately, if you’re not a big fan of stealing Indian land…) the Apache attacked and, eventually, destroyed the church. It was rebuilt about 10 years later by the Franciscans. And then… Anza.

Adam and I planned to go to this mission on Saturday but we didn’t plan our time so great and we ended up having to go on Sunday. It’s an active church and all so that was sort of a terrible idea. It was a strange mix of people just checking out a tourist spot and those who were actually trying to attend mass. I was slightly uncomfortable here, mostly because I felt like I was getting in people’s way all the time but it was a cool place. It’s not fully renovated yet, they are doing a lot of work on it. I feel like we didn’t see a lot because of that. It was cool that all of the stops we made seemed to be in different levels of disrepair. I was glad that some things were fixed up and also happy to see some things the way they actually are without having been touched. Minus the graffiti of course. I don’t think there was a single place we went that wasn’t tagged. I was surprised by how disgusted that made me. Wait, I don’t think the Presidio was tagged… you know… since it’s completely buried under ground.

My memory really sucks, but I’ve always been able to recall very specific details of my one childhood visit to San Xavier. Not sure why. I guess it had a big impact on me or something. It was just as big and beautiful and overpowering as I remembered. It was a bit hectic going on a Sunday, but seeing an actual mass taking place was pretty rad.

Next stop… the heart of Tucson…

Seventh Stop! Presidio San Augustin del Tucson

Presidio San Augustin del Tucson

Kinda boring. Interesting… but still boring…

Don’t have much to say about this place. Heather sums it up pretty well. The history is pretty similar to the other places. It was founded in 1775 and completed in 1783. It got attacked by the Apaches all the time. Juan Bautista de Anza stopped here on his super fun expedition. So did we.

Tucson Presidio. This place is right in the middle of downtown which I thought was super cool. Side note: Super cool is the only adjective I know. From now on I’m not even going to try to replace it with anything else, I’m just going to keep referring to anything and everything as “super cool”.

There were probably two things that were most memorable about this place. One: the awesome picture Adam took of me pretending to be part of a mural talking to some soldier dudes. Two: the overweight tour guide type guy who was talking to people about the presidio with a gun on his hip. WHAT THE… WHY!? I don’t understand it. This was a lot like the other presidio. The only real parts were that you could see where the walls used to be, the very bottoms. Again, I felt weird that I was just walking on them. I felt like with each step I was killing history just a little bit more.

By this time, it was getting kind of hot and we were both looking forward to getting home. So, after a quick lunch at El Charro , we headed out of Tucson.

Well… we did have a fun ride through Roller Coaster Road on our way out. But yeah… we left Tucson and headed toward our last stop…

Eighth Stop! Tom Mix Memorial

Tom Mix Memorial

Thought this was a memorial for a horse at first…

…which was NOT this place. We needed to stretch and I’ve always wanted to see this weird little memorial, so… yeah. We had a nice little rest and paid our respects to Mr. Tom Mix.

On to the REAL last stop! To Coolidge!

Ninth Stop! Casa Grande Ruins National Monument

Casa Grande Ruins National Monument

Really big. Really old. Really cool.

THIS was the last stop on our tour. The freaking Casa Grande! EPIC.

Casa Grande. Last Stop. This was the graffiti that made me feel the worst. This place was tagged way at the top, really big. It was just stupid stuff like people’s names or whatever. I don’t even think it was real gang “tagging” or what I think of as tagging. It was lame, that’s all I know. I can’t imagine being ok with myself to ruin something so old. Not even to ruin it, just touching it or speaking too loudly around it would make me feel uncomfortable. People suck sometimes. So, I haven’t really said much about the things we saw, mostly just how I felt about them. Hope you don’t mind. This was a big house. A grand house you might say. Built out of caliche. I want to build one like it. There. I told you what it is.

Paisley just farted. Gotta go.

No Spanish mission here! This big guy was built by the Hohokam in the 1300s and was used by them for less than 100 years before they abandoned it. Weirdos. This thing rocks!

Anza camped out here before he started to head west to California!

I’ve lived less than an hour away from the Casa Grande my entire life and this was my first time visiting. So lame. It was breathtaking and I am definitely going to need to visit again.

So, hey! That’s it! This trip has officially been reported!

I really hope you enjoyed it.

If not… sorry.

I love you!

About Adam Willis

I'm just a guy who really likes California. I live in Arizona for now, but will be moving over there as soon as possible. Also. I love you. Smile!

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One Response to Trip Report Four: Anza Trail from Nogales to the Casa Grande

  1. Hale Sargent February 10, 2013 at 12:41 pm #

    Hey, this is a great trip report. I’m glad you are investigating the Anza Trail — if you would like to write a summary of your trip for our official National Park Service/Anza Trail newsletter, please contact me at hale_sargent@nps.gov. Hale Sargent, Interpretive Specialist, Juan Bautista de Anza National Historic Trail

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