Tuesday, August 21, 2012

While we were in Tucson we visited one of my favorite churches. Mission San Xavier del Bac. A National Historic Landmark, San Xavier Mission was founded as a Catholic mission by Father Eusebio Kino in 1692. Construction of the current church began in 1783 and was completed in 1797. The oldest intact European structure in Arizona, the church's interior is filled with marvelous original statuary and mural paintings. Most of the labor was provided by the local Indians, and many believe they provided most or all of the artisans as well. The floor plan of the church resembles the classic Latin cross. The dome above the transept is 52 feet high. At least three different artists painted the artwork inside the church. It is considered by many to be the finest example of Spanish mission architecture in the United States

The day we visited the church, the Indian patrons of St Xaviers (the Tohono O'Odham Nation) were serving Indian Tacos for lunch . They were delicious!

We also visited the Titan Missile Museum which is only a few miles from Tucson. At the Titan Missile Museum, near Tucson, Arizona, you journey through time to stand on the front line of the Cold War. This preserved Titan II missile site, officially known as complex 571-7, is all that remains of the 54 Titan II missile sites that were on alert across the United States from 1963 to 1987.

The underground facilities consist of a three-level Launch Control Center, the eight level silo containing the missile and its related equipment, and the connecting structures of cable ways (access tunnels), blast locks, and the access portal and equipment elevator. The complex was built of steel reinforced concrete with walls as much as 8-foot-thick (2.4 m) in some areas, and a number of 3-ton blast doors sealed the various areas from the surface and each other.


One of the most surprising things we learned on the tour was there were no survival provisions made for the crews after the bombing. The facilities were not set up to be bomb shelters.  Once the keys were turned and the missiles launched the crews would meet the same fate as the rest of us.

The silos were meant to survive all but a direct attack. Each room was built on giant shock absorbers. All the wires, conduits and, hoses were extra long to insure they would flex and not tear apart during the bombing. 
In the end maybe the most dangerous work the crews did was to report for work.

Our last outing in Tucson was to Biosphere 2. It is a Earth systems science research facility owned by the University of Arizona.  

One of it's first experiments was to explore the possible use of closed biospheres in space colonization. For this experiment the structure was sealed with researchers living inside. The plan was for the researchers to be self sustaining. In addition to growing their own food  a number of domestic animals and pollinating insects were "stocked" in the structure. The structure included five "biomes", an ocean with coral, a Savannah, a rainforest, a Mangrove wetlands and a fog desert. 

Unfortunately Biosphere 2 suffered from CO2 levels that "fluctuated wildly" and most of the animals and pollinating insects died. The experiment was terminated early.

Biosphere 2's latest project is Landscape Evolution Observatory (LEO) which will consist of three massive landscapes constructed inside an environmentally controlled greenhouse facility. LEO aims to  
learn how water, energy and carbon move through landscapes; How biological systems (vegetation and microbes) modify landscapes and  how will terrestrial water resources alter with climate change?

The structure and the tour are really interesting and well worth the drive.

We say goodbye to the Moose and we're off to Benson AZ. 

Monday, August 20, 2012

From Oatman we drove to Tucson, Arizona.  Since we are all members of the Moose we decided to camp at the Tucson Moose Lodge.  Their camp ground was a tight fit but we were all able to squeeze in.

The folks at the lodge were awesome! So helpful and friendly and the meals were delicious!  We met a lady who works at Old Tucson Studios and she gave us admission tickets for the place.

If you've never been to Old Tucson Studios you should do so. This is probably one of the best western towns my husband and I have ever visited.  Just fifteen minutes from Tucson at the base of the Tucson Mountains is a preserved slice of Americana. Passing through the gates of a western frontier town, visitors  are transported back to a time when fearless men with six shooters ruled the Old West and the setting for the more than 300 movies (including Rio Bravo, Gunfight at the OK Corral, The Three Amigos, and  Tombstone) and television productions filmed at the location since 1939.

You can stroll the streets, peeking in the shops and exhibits, have a meal and purchase goodies. 

Be sure to take the stagecoach ride with family and friends.
There are live dance hall shows to entertain you. This is our friend Dave getting his cowboy on! Hang on to that horse Hoss!

 Be sure to visit the old haunted mine and get the willies scared out of you (really.)

If you love the desert and all things western this is the place for you. Loads of saguaro cactus and a breathtaking backdrop of mountains give this place an authentic old west feeling.

Can't believe it's been 7 months since my last post! I am a bad, bad blogger.

As usual, we have been busy traveling. January and February were spent in the desert with friends. April and May we took a two week cruise to Mexico, Guatemala, Cost Rica, Panama and Columbia. Followed by a week in Kissimmee Florida doing the whole tourist thing. And finally, June was our family camping trip to Coos Bay Oregon.

For those of you not knowledgeable about our neck of the woods, Paradise is usually cold and wet (90 + inches of rain) in the winter. The winters play havoc with my arthritis so whenever possible we try to spend some time during the cold months in the desert where it's sunny and warm and my poor joints can thaw out. This year our friends Lon  and  Brenda (with Sadie the dog) and Dave and  Nancy (with Emme the cat) traveled with us through Nevada and Arizona. It was a jammed packed couple of weeks!

Our first real stop was Las Vegas where we camped at KOA Circus Circus. We saw all the sites, ate way too much food and dropped a few bucks along the way. We even saw Elvis (NOT!) Vegas is a great place to visit even if you don't gamble.


Next stop - Oatman, Arizona.

This tiny town is a must see for fans of the old west. Located on Old Route 66, Oatman is a great day trip. The drive is tortuous on the old, winding, rough road, but it's worth seeing the gorgeous rugged screnery. Oatman is a former mining town in the Black Mountains of Mohave County, Arizona, United States. Located at an  evation of 2,710 feet, it began as a tent camp soon after two prospectors struck a $10 million gold find in 1915, though the area had been already settled for a number of years. Oatman's population grew to more than 3,500 in the course of a year. Today, Oatman's population is aorund 100.

This was one of the funnest days of the whole trip.   Burrows roam free in the town and as you go from shop to shop you'll be trailed by the friendly burrows who are hoping for a hand out. In the photo to the right I am not sure who the jackass is.

While we were in Oatman we all dressed up in period appropriate clothes for a fun photo. Trying to cinch myself into a saloon girl's outfit gave me a new appreciation for the perils of being a "working girl."

With Oatman in our rearview mirror we're off to Quartsite, Arizona

Quartzsite is a popular RV camping area for winter visitors. The Town of Quartsite has a year round population of 3,354 people. In winter the town becomes home to thousands and thousands of snowbirds and RVers looking for a warm place to spend the winter. The RVers create a temporary community out in the middle of the desert. For just $180, you can park your RV out in the BLM land for up to 7 months.

Quartsite hosts nine major gem, mineral, and 15 general swap meet shows are very popular tourist attractions. Longtime Quartzsite visitors say that if something's for sale in the U.S., you can find it at Quarsite. The area provides access to thousands of miles quad and motorcycle trails. Just a few miles away are the Imperial Sand Dunes, the largest mass of sand dunes in California. This dune system extends for more than 40 miles. Also nearby is Opal Hill Mine which is actively producing fire agates. Rock hounders frequent the mine for it's gem-quality stones. The mine is privately owned but open to the public for a small collecting fee.

Quarsite is connected to one of the most interesting military experiments of the American West. It involved 77 camels and a Syrian named Hdaji Ali. He's remembered today at a pyramid shaped monument in the Quartsite cemetary.