Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Camped in the Sonoran Desert

After hiking in the desert several times we finally got to make camp here. This park, ten miles west of Tucson, is like being in a land created by Dr Seuss. Absolutely nothing here resembles anything back in Connecticut, and every night the coyotes yip, howl and carry on at all hours. We are lovin' it!!

Who is that behind those Foster Grants? Martha got some new shades today.

Some how we always manage to find a site where the sun rises on one side of the rig and sets on the other. Actually it's not all luck; every time we pick a site considerations include solar orientation, prevailing winds, site topography, views, neighbors, highway noise, how it feels and whether or not we agree on it. Then again, many times we have to suck it up and take what we can get.

Making sun tea in the desert is a breeze!

Charlie knows how to cool off in the afternoon desert sun!

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Mt. Lemmon

The 25 mile drive up Mt. Lemmon ends at more than 8000 feet altitude, but the climate is the most dramatic change you see for such a short drive. While the vegetation at the bottom is largely arid species such as Palo Verde trees and Saguaro cacti, the peak is more alpine, containing Pine forests and stands of Alders.

Tanque Verde and Tucson in the valley below.

The road we just drove up on, minutes ago.

The ski slope at the summit, complete with putting green at the base. Hmmm? I can see how that could work in this climate. BTW, this is the southern most ski slope in the U.S.A.

At the top you'll find SummerHaven, or what's left of it. In 2003, a devastating forest fire consumed more than 450 homes and acres of forest land here at the peak. All the houses that have been rebuilt are now new construction, but the pine forests are skeletons of their former self.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Blissful Boondocking

Yesterday morning we finally left the RV Park in St. David, AZ and got back on the move. It felt wonderful to get the big wheels rolling again and head out into the western sky, across a vast Arizona valley, along a traffic free secondary road (still a 65 mph speed limit, just not an interstate). We didn’t go far, just 75 miles or so, but arrived at a peaceful, boondock campsite by early afternoon. Located in Gardner Canyon (Lat. 31.72189 N, Long. 110.71391 W) we occupied one of the huge primitive camp sites about 5 miles back on a dusty, washboard road in the middle of nowhere. There were no other RVs, houses or lights in sight; just rolling grass lands, oak trees and buttonwoods in every direction. We would really have liked to stay longer, but with no Verizon internet or cell service it just doesn’t work for us. The other problem is it wouldn't be wise to leave the rig for a day trip somewhere else in the car. So, we enjoyed the total solitude and an evening campfire for one day before heading west towards Tucson.

Entrance to Gardner Canyon. Sign warns that this is legal road and a drivers license is required.

Arizona Oaks and Buttonwoods are in abundance here along this dry arroyo.

This one site could have accommodated at least four RVs without being the least bit crowded.

Just 5 miles of towing turned our car a different color.

Friday, March 18, 2011

"The Best Seafood in the Desert"

Tonight we welcome new followers, Rick and Paulette. Rick and Paulette is a name we recognized immediately as bloggers we have followed while making our decision to travel full time. We are very excited to have such seasoned and experienced RVers join our site! Thank you for your support.

After 3 months at one location we are pleased to announce our decision to move onward. While it has been wonderful to experience someplace new with some degree of depth, we are both ready for some new scenery. Our business completed with my sister, and the cold weather waning, we are anxious for the next adventure. We visited Connie today so she could spend some time outside the nursing home to try a seafood restaurant she heard about in Sierra Vista. She and I both considered this recommendation with a good deal of skepticism, but our hopes outweighed our doubts, so we gave it a try.

Mariscos Chihuahua roots go back to a small seafood stand opened in 1971 in Nogales, Mexico. Today they have restaurants in Phoenix, Tucson, Nogales as well as Sierra Vista.

Connie and I started out with a dozen raw oysters, as fresh and tasty as any I have ever had. You won't find lobstas', chowda or a huge variety of seafood, but, what you will find here are more than a dozen Cameron (shrimp) entrées as well as Pulpo (Octopus), Calamar, Marlin and a variety of Ceviche dishes, all very fresh due to the multiple shipments they receive throughout the week. At $9 for a dozen oysters and $12 max for the entrées this restaurant is a bargain and highly recommended!!

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Miracle of the Internet

67 years ago my father shipped out overseas to parachute into France for the Normandy Invasion. Of course I didn't know this as he hadn't yet come home from the war, met my mother and I wouldn't be born for another 8 years. How my grandparents must have worried about him, with intermittent snailmail being the only way to communicate. If you've seen the movie Saving Private Ryan you realize it was next to impossible to find an individual soldier.

Although our son, Zach, shipped out to Afghanistan last month we are able to communicate with him almost daily thanks to the wonder of the internet. This is the reason you'll find a Kabul, Afghanistan clock here in the margin of this blog. We still worry about him, but are proud of his accomplishments in the service of our country.

Zach is a Black Hawk Maintenance Technician as well as a helicopter gunner, or "Stewardess with a Gun" as he is called by the pilots.

Zach calls this photo "The View from my Office"

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Arizona Vineyards

A visit to the Sonoita/Elgin Vineyard region is a beautiful 25 mile drive south of I10, between Benson and Tucson. You can visit 9 wineries within minutes of each other, or simply enjoy a lovely drive through the rolling grasslands and mountain vistas.

On the way into Sonoita this bigger-than-life, back-lit silhouette appears on a grassy hillside. It is sooo real you will do a double-take!!

We were fortunate to see these Prong Horn Antelope foraging in the grasslands.

View from the Sonoita Vineyards Hacienda, where we tasted 8 delightful wines, Artichoke Piquillo Bruschetta and Champagne with Hibiscus Flowers, all for $7, wine glass included. Sunday drives just don't get better than this!

Spring is here in Southern Arizona! This young Cottonwood is already green with new leaves.

Kief-Joshua Vineyard; the second winery we visited.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Raptors Free-Flight

Thanks to Cindy & Ken's blog, Frerx Adventures we made a visit to The Sonora Desert Museum just west of Tucson, via Gates Pass. More than a museum, a visit here includes wonderful gardens, easy hiking trails, live animal exhibits in natural surroundings and special demonstrations such as the Harris Hawks free flight that we participated in. 5 of these birds were released to demonstrate their hunting skills, flight characteristics and bird family interactions. These birds swooped back and forth between Mesquite trees, Ocotillo plants and Saguaros, sometimes just inches above heads.

When a Harris Hawk lands atop a Saguaro Cactus it does so very carefully; first one foot, then the other. With both feet balanced on the Saguaro, the hawk faces into the wind, wings adding lift, so the full weight of the bird doesn't sit on the cactus spines below.

It was fun and challenging to photograph these fast movings raptors.

A bird handler with a shy Barn Owl.

The big horn sheep exhibit is so real you forget they're in captivity.

A fifteen foot asparagus plant? Not really; finally we get to see a Century Plant ready to blossom and then die after getting ready for more than twenty years. I just wish it wasn't 60 miles from our present camp so we could watch it daily as it grows this giant stalk that will eventually blossom.

Martha and the Joshua Tree, one of my favorite desert trees.

A tree house with an awesome view, built out of Mesquite wood, is just one of the many interesting things here.

We've seen a couple of these Javeilina's running free, but it was fun to see one up close. We didn't know their feet were so tiny.

This convoluted Saguaro has a crest, which may grow to more than six feet wide. On future visits to Tucson I hope to come back to photograph the progression of this anomaly.

Today we also welcome new follower, Jacqui Dean, from Connecticut. We're glad to have you aboard and appreciate your support.