Carol Highsmith
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Colorful Tucson

Above: “Epic Rides” is one of several vivid murals created by artist Joe Pagac.  Only a wild imagination would think of putting a man, a woman, a tortoise, a javelina, and a jackrabbit together in a bike ride. (A javelina is a Southwest version of a peccary, and if that doesn’t help, think “pig-like animal only uglier.”)

Check out the subtle light and shadows behind an original switchboard in Tucson’s historic Congress Hotel. It’s known, though, not so much for its lovely decor as it is for being the site of the capture of John Dillinger in January 1934. The notorious bank robber was escorted to an “escape-proof” jail in Indiana, from which he quickly broke out and began a one-man crime spree.  Dillinger did not escape federal agents’ bullets, however, on a July day that year outside a Chicago theater.

Dusk view of Tucson and one of four small mountain ranges that surround the Tucson Basin.

Bougainvillea explode with color outside this Tucson cottage, which, like many modest homes in town, turn mundane, sun-dried adobe bricks into striking backdrops.

There was a time when the signs for every decent motel in Tucson shimmered in neon vibrance along the “Miracle Mile” entryway into town.  Now all but a handful of them are dark or gone from those days when riding the “open road” was often a family adventure.  Don’t try to reserve a room the Tropicana for old times’ sake, however.  The 1940s-vintage “motor hotel” is long gone, but its sign and three more were rescued, rehabilitated, relocated, and put back on display in 2014 near the downtown campus of Pima Community College.