Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Tuesday, February 22, 2011 Tucson and Yuma

On Saturday the 19th we drove to cousin, Patty, and her husband Braxton’s house and then went together to the Biosphere 2.

Biosphere 2 - Rainforest Area

Tom and I had visited this site about 8 years ago but readily jumped at the chance to return when Patty had made the suggestion.  Columbia University had taken over the Biosphere 2 when we visited before and now the University of Arizona was using the facility.  Originally built to replicate the various earth environment from ocean to desert and to have humans living entirely within this environment without any involvement from outside the focus has changed to conducting experiments within the various regions.  It is no longer closed off from the outside.  Our tour guide was a very enthusiastic lady that seemed to be very knowledgeable about the Biosphere 2.

Biosphere 2

At the end of the tour we had a session with an engineer working at the facility who talked about some things being addressed such as solar energy.

Neal Allen of Biosphere Staff

A very interesting visit.  Afterwards we stopped for lunch and then we drove around through some interesting housing developments and to a golf course that next week will host the PGA.

Sunday morning Tom and I left the Tucson area and travelled west to Yuma.  We were scheduled to attend a Passport America Rally at the Yuma County Fairgrounds.  About 4 1/2 hours after leaving Tucson we got to our destination and set-up for the next several days of rally camping.  We were parked in a large open shed with water and 20 amp electric. Opening ceremony was held in the evening with a Southwestern rice and chicken dinner.

Monday the rally day started with a continental breakfast of fruit and doughnuts.  The vendor area was opened and seminars started.  This is a rather small rally-  about 12 vendors and 2 seminars at one time going on.  We attended a couple seminars and as usual a few  new tips were picked up.  For dinner we had a beef brisket dinner and then entertainment by “The Mike and T Band”, good country/western entertainment.  Tom played Texas Hold’em and I returned to the motorhome to catch up on some reading.

Tuesday started with a breakfast of a biscuit, slice of American cheese, a small piece of sausage and fruit cocktail.  Afterwards we attended a seminar on travelling through Mexico.  We went out for lunch, found a Mexican restaurant that had a full parking lot and decided to try it (Mi Rancho) and was not disappointed.  For dinner the rally had huge hamburgers on the grill and onion rings.  The evening entertainment was “Slick Nickel” a country band.  The entertainment is held outside but the problem is that the temperature drops to an uncomfortable level before the entertainment is finished and many of us leave early to the comfort of our RV’s.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Friday, February 18, 2011- Tucson, Arizona

Wednesday, the 16th, we spent our last day in Benson catching up on housekeeping chores. 

Thursday morning we prepared to get on the road to move to Tucson.  Before leaving we had planned to go out to breakfast with friends, Marti and Drew.  So we picked them up and went into Benson and had a nice breakfast together before getting on the road.  The trip to Tucson was a short trip of less than 1 1/2 hours from Benson to the campground we had made reservations at north of Tucson, “Valley of the Sun” in Marana.  After setting up camp we drove over to my cousin, Patty’s, and her husband, Braxton’s home.

Braxton, Tom and Patty- Aqua Caliente Park

After warm greetings, we took off for nice lunch at a local steakhouse.  We were then taken to a beautiful park, Aqua Caliente Park,  that had once been a stop for cattle drives because of the water.

Aqua Caliente Park, Tucson, Az.

It was a real oasis in this desert region with ponds and palm trees.  Returning to their home Patty fixed barbeque sandwiches, chips and fruit for a evening meal as we all sat around talking and catching up.

Today, Friday, Tom and I were on our own as we drove to the ASARCO Mineral Discovery Center.  We wanted to take the 11am tour of the open-pit copper mine but we were told that we would not be able to take a tour until 2pm since prearranged school tours had filled the 11am and 12:30pm tours.  Not caring to hang around for 3 hours we left and went to the Kitt Peak National Observatory which has the world’s largest collection of research telescopes.

Kitt Peak National Observatory

We paid to take a tour to the solar telescope with a docent.

Solar Telescope

The telescope was not in operation today as it was an unusually cloudy day.  I was not impressed with the tour that the docent gave.  We toured on our own to a stellar telescope.

2.1 Meter Telescope

It is quite an impressive area about 7000 feet in altitude on Kitt Peak with numerous telescopes and dormitories that provided housing for the astronomers that come to this area.   We had not planned to visit this area today so we were inadequately prepared for the windy cold conditions on this mountain which resulted in the purchase of some warm jackets before walking around the grounds.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Tuesday, February 15,2011 Valentine’s Day and Colossal Cave

Monday, being Valentine’s Day, we spent a quiet morning at the campground but in the afternoon went to Sierra Vista for lunch.  We thought the restaurant selection was better in Sierra Vista than in Benson.  Benson’s restaurants that we have been to have good food but they are just like down-home cafes.  In Sierra Vista we were disappointed to find several restaurants closed- don’t know why unless they close on Mondays but it was Valentine’s Day.  We finally settled on Chili’s and had a nice late lunch/early dinner.

Today, Tuesday, we drove to the Colossal Cave Mountain Park north of Benson.

Entrance into the Colossal Cave

We took the cave tour.  This cave is a dry cave so it is inactive.  It seemed so strange to not see any water dripping.   Many formations have been broken by early visitor/explorers in the cave.


Dust over the years has filtered into the cave covering the formations.  This cave and surrounding area was a Civilian Conservation Corp project.  The walkways through the cave were constructed by the CCC.  There is also a ranch with horses, a museum and a butterfly garden.  There also is a turtle habitat but the turtles were hibernating so a big kitty cat was taking up residence in that area.

The cat in the turtle habitat at the Colossal Cave Mountain Park

Afterwards we drove to Tucson in search of a Mexican restaurant which we found and had a good Mexican meal- Tom had shrimp fajitas and I had shrimp rancheros.   After a stop at Trader Joe’s to get some pasta ( we had gotten some pesto filled tortellini before and really liked it) and some fresh produce, no wine this trip.  The weather has really been nice for several days now with temperatures in the upper 70’s to lower 80’s.  Put away the long pants and long sleeved shirts and get out the shorts and tee shirts- maybe. LV

Sunday, February 13, 2011 Sierra Vista and Tombstone

On Saturday, the 12th, Tom and I drove down to Sierra Vista to attend the Cochise Cowboy Poetry and Music Gathering.  There were 70 artists from throughout the U.S. and Canada that perform Western poetry and music.  Major stage performances are held on Friday and Saturday evenings and Sunday afternoon which we did not attend.  We attended the all day sessions that are held in the school on Saturday.  From 10am until 5pm a group of  3-4 performers perform in one of the 8 rooms for about 50 minutes.  Each hour there is a change of performers and we were free to move from room to room as we chose.  We enjoy the music best.  I never cared much for yodeling but there was a female, Judy Coder, that really did an amazing  job yodeling that I even had to get a CD of hers.  Actually, this is one of the reason we are staying in this area of Arizona at this time.

Cowboy Gathering- Stampede performing

Today, Sunday, we attended the local Methodist church this morning and then went out to a local restaurant for breakfast.  In the afternoon, we went to Tombstone (20 plus miles away).  We walked about the town stopping in the shops and watching the entertainment in the streets. 

Tombstone, Az Street Performers

Reenacted gun fights  were taking place on a regular basis- apparently on the 2nd and 4th Sundays this is done as a means of raising money for charity.   We went into “Big Nose Kate’s Saloon” for lunch which proved to be lots of fun.  A keyboard player with a nice singing voice entertained the entire time we were in the “saloon”.

Big Nose Kate's Saloon, Tombstone, Az.

The food was good- Tom had a burger and I had a salad- and cost was reasonable.  It was loud and bawdy but a fun place.

This evening the campground had an ice cream social- anyone with a birthday or anniversary in the month of August or February got a free dip of ice cream. How lucky for me with a birthday in August and an anniversary in February I got 2 free dips, Tom got 1 but he purchased the second dip for $.50.  LV

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Friday, February 11, 2011 Benson Arizona

Tuesday, February 8, was a day spent in the campground.  Tom went to a computer “Show and Tell” in the afternoon as I spent time reading.  For dinner we went to a local restaurant, “Horseshoe Café”, with a group of about 30 from the campground.

Wednesday we drove to the town of Tubac, Az. for the Art Festival.  Tubac is a unique town with lots of shops, many devoted to art.  The Art Festival has well over 150 kiosks set up throughout the town selling art, jewelry, some clothing and other pricy things.  We ate at a Mexican restaurant, Elvira’s, which had good food at a cost.  It was a nice day with comfortable temperatures in the upper 60’s and bright sunshine.Tubac, Az Arts Festival

Thursday we ran a few errands into the town of Benson- post office, grocery stores-but spent most of our day in the campground.  For dinner Tom had to fend for himself as I went to the clubhouse for “Woman’s Night Out”.  The theme was Hawaii so the attire arranged from Muumuus to blue jeans and t-shirts.  I had gotten a dark blue and white flowered shirt at Walmart that I wore with jeans.  We had to pick a small piece of paper from a dish that designated the table that we were to sit at-  a good way of mixing everyone up.  Our dinner prepared by some of the men was Hawaiian Chicken, rice, grilled pineapple, a fruit salad and pineapple upside down cake, very tasty.  The entertainment provided by campground locals provided lots of laughs with some male and female bashing.  A fun night!

Today, Friday, we drove southeast about 75 miles to Chiricahau National Monument.  The Monument is an isolated mountain range that is surrounded by grassland.  Rock pinnacles cover the mountainsides.

Chiricahau National Monument

  Chiricahau Apache called the pinnacles “standing up rocks”.   Cochise, a Chiricahau Apache inhabited this area and upon his death Geronimo became a leader here.  We stopped at the Visitor’s Center and watched a short movie about the “Monument” and then drove through the park.  I had prepared a picnic lunch as there is no place close to eat- the closest town is 35 miles.  At the top, Massai Point-6870 feet, we decided it was too cold to eat outside (there was some snow on the ground) so we started back down to warmer areas.  We did stop at an area called  Sugarloaf and hiked about 1/2 mile on the trail to the Grottoes.

Chiricahua N. M. - Grottoes

The Grottoes was a huge rock structure with tunnels and “windows”.  We finally ate our lunch when returned to the lower warmer area at Faraway Ranch.  There were some very pretty bluish-green birds in the area that we later were told were Mexican Jays. 

Mexican Jay- Chiricahau N.M.

After lunch we walked back to the Faraway Ranch and had a nice tour of the house. 


Neil and Emma Erickson, Swedish immigrants, settled here in 1888.  Then in 1920’s their oldest daughter, Lillian and her husband, Ed Riggs, turned the ranch into a guest ranch which was in operation until 1973.  After the death of the Erickson 3 children the ranch and furnishings were incorporated into the national park as a historical district.  Another beautiful day with bright sunshine and temperatures varied according to the altitude- cold on the top of Chiricahau, warmer at the bottom area and still in the 70’s when we returned to Benson at 5pm.  But the temperature does drop quit a bit at nighttime- it was 29 degrees this morning.

Monday, February 07, 2011

Monday, February 7, 2011

On Friday, February 4th, Tom and I celebrated our 44th wedding anniversary.  We were expecting our mail to be delivered that day so we hung around the campground until the delivery was made by FedEx.  We then went about 30 miles south to the town of Sierra Vista for dinner at “My Big Fat Greek Restaurant”.  We had eaten at this restaurant last year with Larry and Joanne and decided to return to it.  It was every bit as enjoyable as we remembered.  The weather started to improve but still fell well below  freezing during the night.

Saturday we again went to the campground clubhouse for burgers at lunchtime.  The man that fixes these burgers really does a good job.  Our friend, Marti, joined us for lunch and shared the news that her husband, Drew, would be returning to Arizona next Saturday from Maryland.  Drew had been in Maryland working on their house and Marti was in Arizona helping her granddaughter with 2 little boys and a difficult pregnancy with twins.  The twins, girls, were born just prior to our arrival here.  Later in the evening we returned to the clubhouse for an evening of keyboard music for dancing and socializing.  Doug Miller, the keyboard player, is also the Facilities Manager for the campground and is good at both jobs.

Sunday morning Tom and I along with Marti attended church services and then went out for breakfast at the Horseshoe Café, Marti’s daughter works as a manager at this reatarant.  Nice breakfast- Tom had corned beef hash and said it was the best he thinks he has ever had, I had a piece of French toast, an egg and 2 pieces of bacon also very good.   Afterwards we returned to the campground, read the Sunday papers and then watched the Super Bowl on TV.  And Green Bay won!!!

Today, Monday, we went to Kartchner Caverns State Park located in the Benson area.  This cave was discovered in 1974.  There are 2 cave tours available, we chose the “Big Room” tour.  The tours are very restrictive about what one is able to take into the caves- no purses, cameras, backpacks, gum or food.  We were warned to not touch anything but the railing along the walkway and if we did to report it so it could be tagged.  After the park closes in the evening workers go through cleaning the tagged areas in order to preserve the cave.  I was surprised as to how warm the cave was, we had jackets on but once inside the cave it was so warm and humid that the jackets had to removed.  The cave was drier than most other caves I have been with only occasionally seeing some wet formations- this is because of the dryness of the area.  The tour guide was very knowledgeable as he also enjoys cave exploring.  We returned to the town of Benson stopping at a little Mexican restaurant for a late lunch before returning to the campground.   Today was the warmest day we’ve had with temperatures in the upper 60’s/ lower 70’s but it will drop down into the 30’s tonight. LV

Thursday, February 03, 2011

February 3, 2011, Thursday, Benson, Arizona

We have been in Benson for a week now and what changes in the weather.  When we first arrived the sunny temperatures were about normal for this area at this time of the year- upper 60’s during the day dropping into the 30’s at night.  Then we had a brutal change.   On Monday dark clouds rolled in and rain showers with occasional hail occurred.  Tuesday was a chilly day with temps not getting out of the 40’s.  But early Wednesday morning the bottom fell out and the temps dropped into the upper teens until morning and during the day stayed in the 30’s.  This morning at 6:30am it is 12 degrees, these temperatures have been unheard of in this part of the country.  We do have bright sunshine which helps to keep us warm.   Needless to say, we unhook our water and use our on board reserve during the night.   According to the weather forecast the temperatures should return to near normal this weekend.

We have been keeping busy here.  A park such as this has planned activities plus there are groups of people that plan things on their own.  We have a friend in the campground, Marti, that has included us in some outside activities.  Last Thursday evening we went to a country club restaurant for “tacos”, apparently this is a regular Thursday night event for many residents of the campground.  Later Thursday evening there was a couple that had an “Opry” show at the campground clubhouse.  This husband and wife duo had many costume changes to appear as different singers.  Saturday at lunchtime burgers were served at the clubhouse which seemed to be quite a hit with most folks.   Saturday evening another couple entertained with music for dancing.  Sunday morning Tom and I along with Marti went to a local Methodist church for church services.  Many campgrounds have church services but not this one so the campground folks go to a local church if they so desire. 

Tuesday Tom and I drove south to the town of Bisbee, 40 plus miles away. Bisbee, Arizona

Copper mining was the way of life in this town.  At one time Bisbee was the largest city between St. Louis and San Francisco, even had its own stock exchange.  We first toured the Queen mine.

 Entering the Mine, We have a Green Light

Outfitted with hardhats, battery packs with lights and yellow coats we boarded a tram that took us hundreds of feet into the mine.

Dressed for the Mine Tour 

Our tour guide was a former employee of the working mine that not only gave us information about how the mining was done but also had many stories about the miners.  We had a nice lunch at the Bisbee Grille and then we went to the Bisbee Mining and Historical Museum.

Bisbee Museum 

This museum had nice displays and information about the mining industry.  Copper was real important to this community- at one time even the high school diplomas were printed on copper.

Wednesday, Tom and I went north to the Pima Air and Space Museum in Tucson.SR-71 Blackbird

We took the hour long bus tour of  Davis-Monthan Air Force Base Bone Yard.  Planes, mostly military, of most every description were pointed out and described by the tour guide.  There are 2 areas in this Bone Yard, one is a storage area for planes not currently being used which includes planes  from other countries and the other area is planes that are being broken down for parts.  This area of Arizona with its low humidity is an ideal storage area.  After lunch at the museum rather costly restaurant we toured the museum.  Military planes and helicopters were on display.  Docents, many ex-military, were throughout the museum often adding their stories to the aircraft.

F-16 Fighters