The Real McCoy

Staying at one of Tucson’s centrally-located lodging options, the Hotel McCoy was unique though limited in amenities. It also doesn’t charge resort fees to drive up costs, something important to consider.

There’s too much to enjoy nearby, to be cemented to the grounds of any one lodging choice.

Until you’re in your room, the tight spaces outside or walking to the pool mean mostly parking lot and paving. Both with local kitsch and many local touches.

Photos are from late May 2020:

Nothing fancy here, including the post-Covid breakfasts delivered by golf cart, instead of the original breakfast bar and food truck.

Gayle and I enjoyed hanging out in the cool part of both mornings, before leaving to some of Tucson’s many attractions, often focused on outdoors activities. Soon it will be too hot there, except at sunrise.

Scorpions and a potted Candililla

Local artists added vignettes between rooms and where people walk around the motel complex. Unlike some locales in the southwest, they really embrace their place.

More potted plants given no planting spaces near rooms or parking, and probably their favorite, Lady Slipper.

Since Ronstadt is a native of Tucson, you can’t escape her in much of their town or on radio stations. It’s a good thing I like her making so many covers into almost her own songs! At this motel it includes walls and the parking space name for her room.

I doubt I’ll add Duluth, Gary, or Paddington UK to my future travel destinations…

Even room door mats tell their story.


In-between the rooms and the pool area, there’s more local imagery. Saguaro, Palo Verde, and Desert Milkweed included…


The first day, we stayed near the hotel, between Sentinel Peak, the Mercado District, and downtown.

The next day following breakfast, we drove to just beyond the western edge of town, to hike the Yetman Trail, and see the rock-built Bowen House.

Back to the roundabout with passive water harvesting:

Imagine what other locations could do, averaging more rain than Tucson’s meager 12 inches per year, plus far more summer heat and for longer than most of the US.

My region’s 8 inches? 10 inches in San Diego? 15 inches in Denver, LA, Santa Fe, or Lubbock? 20 inches in the interior SF Bay Area? 33 inches in Austin, Dallas, or Oklahoma City? 37 inches in Portland, Tulsa, or Kansas City?


Returning to the car at about lunchtime, a mere 92F, we drove across town armed with cold drinks from Eegees and picnic food, to join the throngs driving to cool Mount Lemmon, atop the bold Santa Catalina mountains.

That highway climbs from 2,500 to 9,000 feet elevation in about an hour’s drive. That’s 4 of the world’s 7 life zones, flatlanders!

Per Merriam’s Life Zone system, more for predicting agricultural potential in the late 1800’s in the southwest, than for ornamental horticulture:

The bottom is Lower Sonoran (saguaros, palo verdes, jojoba, etc.), posted in previous photos. These photos go up through Upper Sonoran (creosote bush without the above, plus desert grassland, sotols, agaves, junipers, live oaks, …), Transition (ponderosa pines, alders, deciduous oaks, …), and Montane (mixed conifers, aspens, …).

If you were dressed for summer like us, that’s 95 to 55F. Our blankets had to do for our picnic and keeping warm.

I was expecting 70F for our picnic at 8,000 feet, but in May the change with elevation must be greater. My car thermometer indicated it was 60F. Better packing next time!


This graphic sign tells that same story of radical changes in climate or ecoregions, too. People who design gardens or produce plants would be wise to let this inform their work.

In a previous town I lived for over 2 decades, it also had a dramatic mountain range as a backdrop – 4 life zones in over 5,500 feet in elevation change. One could drive up and escape summer heat on a picnic or hike, ski in winter, or enjoy plants in nature instead of torturing them into landscapes far below in town.

Ditto many western towns: Las Vegas, Denver, Santa Fe, Reno, LA, …

Where I live, one can only access a 3 life zone change by a long backpacking trip into the stunning Organ Mountains or a 3 hour round-trip drive to Cloudcroft.


Tucson’s embrace of it’s geography is refreshing, including the variety of places nearby or within a day trip. Not to mention there are some good Mexican restaurants, inviting patios to enjoy a drink, or appealing gardens from courtyard to freeway scales. Soul.

It is of the desert, not merely in it.

One Reply to “The Real McCoy”

  1. That hotel (motel?) looks like a great place to stay. I assume you took the Dry Heat parking space? And thanks for all the sunny warm photos, they’re very appreciated on this grey, wet, 37 degree morning.

    Exactly, it’s a motel, though maybe Motel McCoy is too many m’s? Nope, got the “tipsy blogger” room, but I couldn’t find it online. Sadly few plantings at the hotel, but our hike and drives compensated. I’ll post more warmer weather views “soon”.

    Liked by 2 people

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