What a road trip. Nine days, four of them just driving down to Arizona and back, for Thanksgiving Week and my 52nd birthday (Nov. 22), staying with friends who recently moved away from Seattle.

It was a trip of many firsts: Macarons! Crepes! Sedona! Hummingbirds! Pappadeaux French Bread!

Arizona is so different from the Pacific Northwest. There are more restaurants and shops to browse. I can’t get to a Popeye’s, In-and-Out, Cracker Barrel, or Waffle House near my home. But these chains are everywhere down South. Every mall, and there are a lot more to choose from, seems to have more than restaurants and shops inside. Like carousels, multiplex theatres, pet stores with real pets taken care of by the area’s Humane Society, churros!

The Mexican food down in Arizona tends toward the street tacos, those little round soft corn tortillas with big flavors in the deeply marinated meats. A Blanco Rapido in Phoenix’s Biltmore Fashion Park really surprised us with its deeply flavored carnitas and tomatillo salsa. They came three for $8, a tad pricey but worth every penny compared to some others we tried (Barrio Queen).

Frankly, the five days in Arizona were a blur. There was so much to pack into just a short amount of time.

I will say I held off on pigging out until the very last minute when we finally arrived at our friends’ home in a gated community surrounded by desert cactus. But Tina made apple turnovers from scratch, and I hadn’t eaten a real meal in 13 hours.

The next day, we had Thanksgiving, complete with her homemade gravy, rolls, dressing, sweet potatoes, and pumpkin pie. Oh, she also whipped up cinnamon rolls, using the same dough for the rolls. Hog heaven.

During the rare down times, I discovered Netflix and a modern Twilight Zone look at human affairs, in the sci-fi anthology series, “Dark Mirror,” the “Nosedive” episode — best watched after a much-welcome workout in the gated community’s fitness center, a shower after two straight days of driving, and a nice cinnamon roll snack with Peets coffee fresh from Mr. Coffee.

There was a Dana Carvey standup special and “The Grind” lawyer sitcom on Netflix, and then the “Everybody Loves Raymond” reruns on regular TV, which we lived on late at night with Tina’s buttered popcorn.

I even snuck in a hit ‘n run breakfast at one of my favorite childhood haunts, Waffle House, the morning we headed back… because the greatest breakfast invention of mankind, grits, isn’t a thing in unhip Seattle.

I’ve been home in the Northwest for two days. But my heart’s somewhere between Sedona and Turlock, Calif. and that odd hole-in-the-wall Punjab Express serving the best Indian food I’ve ever had in my life.

52 isn’t half bad.


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