My wife and I have resolved, in response to a mass evacuation of our children from our home and the black hole of emptiness created in their wake, to take some day trips around Arizona. Recently we drove down from Tucson to Sonoita/Elgin, the center of southern Arizona wine country.
The towns of Sonoita and Elgin lie about an hour’s drive southeast of Tucson (slightly longer if you’re not a real man like I am). Along the way we stopped and looked from the highway to the site of the proposed Rosemont Copper Mine. The area is quite pristine and beautiful, but if mining is allowed to proceed, it will become something else: picture the scene above with an enormous, three-thousand foot deep hole in the middle of it, mine tailings scattered about and habitat and vegetation destroyed for generations to come. Rosemont is a Canadian company, so the profits go elsewhere and, remarkably, so does the copper: all of the ore will be shipped overseas, mostly to China. As an American, I understand the value of raping a foreign land for its resources; no other country does it better. Accordingly, I fail to see the advantage of allowing others to do it to us.
Environmentalists have tried to combat the mine by claiming the area is critical habitat for a number of threatened species. A lone jaguar has been spotted (actually, the spots are a genetic predisposition) by sensor-driven cameras; there are also species of toad, minnow and cuckoo bird considered threatened and indigenous to the area. I stood roadside for a good five minutes but failed to see examples of any; proof enough for me that not only are they threatened, but quite possibly endangered.
By the time we reached Sonoita, I was famished (usually by the time I reach any destination, I am similarly so), so we stopped for lunch at a place called “The Cafe”, with emphasis, I’m assuming, on the “The.” (Easy enough to make the claim when you’re the only one in town). I had the bacon cheeseburger with wedge fries, and my wife something healthy that I don’t recall, other than a predominant color of green. Inherent in my meal were three qualities I find essential when dining out: protein, starch and both in great quantity. Afterwards, I waddled down the steps of the establishment like a nursing home resident with a trouser-full, feeling oversated and in desperate need of a nap.
Part of the intended purpose of our trip was to take a brisk and extended walk in a pleasant setting. One of the great benefits of a long marriage is an intrinsic sense of your other half; my wife knew the walk we were taking in the direction of the car would be the only one of the day. She mentioned the need for exercise as a mostly foregone conclusion, but after a bit of whining and a couple of timely toots that sounded like a tenor preparing his voice for audition, I convinced her that a drive around the area would have to do.
The “town” of Elgin is really a collection of ranches and vineyards that dot a grassy savannah, spreading for miles in every direction and framed by distant mountain ranges. It is like the “big country” of the old west; one could almost imagine John Wayne, with his patented pigeon-toed swagger, sauntering up to a bunch of Italian-American actors dressed as American Indians. (“Whaddya know?…uh, I mean…How.”…”Cut! Cut!”) It was pleasant and somehow liberating, seeing a horizon in every direction, in stark opposition to the views from home – the tall, grey, block wall of one neighbor and the cottage cheese-like ham hocks of the other as she tends to her petunias in seam-threatened shorts.
Most of the wineries in the area offer tastings. I don’t care for wine; when grapes start to taste like that I throw them away, and in any event I find the amount necessary to its intended purpose (for me) less than cost-effective. Nevertheless, my wife and I took part in one several years earlier. As I recall, I had “tasted” (more accurately gulped, so as not to offend the senses) several different varieties; I was actually starting to feel the “glow” of wine appreciation and was anxious to maximize my economy, since the tasting charged a flat fee. Sadly, the woman in line before me was only too anxious (as a sloth can be) to show her wine savvy: she gargled, swished, sucked and spat for what seemed an eternity. I half expected her to test the offered drink for its worthiness as a vaginal douche. Instead, she opted to dispense with the following pearl of wine wisdom:
“Oh, that’s just lovely; so much better than those we had last week. California wine is so pretentious.”
Two things struck me at that moment: why on earth would her parents name her “California Wine”, and I was not the only business owner who as a matter of course had to pretend to agree with stupid customers. (Although the best this proprietor could manage was a noncommittal “huh.”).
At any rate, we decided to forego the tour tastings this time and simply drove around. All in all, it was a peaceful and pleasant tour and, after pausing to capture the image of a kindred spirit, I pointed the car back in the direction of home.
Upon arriving home I enjoyed a brief nap and happily dreamed of grease and ketchup. Later, my wife convinced me to take a walk after all; I figure I managed to burn off at least five or six fries before I ran out of gas. It was a good day.