Winter 2016 Adventure – Big Bend National Park or Bust Part Three

On our way out of town on February 24, 2016, we fueled up at the Shell gas station in Gila Bend. While Jon filled up the tank, I snapped a few photos of these fierce-looking dinosaurs.

I’m bigger than you, so keep on walking

We settled in at Butterfield RV Resort in Benson, Arizona. With a fierce wind forecast, their asphalt roads and pads drew us in. What we weren’t aware of was the railroad tracks only a block away. Because there are several streets the train must cross in town, we heard the whistle tooting softly off in the distance, and then blasting outside our door, before fading out again, repeatedly throughout the night.

The rest of the resort is quite nice, and they even have an observatory on site. The observatory was closed due to the wind on this trip. With park models and plenty of RV sites, the resort is a favorite destination for winter visitors.

Benson, Arizona, sprouted from the desert in 1880 when the Southern Pacific Railroad selected the site to cross the San Pedro River. The town boasts a population of approximately 5,000. With a Safeway, Walmart, and Tractor Supply store, what more could an RVer want?

A twenty-minute drive took us to the Kartchner Caverns State Park. A strict policy to protect the bats living in the cave prevents patrons from bringing in purses, backpacks, or bags of any kind and no photography (thus no photos) or video equipment allowed. Food and drinks, even bottled water, are also banned. They request visitors to stow their belongings in the cars and provide lockers if needed. Caves we have been to in the past are always cold. Not so at Kartchner, where the inside temperature is warm and humid.

The next day we drove to Patagonia, Arizona, and then circled back to Tombstone before heading back to Benson. Founded in 1898, Patagonia incorporated fifty years later in 1948.

Visitor Center has brochures and things to do

The estimated population today is under 1,000 residents. The city draws in their share of tourists each. They come to spend time at the Tucson Audubon Society’s Paton Center for Hummingbirds and the Nature Conservancy’s Patagonia-Sonoita Creek Wildlife Preserve. Other tourist activities include hiking the Arizona Trail, camping and boating at the Patagonia State Park, or shopping and eating in the downtown area.

Come on, let’s shop

We only had time to cruise around the little downtown area and wander in and out of the stores. There wasn’t much activity during our visit, which is fine with us. We like having a place to ourselves.

Look, a restaurant. Let’s eat lunch.

Tombstone, Arizona, is a historic town founded in 1877. It is best known for the OK Corral gunfight on October 26, 1881, with Doc Holliday and the Earp brothers (Wyatt, Virgil, and Morgan) pitted against the Clanton-McLaury gang. The lawmen against the cowboys, or you might say, the Republicans against the Democrats.

Gift shops, saloons, and restaurants line three blocks of shaded boardwalks.

For a small fee, visitors are treated to a reenactment of the conflict. I had to drag Jon along to see the show. He’s not impressed with what he calls a “tourist trap” although I thought it was fun. The actors have to eat and put a roof over their heads like everyone else.

Me with Doc Holliday and the Earp boys

We learned that the actual shootout occurred in a vacant lot owned by C. S. Fly, a famous photographer. The lawmen won the battle that famous day, killing Tom and Frank McLaury and Billy Clanton, all of whom are buried in the town’s Boothill Graveyard a few miles from the historic part of town.

Mannequins depict the location of the participants as recorded by Wyatt Earp. They’re so close together it’s no wonder three men were killed.

No social distancing for these guys.
Talk about curling toes; these men need a fresh pair of boots

The Schieffelin Hall opened on June 8, 1881. Schieffelin was a surveyor who happened upon a vein of silver ore and subsequently formed the Tombstone Mining and Milling Company with a partner and investors.

It looked like Schieffelin Hall had a recent facelift

Reprints of the Tombstone Epitaph with original reports of the gunfight are available at the newspaper office and museum with the ticket from the gunfight show. John Philip Clum started the newspaper on May 1, 1880. He arrived in Tombstone five months earlier from the East, bringing with him experience as a meteorologist, Apache agent, lawyer, and newspaperman. In 1881, town folks elected Clum mayor. He also served as the postmaster and was the head of the local vigilance committee. For the past 135 years, the newspaper has reported on the people, events, and places of the old west. A subscription today costs only $25.00 a year.

Tombstone Epitaph

During its eight-year heyday, the Bird Cage Theatre earned its reputation as the wildest, wickedest night spot between New Orleans and San Francisco. Open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, the building contains over one hundred and forty bullet holes, and a legend says twenty-six people lost their lives there. Hmmm, I wonder if the Tombstone Epitaph has information that will confirm or dispel the legend.

The haunted Bird Cage Theatre

Gone are the cowboys and prostitutes. Visitors now buy tickets at $25.00 a piece to take a ghost tour of the building and possibly encounter an apparition or two or three.

Hotel and Mercantile
The Crystal Palace

That concludes our time in Benson, Arizona. Next up, we make a quick stop in Las Cruces, New Mexico, before continuing into Texas.

Stay Safe

Winter 2016 Adventure – Big Bend National Park or Bust Part Two

On February 19, 2016, we continued our Winter 2016 tour toward Big Bend National Park, stopping at the Gila Bend KOA in Gila Bend, Arizona, for a few days of poking around. We liked the extra roomy spaces with plenty of room for multiple vehicles. The park was fairly quiet with only a negligible amount of road noise and the soft rumble of trains off in the distance. The friendly neighbors, who had wintered at the park for years, were a bonus. They gave us ideas for things to do.

Hard to beat an Arizona sunset

In need of restocking our pantry and refrigerator, we inquired at the office to find out the best place to shop. The town of Gila Bend once had a regular grocery store, but it had closed. Our choices were the Family Dollar that had a small supply of food or the Mercado De Amigos Carniceria that had mostly meat.

The Butcher & the Farmer in Buckeye, Arizona

Had we known, we would have stopped in Buckeye at the Butcher & The Farmer Marketplace a half-hour north before we arrived. Our grocery shopping curtailed the amount of sightseeing, so we picked a drive to Organ Pipe National Monument and a quick ride to the Painted Rock Petroglyph Site.

Organ Pipe National Monument

Seventy-six miles south on SR 85 from Gila Bend led us to the Kris Eggle Visitor Center. It was well worth the trip to see the Organ Pipe National Monument, and we were glad we had packed lunch because there was no food near the monument.

Our lunch spot along the Ajo Mountain Drive

This, our first visit, introduced us to the east side of the park and the 21-mile Ajo Mountain Drive, which made us fall in love with the area.

Sorry little squirrel, you need to find your own food.
The rock formation reminded us of a dinosaur head

The well-graded gravel road took us through forests of organ pipe cactus, saguaros, and ocotillo.

Organ pipe cactus and saguaros
The organ pipes get huge
Jon taking photos
Not many saguaros with arms in this area

About halfway around the one-way loop road, we stopped at Arch Canyon where visitors can take an easy 1.2-mile round-trip walk into a canyon.

Arch Canyon Trail

Aptly named, the canyon contains several arches, which are difficult to see depending on where the sun shines.

We almost missed the bridge in the bottom third of the photo.

A sign warned the steep hill was a dangerous climb. I went up a little way and carefully scrambled down before I landed on my bottom.

Careful on the slippery rock
Chain cholla
Jumping cholla
Prickly pear
Crested organ pipe cactus
Ocotillo bloom

Interested in learning more about the monument? We’ve stayed in the Twin Peaks campground a couple times since our first visit and have posted descriptions and pictures here and here.

Painted Rock Petroglyph Site

It is about a 30-minute drive east of Gila Bend to the Painted Rock Petroglyph Site and Campground. Visitors will find hundreds of petroglyphs on the jumble of rocks at this ancient archaeological site. There is no potable water at the campground, so plan accordingly when visiting.

Bring your own water, there is none around here

Jon and I took the path to the right around the cluster of rocks and boulders, searching for the petroglyphs. We didn’t see much until we had walked halfway around. I’m glad we took the route we did because when I saw so many petroglyphs, I wasn’t sure where to look. If we only knew the meaning of the etchings, we could learn so much about the culture that lived there thousands of years ago.

Split rock
Travelers from the 1800s left their marks beside the ancient ones
So many petroglyphs

Jon called me over, “Hey, look at this.” I had never seen a lizard so beefy and long before. I didn’t want to get too close.

Common chuckwallas are rock dwellers
There must be a story in there somewhere
Desert Sunflower

That ends our time in Gila Bend, Arizona. We next make brief stops in Benson, Arizona; Las Cruces, New Mexico; and Fort Davis, Texas. Big Bend National Park will come up soon.

Stay safe

Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, California

We kicked off our Winter 2020 Tour with a visit to the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum on January 24, 2020. Oak Park Campground in Simi Valley, California, was a convenient, inexpensive place to park the fifth wheel. They only offer electricity and water as hookups, which was sufficient for the two-night stay.

We backed up to an embankment under a tree, then realized the Los Angeles Metro traversed a set of tracks at the top. The noise was not a problem, though. The trains whisked east and west without a blaring whistle or rumbling of the ground.

View from RV’s back window

The next day we thought we arrived at Reagan’s museum in time to obtain a parking spot. Silly us. We turned around and joined the line of cars on the side of the road.

The Easy Fire in October had caused approximately $500,000 in damage to the library by destroying trees, landscapes, and banners along Presidential Drive. The entire network and cabling were burned, cutting off the internet and point of sale systems. Through hard work from the information systems team, all systems were up and running within 30 hours. Fortunately, the buildings and artifacts remained untouched due to the efforts of fire personnel.

Green shoots popping up through the burn scars below Reagan Presidential Library and Museum

This was our fourth presidential library to visit. Our first three were Lyndon B. Johnson, George H. W. Bush, and George W. Bush. If anyone is interested, our blog posts for each are located here, here, and here, respectively.

Construction of the facility began in 1988, and the center was dedicated on November 4, 1991. The Reagan library and museum is the largest, in terms of size, of the 14 presidential libraries and contains millions of documents, photographs, films, and tapes. Permanent exhibits display the President’s life and his presidency, the Air Force One plane used by the president, and a section of masonry from the Berlin Wall. The property chosen for his library and museum is located in Simi Valley on a hill with views of the surrounding property and more hills in the distance.

View from Reagan library and museum

View from Reagan library and museum

Former President Reagan and his wife Nancy greet visitors at the start of the museum.

Ronnie and Nancy allowed Jon to enter even though he was a tad underdressed

The museum starts off with Reagan’s early life, high school, and university. Displays include sports memorabilia and photographic posters.

Early life display

Jon addressed the crowd as Nancy Reagan, Barbara Bush, and Jimmy Carter applauded.

Jon gives his acceptance speech

A docent stands inside the Oval Office and tells stories about the president and points out the objects in the room. Only a few people at a time can stand and listen to the docent, and there are no photo opportunities allowed while sitting at the desk.

Oval Office as it was during Reagan’s presidency

Sitting area in Oval Office. Can you spot the jelly beans?

Panels in this hallway display many of the gifts received from foreign dignitaries.

Displays with gifts from dignitaries

As if they were models, first ladies often wear the most fashionable attire. This case displays only a few of the garments Nancy wore during her time in the White House. The information panel under the black dress in the middle says Nancy added the straps with the bows.

Nancy Reagan’s gowns

This is what it would look like coming face-to-face with the man, the actor, the 40th president of the free world. It was only a mural on the wall but felt strangely real.

Mr. President

The first half of the museum ends in a hallway that looks out onto the Rose Garden.

Rose Garden

We continued down the hall to see the Air Force One Pavilion before taking in the second half of the museum.

The Air Force One Pavilion houses the Boeing 707 aircraft used as Air Force One during Reagan’s administration and by six other presidents until it was retired in 2001. The plane was flown to San Bernardino International Airport where Boeing disassembled it, then trucked it in pieces to the library where it was reassembled and restored.

The pavilion was dedicated on October 24, 2005, by Nancy Reagan, President George W. Bush, and First Lady Laura Bush. Reagan was buried on the library grounds in an underground vault on June 12, 2004. Nancy Reagan was buried next to her husband on March 11, 2016.

The glass wall, massive Air Force One raised on 25-foot (7.5 m) pillars, Reagan’s travel timeline, a Johnson-era Sikorsky VH-3 Sea King helicopter (Marine One), Reagan’s 1984 inaugural presidential limousine, and the history of the Flying White House mural, made this exhibit my favorite part of the whole museum. The 90,000-square-foot (8,400 m2) addition is breathtaking and awe-inspiring.

The glass wall of Air Force One Pavilion

Reagan’s travel timeline details over 660,000 miles to 26 foreign countries and 46 U.S. States

Sikorsky VH-3 Sea King

The History of the Flying White House Mural

Inside of Air Force One, visitors can envision life aboard the jet as it raced across the country or toward foreign lands.

Meeting compartment

Fruit and jelly beans available for snacks

A chocolate cake was always on board in case it was someone’s birthday.

Chocolate cake

Photos are not allowed at the entrance to the jet because someone is there to take your picture for a fee. We settled for the exit and rear of the plane.

Jon at the tail

Back to the rest of the tour, we walked through exhibits with information on the Camp David Peace Accord, negotiations with Gorbachev, and the Berlin Wall among other historic events during Reagan’s presidency.

An interactive table offers further learning

Berlin Wall exhibit set a bleak mood

Grafitti

Sculptures and information panels

Posters and memorabilia depicting life on Rancho del Cielo are also included. Visitors can also have their picture taken riding next to Ronnie at his ranch.

Camp David display

We passed on the photo op

At the end of the tour is this case with iconic memorabilia.

Memorabilia

Visitors can also see a 1980s stealth fighter and aircraft used in the first 1981 Gulf of Sidra incident.

F-117 Nighthawk

F-14 Tomcat

A visit to this library can take the whole day, so come early, eat lunch in the cafe, and enjoy all there is to see. In addition to the information on Reagan, the library also hosts special exhibits, which are announced on the website.

We enjoy comparing and contrasting the different presidential libraries and museums. So far, we favor Lyndon B. Johnson’s best, although each of the ones we’ve seen is special and unique.

Next stop: Palm Desert, California, where we poke around and soak up the desert sun.

Safe Travels

Back in Lake Havasu City Again

With family and friends residing in Lake Havasu City, Arizona, we find Lake Havasu City a convenient place to stop when traveling to and from California. We had a special reason to roll into town on November 2, 2019. My sister’s daughter and granddaughter were coming in from Missouri for a visit. We couldn’t pass up a chance to see the baby in person for the first time.

Our grandniece, Amelia, entertained us with her good humor and smiling face while we ate our lunch at the Blue Chair. The Blue Chair at the English Village is a great place for a meal with a view of the London Bridge and boats navigating through the canal.

What you doin’ over there, Uncle Jon?

Amelia entertained not only us, but also the waitress and other diners nearby. She has a way of smiling with her whole body that invites a person in to take notice and bask in her sunshine of happiness.

Our niece Jessi and grandniece Amelia

Amelia kept up the smiles the entire time we ate our lunch

I’ll have what you’re having

Lake Havasu Museum

As many times as we have been to LHC, we had never ventured near the museum. This trip was our opportunity. The self-guided tour starts with honoring the people who resided in the area before the US government forced them into reservations during the 1860s and 1870s. On display are individual stories about the Mojave, the People by the River, and the Chemehuevi, the Special People, and artifacts from their time.

Native peoples lived here before the Europeans arrived

Try your hand at grinding grain

Parker Dam was built between 1934 and 1938, creating Lake Havasu. The construction brought jobs to the unemployed during the Great Depression, generated electricity and provided water for aqueducts that quenched the thirst of agricultural, industrial, and residents arriving in the Arizona desert.

Building the Parker Dam

Evidence suggests that Mexican miners worked in the mountains and the backcountry of Lake Havasu City as early as the 1830s. In 1857, Anglos discovered gold and mining continues to this day. Local prospectors often find a few nuggets using a method called placer mining, or sifting through gravel to find pieces of gold.

Mining then and now

Site Six was built during WWII as an emergency landing strip and later used as an R&R facility for Air Force personnel. Later it was purchased by McCulloch and used for testing his outboard motors. The city now operates a recreational boating facility on the property within the Lake Havasu State Park.

World War II Site Six

While looking at the display about Lake Havasu City history, one of the volunteers told us stories about the early years. She and her husband arrived in 1971 when he took over the practice of a retiring certified public accountant.

A city grows

She told us how Robert P. McCulloch arrived in Lake Havasu City in 1958 in search of a test center for his outboard motors and how his company, McCulloch Properties Inc., purchased 16,250 acres from the State of Arizona in 1963 for $73.00 per acre. The rocky undeveloped land became the city built on the shores of Lake Havasu.

The business that started it all

Promotional articles brought investors to Lake Havasu City

In 1968, Robert P. McCulloch purchased the London Bridge at a cost of $2,460,000. It took another $7 million and three years to label the granite bricks with markings indicating their arch span, row number, and position; ship the 10,000 tons of granite across the ocean, through the Panama Canal, and into the desert; and put the bridge together again. To allow for traffic over the bridge, the granite bricks encase a hollow core of steel-reinforced concrete. The channel where water flows under the bridge was dug out to create the island.

Museum display about the London Bridge

On October 10, 1971, the London Bridge was celebrated with fanfare that included skydivers, fireworks, marching bands, hot air balloons and a meal fit for King William IV who unveiled the original bridge in London in 1831. London’s Lord May attended along with actor Robert Mitchum and Dan Rowan of the Rowan & Martin comedy duo on television’s Laugh-In.

Although many thought McCulloch’s bridge was a waste of money and a boondoggle, it turned out to be a clever marketing scheme that grew the city from only a few hundred people in the early 1960s to 10,000 by 1974 and brought in visitors totaling two million.

The docent made sure to point out the heads on stakes displayed in the middle of the building. They represented people in London who King Henry VIII had ordered beheaded for their crimes. The king may have only perceived the people guilty and found his orders as a means to dispose of his enemies. In any case, displaying the heads on a 1500s version of the London Bridge was used as a crime deterrent.

Heads on a stake

The second head from the left represents Thomas Cromwell who died in 1540. He was King Henry VIII’s Chief Minister who supervised the English Church’s break with the Catholic Church. After arranging for the king’s marriage to the German Princess, Ann of Cleves, his fourth wife, the king blamed Cromwell for the marriage to Ann because she was not attractive. Cromwell was jailed on trumped-up charges and condemned to death without trial. His beheading occurred on the day the king married Katherine Howard, his fifth of six wives.

Red Onion and a Walk to Gawk at Classic Cars

On a late Thursday afternoon, we drove downtown for lunch at the Red Onion. While there, classic car owners rolled up to show off their rides, drink beer, grab a bite to eat, and engage in car talk. Food trucks were also on hand to feed the hungry.

Visit Red Onion Restaurant for breakfast or lunch

Chrome reflection

Pontiac GTO

Come on, let’s go for a ride

Look at that shine

Bill Williams River National Wildlife Refuge

We headed out to Bill Williams River National Wildlife Refuge one evening to snap a few photos of the sunset. Although not spectacular, I had fun playing with the tripod and settings on my camera.

Bill Williams Bridge

Lake Havasu beyond the Bill Williams River National Wildlife Refuge

The colors really popped after the sunset

Visiting Lake Havasu City

Boredom is something that no one needs to worry about in Lake Havasu. With over 300 annual events throughout the year, there is always something happening: London Bridge Days, Winterfest Street Festival, Balloon Festival, music festivals, Parade of Boats, Buses by the Bridge, fishing tournaments, Havasu 95 Speedway, rodeos, and much more. Other activities include golfing, fishing, exploring the backcountry, or taking the ferry across the lake to Havasu Landing Casino. Oldsters, youngsters, and in-betweeners will find something to keep them busy.

Next stop: Lake Mead

Safe Travels

Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument

Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument

 We rolled into Twin Peaks Campground at Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument on October 29, 2019. Fall is a good time to visit. With no reservations required and the pick of sites available, we slid into a site with no problem even though barriers blocked off four or five of the campground rows.

Our campsite at Twin Peaks Campground with no one to our right, to our left, or in front or back.

We talked about heading into Mexico to check out Puerto Peñasco since we were so close. All we managed was a drive to the Lukeville border crossing where we thought we could fill up with diesel. Unfortunately, the station was out of diesel. Perhaps we’ll make it to the beach on our next trip to the area.

Night Photography Attempt

Sunset view of peaks

The dark skies and lack of ambient light turned out to be a perfect place for nighttime photography. I set up my Sony and the tripod and waited for the sun to set.

Typical fiery Arizona sunset

As I watched the stars and planets take form and twinkle in the deep black sky, a feeling of peace and calm settled in my bones. The swath of light that sparkled above, reminded me that the Milky Way is present each night even if fog, clouds, or light pollution obscures it from view.

After sunset, the full moon was visible even though it was in its waxing crescent phase

It was as if the universe was giving me a message: a message of hope that humans will once again survive the chaos of the world.

First attempt at capturing the Milky Way. Looks like I need more practice.

Victoria Mine Trail

 The Victoria Mine Trail leads hikers into and out of 13 sets of washes and plateaus and past hillsides covered with saguaro, organ pipe, cholla, paloverde, ocotillo, and other shrubs.

Steps made it easy going in and out of the gulleys

The reward after about 2.4 miles is the ruins from a 19th-century gold and silver mine at the foothills of the Sonoyta Mountains.

Mine store ruins

We rested on a makeshift bench in front of the ruins and ate our lunch, guarding our tuna sandwiches and chips against greedy squirrels that would have easily snatched our meal if given half a chance.

Mine store ruins

Covered mine shaft

View of peaks across a plateau of saguaros, organ pipes, and ocotillos

Inside the mine store ruins

Mining equipment

Historic Events

President Franklin D. Roosevelt established the monument on April 13, 1937. As one might imagine, the local ranchers and miners raised a fuss because they would no longer be allowed to use the land for their own purposes. Congress took action during WWII that allowed mining within the monument, which drew prospectors to the area in droves. On September 28, 1976, the act was repealed and the mining operations ceased.

Organ Pipe Cactus

In 1976, UNESCO declared the monument an international biosphere reserve and in 1977 congress declared 95% of the monument as wilderness.

Chain fruit cholla

During the 1990s, illegal immigrants and drug traffickers found the monument a convenient location to enter the United States with over 200,000 undocumented immigrants crossing monument lands during 2000. In 2002, park ranger Kris Eggle was killed in action and in 2003 the park service renamed the visitor center in his honor.

Ocotillo

This led to the closing of 70% of the monument. In 2004, construction on steel vehicle barriers began along the 33 miles of the international boundary and was completed in 2006. This significantly reduced the illegal off-road vehicle traffic, which had caused severe damage to the desert ecosystem. In the 2010s new technology further deterred illegal entry and on September 15, 2014, the park reopened the closed areas.

Creosote blooms

Recently, as work began on replacing border barriers with a steel bollard design, controversy, protests, legal action, criticism, and even support erupted. The debate continues with scientists and environmentalists intent on protecting endangered species of wildlife and desert plants pitted against a government determined to stem the current tide of illegal immigration.

Baby saguaro arms

History shows that wildlife and plants often lose at the hands of the government. My wish is that the groups on either side of the debate are able to achieve an agreement that is palatable to both. Can the issues be resolved by this time next year? I wonder.

I found this guy digging around in the ground before he grabbed the thing in his beak and took off

If you would like to learn more about Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument, check out our previous discussion on the park in our post titled Lake Havasu and Beyond.

Next up is another visit to Lake Havasu City, Arizona. With family and friends in the city, the location is a convenient stop for us when traveling beyond California.

Oh, before I sign off, I have an announcement. On January 1, 2020, a good friend of ours opened a new bar in the desert. For those of you in the area, check out The Bunker Bar near Havasu Heights. Here’s a photo I took on November 8, 2019, a few days after the containers were delivered.

The Bunker Bar Lake Havasu City November 8, 2019

From Highway 95, take Havasu Heights Road and immediately turn right on the graded dirt road. Drive about 2 miles and enjoy the beer and wine, food, music, and fun. Visit Friday, Saturday, and Sunday from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. For current pictures and more information go to https://www.facebook.com/bunkerbarlhc/

Safe Travels

Happy 2020 New Year and Tucson Part Two

Yikes! It’s the start of a new year and a new decade. It seemed weird to me when the year 2000 crept into my consciousness. It’s even harder for me to imagine we are heading into twenty years of this century. Yet, here we are racking up the birthdays and still having fun. Before we get into our travel plans for 2020, we need to finish our 2019 Fall Tour. So, on to Tucson, Arizona, Part Two.

An hour drive south on Interstate 19 from Tucson led us to Tubac Presidio Historic State Park. The park preserves the oldest Spanish Presidio site in Arizona where visitors can roam through the gardens, walk around the foundation ruins, peek inside historic buildings, and step down into the Tubac Presidio Archaeological Excavation Exhibit.

Tubac Presidio State Park Visitor Center

The Pima Indians (or Akimel O’odham) occupied the territory for thousands of years relying on farming, hunting, gathering, and trading to provide food and shelter to sustain their way of life. In 1752, New Spain established San Ignacio de Tubac to protect settlers from Apaches and Seris, control the Pimas, and expand west.

Display along the walkway

Then Mexico gained control in 1821 at the end of the Spanish War for Independence. The land transferred to the US under the Gadsen Purchase in 1853 and became part of the New Mexico Territory. The Confederate States of America claimed control in 1862.

Fruit Orchard on site

Finally, on February 24, 1863, President Lincoln signed legislation officially recognizing the US Arizona Territory, and in 1912, Arizona earned statehood.

Herb and vegetable raised beds

Tubac Historical Events

 Juan Bautista de Anza III traveled through the region in 1776 while on an expedition to found the City of San Francisco in California. Sixty-three people from Tubac joined the party on their trek increasing the number of colonists to 240 and taking with them 1,000 head of livestock, horses, and mules.

Barrel cactus at the end of its blooming season

Attacks by the Apache forced many of the remaining Tubac settlers north to Tucson, leaving the presidio deserted and in ruins.

Blooming creosote bush

In 1856, Charles DeBrille Poston arrived from Texas with 300 miners and set up his Sonora Mining & Exploring Company headquarters at the presidio. The company abandoned the site during the Civil War and the Union Army moved in.

Agave Victoria Regina

The park exists today due to the generous donation of the first parcels by Frank and Olga Griffin on December 21, 1957. The donated land included the foundation of the Spanish Presidio. William Morrow also donated property and encouraged other residents to donate adjacent properties to the Park’s Board. Additional property donations allowed for a new visitor center and museum. Three of the properties are of historic significance: the 1885 Old School, the 1914 Otero School, and the 1890 Rojas House.

1880s Schoolhouse

Billed as Arizona’s first state park on the park’s website, the Tubac Presidio Historic State Park was dedicated and opened on September 28, 1958. Since the “great recession” of 2007 to 2009, the Friends of the Tubac Presidio and Museum has operated the park and visitor center with volunteers.

Schoolhouse along the walking path

A walking path took us through cactus, fruit trees, vegetables, and one of the oldest schools in Arizona. Inside the school are period classroom desks and educational displays.

The rocks outline the west wall of the presidio. Redish colored structure in the background is the archaeological excavation site.

Don’t miss the archaeology excavation exhibit where the layers of time are shown along with a small display of artifacts found during the excavation.

Below ground in the archaeological excavation site

Unfortunately, none of the original building remains above ground, however, there are a few other adobe ruins, which date after presidio’s establishment.

Adobe ruins at Tubac

This adobe building is protected by stucco

We missed out on seeing the museum because it was closed due to repairs, so maybe we’ll make it back to the presidio in the future.

This arrastra replica shows how silver and gold ore were ground and pulverized.

The state park is not the only attraction in Tubac. There are plenty of galleries, arts and crafts, and gift shops to browse through along with restaurants for food and beverages. We stopped in at Soto’s Outpost to curb our craving for Mexican food and were not disappointed.

Soto’s Outpost

Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum

Museum is somewhat of a misnomer since 85% of the displays are outdoors and cover ninety-eight acres. With a botanical garden, zoo exhibits, art gallery and institute, natural history museum, and aquarium, visitors will find plenty to pique their interest.

How do birds prevent hurting themselves on the cactus spines?

William H. Carr, with support from his friend and the museum’s initial benefactor, Arthur Pack, founded the museum in 1952. Docents contribute more than 75,000 hours annually to the museum.

Does anyone know the name of this specimen?

Two miles of walking paths provide opportunities to view the types of animals and plants that inhabit the Sonoran Desert, a mineral collection, conservation and research programs, and an art institute. As if that amount of diversity is not enough to track, the ASDM Press has also produced over 40 books and guides on the natural and cultural history of the Sonoran desert region.

Both paved and gravel pathways wind their way through the museum

From the desert grasslands to the mountain woodlands, the museum highlights the ecosystem of the Sonoran Desert region with 1,200 different types of plants and 56,000 individual specimens. Visitors can walk through Cat Canyon and observe bobcats, a porcupine, grey fox, and an ocelot in their natural settings. Or, head to the Riparian Corridor for a glimpse at a river otter, beavers, bighorn sheep, and coatis. The Reptile, Amphibian & Invertebrate Hall is a great place to escape the outdoor heat.

View of the valley from the museum

Our favorites were the Raptor Free Flight and the Hummingbird Aviary. Although the weather was warm, we stood corralled between metal barriers among other spectators and waited for the raptors to appear.

Barn owl flying in for the show

Aren’t I pretty?

An announcer explained about the birds while they flew over the crowd between their handlers who crouched close to the ground or stood with outstretched arm gloved hands. Cameras and phones worked double-time to capture the birds in flights.

Harris’s hawk looking for prey

Where’s the meat?

Ready or not, here I come.

King of the tree.

Gray hawk on take off

Hmmm. What should I do now?

The Hummingbird Aviary was a similar experience. At first we didn’t see the small birds, then little by little they appeared, flitting from tree to bush and back to tree. Standing in place gave us the best advantage to capture the little buggers in a photo.

Sweet little hummingbird

What you lookin’ at?

Two restaurants—Ocotillo Café for fine dining and Ironwood Terrace for a casual food-court setting—are on site. Additional snack shops and refillable water stations are also available.

Wall decoration in the Ocotillo Café

As we wrap up this Tucson visit, we see why visitors call Tucson their home during the winter months. I’m sure we’ll find an occasion to stop there again when wandering around the Southwest.

Next stop: Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument

Wishing everyone safe travels in 2020 and beyond.

Jon & Linda Todd

Tucson, Arizona – Part One

I love pulling into Rincon Country East RV Resort in Tucson. On October 22, 2019, the towering palm trees planted throughout the resort became visible from about a ½ mile away. After stopping at the security kiosk, we drove to the office where the “Welcome Home” banner greeted us, making us feel like we belonged.

Sunburst in the palms

Only a few winter visitors had arrived so there were plenty of sites the office could have assigned to us. Lucky us, we got a special one. We were almost set up when, Yikes! Ants! Not again!

The ant infestation we had battled for three weeks after leaving San Diego had ceased only two days before arriving in Tucson. Within a few minutes of my complaint, a maintenance person drove up in his cart and sprinkled ant poison around. As a safeguard, Jon used Comet around the jack stands and anywhere a cable or hose touched the ground. Those precautions did the trick and we enjoyed an ant-free trip for the rest of our travels.

Rincon Country RV Resort East

Although we have visited Tucson before, we still found plenty of places to go and things to do. First up, I twisted Jon’s arm to take over the blog for the next section.

Pima Air & Space Museum

Hi, Jon here with a few words about the Pima Air & Space Museum. While in Tucson and having driven right by the Monthan Air Force Base and the 309th Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group many times, I often wanted to check out the area a bit closer. It is amazing to see row after row of the mothballed C-130 military transport aircraft for as far as the eye can see. Since Linda wasn’t that interested in the aircraft, I headed out to the southern end of the Base for a look at the Pima Air & Space Museum.

Pima Air & Space Museum Entrance

There are two ways to see the museum with its five hangers, the surrounding flight lines, and other buildings: The docent-led tours on a tram and self-guided walking tours. I chose the self-guided tour. This place is massive and I was only able to cover about half of it.

A few aircraft there brought back memories for me. In Vietnam, we used to follow, in our tanks and ACAV (armored cavalry assault vehicle), and were directed into contact with the enemy by our squadron commander who flew at treetop level in one of these “Loaches.”

The Hughes OH-6A (Light Observation Helicopter) commonly referred to as “Loach”

Many times we called for air support from a Cobra.  It was awesome to watch a Cobra work out with a mini-gun and rockets.

The Bell AH-1 Cobra Attack Helicopter

The F-4 Phantoms were the next level of close air support and frightening to see how much damage they could unleash with their various high explosives or napalm drops.

McDonnell Douglas F-4 Phantom fighter bomber

These were just a few of the aircraft that I witnessed being used when I was in Vietnam.

There are also aircraft from WWII Army and Navy as well as Air Force too. One of the highlights for me was the SR-71 Blackbird spy plane. It was impossible to get the whole thing in the photo, but I did manage to at least squeeze the nose, cockpit, and a portion of one engine. Sitting on the yellow lift is a drone.

SR-71 Blackbird Spy Plane.

The information that is posted with all the aircraft is very complete and if there’s anything that you don’t understand there are docents close by that are happy to explain.

One building that I will need to return to is the 390th Memorial Museum.  This entire building is dedicated to WWII history presented through the deeply personal stories of the 390th Bomb Group personnel.  These are the aviators that flew hundreds of bombing missions in B-17 flying fortresses over Germany.

B-17 Flying Fortress Bomber

I spent the better part of a day and realized I would need to return someday to see the rest of the museum. Back to Linda.

Linda here. It sounds like another stop in Tucson is definitely in our future. Until then, here is another place we explored. The Tucson Museum of Art and Historic Block encompasses an entire block in historic downtown Tucson.

Tucson Museum of Art Entrance

Established in 1924 as the Tucson Fine Arts Association, it was renamed the Tucson Art Center in 1954 to more align with its new mission dedicated to education and exhibition of art. A final name change in 1975 further defined the museum’s collecting activities.

As with most museums, the building itself is a work of art. The concrete structure switchbacks its way from the lower levels to the upper.

Walkway to the upper floor

Current exhibitions include Art of Latin America, Art of the American West, Modern and Contemporary Art, Folk Art, and Asian Art, to name a few. Visitors can take advantage of tours, educational programs, studio art classes, and a museum store.

Construction of a 6,000 square-foot gallery was underway during our visit. This new wing will house the Kasser family’s extensive Latin American art collection, some of which are works of pre-Columbian art. I. Michael Kasser, a Tucson business leader and trustee of the museum, donated $2.5 million toward the capital fundraising campaign.

Here are a few pieces that caught my eye while wandering through the museum:

Oaxacan Folk Art

Oaxacan Fok Art

The Rampage, 1953 by William R. Leigh

Woman with Shawl, ca. 1992 by Tim Nicola

Conception, 1991 by Frank Howell

Glory Bound/Woody Guthrie, 2004 by Jim Vogel

Synchroneity, 2005 by Jim Waid

Resurrection Story with Patrons, 2017 by Kara Walker

The Night Herders, no date by Olaf Wieghorst

Passing Storm, Grand Canyon by Thomas Moran

The museum is also the caretaker of five historic properties: La Casa Cordova, Romero House, Edward Nye Fish House, Stevens/Duffield House, and J. Knox Corbett House. Visitors can tour the Corbett House with a docent.

When we finished exploring the museum it was well past lunch so we ducked into La Cocina Cantina, which was offering a Sunday Brunch complete with DJ on hand to entertain the patrons.

Mik and the Funky Brunch kept us entertained

La Cocina Cantina after the brunch rush

Coming up after New Year’s are other places we visited during our 2019 adventures in Tuscon when we’ll be back to feature the Tubac Presidio Historic State Park and the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum.

From our house to yours, we wish everyone a wonderful holiday season and a new year filled with safe travels, hiking, and exploring these United States and throughout the rest of the world.

Jon and Linda Todd