The Calkins Family’s Arizona Farewell Tour

“All good things must come to an end.” Unfortunate proverb, but so very true. Being in the military, it is only a matter of time before you have to move to a different duty station. Thankfully, through the Assignment Interactive Module (AIM) marketplace, we will always have choices in where we go next, but it still means that we have to leave Fort Huachuca. And, make no mistake, we have had a great time here. Before we left though, Elaina, Gabriella, and I wanted to make sure we did all the things that made our posting in Southeast Arizona so memorable.

Niñas. Niñas made it memorable. And giant, realistic dinosaurs.

The Army has a saying that the worst duty station is the one you are currently at, and the best duty stations are the one you just came from and the one you are going to. After being at Fort Huachuca for the past four years, I could not disagree more. We have had a fantastic time being stationed here. The post and Sierra Vista (the town outside of post) were small and wonderful, and Tucson had plenty to do and was only an hour away. My positions were all great for my career and allowed me to spend maximum time with my daughters. The girls absolutely loved their school and the after-school center, not to mention the on-post activities. And there were of course the people. The girls had plenty of friends to play with and I worked with some of the best professionals in the Military Intelligence Corps, all people that I would gladly serve alongside again. The point I am trying to make is that this was going to be a very difficult transition for the three of us, as none of us really wanted to leave (but, for my career to progress, we had to; thankfully, the girls understood).

Gabriella has taken to wearing Elaina’s headwear for some reason…

Before we kicked off the Calkins Family Farewell Tour (trademark pending), we wrote down everything that we wanted to do one last time before left Arizona. This was a pretty exhaustive list, as there are so many activities that we had in our normal rotation. The Fort Huachuca Arts & Crafts Center was the first thing on our list.

They have surprisingly not broken a single one of these at home or at the center

We have been going to the Arts & Crafts Center for a few years now and the girls have always enjoyed themselves. Being a low-cost activity that kills a couple hours while getting personalized items to bring home with you, it just cannot be beat for a relaxing, good time. Gabriella chose to paint a hedgehog and a penguin, while Elaina picked an ice cream cone and a whale.

Contrary to what you may think, the girls actually picked this out for me to paint.

The girls picked out an M1 Abrams Tank for me to paint, which I did in its desert paint scheme (which led the girls to say it did not look like a “real” tank), sending pictures to a friend on post who is a former Armor officer. This is an activity that will certainly be missed, but I am already looking at comparable options on Fort Campbell.

I feel like they are getting a little too big for this car…

Even though they are getting a little old for most of the games, the girls wanted to visit Peter Piper Pizza again before we left.

Gabriella Veronica Calkins, Fruit Ninja

They ate all their food and played a few of the “little kid” games, but mostly stuck with games that were at their level. And I got them a ton of tickets off the Barrel of Monkeys game, so win! Not particularly strong memories from here, but the girls put it on the list, so I felt obligated to appease them.

They cannot just make normal, smiling faces, can they?

We have been going to the Reid Park Zoo since we arrived in Arizona in the summer of 2018, and given the amazing zoos we had in Washington, it had a lot to live up to; it did not disappoint.

Almost there. Just got to keep eating your vegetables

Besides having amazing enclosures for bears, rhinoceroses, and elephants, there was a tiger exhibit that was second to none. And we cannot forgot about the lions and the tapirs.

Hey! Those were my snacks!

They also love feeding the giraffes lettuce and carrots, purchased from the zoo staff. Just to show how much Gabriella has grown over the past four years, she can now see above the fence and no longer has to stretch to reach the giraffes.

“Dinosaurs, we come in peace.” *loud roar* “New plan, Gabby! Run!”

Thankfully, we planned this visit during their Dinosaur Discovery exhibit, with life-size, animatronic dinosaurs all over the zoo. Some definitely looked a little too real for the girls and I’s comfort levels though (I still swear that Herrerasaurus’ eyes kept following me).

I am getting A Christmas Story / Ovaltine vibes from this…

It was a great visit and easily one of the attractions that we have spent the most time at in the past four years. Such a great little zoo that we will surely miss.

Now Elaina has the headband on… what is happening?!?

Of course, the girls had Coldstone Creamery on the list, just reminding me we probably go there too much… moving on…

Yes, get all that excess energy out

Defy Tucson was absolutely going to be on the list. The trampoline park is one of the girls’ favorite places in Tucson, even though we have only been twice since the pandemic hit.

Now Elaina wants to be a ninja

Since their Grandmother (Gigi) was in town, they brought her along to show her how high they could jump and forced her to be active.

Preparing Gabby for her tumbling and cheerleading lessons

Luckily, Defy Clarksville is right outside of Fort Campbell, so this is an activity that we are taking with us to Kentucky / Tennessee. The girls are already talking about getting a membership so that they can visit whenever they want, and I am not particularly opposed to the idea.

Now they are bringing friends and stuffies to Pajama Night

Cochise Theater is one that we are going to miss. A lot. Yes, we watched a lot of movies there in the past four years, but it has been an immense source of joy for us. Family Movie Nights are amazing at home, but are even better in a theater, with perfect popcorn, for a great price (the popcorn is so good that we routinely went in just to get popcorn).

How on earth did each of you get a large bag of popcorn?

And our last night there together was Pajama Night, so it could not have been more perfect. While there is a theater on Fort Campbell, I feel that it is going to be a lot more packed than Cochise Theater, and more like a regular movie experience than a personable one.

Last dance at Cochise Theater

Just to reiterate how much this place meant to us, I took in a show after the girls left and it did not go well (I was not going to let them watch Doctor Strange and the Multiverse of Madness, and for good reason). Before every movie on a military post, they ask you to stand for the National Anthem. As it was playing, I looked to my left and right, to the two empty spaces where my daughters should have been, and shed a few tears. I should have known better than going there without my girls. Cochise Theater, you are amazing and will certainly be missed.

Wow, she is really too big for that tire swing

The girls’ favorite park on Fort Huachuca is right outside of the Bonnie Blink housing community. The call it The Spider Park, since it has a large rope net to climb on. We spent a few hours running around, climbing, and playing tag, with me getting a little sunburned along the way.

Thankfully, we only had one park on our list, not the ten parks that we regularly go to on- or off-post

The girls have plenty of parks they love to go to on post (The Blue Park, The CDC Park, The Circle Park, etc.), but they wanted their last park experience on post to be at this one.

They wanted to go here, I swear!

Of all the activities and places on our list, the girls said that this one was for me. They know how much I love the Fort Huachuca Commissary, so they wanted to visit it one last time with me before they left. It was a cute gesture, and it means a lot because I know they do not particularly like to go there. It did not hit me of how much I was going to miss Fort Huachuca’s quaint little Commissary until I visited the one on Fort Campbell. Not only is it twice the size, but it had a totally different layout, which just got me lost and frustrated.

One last bike ride before we depart

The girls also wanted to go to the track one last time to ride their bikes. Although they lasted only about 20 minutes before wanting to go home, it was nice to come back to the place where they learned to ride together.

Starting to think the girls just wanted more ice cream when they said these places were “memorable.”

The site of many school fundraisers and free ice cream coupons, we had to visit Julie & Sammy’s 33 Flavors before we left town. Unfortunately, I neglected to realize that it was free Ice Cream Day (for students), so although the bill was small, the wait was anything but.

The “Peace Sign” is never going away, is it?

Although not on the list, we did stroll around Fort Huachuca a little during their last week on post. We ended up walking the heritage trail, taking in the history one last time.

We definitely got our money’s worth from our 4-year membership

Anyone regularly following this blog knew that Children’s Museum Tucson was going to be on the list. Like the Reid Park Zoo, we have been members here for the whole four years and took full advantage of it, visiting for about two hours almost every time we came up to Tucson.

I cannot understand it. You two love the grocery store at the Children’s Museum, but despise the Commissary…

With their usual routine, they started off in the grocery store, moving over to the kitchen after I checked them out and they paid for their merchandise.

“Your Polar Bear has Grizzly-itis, and I am sorry to say this, but it is very serious…”

Making sure to take in each room during our visit, the girls then took care of various wild animals at the veterinary clinic.

Someone is ready to receive her letter from Hogwarts…

After hitting up the science, railroad, and arts & crafts rooms, the girls ended their tour on the stage, putting on a play for me. The girls may be getting a little big for children’s museums, but they still had a great time. It has been amazing seeing them grow throughout the years here, moving from Wee World (toddler zone) to spending a lot more of their time in the science room. Hopefully, they will be ready soon for some of the adult museums that Nashville has to offer.

They have surprisingly never dropped the tray once

Freddy’s Frozen Custard & Steakburgers was one of the first places the girls put on the list, and for good reason. Not only do we visit Freddy’s almost every time we visit Tucson (as it is one of the few places we are all happy to eat at), but they will not be getting it in Texas (even though their Abuelos live right next to one). And to celebrate the occasion, I actually got some frozen custard with the girls (with Reese’s Pieces mixed in, of course). Thankfully, there is one located in Clarksville, so we will get to have Freddy’s together once again.

Yes! Dad is actually in one of the pictures!

The last place we would hit on our list was the Rooster Cogburn Ostrich Ranch. As we were driving to Phoenix for the girls to meet their Mom, we stopped in so the girls could feed the animals just once more.

Plenty of practice doing this at their Abuelos house

While Elaina still was not going to feed and pet the stingrays, they were excited to see tortoises have been added to the attraction.

Their Mom no longer has to worry about the girls being eaten by ostriches

After feeding the donkeys, deer, and goats (skipping the chickens this time), the girls pushed their fears aside and headed towards the ostriches. Their Mom has a completely understandable fear that if ostriches could fly, they would promptly take over the world, so the girls were sure to FaceTime with her as they fed them.

Goats gonna goat

As Gabriella was giving the goats the last of her feed, the unruly beast simply grabbed the cup from her and started swinging it around. I guess it was just a quick way to get rid of the remaining food.

“No, you cannot have one!”

The girls spent a lot of time feeding the bunnies, using almost all of their tokens that were meant to be spread out amongst the chickens, rabbits, and ducks.

Yet Gabriella is terrified of the Rainbow Lorikeets

Lastly, Elaina fed the rainbow lorikeets while I chased after Gabriella, who for some reason now runs in terror from them. We had a fun time and it was a great event to close out our Arizona Farewell Tour.

“Team, thank you for leaving the expletive off my Rudis quote.”

After I put the girls on the plane and got back to work, I got a proper farewell from my unit, receiving my Rudis, which symbolically granted me my freedom (a tradition amongst my instructors). It was a nice close to us saying “Goodbye” to Fort Huachuca. We had an amazing time over the past four years, and we will miss the people, places, and adventures. While we were certainly a family in Washington, Fort Huachuca is where we learned to be a family of three, and to be a successful one at that. That is why this area will always be so special to me, as this was the place that helped us become, well, The Calkins Family as we know it. While this is definitely goodbye, it does not have to be a forever goodbye. If my career continues on its current path, the girls and I hope to come back again in three to five years. So, Fort Huachuca, thank you very much for the memories, and, hopefully, we will be seeing you again soon.

Fort Huachuca, we are going to miss you.

Thanks for checking in on us.


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