I knew I should have left earlier. I knew it as soon as I pulled out of the driveway. The sun was already waning, and it wasn’t even 5 p.m. I grumbled to myself all the way across town and out of civilization, as the sun dropped behind the silhouette of the mountains, taking with it all the remaining light of the day, and left me driving around in the desert in total darkness.
These days, I never seem to get anywhere on time (well, let’s be honest here…did I ever?), so it didn’t surprise me that my 3 p.m. check-in time had quickly turned into a 6 pm. check-in time. Under most circumstances, in most places, for most of the year, this delay wouldn’t necessarily be a problem, but in Tucson in wintertime, driving around by yourself in the desert isn’t exactly a walk in the park. As I drove further and further away from streetlights, my mind wandered around ever more. Wild coyotes! Mountain lions! Cacti looming at the edges of the unpaved roads, just waiting to pop my tires! I clutched the steering wheel of my tiny Prius and bumped over the pitch-black unpaved roads looking for the telltale row of mailboxes Linda had told me to watch for. For the life of me, I just couldn’t find it.
For me, the girl who has always hated driving and who has little to zero experience driving around in places without streetlights, arriving under the stars was definitely not my ideal way to arrive at Hacienda Linda. Of course, there was always something to do in prep for a night away: a six-month old baby to change, a meal to make, a bath to give, bottles to wash, laundry to do, a crib to make, a bag to pack, a husband to kiss goodbye–the new kind of to-do lists that have recently dominated my day in ways I couldn’t have expected. In some ways, the fact that I actually managed to get myself out of the house at all in the first place was a small success–one not to be undervalued in the days of early motherhood, when, as everyone says, the days are long but the weeks are short.
Forty-five minutes into my drive, I had to admit it to myself: I was hopelessly lost in the Sonoran desert in the dark. Swallowing my pride and a pretty big dose of embarrassment (partly for being so late, partly for getting myself lost), I called Linda, the co-owner of Hacienda Linda, and asked her to please come and get me. I described that I’d reached the end of the unpaved road and had nowhere else to go. She told me to turn the car around and stay put. Within minutes, a giant pick-up truck came ambling down the road and Linda rolled down the window from the driver’s seat. “Girl, what were you thinking, leaving in the dark?” she asked, laughing. “Follow me–you’re basically there!” We pulled into the Hacienda a few minutes later, her sparkling market lights lighting the way and illuminating all the pretty cacti and lawn furniture decorating the front lawn. “I do all the gardening and all the landscaping myself,” Linda said, hopping out of her truck and coming over to give me a huge hug and introduce me to the home she’s undeniably and rightfully proud of. Over the past few decades, Linda and Dan have lovingly transformed their home from a dilapidated bungalow saddled up next to Saguaro National Park into what I might argue is the most beautiful hacienda in the Southwest (it’s one of those “you should have seen what it looked like before!” HGTV moments–just ask them to see the “before” photos!).
Though this story might make it seem like Hacienda Linda is in the middle of nowhere, it actually isn’t–and that’s part of the property’s beauty. They do have neighbors, for instance, although the homes are far enough away from each other that you can’t see anyone else’s home from your home. During the day, it only takes 25 minutes to get back to town. The fence to the Saguaro National Park is literally in their backyard. But when you’re inside the home, the rest of the world feels a million miles away. As soon as Dan thrust open the glass front door and welcomed us inside, where he was preparing homemade tacos, I felt a small piece of me, a piece that had been exhausted and missing ever since I became a mom, slipping back inside, quietly telling me that I still mattered and that my writer-self, the self I’d nurtured for so long, was still in there. I can’t really explain it, but I immediately felt like a piece shifted back into place, and I couldn’t wait to open my notebook and write down the story of how I’d gotten there.
There are only two rooms at Hacienda Linda—the Queen Suite and the King Suite—and both are spectacular. After the years and years of renovations to the interior and exterior of the house, Linda designed both rooms from the ground up, individually choosing each piece of furniture and decoration to reflect what I might call a kind of eclectic global Southwest aesthetic. I’m no interior designer, but I can say that the place is stunningly beautiful. The rooms were full, with interesting angles, textures, and patterns everywhere—but it didn’t feel crowded. It felt, I don’t know, full in a fulfilling way. Every corner and every nook was lovingly decorated with items Linda and Dan have collected over their lifetime together. Though they met while working as a bartender and a waitress at a hotel in Ft. Lauderdale many years ago, it was immediately clear to me that Arizona runs through their veins.
We sat outside together on the patio and had dinner together, swapping stories about our lives and drinking tequila as the moon rose higher and higher in the desert sky. The world smelled like mesquite and citrus. I could have been with friends I’ve known for years. After only a few hours of laughter and second helpings of Dan’s tacos, it became clear to me why so many artists, writers, painters, and photographers are drawn to the Hacienda Linda. People can breathe here; they can stay up late and drink tequila under the stars; they can sit and ponder major life decisions. It isn’t cheap to stay here, but with this kind of personalized service, exquisite location, and lovingly-prepared rooms and meals, it feels absolutely worth it to me. As someone who never spends money on herself and who rarely sets aside time for herself these days (and who therefore needs these moments more than ever), I can safely say that a good dinner, a restful sleep, and a peaceful breakfast the next morning is well worth the investment.
I feel asleep pretty early (after all, motherhood), and woke up the next morning to a fresh breakfast of homemade enchiladas verdes and fresh coffee at the bistro table in the front yard. The sun was shining brightly, and I was ready to head back home and scoop up my little guy. I had already made plans to bring him back in my baby backpack and take him on a morning hike with two of my newest friends.
At the time of this writing, rates are as follows: King Suite Dinner Package: $405.00/night, including breakfast and dinner for two. Queen Suite Dinner Package: $310.00/night, including breakfast and dinner for two.
Article and photographs by Kristin Winet (except for the first photo of the house, which is compliments of Hacienda Linda). A generous thanks to Linda and the Hacienda Linda for hosting my stay!