11-8-08 Tucson, again

Posted: under Arizona, Tucson.
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From Saguaro National Park -- beautiful

From Saguaro National Park -- beautiful!

November 8, 2008 — We came back to Tucson yesterday. We gave up on Yuma after I called and confirmed that the Microtel rate had increased (as the books said it would after November 1), thus it wasn’t really worth going back.  So, we decided to come back to Tucson and take a room at the more expensive Extended Stay hotel (that $199 for the week price was great last time, but we just couldn’t go bear that stinky room again).  

 

 

Pear Cactus

Prickly Pear Cactus -this is a very versatile plant

On the way out of town, we stopped at the Quail Cafe one more breakfast.  Different cook this time, the home fries were not near as good!  But, that’s o.k. I’m supposed to be on a diet.  I forgot to mention that we had dinner at this same cafe the night before.  Told you, it was  very comfortable place.  We stuck with with specials — lasagna (for Carl) and chicken parmesan (form me).  Just like home cooking — well not my home cooking, but somebody’s.

 

 

Another view from our desert drive

Another view from our desert drive

The ride back to Tucson was enjoyable, especially since we took a road that brought us from 10 down to 8 and thus avoided going through Phoenix.  We got to the new Extended Stay Hotel somewhere around 2:00 pm.  We ended up with the last King size bed, which turns out to be a corner unit, handicap room, ground floor.  All afternoon we felt very lucky to have this oversize unit — it feels like an apartment.  Except that because it is a corner unit, the WiFi is weak (can’t upload photos to the blog; but I could update MostlyFiction.com).  And then the woman who is staying in the unit next door came home from work.  The only positive thing that I can say is that she did turn off the (freakin’ loud) music at 11:05. One more minute and Carl was ready to go to the front office.  So this morning I tried to change rooms, but we have to wait until Sunday — the hotel is booked for the weekend. 

 

 

Greetings from the Saguaro Cactii

Greetings from the Saguaro Cactii

We went looking for an RC airfield this morning out in the Saguaro National Park that we last visited a month ago on October 7th.  This drive was just a beautiful as the first time, though it has cooled down to a reasonable 80 degrees or so.  We love the Saguaro cactus — they make us laugh with their funny “poses.” I am pleased that I haven’t forgotten the names of the Sonoran Desert plants in the time that we’ve been gone.

 

We never did find the airfield, but we got the Prius plenty dirty trying since we ended up going down an interesting dirt road. So, we stopped at the Ina Road Car Spa that we visited last time (and lived next door to when we stayed at the cheap extended stay place). But first we went to a brand, spanking new Starbucks that just opened yesterday for a cup a coffee to sip while waiting for “Miss Pris” to get pampered at her spa.  I love sitting outdoors here — so, so pleasant to do mundane chores. So much better than last weekend’s weather up in in Portland, Oregon.  (Can you believe that was only a week ago? No wonder we are exhausted!)  

 

Carl researching trailers and RVs....

Carl researching trailers and RVs....

We came back to our room and relaxed. Carl is now researching trailers (the kind pulled by a truck).  Can you imagine us driving a truck?  Yup!  That’s what we are considering now.  (Sorry Devon, we might have to sell “your” Prius.)  Anyway, we are long way off from deciding, but you can’t say that we aren’t looking at all options. (If you are wondering if we are considering a “fifth-wheel” rig, we did but we have crossed that off the list because it requires a super truck — the whole thing is more than we want to pay.)  

 

 

Judi working on blog...

Judi working on blog...

I took the afternoon to read (THE DART LEAGUE KING) , nap (! I never do this!), and call my sister Lori.  Of course staying in a handicap room does all kinds of things to my psyche but most of all makes me miss my little sis.  She’s at Spaulding Rehab for two weeks.  Her rehab was cut short last year when she got the bed sore and thus this is a chance to catch up. But as she told me this afternoon, she’s had to start from scratch and there is no way to fit a 2 month program into 2 weeks. She’s not interested in being away from home for that long so she’s just getting what she can from her quick stay.  I’m glad that she’s trying it, anyway. I’m just happy that she sounds happy. (Miss you kiddo!)

 

 

View from the front of our hotel at sunset.

View from the front of our hotel at sunset.

Anyway, we are slated to stay here at least a week but have not ruled out longer.  We actually signed up for a month but that’s because it’s a better rate this way.  If you sign up weekly and end up staying a month, you get stuck with the higher rate.   

 

We are located on the eastern side of Tucson this time.  It’s closer to the older original section.  It is a large city but since it is laid out on a grid, it is easy to figure out. Our new neighborhood offers a Trader’s Joes a few (large) blocks down and we have gone there last night and tonight to pick up dinner.  And now that we have a kitchenette, we can make our own breakfast (Trader Joe’s Organic Raison Bran cereal).  This is not to say that there aren’t hundreds of places to have breakfast, lunch and dinner.  But we are on a diet and budget…

 

So, here we are in Tucson. we just enjoyed an 81 degree day and 68 degree evening.     Ahhhh!

Comments (0) Nov 08 2008

10-18-2008 Kitt Peak National Observatory

Posted: under Arizona, Kitt Peak, Tucson.
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Carl at Kitt Peak National Observatory, finally!

Carl at Kitt Peak National Observatory, finally!

October 18, 2008 —

Mayall 4m Telescope

Mayall 4m Telescope (black dots are birds - click on photo to see)

While waiting for me this morning as I ran in to pick up more water at the store, Carl was looking at the map and came up with a great idea for today’s adventure:  

Take a drive to Kitt Peak National Observatory.  

Tile Painting depicting Mayan view of Astronomy

Tile Painting depicting Mayan view of Astronomy

 

 

 

Kitt Peak Museum

Kitt Peak Museum

 

 

Kitt Peak was selected in 1957 as the location of the first national observatory and today it is the home of the largest astronomical telescopes in the world.  Visitors are encouraged to take free self-guided tours of several of the telescopes.  They have guided tours too, but by the time we made up our minds to go, it was too late to take the tour.  

Satellite seen from picnic area

Satellite seen from picnic area

 

So, we packed our lunch (a sandwich picked up at the Whole Foods store), water and headed down I-10 and then east on route 86, a whole new road we had not yet explored.  This road heads into the lands owned by the Tohono O’odham Nation, of which the observatory leases the land from the tribal council.  Unlike Navaho lands, this is fairly green, with nice vegetation.  

 

 

Art piece in shape of telescope lens with Tohoni oo

Art piece in shape of telescope lens with Tohono O'odham Nation

 And of course, to reach the observatory at the top of the mountain, we had to drive up another switchback road.  You would think that I’d be used to these by now, but for some reason, today’s drive unnerved me more than any of the others. Carl thinks it’s because when you get to the top (6875 ft), there is nothing but open space clear down to the valley.  Yeah, that could be it.

 

Close to the top they had a nice picnic area — lots of tables and views — so we had our lunch here. 

 

View from Kitt Peak

View from Kitt Peak

We checked out the museum first.  I admit that I’m not as wowed about all this as Carl.  He was a kid when this place came into inception and he followed its progress.  It was a place he’s wanted to visit for nearly 50 years. So, my fun was in seeing the kid in Carl today.  We walked up to the Mayall 4m Telescope and took the elevator to the Telescope Catwalk.  We had opened it would be an open catwalk, but soon discovered it is enclosed. So, no good photos from here.  I did try to take a photo of one of the telescope inside, but that is also through glass, so it didn’t really come out well.  

 

 

View of Road to leading to Kitt Peak

View of Road to leading to Kitt Peak

Now what would be really interesting is to come back at night and to look out at the stars.  We are going to add this to our list of things to do.

4m Mayall Telescope

4m Mayall Telescope

 

 

 

 

Grasshopper on Prius -- Of note, this is the name of our sailboat...

Grasshopper on Prius -- Of note, this is the name of our sailboat...

As I say, I don’t have a strong background in this but apparently it is in my blood.  Until now, I had forgotten that one of my ancestors is Alvan Clark.  Now, that I remember this, we need to go back to Flagstaff and visit that observatory.

Comments (0) Oct 18 2008

10-17-2008 Mt. Lemmon Drive

Posted: under Arizona, Mt. Lemmon, Sky Island Scenic Byway, Tucson.
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Looking over Tucson valley from first stop -- note abundance of Saguaro Cactii -- we are still lower altitude in Sonora Desert

Looking over Tucson valley from first stop on drive -- note abundance of Saguaro Cactii -- we are still in lower altitude in Sonora Desert

October 17, 2008 — We are still in Tucson, Arizona.  Today, we ventured to the east of the city and took the 26 mile Sky Island Scenic Byway to the top of Mount Lemmon.  This is another slow drive with plenty of switchbacks that started at about 2600 feet above sea level and reaches about 9,100 feet at the top.  Breathless.  

 

Looking up a the road not yet travelled. You can see how this road is built into the mountain.

Looking up a the road not yet travelled. You can see how this road is built into the mountain.

 

I never tire looking at these rock structures.  I think this one looks like a man riding a horse.

I never tire of looking at these rock structures. I think this one looks like a man riding a horse.

However, this was a far more civilized drive than the day we drove Highway 550.  This road is managed by the National Park’s Service (with a $20 entrance fee — thanks again to our annual card we did not have to pay) and thus the road is very well made all the way up (and down).  For example, this one has guard rails and a lot of lookouts. And it wasn’t unreasonable to go 45 miles per hour on the way down.

Looking down at the road where we once were

Looking down at the road that was once travelled.

 

Some have described this 26 mile ride as like starting in Mexico and ending in Canada.  There is a ski resort at the top, so I can see why one might say this!  Can you imagine in the winter you wake up to a nice 80 degree day and then decide to go skiing less than 50 miles away? That’s what altitude will do for you!

Today, the temperature at the top was 61 degrees — and 90ish at the bottom.  (We are loving this weather!)

 

View from Windy Point Vista -- note road below

View from Windy Point Vista (about 6000 Ft) -- can you see the road below?

This is a popular summer destination.  There are SO MANY trails to hike that I think this one mountain range  alone could keep a hiker happy for years.  (Fred, Mom — you would love this place!)  They also have many trails that allow bikes or horses as well as hikers.  If we stay in this area, I promise to check this out further.  I am assuming those trails would be good for a beginner like me.

 

About 7500 feet -- lookout facing east

About 7500 feet -- lookout facing east

Looks like our week here has worked out.  Yesterday, we received mail from our forwarder – though I messed up and didn’t request everything so I am still missing some books (yes, some publishers are still sending books to MostlyFiction) and most my Netflix movies.  So now I have to wait until the next time we are some place long enough… Today I received my new eye glasses that weren’t ready when we left and call got the RV book that he ordered.  We are still wondering if this isn’t the perfect answer to our wonderlust and need to find a home soon.  I catch up my Quicken account with all our trip expenses and balanced my checkbook.  Anyone want to guess how much they think we have spent up to this point?

 

Village of Summerhaven at 7,840 feet -- notice burnt trees from 2003 fire

Village of Summerhaven at 7,840 feet -- notice burnt trees from 2003 fire

I’m not shocked or upset over how much money we have spent so far — but we do have to start trying a little harder to save money.  

 

Put it this way, if we could stay in this place for a week — and make it comfortable enough — then we are ready to step down our hotel requirements a notch or two.

Ski Lift at Mt. Lemmon

Ski Lift at Mt. Lemmon

Comments (0) Oct 17 2008

10-16-2008 Apple MacBook Day

Posted: under Arizona, Tucson.
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The Apple Store -- What color iPod do you want?

The Chandler, AZ Apple Store -- What color iPod do you want?

 October 16, 2008 — It’s been two days since Steve Jobs and Apple announced the release of the new aluminum unibody MacBook. We headed over to the Tucson Apple store for the third time.  We went over the day of the announcement and learned that when Jobs says they are being shipped to the stores today, it is all very literal.  They have shipped but not arrived yet.  So we went back yesterday and learned that they had arrived but the store can’t set up the new computers until it closes for the day.  We considered buying without touching but (fortunately) they didn’t have the one we wanted unboxed yet.  They suggested we come back after 4 pm, but we decided that it would probably be safer to go back in the morning. So we did. And guess what, they “sold out” already.  Of course, at that point Carl was going to get a MacBook Pro like mine. 

 

 

Carl looking at some new iMacs

Carl looking at some new iMacs - note the HD camcorders that would integrate so well with my MacBook Pro and travelblog.....

We decided to drive to Phoenix, which is only 90 miles away.  Beautiful drive, of course.  There is always so much to see – mountains, and more mountains, an Ostrich Farm, and whole communities in the process of being born in the desert. It looks like one day you won’t be able to tell the difference between Tucson and Phoenix.

But I didn’t take any photos.  Sometimes, I just feel like looking at things.

 

Having had our short rendezvous in Phoenix a couple weeks earlier, we knew that the Chandler store was the closest of the three options — and we arrived at the Chandler Fashion Mall without any traffic or other hassles.  Again, the GPS never lets us down.

This mall is still more interesting than our malls in New England, but not nearly as fancy (and high fallutin) as the one in Tucson Foothills.  It is probably about three times, maybe four times the size of the Pleasant Lane Mall. Good thing we were told which end of the mall to start looking for the store.

 

Carl relaxed with his MacBook

Carl relaxed with his MacBook -- You can see my on the table to the right. This is our extended stay room in Tucson.

Carl decided to take another look at the MacBook and the MacBook Pro and this time he decided, and I agreed, that the MacBook would be sufficient for travel.  He has a beautiful iMac that will be sent to us when we settle down, so need to replace the desk top. I have a MacBook Pro because it is my desktop on the road and at home. I have an second monitor and keyboard for when I’m not traveling.  All along Carl wanted the 13″ MacBook but did not want to buy until after the announcement since rumor had it that Apple was going to put it out in the Aluminum like mine.  Turns out, they made it even better — but I’m trying not to let that make me jealous.  But it is nice. 

 

The real upside is that now I don’t have to share my computer anymore.  And anyone who knows me, knows that I don’t share well! Right, Lupe?

Comments (1) Oct 16 2008

10-14-08 Sabino Canyon

Posted: under Arizona, Sabino Canyon, Tucson.
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Oasis at the bottom of the Sabino Canyon

Oasis at the bottom of the Sabino Canyon

October 14, 2008 — Despite the size of our bed, we slept well last night. Remarkable for me since I never sleep through the night!  It’s quiet here which helps.  

 

We started the day at Starbucks, which has been our habit now for the past four or five days.  We really like the oatmeal and the grande Cappuccinos. We are really sick of the motel breakfast (and they are really bad these days, between waffles, eggs, etc), not that this place offers breakfast.

 

Sabino Canyon -- rock called the Mask.  Can you see the face?

Sabino Canyon -- rock called the Mask. Can you see the face?

 

Looking down Sabino Canyon

Looking down Sabino Canyon

Then we headed over to Target to fix to things in our room.  We bought an $8 desk lamp and a two bath towels. Perfect fix.  Now I can read in bed and Carl can sleep. 

 

 

We picked up my prescription — this was amazing — the cost for 90 pills for my high blood pressure was only $64 dollars, nearly one-third less than what I had been paying for years.  I double checked everything and it is the same medication.  This is curious.

 

Top of Canyon, hiker heads out for one of the many trails -- can you see the start of the trail?

Top of Canyon, hiker heads out for one of the many trails -- can you see the start of the trail?

Then we came back here and I called Frank at the Eye Associates.  I had requested the mail to come here last night and we got confirmation on that.

Cactii on the hills of Sabino Canyon

Cactii on the hills of Sabino Canyon

Since all is going so well, we decided to head over to Sabino Canyon,  Carl was here about 20 years ago, so it was fun for him to show me the place. It is on the other side of Tucson from where we are, but same road.

 

 

This is another place that is part of the National Park system and thus our park pass worked to get us in.  We then bought tickets to take the trolley to top of the mountain.  The weather is actually a little cooler here after the cold front that came through this weekend.  In fact it was only 45 degrees last night and was about 65 degrees this morning. But by noon time it had warmed up to 75 and I think maybe 80 at the warmest part of the day.  This is cool for this time of year, but very pleasant weather, nonetheless.  

 

Top of Sabino Canyon

Top of Sabino Canyon

After taking the shuttle to the top, we got off at one of the picnic areas on the way down and had a light fruit and cheese lunch, then walked the rest of the way down.  It was great to get some excercise.

 

 

Mall in the Tucson foothills

Mall in the Tucson foothills

After this, we decided to seek out the Apple store on Skyline Drive and see if they had any of the new computers that Steve Jobs announced today.  We were a day too early.  This is the most beautiful mall that I have ever been in.

Comments (0) Oct 14 2008

10-13-08 Return to Tucson, AZ

Posted: under Arizona, Tucson.
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Back in Arizona -- seeing the pink in rocks

Back in Arizona -- seeing the pink in rocks

October 14, 2008 – We are back in Tucson, AZ.  We arrived yesterday and took a room at the In Town Suites for a week. We need the rest but more so, we need to be some place long enough to have out mail sent, fill a prescription, order an “how to buy RVs” book from Amazon, balance the checkbook and have my new eyeglasses sent  (they weren’t ready when we left). And we needed to save a bit of money on lodging. Besides it is good for us to slum a bit. 

 

 

Tucson road sign

Tucson road sign

So here we are.  Nothing fancy is an understatement.  But we do have a kitchenette (stove, sink, full fridge), a boxy sofa, a small kitchen table, and a double bed.  There are no lamps (just overhead lighting), no full length mirror, no shelf area in the bathroom, no dishes in the cupboards, towels are the size of postage stamps and about as soft as cactii (the hotel throws the towels out after we leave the room — it is not even worth their while to wash them!), and no housekeeping. Nevertheless, everything is in its place and thus the room already feels comfortable and like its our own.  Sort of like camping. 

 

Sunset as viewed from motel

Sunset as viewed from motel

Looking out the window, it reminds me of the people we docked with in the Keys.  The license plates confirm that the residents are from many different states, even Canada and Mexico. I’m sure there are lots of people who are living here on new jobs or temporary jobs — the parking lot was empty until some time after 4pm. Also, there is another set of people here. Judging by the age of some of the vehicles and looking at the people, I’d say there are some that are just down on their luck.

Anyway, it’s working out to be perfect for us right now.  I assume we will leave on Monday, but who knows?

Comments (0) Oct 13 2008

10-7-08 Errands and Afternoon in the Tucson Desert

Posted: under Arizona, Tucson.
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Cute Laundromat in Catalina, AZ (outside of Tucson)

Cute Laundromat in Catalina, AZ (outside of Tucson)

October 7, 2008 outside Tucson, AZ — We HAD to do laundry today.  Or else, I was going to have start handwashing.  We found a cute and mostly empty laundromat in Catalina, just a little up the road from the hotel.  It was painted with an underwater them, including little duck legs sticking out of the ceiling.  During the wash cycle we went over the car wash.  Whereas we never had any bugs stick to the car while driving around New England, here the car the is covered after a day of driving around. So we find ourselves washing the car far more frequently than filling her with gas.

This place makes doing laundry fun!

This place makes doing laundry fun!

I haven’t mentioned the weather here enough. We LOVE it.  Temperature has been high 80s, low 90s but dry.  It is so comfortable. But we do need to drink a lot of water.

So, after we finished the laundry — and repacking the car — we decided to seek out a Toyota dealer to get the oil changed.  We had tried to do this in Phoenix, but since we were there over the weekend the timing was wrong, not to mention that the first two dealers that we looked for, weren’t in business.

 

Old Tucson Studios

Old Tucson Studios -- we didn't visit the movie studio but I would like to go back some time. Maybe when someone comes and visits us?

Anyway, we had another super experience like the one in Albuquerque.  These new Toyota service shops are run very efficiently and there is a record of everything we’ve done with the car no matter which state the work is done — so we are accumulating quite the service history.  Still, we had to wait 2 hours for the car, so I took advantage of the high speed internet and the “quiet room” to work on MostlyFiction.com and got most of an update done.

 

 

Prairie Dog at Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum

Prairie Dog at Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum

By the time we were done with our errands, it was around 1 pm.  We headed to the west side of the city, to the Tucson Mountains/Saguaro National Park. It is right outside of Tucson but feels like you are in the desert. There are several things to do in this area, including visiting the Old Tucson Studios where many westerns have been filmed and, the thing we chose to do: visit the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum.  The goal of the museum is to teach about what lives in the Sonora Desert — including the animals. Because it basically off season (even though it feels like summer to us), many of the displays were not available.

Rattlesnake at Arizona Sonora Desert Museum

Rattlesnake at Arizona Sonora Desert Museum -- o.k. they creep me out, but it is beautiful.

But, there was enough to keep us there for several hours.  For me it is, seeing the real animal is always interesting because I’ve looking at photos for years while developing plush toys for Wishpets.  So it is fun to see the real thing — though they don’t sit as still for their photos.  Also, for the record, there ARE black bears in Arizona. They live in the Arizona White Mountains.

I hate to admit, but I got lost walking around the Museum.  Carl decided to save his foot and wait for me at the snack bar while I walked some more of the trails.  I had a bit of a panic when I couldn’t find him, but at least I saw a bit more of the museum as I was looking for him! I finally decided to head to the park exit and assumed that Carl would eventually give up waiting for me and find me at the car.  Turned out he had started to wonder where I was and was heading to the car to get his cell phone to call me.  So we found each other!

 

Tucson Mountain Park

Tucson Mountain Park

By the time we left the museum and the Tucson Mountain Park, I was starved and we still didn’t have a room for the night.  First things first, means we had to find a room.  Not knowing a thing about Tucson, we turned on the “hotel” finder on the GPS.  We found a newly built Best Western right downtown for only $99 a night. But, alas, it had no vacancy.  So we headed out to the highway — which usually works out for us. But we didn’t know that South Tucson was all industrial.  Being tired and over hungry makes it hard to have patience to find the best hotel.  Instead, we stopped at a regular Holiday Inn, which was a good 25 years past its hey day. At least it had a new bed, though bad Internet.

 

View of Desert Museum

View from Desert Museum building portal

So, is Tucson our town?  Yes, we will consider this city further. Though we will go onto to explore more and then come back and finish visiting this city in a few weeks.

Comments (1) Oct 07 2008