Thursday, January 24, 2008

January 23 & 24--Still in Quartzsite

Quartzsite has many interesting booths and tents to explore. It is hard to believe that later in the year this place will be empty.
Wednesday we went to Bad Boys Cafe at Rice Ranch in Quartzsite to meet fellow users of Military Campground website. The cafe is outdoors, but it has several tents in case of inclement weather. It is located in the section named Rice Ranch.

Each person orders breakfast, finds a table and breakfast is delivered to your table. The coffee is $.25 a cup with unlimited refills. The waiter finally let us grab a coffee pot and refill our own as we needed! It was a very congenial place. We sat in one of the tents hoping to keep the wind at bay.
Most people arrived between 8:30 and 9:00 with a few stragglers at 9:30 (they missed the group pictures). Larry, who created and runs the website is first on the right in this picture.
Everyone enjoyed meeting after chatting and posting on the site. Some of us stayed until noon talking and sharing campground experiences. About half of those who attended are full-timers.

Bob and I walked through the areas of Quartzsite that we missed on Tuesday. We purchased a few items and then returned in time for happy hour with the boomers. It is a great group that has 2 official mantras:

There are no rules in Boomerville.

Every hour is happy hour.

This is a view of Boomerville from the top of the road leading into the area. As you can see, everyone just parks where there is level ground. It can be very dusty!

When we awoke Thursday morning, there a very light pitter-patter on the roof of our vehicle. As we slowly raised the blinds, we realized it was raining--we hadn't seen or heard rain since El Paso when a few drops fell on Bobby's house. It looked like it was passing quickly so we decided to geocache and visit California! Bob chose 4 caches close to I-10 on the way to Blythe, California.

We found all four with no trouble. We dropped off a travel bug and a geo-coin and retrieved another travel bug. We are quickly approaching 200 finds. We have some in every state we've visited except Mississippi, Louisiana, and Texas. Maybe we will find some in those states on our return trip.

We saw several interesting sights in Blythe, California. At the first sign, Bob and I gathered our books of stamps and were ready to trade them, but it was not a redemption center.

Not far down the road we saw Blythe Airport. This building is one of the few buildings at the airport and it is still in use. The building is from WWII.On our return to Arizona we were glad that we didn't need gas. There was a line of vehicles backed up for 3/4 of a mile waiting to get gas at the Arizona line. Gas at the border in Arizona is $2.85 and just across the state line in California it is $3.38. Diesel in California is only one or two cents above regular unleaded.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Janurary 21 & 22, 2008--Quartzsite, Arizona

Hello Everyone!
We left Tucson around 9:15 Monday morning and arrived in Quartzsite, Arizona at 3:00. It was an uneventful drive as we drove on interstate most of the way.

As we drove over a hill a couple of miles before Quartzsite, we saw rvs to the right and left of us for miles!

We are staying in a Bureau of Land Management area where camping is free. There are no hookups and it doesn't have a dump station. We will stay here until we fill our black water tank.

The area we are in has about 100 rvers who belong to Escapees Boomers. There are several crossovers who also subscribe to the Military Campgrounds Site. The creator of the site is parked near us. We enjoyed meeting Larry and his wife Connie as we have used the website many times and visited their personal website, too.

The Boomers are a fun group. There is something going on all the time: geocache classes, 4 wheeling, beading, scrapbooking, writing, walking, reading, computer info, and just chatting. Happy hour is at 4 p.m. daily and every night there is a campfire in the middle of the social area.

We will take some pictures of the area and post them soon.

Tuesday we went into the town of Quartzsite. It is a booming place right now with 150,000+ rvers temporarily camping in the area. There is an rv show and flea market now. Soon there will be a crafters show and after that a gem and mineral show.

Traffic in town is bumper to bumper after 10:00 a.m. We were lucky enough to go early and get a parking space before the crowds arrived. Because this is the desert, the dust with all these vehicles is unbelievable.

The weather has been great. It is cold at night, but warm in the daytime with clear blue skies. We have not seen rain since El Paso when it rained a few drops at Bobby's house.

After Quartzsite, we will head east with a destination of Florida at the end of February.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

January 19 & 20--The Weekend

Saturday we went to Saguaro National Monument, East. They had many miles of trails for us to choose. We settled on the Loma Verde Loop which is about 3.5 miles. The walk meanders through the saguaro forest east of Tucson. We crossed several washes, but only one had water. The park is a popular place for hiking and biking. As we walked, we realized we didn't have the camera, so no pictures of this day.

One thing we have noticed in Tucson is the number of bike riders--bicycles, not motorcycles. Even as we drove up Mt. Lemmon, we passed many cyclists. They rode up about halfway (4000 ft.) and then back down the mountain at speeds which scared us. The loop around Saguaro NP also had many cyclists--one couple was riding a bike for two with those skinny road tires. They passed us as the speed limit on the road was 15 mph and they were going much faster.

We ate a picnic lunch at the park and then walked another loop trail to see a pioneer homestead built in the 1800s. This was a 1 mile loop.

Sunday we did laundry and made a commissary run. It is also football playoff day. Monday we leave Tucson. Our destination is Quartzite, Arizona--winter boondocking home of many rv owners. We will let you know our impressions while we are there.

Friday, January 18, 2008--South of Tucson

Friday we drove down I-19 south of Tucson. The drive is interesting in itself because all signs are marked in kilometers.
Our first stop was the Desert Diamond Casino. This was the first casino we visited on our trip even though we passed many (Oklahoma seems to have one at every interstate exit). We played until lunch, ate the buffet, and traveled to our next destination. Oh, yeah, we lost our allotted amount at the casino after winning $25 on a nickel slot. The casino is not open 24 hours so we arrived soon after it opened which was nice--cigarette smoke hadn't had a chance to build-up. When we left after lunch, the smoke was noticeable.
Our next stop was Mission San Xavier del Bac which was one exit north of the casino. Work is underway to clean and repair the outside of the mission. You can see the scaffolding to the left behind Joyce in this picture. This picture also gave us a virtual geocache.
There is a lot of history in the mission. It dates back to the 1600s. That fine Spanish army Colonel Hugo O'Conor left the mission to found the presidio in Tucson.
It is billed as the Sistine Chapel of North America. This picture shows the front altar.
This picture is of one of the domes in the ceiling.
Here is one of the side altars.
After viewing the mission, the courtyard and the museum, we walked to Grotto Hill next door. The hill is no longer property of the mission. Here we are standing halfway up Grotto Hill with Mission San Xavier del Bac in the background.Here is the mission as seen from the hill.

We walked through the Native American shops near the mission and then headed for Wal-Mart to buy our drinking water.

We returned to the campground and made plans to visit East Saguaro National Monument on Saturday.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Thurday, January 17, 2008 The Boneyard

Wednesday afternoon we called and made reservations for the 'Boneyard' tour. The only way to visit the boneyard is through the Pima Air Museum.

Our tour started at 10 a.m. We arrived early as requested to have our I.D.s checked. The bus loaded promptly at 9:55 and off we went to see the airplanes that are out of service.

The oldest plane in the boneyard is from 1958. All previous planes have been disassembled in one way or another. Many of them were sold for scrap metal after radios and other equipment were removed.

Most of the tour was spent driving at a snail's pace down celebrity row as our guide told us about each airplane. He was extremely knowledgeable. There are approximately 4400 aircraft in the boneyard.

This plane was a general's plane in Hawaii. So many government officials borrowed it when they visited the islands that the general had it painted 'United States of America' instead of 'United States Air Force.'

Celebrity row is a street with aircraft on either side. There is a sign in front of each naming the aircraft for visitors.
Each plane has been specially prepared to sit in the desert sun. The cockpits are coated with 2 layers of a black paint and then a final coat of white. The paints protect the interiors from ultra violet rays and heat. The paint keeps the temperature inside the plane to within 15 degrees of the outside temperature--this is quite a feat in the heat of the summer. Only the portion of the plane with items that may be reused are painted. When the techs need something from a plane, it is like peeling wallpaper to remove the paints--some comes off in big sections and the rest has to be picked and scraped.

Planes that have a lot of electronic systems have more of the white paint than the others. Even the top of the fuselage was painted on the F16s.
Here are some of the pictures Bob took as we drove through the boneyard. These F4s are slated to become drones.
Bob took these pictures for Cecil. The hueys and cobras also had a lot of protection.

Below are C5s. I remember seeing them fly over our housing area when we lived at Biggs Army Airfield (El Paso, Texas) and thinking that they were too large to be flying!

The B1 Bomber is also being used for spare parts.We enjoyed our trip through the boneyard. It was interesting to learn that for every dollar spent in the boneyard, ten dollars are saved.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Wednesday, January 16--Catalina Highway

Wednesday morning we realized we had not done any geocaching in Tucson. We looked at the areas we had not visited and found that Catalina Highway going to Mt. Lemmon was a treasure trove of caches. The road is 28 miles from base to peak with many pull outs and vistas where you can stop to hike one of the many trails.
Bob prepared the GPS and the clues to aid us in our hunt. I fixed a picnic lunch. We set out for Catalina Highway.
The first cache was located near the first vista area. There were a few muggles (people) around, but once we walked on the trail going below the vista, they couldn't see us. Bob found the cache near a prickly pear cactus.

Our next stop was Molina Canyon Vista. There were 2 caches Bob marked somewhere in the canyon. We had to leave the overlook trail to try to find the caches. Unfortunately, the caches were down some steep rocks. We decided to leave them for another cacher.
We explored the canyon area near a waterfall.
We went down some rocks that were not quite so steep to get near the waterfall. The footprints in the sand let us know that others had been there before us.
We contemplated walking downstream, but we knew there was another waterfall that would be difficult to get around.
We returned to the car and drove to the next caches Bob had marked. We found both caches with no problem and then decided to skip the next few caches so we could get to the top.
As we approached the Palisade Visitor Center there was a sign that said to continue on the highway you needed 4-wheel drive or chains!
We pulled into the visitor center parking lot to ponder our next move.
This was the first time in 19 years that Bob and I had seen this much snow!

Yes, Bob is standing on a snowbank without a jacket. The air was comfortable at this level, but cooler than when we started our trip at the base of the mountain. As we looked around, several vehicles that were not 4-wheel drive and didn't have chains passed the visitor center on their way down the mountain. Since we made it this far, we decided to go on to the peak--Mt. Lemmon.

As the elevation increased, so did the snow on the sides of the highway. The views were incredible.

At the top, we found that the ski area was closed on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. It appeared to be a small ski area with two chair lifts--one for the big slope and the other for the bunny slope. If there were any more lifts, they weren't visible from the parking area.

The bunny slope is behind the pedestrian sign in this picture.

We drove through the village of Summerhaven our return trip. There are a few houses with inhabitants, but most are snowed in until spring. We found a cache at the edge of the village.

The next cache we searched for was at a picnic area about 2 miles from the village. The drive was plowed and the tables were accessible. However, the cache was in an area of snow that was like an ice skating rink--hard packed and slick. We couldn't find a way to get to it without sliding to the bottom of the hill! We decided to pass that one and head back to the rv.

We enjoyed the trip to the peak and will return to find more caches in the future!

Thursday we plan to visit the airplane boneyard.

Tuesday, January 15--Sightseeing

Tuesday we returned to the area southwest of Tucson to visit Sonora Desert Museum and West Saguaro National Monument.

We started the morning at Sonora Desert Museum. Just as we arrived, a tour started so we joined the tour. The docent was knowledgeable and very fast. He gave excellent information on the plants and animals of the Sonoran Desert as well as interesting facts about the museum. We were unable to take any pictures until the 1 1/2 hour tour was complete. The museum has two aviaries. The first houses birds native to the region. The second houses hummingbirds from the region. There was a group of students from an elementary school in the first aviary and the birds stayed up and out of sight because they were so noisy. We did see the field mice scurrying around. Due to the drought, the mice have made their way into the aviary for survival.

The hummingbird aviary was very active. You had to watch carefully not to walk into the path of a hummingbird! We only saw a few varieties, but if we had stayed longer we probably would have seen 10.

The desert loop trail was not included in the tour so Bob and I took off and walked it to see the javelinas and the coyotes. We were told the javelina tribe had a baby. As we walked around their habitat we saw three older javelinas resting in the sun. They were not disturbed by the gawkers trying to get them to move.
As we walked around the coyote enclosure, we didn't see any coyotes. So far on our trip we haven't seen any! Bob remembers seeing them all the time when he worked in the desert at Ft. Bliss.

Sonoran Desert Museum has everything you want to know about desert life. There is even a section on mining and Old Arizona. The gems and minerals on display from local mines were outstanding. We would like to get down to Bisbee to visit the old mines.

After visiting the museum we headed to West Saguaro National Monument, again.
Once again, we did not have much time to spend walking the trails. We did drive the Desert Bajada Loop Road through the saguaro forest.
We returned to our campground to make plans for Wednesday. The thing to remember about retirement is not to plan too much for one day--we can always stay longer if needed!

Monday, January 14, 2008

January 13 & 14--Still in Tucson

January 13, 2008

Sunday was laundry day--UGH! We were first to the laundry so we were able to finish and get to the O Club for brunch.
Monthan Davis was the fourth base where we have eaten brunch in the last few years. It did not rate as high as the others we have visited. Ft. Benning still rates a 10 out of 10 with Patrick coming in at 7 out of 10. Eglin was also a 7 out of 10. Davis Monthan rates, at best, a 5 out of 10. It was by far the most expensive brunch at an O Club. The service paled in comparison to that at Patrick AFB or Ft. Benning. The number of choices for omelets was basic. Many of the items in the chafing dishes were almost gone and there was no sign they would be replenished--with more than half the serving time remaining.

We spent the rest of the afternoon doing chores in the rv, watching football, .... It was pretty windy outside--not a good day for sightseeing.

In the evening we walked around the campground. Overflow is bustling now! There is probably a two or three day wait for a full hook-up site.

Monday, January 14
Happy birthday, Cathy!

Today we drove north of Tucson to visit Biosphere 2 and Catalina State Park.
We arrived at Biosphere 2 just in time to take a tour of the habitat. Bob and I were the only 2 on the guided tour. Here we are waiting in the living area of the biosphere. The place is awe inspiring! The biosphere contains 5 biomes, a living center, and a farming area. The tallest portion of the biosphere houses the rainforest. Unfortunately, it is the only area that can't be visited. We looked in the side windows and saw growth everywhere. I don't know where they would put the boardwalk to get through it.! We started the tour in the living area. When it was operational, the biosphere housed 10 people--each with 2 rooms (bedroom loft & living room) and a shared bathroom. The small dome to the right of the rainforest biome is a common area where the biospherans often ate dinner. In the picture above where we are waiting, it is just up the stairs behind our chairs.
After leaving the living area, we passed the farming area which is dormant.Next we went through the savannas and marshes.

The final biome is the desert.
Most of the plants for the desert biome came from the Baja Peninsula. The cacti from the Sonoran desert where the biosphere is located could not survive in the closed system as there was too much humidity.

The mechanics to keep the system balanced are underneath the biosphere, in a separate energy system near the biosphere, and in two 'lungs.' From the desert biome we went underneath the biosphere to see the air conditioning system and the water collection system.

Then we went through a tunnel to see the 'lungs' of the biosphere.

Here is the inside of one of the lungs. The black area 'breathes' to keep the windows from exploding in the biosphere. The floor is made of stainless steel so it springs when you walk on it. The diaphragm (platform at top of picture) raises and lowers as needed. It was cold in the lung!The dome in the bottom left of the next picture is the outside of the lung.

From the lung we traveled outside to get to the basement to view the ocean .

The wave action in the ocean is only 2-3 inches high. They found that if the waves were any higher they couldn't control beach erosion.
This is another view of Biosphere 2.
We enjoyed our visit to Biosphere 2 and recommend it to anyone who visits the Tucson area.

As we returned to Tucson, we stopped at Catalina State Park.

We had a picnic lunch in the park.

The park has many trails. We decided to walk 2 of them before returning to the rv. There was geocache near the first trail we walked. It was at the base of a saguaro.

The second trail had obstacles we haven't encountered lately--we had to cross two washes which had running water! Since the trail was a loop, we had to cross them again to complete the trail. Even though our hiking boots got wet, our feet stayed dry!

We enjoyed seeing the Catalina Mountains from a different perspective.

We were able to get up close to several cacti.

Once again, we had another busy and enjoyable day of retirement!