Tuesday, June 5, 2018
Today is our last full day in Vegas. We need to decide where we’re going next. People think when you are in an RV, you can just pick up and go. For the most part, that’s true. But in season, and season depends on what part of the country you happen to be in, campgrounds get booked, especially if you want to go to a tourist destination like a National Park. So, getting a spot can be tricky. The bigger the rig, the trickier it gets. With that in mind, we are spending the day figuring out where we’re going and making reservations.
Monday, June 4, 2018
We spend the daylight hours washing Sergio and Claudia. And we do the windows. We’re in touch with Basia in hopes of meeting up at the airport before they head back to Florida. We get to the airport a little before nine, but timing and logistics doesn’t work in our favor. They are on their way home!
Sunday, June 3, 2018
The Mob Museum, officially the National Museum of Organized Crime and Law Enforcement, is located steps from Fremont Street. In 1931, with the start of construction on the Hoover Dam, thirty miles south of Las Vegas, locals knew the town was going to grow and would need a federal building. The building, at 300 Stewart Avenue, opened in 1933 as the U.S. Post Office and Courthouse. Las Vegas got its start in 1905, so by local standards it’s a very old building. It has survived the Vegas wrecking ball and made it on to the Nevada and National Register of Historic Places. The building was best know as a post office and little used as a courthouse until 1945 when Las Vegas got a full time judge. Before that, judges came from San Francisco and Los Angeles twice a year to hear cases. Talk about swift justice!
The building became famous on November 15, 1950, when the U.S. Senate Special Committee to Investigate Organized Crime in Interstate Commerce, led by Tennessee Senator Estes Kefauver, heard testimony in the courtroom on the second floor. The investigation became known as the Kefauver hearings. In 2002, the feds sold the building to the City of Las Vegas for $1, with the stipulation that it be preserved and used as a cultural center, preferably, a museum. Then-Mayor Oscar Goodman, a former mob defense attorney, proposed a museum that would explore the complicated history of the Mob. The museum opened on February 14, 2012, eighty three years to the day of the infamous St. Valentine’s Day massacre.
This is our destination for today.
We decide to drive and look for parking. This would be easier for Alex than taking the bus. As it turns out, the museum has a pay to park lot, $7.00. Adult admission to the museum is $26.95, military, seniors and law enforcement admission is $20.95. Students, teachers and kids, 11-17, get in for $16.95, ten and under is free. This does not get you into the “Crime Lab” or “Use of Force Training Experience”. Admission to these exhibits is extra.
After we pay our admission, we are directed to the elevator and taken to the third floor. This is where the museum starts. You learn about the start of the immigrant gangs in the late 1800’s and follow the progression through prohibition, the building of Las Vegas, the mob wars, Kefauver hearings, and meet the lawmen who fought the mob. Like Ralph Lamb, the Cowboy Sheriff, who was sheriff from 1961 to 1979, during a period of explosive growth when the Mob was investing in new properties on the Strip. He is credited with bringing modern investigative techniques to Las Vegas, working with the FBI to build a file of the mobsters, and unification of metro and county police departments into one, to name a few of his many accomplishments.
The Sinatra – Mob history is explored, as well as other celebrity connections. They restored the original courtroom on the second floor, where the Kefauver hearings were held. We got to see the actual wall from the St. Valentine’s Day massacre. There is a room dedicated to global gangs or mobs, which is very disturbing, not because of the visual exhibit, but just the nature of these new brutal gangs.
You work your way down the floors till you are back on the first floor, where there is a gift shop and food bar. In the basement, is the newly opened speakeasy, “The Underground”, where you can have prohibition style drinks and tour the on-site distillery.
All in all, a very interesting and informative experience.
Saturday, June 2, 2018
I pick up Basia and Ola at 7:15 and drive them to the car rental place so they could get their rental car. Ola and I head back to the coach and Basia meets us there a little while later to get the water and supplies she got yesterday. We say our goodbyes and Alex and I head back to bed till eleven thirty. Us old folks need the day to recuperate!
Friday, June 1, 2018
My first problem for the day is the Post Office. When I made the reservation for Circus Circus, I asked about UPS and mail delivery. They gave me the address to use. They said they get mail at the RV Park. They lied. UPS, no problem. My Amazon Prime orders showed up with no problem. My mail, well, I get the email notice they can’t deliver and it’s going back to the sender. After one hour and thirteen minutes on hold with the Post Office, I finally get a human who files a case issue and gives me the local Post Office phone number. After I contact them and spend another twenty minutes on hold, I finally was told they still had my mail and I could come and get it. So, while Alex and Ola went in the pool, Basia and I went to the Post Office, then Walmart, so she could get water and food for the Hoover Dam and Grand Canyon leg of their trip.
When we get back, Basia, Zosia, Ola and I go to the Stratosphere Hotel and Casino. We take the elevator up one hundred and eight floors to see Vegas on high. For Ola and me to ride the elevator it was $50.50. Hey, it’s Vegas! The views are awesome! You can see forever. I can see our campground and see Claudia. Exciting for me.
The level above the restaurant and observation desk has the rides. Our level has the Sky Jump. Crazy people pay $129 to get strapped in and jump. Ola wants to do this, but she is too young. Argument averted! She vows to come back when she meets the age threshold.
We take the bus back to Circus Circus and catch a few of the circus acts. Basia shops for a few souvenirs and we all go for aqua massages and, Basia crossed one thing off her bucket list, and indulges at the oxygen bar.
Rejuvenated, we get Alex and head to Guy Fieri Restaurant in Harrah’s for dinner. Basia and Ola watch his show ‘Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives’, and eating at his restaurant is on the bucket list. He may be famous, but I wouldn’t eat there again. The menu has a few sandwiches, a few salads and a few entrees. By a few, I mean three or four. While we were waiting, a woman who has been there before, claims the portions are huge. From her speech, I knew she is a Midwesterner, so I take her “huge” with a very “huge” dose of salt. As it turns out, the portions were not huge, they were normal size, and they were expensive. Alex had a salad and I had a steak sandwich. With a beer and a glass of wine, it was seventy dollars. And I might add, there was nothing spectacular about the food. One last grip about the restaurant, the noise level was high. You couldn’t hear the people at the next table, but you could also not hear the people at your own table.
When we were finished eating, we left Alex at Harrah’s and ran to the Bellagio for the water fountain show that happens every fifteen minutes after eight o’clock. Then picked up with Alex again and went to the Volcano Show at the Mirage. Now our baby girl needs to go back to the hotel to sleep and be ready in the morning to head to the Grand Canyon.
Thursday, May 31, 2018
We started our day around ten, after our baby girl, Ola, got in a swim at the pool. Hey, vacation mode! Then it was off to the strip. We walked the strip from Circus Circus to Mandalay Bay and all points in between during the day. The high temperature was 101. And, I don’t care if it’s a dry heat. It’s hot!
We were working on Basia’s list of things she wanted to do. First up, we walked down to Paris to go to the top of the Eiffel Tower. Ola wants to go to Paris and this is as close as it comes, for now.
We had left Alex at Harrah’s to scope out where we needed to be at one, to see Derek Hughes, who bills himself as a “Stand Up Magician”. We meet Alex at White Castle, next door to Harrah’s, for a very fast lunch before our show. Derek Hughes was a finalist on season 10 of NBC’s America’s Got Talent. We had tickets for Bernie Mac, but for whatever reason, he had to cancel and Derek Hughes was his replacement. We had the option of getting our money back or seeing the show. We saw the show and we had no regrets! This guy is beyond good! Even Alex couldn’t figure out how he did his act and he had us laughing till it hurt. Very cerebral humor. When we gave the usher our tickets, we were asked if we wanted to sit in the front row. Absolutely, and you know it was because of Ola. A little kid was needed and Ola was the first to walk in. He brought Ola on stage and had her as part of one of his tricks. She even ended up two dollars richer when the act was over!
Alex headed back to the coach for a rest, while we finished our trek to the southern end of the strip. The Stanley Cup Finals are happening while we are here in Vegas and the Vegas Golden Knights are in the running, making history. Knights fever is everywhere and on everything, including the Statue of Liberty at New York New York. Somehow, seeing our girl in anything other than New York team jerseys just doesn’t seem right!
When we were ready to start back north, we gave Alex a heads up. I was going to tell him the bus number we were on and he would catch it in front of Circus Circus so we could all go to Fremont Street.
Back in the day, and it wasn’t that long ago, the strip was Sin City. The past few years, the strip has cleaned up its act and the adult stuff has moved to Fremont Street. The plan worked and we spent the night, with a few margaritas, eating and wandering my favorite place in Vegas.
Wednesday, May 30, 2018
We’re leaving the 78 degree high temperatures of Williams for the triple degree days of Las Vegas. Williams sits at 6,800 feet, giving us this gorgeous weather. Vegas is down in the desert valley at 2,000 feet, giving us the oven like temperatures.
Back on I-40 westbound, near the Kingman area, a big tumbleweed crosses the road in front of Claudia. It’s windy. Now, there’s a surprise! The only scenery are sage brush and dust tornadoes. You see these tiny puffs of dust turning into tornadoes that can be seen for miles. Nothing but flat land and dust as far as you can see, till you reach the mountains at the horizon.
Once we get to Circus Circus RV Park we set up and drive to Walmart for supplies. We haven’t had lunch, but pick when we get back to the campground. We wait to hear from our daughter-in-law, Basia. She’s coming to Vegas with our granddaughter, Ola, and her mom, Zosia, to celebrate Basia’s fortieth birthday. We have to wait and see what the plans are for tonight. It’s almost seven thirty our time, ten thirty their time, when she texts that they have landed. They have to be exhausted with traveling and the time change, especially for our eight year old granddaughter. She’s going to head to the hotel, then see what, if anything they want to do. Somewhere, in boarding the plane, her mom hurt her knee. So who knows. Next thing, it’s almost nine thirty when she texts us they are on the strip getting pizza. So, we hike down to the pizza place, and by the time we get there, they are already outside with their pizza. We hug and kiss. It’s been more than a year since we have seen them. They are starved, so they sit on a wall and eat. Then our tired granddaughter needs to go back to the hotel to sleep. We make our plans for tomorrow and say our good nights.
Alex and I head back to Circus Circus. We’re starved so we go to the Pizzeria in the casino for our pizza. We were sitting right next to the cashier where you place your order. There were two Chinese couples trying to order pizza with an electronic translation app. I kept saying just order them a pepperoni pizza, but nobody was listening in the confusion. The line to order was now out into the casino. Finally, our pie arrived at our table, and the guy who had been trying to communicate pointed to our pie. The cashier got the message and the line was back in motion. If you’ve never had a pizza, a pepperoni pie is a good place to start.
Tuesday, May 29, 2018
We’re going into town, Williams, on old historic Route 66. In 1984, it was the last town to be bypassed by I-40, the new modern Route 66 replacement.
Our campground is a few feet from the Mother Road, but all the shops and restaurants are a few miles down the road. We find a parking spot on 66 and begin walking, down the iconic street. We stroll into all the shops selling souvenirs, Western wear and Route 66 memorabilia.
We meet one old timer, in front of his store, that loves to chat. He and Alex were going on and on. I didn’t think we would ever get to leave. Finally, we do and go to Cruisers, an old fashioned diner with gas pumps and 50’s charm.
Ah, lunch and a vanilla milkshake!
Monday, May 28, 2018
Today we are going to our second rim of the Grand Canyon, this time the south rim. It’s about an hour drive north on 64. For an alternate means of transportation, the Grand Canyon Train, that runs next to our campground in the morning and evening, takes visitors to the Grand Canyon Village. They do the whole western thing, complete with entertainment. If we take the train, we can’t get to the National Geographic IMAX Visitor Center in Tusayan, the town outside of the park entrance, and that is the start of our adventure.
At the Visitor Center, we pay our $12.50 senior ticket price and watch the thirty four minute Grand Canyon: The Hidden Secrets IMAX movie on the six story high, eighty two foot wide screen. After the movie, we stop for pizza at We Make Pizza and Pasta, but not very well, should be added to their name. Among the worst pizza on the planet. Ick! I have no idea how they make their crust, but it should be Illegal. It was flaky and fell apart as you held a slice. And it tasted flat.
We drive the last bit to the park entrance and use our National Park senior pass to enter for free. The park does have shuttle service to take you to all the points to the west, including the Village, but for the eastern part, you must drive, hike or bike. Rather than go west, to the Village, we opt to go east for the twenty mile trek to the Desert View Watchtower. Not far after we turned on to the road, we discovered elk. They were on both sides of the road eating lunch.
We stop at the Tusayan Museum and Ruin, for a quick look. The Museum is one room in the same small building that houses a gift shop. The ruins can be seen on a half mile paved walking loop. We drive on, admiring the views on the opposite side of the road. Since all the lookouts are on that side, we decide to stop at them on our way back from Desert View.
The Desert View Watchtower sits at the most eastern part of the park. It is a magnificent structure siting high atop the canyon. The seventy foot Desert View Watchtower, was built in 1932 by architect Mary Elizabeth Jane Colter in collaboration with Hopi artisans, including famous Hopi artist Fred Kabotie.
The second floor murals showcase his work. You can climb four levels, twenty one stairs to each, and take in the views from the top.
Each level has windows to see the canyon and a circular opening allowing you to see down to the bottom. There is also a separate building with restrooms, a restaurant and a gift shop.
On the way back, we stop at Navajo, Lipan, Moran and Grandview Points to take in the views of the Canyon.
We bypass the extremely crowded Visitors Center. Now I understand why they say to park in town and take the shuttle. Five million people come to the South Rim each year, making every parking lot full. We continue to the Village, with its lodges, shops, information centers, mule tour and train depot. We stop at the Marketplace, a fairly large store that serves as a grocery store, gift shop, restaurant and camping and hiking store all rolled into one building. Next door is the Post Office. The Village really is a town unto itself. Beyond the Village are seven more vista points to see yet more of the Canyon, ending at Hermits Rest and Hermits Trailhead.
When we leave, we make a stop in town at Wendy’s for salads to go. By the time we get home, it’s going to be dark and late and cooking will not be an option!
Sunday, May 27, 2018
We’re heading to Flagstaff to the Lowell Observatory, home to the discovery of Pluto. But first, our drive there puts us on Route 66 where we find a gem of a food source, the Galaxy Diner. A real diner straight from the 1950’s, with food like diners used to serve.
It’s not quite noon, so we both have huge breakfasts for outrageously low prices, by today’s standards. My omelette was the largest I have even gotten in any restaurant, with an added fruit bowl and toast. And good, too! Alex had eggs, pancakes, sausage. He said he was stuffed. Me too. We wattled out!
In 1894, Perceval Lowell established the observatory to search for evidence of Martian life. He made a pact with the city of Flagstaff, he would bring jobs and economic growth to Flagstaff, if they would keep their skies dark at night. They agreed, making Flagstaff the first dark sky city. From that point, the Lowell Observatory has been contributing to discovery upon discovery. In 1912, V.M. Slipher proved the expansion of the galaxy. Clyde Tombaugh discovered Pluto, in 1930, by studying photographs of millions of stars taken by an astrograph, a telescope designed to take photographs of the stars, at the observatory. From 1936 to 1942, Art Adel established infrared astronomy. In 1966, Vera Perkins used the 72 inch Perkins telescope to find evidence of dark matter. In 1977, Bob Millis, Larry Wasserman and Peter Birch discovered the rings of Uranus. And the observatory is still making discoveries and contributions to the field.
At the observatory, we pay our senior admission of $14 and get our map and guide. You can walk the grounds yourself, although many buildings are off limits on your own. Even with a tour, some areas are still not for the public. We start out doing the solar tour. Here a solar telescope is set up outside the Visitor Center and you can look at the sun. The guide tells you some of the things you will see, storms, flares, etc.
The Story of Pluto tour, you guessed it, tells all about the discovery of Pluto. Clyde Tombaugh was a young farmer working his family farm, tinkering with things, when he got a book on how to build a telescope. He followed it to the letter, making notes and observations. He sent his work off to the Lowell Observatory for feedback. Eventually, he got it. A job offer. His telescope and notes rivaled professional ones. The rest, as they say, is history. He worked as a caretaker during the day and researcher by night, photographing the stars and pouring over hundreds of photos looking for Planet X.
In 1930, he found it. A world wide contest was held to name Planet X, and an eleven year old girl from Oxford, England, Venetia Burney, came up with Pluto, after the god of the underworld, since the planet was cold, dark and isolated.
We took the Lowell Tour, which explains the history of the Observatory and takes you on a walking tour of the grounds and the Clark Telescope, the oldest building at the observatory.
It was built, in 1896, by local bicycle repairmen Godfrey and Stanley Skyes, who boasted a sign at their business, that they could build or repair anything. Perceval Lowell, being the crazy, fun loving guy he was, put them to them to the test. They succeeded and continued to build everything at the observatory for the rest of their lives. The Clark Telescope was the telescope that was used to find evidence of an expanding universe. It is now used exclusively for public education. On the walk, you pass the mausoleum of Perceval Lowell who died, untimely, in 1916.
To round out the day, there is the Putnam Collection Center. It houses the observatory’s unique artifacts, the science library and collections. The science library was formerly housed in the Slipher Building/Rotunda Museum.
Now, it is the start of the Pluto Tour and has the history of Pluto’s discovery on the walls around the rotunda.
They do offer night telescope viewing and evening presentations, but having been to Kitt Peak, we opted for the daytime program. There is a gift shop, but no restaurant. If you plan on seeing everything they have to offer, you will be there no less than four hours.
Saturday, May 26, 2018
We’re off to Williams, Arizona, west of Flagstaff, exit 163 off I-40, to the Railside RV Ranch & Cabin Resort on Rodeo Road. As the name suggests, it right next to the railroad tracks and the rodeo. No matter where you are out west, you are going to here train whistles. Fortunately, since we went to the railroad museum in Sacramento, I am armed with the knowledge of what each whistle toot means. Nonetheless, this one is too close for comfort or sleep.
It’s a nice park, with roomy enough spots, some trees, but dusty, as is all of Arizona. They offer a free continental breakfast, hot tub, sauna and cable. We have an end spot, right next to the train tracks. On one track are old cars from the Grand Canyon Train. The other track is a working track. Williams is the gateway to the south rim of the Grand Canyon. The Grand Canyon Train comes through in the morning taking tourists to the canyon and brings them back again at the end of the day. Another track at the park entrance, has the rest of the train traffic, at whatever hour of the day or night. You do get used to it, like everything else. But, I do tend to listen to the whistles and figure out what each toot means.
This is Memorial Day weekend, so there is a free BBQ in the campground starting at six. Ribs, corn on the cob, beans, biscuits, watermelon, cake and beer or lemonade. I know where I am going to be at six. No cooking! Perfect for a day on the road.
The one caveat, the weather here is quite different than in the southern part of the state. While they have 90 and 100 degree temperatures, the high here today is 67. Tonight it will be 38. Back to socks, shoes and long pants!
Friday, May 25, 2018
A day of rest doing the jigsaw puzzle from hell.
Thursday, May 24, 2018
Today we’re going to the Petrified Forest and Painted Desert National Park, east of Holbrook. It’s about an hour drive. Exit 311 off I-40 brings us to the entrance and the Visitors Center. Since it’s a national park, we use our senior pass and pay nothing. We stop at the Visitor Center for information and to check out the gift shops. There is a cafe, where we get some lunch. We don’t want to be going through this amazing land on an empty stomach.
The Petrified Forest National Park was established in 1906 to protect one of the world’s largest and most colorful deposits of petrified wood. This 225 million year old geological wonder allows a look at the flora and fauna of the late Triassic Period.
We begin our twenty eight mile drive through the park, with our first stop at the Painted Desert Inn, a trading post turned museum offering exhibits on the parks recent human history. It’s a beautiful building with it’s old kitchen and dinning area still intact.
From the building, the view of the Painted Desert is spectacular. Going outside the view is even better. As you drive, there are several overlooks that offer different perspectives of this amazing land.
Continuing down the road, we come upon the remains of an old, 1932 Studebaker, rusting away, where the famous Route 66 once cut through the park. Interstate 40 replaced the Mother Road, and from here we can see all the traffic on I-40. Further still, is Puerco Pueblo, where you can view the ruins of ancestral Puebloan homes and petroglyphs. To see the entire community, you will need to walk a .3 mile trail, nothing strenuous.
Next stop is Newspaper Rock, an overlook where you can see, or so they claim, over 650 petroglyphs, some believed to be as old as 2,000 years. Maybe our eyes are old, or maybe time has taken its toll, but we didn’t see anything close to the number they claimed.
We drove the three and a half mile side loop road, stopping along the way, to view the Blue Mesa, admiring the colors, especially the beautiful shade of blue. It reminded me of one of those sand sculptures, where there are different colored sands in a glass container. Every time you turn the glass you get a different design. Everywhere you turned, you got that different sand sculpture.
Down the road is the Agate Bridge, a 110 foot petrified log spanning a gully. The park had to put a concrete support under it to keep it from being destroyed. In spite of signs telling people not to walk on it, people still did it. It saddens me to see human selfishness and stupidity.
We save the best for last. Jasper Forest is the remains of a an ancient forest that now litters the land with pieces of petrified wood.
It leads into Crystal Forest where petrified logs glimmer with quartz crystals. This tropical rainforest was once at the same latitude as Costa Rica. About 220 million years ago, it drifted north and landed here. A few million years later, the land rose a mile above sea level and the death of the forest began and the birth of the petrified forest started. When the tree dies it is buried by sediment. That keeps oxygen from causing it to decay and organisms from destroying it. Groundwater or rivers, rich in dissolved solids flows through, replacing the original plant material with silica, calcite, pyrite, or another inorganic material such as opal. The result is a fossil of the original tree that exhibits preserved details of the bark, wood, and cellular structures. Walk the.75 mile trail and be amazed!
At the end of the road through the park, there is the Rainbow Forest Museum and Giant Logs Trail. The museum offers a paleontological exhibit of critters found at the park. The .4 mile trail takes you to other petrified examples. A 2.6 mile trail brings you to Long Logs and Agate House, with petrified logs and a pueblo reconstructed of petrified wood.
Wednesday, May 23, 2018
We’re off to see the Meteor Crater, a few miles down on the same road, Meteor Crater Road, as the RV Park. This is the only scientifically confirmed meteor crater. There are many others that are believed to be meteor hits, but have not been scientifically proven.
Hurling through space at about 26,000 miles per hour, the iron-nickel meteorite collided with earth about 50,000 years ago. It is estimated to have been 150 feet across and weighed several thousand tons. It struck with an explosive force of more than 20 million tons of TNT, leaving a giant bowl-shaped cavity measuring 700 feet deep, 2.4 miles in circumference and over 4,000 feet across. Over 175 million tons of limestone and sandstone were thrown over a mile. Most of the meteor vaporized on impact, but a large piece is housed at the Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff.
From 1963 to 1970, the Apollo astronauts trained here for the moon missions. It was the closest terrain on earth to simulate the moon surface. A test capsule, named Boiler Plate 29A, is outside the museum entrance. This capsule, built in 1965, never flew, but was used to test the systems used to keep the Apollo capsule upright in water landings.You can see the crater from an indoor viewing area, but to really see and appreciate it, you need to go outside to one of four levels, from low into the crater to high on the top. You cannot walk along or go into the crater for preservation reasons. Mother Nature is doing her own thing to it over time, and they would like to keep it intact for as long as possible.
There is a small museum dedicated to meteor hits around the globe, as well as a theater that shows a video on the topic. A gift shop and a Subway restaurant complete the facility.
It’s still early, so we head to Winslow, Arizona, to stand on a corner. Winslow is a cattle community. There are a few shops and a few restaurants, a few, not many. Blink, and you miss it.
If Jackson Brown didn’t stop here one fine day and then team up with Glenn Frey to write Take it Easy, and the Eagles didn’t record the hit, Winslow would still just be a cattle town. Now, it can add tourist attraction to its resume.
We stop at Captain Tony’s Pizza and Pasta Emporium for some pizza, of course, then head into the main part of town to Route 66, where we find the famous street corner. Spoiler alert, the building is just a facade. The original statue of a man standing on the corner got company when they added a statue of Glenn Frey after his death. The famous flat-bed Ford, red, is parked at the corner.
We check out the only two stores around and then get these giant ice cream cones, that they call small, from the one and only ice cream shop. I can’t imagine what a large would look like! Now, we’re sitting on a corner in Winslow, Arizona eating our cones and watching the all tourists. A quick stop at the only Walmart for fifty miles, and it’s home again.
Tuesday, May 22, 2018
Moving day. Off to the Meteor Crater, a bit west of Winslow off I-40, and the Meteor Crater RV Park. It’s not a bad park in the middle of nowhere. No amenities other than water, electric and sewer. There are a few trees, something we haven’t seen much of and dust, can’t forget the dust.
After we set up, we walk over to the park store looking for beer. No beer. Oh well, we will get some tomorrow. There is a gas station. You can get a discount on fuel if you’re staying in the park, but you have to tell them when you fill up.
We spend the rest of the day working on our insane, for lack of a better word, hippie, trippie jigsaw puzzle. Maybe if I were buzzed, it would come together faster.
Monday, May 21, 2018
Taking a break day. Getting ready for moving day, so I’m doing laundry and we’re packing up.
Sunday, May 20, 2018
Our sunset Pink Jeep ruins tour is set for five thirty, so we are going to tour all the scenic spots in Sergio using the map and info we got at Hyatt.
We leave Cottonwood and head towards Sedona turning onto Lower Red Rock Loop Road. We can see Red Rock and, at the same time, drool over the gorgeous and secluded homes along the way. Then we set out to find the four main vortexes Sedona has to offer.
Some believe a vortex has magnetic and spiritual power, making it a place for mystical, artistic and new age followers to flock. We check out the four; Boyton Canyon Vortex, the Airport Vortex, Bell Rock Vortex and Red Rock Crossing, then head to the Chapel of the Holy Cross.
The Chapel, completed in 1956, was commissioned by local rancher and sculptor Marguerite Brunswig Staude. It took eighteen months to complete at a cost of $300,000, and worth very penny. It is part of the Roman Catholic dioceses of Phoenix. Parking is next to impossible, so I find a spot down on the road after making the attempt at the higher levels. Alex stays below while I hike to the top. It is a small, but beautiful church. Downstairs there is a gifts shop.
When I return to the car, we have just enough time to get back into Sedona and grab a quick burger at Burger King, which sits at one of the roundabouts. We watch the traffic back up beyond the bend of a mountain and I wonder how I’m going to get back one the road. But, we do, and we get there in plenty of time.
Two other couples from Salt Lake City, Utah are our tour companions, and Kevin, our driver and guide, a rotund, young guy, that talks as fast as a New Yorker, even though he is a native, rounds out the group. We all pile into the Pink Jeep for our three hour tour and take off for the Honanki Heritage site, where the indigenous Sinagua people lived and worked between 600 AD until the 1400s. It’s a short hike to the site, but not so easy for some. We see the ruins of their ancient city built into the cliffs, the petroglyphs and learn of their way of life.
Kevin explains that the black streaks we see on the rock are called desert varnish, a mixture of the rock’s minerals and rain water.
The area has changed considerably since the Sinagua’s day. The grasslands are gone and replaced with more trees and shrubs. Kevin explains that the black crusty surface we see in places on the ground is cryptobiotic soil. It’s purpose is to trap the precious rainfall and keep it within a few inches of the surface. This is good for the grasses and the shallow rooted cacti. Most of this rain, about eight inches, occurs in the summer months. The remaining two inches of moisture comes from snow melt. Ten inches, that’s the entire year’s rainfall. Over time, people and cattle, this is big cattle country, walk on the cryptobiotic soil destroying it. It takes fifty to one hundred years to repopulate. Without this soil, the water travels deeper into the ground, allowing deeper rooted trees to take hold, thus changing the landscape. A movement is now trying to allow the soil to come back and bring the land back to the way nature intended. So if you encounter this crusty stuff anywhere in the world, stay on established trails, and keep your vehicle on approved roads.
It’s about eight thirty or so when we get back to Sergio. We start the fifteen mile journey back to Cottonwood. Along the way we decide to pick up a bucket of chicken at KFC for dinner. Luckily, we just get in the restaurant a few minutes before closing.
Saturday, May 19, 2018
We’re on 89A again, with heavily trafficked roundabouts, this time north to Sedona. Sedona has been on my bucket list, so I’m excited. I’m looking forward to seeing the magnificent red rocks, for which Sedona is so famous.
We follow the signs for Arizona Tourist Information and end up at the Hyatt. We get a map and information about the area. This Hyatt is a Hyatt Residency Club. That means you own a piece of it by buying points. Those points allow you to stay at any of the Hyatt Residencies anywhere in the world. If we take the sales pitch tour, we can get our Pink Jeep tour for free, a two hundred dollar savings, plus get a seventy five dollar gift certificate for dinner at the steakhouse at Hyatt. We can spend ninety minutes of our time for the freebies. Plus the notion intrigues us, we can’t RV forever and still want to travel.
Our presentation is set for two thirty. Because they couldn’t get us into an earlier one and still make our Pink Jeep tour at sunset, we get a fifty dollar Visa card for our troubles.
We wander down the streets going into the shops and have lunch at Sedona Pizza and Pasta Company for, you guessed it, pizza. Then it’s back to Hyatt for the presentation. We tour the facility and see the living accommodations. The apartments are gorgeous. The one rooms suites are marvelous. If we didn’t have the coach, or if we had a place to keep it and the kitties while we used our points, it could be a great idea. It’s just the time for us.
After the presentation, we check out the shops at the Hyatt then head over to the Sound Bites Grill for a fabulous dinner.
We met Charlie, our server, and end up having a great time chatting with her. She is a former flight attendant now living in Sedona. We talk so much, I thought she would get fired.
Friday, May 18, 2018
The stones have passed and we’re off to Prescott!
We head south, down 89A. We drive into the town of Jerome, a former booming copper-mining town, that sits on the on top of Cleopatra Hill at 5,200 feet. A quaint, old, hilly town that boasts art galleries and small wineries in the downtown area.
We continue on to Prescott, sitting at 5,368 feet. The road here is windy and steep at times. Not a road for any vehicle of any length. They won’t make the turns and there is no where to go but down. The high elevation is something of a challenge for the lungs. It takes some getting used to.
In 1864, Prescott was designated as the capital of the Arizona Territory. It lost that distinction in 1867, when Tucson became the Territorial Capital. It later became the Territorial Capital in 1877, and held the title until Phoenix became the capital in 1889.
We find a parking spot and start walking down historic Whiskey Row. Whiskey Row is known for its bars and live music venues. We choose The Palace Restaurant and Saloon, for lunch.
The Palace was opened in 1877 and is the oldest bar in Prescott and the State, as well as the oldest business in the state of Arizona. Some of its more famous patrons included the Earp brothers and Doc Holliday, who have been known to frequent these parts. Wish Man, Junior Bonner, and the original 1971 Billy Jack movie were filmed at the Palace.
Quite a bit of history. That’s the nice part about being out west, so much history. They preserve it and share it with anyone who is interested.
We stroll down the streets and wander in and out of the shops and galleries. Before heading home, we get some ice cream and sit out in front of the shop like days of old.
Thursday, May 17, 2018
Alex is feeling a little better, less pain, more of an ache. Hopefully, that means the stones have left the kidney and are making their decent to the bladder and out. He needs to rest today. If they make an exit, we can wander tomorrow.
Wednesday, May 16, 2018
Another day waiting for the birth of the stones. I call the urologist the hospital said we should contact, and they say they will review Alex’s file and call back later today. Meanwhile, I stop at the office to get our bill adjusted back to the weekly rate and see what the magic trick is that I need to do to get the cable working. Everything I did is exactly what the woman is telling me to do. I don’t think this cable system is conducive to coaches and the crazy way our electronics are set up. Then, I’m off to Walmart pharmacy to get Alex’s pain med prescription filled. Back at the house, Alex is still in labor. For lunch, we have some of the chicken soup I made yesterday and he heads off to bed. I spend my time cleaning up and doing a few odds and ends around the coach. The park people are still working on getting us water. The office called and said we could move or they would make an adjustment to our payment, whichever we preferred. We decide not to pack up and move. We’ll take the credit instead. Alex is in no condition to be moving. Later, the doctor’s office calls. They don’t want to see him, just drive plenty of water. The stones will pass.
Tuesday, May 15, 2018
Moving day. We’re off to Cottonwood, Arizona to the Rio Verde RV Park.
Before we leave southern Arizona, I have my observations to share, things I like and dislike. First off, I like the way the Phoenix/Mesa area is laid out, in a one mile grid pattern. Easy to learn, easy to get around. Major roads, whether north/south or east/west, are one mile part. You may have a few side streets in between, but they are usually for a subdivision or commercial park. And, I like how any store you want is close by.
But, I don’t like how everyone drives. I don’t know why they bother to put up speed limit signs, no one bothers to even remotely drive anywhere near the speed limit. They race down the road, only to get stopped at the next traffic light. A waste of gas and brakes, not to mention pollution causing. The news tells me, most of the traffic accidents are caused by speed. I can see why.
I like that the food here is really good. A Foodie spot. We didn’t find any restaurant that was awful. I am not a fan of the winter weather. It’s warmer in Florida. Everyone says to winter in Arizona, but we had 50-70 degree days, 70’s were closer to spring, and 20-40 degree nights. As soon as the sun sets, the temperature drops like a stone. Too cold for me. And then, one day, Spring comes. It’s 90 and the next day, triple digits. And there’s no humidity. I never thought I would miss humidity. And rain. Last year it was nothing but rain. This year we haven’t seen a drop. It’s on average about 11% humidity. Your eyes are dry, your nose is dry and bloody. Your throat is dry and forget your skin. You need gallons of lotion to keep from scratching and looking like old leather. I had to get oil to keep the wood in the coach from drying out and cracking. But, on the positive side, your hair always looks good.
Because it’s so dry, the earth looks like it is from another planet. It’s cracked and looks like it’s crying out, dying for moisture. I can’t call it dirt anymore, it’s more like dust, like the earth died and this is its remains. It’s windy. Not a light breeze, but windy, sometimes sustained thirty mile an hour or more winds, with gusts. That kicks up all the dust. It covers your vehicles, outdoor furniture, the few shrubs and trees that exist and, most importantly, me. Spend any time outside, and you will feel like you rolled around on the ground. Any exposed part of your body will feel dirty and gritty, covered in a layer of dirt, and that includes your hair and clothes.
There is no color here. Everything is brown or beige or adobe red. All these colors are dull. Even the greens of the shrubs and trees are muted by the dust. There is nothing that looks vibrant. It all looks like it is dead or dying. We get excited the few times we see blue or any other color. It’s like finding a gift, or an Easter egg. It’s a nice surprise.
The architecture in the Phoenix, Mesa area is beautiful. Clean lines, new, modern, with a Southwest style. The Tucson area, not so much. You can see it is an older community and not as affluent. Some areas were sad looking. There is a difference in the people, as well.
Southern Arizona does have plenty to do. Museums, shopping, star gazing, hiking, biking, history. The list goes on and on. We enjoyed our stay immensely. We just weren’t big fans of the dust and dryness.
So, we leave Tucson. Interstate 10 and 17 were a breeze. When we got off 17 and on to 260, we encountered construction. They are expanding the road and adding roundabouts, or circles, as we call them back in the northeast. We got rid of them decades ago, having learned what a disaster they are. They cause nothing but congestion and accidents. But, here we are on a state highway, with cars, semis and RVs, all maneuvering threw the circles.
We make it safely to the Rio Verde RV Park, and get our spot on the Verde River. Sounds nice! But, first we have to climb the hill, turn around, come back down the hill, then back into our spot. Alex handled it beautifully. We start to hook up. Alex is getting all the cables and hoses out while I do my opening of the sewer and electric connections and turn on the water. The water is one of those old time crank lever jobs. It’s tight, but I get it open. I get a splash of water then nothing. I try several more times, then tell Alex I give up. No water. He tries. No water. I walk the dusty trail down to the office and ask the woman working there what’s the trick to get water. She gives me the typical instructions, to which I tell her we’ve followed, but still no water. She’ll send the maintenance guy around. We head into the coach. I start programming the cable television and get only one channel. After several different attempts, it’s back to the office, only to learn you need one of their cable boxes. After two hours trying different ways to connect, I head back to the office. I get a new cable box and instructions for setup the same way I had been setting it up. I finally gave up. Then Alex notices we were charged $32 more than the advertised weekly rate. Back to the office I go. I’m getting rather tired. The woman can’t help me. Can I come back tomorrow when the owner is working? No water, no cable and over charged. So far, I’m not a happy camper!
The maintenance guy has been around all afternoon while I’ve been futzing with the cable. Turns out, no one at the river sites has water. Before night falls, they manage to get some water running, but extremely low water pressure, 15 PSI. Alex fills the holding tank. We’re going to work off our system so we have pressure.
We have a light dinner, chicken soup that I have been making, then head off to the emergency room at Verde Valley Medical Center. Alex is in bad pain. They give him pain meds and scans and tests. He has three more stones in his left kidney. After they give us prescriptions and a referral for a local urologist, we leave. In the parking lot, we come across wild pigs, called javelina or skunk pig. Not something you would except to see in a hospital parking lot!
By the time we get home, it’s after eleven. It has been one long day!
Monday, May 14, 2018
I’m making red gravy, tomato sauce, while Alex is miserable with his kidney stones.
Sunday, May 13, 2018
Alex started with his kidney stone pain again last night. No good sleep for anyone. We have reservations at the Kitt Peak Observatory tonight for some star gazing. He’s not sure if he will be up to it. We will have to see.
While he’s home in pain, I run to Walmart for some supplies, then head home and make a roast chicken for an early dinner or late lunch, however you want to call it. For the price of admission tonight, we get a turkey sandwich, so I figure a good meal before we go should keep our bellies happy.
It’s about a ninety minute ride southwest of Tucson, with a border checkpoint along the way. We have to be there no later than 5:45. They say to dress warm, in layers. It’s fifteen to twenty degrees colder on the mountain, which is 6,875 feet above sea level.
By the time we finish eating, Alex is in no condition to go. Rather than lose ninety four dollars, I head out by myself, leaving Alex home to hopefully pass his stones. The ride down was no problem, even with the checkpoint. No problem till you get to the road to ascend the mountain. This is a holy mountain for the native O’odham tribe and the Observatory rents the top three hundred vertical feet. The O’odham call the scientists here the “people with the long eye”. The instructions tell you to allow thirty minutes to climb the mountain and they’re not kidding. You’re ascending nearly seven thousand feet on a narrow road that does nothing but make you turn left, then right, then left, all the way up the mountain. It is constant S turns, with little straight road past the entrance. When I turned onto the road to the Observatory, Sergio said it was eighty four degrees. When I get to the visitor parking lot around 5:30, he said it was sixty four degrees. A twenty degree difference. And the sun was still up.
They have you park one vehicle behind the other to form a line. Someone from the Observatory starts taping red plastic covers over your headlights. You soon find out that there will be absolutely no white lights allowed. That means headlights, cell phones, tablets, or cameras after the sun goes down. That means no pictures. This is first and foremost a research facility and white light interferes with the astronomers doing their work. I wonder how we will get down the seven thousand foot mountain in the dark with no lights. I soon find out we go down as a group, no one leaves without the escort vehicle. Still not feeling warm and fuzzy about our descent. We also have to put cell phones into airplane mode.
When we check in, we are given a flashlight that has a red light and then we sit and watch videos of space while everyone checks in or visits the gift shop. Then we get our dinner of a turkey sandwich, chips, a cookie, crackers and a bottle of water. You can buy drinks or coffee. The bathrooms are located outside the Visitor Center, so it is a bit of a hike. The thick white line can aid you in your walk, especially in the dark. The only light anywhere, inside or out, is red. It does allow you to see, but barely.
When it is time to go for our sunset walk to the edge of the mountain, you can feel the temperature change. We’re still getting high winds down below, so the winds on the top of the mountain rival tropical storm force. Having lived in Florida and gone through plenty of storms and even a direct hit from a hurricane, I can tell you that this winds all but knocked us off our feet. I wasn’t standing too close to the edge. While the sun is setting, our guide tells us about the different telescopes we can see from our vantage point. It’s hard to hear with the wind and she has to frequently stop to catch her breath and keep from being knocked down.
After the sun sets, we head back to the center to pick up our star chart. Now it’s time for eye star gazing on the patio deck. We see Venus and Jupiter, and trace the constellations in the sky. Then we’re off to one of the telescopes. We see M-13 or Messier 13, which is a globular star cluster in Hercules, several other star clusters, satellites, Venus and got to see the four moons of Jupiter. The wind was howling and rattling the building. We caught the scent of a skunk on the wind. There are black bear, skunk, deer and other critters living here, so bathroom trips come with the recommendation that you go in pairs. They want to make sure the local wildlife is properly fed.
Another tour guide, radios our guide, suggesting we cut the night short because of the bad weather. We’re back at the Center by ten. Then we get our instructions for leaving. The guide makes the announcement to the scientists to suspend their work, so our lights don’t skew their data. We all go to the parking lot and get into our cars. We can’t start our engines or turn on our lights till they wave a red light. Then we start up, turn on our headlights, which glow red from the plastic covers, and slowly make our way down, one behind the other. Sergio says it’s fifty three. I am in the second car after the lead vehicle. When we reach the designated area, the lead car pulls into a pullout, and the driver removes the red plastic from the first car, who can then travel the rest of the way down on their own. The rest of the way is about five thousand feet. Light only effects the telescopes at a certain point, so we have white headlights guiding our way. We’re told to watch for deer and other animals. There is an owl that likes to sit in the middle of the road and down at the entrance, watch for cattle. Hit one of them and pay the rancher three grand. Since I was second in line, I’m out quick. The ride down was better then I thought. Maybe because I couldn’t see the drop off on the side of the road. Back on the main highway, Sergio says it’s sixty eight. Ah, warmth and less wind. I’m home around eleven thirty. A long day but fun.
Saturday, May 12, 2018
The high is going to be ninety two, with high winds. There are always winds in Arizona and today is really bad. Since it’s a “cooler” day, not triple digits, we are going to Old Tucson, the home of four hundred movies, television shows, music videos and commercials. This is a Wild West amusements park, featuring live action stunt shows, musicals, stagecoach and train rides, vintage rides for the kids, southwest BBQ and special events, only open Friday through Sunday.
In 1939, Columbia Pictures chose the site to build an 1860’s replica of Tucson for the movie “Arizona”, starring William Holden and Jean Arthur. The $2.5 million film had local technicians and carpenters build the town from scratch, erecting more than 50 buildings in 40 days. With no running water, they made more than 350,000 adobe bricks from the desert dirt to create authentic structures for the film, many which still stand today.
After “Arizona” was filmed, the set sat in the desert sun until it was used briefly in 1945 for the film “The Bells of St. Mary’s”, starring Bing Crosby and Ingrid Bergman. Hollywood took notice and Old Tucson became a location favorite, being nicknamed “Hollywood in the Desert.” Movie after movie soon followed, with Gene Autry in 1947 in “The Last Roundup,” 1950 with Jimmy Stewart in “Winchester ’73” and Ronald Reagan in “The Last Outpost.” And the movies kept coming, through the ‘50’s, 60’s, 70’s, all the way to the 21st century. And so did television, with “Bonanza”, “Little House on the Prairie“, “Death Valley Days”, and scenes from shows that weren’t even westerns. Music videos and commercials have been filmed here as well. Walk down the same streets as movie legends John Wayne, Frank Sinatra, Kurt Russell, Clint Eastwood, Elizabeth Taylor, Steve Martin, Sharon Stone and Martin Short, to name a few.
After we parked and paid our admission, we set out to see the old buildings. We didn’t get far, when we were snagged by a hawker bringing people to witness Sir William Wiley peddle his Magic Elixir, sarsaparilla in disguise. I was plucked out of the crowd to be his test subject for the show. My feeble mind and body were supposed to be miraculously transformed after drinking his elixir. I think he regretted picking me.
We wandered through Old Tucson with the wind blowing, pelting you with dirt and rock. You could imagine how life must have been. We go into all the old buildings and shops and take a train ride around the town. We watched a live show about a woman trying to save her ranch from the bad guys and took in the stunt man show. Lunch was at the Pony Express Pizza, Wings and more, and no we did not have pizza. We went into the Iron Door Haunted Mine, cooled off and had some fun.
To learn all about the long film history of Old Tucson, we spent quite a lot of time in the Shelton Hall Movie Museum, it’s air conditioned and out of the heavy winds. Bob Shelton is credited with being the person to have spurred Old Tucson into a favorite movie location. When he purchased it in 1959, his original intention was to turn it into a theme park, no longer a movie set, but John Wayne had another idea, the movie “McClintock”. Shelton was a big Wayne fan, so how could he say no. Now it’s a combination of the two. So many of the movies and television shows we have watched over the years were made here. They have newspaper clippings about the stars and crew that have been there making movies. You could spend an entire day in here just reading everything. Worth it for ever movie buff.
Even though it isn’t in the 100’s today, the high temperature causes you to sweat. If you’re not sweating, you’re about to die from dehydration, eleven percent humidity, if you’re lucky, and heat stroke. Add in the extreme high winds, that are blowing the dirt into a dust storm or haboob. The end result… you are wet from sweating and the dirt is now stuck to your body. Every time the wind gust hits you, any exposed part of your body, arms, legs, face, get pelted with the tiny rocks from the dirt. I don’t know how many pounds of dirt I ate today, but I showered off about five pounds.
Friday, May 11, 2018
We’re driving forty five mile south to Tubac, Arizona, to this tiny historic village on the Santa Cruz River. If you are looking for any pottery, painting, jewelry, clothing, interior or exterior art, this is the place to go. The streets are lined with shops of local and Latin American artists.
After spending the morning walking around, we stop for lunch at Tubac Deli and Coffee Company for a pizza panini, then drive over to the Tubac Presidio State Historic Park, home of the oldest Spanish fort in Arizona and Arizona’s first state park. In case you were wondering, a presidio is a military complex. Here we find a museum, an underground display of the centuries-old Presidio ruins, some old buildings, a gift shop, picnic areas, and access to the Juan Bautista de Anza Trailhead.
The Presidio San Ignacio de Tubac was established in 1752 to protect the town and the surrounding area from Pima and Apache rebellions and raids. As with most everything in this area, Tubac became part of an independent Mexico in 1821 and then part of the United States in 1853, after the Gadsden Purchase. Arizona’s first newspaper was established in Tubac in 1859 by Charles D. Poston, who among other things, started the Sonora Exploring and Mining Company. In 1860, Tubac became the largest town in the state, which was short lived. The Civil War started and the area soldiers were called away to fight, leaving the town unprotected from raids. Tubac’s very existence through the years was dependent on a military presence for protection. Tubac is home to the third oldest schoolhouse in the state that is still used today. Excavation of the site began in 1974 with archaeologists from the University of Arizona and the Arizona State Museum.
After we tour the park, we drive over to Tumacacori National Park, a few miles away. Jesuit Eusebio Francisco Kino founded mission San Cayetano de Tumacácori on the Santa Cruz River’s east bank in January 1691. The next day Mission San Gabriel was founded at Guevavi, 15 miles upriver and made mission headquarters in 1701. The priests were stationed there and periodically travelled to preach at Tumacacori. In 1751, the Pimas attacked the Spanish settlements southwest of Tumacacori. As a result, the 50-man Presidio San Ignacio de Tubac was founded, and the mission at Tumacácori was resettled on the west bank to be closer to protection. In 1767 King Charles III of Spain banished the Jesuits and the Franciscans took over the missions. The Tubac garrison was transferred to Tucson in 1776. Apache pressure mounted and the nearby missions of Calabazas and Guevavi were abandoned. Around 1800, Fray Narciso Gutiérrez began to build a large church to replace Tumacacori’s modest structure, but the mission’s poverty and the Mexican wars for independence slowed construction. A Mexican decree, forcing all Spanish-born residents to leave the country in 1828, caused the mission to loss its last priest. A few settlers, Indians, and native-born Mexican priests, allowed the mission to continue for another 20 years, but Apache raids and the winter of 1848, caused both Tubac and Tumacacori to be abandoned.
Thursday, May 10, 2018
We’re visiting the Jewish History Museum, in downtown Tucson today. The landmark building is the first synagogue built in the Arizona Territory. It was the original home of Congregation Temple Emanu-El from 1910-1948. After that time, the building was occupied by various organizations or fell vacant and into disrepair. In the 1980’s, the Jewish community in Tucson began a project to restore the building and established the Stone Avenue Temple Project. It is now the Jewish History Museum, where you can learn the history of Jews and Jewish culture in Southern Arizona.
In the late 1800’s, Tucson was a growing stop on the route to the California gold rush. A small population of German Jewish entrepreneurs arrived to the promise of new industries like mining, land usage and merchant. In the museum, we learn about Leo Goldschmidt, who went on to found the bachelor residence and men’s club, Owl’s Club and Goldschmidt Furniture Store. And Alex Levin, who launched Pioneer Brewery, owned Wheat’s Saloon, Hodges Hotel and has a park named after him, Levin’s Park. The stories of these famous men are all told here. Currently, there is the photographic exhibition of Leo Goldschmidt’s Sonoran Borderlands on display. You can see what the Tucson area looked look back in the late 1800’s.
The second building on the grounds is home to the Allen and Marianne Langer Contemporary Human Rights Gallery. As the name suggests, it deals in all types of human rights from the holocaust, to gay rights, to ethnic genocide. Here, you can learn about World War II and the holocaust through storyboards and listen to video of actual survivors.
While the United States has recently allowed same sex marriages, ten countries still consider homosexuality a criminal offense punishable by death, sixty five countries still considered it illegal and eighty nine impose restrictions. There is an entire wall dedicated to education on other more recent ethnic cleansing around the world. When you leave the building, you realize, we may not be a perfect society, but compared to other countries, we need to count our blessings that we are so tolerant.
The museum has limited hours from one to five Wednesday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday. It is only open from twelve to three on Friday’s and does close for summer. Admission is seven dollars.
Wednesday, May 9, 2018
Once again I stare into the face of greatness. This time I am at the Center for Creative Photography, on the University of Arizona campus in Tucson, co-founded in 1975 by the brilliant and famous Ansel Adams and John Schaefer. Alex is staying home today while I fill my sights and brain with photographs.
The Center is well hidden and it took some time to locate the building. I found a parking lot nearby and was able to make the short trek to the building in no time. It is not a large exhibition hall, you can see, read and study everything in two hours, but I was in heaven. To see the work of Ansel Adams up close and personal was amazing. I got to see how the original contact photo looked for Moonrise, one of his most famous works, and his masterful hand in the finished product. If I ever doubted his talent in a darkroom, I certainly wouldn’t after my visit. Works of Mark Klett we’re also on display. Additionally, an Arizona comparison exhibition, where hundred year old photos were reshot in contemporary time, showed the change, if any, to the subject matter. There were also several collage compositions with old and new photographs.
The Center is free, but you will need to pay for parking. If you are a photography buff, it is worth the visit.
Tuesday, May 8, 2018
If you’ve ever wondered how the Cold War was won, I whole heartedly recommend a visit to the Titan Missile Museum in Green Valley, Arizona. Here you will find a preserved Titan II missile site, officially known as complex 571-7. Fifty four Titan II missile sites stood alert during the Cold War across the United States from 1963 to 1987 each armed with a nuclear warhead. This site is all that remains. Complex 571-7 officially came off alert on November 11, 1982. Work to turn the missile site into a museum began in February of 1983.
For $9.50 or $8.50 for seniors, military or local county residents, you can stand in the command center and experience what it was like. You first view a short video about the facility before you head out on your guided tour.
Fifty five steps down into the facility and you learn of the incredible construction to keep this facility bomb proof. You can see the thickness of the walls and doors, in some areas up to six feet thick. Giant shock absorbers line the walls to deal with earthquakes or blast impact.
Once in the command center, we learn the crew was a four member team, working together in twenty four hour shifts. These teams worked together for years. There would always be two team members in the command center, with one being an officer. The pair would be together at all times, except when they went to crew quarters, where they could eat, rest or read by themselves.
Looking at the state-of-the-art 1960’s technology, it was pretty amazing for its day. Now, not so much. Huge walls of computers that could be easily replaced today with tiny devices. Our tour guide commented that we have more computing power in our smartphone then they did in all the center. Still, it was powerful enough to launch the missile with deadly accuracy.
Then we get to experience what it would have been like to get the orders to launch the nuclear warhead. The confirmation needed, the codes to launch gotten, the realization of the severity of their actions. Even though it was a simulation, I couldn’t help think, that if it were real, my fellow Americans somewhere in the country were dead, or about to be, and we were sending instant death to others in the world. I had trouble not crying. I could feel what it must have been like for the crew, knowing their loved ones were out there, dead or dying and that they had a job to do, safe in a bunker, but safe for how long.
Topside, all fifty five steps up this time, we get to peer down into the silo of the actual Titan II missile, minus the nuclear warhead.
When you look at the facility, there was little security. Or at least it seemed. Then we learn that is not the case. There are four metal, syfy looking objects forming a square around anything and everything of importance. These four objects connect to each other to form a force field. Anything that breaks that force field triggers an alarm, which is seen in the command center. Back in the center, the officer calls the military housed next door and in seconds, armed personnel are there to deal with the situation. Usually, it was a stray animal that wandered in.
There is a small museum and gift shop to round out your trip to this National Historic Landmark.
Whether you are old enough to remember the time, or too young to know about this period in the world’s history, the Titan Missile Museum is worth the visit. You will come away with a different perspective.
Since, the tour didn’t take long, we stop at Mission San Xavier Del Bac, off I-19 on our way back to Tucson. San Xavier Mission, founded as a Catholic mission by Father Eusebio Kino in 1692, is a National Historic Landmark. The original church stood on the the side of the river, but in 1783, construction of the current church began in and was completed in 1797. It is the oldest intact European structure in Arizona. Inside, there are beautiful original statuary and mural paintings. The church dates back to when Southern Arizona was part of New Spain.
After Mexico gained its independence from Spain in 1821, San Xavier became part of Mexico. The last resident Franciscan priest departed in 1837. The Mission became part of the United States in 1854, after the Gadsden Purchase. In 1866, regular services were held at the Mission once again and continue through today.
Monday, May 7, 2018
We are visiting Biosphere 2 today in Oracle, Arizona, on 77, north of Tucson. Space Biosphere Ventures bought the property in 1984 and began construction in 1986 to research and develop self-sustaining space colonization technology. The goal was to design an enclosed facility that could be used by humans to live on other planets, and to show the inter-connectedness of humans and the environment. Human Missions 1 and 2 took place between 1991-1994. Human Mission 1, from September 1991 – September 1993, consisted of four men and four women, who lived inside the totally sealed, energy rich environment of Biosphere 2, growing all their food and recycling all their air, water and wastes. As an engineering experiment, it was a success, but failed as a sustainable planetary ecosystem.
The structure leaked air at a rate of less than 10% per year. That, coupled with an extremely rich organic soil, that supported rapid plant growth, but created a high soil metabolism, caused soil reserves of carbon to be great. This combination made the atmospheric composition change rapidly. Oxygen was absorbed from the air by soil microbes, which then released huge amounts of carbon dioxide back into the air. The carbon dioxide exceeded the plant’s photosynthetic capacity to assimilate it and regenerate oxygen. Instead, the excess carbon dioxide was absorbed by the fresh, unsealed concrete of the structure, and oxygen levels declined rapidly. Oxygen, which was pumped in, was needed for the Mission members to survive.
To balance the hot and cold transition of the desert, the south lung was created. There is a west lung to act as a fail safe in case the south lung should become dysfunctional. In the center of a huge domed building is a giant weight suspended on an airtight membrane.
The weight moves up as the facility’s air warms and expands during the day, and drops when it cools and contracts at night. This balance keeps the glass structure from exploding or imploding. If there is a leak, the weight pushes air out instead of sucking it in. To help move the weight, a fan above helps it move. We witnessed the weight move. When we first entered, our guide told us to stand in one spot and make a mental note of where the weight crossed the ceiling line. After standing there for a few minutes, you could see the weight had risen from all of the heat from our bodies. When our guide opened the hatch door to a corridor, the weight dropped again.
There are five different biomes; rainforest, ocean, marsh, savanna and desert. When you enter the Biosphere, you can feel the difference in the atmosphere. It has humidity, something that doesn’t exist in the Arizona desert, and has the feel of enclosed air space, stale. We meet our tour guide, Orville, as we are being shown into a room to first watch a video about the biosphere. We are given headsets so we can hear him as we walk the facility. These days, the facility is purely research, no one lives in it anymore, so containment it not the driving force.
The first biome we enter is the rainforest, on the north end. It packs the heat and humidity of a true rainforest with over ninety different plant species, some growing to more than sixty feet tall. Here, they are studying the effects of drought and climate change. Interestingly enough, twenty percent of our oxygen comes from rainforests.
Our next biome is the ocean. This huge body of water has its own wave action, with a deep, middle and shallow end. Coral once lived in this ocean, but have since died from the excessive carbon dioxide, proof that climate change is real and has a disastrous outcome for our planet. We get seventy percent of our oxygen from the sea. No ocean, no air. No air, no us. Pretty straight forward. Now, they are preparing the ocean for experiments to grow a species of coral that can live in highly enriched carbon dioxide environments and give back oxygen. Walking through the savanna, we see aquaponics gardens, plants grown in water enriched from the nitrogen excrement of fish. It takes one third less water to grow these plants than in a conventional garden. Here they are learning how to grow more crops in drought environments to feed the ever growing world population in places that are experiencing drought brought on by climate change.
The marsh biome looks like the mangroves of Florida, while the desert is a recreation of the environment outside. Together, these biomes represent our home planet.
A brief tour of the two acre plus underground facility shows us the mechanics to make the three acre Biosphere operate. When our tour concludes, we are free to wander the forty acre grounds, where we see the conference and lodging facilities that make up a small neighborhood.
We walk the thirty four steps up to the Mission Human crew quarters, where they each lived in a two floor apartment and made their meals from what they grew in the communal kitchen.
Our tour guide was excellent and we enjoyed our time learning about our world, which by the way, is Biosphere 1.
Sunday, May 6, 2018
Today is a NASCAR race. Unfortunately, we can’t get the station on our cable. We decide to take a walk around the park, in the 100 degree heat, to check out the place. When we pass through BBQ Rush Restaurant, I ask if they can get FS1 on their televisions. He thinks so and will check while we go and get our recycle bin. Turns out he can. We drop our bin back at the coach. The game plan is to have lunch at BBQ Restaurant, then I will go to the fitness center, oh yeah, I forgot to mention there is a decent fitness center, while Alex watches the race. The best laid plans… We have a great lunch, with beer and wine, naturally. By then, I’m in no mood to work out. Another glass of wine. Somewhere along the way, the race is put on hold because of the rain. After a wait, we finish our drinks and decide to go back home. No telling how long the race will take to resume. We pick up where we left off with Lost in Space.
Saturday, May 5, 2018
Today the high temperature is 101. For the next six days, the highs will be 105, 102, 103, 104, 104 and 102. Fortunately, we’re moving on to Tucson today, but the temperatures there aren’t much better, 102, 102, 101, 101, 102 and a bone chilling 100. Hey, ever degree counts! I guess summer in Arizona is here!
The ride to Tucson was quiet and peaceful. Desert and mountains. The only interesting thing we encountered was the Military Remains Escort of an Air Force veteran on his or her way to their final resting place. The motor court, with two motorcycles leading and two bringing up the rear, lasted for a mile or two. The fallen rode in a white hearse with an Air Force emblem on the door. The entire procession was slowly moving down the left lane of I-10, causing quite the traffic slow down. I don’t understand why they were in the left lane, or how they were going to get all those vehicles to the right to exit when the time came, but a traffic jam is a small inconvenience to make for one of our heroes who have given so much, even though many on the road didn’t share the sentiment.
We arrive at Tucson/LazyDaze KOA around one. This is one of the nicer KOAs we have been in. Lately, we have not been impressed with KOA. They have become pricey and the parks have not had much to offer and are tight and run down. Needless to say, we are reluctant to stay at them anymore, but sometimes you don’t have many choices. This was one of those times. Happy to say we weren’t disappointed. The sites are roomy enough, with a concrete patio and iron table and chairs. A separate black top parking area is towards the front for Sergio. There are fruit trees, which you can pick, between the sites. This time of year the pickings are slim, but we have a lemon tree that is still producing big lemons. Free lemonade! Since it is a fairly large park, there are two pools and two very small hot tubs. There is even a dog wash! A natural pond on the property hosts games and scavenger hunts. Inside the main building, there is a game room with arcade games, ping pong and other table top games. A second room has pool tables, a television and library. The BBQ Rush Restaurant serves Texas barbecue with a half dozen televisions tuned to sports for viewing, even though there is cable at the sites. Two giant 28 foot high PowerParasol canopies are in the center of the park, providing energy and shade for thirty campers that want to pay to camp underneath them. This is the first camping company to have this kind of solar power. This KOA is also a green park. You can get a recycle bin and the park staff will pick it up with your trash in the morning.
Moving days are always tiring, so we spend the rest of the day relaxing and starting the new Lost in Space series on Netflix. I have to say, this new remake has me hooked. If you liked the original, way back in the day, this version is light years better. I have found my new least favorite villain, or maybe that’s my favorite villain, I guess it’s how you look at it, Dr. Smith, the character you love to hate. All the characters got a 21st century upgrade. They are now three dimensional, complex and interesting. I’m already looking forward to season two.