Interstate 19 – Southern Arizona

Today was an epic day, what started as a little side sojourn to check out some things we saw in an advertisement last month, became exactly what the ad promised.  We are hanging out in Tucson preparing for a Dirt Riot race next weekend and took today to get re-acquainted with the area.  Our drive took us down Interstate 19, the only Interstate we’ve found in the US that is in kilometers instead of miles.

Tubac is a little community south of Tucson that houses the Tubac Presidio State Historic Park.  It dates back to 1657, as the first buildings built in Arizona.  Originally intended as a Fort, it is now a volunteer staffed state park.  The community came together to save it when the State removed all funding.  There is a well detailed museum, the Captain’s House, an 1885 schoolhouse,St. Ann’s Church and an archeological dig performed by the University of Arizona in 1974.  The dig shows the different levels that have been built, starting with the adobe walls from time long forgotten.  This Presidio was begun long before Columbus sailed the ocean blue.

While the Presidio might be why you first head to Tubac, it shouldn’t be the only reason.  The community itself is a thriving arts community that holds treasures for all.  Our first stop was Tumacookery, a great little kitchen store.  We searched every nook and cranny for storage solutions for my tiny kitchen.  Randy and his staff were very helpful in making suggestions, we left with a cool new knife block, some hooks to hang our pots and pans and a suggestion for lunch.

Lunch took us around the corner to Elvira’s.  Owned by Rubin Monroy, Jr., Elvira’s was established in 1927 in Nogales by his family and named for his grandmother.  The restaurant in Nogales closed a few years ago when the violence in Mexico flared and tourism among the border towns dropped significantly.  Elvira’s re-opened in Tubac two years ago with an incredible menu.  There are five different mole sauces; various seafoods and steaks.  I had the “Frida Kahlo” – a Chile Poblano filled with squash blossoms, roasted corn, quesa Chihuahua covered with a bean chipotle sauce.  It was as delicious as it was beautiful.  Big had the Rib Eye Tamirinda, cooked perfectly and covered with a tamarind-morita sauce, it was both spicy and sweet.

Elvira’s is known too for their Hola! Tequila Shot, a 50 cent shot of tequila to get the party started, but my first impression was the décor.

Lights and glass were so abundant, I didn’t even notice the black painted walls until after we had been seated.  They surrounded the black with deep red curtains and deep blue accents and the effect was beautiful.  Elvira’s is a MUST visit for any perfect Saturday.

Our last stop for the afternoon was the Tumacacori Mission, a National Historical Park just south of Tubac,  The mission was founded in 1691 by the Jesuit priests, although the current buildings on the property were begun around 1800.  The church in the setting sun was beautiful.

Other stops along the 19 include the Titan Missile Museum at exit 69 and the San Xavier Mission at Exit 92.  More than enough to fill your day spent south of Tucson.

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