Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Wind Here, Snow in the Mountains

1/22 - The wind blew hard all night with a fair amount of rain. They even had a tornado watch last night, which the local media were at great pains to describe versus and actual warning. Our weather radio quit working late in the evening, we had it on for a forecast and suddenly just static. Nothing on any of the channels so I went out to the truck to try the weather bands on the CB, nothing there either. News reports said there were a number of antennas knocked out by the storm on Mt Lemon.

Friday turned into a pretty nice day though, sunny with high clouds, lots of clouds over the Mountains. Supposed to windy and stormy through Friday evening.

Have you ever had a hot rock massage? There is a lady here at the campground that does them and we both had one this afternoon - it won’t be the last time! What a great, relaxing feeling.

1/23 - A little bit of rain during the night, but not as much wind as Thursday night. Saturday was another very nice day here, a bit cloudy the other side of the mountains in Tucson itself. There was a lot of snow in the mountains all around Tucson. We could see snow up on Kitt Peak during our morning walk in the desert and driving into the city over Gates Pass we could see a lot of snow on the mountains NE of the city. In fact, the local PBS TV station and one of the NPR stations have been off the air since Thursday evening due to the weather. Thursday night Kitt Peak reported winds over 100 MPH for “several” hours and recorded a gust of 170 MPH. That’s not a typo - 170 MPH! They said the top wind speed was recorded by a “usually reliable instrument, but it had not been verified. There was some damage to one of the telescope domes and a building.

A little cooler today, but a nice day nevertheless with high in the mid 50’s, We’ll take it. Went over to Fourth Ave in Tucson and took a ride on the Old Pueblo Trolley. Then back home and Nancy baked an apple pie. Her first try at baking in the RV oven and it was a rousing success! Just as good, or maybe better, than any she has made at home.

The picture below is the view out of the back window of our trailer, not bad huh?

Interesting evening in the campground. Just about dinnertime we all lost water pressure. Turns out there was a broken line near the front of the campground. Fortunately we had a half tank of fresh water on board, so no big deal and the water pressure was back before the end of the evening. Then later we were watching the Blackhawks game and the electricity went out. We went outside to check and one of our neighbors was already at the power post. Seems the main breaker for this section tripped. He flipped it back on and we were back in business.

1/24 - 33 degrees here this morning! A bright sunny day without a cloud in the sky though, high in the 50’s. We are getting really spoiled by this great Arizona weather.

Took a drive to Tubac late this morning. Tubac is about 45 miles south of Tucson and we specifically went to visit the Tubac Presidio State Historic Park. A fair representation of the Tubac Presidio with a self-guided tour, but the highlight is an outstanding small museum delineating the history of the Tubac area. One item of interest is a restored printing press that is operated occasionally by volunteers. This was the first printing press in Arizona and they printed the first newspaper in the state here in Tubac. Later it was used to print the first newspapers in both Tucson and Tombstone.

The history of the town is one of boom and bust, repeated a number of times. After the Spanish colonial phase Tubac became a virtual ghost town by the middle of the 19th century; but then mines were developed in the area and by 1860 Tubac was the largest city in Arizona. The population was down to 949 in 2000! There does however, appear to be a lot of retiree type housing in the general area. Unfortunately history may be about to repeat itself since Tubac Presidio, the first state park in Arizona (1958), is scheduled to close on March, 29, 2010. The park is a victim of sweeping budget cuts within the state parks system which will result on the closure of thirteen of the current twenty-two Arizona state parks.

The town itself seems to consist primarily of art galleries and souvenir shops. Hopefully these will be enough to sustain the area as a tourist attraction. Nothing there of great interest to us, so after a brief walk we went looking for a place for lunch. After checking out a few places near the shopping area we found Melios Trattoria about a mile north of the main shopping area on E Frontage Rd. And a very pleasant discovery it was! A delightful little Italian Restaurant with a striking view of the snow covered mountains to the east.

The snow cover is a unique feature in itself, not something they usually see here. The restaurant does not look like much from the outside, but the food was excellent, the service above average, and the view from the dinning room and patio cannot be beat. We heartily recommend it if you find yourself in the Tubac/Green Valley area.

1/25 - Quiet day here. Monday morning campground meeting and then we took our daily walk in the desert. Then Nancy did some laundry and Dennis did some maintenance on the trailer.

One thing we have found to be very valuable during this visit to the Tucson area is the Tucson Attractions Passport. The cost of the passport is $15 and you get two for one admission at a lot of attractions and tourist destinations. We added it up and we have saved $46 after deducting the cost of the passport and we have a number of places yet to go.

We have been living in our fifth wheel one month today - so far so good!

1/26 - We went to Biosphere 2 today. It is about 30 miles north of Tucson. The tour is a bit pricy at $20 per person, but with the Tucson Attractions Passport we both got in for $20. The tour was well worth the $20 cost, but we would be less than satisfied if we had paid $40, although half of the price is a tax deductible donation.

The tour was actually quite interesting, took about an hour and covered all of the areas of the Biosphere. Many will remember the history of the Biosphere in the early 90’s when eight people lived completely isolated from the outside world for two years. Many aspects of the experiment were more successful than others. There was friction among the participants and some difficulties with growing sufficient food and generating sufficient oxygen.

Since the original experiment, the Biosphere has been owned and operated by a number of entities and universities. Currently it is operated by the University of Arizona and used for various large scale experiments on climate and environment. There are sub-tropical rain forest environments, a salt water sea, and various desert climates inside the structure. While is is no longer a sealed environment like it once was, it still allows for control of the various climates.

When the building was a sealed environment there was the need to control the expansion and contraction of the atmosphere due to solar heating from the large expanses of glass. To do this they created two “lungs” which serve to absorb the expansion and contraction. They consist of a large circular dome which contains a rubber membrane ceiling and large stainless steel disc weighing 16 tons. The disc literally floats on the air pressure in the dome, rising 15 to 20 feet in the air during the day when the atmosphere expands and dropping back onto it’s supporting legs during the night. When our guide opened a door to the outside we were able to watch the disc start to come down as the pressure dropped. One interesting piece on information was the reason for the location, which is literally out in the middle of nowhere. It turns out that this location north of Tucson receives more annual hours of sunshine than any other location on earth!

The snack bar at the Biosphere was no great shakes so we stopped for a late lunch at a little restaurant called Oracle Junction at the junction of state highways 77 and 79. Dennis had an excellent hamburger and Nancy had a huge breakfast burrito. A good spot to stop.

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