Sunday, March 26, 2017

Gotta love Arizona in the winter!

We have come to expect to see a lot of Minnesota license plates in Arizona this time of year. And we have seen our share of Minnesota Viking fans. Our son Nick would be proud.

Surprisingly we haven’t seen a lot of fans of President Trump. With the way Arizonans seemed to love Sheriff Joe Arpaio, I would have thought that they would embrace Trump as well. I guess maybe it’s because their all Minnesotans we are seeing.

Nice coach next to us today – really makes the name “Big Rig” fit.

Talk to you soon!

Friday, March 24, 2017

Casa Grande Ruins National Monument

We’ve been in the area many times, but never managed to get here. We finally got it done, and we were not disappointed in any way.

Scientists believe this land has had human inhabitants for between 8,000 and 10,000 years. Early inhabitants were hunters and gatherers, living off what they could forage. By the 300’s AD, the sophistication of the inhabitants allowed them to become a farming culture instead.

Apparently in those times, the locals became experts in water control. Using simple wooden sticks and makeshift hoes, they built an extensive network of irrigation ditches running off the Gila and Salt Rivers. The irrigation allowed farming the otherwise arid lands, and allowed the populations of these people to mushroom.

The Casa Grande ruins lie nearly a mile from the Gila River. Scientists estimate that over 2,000 people lived in this development, only surviving because the irrigation systems allowed them to farm successfully. Interestingly, while the development is a mile from the Gila River, scientists who have mapped the irrigation channels have determined that the water that fueled farming here actually left the Gila river at a channel sluice that was nearly 16 miles north of Casa Grande.

It wasn’t until 1694 that white Europeans, who recorded their discoveries in writing, arrived at the Casa Grande ruins. Padre Eusebio Francisco Kino was credited as being the first European to visit the site, and he named the large Hohokam ruin “Casa Grande”, or Great House.

We thoroughly enjoyed the visit, despite the heat. We learned that the ruins were well known in the 1800’s, with visitors carving their names (now known as graffiti) in the historic plaster walls. By 1892 President Benjamin Harrison designated it as a historical preserve.

In 1918, Woodrow Wilson designated it as a National Monument. The roof that protects it was built in 1932 at a cost of $27,000. In 2007 it was painted at a cost of $100,000.

We learned a lot about the sophistication of the builders. The structure was 4 stories tall, with floors being created using pine logs – the only pine logs available being in a forest 80 miles away, so the logs were literally carried here as the residents had no pack animals like oxen or horses. The square walls are within a couple degrees of true North, South, East and West. One side wall has two couple foot diameter openings. On both the solar and lunar solstice, the images on the wall directly opposing the openings present a perfect image, signifying the builders knew both of the solstices and how to build a structure that would conform.

We got a private guided tour by Rick Fox, a Park Service volunteer. From him we learned the state tree – Palo Verde – the state flower – Saguaro flower – state bird – the Cactus Wren. He gave us an excellent tour, and finished with a cowboy poem from a cowboy born in Prescott. We loved every minute of it.

Talk to you soon!

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Biosphere 2

We visited Biosphere 2 north of Tucson. Built between 1987 and 1991 by Space Biosphere Ventures, over 3 acres of Sonoran desert land was covered with domes and other structures. The space was originally created to demonstrate the viability of closed ecological systems to support and maintain human life in outer space.

Biosphere 2 was substantially funded by philanthropist Edward Perry Bass, a native of Fort Worth Texas and heir to his family’s oil fortunes. Originally committing $50 million to the project, it is estimated that Bass, over its life, funded between $150 and $200 million.

At the completion of the construction in 1991, 8 humans entered the dome. The crew would be monitored and were able to communicate to the outside world, but no other contact was allowed. The crew as provided with the plants, water and tools needed to establish their food and water needs. For the next two years, the crew needed to grow their own food, clean and recirculate their own water, and maintain the equipment needed to provide their electricity, clean their wastes, and maintain their health. They had to use their agricultural pods not only to grow their own food, but also to absorb the carbon dioxide they exhaled and create the oxygen they needed to live.

The crew self-sustained for two years before emerging from the facility. In the end they learned a number of things, among which included that despite being very healthy, their animal fat deprived diet resulted in considerable weight loss. Also they learned that their designed systems all worked in the way that they had been intended, however, the immense amount of concrete used in construction caused a gradual loss of oxygen. Their crops created enough oxygen to sustain them indefinitely. However, when cement cures (and the cement used in construction was still curing when they started the experiment), it consumes significant amounts of oxygen. An oxygen supplement each year was the only outside intervention the crew required.

We toured all the buildings and saw the equipment the crew used to live completely isolated for over 2 years. The equipment, which was designed to last 100 years, was still fully functional, and kept the facility cool for our visit. We sat in the chairs the crew sat in at the dining table where they ate. We saw the pods where they slept. We have way more room in Colectiva than the crew did where they lived for 2 years.

In 2007 the University of Arizona purchased Biosphere 2 and all its buildings. The facility remains the largest closed system ever created on Earth, and the University of Arizona had a twofold purpose in acquiring it. U of A is preserving the original crew quarters as well as the 5 biomes where Earth ecosystems created both the oxygen and recirculated the water for survival. Also, U of A is using the 3 domes where the crew grew its food to design the largest scientific study ever of how rain water in the desert climate eventually migrates through the soil to get to the river systems in the valleys. U of A hopes to be able to use their study to predict what the impact of climate change in the region will do to the Desert Southwest.

It was a fascinating visit and well worth the time. It brought back thoughts of hippies, Woodstock and other things from that era. Ed Bass still has a ranch adjacent to the facility. U of A uses it as an executive retreat when they have special guests. However, whenever Bass is in town, he lives in the ranch where he oversaw the creation of his philanthropic vision.
Talk to you soon!

Monday, March 20, 2017

Mount Lemmon

It’s only 24 miles away from the center of Tucson, but it’s over and hour and a half to drive there. 24 miles and over 6,000 feet of elevation gain makes for quite the views.

Mount Lemmon tops out at about 9,100 feet, with the winding mountain road reaching over 8,000 feet along the way. This elevation gain takes more than 20 degrees off the 90’s on the thermometer.

The change in climate zones on the way up was awesome. Surrounding the base of Mount Lemmon, which is essentially adjacent to the National Park, is a dense Saguaro forest.

 As you climb it changes to lush Prickly Pear cactus, then dense Cholla. At the top, it turned into a dense conifer forest. We found the ski resort, grabbed a nice picnic lunch with a view.

Frequent viewpoints afford you with gorgeous views of Tucson and the valley it occupies. And we took advantage of them all, tiring out the pup who snoozed most of the way back down.

Back in Tucson and back in the 90’s, we tried to remember the cool breezes on the top of Mount Lemmon. But it didn’t make us any cooler.

Talk to you soon!

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Revisiting Tucson

Our home offer continues to make its way through the process. We believe that the couple that made the offer were, at least in part, attracted by the innovative high tech way in which we displayed the home in the Multiple Listing Service.

We actually used a drone to give us amazing photos of our home from above! We had shots of the entire neighborhood, surrounded by the golf course holes. We also had bird’s eye views of our lot with the immaculate landscaping and the welcoming pool. If you look closely, you can see the drone hovering over 178 Wentworth Drive snapping away!

We ventured back to the Western campus of Saguaro National Park. Although we spent a lot of time there when we first visited, you can never see every nook and cranny of a National Park. So, we headed in and right for some areas we had never been.

On the edge of the Park is a small parcel of private land that contains a trove of Hohokam petroglyphs. Being on private property it is not listed in the Park material, so we weren’t able to discover it back then. Just outside the town of Picture Rock, these are some of the best we’ve seen.

We hiked Panther Peak Wash. The wash wound through a narrow canyon with walls covered with Saguaro. While a bit toasty, the canyon was amazing – saguaro galore!

After a brief stop at the Visitor Center and another set of petroglyphs, we called an end to a very nice revisit to Saguaro National Park, and caught a glorious sunset back at Colectiva, our new permanent home.
Talk to you soon!

Sunday, March 12, 2017

The homeless life!

Well, while not official, it’s darned close. We have an offer on 178 Wentworth Drive, our Vegas home for more than 20 years, and we have accepted it. Escrow has been opened. Now we await inspections and appraisals. Soon the worries will be over – at least those worries.

We met Robin’s sister Barb in San Diego to visit our son Nick, and to spend some time on the beach. Barb brought Robin’s niece Mallory so we had a pretty full coach for a week. Kona cooperated a bit – he didn’t tend to wake up before about 5:30 AM, and even slept in till 6 a couple days. Despite the early Kona alarm clock, Barb and Mallory had a great time. And we spent as much time with Nick and Val as they could stand.

San Diego was unseasonably chilly in February, at least the weeks we were there, so not a lot of beach time was had. We did, however, manage to get Kona to the dog beach several times, so he got to savor the stinking sand that Niko used to live for. He didn’t have the cojones to dip a paw in the water, but he had a great time.

We managed to get together with the Woman’s brother Kevin and his entire family. Kevin and Teri have relocated back to the Santa Barbara area with their daughter Hannah, and both their sons Will and Jake are living in LA. We split the difference and met them for lunch in San Clemente (Nixon hangout) and had a great time catching up.

We are now in Arizona visiting friends and checking out some of the quiet National Monuments – the ones managed by the BLM. Today we drove through Ironwood Forest National Monument, established by Bush Jr. in 2000. I swear there are more saguaro cactus here than in the Monument’s neighbor to the South, Saguaro National Park!

There are no services at all in the 130,000 acres of wilderness. The road is borderline 4WD accessible only – no visitor center – no marked hiking trails. Just acres upon acres of spectacular desert scenery. We are quite glad we spent the day roaming around this gem.

We were pretty sure we maybe weren’t going to even find any proof that we were actually in the Monument – just dirt road and Saguaro. However, we finally found this “No Hunting” sign that confirmed we were where we wanted to be.

Then we found it! The sign! Every Monument we have been to has a sign like this at its various entrances. We suspect, however, that there may only be one of these here. A 25 mile loop that you can only navigate at speeds of maybe 10 MPH means slow going.

Talk to you soon!

Monday, January 16, 2017

Almost officially homeless!

Well, we still own our home we bought when we moved to Vegas in 1995. However, we are moved out, and for the last two evenings we have been sleeping in Colectiva. It feels comfortable sleeping in our bed on wheels where we have spent at least half the year for the last few. But it is weird to see our home with no furniture, no decorations, no nothing.

The echo in the cavernous structure is strange – it never echoed before. We expect to have it on the market in the next week or so. Very strange, but exciting at the same time.

We’re living at Oasis Las Vegas RV Resort, at least for now. Soon we expect to be back on the road again, heading to San Diego to warm up a bit.

Talk to you soon!