Etsy friend Brian of QuietMind and BeadinAroundtheBlock, and I had a lot of good reasons to go.
As we drove the almost 8 hours to Tucson, I thought about how you can get from one whole country in Europe through one or two others in the same amount of time. The U.S. is so vast. On the way back we took the long, scenic drive from Tucson through the old Papago, now Tohono O'odham, reservation and Ajo, an old mining and railroad town that was quite picturesque.
My dad came with me and we stayed with his geologist friend. I got to pick his brain about mining and minerals. Here's a specimen of Garnierite he showed me. It's a nickel-rich mineral related to Serpentine, which I use a lot of in the shop. ** At the gem shows I found rhyolite, garnet, pyrite, lovely carved black onyx, kyanite, and citrine among other things.
One last thought—we fixate on rocks and beads, but looking around at the desert buttes and washes, I realized again that the sculpture of the natural earth is so beautiful. The earth shows off so much in the Southwest. Please visit the four corners region sometime!