Category Archives: Dillon

Spring Road Trip to Tucson, Arizona

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Sonoran Desert landscape in Tucson, Arizona

With winter persisting well into April in Calgary, it was definitely time for a spring road trip to the U.S. southwest and its warming sun. The destination this time was all the way south to Tucson, Arizona—a trip involving plentiful hiking, eating and drinking.

But as they say, the journey is often as important as the destination. So before I delve more deeply into Tucson eats and drinks over the coming weeks, here’s a pictorial sampling of road life on the three-day route down and on the way back.

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Road trip breakfast of chilaquiles at MartAnne’s Burrito Palace in Flagstaff, Arizona

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Early April snowstorm in Flagstaff (elevation 7,000 feet), 2 hours north of Phoenix

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Hanging out with the cool coffee crowd at Lux Central in Phoenix

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Two jumpers in the Wave Cave near Apache Junction, east of Phoenix

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Peeking into the kitchen at Porter’s Cafe in Superior, Arizona

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Open-pit mine south of Superior, Arizona

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Outside Oracle Patio Cafe in Oracle, Arizona

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Chalet Village Motel in Oracle, Arizona

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Aquarium fish at the Desert Museum in Tucson

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Sculpture in Metal Arts Village, Tucson

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Homeward bound: Lunch line at colourful Lone Star Taqueria in Salt Lake City

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Tacos Antojitos Naucalpan in tiny Hamer, Idaho: There’s no place like it

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Run by the incomparable Carmen

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Tesla super charging station in whistlestop Lima, Montana on the I-15

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Hills outside one of my favourite U.S. towns, Dillon, Montana

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Hitchin Post, Melrose, Montana

Dilly Dallying in Delightful Dillon, Montana

The lovely, broad valley near Dillon, Montana

The lovely, broad valley near Dillon, Montana

Dillon, Montana is one of my favourite western U.S. towns,  a perfect stop after a day of driving south on the I-15 from the Canadian border. There’s the setting: a broad, verdant valley dotted with Angus cows, flanked by low mountains and bisected by the meandering, trout-rich Beaverhead River. There’s the fine historic buildings and the oddly named University of Montana Western, to complement the ranching/hunting side of things. And for outdoorspeople, there’s the enduring lure of the Patagonia outlet store (Bonus: no sales tax in Montana). The only problem with Dillon is getting back on the road to resume the journey.

On our latest visit, for example, there’s no exiting the Patagonia store in under an hour, especially with an inveterate shopper/bargain hunter or two in tow. Then it’s off to the Fiesta Mexicana bus (510 North Montana Street, daily 9 am-10 pm) for an excellent lunch of made-to-order, bountiful burritos, enchiladas and chiles rellenos, eaten along an inside bench sheltered from the raw spring wind.

The magic Fiesta Mexicana bus in a Dillon parking lot

Inside the magic Fiesta Mexicana bus in a Dillon parking lot

It’s great to see this family-run Mexican joint embraced by the local community and travellers alike. But the regulars aren’t very helpful when asked what to order:  “Everything.”

There's a monster burrito verde lurking beneath all that greenery at Fiesta Mexicana

There’s a monster burrito verde lurking beneath all that greenery at Fiesta Mexicana

To avoid falling into a mid-afternoon coma, we set out for Sweetwater Coffee (“Proudly serving kindness with a side of coffee”) for a fine java jolt, chased with a great chocolate icing cookie, in a cozy, artsy setting. The diverse food menu includes a most interesting choice: a breakfast French toast sandwich.

Sweetwater Coffee, with its artsy period furniture, is a great place to hang out with a java and snack

Sweetwater Coffee, with its artsy period furniture, is a great place to hang out with a java and cookie

Then it’s around the corner to the state liquor store where, to my dismay, they don’t carry beer (What the hell? In Utah, if you want anything stronger than the “three-two” beer, like the excellent line of Epic Brewing ales, you have to go to a state liquor store). The day is saved by a trip to a Town Pump gas station (633 North Montana Street), where the limited selection of microbrews includes my favourite Montana beer—the Scottish-style Cold Smoke ale from Kettle House Brewing.

It's hard to come by the great Cold Smoke ale outside Kettle House Brewing's Missoula hometown. When I saw it in a Dillon gas station, I grabbed a dozen 16-ounce cans

It’s hard to come by the great Cold Smoke ale outside Kettle House Brewing’s Missoula hometown. When I see it in a Dillon gas station, I grab a dozen 16-ounce cans

Only the threat of snow on the drive north through Montana finally snaps us out of our Dillon reverie. But there’s always next time through.