Tucson, Arizona “Bye for Now”
The winter hiatus is coming to a close…..little did we know when we got here last October that we would be spending a few months in Tucson. In our “Welcome to Tucson” blog, we shared the places and adventures we enjoyed in November. This one will capture our travels since then. We have become quite enamored with Tucson and the surrounding area. So many places to go and see. Scenic destinations like Saguaro National Park (East/West), the PIMA Air & Space Museum, Tombstone, and Bisbee were visited many times. We also discovered Coronado National Monument, Ruby Ghost town, Parker Lake, Montezuma Canyon Road, the remote San Rafael Valley and the Buenos Aires National Wildlife Refuge.
Last blog I mentioned Mount Lemmon, we took another beautiful scenic drive up there, in an attempt to take the old Mt. Lemmon Road (fire road) down through Peppersauce cave & campground, only to find out it closed for the season on Dec. 15th. A four-wheel adventure that is STILL ON OUR BUCKET LIST!
We visited the PIMA Air & Space Museum a couple of times in order to see all of the aircraft on display. What an amazing historic collection of military air power. The B-17 Flying Fortress Museum was spectacular. So interesting to see an aircraft that one of our family friends was a tailgunner on during WWII. The museum volunteer veteran said the tail gunner was the most vulnerable person on the aircraft and that many planes lost their tails in combat. We are so fortunate that he came home to tell his war stories.
The city’s antique malls, thrift stores and the Tohono O’odham Swap Meet were frequently visited. So interesting to see vintage Southwestern items. Deborah has taken to collecting ironwood carvings and we now have a few on display. At the Swap Meet she found mesquite wood carved candle holders with worm holes, that cleaned up nicely. We also found a small slab of mesquite that will make a nice small table. (work still in progress)
The Center for Creative Photography was also a repeat visit as they changed exhibits in December. The Richard Avedon Collection was on display and we got our second taste of the Ansel Adams Gallery. Deborah’s interest in Ansel Adams film photography prompted her to contact the Center and was able to meet the Museum’s chief curator, Becky Senf. Deborah may have opened the door for a volunteer opportunity at the Center for Creative Photography when we return to Tucson. We will also be attending the Ansel Adams birthday celebration before we leave town.
Although over 150 miles away, we ventured off to Organ Pipe National Monument. The breathtaking 22-mile Ajo Mountain scenic loop meandered through Organ Pipe & Saguaro cacti, canyons, and passes. We stopped along the way in Diablo Canyon for a nice picnic and we were in awe at the size of the Organ Pipe cactus. Some clusters reach heights of 20 feet and over 12 feet wide, these cacti don’t reach maturity until they are over 150 years old.
We ventured to the Bisbee/Lowell area, the mining town and the Lavender Pit. The Lavender Pit is a former open pit copper mine near Bisbee. It was named in honor of Harrison M. Lavender (1890–1952), who conceived and carried out a plan for making the previously unprofitable low-grade copper bearing rock of the area into commercial copper ore. Turquoise was also a by-product of this mining activity. Bisbee turquoise, also known as Bisbee Blue, is amongst the finest turquoise found anywhere in the world,, now Deb’s quest is to find Bisbee Turquoise.
The remnants of the Lowell Main Street revealed vintage autos and store fronts of a bygone era. Just down the road we discovered Jimmy’s Hot Dog joint that had the best Chicago dogs…EVER!
Of course, we did some back-road adventuring! A snowy day trip down HWY 83, past Sonoita to Parker Lake for a brisk dog walk to Collins Springs, then continued on to Montezuma Canyon Road. Most of this drive was on a gravel road with snow in the shadows and views of the San Rafael valley on one side and the Huachuca mountains on the other, as we neared Montezuma Pass, the road became much steeper with switchbacks that were covered with packed snow which made for “white knuckle” ride, the last 1\4 mile to the observation point. The trip down hill was much less strenuous and we stopped at Coronado National Monument. Unfortunately, the Visitor Center was closed due government shutdown.
The other day trip was out to Buenos Aires National Wildlife Refuge. Before reaching the park, we wandered into Brown Canyon in hopes of getting a closer glimpse of Baboquivari Peak. We had no permit to transit on Arizona Public Trust land, so our photo adventure came to a screeching halt. A short drive later we stopped at the closed visitor center, but we were fortunate that the scenic 10-mile Pronghorn Drive was open. Although we did not see any pronghorn, it is said that this area also hosts over 300 species of birds. We picnicked and enjoyed a spectacular vista view of the valley and mountains.
A visit to Ruby Ghost Town via the small town of Arivaca provided us another opportunity to see the remnants of a once bustling copper mining community and the beauty of the Sonoran Desert environment. So nice to visit this time of year, temperature was moderate, no bugs and absolutely no rattlesnake encounters! Many of the online reviews expressed caution to the number of snakes that were present there.
Tucson hosts the largest Rock and Gem show in the country. International vendors take over the city to sell their fossils, gems, crystals for nearly two weeks. We visited the local Tucson Mineral & Gem World shop out near Old Tucson. The owners were brothers and they freely shared information about what to watch out for at the show. On a return visit, I showed them a rock that I found in Big Bend, Texas. Turned out to be a Stromatolite. They were common in Precambrian time (i.e., more than 542 million years ago). Some of the first forms of life on Earth are recorded in stromatolites present in rocks 3.5 billion years old. So, there you have it, not only am I a fossil, I also own one!
We have boasted about our love for street tacos, and we attended the Tucson Taco-Fest at the Fairgrounds… every picture tells a story.. It was a cultural awakening and definitely a “foodie extravaganza”
The Tucson area allowed us to connect with high school friends, long lost cousins, and Navy shipmates. We are so grateful for having the chance to spend some time together with each of you and look forward to our next rendezvous.
We love to cook at home and we also enjoy finding culinary establishments that aren’t the typical chain franchises. We didn’t know that Tucson had such a diversified “Foodie Culture”; Kung Fu Noodle, Holy Smokin Butts BBQ, Fatman Kitchen, Taqueria Y Raspados Jason, Rajin Ramen, Poco & Moms Cantina and the Greek House. Without getting all blubbery, the Helios fries are the best loaded fries on the planet.
Our winter break is over, we will soon be back on the road, stay tuned to AlwaysOnDaFly to follow our travels and adventures.
“Bye for Now”
Chuck & Deborah