Tuesday 1st December
After a month here in Las Cruces at the Sunny Acres RV Park it is now time leave and head west to our next destination Tucson, Arizona. We said goodbye to our neighbours, Ann and Jack and got on the road to pick up the I-10 west for 261 miles straight to Tucson. The interstate was fairly quiet as we travelled out of the fertile Mesilla Valley into desert terrain. As we neared the Arizona state line the desert landscape became more arid with less plant life and more sand.
About 40 miles east of Tucson we came to slow traffic and it was here the CB kicked in for the first time and we heard the truckers advising on the traffic delays.We arrived at Lazydays RV Park at about 4pm. This is our second visit, we were here last April. Lazydays is a very smart town park about 6 miles from Tucson. The roads are paved and the RV sites are large. There are two swimming pools, a large dog park, a fitness centre, bar/cantina, large events hall and lots of fruit trees. I believe that the site was previously an orchard and the many trees have an abundance of citrus fruit – grapefruit, lemons, oranges and limes all for the picking. On our parking area there is a blood grapefruit tree full of luscious fruit.
Wednesday 2nd December
Today has been hot and sunny with a lovely sunrise and sunset. We have been getting quotes for solar panels, an inverter and batteries for use inside the RV. All this is so that we move towards being more independent of plug in power and can more easily free camp (boondock).
Thursday 3rd December
Just chilled around camp today and enjoyed the sunshine.
Friday 4th December
Wow, it’s hot, 27 degrees centigrade today. A continual beeping sound developed inside the RV this evening that seemed to be coming from the microwave, we timed it to every 60 seconds. The microwave was turned off and it still continued to beep, we thought there was some sort of residual power keeping it going and that it would run out soon and the beep would stop but no. I read the microwave manual but there was nothing in there on unwanted beeping. Spent an hour on-line trying to find a solution, no luck. Although there was no power connected, the beeping went on all night! This morning Tony decided to take off the front panel of the microwave to investigate further. As he was unscrewing the panel the beep went off, he looked at the fridge/freezer monitor that was positioned nearby. We had discounted this yesterday as not being the culprit, however on taking it away from the microwave Tony discovered that indeed the noise was coming from the monitor, it needed new batteries. What a palaver, at least we can sleep without earphones in tonight.
Saturday 5th December
Spoke too soon, the fire detector started beeping in the night, it needed new batteries.
Sunday 6th December
Hola! Yes, I have been practicing my Mexican Spanish. Another hot and sunny day but with high winds. Ordered the UV water filter system today in readiness for our Mexico trip. Common water filters will not block virus and most bacteria, therefore we need the ultraviolet.
Monday 7th December
Went into Tucson today to the old part of town and called in at the Visitor Centre. Later we went around the park ‘scrumping’ and came back with a nice little crop of oranges, lemons, grapefruits and limes.
Tuesday 8th December
Tony is testing out his new compressor which is specially configured for the RV to get the tyres to 82 psi, the manufacturers recommended level. We now also have a puncture repair kit for the tyres. There have been two occasions, first with an RV tyre and second with a car tyre where nails have caused a puncture. The kit will allow us to repair the puncture hole ourselves when we are on the road and unable to get quick assistance and the compressor will get the tyre back to the correct pressure.
Went to the cantina on site this evening to eat with Peter and Debbie our near neighbours. They are here from Fort Worth, Texas and have just bought a Motorhome from a local dealer. We had a really enjoyable evening talking about our past travels and future travel plans.
Wednesday 9th December
Since we were last here KOA (Kampgrounds of America) have built two large solar power parasols and they are ginormous. The parasols stretch over two acres of land and as well as providing solar power for the park they act as sun protection for 30 RV sites. With temperatures in the summer often over 100 degrees Fahrenheit, this park is mainly a winter destination, however KOA hope that providing this extra sun protection will extend their season into the summer.
Today was the grand opening and breakfast was provided on the outside patio near the office. Tony just happened to be walking past and got invited in to join the group for coffee, donuts and a chat. Frank, the KOA Communications Officer and Patrick KOA President was interested to hear our travel history, particularly as we have used a lot of KOA parks.
Sat out and watched a beautiful sunset develop over the park this evening.
Thursday 10th December
Spent a nice lazy afternoon at the swimming pool. The pools here are filled with fresh water and nicely heated, really pleasant for swimming.
Spatchcocked a large chicken and cooked it on the barbeque for dinner this evening. It cooked really well and should do for 2/3 meals.
Friday 11th December
This morning Tony fitted the CB SWR meter which will maximize the ariel signal for the best reception. CB project now completed.
This afternoon we went into Tucson for a look around and then to the Fox Theatre in the evening to see the Rat Pack Christmas show. We had a pre theatre meal at a Thunder Canyon Brewery Pub on East Broadway which was very lively and buzzing with people. For starter we had clam chowder and then shared Nachos made with pub fries instead of tortilla chips – tasty.
We walked towards the theatre down Congress Street, a busy street in the heart of downtown where there was plenty of activity going on, live music, bars, restaurants and theatres. The Fox Theatre
is a friendly old 1930’s art deco theatre which we visited earlier in the year when John was here and saw a British sixties music tribute show. The place was nearly full to capacity. The singing was good, lots of Christmas songs and Rat Pack standards.
The cast came out into the foyer after the show to chat to the audience, have photos taken and say bye.
Saturday 12th December
Heavy rain all night. Weather has been changeable all day with low cloud, scattered heavy showers, blustery wind, occasional sunshine and chilly. Sandy was disgusted this morning to find most of the dog park flooded.
The good news is an early Christmas present arrived this morning. We are having a bike each for Christmas - yes, to add the four bikes we already have at home. It was Tony’s bike that arrived and he set about putting it together. Two or possibly three hours later, there it was looking smart and very shiny. We have agreed, no riding the bikes until Christmas day!
On our way into Tucson this evening on the I-10 we saw the most magnificent sunset, the red sky reflecting on the clouds over the mountains was something to see.
We were on our way to the Tucson Presidio area where Tucson began. The Presidio San Augustin del Tucson, a walled Spanish military fortress was built in 1775 in the Sonoran Desert on what was the northern frontier of New Spain. The fortress had disappeared by the mid-19th century but a corner section of the Presidio was revealed during building work in 1929 and portions of the wall remain under the present day courtyard. Today the museum on the site is a re-creation of the old Presidio and tonight was Luminaria Night – A Winter Celebration.
We were early so called in at The Dusty Monk Pub
just across the road in an old adobe building and had a nice chat with the bar man about Indian food. He had visited Nepal for six months and really enjoyed the food. Not having had an Indian meal since we arrived in the US we were pleased to receive a recommendation to a good restaurant downtown.
On the way into the Presidio there were lanterns along the walkway to light the path. Inside the courtyard there was Mexican hot chocolate - that tasted like a cross between chocolate and mulled wine - hot tortillas, prickly pear jam and mesquite butter available to try. There was a replica of a soldiers house from the Presidio’s early days, weaving demonstrations
and Christmas stories for the kids in English and Spanish.
The noisy bit was provided by cannon and musket fire from soldiers in traditional dress.
After an hour or so at the Presidio we wandered down Congress Street and followed the sound of live music. Every second Saturday of the month in Tucson there is an outdoor music festival held in various venues downtown with food vendors
and street performers. On our way down the road we came upon a small peaceful protest march being followed by the police.
Sunday 13th December
Bright sunny morning and now that the cloud has cleared we can see snow on top of the Catalina Mountains.
Monday 14th December
Very much a winters day, rainy and cold. A good day to find some indoor shopping so off we went to Tucson Mall where I was delighted to see that there was a Cheesecake Factory on site which meant dinner was decided. I love their food and particularly the signature cheesecake desserts. After eating the lovely artisan bread they provide and the entree we were stuffed. The caramel cheesecake we chose was boxed and taken home.
Tuesday 15th December
Back to summer temperatures and blue skies today. My bike arrived and took no time to assemble. Just waiting for the bike rack to arrive.
Wednesday 16th December
The inside of the RV looks like an Amazon warehouse with lots of boxes, plus a couple of fold up bikes. We are gradually getting all the upgrades done that we planned before moving on at the end of the month. Therefore, we have a tyre pressure and temperature monitoring system which will alert us to loss of pressure or blow out on any of the RV tyres. An inverter which converts 12V to 110. Four 100 watt flexi solar panels and a large bike rack.
Sandy came back from the dog park this evening after wallowing in some mud left over from the rain on Monday. Could not brush the stuff out of her fur and a bath was required. Then she decided to do some sort of back flip off the sofa and crashed into the bikes. She has been very quiet since, think she might have hurt her neck.
Thursday 17th December
Sandy had difficulty straitening her neck and head this morning and problems chewing and trying to bark. Our neighbours, a Dutch couple that used to live in Tucson gave us a recommendation to a local veterinary centre – Buena Pet Centre. We saw Dr Nightengale who gave Sandy a sedative and an anti-inflammatory shot. An x-ray was taken of her neck area and all the bones and vertebras look fine. After her sedative she was looking more relaxed but very sorry for herself, poor girl. It was a relief that there was no serious damage done and the staff and the care at the clinic was very good. We came away with anti-inflammatory tablets/pain killers and two hundred dollars lighter. We humans also had something, two authentic Mexican Tamales for supper, courtesy of Dr Nightengale.
Today we also had 6 golf cart batteries delivered by Gayle, "The Battery Guy". They are to be used in series and parallel and once connected to the solar panels will be topped up with free electricity. At the moment we have just two 12v batteries,
this extra capacity will mean that we can use most electrical appliances inside the RV without being connected to the mains. Unfortunately, the cables and connections to fit the batteries have not arrived. The further bad news was that our existing 12v batteries have been taken away by Gayle. To comply with current legislation there has to be a battery exchange when new batteries are bought and there is a financial penalty if it doesn’t happen. The outcome was no lights, no fridge, no gas central heating or gas cooker. But we managed alright with battery lanterns, candles, torches, electric fire, microwave and the barbeque.
Sandy was out for the count on her bed.
Friday 18th December
We are still having warm sunny days but the nights are cold with temperatures below zero.
Sandy was quite chirpy this morning and much livelier. However, it didn’t last long, after a gentle walk to the park she soon quietened down and got back on her bed.
A busy day today. Tony sourced some battery connections and got two of the new batteries working. The other four batteries can’t be fitted until we have had a larger holding plate welded to the ford chassis. The bike rack is up and bikes are now out of the RV and in position.
The sensors have been fitted to the tyres and the monitoring system is up and running.
Saturday 19th December
A dull cloudy mild winters day today. Oscar from Iron Craft arrived this morning to weld in the new plate to the RV chassis for the batteries.
Tony then wired them up.
As we are in Tucson we decided it was about time we had a Sonoran hot dog and no better way to find one than at one of the mobile food trucks that are about town. We headed off to a vacant lot on the corner of Park Avenue and 36th Street and El Manantial Tacos Y Hot Dogs. There were two kitchen trucks, one for tacos, burros, caramelos, tortas and quesadillas and the adjoining truck for hot dogs.
The Sonoran hot dog is covered in bacon in a bun and dressed with tomatoes, beans, mustard, mayo and jalapeno sauce. Accompanying the dog is a roasted green pepper wrapped in smoky bacon. I don’t like hot dogs but this was really delicious.
Next I had quesadillas and Tony had tortas. We both agreed the best Mexican food we have had yet.
As the sun set we went back into downtown and the Armory Park district to watch the annual Parade of Lights. After the Mayors tree lighting ceremony in the park, a parade of colorfully lit floats take part in a procession through the neighbourhood. Some of the floats were very elaborately decorated and there was lots of dancing and music, a really lively Christmas scene attended by thousands of people.
Sunday 20th December
Hot and sunny today. Apart from a little sitting around in the sun a few more jobs done, including securing the batteries into the new housing
and defrosting and cleaning the fridge freezer - it must be Christmas!
Monday 21st December
A beautiful Arizona morning and lovely views of the surrounding mountains. We sat outside for breakfast in the sunshine eating donuts and drinking coffee. Went to Lowe’s Home Centre to pick up a couple of things. On the way we passed the Davis-Monthan Air Force Base and saw four fighter aircraft on training manoeuvres. They were flying in formation and then peeling off to come around and fly low over the highway back into the base, quite a display.
Tuesday 22nd December
Took a trip north of town to the Catalina Foothills and the La Encantada shopping centre to do some last bits of Christmas shopping. As we left the city limits we came into an affluent looking area with expensive homes built into the natural dessert terrain with a lot of large cactus. La Encantada is an outdoor shopping centre with some nice looking restaurants, no large department stores but a good range of smaller shops including high end such as Tiffany and Louis Vuitton. The place has a pleasant calm atmosphere and is easy to walk around and browse the shops without walking miles from one end to the other. There was an Apple store as busy as ever and a Humane Society shop selling all things doggy and with several dogs and cats there waiting for adoption. A J Foods was a favourite place, a large up market grocers with a nice array of meat, fish and dry goods. It had a good deli, cake and coffee shop and large outside patio.
This evening we went to Centennial Hall at the University of Arizona to see the Moscow Ballet perform the Nutcracker. First we stopped off to eat at the Frog and Firkin on University Boulevard.
The road leads to the main entrance of the university and has numerous restaurants and shops that were buzzing with people. I had fish and chips and Tony had nachos with some nice craft beer. After dinner we walked along to the university, through the main gate and on to the Hall. The place was packed and there was a definite buzz of anticipation for an enjoyable evening ahead. From the start it was superb, the sets, costumes and of course the dancing and music. Unfortunately, we had left the camera in the car and had to manage with the compact camera. This was the first time we had seen the Nutcracker but much of the music was familiar and lovely to hear whilst watching the skill and energy of the dancers. The children in the production were all local and auditioned by the ballet to come on stage and join them in the performance. The ballet deserved the standing ovation it got at the end, a great nights entertainment.
Wednesday 23rd December
We at last managed to find a small Christmas tree to put up in the RV. Tony went out for a final attempt this morning and managed to find the last small tree in Tucson at Kirkland, it was their display model, complete with lights and artificial snow.
Thursday 24th December
One more sleep! The tree is up the presents are wrapped.
Christmas eve sky over Lazydays RV Park. No sign of Santa yet.
Friday 25th December – Happy Christmas
Spoke to John, Charlotte, Luis and everyone in Coates and then Simon, Ninette and the family who are all in Great Yarmouth for a few days.
Lunch in the KOA dining room. There was over hundred people there and nine on our table. The KOA RV park manager supplied the meat and wine and everyone else contributed a side dish or dessert. The group on our table were very sociable and we had a very merry time.
Saturday 26th December
Visit to the Pima Air & Space Museum which is about five miles from the RV Park. The weather was sunny with a bright blue sky but the wind coming off the desert was bitterly cold.
One of the largest museums of its type in the world, there are four big hangars with aircraft and space exhibits inside and acres of land outside exhibiting attack aircraft, bombers, cargo aircraft, fighter aircraft, helicopters, seaplanes, trainers, VIP aircraft, recon aircraft and drones. You name it, if it flies there is an example in this massive aviation museum on the history of flight.
We began with a tour of the main hangar where there is a mixture of military and commercial aircraft. Our tour guide Marsha,
or docent as they are called here, started at what is considered the beginning of manned flight with a look at a replica of the flying machine the Wright Brothers used for the famous flight at Kitty Hawk in North Carolina in December 1903.
Marsha had an encyclopedic knowledge of the aircraft on display and had a fast delivery with barely a breath between sentences.
Amongst the many aircraft was the Avenger built for the US Navy in WWII as a torpedo bomber.
Paul Newman was a gunner and radioman on this aircraft during the war and bought his wife Joanne Woodward to the museum to see the aircraft. Another famous American, George Bush senior flew these aircraft in WWII.
One of the most impressive aircraft in the hangar was the SR-71A ‘Blackbird’ high altitude reconnaissance aircraft built by Lockheed.
It holds world speed and altitude records and could routinely exceed Mach 3. One of the records it holds is Los Angeles to Washington DC in 1 hour 4 minutes 2 seconds set in March 1990. The aircraft was retired in the 1990's when it was argued that satellites could do its job.
The Thunderbird F4 Phantom flew with the display team (similar to the Red Arrows) in the 1970-74 show seasons and in the 73/74 season this was ship number seven, the narrators aircraft. The narrator calls out moves and maneuvers to the display team and supplies the commentary for the audience below.
An aircraft still in service today is the Fairchild A-10A Thunderbolt II, called the Warthog by pilots and ground crew, this aircraft has a massive rotary canon and is used to destroy tanks. It has large amounts of titanium armour around the cockpit and engines making the A-10 almost a flying tank itself. The aircraft has the markings of 358th Tactical Fighter Squadron from the adjacent Davis-Monthan AFB.
The smallest prop aircraft ever built.
The smallest jet aircraft built.
After a hearty round of applause for Marsha for her knowledgeable and fact packed tour we moved outside.
We joined the outside tour on board a tram that had open sides which was great for viewing but not for keeping the cold wind out. Our guide again was very knowledgeable and had flown the C124 Globemaster,
a heavy lift cargo aircraft during the war in Vietnam. It took two weeks to fly from California to Vietnam and he did that journey backwards and forwards for six years. He had lots of information and stories to tell about the aircrafts and the people that flew them.
After departing from the tram we went into the 390th memorial museum. In here is a Boeing B-17G the ‘Flying Fortress’.
This museum is dedicated to the 390th bomber group that was stationed in Framlingham, Suffolk during WWII. There is lots of memorabilia and photographs of the groups work and the aircraft has been brilliantly restored. Looking inside, it is amazing how basic the structure is like being in a Meccano set. The gunners area was so small and compact, no one over 5’ 10 could fit in.
On our way through the outside exhibits to Hangar number 4 we passed a B52 Stratofortess bomber,
the Super Guppy cargo aircraft.
Airforce One, a VC1 18 military conversion from a Douglas DC4 and used in the 1960’s by JFK and LBJ, although President Kennedy mostly favoured the Boeing 707.
This was because of a serious back injury that he suffered in the WW II and the vibrations of the VC1 18 aggravated his back, therefore he preferred the more comfortable 707. When he did use the VC1 18 it was because the airfield he was going to couldn’t take the larger 707.
Hangar # 4 houses more of the museum’s collection of World War II aircraft and lastly, the Space Gallery brings everything up to date with exhibits on space exploration.
A thoroughly interesting if chilly day out.
Sunday 27th December
Cooked a Christmas dinner today with all the trimmings. Turkey breast, smoked ham, pigs in blankets, honey glazed carrots, roast potatoes, sprouts with pancetta, golden currents. pine nuts, capers and a dash of balsamic – good recipe to liven up the sprouts a bit. Best meal of the year.
Monday 28th December
Ryan from Liberty RV Service came around this morning to look at fitting the solar panels and the inverter. We put the bedroom slide in so that he could check where the wiring would go and what a noise it made. The outcome was, one of the gears has gone and we need a new motor! This will be done under warranty and Ryan will contact Forest River.
Had a good ride around on the bikes today.
Tuesday 29th December
Cold night and although we have bright blue skies this morning the wind chill is making it feel very cold.
Fitted a Shurflo Accumalator to our water pump. When we are not connected to city water we use water from our storage tank. The water pump often sounds labored and noisy as if the motor will burn out. For the techies – this little device smooths the water faucet pulses and reduces cycling to keep the pressure up and the pump motor cool.
Wednesday 30th December
More DIY today. Tony fitted a Hydra Life filter to our city water inlet. We have a carbon filter near the access tap but this new filter gives us some added protection from bacteria, lead and several other possible contaminates. We have found the city water here in the US fine but using so many systems and access taps we think the more filtering the better.
14 degrees C today but no wind chill so weather nice and warm to sit out in.
Thursday 31st December
Ryan, accompanied by Jodie arrived today to fit the four 100 watt Go Power flexi solar panels on the roof of the RV. This means our set of six new batteries will be solar charged when we are boondocking.
This evening we went to the cantina bar here at the RV Park for New Years Eve celebrations. There was live music, hot hors d’oeuvre and as the night went on plenty of dancing. On one of the flat screen TV’s in the bar we followed the New Year gradually making its way west across the US from New York, Eastern time, New Orleans, Central time and then Tucson, Mountain time. Well, it has been a very memorable 2015 for us and we can’t wait to see what our travels in 2016 will bring. Cheers and Happy New Year!
Friday 1st January – Happy New Year
Started the New Year with a cough and a cold – it’s going about – so I thought a good intake of vitamin C was required. There are plenty of beautiful lemons on the fruit trees in the park so I made some lemonade, delicious.
Saturday 2nd January - Happy Birthday Lynne
Lovely sunny day with temperature 20 degrees C. The cough and cold has got worse, therefore paid a visit to one of the walk in medical centre’s in town. Having had bronchitis for a while the cold just seemed to make it worse. We have become Downtown Abbey addicts and are now on series three, thanks to Amazon Prime.
Sunday 3rd January
Another lovely day, 21 degrees. Night time temperatures are also much better, just about as good as the UK! Stayed around camp most of the day.
Monday 4th January
Very blustery night, heavy rain and stormy weather today. Winter is showing its face around the country. On the east coast the snow and icy weather has arrived, mid-west have had a lot of flooding along the Mississippi River, Southern California have had some rain at last with storm fronts coming in. Weather cleared this afternoon and we went off to Park Place Mall to have a look around Macey’s New Year sale. Bought new bedding. Coming out of the Mall there are lovely views of the mountains.
Would be nice to walk out of Birmingham Bull Ring Shopping Centre and see a similar sight.
Tuesday 5th January
Replaced the ceiling vent in the living room area with a thermostatically controlled fan with remote control and rain sensor – the works! This will allow warm air to be extracted or cool air to be taken in to create air flow. It will be good in hot weather when we do not have AC power for air con.
Wednesday 6th January
Quite a nice morning so we took advantage and got out into the sunshine as we don’t think it will last.
Thursday 7th January
Heavy rain today, the RV is surrounded by water. This amount of rain is apparently quite unusual and caused by the Jetstream flowing further south than is normal, El Nino is being cited as the cause. Ryan came around earlier to fit up the inverter but it was raining too heavy to mess with wiring and electrics. A day to stay in and get a few jobs done. We have just taken delivery of a wireless alarm system and have been busy setting it up. If the rain continues I think we will need an inflatable to get out of the RV!
Friday 8th January
Ryan and Jodie from Liberty RV were here all day fitting the electrical inverter and wiring it through the RV to the electrical converter.
The whole of the inside of the vehicle was upside down with the cupboards, drawers and the bed all out everywhere.
It was about 9 o’clock before we put everything back and sat down to eat. But a good job done and we are very pleased with the quality of the work. We can now convert 12V battery to 120V electrical power which will allow us to run more electrical items for longer when we are not in an RV park plugged into a power supply. It will also allow us to have more flexibility to do free camping without having to be concerned about losing power.The dog park is still flooded after the rains and looks like a lake.
Saturday 9th January
To Walmart for a food shop. Nice views of the snow and cloud covered mountains from the car park.
Mike from Superglass was on site today and came by to pick a couple of grapefruit from the tree near our RV. Whilst he was here we asked him to repair a chip in our windscreen on the RV. He had his dog Remington with him (Remi) is a Brittany spaniel and he is a bird hunting dog. They go out hunting doves here in the valley. Sandy and Remi got on very well and played nicely together. In southern Arizona there is a fungus that is peculiar to this region only and it causes valley fever. Remi contracted valley fever when he was out working and Mike thinks he got it from the irrigation ditches that are about. Remi is very fit and being treated for the disease, the only sign he has was a dry cough. Next Willow and her owners came by, a delightful English cocker spaniel ready to play, it was turning into a spaniel convention.
Sunday 10th January
Another DIY day. One of the rivets on the steps into the RV has sheared off.
Monday 11th January
Sunny with bright blue skies and by mid-morning it had warmed up nicely. We could see that there had been a nice snow fall in the Catalina Mountains and decided to take a drive up to Mount Lemmon, the highest point in the range at 9000 feet situated north of Tucson, in the Coronado National Forest. As we left the Tucson suburb’s we came to fields of the large Saguaro cactus and started to climb the winding Catalina Highway up into the hills.
The views of Tucson in its Sonoran desert plain below and the surrounding mountain ranges was hazy. This area of south east Arizona is located in an interesting spot, at the south end of the Rocky Mountains and the northern end of the Sierra Madre Mountains and where the Sonoran and Chihuahua deserts meet. As we reached 5000 feet we came into the snow line and the vegetation changed to pine trees.
There were plenty of hiking trail on the way and people out sledding and curiously piling snow into the back of their pickups. We came across frozen waterfalls and the unusual sight of sandstone outcrops and hoodoos surrounded by snow.
We are used to seeing these eroded tall thin spires in arid desert or badlands conditions. As we continued the snow got thinker and we were in winter wonderland.
Twenty five miles along the highway we came to Summerhaven, an alpine looking resort town of log houses and cabins. From here is the access road to the ski resort and lift to the runs. After stopping for coffee and a cookie we made our way back down to Tucson before the temperatures dropped and parts of the winding road become icy. The heat of the day had melted some of the frozen waterfalls that had now run off across the road and would no doubt freeze as the sun went down. What a lovely drive in alpine Tucson.
Tuesday 12th January
Jim and Pat with dogs Olive and Grace have moved into the space next to us in their lovely retro looking Airstream RV. Jim was a photographer and still does some work for Target stores, a large chain here in the US. With similar career backgrounds Jim and Tony have a lot in common.
This afternoon we headed west out of Tucson on highway 86 across the Sonoran Desert for fifty six miles to Kitt Peak National Observatory. The observatory is located on the Tohono O’odham Nation land and the peak is leased by them to the National Science Foundation. We entered the reservation land just past the US border control checkpoint and eventually turned left onto highway 386 to make our ascent up to the peak.
The summit of the peak is just under 7,000 feet and we had beautiful views over the surrounding countryside as we progressed to the top.
We got to the Visitor Centre at 4.15pm and was directed where to park. All vehicles are parked nose to tail to minimise the effects of any stray vehicle light being directed into telescope domes after dark. It is very important for them to control stray white light. All phones, cameras and tablets are turned off after sun down. Light emitting screens could wipe out months of work being carried out by scientists at the observatory. In the Visitor Centre a light supper was ready for us to pick up and eat whilst we watched a video about light pollution and the effects it has on the planet and its animals. After exploring the Visitor Centre exhibits and interactive displays we made our way outside to watch the sunset.
Lucas was our astrologer guide and as we watched the spectacular Arizona sunset,
he pointed out some of the telescopes and explained the work carried out at the observatory. There are 25 telescopes on the site operated by various organizations or Universities. Many have staff on site working, others operate the domes by remote control from elsewhere in the country. As we were standing at the overlook observing the sun set the telescope dome next to us moved around and was being operated by someone hundreds or thousands of miles away.
Back to the Visitor Centre where we were issued with a Planisphere star chart, red light torch and binoculars. Lucas explained how to use the chart to locate the stars and constellations and then we went outside to put the theory into practice. Using the red torch to light our way a little and read the star chart we scanned the sky to spot the constellations. We saw stars in the constellations of Gemini, Orion, Andromeda, Taurus, Auriga and Sirius, the brightest star in the sky. The Milky Way could be seen as a band of misty light and is evidence that we live in a disk-shaped galaxy. The pale glow is light from billions of suns. When viewed through the binoculars pin prick stars could be seen. Tony saw a shooting star which are not stars but small bits of rock or iron that heat up, glow and vaporize upon entering earth’s atmosphere. The observatory was built here for its dark clear skies and the array of stars seen by the naked eye alone was spectacular and got better as the night went on.
Lastly we climbed the stairs into the radio telescope dome.
Here Roy was our guide to the stars as we took it in turns to look through the radio telescope.
First was The Andromeda Galaxy, our nearest major galactic neighbour. It is spiral galaxy and lies 2,200,000 lightyears away and has a diameter of 180,000 lightyears. This galaxy contains as much materiel as 300 billion suns.
Once we had all viewed this massive galaxy the large dome needed to be turned so that the opening faced another area of the night sky for Roy to re position the telescope. Guess who got to turn the handle to move the dome – Tony!
Next up was The Great Orion Nebula. This is a star formation about 1, 500 lightyears away. It is 30 lightyears across and contains enough material to make 10,000 stars the size of our sun.
Next the M1: the explosion that created this nebula was seen by Chinese astronomers in 1054 A.D. The explosion was bright enough to be seen in the daytime for almost a month. The nebula is 10 lightyears in diameter and is expanding at the rate of 1,800 km per second. The numbers are just too big to comprehend.
After a further move of the dome by Tony! It was M35: an open cluster of over 300 stars. It lies at a distance of 2,800 lightyears away, near the foot of Castor, one of the Gemini twins. Through the telescope it looked like thousands of white dots on a pin board.
By now it was 9pm and time to leave. What an experience and what a privilege to have a glance into these distant worlds.
To ensure no light pollution vehicle headlights were covered with red masking. We all proceeded down a very dark peak road in convoy behind a lead car. Half way down we stopped, the red mask was removed and we were on our way.
After our return from Star Trek world and back on highway 86 we headed home back across the desert, past the friendly border control guard, towards the twinkling lights of Tucson.
Wednesday 13th January
Laundry day. The laundry facilities are very good here and handily next to the gym. Whilst things are washing and drying there’s time for a few laps on the treadmill and to lift a few weights.
Pot luck dinner this evening on the patio area of the main building. These events are organized by Robin Hill who is the social secretary here and responsible for arranging activities and get-togethers. Having the same name, we were getting her Christmas cards in December, thought we had found a whole group of new friends.
At dinner we sat with Wayne, Judy, Paige and Michael. Wayne and Judy are here for the winter from Minnesota. The RV Park has filled up quite a lot since new year with all the ‘snowbirds’ coming south away from the cold, ice and snow of the north. Paige and Michael summer on their catamaran and have travelled the whole length of the intercostal waterway, with plans to do the Mississippi through the mid -west. In the winter they travel in their RV.
Thursday 14th January
Most of the RV community have a dog or dogs. Where we are parked is en route to the dog park, therefore Sandy gets to say hello to many canine friends and we get to meet the owners. Today James and Linda stopped by with their lovely wheaten terrier, Kasey, who was very playful and intelligent. James and Linda have travelled extensively around the US and gave us lots of tips on good places to go and where to stay.
Went to the Oasis Cantina bar for a drink before dinner. It has been nice to have the bar on site within walking distance.
Friday 15th January
We are getting concerned that the new motor for the slide out has still not arrived from Forest River.
Saturday 16th January
Ryan fitted the new slide out motor today and all is back in working order. He also fitted an outside door light. Checked over the solar system with a volt meter and showed us where all the fuses were located. At last we are good to go.
Went to the bar for a drink and dinner. Patty, Cliff, Ann and Scott were there – our Christmas day lunch buddies. It was nice to catch up with them and have the opportunity say bye before we moved on.
Sunday 17th January
Tony woke up this morning and couldn’t put his right foot to the floor, it was badly inflamed and painful - a nasty attack of gout! He has some medication left from the attack he suffered last February which should reduce the inflammation. We seem fated to stay in Tucson.
Monday 18th January
The good news is that Tony is brighter this morning, the medication seems to be working and the inflammation in his foot has reduced. The bad news is that the gout is now also in his knee!
Tuesday 19th January
Tony felt much better this morning and we were able to move on from Tucson. After filling up with propane gas we got onto the I-10 west towards Phoenix, about 120 miles away. We passed downtown Tucson
and had our last look at the Catalina Mountains
which had been our daily backdrop over these past weeks at Lazydays. We passed Picacho Peak State Park and its landmark hill with the distinctive shape,
recalling when we were here in April with John.
We were heading for Walmart at the Riverview shopping area in Mesa located north-west of Phoenix. Here we would stock up on food and also visit our favourite shop Pro Bass Outdoor World. After parking the RV in Walmart car park and food shopping we walked across to Pro Bass. All other Pro Bass shops allow dogs into the building but there was some sort of city ordinance in Mesa that does not allow dogs (except service dogs) into a store where there is food. Tony went back to the RV with Sandy and I stayed to look around the store. Whilst walking about I saw several service dogs and their handlers. The dogs were all young and going through their training exercises. It was like a Labrador convention.