Saturday, November 16, 2019

Day 7 - Pima Air & Space Museum

 Today’s tourist activity was the Pima Air & Space Museum outside of Tucson. I didn’t see any “space” things but there were a number of NASA planes. Maybe the space side of the museum will be a future addition. I had originally visited the museum in the late 70s and it is very different now. Nice modern exhibits.

I had seen an announcement for the Wings & Wheels event at the museum with a display by the Southern Arizona Military Vehicle Collectors but they had a pretty dismal turnout. A couple of MB Jeeps, a couple of Kübelwagens, and a 2007 Ural. I talked to the Ural owner for a while. He has around 25k km on it, owned it since new, and the only upgrade has been the deep sump pan with an oil temperature gauge installed. No problems, no breakdowns, no major repairs.

The indoor hangers had a lot of the nicely refurbished aircraft and ones that were on loan from other organizations. There were also models of planes not on display, submarines, and carriers. Including a model of the carrier and fighter from Battle Star Galactica. Someone has a sense of humor.

Here is one of the Kübelwagens. It looked unrestored but did run though not street legal. The owner was sitting with the Ural owner in the shade of a wing. Pretty nice. I had never seen one up close before. It would have been cool if it was one of the super rare 4wd versions.

The outdoor display area was huge with a large number of aircraft such as this B-52D Stratofortress. I remember as a kid seeing these fly over the farm my father grew up on in Sacramento. Pretty impressive. They also had an SR-71 on display inside the hanger with recordings of startup, taxi, takeoff, landing, etc. Pretty cool. I saw one during refueling and subsequent takeoff at Edwards Air Force Base while in college. We were there to see the 747 set up to transport the space shuttle. This was during the initial unpowered flight tests before the first launch.

I had never seen or heard of this bomber with six engines. It is a B-36J strategic bomber from the Cold War era. In use from 1947 to 1959. All of the planes in outside storage have their windows covered to keep out the sun.

This is a KC-135 that was used by NASA for flight training. Known as the “Vomit Comet”. By flying the parabolic path, you get 15 - 20 seconds of weightlessness. I got a chance to fly in the commercial version operated by Zero G in 2010 which was a modified 727. Essentially the same plane. Click on the link to see that blog post including a short YouTube video.

Lastly, there was a C-130 on skis. These a still in use today and DavidR, who comments on my posts occasionally, had worked with the Coast Guard to get a rack of equipment up to Barrow aka Utqiaġvik on one of their daily flights north. No commercial carrier was able to transport the rack as the manufacturer required.

Friday, November 15, 2019

Day 6 - Saguaro Natl’ Park

We went to the West Saguaro Natl’ Park this morning. We visited the eastern park on the other side of Tucson a couple of weeks ago. This park was on the same road as the Desert Museum we visited last year. On the right is the top of a Saguaro which has white needles. The lower part has black so I’m guessing that this may be new growth. But that’s just a guess.


We went on a couple of short hikes. This one was inundated with a school field trip. Not necessarily bad as there were several rangers and a number of parents with the kids.
I think this is a barrel cactus. A little bit of color in the dry area. Fortunately, the temperatures were pretty mild. Somewhere around 80°F by noon. We also went on a nature trail with a number of signs explaining the interaction between insects, mammals, and birds.

One of the walks was to Signal Hill which had a number of petroglyphs on the rocks. These weren’t part of a cliff or protected from the elements at all. There were steel railings suggesting that you stay on the trail and not venture into the area.

This is typical of the Signal Hill trail. Lots of steps. If it was flat, then there was sand. Bridget mentioned that the trails were either very short or pretty long. Not many in the middle.

If the railings weren’t enough to keep people from venturing off the trail, maybe the threat of rattlesnakes helped. The only reptiles I saw were a number of small, very fast lizards. And a number of birds. 

Thursday, November 14, 2019

Day 5 - Benson, AZ - TT

Another very pleasant day in southern Arizona. Being able to stay in these Thousand Trails and Encore RV parks is pretty convenient. Some complain that they aren’t resorts. The spaces here are gravel but mostly level. We had a choice between 30 amp and 50 amp power and pull through or back in. The pool and jacuzzi aren’t fancy but nicely heated and clean. The seasonal activities are just starting up for the winter. We went to a pot-luck yesterday evening. Nice to meet others.

I ordered a sous vide kitchen gadget from Amazon on Tuesday evening and it arrived here at the campground this afternoon. Prime works pretty good! This one is made by Instant Pot and there is a large selection of brands out there. You insert it into a container of water and pick a temperature and cooking time. Whatever you are cooking gets placed into a plastic freezer bag, add seasoning, and place it into the water. The sous vide device has a water pump and a heating element to maintain the desired temperature and the pump keeps the water circulating. When it’s done, the entire contents are at whatever temperature you choose.

In this case, I picked up two fairly generic steaks from Walmart. Not high end cuts but they did have some nice marbling. Seasoned them with seasoned salt and pepper, added a little olive oil into the bag, and put the bag in the water. After an hour and a half it’ll be done and just needs to be browned in a pan for 30 sec or so on each side. If you don’t brown it, it looks a very un-appetizing grey. It came out medium edge to edge. Apparently, everything come out that way. Turkey, roasts, even eggs. And there is no risk of overcooking. It’ll maintain that temperature for hours after it’s “done”. Cool gadget!

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Day 4 - Tombstone, AZ

Today we did the touristy thing and went down to Tombstone, AZ, which was about 22 miles south of the RV park. I’m glad that it was pretty empty with no crowds and easy parking. Right across the street was the OK Corral where the shootout happened. We paid the $10 for the live action show which was pretty entertaining. (And loud)

Our ticket also got us into a multimedia presentation on the history of Tombstone. It still is a real town and not simply a tourist attraction with schools, Dollar General stores, and a number of RV parks. The “historic” part of the town with the dirt streets and wooden sidewalks was closed to normal traffic and there were a lot of saloons and gift shops galore.

We had heard from some other RVers that Big Nose Kate was a good place for lunch. It was crowded but we were there right in the middle of lunch. But only needed to wait five minutes to be seated. There was live entertainment and the wait staff were all dressed the part. I had an overstuffed Reuben sandwich and it was fabulous and overstuffed with corned beef.

In one of the museums, there was a map of the area and I was surprised to see a town called Fairbanks a short distance to the west of Tombstone. I hadn’t heard of that before but it also showed up in the multimedia presentation as well.

After walking through town, we walked to the Tombstone Cemetery. But it wasn’t the one we were looking for. We walked back to the car and drove to Boothill Cemetery which was the one we were looking for. These were graves from the 1800s with a large number of “Unknown” and violent deaths. Life was hard in those days.

The OK Corral had quite a few old buckboard wagons, surreys and buggies. The sign mentioned that “buggies” were fast and got their name from all of the smashed bug carcasses on the front. This horse ride was there but I wasn’t sure it was functional.

You could get a stage coach ride through town but it didn’t look anywhere near as interesting as the one in Knott’s Berry Farm. Last year, we didn’t visit Tombstone as I thought it was a pure tourist trap. It is touristy but did have a lot of historical information and I’d recommend visiting. If for no other reason than to have lunch.

And, finally, a reminder of why we are here in AZ instead of AK.