Friday, March 20, 2015

Arizona time

We are both so happy to be back in the desert, yup we like the look and smell of the desert.  The variety of vegetation, cactus is amazing.  This year there had been enough rain before we got here that the desert was in bloom, pinks, yellows, oranges, blues and purples to be seen in many of the areas we were taking walks.  Beautiful!

Our first big stop was Tucson Arizona.  Before we both retired, we had thought that this would be the area of our retirement life.  Even though we chose San Antonio instead, we enjoy coming back here occasionally.  So, whats to see and do here.

First is Saguaro National Park, which is layed out with the city of Tucson in the middle.  It began on the east side of the city in the Rincon Mountain district in 1933.  There is a 8 mile road loop road that gives a very scenic view of the park. This side of the Park has a much denser, older vegetation look to it.There are pullouts to stop and take pictures and trail head stops.  We stopped at the visitor center and watched a 13minute movie with a Tohono O'odham peoples perspective of this land.  It is beautifully filmed and should not be missed.

The west side of Saguaro Nat'l Park has a  5 mile scenic loop dirt road, with many pullovers and trail head stops.  The west side is located in the Tucson Mountain district.  A short 4 mile hike took us into an old kiln site in the desert.  Signs of spring were everywhere, trees budding and bright flowers, all showing signs of recent rain in the desert.

Saguaro National Park

Next on our list of sites to visit was the Pima Air and Space Museum.  There are 4 hangers of all types of planes to see, attack aircraft, bombers, cargo planes, fighters, helicopters, seaplanes, MiGs, trainers, commercial planes and even drones.  There is an extensive outside area called "The Boneyard", where you stroll endlessly to see aircraft in various states of disrepair/repair.  Since March is Womens History month, they had a very good exhibition of women and flight.  Not surprisingly, from the start of flying, women were not considered as capable of handling a plane.  Some very dedicated women persevered and the rest as we say is history.
The Space Museum section was actually the weakest  section we thought.  The displays were fine, but we have seen so much better at Cape Canaveral in Florida and the Johnson Space Center in Houston, so there was nothing new here for us.  We found that the way the displays were set up was poor, with too many small 2 person corner displays and extremely bad lighting.  Lights were mostly located behind you so you blocked light trying to view displays.  Sadly, it does not make for good viewing.
Plan to spend a whole day here as it is big and will take many hours to visit.

Pima Air and Space Museum

Next stop, the Arizona Sonora Desert Museum.  This is part zoo, aquarium, gardens, museum and art gallery. The wonderful thing here is that you get to see the names of the multitudes of cactus and succulents that you have been seeing in Saguaro Nat'l Park.  The zoo section includes lots of snakes, spiders and things you really never want to see outside of their cases.  We did see the javalina taking some relaxing time out of the sun, under a walkway bridge.  Two coyotes were on view, but one was frantically pacing in his unhappiness with being enclosed.
There are two very special areas, the walk-in aviary and the walk-in hummingbird area.  Since it's spring, there were little nests in both, which was quite exciting to see.
If you come, plan on spending the day and carry water with you.  There are some water fountains to be found around the grounds, but it is a hot dusty park.

Arizona Sonora Desert Museum

For one of our days we chose to revisit the  Mission San Xavier del Bac and then a bit further down I-19 to Tubac.   The Mission is an 18th century National Historic Landmark.  It is still an active church for the local Tohono O'odham peoples.  The two lions at the front of the altar are not original, as they originals were stolen in 1986.  The current lions are exact reproductions based on drawings and pictures and are painted in gold filigree as before.  The artist who did the work is the mother of the Arizona representative who had been shot at a rally a few years ago.
We happened to hear a bit of a docent tour that was just finishing when we arrived.  Learned that the blue dot wall is thought to be the "fingerprint signatures" of all the people who worked on building the Mission.  I wish we had known that there were tours offered that day, so we could have planned our visit better.  Something to check on next time we are in Tucson. Heading down the road we stopped in the village of Tubac, which is the site of a historic Presidio.  This is now a sleepy little village of shops and some restaurants.   Fred found some new fetishes to add to our collection and further along we found a glass display case.  We will need to find a spot in our fifth wheel for our display.

worker finger print signature wall

 Mission San Xavier del Bac

We enjoyed a delightful lunch on the patio at Cactus Jacks Saloon and Restaurant.  Be sure to have Gina's nachos, which are loaded with black beans, black olives and mozzarella cheese.  The green chili stew was also very good. We had a fun little exchange with two women from Kenmore Wa, who sat near us.  One had relocated to the area and the other was visiting for the month.

Another place to eat, but food and service is not consistent, is Saguaro Corners restaurant, just outside of the west side of the Nat'l Park.  We first stopped in on a Friday afternoon for an early dinner.  Food and service excellent.  Try the poppitos (bacon wrapped jalapenos), wow!
That day, everything was really good.  The entertainment is the local javalina that comes up to the full size dining room windows and checks out what the people are doing.  Funny!
We went back on a Monday, since we were in the area and were quite disappointed.  They were out of lots of things, only some of which we were notified in advance.  So, a word to the wise, go on the weekends rather than weekday and hopefully all will be well.

Other than those two places, we ate at the KOA campground restaurant, which ended up being much better than it needed to be.  It was a nice convenience at a reasonable price.

Since then we have traveled up the road to Cottonwood to visit with family.  We camped at Dead Horse State Park, our usual stopping place.  Lots of trails to walk in the park, which is wonderful for us to try to get a few miles in every day.  It is spring break right now, so the park is full every night.
While here we will be taking our granddaughter and roommate to Mariner spring training game in Phoenix.

After that we head south again to visit a friend in Florence AZ for a few days.  Then on to join my brother and Susan at Anza Borrengo and San Diego.
Stay tuned for more adventures,

3/20 update:  well guess what, we are sitting in Florence with the B in a mechanics shop getting evaluated for its latest problem....possible transmission issues....guess it wouldn't be a trip without some problem...ugh!    Worse case scenario, we rent a car to head to San Diego for the few days.
We'll know more later this afternoon.

Michelle and Fred.
Traveling the country so you don't have to!