Today, we are featuring a story submitted by Francisco A. Joaquin, USN, CPO (ret). Francisco (Jay) takes us on a brief journey of his naval career, and tells us all about why he and his family chose to settle down in Tucson, AZ, after his time in the Navy. Life in Tucson sounds pretty nice!
Francisco A. Joaquin
USN, CPO (ret)
30 Sep 2021
I retired from the United States Navy in 2010 after twenty-four (24) years of an honorable naval career. San Diego Naval Base, CA was my first command, attached to the then USS Stein FF-1064. Then I went to Commander Fleet / Activities Okinawa Naval Air Facility Kadena (CFAO/NAFK) Air Base Okinawa, Japan.
Then I continued my naval career at various commands such as Navy Overseas Activity Yokota Air Base, Japan (NOACT Yokota); USS Constellation CV-64, San Diego, CA, etc. My last command was Fleet Industrial and Supply Center (FISC SD) San Diego, CA where in between I was tasked to serve as an “Individual Augmentee” tour in Baghdad, Iraq, to our Global War on Terrorism (GWOT) and Operation Iraqi Freedom/Operation Enduring Freedom (OIF/OEF) campaigns.
After nearly eight (8) years living in the San Diego, CA area post-retirement of my military career, the cost-of-living condition was getting more expensive and tighter on our budget as a family. Our move to Tucson was not a coincidence, but rather objective and intentional, because we had a family friend in San Diego who moved to Tucson in 2011. By 2015, we were having issues with our house in San Diego with regards to our high monthly mortgage, so our alternative was to find a place to relocate. In October 2017, we decided to relocate to Tucson, AZ.
We visited Tucson a couple of times before 2017. We found out that there was a regional Veterans Hospital, and a nearby military air base, Davis-Monthan Air Force Base (D-M AFB). It looked good for our current social conditions because I am a disabled veteran, and my wife was able to land a job at D-M AFB, with the same job she had in San Diego. It was like a lateral federal job. The veteran hospital is vital for me because I obtain all my medical and dental services, and other resources, at the medical facility. This was the perfect location for me and my wife as it has the medical services I need, and at the same time my wife able to land a job at Davis-Monthan AFB. There is also an army base (Fort Huachuca) in Sierra Vista which is just an hour drive from Tucson, and Luke Air Force Base in Glendale. If you go farther west towards San Diego, there is Yuma Marine Corps Air Station which is about a three (3) hour drive from Tucson. And farther east towards Austin and San Antonio, TX there is Fort Bliss, a U.S. Army Post in El Paso, TX.
Our first couple of years living here in Tucson was not quite easy because of the high temperatures which we are not used to, between April and October of the year. We were used to that San Diego breeze and gorgeous climate. Plus, we had only one family friend we knew. But all these negatives were just superficial. We found a lot of amenities and flavors living in Tucson. I would say if I just knew of this place beforehand, I would have moved here earlier than 2017. First and foremost is the cost of living in Tucson. It’s cheaper, more spacious with regards to traffic and transportation, and easy getting government services such as motor vehicles services (AZ Department of Transportation/ADOT), medical and dental appointments, etc.
Tucson has a lot to offer with regards to family activities, dining and entertainment facilities, outdoor and indoor activities, and so many things. We noticed here immediately that most of the business services are closed on Saturdays and Sundays and realized that weekends here are family days. There are everywhere in the desert trails, camping sites, national parks, etc. And the population here in Tucson love to eat and dine; you name it – Mexican restaurants, Western cuisines, as well European tastes and delicacies, and many more.
The geographical location of Tucson is not perfect, but strategic. Tucson is about a one and a half (1 ½) hour drive to Phoenix, the central business district of Arizona. It is about a six (6) hour drive to Las Vegas, NV and Flagstaff/Grand Canyon on each trip coming from Tucson. Around a three (3) hour drive to Yuma; four (4) hour drive to El Centro, CA; and six (6) hour drive to San Diego. In addition, it is about a seven (7) hour drive to Los Angeles, CA via Phoenix. What is amazing in Tucson is that we have our very own Tucson International Airport, where you will find an international airport that you could do airport processing in less than an hour, even in peak hours and international flight airport operations.
The following are some parks, museums and historical places within Tucson we’ve visited, and these are our favorites:
Saguaro National Park – “Marana, Arizona is the gateway to Saguaro National Park West. You could witness striking basalt cliffs, meet ancient cactus forests, and lavender banded sunsets shroud a land rich with centuries of cultural history in warm and welcoming Marana, AZ. Catch glimpses of famed indigenous wildlife like javelinas, coyotes, bobcats, and roadrunners while drinking in the enduring natural beauty of the region from the center’s immersive veranda.” (Source: Tucson Guide Magazine/Spring-Summer 2021)
Sabino Canyon Recreation Area – “It is one of the most popular recreation parks in southern Arizona, within Tucson. It includes Sabino Canyon and Bear Canyon. It offers hiking, bicycling, jogging, wildlife viewing, photography, camping, and picnicking. Sabino Canyon is a natural area with inherent dangers: falling rocks, wild animals, sudden storms and lightning, and flash floods. Coronado National Forest lands adjoining the Sabino Canyon Recreation Area are part of the Pusch Ridge Wilderness.” (Source: U.S. Department of Agriculture/Forest Service Southwestern Region)
Pima Air and Space Museum – “Tucson is home to one of the largest, non-government funded aviation and space museum in the world. It offers eighty (80) acres of historic aircraft for visitors to view. Explore six (6) exhibit hangars – three dedicated to World War II – totaling 250,000 square feet of indoor display space. Installations run the gamut from aerospace to uniforms and gear to iconic airplanes like F-14 Tomcat, WW II B-24 Liberator, and rare German “Buzz” Bomb.” Outdoors the impressive displays continue with aircraft of all types and sizes, including “The Bone Yard Project: Return Trip,” a collection of planes painted with contemporary art. What’s more, the museum celebrates women of aviation and Black aviators, plus noteworthy Arizona aviators in the Arizona Aviation Hall of Fame. The museum is open daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.” (Source: Tucson Guide Magazine/Spring-Summer 2021)
Sonoita region – “Within reach from Tucson. It is Arizona’s first American Viticultural Area (AVA). The area was designated an AVA for its similarities to the Indicazione Geografica Tipica region of Italy, known for its “Super Tuscans.” The unique geographical location, climate and soil characteristics of the Sonoita AVA produce award-winning Sauvignon Blanc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec, Merlot and more. Because of the region’s natural water retention, and the cool air blowing over the mountains, the Sonoita AVA offers exceptional conditions for producing wine. With a dozen tasting rooms throughout the region, the vineyards and wineries of the Sonoita AVA invite you to discover a new taste of Arizona.” (Source: Tucson Guide Magazine/Spring-Summer 2021)
Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum – it’s acclaimed “Unlike any other museum in the world.” Composed of zoo, botanical garden, aquarium, natural history museum, art gallery and more.
Arizona State Museum – is on the University of Arizona campus. Rich in ancient and enduring native cultures of the region. It has content-rich exhibits, engaging programs, research library and archives, etc.
In addition, Tucson is well-known for festivals and fiestas from Spring to Summer celebrations. This is the perfect time to get out and enjoy festivals, history reenactments, nature affairs, fine art celebrations and cultural happenings.
To mention a few are the following:
Arizona International Festival (Tucson/April) – “There are multiple categories – shorts, documentaries, comedies, feature narratives, works by indigenous peoples and Latinos, and edgy films for the late-night theater and cable TV crowd. Receptions, parties, question-and-answer sessions, and workshops make for a busy time for film and video fans.”
Music Under The Stars (Tucson/Sundays, May-June) – “The first concert in the outdoor series by the Tucson Pops Orchestra. Sunday shows remain as popular as ever. Set up a picnic, let the kids play at the playground, then settle in for a light classic. Broadway and movie favorites, and Americana under a canopy of stars. Music plays at the DeMeester Outdoor Performance Center within Reid Park.”
Independence Day (Tucson and Southern Arizona/July 4) – “Tucson hosts neighborhood parades, family barbecues, and fireworks displays throughout the basin, including a spectacular show over “A” Mountain.”
Southeast Arizona Birding Festival (Tucson/August) – “This is the Tucson Audubon annual festival and get to know your local birding and conservation community. There is a free nature expo and family-friendly activities, all while exploring beautiful southeastern Arizona. Activities include in-person field trips, virtual workshops, and evening programs, all packed into an exciting four (4) days.”
Southern Arizona Salsa & Tequila Challenge (Tucson/September) – “Salsa, hands-down the region’s favorite condiment, takes center stage at La Encantada Shopping Center when local restaurant chefs, as well as students from the Art Institute of Tucson, vie for their salsa to be crowned the best in town. Tequila is added to the festivities, with samples from more than two (2) dozen eateries. Live music and flamenco dancing provide the entertainment.”
These festivals and fiestas are also found in the Tucson Guide Magazine/Spring-Summer 2021.
Last but not the least, a few eateries and restaurants that you don’t want to miss when someone comes by Tucson:
Rancho Rustico (Mexican, Southwestern)
We found this Mexican restaurant easy because it was just a 15 minute drive from where we live in Vail. A very nice place & we always dine either with my wife and daughter, and every time we have visitors who are coming from out of town. Once you are seated, tortilla chips are immediately served. It’s very good, and the salsa is spicy! I love their Chile Relleno, it’s delicious! And all other cuisines we tried such as enchiladas, tacos & burritos are all outstanding.
North Italia Restaurant
Frost Gelato (Italian)
To conclude, not to be left out there is also the Grand Canyon, Sedona and the five (5) Arizona National Parks: Alpine, Black Mesa, Park Clifton, Lakeside and Springerville.
Thanks for your story, Francisco (Jay)! We love reading stories from our subscribers. If you have a story you’d like to share and are interested in joining our Good News Team, details can be found here!