Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Tucson, Arizona

Leaving Silver City  we went through a town called Tyrone and saw this huge silver mine from the road.  The equipment they use looked like Tonka toys in the distance.

The mine is still very active and the ore is driven to a foundry that is south of Silver City.  The mounds of dirt around it dwarfed everything else you saw. 

Entering Arizona and the warmer weather!

The beautiful mountains seen from the interstate.

The overpasses had murals celebrating the history of the state.

Tucson is a busy city with many sights to see.  We stayed at a place west of the city that has a state park bordering up to it.  It was easy to walk out of the park and onto trails  to exercise the pups and that is where we found our first adventure.

This is the Chainfruit Cholla cactus named for its hanging, grape-like clusters.  It is self-propagating and reproduces by dropping plant parts that later take root.  If you even gently brush against the cholla, segments will adhere to your skin.  Do not try to remove it with your fingers because the cholla will then adhere to your hands and it is extremely painful.  We know because we tangled with it. 

Our first trip out Max left the trail and walked into a cholla area and got a segment stuck to his leg.  Not knowing any better (and what choice did we have), the Captain and I came to the rescue and that was our first mistake.  Within seconds we had cholla on our shoes and the cholla barb will go right through leather.  In trying to remove it from Max it attached to our hands.  What a nightmare!  Luckily, we were carrying the case to my camera and Brett used that to pull the main segments off.  The remainder of the barbs had to be pulled out one at a time.  They are very painful and you will be bleeding by the time they are removed.
The cholla has long, sharp, barbs that will insert into your skin up to a quarter inch when barely even touching it.  Each individual barb has little microscopic barbs on it that are in the reverse position of the main barb making removal difficult. 

Lucy with a cholla segment on her foot.  The locals call it 'jumping cholla' and swear it actually jumps at you to attach as you walk past.

A resident of the RV park told us the best thing to use was a comb to remove the main segment.  We found the comb worked very well.  Getting out the remaining barbs wasn't as easy.  The pups learned very quickly to stay away from the plants but the small segments that drop from the trees can still drift onto the trails.

This is just one segment that has taken root in the desert.  We were careful walking the trails but still encountered a few more, thanks to the pups.  I can honestly say this is the first time I've ever found anything that is worse than the fire ants we have to deal with in the Southeast.

 Each day starting at around 8 AM we could hear the sound of rifle shots in the distance.  Not a few shots, hundreds of shots, going off constantly for hours.  We found out from a neighbor RVer that Tucson was hosting the nation's largest skeet-shooting contest out in the desert.  Our neighbor was participating and we asked how he was doing.  He said he was averaging 97 out of a hundred shooting 300 rounds a day.  We thought that was good but he said your needed 100 out of 100 to make any money in the contest. So we decided to drive on down and check it out.

It was held at this club and there were literally hundreds of RVs parked in the lot with many of them million dollar rigs.   

The shooters worked in groups of five with a person keeping score.

Shotgun shells on the ground around their feet.

The orange in the foreground is the remainder of the skeets they shot at.

We were surprised at how many women were participating.

And the fancy shotguns that were used.  The top two prizes were $10k each which is not enough to afford a big expensive rig.  Turns out that many of these shooters are professionals and are sponsored by Remington and other gun and ammunition companies.  They finish here and get into their rigs and drive to the next competition.

While in Tuscon we visited several old missions.

Mission San Jose de Tumacacori built in 1691 by Jesuit priests.

The  original part of the chapel shows the sandstone walls and wood ceiling. 

The altar with a cupola ceiling with some of the original murals.
Attempts were made to emulate the large Spanish cathedrals with brilliant colors and original designs.

The second church is Mission San Xavier del Bac founded in1692.  The church continues to serve as the parish for the Tohono O'odham Indian tribe and is also open to visitors..



Th church is called the 'White Dove of the Desert'.  Notice the right steeple was never completed.  When missions were built under Spanish rule they were not required to pay taxes as long as the church was uncompleted.  Many of the old missions in the southwest have one steeple unfinished for that reason.

We drove down to a small town called Tubac which is about 30 miles from the border.  The Captain had heard of a restaurant called Elvira's which was known for really good Mexican food.  The restaurant was started in 1927 down in Mexico and was very popular.  With the changes in the border and an increase in violence, the owner was ready to close his business but friends persuaded him to move it up to Tubac.  Sure glad he did!

 The town has a lot of neat little shops and restaurants.  There are several small towns around Tubac that have high-end golf resorts that keep the town going.  Most of the residents are retired and living the good life in the southwest.

 The inside of Elvira's.  Very different and very busy.  

Each table setting had the signature Elvira's plate.

My meal was chili pablano stuffed with butternut squash, roasted corn, queso Chihuahua and a bean-chipolte sauce.  It was fantastic and I thought the presentation was pretty cool, too.  

The Santa Cruz Mountains in the background.

We drove to downtown Tucson to see what it was all about.  It was very disappointing because the city has gone through some tough times.  Construction was everywhere you looked as they were trying to revitalize the town.  Unfortunately, streets were blocked or closed so many of the business owners had large signs saying, "We're Open"  to try and get tourists into their shops.  There were nice parks but they were filled with street people sleeping everywhere so you had to be careful where you went.  

The Captain had read about an area called 'La Placita' that was very colorful and had shops, restaurants, and parks within a multi-tiered area. 

When we got there it was like a ghost town with almost all the shops boarded up.  The bad economy several years back was the demise of this once popular downtown attraction.

Downtown mural.

Someones pup getting a drink of water during a stroll.

The Pima County courthouse.

The building reflects Spanish and Moorish influences of the Southwest.  The roof was completed in tiles.

The large artwork is called Sonora.

Locomotive 1673 was built in 1900 and logged over one million miles for the Southern Pacific Company.  It was donated to the City of Tucson and is on display at the old train depot in the city.   

It was an oil powered steam engine.  This is the view the train engineer saw as he drove it down the track.

The old train depot has been renovated into a restaurant and shops.
  This part of Tucson was more active and it looked like part of the area where there was some nightlife. 

The Hotel Congress is the last surviving historic hotel in downtown Tucson.  The three-story was built in 1919 and was convenient to railroad passengers.  In 1935, a fire destroyed the original third floor and inadvertently resulted in the capture of John Dillinger and his gang several days later.

Outside of Tucson is the Saguaro National Park.  A young saguaro cactus can be about the size of a thumb but may be several years old.  Tall saguaros with many arms can be 175 to 200 years old.  They are known as ancient giants and the Native Americans consider each saguaro an ancestor who died and is watching his descendants to make sure they continue to honor their land.

One section of the park had petroglyphs you could walk up to see closely. 

Saguaro National Park is very quiet and beautiful.
Looking down on Tucson from Gates Pass.
Of course, we had a few cold days and received a dusting of snow.

The snow sure looked beautiful in the mountains.

And the sunsets were awesome.

That's it for Tucson and now we are off to Mesa to see what it has to offer and to get-together with a few RV friends who are spending the winter there.  Peace!

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