Hiking in Arizona

I was a couch potato before I came to the United States six years ago. There aren't many outdoor adventures in my hometown Shanghai, because Shanghai is located on a flat peninsula, and the only place that resembles a mountain is the 97-meter Sheshan Hill. In contrast, Tucson is surrounded by five mountain ranges, and it is a hiking paradise.

My First Hike

Among the grad students in computer science department, there is an organization called the Graduate Student Council (GSC). On the same week as orientations, I attended the first GSC meeting, and learned about various activities organized by GSC. One of them is a "hiking club". I joined their mailing list, although I did not know what I was signing up for.

The first hike was on Oct 01, 2011 going to Butterfly Trail. I took an early morning bus to school, and brought "plenty of water for yourself, sturdy hiking shoes, lunch, warm cloth" as instructed by the trip leader. We departed shortly after 09:15, and it was a long ride in Jeremy Wright's car.

Butterfly Trail, 01OCT2011

My Favorite Tucson Restaurants

During my six years living in Tucson, I visited hundreds of local restaurants. Here are my top picks. Those restaurants are all good, and their order within this article does not indicate my preference.

Best on campus: IQ Fresh

crispy fish wrap from IQ Fresh

Located in the main student union, IQ Fresh is my usual place for a quick lunch between classes. They mainly serve wraps: shredded meats and veggies rolled inside a piece of tortilla. They offer 14 different meats and veggies, and 10 tortilla flavors, giving 140 choices.

My favorite is the crispy fish wrap in spinach wrapper, with a side of sweet potato fries. Sadly, this particular item has been discontinued in 2015, and I stopped going there altogether.

Heat and Monsoon

Tucson has four seasons: spring, summer, monsoon, and winter. Located in the desert, the climate is very different from my hometown Shanghai. I have been accustomed to Tucson's climate after living here for six years.

Summer Heat

The summer is extra long. @TheTucsonHeat arrives in April or earlier, and would not leave until Halloween at end of October. Thus, seven of the twelve months belong to the summer.

Heat is the number one weather related killer in Arizona. House cooling is not optional. Heat warning signs are everywhere:

"the heat is on" sign in Joel D Valdez Main Library

Heavy Iron Stuff

I started going to the gym regularly during my fourth through sixth years at University of Arizona. Weight lifting helped me to lose weight of up to 30lb, and replaced some of my body fat with juicy muscles.

How It All Started

I have been swimming since the second day I arrived in Tucson, but my body looked the same, because my roommate was cooking large bowls of white rice and fatty meats for me. Since I moved to University Arms and started living alone, I decided to change things up. I started running on treadmill and using the elliptical trainer on and off in the Campus Rec. I was thinking to eat less and cut back on ice cream.

I ate only one apple at the breakfast of Oct 14, 2014, and felt hungry two hours later. I wondered, am I eating too little? To find the answer, I decided to calculate how much calories I was eating on that day. I searched online for a "calorie calculator", and found MyFitnessPal. It is not only a "calculator", but also an app to keep track of how much I ate. I made my first entry:

MyFitnessPal food diary on Oct 14, 2014

On Two Wheels

Tucson is walkable when staying around UA campus and downtown area. To go farther, I often ride a bus with six wheels, hail a taxi with four wheels, or drive a rental car behind one wheel, all of which costs money. More frequently, I would ride a bike on two wheels. I enjoy riding a bike because it is free: I can go places without buying a ticket, and I have the freedom to go anywhere without worrying about missing the bus or being unable to find parking.

Rillito River Park, π day, 2015

First Ride on Cat Wheels

Cat Wheels bike sharing program, offered by Parking & Transportation Services, loans bikes to students for free. I can pick up a bike at any parking garage, ride for a whole day, and return by 16:00 the next day. Since garages are only open on weekdays, a bike borrowed on Friday won't be due until Monday, making this a plusgood deal.

my first Cat Wheels rental bike

Meet the World at International Student Association

Most of my social life during my six years at University of Arizona was at the International Student Association (ISA). I made friends, made frenemies, and had fun through events and gatherings organized by ISA.

ISA Trail Dust Town visit, Apr 04, 2013

The Very First Event

Every incoming international student is required to attend the International Student Orientation, organized by International Student Programs and Services (ISPS). In the 2011 orientation, ISPS recruited a group of student workers, called Peer Integrators (PIs), to assist with the orientation, and to plan and participate in orientation social events for new international students. One of the social events was a campus race on Aug 14, 2011, organized by Morris Zhou, a PI from China. I participated in this event because its name sounds like my favorite TV show The Amazing Race.

The goal of this event was to make students familiarize with the UA campus. Each team of two or three students were given a sheet of hints, each referring to a location on campus. Within one hour, the team must visit as many locations as they can, and take pictures of the team members in front of those locations. The team that gets the largest number of correct answers would be awarded the winner.

I am a Moviegoer

I watched over 150 movies during my six years at University of Arizona.

What did I Watch

My favorite genre is action and adventure. I love seeing superheroes save the world, because they bring hope to our world. My favorite character is Spider-Man, because he only does good things and is full of positive energy.

I also frequently watch science fiction films. I particularly enjoy films set in the outer space, such as The Space Between Us and Passengers, because the weightless shots are breathtaking.

My third favorite genre is drama. Some of my favorites are National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation, Nebraska, and Instructions Not Included. I can have a good laugh out of them.

How I Started Geocaching

Geocaching is an outdoor treasure hunt game. Participants, or "geocachers", use a Global Positioning System (GPS) receiver to hide and seek containers, called "geocaches" or "caches", at specific locations marked by coordinates all over the world. I learned about geocaching by accident in Jul 2013, and I was immediately hooked to this game. Since then, Geocaching had a strong influence in my weekend activities, gadget purchases, and travel choices.

selfie with GC5WHZV container

It All Started from Jenny

Grocery stores offer discounts with a loyalty card, but I forgot to bring mine on Jul 12, 2013. I complained on Facebook, and my friends told me that I could give my phone number to the cashier, and they would be able to apply the discounts. Daniel's answer mentioned that I could enter "area code + 867-5309" as the phone number, and there is usually a loyalty card associated with this phone number. I did not understand what's special about this phone number, so I started online searching.

Facebook post about forgotten grocery loyalty card

Hailing Taxis

When I was little, taxis were my favorite form of transportation. I could have my own seat in the taxi, and the taxi would go directly to the destination. I would not need to walk to the bus stop, wait for the bus, get squeezed in the bus, and walk to the destination after getting off the bus. In early 1990s, taxi fare of a 5KM trip was about 30 times the bus fare. However, I didn't understand the value of money at that time, so I always wanted to travel by taxi.

I started attending a boarding school since the seventh grade. Mom would give me ¥65 every week, and I was allowed to spend the money however I wish, but this money was all I have for meals, transportation, and anything else except books and school supplies. While I could spend ¥5 to take a taxi from the bus terminal to the school, I usually chose to walk 20 minutes and save the money for snacks. I got used to bus rides and long walks, and forgot about taxis, when money became a constraint. In fact, I got so used to public transportation that, even if I was on a business trip when I later worked for a company, I would prefer to take a bus instead of a taxi, and I sometimes had to explain to finance why I could not produce a receipt for a bus ride.

When I came to Tucson in 2011, having limited cash and being accustomed to public transportation, my primary form of transportation is of course the city bus. However, the operating hours of city buses are limited. When I stayed in Grant Inn during my first days, the last route 20 bus from UA campus back to Grant Inn was departing at 18:20. If I wanted to stay at school later than that, I would have to find my alternate transportation.

Clint's Taxi

When I was dropped off at Grant Inn, the volunteer gave each student a business card of "Clint's Taxi", and told us to call Clint when we need to go to school. Since buses are cheaper, I took the city bus most of the time. On Aug 14, 2011, I attended a "Campus Race" scavenger hunt activity, organized by an organization called Meet The World, which later became International Student Association (ISA). The activity lasted until 20:00, at which point there were no more buses available. This was when I called Clint for the first time.