Friday, February 26, 2016

RonnieAdventure #0193- Arizona, 2016 Part V

The boarder town of Nogales is partially located in the USA and partially in Mexico. It is always fun to visit the Mexican side of the town and barter for trinkets that your really don't need, plus you can purchase Mexican vanilla that is soooo much better than the vanilla that you get in the US. Of course, you probably don't want to know what additives they put is in the vanilla! 

The US side of Nogales is the only US town to ever be adopted by the State of Oklahoma. When they were filming the movie Oklahoma, the movie producers could not find a town in Oklahoma that looked like their vision of what Oklahoma should look like, so the State of Oklahoma adopted the town of Nogales in Arizona and the Oklahoma movie was filmed in and around Nogales. 

Lukeville is a small boarder crossing located about 100 miles west of  Nogales and is the primary boarder crossing that people use when traveling from the US to Puerto Penasco, Mexico  (aka Rocky Point). Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument is located just north of Lukeville and is the only place in the United States that contains naturally occurring Organ Pipe Cactus. There are also 27 other cactus species that live in the area. Due to problems along the boarder, most of the park has been closed for the past few years, but boarder security has been increased and all roads and trails are now open. 

I have always wondered why they call the community of Why, "Why?" As I was passing through Why, I discovered why - Why Not!

The community of Ajo almost became a ghost town when the large open-pit copper mine closed a number of years ago, but then the US Boarder Patrol stationed 500 agents in the area and the community had a rebirth. 

It was late in the afternoon when I noted a strange cloud in the sky. Upon closer examination, I discovered it was not a cloud, but some type of extraterrestrial signal. Then, I arrived at Gila Bend, the home of 1,917 friendly people and 5 old crabs (the names of the old five are listed on a welcome sign at the edge of town). 

Gila Bend also proclaims itself to be "Arizona's Solar Capital, where Solar Panels outnumber people." Driving into town, I discovered the meaning of the strange cloud - Gila Bend is the location  of the Space Age Lodge and Restaurant. As I drove by the restaurant, I noted a flying saucer parked on the roof. We had planned to camp in Gila Bend, but decided to continue 33 miles up the road to Buckeye, only to find that the campground we had reservations at was next to a cattle feed lot! After one night of that smell, it was time to head for home! 

Friday, February 19, 2016

RonnieAdventure #0192 - Arizona, 2016 Part IV [Top Secret]

Photographer Unknown
The Titan Missile Museum is located about 20 miles south of Tucson and is the only Titan II Missile site remaining after the missiles were deactivated in 1987. This mammoth underground facility contains the original launch control center, tunnels, living quarters, and the last remaining 103 foot tall Titan II missile, located in its original silo. The Titan II is the largest missile ever built by the United States and could be launched with pin-point accuracy against targets that are still classified. Also on display above ground are the first and second stage rocket engine boosters

Most people know Amado (Arizona) as the location of the unique Longhorn Grill restaurant, but it is also the freeway exit for the Fred Lawrence Whipple Observatory. The observatory is a joint venture between the Smithsonian Institution and the University of Arizona, and the former location of a 6-mirror Multiple Mirror Telescope (MMT) that was operational from 1979 to 1998. The MMT telescope has now been replaced with a single 6.5 meter mirror (the 14th largest telescope in the world), but the site is still called the MMT Observatory. Tours of the telescope are available by reservation, or you can stop by the visitor center at the base of the mountain without reservations Monday-Friday.

The Very Energetic Radiation Imaging Telescope Array System (VERITAS) is located at the visitor center and was built to observe gamma rays emitted from supernovae, black holes, neutron stars and other extremely powerful astrophysical sources. VERITAS contains four telescopes joined together so that in 30 seconds the system can detect the same amount of information that required more than 100 hours using the 10-meter Whipple telescope in 1989. 

In 1691 Father Eusebio Francisco Kino founded the Tumacacori Mission to serve the Tohono O'odham Indians that were living in the area. Work began in about 1800 to build a large adobe church to match Misssion San Xavier del Bac not too far to the north. A five foot thick cobblestone foundation was laid and then construction funds dried up. In 1821, the mission sold 4,000 head of cattle to a local rancher and construction resumed, raising the walls to 14 feet. Unfortunately, the rancher quit making payments on the cattle and constructed stopped. In 1823 the rancher continued paying on his debt and the church was completed, but to a much smaller scale than had originally been planned. In 1828, Mexico ordered all of the Spanish missionaries to leave the country and they were not allowed to return until 1853 when the mission became part of the United States as part of the Gadsden Purchase. The National Park Service assumed control of the abandoned mission in 1916 and some restoration was performed to stabilize the adobe building. An interesting museum is attached to the visitor center that contains a history of the mission and a number of artifacts. 

Photographer Unknown

Tubac Presidio was established in 1752 just north of the Tumacacori Mission and is known for a number of Firsts: Arizona's First European Community, First Spanish Land Grant, First Arizona Printing Press, First Arizona Newspaper, First commercial enterprise in the Gadsden Purchase (Sonora Exploring and Mining Company), First introduction of the Freiberg System of Amalgamation in USA, and First Arizona State Park (Tubac Presidio State Historic Park). Tubac is now an artist community featuring over 100 shops, galleries, studios, restaurants and an amazing museum (not to be missed) at the State Park, featuring over 2,000 years of Southwest history. It is easy to spend an entire day exploring Tubac!

Friday, February 12, 2016

RonnieAdventure #0191 - Arizona, 2016 Part III

Saguaro National Park is unusual in that the Park consists of two non-contiguous parts - part is east of Tucson and part is west of Tucson. Both sides have a visitor center, but it appeared to me that the east side is more heavily used than the west side, probably because access to the east side is easier and it is closer to the Tucson population center.

After touring both sides, I realized how much Saguaro Cacti are like people! They start out small and as they grow some have better figures than others and some are really big dudes!

As they get older, two come together and then a new one starts -- sometimes twins!

Some have really big families, father's have to talk to son's, and some of the kids break their arms!

Grandmothers are always around to cuddle and watch over everyone and eventually they are laid to rest.

Then there are all of the weird relatives, like grouchy old Uncle George and his wife Betty who thinks she is a Kayan Lahwi from Myanmar. Their three daughters are also strange -- one runs around all day singing "Y-M-C-A," another thinks she is a Disney Mouseketeer, and the youngest likes to wears feather hats!

Their son Vinny wants to be a dancer with Cirque du Soleil, son Willy is a klutz that is always playing with matches, and little Joey still has a Beatles haircut!.

Then, of course, there are all the weird cousins! At some dividing point the Saguaros try to separate themselves from the walking dead Chollas that are always trying to scare you to death! Of course, the live ones don't look much better and they always try to jump on you when you get close!

Some of the cousins are in a sticky business and like to play dead, when in fact they are just sleeping on the job, and others like to get directly to the point! Their favorite song is "You can look, but you better not touch!"

There are numerous other cousins and distant relatives in the area; but after having a prickly encounter with one of them, I decided to call it a day and enjoy the sunset!

The Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum is located adjacent to Saguaro National Park West and is a "must-see" attraction when visiting Tucson! People come from all over the world to "experience one of the world's most unique ecosystems and explore the lushest desert on Earth." There are over 56,000 plants on display in 16 individual gardens, 230 animals with three animal demonstrations, a walk-through hummingbird aviary, and my favorite, the Raptor Free Flight program. We were fortunate to have one of the most knowledgeable docents and his wife give give us an outstanding personal tour of the facility that will long be remembered! Thanks Fred and Mary!

Chihuahua Raven
Great Horned Owl
Prairie Falcon
Ferruginous Hawk
Mexican Gray Wolf
Mountain Lion
Costa's Hummingbird
Anna's Hummingbird
Costa's Huminbird