Random Thoughts

While we have been here in Tucson for a little over 1 month, there are things we have noticed that are a little different from what we are used to seeing back home.  I though you might enjoy hearing about what we have observed.

What is a Wash:

While we were in the hill country of Texas we would often see signs on the side of a dip in the road advising us not to enter if flooded.  We see the same thing here in Tucson along with many sings indicating we are going over a Wash.  Well a wash is nothing other than a dried stream or river bed.  I understand Arizona has a monsoon season, go figure.  I have read that they can get crazy rain storms in May and June and it is a good thing to avoid these “washes” as they can  flood very easily and quickly if it is raining.  In the first two picture of our last post you can see the dried Santa Cruz riverbed or wash.

Colour in the desert:

As you can see from a prior post, the cactus are blooming.  Not only are they blooming in the confines of our RV park, but they are also blooming in the city.  We haven’t been out on any hike to see if they are also blooming in the wild or not.  If they aren’t they soon will be.  The colour is a nice change from the drab gravel.

The Hills Around Us:

Tucson is located in the foothills of the Santa Catalina and Santa Rita mountains.  We are in the valley.  Everywhere you look there are mountains or large hills.  Aside from the every present Saguaro Cactus, on our arrival, they reminded me of the hills that were seen on the television series M*A*S*H* which aired from 1972 to 1983.  M*A*S*H* was filmed in Malibu State Park in California, just 550 miles northwest of Tucson.

Bikes Lanes:

I know in the past the City of Saskatoon has struggled over the implementation of bike lanes. How to protect the cyclist, how to keep the lane clean along with the altered traffic flow.  Boy, those things didn’t seem to bother the City of Tucson, there seems to be bike lanes on every street.  They aren’t protected with a curb or plastic pylon, but they are very wide.  Almost as wide a vehicle lane.

Left Turn at Lights:

This was something I noticed right away, drivers don’t seem to want to enter an intersection while they are waiting to turn left.  No, they stay back.  I originally thought this was kind of strange until I noticed that at all the major intersections, the ones with traffic lights, there is always a left turn green arrow after the through traffic light has turned red.  What a great idea.  I am sure it is much safer turning left if you know you will get a green light if you wait long enough.  I wonder if it has resulted in a decrease in vehicle accidents?

“U” Turns:

While we are still on the street, it seems to be legal to make a U-turn at intersections with traffic lights.  We see this happening quite often. Some of the intersections will have two lanes turning left with signs indicating the far left lane can either turn left into the cross street or make a U-turn. Of course the streets are wide enough to allow a smooth change in direction.

Over / Under Passes:

In New Mexico as well as southern Arizona there is usually some sort of art work at and around overpasses and other major intersections.  You could see a mosaic along the guard rail of an overpass.  You could see a mosaic, colourful tiles or textured concrete along sound walls and other barriers. On the ground surrounding the over / under pass there will often be a geometric design with selective cactus plantings. The design will incorporate different colours of aggregate.  There is even a spot on the meridian on a road we have been on a few times that has a huge colourful Gila Monster.  These designs sure break up the drab desert colour.

Driving At Night:

There have been a few times when we have been out driving at night.  It is a little crazier around here when the sun is down as there are few street lights.  Because of a local ordinance there are strict limits on artificial light pollution.  The Washington Post published an article explaining why, it is quite interesting.  Saying that, I still haven’t gotten out to take some photos of the stars, but I still have a few days (nights) left.

Sunshine:

Tucson averages 286 sunny days per year compared to 205 for all of the United States.  Now that’s a lot of sun, especially when the average high temperature in July is 100 degrees.  You certainly want to get out of the sun with those numbers and you can.  All over the city we have seen cover parking structures.  They are at local businesses, public parks and even a local RV park has a section of their spots partially covered.  With the amount of sunshine Tucson gets, most of these overhead structures also support solar panels to create electricity.  We are also noticing private homes with solar panels installed on their roofs.  Panels to create electricity as well as to heat water, what a great idea.

Roof Lines:

You don’t see a lot of chimneys on the houses around here.  You don’t see a lot of asphalt shingles either.  The residential roofs are generally made of tiles and are a sandy colour.  I notice that most of the park model trailers here have a metal roof.  Now air conditioning is a must with most of the units sitting on the ground beside the homes but there are a few homes where you will see with huge air-conditioning units on their roof. They look kind of odd.  I know how much noise the air conditioner makes in our RV, I wonder if it is as loud in a home?

Well that’s the end to our random thoughts, hope you enjoyed getting a taste of Tucson.

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Climbing A Mountain

In many parts of Tucson you can look toward a nearby hill and see a giant white letter A. For the last few weeks we have been saying that we should check it out.  Well that day was today.  Bev had notice on the city tourist map we have it is shown as “A Mountain” or Sentinel Peak Park.  Here is another view of the park. I know that all the streets are not listed on this tourist map so I jumped onto Google Earth and found coordinates I could pop into the truck’s GPS, and we were off.

Well after a short drive we were in the parking lot near the top of the hill.  I was able to take a couple of panoramic pictures from the parking lot as well as the top of the mountain.  The view is overlooking the town of Tucson from various directions.  The mountains on the horizon are either the Santa Catalina or the Santa Rita mountains.  The pictures can’t capture what your eye can see.  You will get better detail if you click on the picture and zoom in.

Travel Update

From our last post we had only secured a place to park in Williams AZ so we could visit the Grand Canyon’s south face.  We knew the route we would take to see the Skywalk and the Hoover dam, we just didn’t have anyplace to call home during those visits.  With a little research today and a few phone calls, we have now secured someplace to park our RV while we site see.  From Williams we will stop at Meadowview RV Park in Meadowview AZ.  This is the closest RV Park to the Grand Canyon Skywalk.  From here we will head over to Border City NV to stay at Canyon Trail RV Park. Here we will stay a few days and check out Hoover Dam.  From there we will head into Las Vegas and back into Canada via I-15.

We haven’t got that much time left here in Tucson and are realizing there are a lot more we wanted to do.  Some things are falling off the list and others are considered after consulting the weather forecast.  For instance, yesterday was supposed to be cool and rainy.  What great weather for a road trip.  We were off to Tubac.  We got a little bit of a late start and didn’t end up in Tubac until after lunch.  Wow, what a place for art, stuff you hang on the wall and stuff you put in your garden or yard.  We visited many galleries as well as shops with jewelry, most of it by Native Americans artists. It was unfortunate that we only saw about ½ the shops, but we did stop at a local coffee shop and enjoyed tea and a sticky bun out on the patio.  It was a wonderful day, I think we will go back, but I am not sure when.  Oh, and we went through another border inspection checkpoint on the way back home.  We were ready this time, but they just waved us through.

While we have been here, we have tried to go for a bike ride in the park every day. If we go up and down every street we end up travelling about 10 KMs.  There are a lot of park model trailers here and a most of them have some sort of garden between the front of their trailer and the street.  There isn’t a lot of room, maybe 4 feet, but some of the gardens are quite lovely.  Most of the gardens have cactus as the main feature.  We have been noticing that the Fish Hook Barrel Cactus are ready to bloom and sure enough the other day we noticed the buds had opened up.  Some of the other types of cactus in these gardens were also in bloom.  The camera came out today and I was able to get a few pictures.  Well actually I stopped at all the cactus that were blooming.  I will put a few of  them at the end of the post.

For those that don’t know, a Park Model Trailer is a mobile home, but are designed for a long-term stay, they mostly remain parked.  They are pulled into place, connected to the utilities, put up on blocks, the tires removed and the bottom is skirted.  Today as we were taking pictures we had an opportunity to talk to a lady that had just bought her trailer and was quite excited about her blooming cactus.  She mentioned we should have been around 4 in the morning and we could have seen the 10 or so Javelina that were banging into her trailer skirt, trying to get under her trailer.  They left a little damage that she wasn’t expecting.  Now wouldn’t that have been exciting.

Here is a splash of colour we captured today.

 

Arizona Update

It has been a while since I last sat down and put our thoughts on-screen.  There hasn’t been a lot going on, but things have been going on.

Tucson has set a number of temperature records this last week.  I think the most significant record is Tucson has been over 90 degrees for the last 10 days.  We have seen 94 or 95 for the last 4 days. It has been hot during the day with the wind coming in the later afternoon followed by dead calm at sunset.   I don’t think I have to tell you but we have been spending most afternoons at the pool. After the second day of this heat wave we decided we should probably turn the air-conditioner on.  Our RV only has 1 air-conditioned and we have learned in the past that it can’t keep up with the increase in outside temperature but any help it could provide would be welcome.  Boy were we surprised when the air coming out was as warm as the outside air.  Something was not right.  Let’s get the repairman in right away.

I called Camping World and was asked to leave a message, which I wasn’t willing to do so I visited the office and asked if they had any recommendations for a mobile repair service.  They were very helpful and gave me three business cards.  The first business I called explained they were not taking anymore appointments in March.  The second business was actually at the resort and they could be over in a few minutes to assess our problem.  Upon arrival they checked the air-conditioner and advised me it needed to be replaced.  I thought all it needed was a re-charge but I guess they don’t do that for RV air-conditioners.  She called her supplier who had a replacement in stock, it would be shipped tomorrow and they would be back later tomorrow afternoon to do the install.

Around 6:30 the next day, Bev mentioned that it would have been nice if they had phoned to say they got backed up and wouldn’t be able to make, in another ½ hour it would be too dark to work outside.  Well no sooner said, we got a phone call that they would be around right away.  In just over one hour the couple had the old unit removed, the new unit installed and the air plenum fixed.  I would recommend this company to anyone who needs service.  They were courteous, professional, quick and thorough.  They told us they work 100 hours/week. Now we can keep the RV a little cooler than the outside.

We have visited some places it Tucson but not nearly as much as we would like to.  Every time we drive in or through the downtown section we realize just how little we know about the city.  One of the places we visited earlier in our stay was Philabaum Glass Gallery & Studio.  Wow, do they ever have some interesting pieces.  Anything we liked didn’t have a place to be displayed at home or was out of our budget.  While there we were able to sit and watch the artists at work in the studio.

Today it was a little cooler, by about 6℃, so we decided to check out a shop called The Happy Saguaro.  We had heard about this shop while at the pool.  We are always looking for unique things for the garden and thought we might find something here.  They have some very unique pottery and metal art but the things we liked wouldn’t fit in the garden.  We left empty-handed.

We then headed over to another place we learned about at the pool, Humble Pie, a pizza place that was next to Frost, a gelato shop.  The meat lover’s pizza I had and the butternut squash soup and bruschetta Bev had were very delicious.  After topping that off with a gelato we were back into Tucson.  Tomorrow’s weather is not supposed to be great so the plan is to head south on I-19 and visit the town of Tubac. We have heard the area has a large number of local artists, maybe we will find something we just have to bring home.

Now with a travel update.  We are here at Rincon Country RV Park for another week.  Next Wednesday we will head north on I-10 toward Phoenix, around Phoenix continuing on I-17 to Flagstaff and then west on I-40 to Williams.  We are booked in at the Grand Canyon Railway RV Park for 4 nights.  That should give us enough time to explore the Grand Canyon.  Our intention is to then travel west and visit the Grand Canyon Skywalk, Wikipedia has more to offer about the attraction.  Then it will be off to Las Vegas so we can stop in at the Hoover Dam, another place we have not seen.  We will then turn north onto I-15 and be back in Canada in no time.

Boy the winter seems to have gone by fast.

Pool Therapy

The last few days have been fantastic, sunny and warm.  We have been taking advantage of the  weather around the pool.  The pool isn’t very far from our spot so we pack a bag with our towels and snacks, jump on our bikes and peddle on over.  Usually we can find space on the bike rack at the pool.  The number of bikes we see when we arrive gives us an indication of the number of people there, as well as the availability of a chair or lounge.

We usually arrive around 1 P.M. and have had no problems finding a place to sit.  On one side of the pool-deck there is a covered section and around the pool there are some large palm trees.  These provide a space where you can get out of the sun if you choose.  Yesterday we were a little confused as there was a sign on the pool gate indicating there was a Private Reception, Pool Open.  There were people sitting around and in the pool but the covered section was set up for a party.  There were decorations, tablecloths and extra chairs set up.  Closer investigation  showed more chairs set up on the grass in the courtyard and there were musicians practicing.

We didn’t want to be interfering in any private activities so when I went to get my free coffee I stopped in at the office to see what was what.  They informed me that the pool was not closed but there was going to be a reception for a couple that live at the resort.  It turns out they were celebrating their 70th wedding anniversary.  What an accomplishment. As the afternoon progressed, the chairs in the courtyard filled, the Bride and Groom were ushered in and the musicians (people from the resort) played a few songs, Here Comes the Bride being one of them.  Then the local choir came out and sang a few songs that related to their longevity as a couple.  The party then moved onto the pool deck where the grills had been fired up for a late lunch.  Of course cake was also served.  Everything smelled good, unfortunately we were not part of the action.

Today there was another party, much smaller though. Happy Birthday celebrations were the order of the day.  We didn’t see much as our chairs were pointed into the sun.  Today was also the Tri-Tip Man food truck at the resort.  We had missed this food truck every week in the past. Our intention today was to get our sandwich or burrito and eat by the pool.  We noticed they were set up when we biked over to the pool, smoking the meat in the parking lot.  After we got set up poolside I remembered I left my wallet at the RV so I walked back to get it.  I also stopped at the food truck to check it out, good thing I did.  It turns out their schedule had changed but it wasn’t reflected in the park’s newsletter.  It turns out they are at the park this month between 12 and 4ish, or whenever they run out of beef not 4 to 6 as advertised.  The person I was talking to said the beef was ready now If I wanted to take some with me.  I told her it was 1:30 and to early for supper. She told me they should have some left at 4.  I would be back.  Around 4 I walked over and purchased 2 burritos while Bev set the chairs around a table.  There was only about ¼ of the roasts left from what I had spied a few hours earlier.  Back at the pool we quickly unwrapped our food and had a bite.  They were delicious.  I am pretty sure we will be visiting them again next Thursday.

A week or so ago while bike riding around the resort we spied another RV from the same manufacturer as ours, a Columbus. A day later the owners were out when we biked by so we stopped to say hello. It turns out they have been here for a few months and were heading home soon.  It turns out, home was La Ronge.  Well two days ago we met another fellow who has been here most of the winter. He told us that in a few days his brother is going to fly in and stay with him for a week and they will drive back home together.  It turns out his home is La Ronge too.  It’s a small world eh?

Well the clear warm days progress into cool clear nights. I wanted to get some star photos so I thought I could set up my camera around the camper to test out the camera setting I needed to use.  Those setting that I had forgotten.  If I can get things figured out I will probably head off out of the city one night, get a darker sky, and see what I can get.  Meanwhile here is what I captured behind the RV.  I had forgotten to focus on Polaris (the north star) so my next shots will hopefully have the mountains in the foreground with the stars rotating around Polaris.

Camper on our driver side and the camper behind them.

Camper on our passenger side and a Park Model trailer behind us. They are illuminated by a street lamp in front of our truck. You can see the shadow of our awning on the Park Model.

Lets Slow Down

Yesterday was all planned out.  In the afternoon we were going to visit Sabino Canyon in the Sabino Canyon Recreation Area and then get back to the RV Resort around 4 PM so we could have supper from the Tri-Tip Man food truck.  Then on Friday the weather was going to be warmer so we would spend the afternoon at the pool and catch Jane’s Rolling Wok food truck for supper. There are a few food trucks that visit the resort and we haven’t been around when they have. Things didn’t work out as planned.

Well yesterday we did get to Sabino Canyon.  It took us about an hour to get into the canyon and on the way I was able to spy 4 Javelina grazing on the side of the road in a residential neighbourhood.  Unfortunately there was no way for us to stop and take a few pictures. The draw for us to Sabino Canyon is the narrated tram tour into the canyon.  I have had my fill of hiking and we were looking forward to someone else driving. After paying an entrance fee and finding a parking spot, the parking lot was very full, we spent some time at the Visitor Centre and then bought our tram tickets. While we were waiting for the tram this little fellow was running around. Actually, he was also around when we returned from our tour.

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They have things organized quite well.  The Trams leave every ½ hour.  There are 9 stops along the way.  All of them have picnic facilities and some of them have bathrooms.  You can hop-on and hop-off at any of the stops, all day long. While we were at the Visitor Centre we were told about Anderson Dam at stop 8.  It is a nice place to hop-off and explore the area.  We decided that we would take the tram to the last stop and hop-off at stop 8 on the way back down.  That way we could explore at our leisure.

The tour was narrated so we learned some confusing facts as to the origin of the canyon name.  We also learned about the naming of the Anderson Dam.  A rock was pointed out to us and were told all sorts of information about it.  The only thing that I remember, the most important fact I am sure, is that the rocks look like snoopy sleeping on his doghouse.

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Wake up Snoopy

We travelled up to stop 9 and then headed back down the canyon.  We got off the tram at stop 8 and had a quiet time at Sabino Creek.  Here are some pictures I captured.

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After our time by the water, we caught the next tram.  It was going back up the canyon so we saw the short section between stops 8 & 9 again.  We were back in the truck and travelling back to town around 4:30.  We knew the food truck was supposed to be at the resort between 4 and 6 and hoped we would make it in time.  We arrived back at 5:30 with no sign of the truck in sight. He starts his smoker in the parking lot mid afternoon and we figured once all the smoked tri-tips were sold, he would probably leave.  Oh well, we will try again next week.

Today, it did warm up, but it was very cloudy and windy.  It wouldn’t be very nice at the pool so we hung around on our patio reading.  I biked over to the office to check if there was any mail and got myself a fresh coffee.  Come 4:30 we drove over to the office and sure enough, Jane’s Rolling Wok was serving up supper.  We purchased our supper and instead of traveling back to our RV we decided to eat in the courtyard.  It was nice, quiet, with a view of the pool.  While  there two hummingbirds came and flitted around entertaining us.

All in all, it was a nice two days. We will take it easy again tomorrow.  The weather is supposed to be warmer with less clouds.  So we may end up at the pool after all.

Mt Lemmon AZ

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Today we decided to venture out and head on up to Mt Lemmon. We had met a couple at the pool who mentioned it was an interesting drive and that there was a restaurant at the top.  We thought it would be a nice day away from the resort and could be an interesting place to have a late lunch.

 

We left the resort around noon.  We stopped and grabbed a coffee and a mocha frappe’ from McDonald’s and I noticed the temperature reported by the truck was 20℃. and time to get to the top of the mountain was close to 2 hours.

Traveling through Tucson between 40 and 50 miles/hour changed to 25 to 30 miles/hour once we got on the Catalina Highway There are numerous pull out spots along the way where you can stop and have a look at the incredibly scenery.  I took a few pictures but there is just no way  a two-dimensional picture can even come close to representing the grander of the area.

As we rose in elevation there was an obvious change in the vegetation.  At the beginning, we were in the desert with saguaro cactus where ever you looked.  As we rose in elevation the cacti thinned and we entered a definite grassland.  The grass was brown, tall and often surrounded by brush.  Soon we noticed the rocks had changed colours and there were hoodoos to be found.  And then we were in a pine forest.  It was quite a change for the short drive up the mountain.

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Panorama

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You can see the highway off to the right.

You may see some climbers in this picture

You may see some climbers in this picture

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We will be down there in a minute. Tucson is in the background.

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More climbers

The distance travelled may have been short but we didn’t reach the end of the road until close to 4 PM.  At the end of the road we had a very clear view of the ski lifts and runs.  There still is snow around.  Tonight the weather reported freezing temperatures for the mountain peak.

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Yes, that’s snow, on March 1

We had a look at the restaurant, The Iron Door, and found it was closed on Tuesdays and Wednesdays and today was Wednesday.  I guess luck wasn’t on our side.  Oh, and you might be wondering, the temperature on the truck informed us it was 4℃.  It was quite a change.  Both Bev and I were both happy we had worn long pants and brought a jacket.

We ended up in Summerhaven, the small community on the mountain, hoping to find a place to grab something to eat.  We were surprised to find a restaurant, it was closed, but found a pizza and cookie shop a little farther into the community.  They were just getting ready to close but we were able to get a couple BBQ chicken on a bun and a drink.  Before they kicked us out we were off again, but this time travelling down the mountain.

We ended up back at the RV Resort just before 7 after a wonderful day in the cool mountain air. Tomorrow we might end up at Sabino Canyon.