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Friday, April 28, 2017

Marriot Star Pass - Tucson Arizona

It is 30 minutes before check out time - and it is hard to get Lulu out of the pool area. There are 2 big pools - 2 hot tubs - 1 lazy river - and 1 slide. I have to get her out of here our we will be buying a "time share."

We will spend the rest of the day in downtown Tucson - then eat supper at Lil Abners - where you have streaks grilled out under the stars. We used to take the kids there 25 years ago. Finally - we will roll into our "home" in Maricopa after the hour drive up I-10.

Visiting the Sonoran Desert in Spring

25 years ago - Lulu had an early college teaching job at the University of Arizona. Our family would come to Tucson to enjoy the beauty of the desert. The Sonoran Desert stretches from Tucson all the way down to deep in Mexico. It is the only place where Jaguars live in the USA. My favorite member of the plant family here is the Suguaro Cactus - it is the only place in the world where they grow wild. 

During the spring these giant - human-like plants - are fresh and green with flowers sprouting from a normally tough dry skin. We saw some as high as 60 feet with many arms sticking out. Out in the field - they remind you of a troop of soldiers standing guard - still and silent. 

This is the view from our hotel room balcony

This guy greeted Lulu on her entrance to the 
Arizona Sonoran Desert Museum

The old Studebaker Lark greets you to the museum

In the spring - even the desert stems are green

Desert fruit

Yellow cactus flower dominated

Two turtles romancing

Prairie dogs

Arms all over the place

A hidden Mickey

Cactus are barbed. They go in easy and then are hooked

These flowers were 30 feet up

These cactus are normally dry and drab

This coyote could roam - we were fenced in

Flower on normally dry cactus

The desert in bloom is unexpectedly beautiful

Garnet and Gold desert flowers

Hummingbird in nest

Desert cowboy hats

The Star Pass

With 5% to 10% humidity -
underwear and socks dry in minutes

The view from our Star Pass Marriot

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Eegee's - Tucson

Near Tombstone - We Toured Kartchner Caverns

Active formations dripping over 50,000 years
Recently found cave - protected forth beginning

You seldom find a cave with so many active formations
After our visit to Tombstone in the morning - and lunch at Big Nose Kate's - we set out on our adventure in the Kartchner Caverns. It is just a few miles off Interstate 10. Reservations are required - ours was at 3 PM.

The caverns are similar to the Crystal Cave near Kutztown PA - a place where my students visited often. Except at Kartchner - they got an opportunity from discovery to protect the cave from the destructive forces of human invasion. The cave was founded by Gary Tenen and Randy Tufts - two guys interested in geology and the important preservation. They were exploring in a sinkhole where they spotted a small crack where there was evidence of bat habitation. They crawled through the small passage and discovered several large rooms - full of limestone formations. They kept the cave secret for 10 years - and arranged with the Kartchner family and the state of Arizona to preserve it. 

The cave is designed to keep out invasive species. The well-designed walkways and lights keep visitors from contamination of the formations. Double door chambers are designed to keep the air inside as a constant temperature - pressure - and humidity. This prevents the desert air for drying out and killing the formations. 

The air handling system alone cost the state $22 million. The founders were smart to get private and state backing - before the cave was even known to the public. 

It is startling to see soda straw formations over 20 feet long - growing at less than one inch in 100 years. Usually these thing are broken by vandals - they have been forming for 55,000 years. They are kept a safe distance from visitors by guard rails. One disgruntled nut could do so much damage in a place like this. 

They limit the tours to about 20 people at a time. You are not allowed to take cell phones or cameras with you. A tram takes you to the entrance which is about ½ mile from the visitor center. From there you walk into the air protection doors - and walk on paved - well hand-railed smooth lighted walkways for about ½ mile. There are some mild grades.

Outside the temperature was into the 80s and 20% humidity - inside it was 60s and 99% humidity. The wet air keeps the cave active - in the silence you could hear the drips - like little pieces of time. 

Near the end - they have a small theatre set up in the main room - and a light and sound show. 

In my 33 years as an Earth Science teacher - I have visited many similar sites. This one was caught in time - and will be protected for visitors forever - unless some stupid terrorist decides to ruin it for everyone. 

Note - Pictures are stock photos - they do not allow cameras. 

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Our Travel Map - Arizona

We flew into Phoenix - off this map to the northwest. Then we drove to Tucson - Benson -
Tombstone - Bisbee - Fout Huachuca - and now we are in Benson. We will tour a limestone cavern today - and then drive to Tucson to the the Suguaro National Cactus Park. We fly home from Phoenix on Sunday.

Copper Queen Hotel - Copper Queen Mine - Fort Huachuca - Buffalo Soldiers


Our room - reminds you of a brothel.
It was clean and right in the center of action.
Copper Queen Hotel
Monday night was spent in the Copper Queen Hotel. In 1902 - it was the pride of the 20,000 people of Bisbee AZ. It was a busy boom town - along the Railway from St Louis to San Francisco.

There are many things similar between Tamaqua and Bisbee. Coal mining and copper mining have many similarities. Minerals were extracted first by deep mining with picks and shovels - they later moved to modern equipment - and finally decided just to rip off the top of the mountain and strip the product out. In Bisbee it left a giant pit - and pilings of waste all over. Many men in both copper mines and coal mines died from miner's asthma

Bisbee does have an excellent climate around which to build a tourist industry. In the winter it is warm - in the summer it is cooler than the deserts around it. 

Lots of steps all around Bisbee


We went 1500 feet into the mine
This was the main entrance
The mine tour was $13 and one hour 
8 billion pounds of copper came out of here
The timekeeper kept mining records
The Board Room in the Big House
They used lots of Atlas Dynamite
Narrow gauge railroad
Sonny - our guide worked here 40 years.
He is 82.
Dynamiting the face - dynamite - fuses -
blasting caps - sparklers
A mine toilet car
I gave it a try
The mine library
The clocks like at PVMS


There are 3 museums on base.
We were delayed 20 minutes. They did a criminal check on us and also made picture IDs for us. The campus had about 18,000 residents during the day - both civilian and military. It used to protect the Mexican border - now it is for intelligence training. You really are isolated in this corner of the USA and Arizona.

Buffalo soldiers trained here

Today - they test drones and military secret sending
Drones fly by remote control through satellites

The old mule soldier barracks are still used
They look like model planes we
flew in the 1950s
This one flew 50 successful missions