"Life is either a daring adventure or nothing"
- Helen Keller

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Catalina State Park and Senior Moments

Catalina State Park

We have been taking it pretty easy here in Tucson. Just today I started getting caught up on my blog reading and I am glad John wrote the last entry or it would have been a long spell between posts. This is the longest we have stayed in one place and it has been so nice we decided to extend our stay by about 15 days so we won’t leave until March 20th. I finally sat down and mapped out our journey back to Iowa with the goal of getting there the first of May. When I mapped it out on the calendar we realized we had a little more time and since there are many things we still want to do in this area and we are enjoying ourselves so staying a little longer makes sense.
Thursday we drove to Catalina State park just a little north and east on the edge of Tucson. We had heard good things about the park and had a half off the day pass in our Tucson Passport (we now have saved almost $40 by buying it). This a beautiful park and sits in a more upscale part of the metro area. Right across the street from the entrance is a shopping area with a Dick’s sporting goods, Best Buy, Theaters, and the nicest Walmart we have yet to be in. Also on the way there we passed a Trader Joe’s, a Whole Foods Market and a brewpub, along with any other shopping opportunities you might want. So the location is excellent.
The park itself has a campground with water/electric hook ups and one for dry camping. Both look to have nice level sites that will fit most rigs. We talked about staying here the last week in Tucson but at $25 for just water and electric compared to the $19 a day rate (FHU) we would get extending our stay at the Diamond J, again it made sense to stay put. I think if we came through for just a weeks stay in the future I would like to stay here. The biggest reason for that are the hiking trails. There are many and it could keep you busy for a week.
We hiked the Canyon Loop trail which was about 2 miles. This is really John’s first hiking since hurting his hip. He had been walking this last week around the RV park so we felt he was ready. It was an almost perfect day. Temps were in the high 60s and there was a slight breeze. The canyon loop takes you down along a stream and the vegetation in this park surprised me, more brush and trees as well as the cactus. It just seems a little more lush than the areas near the Tucson Mountains that I had been hiking the last few weeks. I would love to go back and do more of the trails there but that may be for another trip. John did fine on the hike so I think he is on his way back to being my hiking partner.
An unusual saguaro
As I was reading the blogs today Crusin2some had a great blog on those senior moments we all seem to have somedays, the older we get the more of them there seems to be. It really made me chuckle. She was talking about Dawn loosing the car in the parking lot. It made me remember a day I was going to my car at the shopping center in Cedar Rapids and a lady stopped me. She had just found her car but she was upset because she was sure someone had broken into it and moved it. She wanted to find a security guard to report it to. I’m not sure if she reported her “break-in” but I think she is in denial about not remembering where she parked. I don’t know too many burglars who would take the time to move a car, if they could move it more than likely they would take it with them. I can’t always find my car but there is no denial here, I know a senior moment when it happens. What is your funniest senior moment?
Happy Trails...................

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Margaritas, Missiles & Missions (by John)

National Margarita Day
While we were waiting for Tucson Dodge to service the truck, I learned that February 22nd was National Margarita Day. At least according to the chatty ladies on the TV, who were drinking from a fish bowl size margarita at 9:30 in the morning. How is it that I don’t know this stuff? Good thing the appointment for the truck was at 9:00 or I would have missed it.
I wasn’t done learning new stuff. The transmission overheated towing over the mountains coming in from California earlier this month, which I attributed to cockpit error. So when I scheduled the service I made sure it included exchanging all the fluids in the transmission. I also asked to talk to the mechanic, so before I left Ernie the transmission guy came out and we went over how to tow over mountains. Here’s what I learned: disable the cruise, lock out the overdrive and slow down. With the overdrive locked out, this will boost the engine rpms and improve cooling to the transmission. This also applies to towing down a grade, which was the new part (the transmission had actually overheated on the down side of the mountains). Boosting the engine rpms on the down grade will also help the exhaust brake limit the speed of the rig. Makes sense. Thanks Ernie.
Titan Missile Museum
The Cold War revisited
So we still had all afternoon to do something. Tucson has lots of stuff to do, but we decided to visit the Titan Missile Museum which included an actual missile silo with a real Titan II ICBM still in it. Cool. I didn’t know the Tucson area had any missile silos, but before the Dakotas became a nuclear power our Cold War policy of Mutual Assured Destruction depended on the Titan II missile sitting in 54 silos around  Tucson, Little Rock Arkansas, and Witchita, Kansas. This all came to an end in the 80s with the SALT agreements which included the destruction of all 54 silos and their Titan missiles with their nuclear payloads. We were happy to comply with SALT since the liquid fueled Titan missile was too expensive to maintain and had since been replaced by the smaller/cheaper solid fueled Minuteman. One silo was spared on the condition that it would be crippled in such a way that was easily verified by Russian satellites. A Titan missile that had never been fueled (the fuel was very toxic) was put in the silo and a square was cut out of the nose so the satellites could see it was empty. This was where we were headed.
We joined a tour that began with a short movie about the missile and the incredible destructive power of the nuclear payload it was designed to deliver to somewhere in the USSR. Our response to the USSR launching their ICBMs at us. Then we got our first view of the actual missile sitting in the silo (the cover of the silo was partially open with a glass cover the open part). It was big. A very powerful looking machine. We also got a quick look at the various antennas that would allow the crew of four to communicate with the outside world (at least one of the antennas was manufactured by Collins Radio). Then we went underground; down 54 steps to the missile control room connected by a tunnel to the missile silo.
The antenna for the Collins Radio
Here Janie promptly volunteered to sit in the commander’s chair and turn one of the keys that would start the launch sequence. Several safeguards insured that this is what she should do. You don’t want to make a mistake, because once the launch sequence starts, it can’t be stopped. She didn’t actually know the target, just that it was number two, somewhere in the USSR. The missile was set for an air burst, so it would scoop out a shallow crater and wreak havoc with all things electronic for hundreds of miles. No hesitation from this one. On command, she turned her key and we watched the control panel lights begin the launch sequence.
No missiles were ever launched. We promised to never launch except in response to a launch against us, hence the mutual assured destruction. Mission accomplished.
Its D-day!
San Xavier Mission

We felt like we needed something a little more peaceful after the Titan Missile Museum, so we stopped at the San Xavier Mission on the way home. The mission is open to the public, but Catholic Mass is still said every morning. Very ornate. Very quiet. Very peaceful.
Got back in time to make some margaritas before dinner. It’s National Margarita Day you know.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Rainbow's End

We are parked near the rainbow's end. I think the photos speak for themselves. Hope you enjoy them.

Happy Trails..........

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Harris Hawks

Yesterday John and I headed to the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum. We used our Attractions Passport and now have saved about $15 above its cost. This is kind of a museum, desert garden and mini zoo all in one. There were some interesting exhibits but the highlight is the Raptor Free Flight program. They have a morning and afternoon program and I overheard someone say the afternoon program is different everyday. Today we had the joy of watching a family of Harris Hawks.
The history on these hawks in the US is interesting. These hawks come from Mexico and South America and so they are mainly subtropic birds. At some point they began migrating into the Sonoran Desert, including parts of Arizona. In this area, unlike many raptors, they began to live as communities and learned cooperative hunting. This adaption was necessary in order for them to survive in this desert environment. Each family has an alpha female, an alpha male, other mature males who aid in hunting and protection for the family group, and the juvenile birds. Each group is ruled by the alpha female (female Harris Hawks are about 30% larger than the males). There usually is only one adult female in each family group as the juvenile females are forced out by the alpha female as soon as they mature.
In this program they brought out five hawks. The alpha male and female and three juvenile males. They were amazing to watch, soaring so close overhead that you could reach up and touch them, though we were warned that was not a good idea. They even staged a cooperative hunt by launching pieces of quail into the air with a small device triggered remotely by one of the trainers. These are beautiful birds and very skillful in the hunt. We probably spent an hour watching these birds. If you are in Tucson and decide to visit the museum make sure you time it to see this program, it is definitely worth it. I don’t think we will get a chance to return this trip but I would go back just to see some of the other raptors they have.
Today is just going to be a lazy day around the rig. There are actually clouds out there today with a slight chance of rain. Tucson is way below their annual rainfall totals so they are hoping for a little. There is another chance of rain Sunday and Monday but only about 20% chance. We are enjoying the sun and dry conditions but for the land’s sake I hope we get a little rain. Hope it is nice where you are.
Happy Trails............

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Great Horned Owl

Momma on the nest when we arrived

Watching from a nearby cactus
Tuesday I went on the organized group hike again. This time it was a 4 mile out and back hike to a saguaro cactus that has a great horned owl nest. Steve, who leads the hike, told us it was too early for them to be nesting. I talked with him and told him the great horned pair at the Casa Grande Ruins was already nesting. He was surprised but said we would have to see. It was a fairly flat hike to the nest and sure enough there was a momma on the nest. So the group stayed at a distance and we all took turns going a little closer. I went in the first group and as soon as we moved a little closer she left the nest, and watched from close by as several groups took turns getting a closer look. Soon as we were all back in the large group she was back on the nest. She is a big girl and quite fun to see.
Now waiting in the tree
I am hoping John will be back in hiking form next week but we will see. If not hiking we may take in one of the bike trails here in Tucson. I found one that is about 12 miles and supposedly the parking lot is right across the street from one of the Trader Joe’s locations.
Momma back on the nest as we get ready to leave
Even though John is kind of out of commission, I am trying to get back on track with walking and running (getting a little further each time) and back at the resistance training. I always feel so much better when I am working out I don’t know why it is so easy not to do it. I’ve got a couple weeks under my belt now. I just want to keep it up and make some progress. I really think my back injury earlier was a result of not doing those resistance workouts. I don’t have any weather excuses any more either - just gotta get out there. :)

Happy Trails........

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Old Tucson

Tucson Mountains seen in many movies

Western Screech Owl
The weather here is just beautiful; we are wearing shorts and putting on the sun screen. Since it was such a beautiful day on Monday it was time to get out and about.  First we needed to purchase the Tucson Events Passport. It has 2 for 1 admissions to many of the attractions here. It cost $15 but we made that back on the first day. Someone along the way told us we could get it at the Desert Museum Gift Shop before we went into it.  Found out once we got there that they don’t sell them so we I had my handy smart phone check where they are sold and found out we can get them at the Old Tucson Movie Studio just down the road. This is another attraction we wanted to check out so instead of the Desert Museum we took in the Movie Studio. I do want to share with you a photo I took when we were checking the Desert Museum. Out front a lady had a Western Screech Owl. What a cute little fellow. They have a rapture program we definitely want to go back for.
A good old fashioned fight scene
Remember the Three Amigos standing here?
Old Tucson Movie Studios is where many westerns and other movies have been made. Some of the more famous are Rio Bravo, Rio Lobo, Pale Rider and TV shows such as Gun Smoke and Little House on the Prairie. They have created a very authentic looking little town and being the age we are we remember many of these movies and TV shows, so it was kind of a trip down memory lane. They have the facade of an old mission that is particularly memorable. Any of you seen “The Three Amigos?”  If you have, you will recognize this mission from the movie. They also have films to clue you in on the history of the studio, a can-can show, and gunfights played out.  If you are in Tucson and you are a big western fan it is worth checking out.
Billy the Kid in action
Our Valentines dinner was at “Tiny’s”. Everyone in the park raves about Tiny’s Monday Night rib special so it was time to check out what the buzz was about. Now this is what you would call a casual place. We joined fellow Excelers, Ralph and Cheryl and it was as good as reported. The ribs are meaty and fall off the bone good, and you can’t beat it for $8.95. It provided me with lunch today too. It was a very nice Valentine’s day. Hope yours was as well.
Happy Trails....................

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Nimbus Brew Pub

We have definitely settled in. Life has slowed down and we are happy. :)
Saturday we went to find one of Tucson’s microbreweries, Nimbus. We always search the net for local brew pubs and this one was recommended by Dr. John. Getting there was interesting, it is in an industrial area at the end of a dead end road. We did find it and it was a busy place. It was almost 2 pm which we thought would be a down time but it was hoppin’. I’d read that their Red Beer was exceptional  but just my luck they were out. So I tried the Imperial Porter and the Brown Ale. The Brown Ale gets my vote. John always has the stout and he always likes it - tells me hasn’t met a stout that wasn’t great. The food was exceptional also. The service is a little slow but since we aren’t in a hurry anymore it doesn’t bother.

That is about all we are up to these last few days. I am getting my workout in and John is walking more and tonight we got the bikes out. Our butts are definitely out of shape but it was a nice little ride. Once he is healthy I need to find a good bike trail.
Happy Trails

Friday, February 11, 2011

Casa Grande visit with friends

Mountains on our way back to Tucson

This sunny Tucson weather is fantastic. We are really enjoying it here. John’s hip is getting a little better but I am making him start out slow this time so he’s walking a little but not much. 
John and Gayle

John M,  John D and Gayle at the ruins
Yesterday we went to Casa Grande to meet friends from home, John and Gayle Morgan. John and I have known each other a long time. He is a periodontist and I would sub in his office when the kids were little to make a little extra money. Now he helps on the clinic floor on occasion with the dental hygiene students I teach when I am in Iowa. When we were looking for a 5th wheel we talked some and then after we ordered our Excel, John reminded me that Excel is what they had. Great minds think alike. Last summer we got together with John and Gayle and we enjoyed each others company. When we realized we were both heading to the SW we talked about getting together. When we were in California it didn’t look like that would happen but our recent move to Tucson (they highly recommended it) made a visit possible.They are currently in Mesa, so half way between is Casa Grande. We decided to meet there for lunch and then go tour the Casa Grande Ruins National Monument. It was just so good to see them and we found plenty to talk about and had some good laughs. 
the "Big House"
The Casa Grande Ruins are just outside Coolidge Arizona. These are the ruins of the Hohokam people who lived in this area. They were a pretty advanced civilization. They had extensive irrigation system and they think 3-5 thousand lived in this 2 square mile area. The area you can view is not large but contains the “Big House”, thus the name Casa Grande, what they think was a ball court and several other buildings. It was educational and a nice little side trip for the day.
Great Horned Owl in the rafters
The Big House is covered by a canopied building to help protect it from the sun and wind. In the rafters of the canopy they have a nesting pair of Great Horned Owls. I did get a photo of one but he was looking the wrong way but still kind of cool.
John and I took a photo to send back to everyone on the clinic floor, a wish you were here and glad we aren’t there (still too cold and snowy in Iowa) photo. 
Janie and John Morgan

Happy Trails.................

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Hiking and the Diamond J

Desert near the Diamond J

Our site
We have settled in here at the Diamond J RV Park in Tucson. It is a nice park with sites that are a decent size. It is a no frills place, has a decent laundry and club house. They do have a pickle ball court, horseshoe area and a little mini golf area, though you rarely (like never) see anyone use these. They do have a few organized events: like today there was a group hike led by one of the other RVers. One of the things we are really enjoying about this park is there are four other Excel RVs here. We have met the owners and they are a great group of people. In fact we went over to Ralph and Cheryl’s to watch the Superbowl. We were rooting for different teams and it was a close game but our Packers came out on top. We are not huge football fans but we always watch the Superbowl and we are partial to the midwest teams. Go Pack!
Yesterday I went out for a walk and while walking I started counting all the different state license plates in the park. It was really fun. So far these are the states represented in the park: Arizona, Alaska, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Florida, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Maine, Minnesota, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New York, Ohio, Oregon, South Dakota,Texas, Utah, Washington, Wisconsin, Wyoming, also several Canadian rigs. That is 23 states and a couple Canadian Provinces. How cool is that.
Our hiking group
How many arms do you count?
John is still nursing an injury and is pretty much staying put so I was happy to have this group hike. There were 22 of us and we hiked right from the park on the North trail.There are tons of trails in this area and I am glad I was with someone who knew where they were going. The hike was relatively easy. Only one area of uphill climbing. One of the cool things along this trail is a saguaro cactus with lots of arms. You see some with 3-4 arms but this many is very unusual. It was a great hike and met several new people. Looking forward to more hikes; it sounds like they usually have one organized group hike every week. Today’s hike was 5 miles, makes for great exercise.

Old Tucson in the distance

Happy Trails................