Monday, March 26, 2012

Tucson, Arizona-Chino Valley, Arizona (March 26, 2012)

The 235 mile trip to Chino Vally, AZ was uneventful.  Weather was good and traffic not bad.  Arrived at the Johnson's RV Park around 2 PM.  Going to really enjoy this stay.

Tucson, Arizona (March 19-26, 2012)

Tucson, Arizona is one of my favorite cities.  I have spent quite a bit of time here over the years and always looked forward to returning.  Besides it being a relatively small city, about 1 million for the metro area, its streets are not as clogged as most urban environments.  So much to see and do here.  A big plus is the inhabitants are so friendly.

We parked our four-wheeled 5th wheel home at the Agave Gulch Family Camp on Davis-Monthan Air Base.  Davis-Monthan is, probably, best know as the Air Force's aircraft bone yard and is located within Tucson's city limits.

Here is a short video on their "Bone Yard" mission. (Click here). 

The weather being quite mild the next day we familiarized ourselves with the local and downtown areas.  It had been almost 20 years since my last visit here and things have changed quite a bit. Downtown has had a major face lift and the town itself has expanded and grown immensely.  Unlike many cities, though, this expansion seems to have been well planned out.  There were several attractions we wanted to visit while we were here so we made our list and began to check them out on our third day. 

The first on our list was the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum.  Having been here many years ago I was eager to see if anything had changed and it had.  It was bigger, better and more interesting.  It is located west of the city near the Saguaro National Park.  If ever in this area, make it a point to come here.  It is one of the best fauna and flora museums in the country. Our favorite exhibit was the Raptor Free Flight.  Raptors of different types flew within inches of our heads and gave the entire crowd a thrill.  There is tons of stuff to do here for both the adults and children so pack a lunch and spend the day.  It is recommended when visiting to be there when it opens for most of the wildlife is most active then.  If you click on these pictures they expand.

Our next day trip was with the Boys and we had decided to all go up to Mount Lemmon.  The temperatures are much colder on top of the 9,000 foot mountain and snow can be seen there much of the year.  The temperature when we departed Davis-Monthan was about 60F/15.5C and by the time we reached the top it was right at 39F/3.8C with still a lot of snow on the ground.  We made sure the Boys had a chance to romp in it.  They loved it.

 Next on our list was the Old Tucson Movie Studios.  This set was built outside Tucson in 1939 and, with the local area of the Sonoran Desert, has been the film location of many movies, mostly westerns.  Unfortunately, much of the Old Tucson set burned down in a 1995 fire and much of the old charm was lost forever.  The town has been re-built, but it will never replicate what was lost.  This is another "must see" destination if you are ever in the Tucson area.  It is just a few miles from the Arizona-Sonora Museum and both can be seen in one day.

With our time in this old city nearing an end, we made the best of it before moving on to our next destination.  Ate some good Mexican food and relaxed in the warm sunny weather.  This was an enjoyable stay compared to the past few months.  Now, on to the Johnson Family RV Park.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Sierra Vista, Arizona-Tucson, Arizona (March 19, 2012)

This short drive of 73 miles was not without incident.  We started out with ominous skies.

Just as we cleared the Sierra Vista city limits we were inundated by blowing snow and dropping temperatures.  The roads immediately became very slippery and we, and all other traffic, slowed to a crawl.  At 10:30 AM it was extremely dark and nearly a white-out condition.

But just a few minutes later we drove out of it and the sun shone brightly.  This snow squall dumped nearly an inch in its path within several minutes, but luckily we were not in it but a few minutes.  The rest of the journey to Tucson was uneventful.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Sierra Vista, Arizona (March 12-19, 2012)

Sierra Vista, Arizona is located 70 miles southeast of Tucson, Arizona and 20 miles southwest of Tombstone, Arizona.  The city sprung up around Fort Huachuca *(pronounced wha-chewka) and was the home of the famed "Buffalo Soldiers."  The Apache Flats RV Park is located on the fort and is a top-notch facility. During my working career I had many opportunities to visit this fort and explore the area.  I wanted to share them with Joyce.

Apache Flats RV Park


We spent several days exploring the fort and the town.  The weather was nice so we decided to make a visit to Tombstone the next day.  I had been there several times in the past, but that was almost 25 years ago.  It has changed a lot since then.  For the better.

My visit here long ago was to a run down semi-tourist town.  Many of the buildings were dilapidated and there were very few other business such as gift and souvenir shops. Today the town seems to be thriving and has had a major face lift.  Dozens of small shops have sprung up and many of the buildings have been reconstructed.  We visited during the morning on a weekday and the streets were teeming with tourists.  It was a fun trip.  A must see if in this area.

Tombstone, Arizona

The next day we took a road trip through the high desert to the copper mining town of Bisbee, Arizona.  Bisbee is nestled in between several mountains and is the home of the Copper Queen Mine and the Lavender Pit Mine.  John Wayne was a frequent visitor to this town and had several investments here.  Like Tombstone, this town has been revitalized through tourism.  It is now an artsy-crafty destination.

Bisbee, Arizona

We made our way back to the RV park via a road running parallel with the Mexican border.  There were many, many Border Patrol vehicles on this route with many of them were stopped in fields surveying the area with binoculars.

A short distance off this road is the Coronado National Memorial.  We made our way into the area on a small road leading to a narrow paved road running alongside a creek.  A very beautiful place.  Farther up the road is a viewpoint on top of a mountain where Coronado was said to survey the Arizona countryside during his expedition in 1540.  As the road led up to the viewpoint it turned to gravel and became even more narrow and very steep with numerous switchbacks. About one-third the way up I decided I had had enough of this and proceeded to turn around.  Of course there were no areas to turn around in so I had to wiggle the big truck back and forth in the road to get going back down the mountain.  Did I mention that narrow, loose gravel road (about 12 feet wide) did not have anything to keep one from going over the edge and toppling hundreds of feet into the canyon below?  That coupled with the fact that I am not comfortable with heights made this an ordeal that drained my nerves.  

On the way out the views of the US/Mexican border were stark.  A steel wall topped with barbed wire separated the two countries and went as far as the eye could see.

The next few days were spent cleaning the dust and dirt acquired in New Mexico out of the RV.  We could not find a decent place in town that was having a St. Patty's Day celebration so we cretaed our own with homemade corned beef, cabbage, carrots and potatoes, soda bread and, of course, some green beer.  By the looks of the picture I had already had some green beer.

With our time here finished we started prepping for our next move to an RV park a short distance away.  Love these small trips between destinations.