Nearly three years ago, Jason and I made the journey across the country to live in Tucson. We’d sold our house near Harrisburg, Pennsylvania and much of our belongings to start our post-Army life in Tucson so Jason could attend the University of Arizona’s Race Track Industry Program (RTIP).
Now that Jason has graduated [insert big happy dance for how proud I am of him] and we are gearing up for our next adventure, I have been reflecting on what I’ve learned during my time here.
What I’ve Learned Living in Tucson
1. What dry heat feels like. The 80s without humidity is a lovely, spring day!
2. On a sunny day, there isn’t much difference between 95F and 105F. It’s just hot. But when the temperature gets above 105, that’s miserable.
3. June in the desert sucks.
4. Most days, the desert has a breeze – an indication that a weather front is pushing through.
5. What a monsoon is and why I no longer make fun of it. 0.25 inches of rainfall can cause all sorts of temporary flooding.
6. An appreciation for the sound of steady rain, especially since the average rainfall in Tucson is 11.92 inches annually.
7. It DOES get cold in Tucson, and I was cocky to think that I could store my winter jacket, knit cap and gloves in a storage locker for three years.
8. The “dips” in the roads (washes) are there for a reason – to carry water during monsoons.
9. How cool it is to look across Tucson and see pockets where rain bursts are occurring (see top photo).
10. Sand storms are REAL, people!
Desert Life & Community Observations
11. The cost of water (approximately $80 per month).
12. The cost of electricity to keep the air conditioning running May – October ($200+ per month)
13. How a population can grow by 50% between Thanksgiving and Easter (snowbirds take Tucson from 1 million to 1.5 million during the winter months).
14. Tucson’s “fall color change” doesn’t refer to leaves, but license plates you see driving around town.
15. Snowbirds drive dangerously slow, often 15-20 MPH under the posted speed limit. Yup, 30 in a 45!
16. Idiotic ways to haul household goods.
17 . People let their dogs crap everywhere and don’t pick it up. Nothing says, “Welcome to our neighborhood” like a pile of dog shit on the sidewalk.
18. Why pedestrians get hit all the time. When we first moved here, we wondered why every few days there was a news story about a pedestrian getting hit by a vehicle. We no longer wonder. We see people walk in the middle of the road all the time.
19. The fuse box is not located on the inside of homes here. They are on the outside.
20. Water pipes leading from the street to the house burst all the time here.
21. No cold water comes out of your faucets in the summer. It is warm, warmer or hot.
22. Lizards are cool creatures. Tarantulas are pretty freakin’ cool up close, too.
23. Scorpions are NOT cool and need to be killed (despite the Circle of Life – blah, blah, blah).
24. What it feels like to be stung by a scorpion.
25. The sound of a hawk chasing a dove into our kitchen window (thud).
26. Desert hummingbirds are beautiful!
27. Nearly every plant out here has thorns. If you touch a tree, bush, plant or weed, expect to say “ouch.”
28. People in Tucson really love celebrating Halloween.
29. There are free-range cattle in Arizona, but the beef that comes from them has no taste (IMO).
30. Rt. 93 between Wickenburg and Kingman may be the main route between Phoenix and Las Vegas, but it is also one of the most boring stretches of road EVER!
31. The view from Tumamoc is one of the best in Tucson.
32. The postal service is unreliable, and your mail always feels dusty and dirty.
33. There are plenty of spots in Arizona where there still isn’t cell phone service, and having your vehicle break down in a dead zone when it is 100+F is an unnerving experience.
34. A 7-hour road trip to see your close friends in Las Vegas is a “short jaunt” when you live here.
35. Snowmen will randomly appear in your neighborhood in January.
36. Moving to a place I never expected to live is very exciting.
37. Home is where Jason and I are together – not an address.
38. I needed to be much stronger than I anticipated moving out here. No doubt, Tucson has tested me.
39. When loneliness hits, it hits hard, and it is one of the biggest challenges I had to overcome while living in Tucson.
40. The distance was hard on friendships/relationships, which caused a lot of heartbreak for me, but in that process, we discovered what true support, love and friendship is.
41. How to stay even more vigilant in focusing on what you have in life, not what you don’t.
42. You do not need to have a lot of money to have fun. Some of the best things we did were free or low-cost.
43. Kettlebell training is super-fun, and I feel great because of it!
44. Some of the best friendships are ones forged through mutual sweat from a good workout (knew this from living in Pennsylvania, too – Kelly! April!)
45. Trying new things can be fun, even if you don’t end up loving them. Running 5Ks, hiking, trail running, kettlebell and green smoothies were just some of the things I tried in earnest these last three years.
The Biggest Lesson from Living in Tucson
My Motto: Don’t make the same mistakes.
Living in the desert southwest was never on our radar – never a place we longed to live. The only reason we moved to Tucson was that’s where the Race Track Industry Program is. Tucson was always temporary, and as best as I could, I approached our time here as an extended vacation.
When we lived in Harrisburg, so many times Jason and I “put off” doing something. Part of it was because of the military life, and another big aspect was financial, but a lot of it was because we got complacent. We thought that we’d always have another opportunity to do something. Not always the case.
We moved away from Pennsylvania never having gone to Independence Hall in Philadelphia or to New York City (both were just a few hours drive away).
To leave the East Coast and realize all that we didn’t experience was a big call-to-action for me not to make those same mistakes again during our time in Tucson.
While we never got to the Grand Canyon or a few other notables in this state (having old dogs who need a lot of extra care will do that), I do feel we experienced a lot more here in three years than we did living in Harrisburg for 14.
That, I believe, is my biggest lesson learned from living in Tucson – experiencing life now – and what I’ll take with me to our next location.