Saturday, 10 January 2015

Wandering in the West

The desert can take hold of you in an odd way if you are a Canadian seeing it for the first time.  Canadians see green forests and shimmering lakes or snow covered landscapes as beautiful things they grew up with, or maybe mountains if you come from the west coast.  If there is bare dirt it is usually a farmer's fresh plowed field or a construction site and not particularly appealing. 

Out here in Tucson and the surrounding area is a lot of dirt.  Dirt and cactus, dirt and scrub brush, dirt
and the odd tree.  The beauty here is that there are always mountains close by or in the distance, always something drawing your eye off to some interesting peak.  Wildlife is everywhere, you can listen to the coyotes at night, see the roadrunners in the day and not a Looney Tunes cartoon in sight. 

One of the most imposing peaks around Tucson is Mount Lemmon.  There is a 27 mile long winding road to the top and a town called Summerhaven.  At over 9000ft it is an incredible drive with scenic look-outs and fantastic views for miles out across the city.  The week before we drove up they had 10" of snow at the top.

Looking down on the road we just came up.

Jeff and Nancy taking in the view.
It was a Sunday, so the cyclists were for their weekend workout, the 27 mile climb would be very difficult and the trip back they are flying down a winding road with tons of traffic in the way and no shoulder for any mistakes.  It would be a thrilling ride but not for the faint hearted.

Our first Christmas away from family was tough but not as bad as we had imagined.  We Skype'd with everyone and spent Christmas eve and night with Jeff and Nancy and their very nice friends Richard and Jill.  We had a great time talking and playing cards which helped not being home in Canada for Christmas.  The park here at Rincon West supplies ham for a Christmas dinner and then it's potluck for rest and we had a enjoyable meal and conversation with other snowbirds.

I wish I could say everything goes as planned and is rosy with our travels but things don't always turn out for us.  Tucson has been rainy and colder than normal since we have been here, not that we haven't had plenty of sunny, warm days, just not as many as we hoped for.  One day we headed to Bisbee to see the old copper mining town and take a tour of an underground mine.  We arrived at noon and the tours were already sold out for the day and at an almost two hour drive we were not going to make a return trip to fit it in this time through.  We still walked the town, which is mostly art shops and some interesting second hand/ antique stores, but we really wanted to see The Queen Mine Tour.

Detra taking in Bisbee, an interesting place.

 After Bisbee we were to stop in at Tombstone again to see it lit up and watch the gun fights in the streets for the twilight festival.  We arrived early because of missing the mine tour in Bisbee, having already checked out Tombstone on an earlier trip, we had time to kill until it got dark so we went for dinner and afterwards still had time on our hands.  It was cold and we were tired from the day so we thought we would wait for dark sitting in the truck. Now the truck is a very comfy place especially with heated sets when you are cold and tired.  Detra and I both fell asleep in no time.  The next thing I heard was Detra telling me to wake-up or we'd miss the gun fight.  We jumped out of the truck and started up Main St. to where the battle was to be and halfway there we see some flashes, hear some bangs and yelling and it was all over before we could get close to any of it!  We looked dejectedly at one another, turned around and headed for home, tired, cold and beaten. 

There are many things to do around Tucson and we did quite a few;

 The Cold War era Titan II Missiles were based around here and we took a tour of the last remaining one.

Control room, manned 24/7/365 for freedom.

Turn the key for mutual annihilation.

San Xavier Mission just south of Tucson, founded in 1692 although this building was started in 1783.

Tubac is a artist village full of shops for people with more money than most but still worth the visit.

Quaint village feel

Jeff giving an artist some pointers.

There is a very impressive air museum here, The Pima Air Museum.  Here you can also take a tour of the AMARG storage facility as well, which has hundreds of planes lined up and mothballed.  This climate and land is particularly suited for this type of use.  We messed up again when we went and the tour of AMARG was sold out which was very disappointing to me, but Detra was happy she didn't have to look at any more planes unless she was getting on one to go somewhere.  While I enjoyed this place it held no interest for her after she looked at first 50 planes and there are many more than that here.  The highlight for me was the SR-71 Blackbird, the fastest plane ever and an incredible site to see in person.

SR-71 Blackbird

First Lear jet model.

Big bombers on display outside.
We had a very nice stay in Tucson, thanks to Jeff and Nancy for the good company and the plenty of things to keep you busy here. 
Next up is a long awaited meeting, a place of death and beauty and the arrival at our home for the next month.
Rollin' again,


  1. You're right about the number of things to do in Tucson! We decided on the Saguaro National Park, Desert Museum, Tombstone and tomorrow we are scheduled for a mine tour in Bisbee. There was more we wanted to do but just no time to do it!

    1. Sounds like a great itinerary! Let us know about the mine tour, we thought would be excellent.

  2. It was nice that you and your friends Jeff and Nancy could spend Christmas together.
    Good planning.. :)
    Sorry to hear you missed some of the things you wanted to see..but you are having an experience of a lifetime!
    Love Mum Carol

    1. We had fun and I guess we will have to come back sometime to see what we missed.

  3. Scott and Detara, I am very much enjoying following your travel adventures! Your description of the desert is so apt and brought back many great memories for me, I came to absolutely love it which I was surprised about as I hadn't expected to. All the best with your continued adventures ... Safe travels, keep rollin' and I'll keep readin'! Cathleen

    1. I am surprised how much I love the desert. There is so much to see and I had thought there wasn't much going on before we had came out and spent some time.

  4. Dontcha just hate that! Oh well, what can ya do. Live and learn. Looks like you still had fun. We missed the church last time we were there. Did you get a chance to go to the Biosphere in Oracle? Very, very cool!

  5. The Biosphere got cut off the short list when our month ran out. I remember following the story when it was new. So much to do so little time. :)

  6. Scott you are luckiest person....visit our hometown .you will see heaven