Monthly Archives: November 2017

Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument, AZ NOV 28, 2017

We left Casa Grande and headed south to Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument which is seven miles from the Mexican border.  Along the way we passed fields of cotton. 20171128_09342620171128_114235 

We settled in for a three night stay at the National Monument campground  called Twin Peaks (no utilities at their campsites).  Normally we get enough power from our solar panels but it was overcast the entire three days so we had to run our generator twice a day for about 45 minutes to charge the batteries completely.

After getting settled we drove over to the Visitors Center where we watched a movie about the park.  The National Monument is a 516 square mile “biosphere reserve” of rare cacti located in the Sonoran Desert.20171128_14435520171128_150935

One afternoon we drove along part of the southern boundary of the National Monument on the Puerto Blanco Drive which borders Mexico for 31 miles.  We could see some of the wall separating the United States and Mexico in the distance, but were shocked to see this “border” along the boundary of the National Monument!  IMG_1664IMG_1678IMG_1682

We looked and then asked each other if that could really be the only thing separating the two countries??  About that time a Border Patrol vehicle with two border agents came by and stopped to ask us if we were okay.  We asked if that was really the border fence.  They said yes and we commented on what a hard job they have and thanked them for their service.IMG_1669IMG_1675

We drove for about an hour and many many border patrol vehicles passed us as well as helicopters flying overhead.  What a tough and dangerous job they have.  A park brochure said the smuggling of drugs and humans goes on in the park.  In 2013 there were over 4,000 arrests and approximately 100,000 pounds of marijuana seized just in the National Monument alone!  At the Visitirs Center is a monument to a young park ranger named Kris Eggle who was killed in 2002 while attempting to apprehend illegal aliens. The National Monument Visitors Center is named the Kris Eggle Visitors Center in his memory. 20171128_144144 

It was not unusual to see signs like this in the park.  Our first day in the National Monument we talked with a Park Ranger driving through the park and asked him about safety concerns.  He told us most smugglers and migrants want to avoid detection and therefore avoid contact with people.  But we did take extra precautions at the campsite and while hiking.20171128_151319

Speaking of hiking, we learned if we walked at least five miles in the park we would earn a park pin.  We kept track of our hikes and on the last day we stopped by the Visitors Center and picked up our pins. We were pretty proud of them.20171130_152004

During our stay we took several nice hikes which were relatively easy except we had to walk on very rocky trails.  A little hard on the feet but at least I didn’t have to do any rock scrambling which I detest.  20171129_115334IMG_1622IMG_1628IMG_1645IMG_1649IMG_1652

We learned about the various types of cacti, including the organ pipe cactus for whom the park is named. It is easy to see why they are called organ pipe. IMG_1610 

This area is the furthest they grow north of Mexico and the only place they grow in large stands in the United States.  


These Organ Pipe Cacti Grow On the South Side of the Ridge

On one hike we came across the remnants of an old homestead and corral.IMG_1653IMG_1655IMG_1657

Our second day in the National Monument we drove a scenic road called the Ajo Mountain Drive that wound along the foothills of the Ajo Mountain Range for 21 miles.  It was a dirt and gravel road and our car was really dusty by the time we finished!  The Ranger at the Visitors Center gave us a driving guide that explained various stops along the way.IMG_1619IMG_1631

While we were very happy not to see any snakes, we were disappointed we did not see any wildlife other than birds. We were especially disappointed we did not hear any coyotes at night.  We always heard them while in Tucson and felt certain we would hear them in this very remote park.

Here is the view of the border crossing.IMG_1683IMG_1684

When we left the National Monument we drove through the tiny village of Why.  Next to a gas station we saw a coyote and stopped to take his picture.  Normally they are shy and hard to take their picture.20171201_101028

Next stop: Yuma, AZ where we will be for seven weeks through the Christmas and New Year holidays.

Cactus facts:

  • A Saguaro cactus’ first arm appears at between 95-100 years of age.  It reaches its full height with two or more arms at 200 years of age!IMG_1644
  • Average height of the organ pipe cactus at maturity is fifteen feet.
  • They were named organ pipe by the early settlers who thought they looked like church organ pipes.
  • The organ pipe cactus produces its first flowers at around 35 years of age.
  • Organ pipe cactus, unlike saguaros, live around 150 years.

Casa Grande, AZ NOV 21, 2017

We arrived in Casa Grande for a relaxing twelve day stay at the Fiesta Grande RV Resort.  We stayed here in December 2013 when passing through the area.

On Saturday we drove to Phoenix to tour the state capitol building.  The traffic in Phoenix is terrible, even on a Saturday morning.  


Phoenix Skyline

The capitol building is not the prettiest capitol we have seen and didn’t have beautiful architecture and paintings compared to other capitols. But it had one of the friendliest security guards we had encountered who went out of his way to be helpful.

It is the only capitol building we have been in that is a museum and not a working building.  Due to overcrowding, additions were built on either side of the museum for the House of Representatives and Senate to conduct business and the capitol building became a museum.  The museum capitol was built from Arizona rock, stone and granite, opened in 1901 and served as the terrorial capitol until Arizona became the 48th state in 1912.  On top is a copper dome with a large weathervane in the shape of Nike, the Greek goddess of victory.20171118_121342IMG_20171118_121053

In 1923 the large tile mosaic of the State Seal was laid.  Unfortunately the artist lived in Ohio and had never seen the Arizona State Seal before.  He was only furnished with a written description and some drawings.  When the tile mosaic was laid, it was missing the cow to the right of the miner. IMG_20171118_115343 

The artist offered to fix the mistake but it was determined to be too difficult to take up the tile to fix the mistake.  The motto Ditat Deus means God Enriches.  The sun rising symbolizes Arizona’s climate and the reservoir and dam represents water reclamation farming.  The irrigated fields of cotton and citrus trees symbolizes Arizona’s rich agriculture.  The quartz mill and miner represents Arizona’s mining industry.IMG_20171118_112136

We enjoyed walking through the museum with four floors of comprehensive exhibits on the history of Arizona.  The Miranda warning law used today was a result of the Miranda v. Arizona court case when a man by the last name of Miranda was arrested in Phoenix, not read his rights and was later convicted.  The case was taken all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court.20171118_114725

The Arizona State flag is divided into two parts.  The top half has thirteen alternating red and yellow rays representing the thirteen original colonies.  Because Arizona is a western state, the rays show a setting sun.  The red and yellow colors refer to the Spanish flags carried by Coronado when he came to Arizona in the sixteenth century.20171118_113635

The large copper colored star in the center identifies Arizona as the largest producer of copper in the United States.  The bottom half of the flag is solid blue, same as the blue in the United States flag.IMG_20171118_114044

The friendly security guard offered to allow us access to a part of the museum currently off limits to the public and under renovation.  Inside the large room were silver items originally on the battleship U.S.S. Arizona which had been removed before it was destroyed in Pearl Harbor. 20171118_120431 

There was also a model of the ship and a hull recovered from the ship.20171118_120606


A piece of the Arizona Battleship

In front of the capitol are pieces of petrified wood found in the state.20171118_121201

On the way back to the car we stopped by a park dedicated to veterans and pioneers.20171118_12154320171118_12162720171118_12183420171118_12191620171118_122112IMG_20171118_121558
We also looked at a Confederate troops memorial.



A Nation That Forgets Its Past Has No Future

While in Casa Grande we also celebrated Bill’s birthday on November 22nd and joined in a Thanksgiving dinner with others at the RV park.20171123_13284520171123_132856IMG_20171127_174229

It has been hot and dry.  We heard the weatherman out of Phoenix say they have not had rain in 100 days.

Next stop: Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument.

Tucson, AZ Part 2, NOV 15, 2017

While we were in Tucson we visited Saguaro (sa-WAH-row) National Park.  They are actually two districts to the park:  Saguaro West-Tucson Mountain District and Saguaro East-Rincon Mountain District.  The two districts are separated by Tucson and are about thirty miles apart.  Together, they preserve over 91,000 acres of the Sonoran Desert, including the saguaro cactus. The saguaro cactus, the supreme symbol of the American Southwest, has been protected in the park since 1933.  When we visited Tucson in December, 2013 we visited the west side of the park.  This time we visited the west side again and also visited the east side.  We took time to see the movies at both Visitors Centers and drove through both parks, enjoying the views, especially of the saguaros and different cacti.IMG_20171109_155814


This is what a saguaro looks like on the inside


First up was the Bajada Loop Drive in the Saguaro West District.IMG_20171109_150814IMG_20171109_151559IMG_20171109_151709IMG_20171109_15081420171109_151918IMG_20171109_155623IMG_20171109_160815

On another day we drove the Cactus Forest Drive in the Tucson East District.IMG_1565IMG_1567IMG_1569

After finishing our drive in the Tucson East District, we drove the Mount Lemmon Scenic Byway which took us to an elevation of 9,157 feet.  The temperature averages thirty degrees cooler here compared to Tucson.  At the top is a small ski resort, many lodges, restaurants and a general store.  IMG_1572IMG_1577IMG_1582IMG_1597IMG_1588IMG_1589IMG_1595IMG_1598

We enjoyed a picnic lunch at the top and it was so chilly we had to put on jackets.  The views of Tucson at the top and during the drive were beautiful.IMG_1593IMG_1594

Before we left Tucson we drove to a nearby RV park to meet up with two of Bill’s FMCA amateur radio buddies.  We enjoyed meeting them and their wives and after visiting for awhile we all went out to lunch.  Weekly they talk by radio where ever they maybe.


KW4FD Bill, W0BEB Bruce and K5WF Howard

Next stop:. Casa Grande, AZ

Titan Missile Museum, AZ NOV 13, 2017

Continuing with our time in Tucson, on Monday we drove to nearby Sahuarita to visit the Titan Missile Museum.  IMG_20171113_144234IMG_20171113_124255IMG_20171113_124801

After watching a short video, we took a guided tour of the underground control center and saw the 103 foot tall Titan II missile in its underground silo.  IMG_20171113_142220IMG_20171113_142228

We had an excellent guide who gave an in depth description of the missile facility.  This was once an active intercontinental Ballistic Missile complex.  Of the Titan II sites in the U.S. weapon system, this is the only one not destroyed.  At one time there were 54 missiles sites, with eighteen each distributed over three locations (Little Rock, Arkansas, Wichita, Kansas and Tucson, Arizona).


The Missile Silos Around Tuscon


Site in 1962


Site in 2012

The elevator into the underground silo was under maintenance so we took the 55 steps in and then back out, not too strenuous.  Anyone over six feet tall was required to wear a hard hat because we were entering low areas and they didn’t want to risk anyone injuring their head.  For sanitary reasons each hard hat had a hair net, giving the wearer an unusual look!  Bill didn’t seem to mind.  He is always such a good sport.IMG_20171113_131859

The Titan II is the largest ballistic missile developed by the United States.  It can carry a warhead of nine megatons, equal to nine million tons of TNT.  The amount of TNT needed to equal the explosive power of the Titan II warhead would require a train of 90,000 boxcars.  The train would be 1,534 miles long, stretching from Tucson to Lexington, Kentucky.  While we were in the launch command center the guide simulated what a launch would have been like.  It was sobering and rather scary to think what might have been.IMG_20171113_141158IMG_20171113_141150

During the Cold War the facility, and others like it, was manned twenty four hours a day, waiting for the command to launch.  While they waited, men and women worked keeping the extremely complex system of hundreds of electronic and mechanical systems which must interact perfectly with each other, safe and ready to fire. IMG_20171113_133240IMG_20171113_133246IMG_20171113_133313IMG_20171113_135335 IMG_20171113_135504

There was an accident at a Titan II missile site in Little Rock, Arkansas.  IMG_20171113_124920IMG_20171113_124954

A movie made for television, called “Disaster at Silo Seven” was filmed here.  Also in 1996 part of the movie “Star Trek: First Contact” was filmed at this facility.

The power of the Titan wasn’t all potentially devastatingly destructive.  When no longer needed as a weapon, the Titan also launched the Gemini Program’s astronauts into orbit, sent the Viking probes to Mars and launched Voyager into the outer solar system.  While it can be said the Titan missile prevented a possible catastrophic war with the Soviet Union, it also advanced the exploration of space.IMG_20171113_125143

After our tour we walked around outside.  We saw the cover over the missile which allows satellites from other countries to see the missile silo is inactive.  Our guide told us we had to explain to our potential enemies why we wanted to keep one of the missiles instead of destroying them all.IMG_20171113_141344IMG_20171113_141312IMG_20171113_14140320171113_141817IMG_20171113_125101

Bill was also excited to find an amateur radio antenna where ham radio operators can bring their radios and talk to people around the world using this very large antenna.20171113143704

Tucson, AZ Part 1, NOV 9, 2017

On Thursday November 9th we drove from Benson to Tucson, settling in at Justin’s Diamond J RV Park in the Sonoran Desert.  It was easy to tell we were in Tucson when we saw the tall saguaros and heard the coyotes howling at night.  We were last in Tucson in December, 2013.  You can read about that visit here: Tucson, Tucson Mountain Park and Tucson Desert Museum.

20171111_104058With temperatures averaging 10 to 14 degrees above average, on Saturday we spent a very hot day at Old Tucson.  In 1939 Columbia Pictures began building a replica of the 1860 Tucson city as a setting for the movie “Arizona” starring Jean Arthur and William Holden.  Over 350,000 handmade adobe bricks were used to build the dusty town. 20171111_104235IMG_20171111_125840IMG_20171111_111033

Old Tucson has been used for 400 films and commercial productions.  Some example movies:  

  • “Gunfight at the OK Corral”
  • “Cimmaron”
  • “McLintock”
  • “El. Dorado”
  • “Joe Kidd”


and many episodes of TV shows: 

  • “Wagon Train”
  • “Little House on the Prairie”
  • “Bonanza”
  • “The High Chaparral”
  • “Death Valley Days”
  • “ Gunsmoke” to name just a few.  20171111_104654

In the museum they had the shirt and hat worn by Hoss in “Bonanza” as well as some of the clothes worn on “Little House on the Prairie”.20171111_10510920171111_104512

It was easy to spend an entire day there riding the little train around the park, viewing live western shows, riding a stagecoach, touring an old mine and seeing reenactments of western scenes. IMG_20171111_111423IMG_20171111_122330IMG_20171111_152705 20171111_12352920171111_124432IMG_20171111_133506IMG_20171111_133552IMG_20171111_111229IMG_20171111_152249

Next up: more Tucson

Tombstone, AZ NOV 2, 2017

On November 2nd we left Willcox and arrived in Benson where we stayed for seven days at Valley Vista RV Park.  Benson is another small town, population 5,100.  Because it is on the Southern Pacific Railroad route, it once was a prime distribution center for copper and silver mines.  When the railroads began to decline in the 1920’s, like many similar towns Benson changed into more of a stopover for tourists traveling west and snowbirds seeking a warmer winter climate.

Saturday we made the short drive to Tombstone, known as the “town too tough to die”.  In the early 1880’s the town produced millions of dollars in silver and gold mining.  After seven years of mining, rising underground water forced the mining to end.IMG_20171104_133845IMG_20171104_13403220171104_105716IMG_20171104_124508IMG_20171104_132858

Much like Dodge City, Kansas and other western towns, Tombstone was known for lawlessness and violence.  The most infamous gunfight battle fought there was between Wyatt Earp and his brothers against the Clanton brothers.20171104_110019IMG_20171104_130803

We walked the old historic streets of Tombstone browsing some of the many souvenir and western apparel shops.  In one shop we met a couple visiting from Jacksonville, Florida.  They had vacationed on the west coast and were on their way back home.  We really enjoyed chatting with this nice couple from Bill’s hometown.20171104_105754IMG_20171104_11093020171104_13085220171104_131656

We had lunch at Big Nose Kate’s where Bill had their famous reuben sandwich.  Big Nose Kate’s was from Hungary and was Tombstone’s first prostitute.  She was also the longtime companion and common law wife of gunfighter Doc Holliday.  No, she didn’t have a big nose.  She got that name because she was always sticking her nose in other people’s business!  Big Nose Kate died just five days before her 90th birthday.IMG_20171104_125137IMG_20171104_121005IMG_20171104_130707IMG_20171104_125214

We took a narrated stagecoach ride which took us around Tombstone and told us some of the history of the area. IMG_20171104_11014320171104_12570820171104_125850 

Bill made sure to thank the horses for the ride!20171104_132028

The rest of our time in Benson went by quickly with laundry, grocery shopping and RV chores.

Next stop: Tucson, AZ

Arizona fun facts:

  • Arizona and Hawaii are the only two states that do not observe daylight savings time.
  • The Arizona Cardinals are the longest running continuous franchise in the National Football League (1898).
  • Autumn is an active season for rattlesnakes because they are finding food before hibernating for the winter.