Find us on Google+ Rick and JoAnne's RV Travels: February 2013

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Mission San Xavier del Bac


Really? A spectacular mission in the middle of the desert? It’s true, and what an amazing discovery for us! 

The Mission also known as the “White Dove of the Desert,” was founded by Father Eusebio Kino in 1692 with the building built under the direction of Franciscan Fathers Juan Bautista Velderrain and Juan Batista Llorenz completed in 1797, mainly with native labor. Recent major restorations have been completed however the overall restoration continues. The Mission is located on the Tohono O’odham Nation reservation plus San Xavier is still actively served by Franciscans, and still serves the Native community by which it was built.

We were pleasantly amazed by the multiple tents of Native food and handcrafts for sale. Another nice surprise was the Christening Ceremony where beautiful babies are christened in the Catholic faith, and we were able to get a photo of one little one. 

The church is stunning in artifacts and paintings depicting the various saints and sacrifices of those in the Catholic Church. You are able to see a statue of Saint Francis in rest, as well as offering prayers of intercession by Saint Francis. 

After touring the church which is open to the public seven days a week from 7am to 5pm, watching a 20 minute video, exploring the museum, and climbing up to the grotto, we had a light lunch and headed back to Gilbert Ray Campground in Tucson Mountain Park.

We have toured missions in California and Texas and this ranks right up there with the best of them. More pictures can be found here.  

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Arizona Sonora Desert Museum


Well…to be honest…we considered not going to the Desert Museum! After all who wants to pay to see a bunch of animals we have seen in a zoo? In addition, why would we pay to see a desert when we have become very familiar with the desert in this area…sooooo what’s to see and spend our dollars on?

What we typically do is to ask ourselves if we were in the area and didn’t go there, would we regret that decision later…and our undisputed answer this time…was yes! So off we went to the Desert Museum and very pleased we did!

The grounds are beautiful and spotless, and the docents we encountered were remarkable. The exhibits were very well done. It was indeed a very different experience for us. No elephants, or tigers, but animals that are specific to this area. We walked through caves, saw magnificent minerals of the desert, a mountain lion up close, cute as can be bobcats, birds (in fact witnessed the practice session for one of the raptors), fish, snakes, sleeping javelinas (we’ve seen them up close and personal while in Fort Davis, Texas), black bear (which we have also seen up close and personal while camp hosting in Glacier National Park), and the most interesting to us an aviary of hummingbirds. 

Several reasons it was so interesting to us was due in great part to Gay, a sweet, knowledgeable docent in the aviary. She spent so much time with us answering, what I’m sure to her were never ending questions. Gay showed us a hummingbird nest, explained the entire reproductive process, along with the feeding habits – she asked us if we were willing to be patient for about ten minutes, we said we were, and per her prediction, we were rewarded with a momma hummingbird landing on the nest and watched with curiosity and fascination the momma feeding her tiny, tiny baby hummingbird. 

We learned more about the Sonoran Desert in Arizona, more about its creatures, discovered new species of plants, and were able to take walk the grounds and trails which all enabled us to truly enjoy our time and money spent there…and of course take lots of photos

If you are in the area - go - you don't want to regret not going.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Sunsets and A Summit


We first learned about Picacho Peak State Park after reading Steve and Mona Liza’s The Lowe’s RV Adventures blog post. So, after leaving Casino Arizona we headed for a week stay in the Park. After JoAnne’s trip to St. Louis and our casino camping we were ready to just “hang out” which is pretty much what we did.

Traveling along I-10 in southern Arizona you can’t miss the prominent 1,500-foot peak of Picacho Peak State Park. The unique shape has been used as a landmark by travelers since prehistoric times. In the 1700s the Anza Expedition passed through the area and made mention of the peak. (In the category of DUH – we never took a picture of the peak – but there are lots of good pictures on the park website and on the Lowes blog.)

We have been in the desert for over a month now and other than a great sunset over the Salton Sea we have not seen any truly spectacular sunsets until now. Almost every night we were rewarded with a dazzling display of color. More photos here.

Vista on early section of the hike

Before we left the park, I had also wanted to hike to the summit. So, last Thursday JoAnne dropped me off at Sunset Vista trailhead. The first couple of miles of this trail make for an easy and very enjoyable hike with some wonderful panoramic views. But that changes as soon as you reach the first set of cables. At this point the hike turns into more of “climb” and transitions from easy to more difficult and where most of the 15,000 feet in elevation gain happens. The views at the top are ample reward for the effort.

cable on an "exposed" section of the hike
One of the cable sections on the hike
Rick at the summit
 For my return, I decide to take the Hunter trail down. It is a shorter trail but steeper and I would say more difficult. I was happy I chose to hike the summit in the order I did. Photos from my hike are here.

From Picacho we headed to Gilbert Ray Campground and wonderful county park about 18 miles west of Tucson and close to Saguaro National Park.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Casa Grande Ruins


We journeyed out in the Sonoran Desert to see the Casa Grande Ruins, and oh so glad we did! 

The ruins were built by the ancient Sonoran Desert People, also called Hohokam (ho ho KAM), a term now used by archeologists to define a cultural period. These Ancestral People are now referred to as the “First Masters of the American Desert.” For over 1,000 years they were hunter-gatherers, lived in permanent settlements, were expert crafters, irrigated their fields, built and managed canal systems, and tapped underground water in a "hostil" environment and intense heat of the desert. 

Portions of Casa Grande, the “great house” and some of the outlaying structural foundations have survived the test of time and still stand since 1350 C.E. (aka Common Era) when they were built. Pretty remarkable!

Why does it still stand? We build beautiful, magnificent buildings and structures and they rarely survive past a few hundred years. They fall apart during bad storms, hurricanes and earth quakes - and just  deteriorate. These ingenious peoples used a building material they found underfoot: caliche (cuh-LEE-chee) a concrete like mixture of sand, clay, and limestone - in fact, they used over mixed and used over 3,000 tons of caliche. In fact, the ranger who guided us through the history of the ruins told us that since becoming the nation’s first archeological reserve in 1892 during the presidency of  Benjamin Harrison, we have attempted to replicate the caliche mixture to help repair/reinforce the remains…to no avail!
Innumerable attempts to repair and reinforce the ruins with modern materials have failed. Nothing seems to last - not concrete, chicken wire, or synthetic substances. The attempts at replicating the caliche have failed do to the fact that the soil and underground clay has changed.

The original roof was flat and after hundreds of years of the force of weathering and neglect, the decomposing structural timbers collapsed. The current steel structure roof was installed in 1932.

Like the mystery surrounding many of the cliff dwelling cultures of the southwest, it is unknown what caused the approximately 2000 people of Casa Grande to abandon this area. We wandered the grounds, explored the wonderful museum, walked out to the Hohokam Ball Court and spotted an adorable round-tailed ground squirrel. 

After visiting sites like this, we can't help wondering what future generations will have to say about today's culture.

More pictures here.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

The Grand Kids


As many of you know, recently I was in St. Louis while babysitting (not really babysitting as the grand-kids are growing so fast and are so self-sufficient) Addison and David. I was able to see, experience and interact with them “in their routine action!” What a pleasure!!!

What does “routine action” mean? Well things such as…getting ready for school, doing homework, having conversations with me, showing me their stuff, creating and crafting projects, playing with friends, entertaining me with “casual concerts”, playing games, shopping sprees, in addition to getting ready and attending soccer and baseball practices, and playing basketball. I am happy to report they both had winning basketball games! Wahoo!! 

Yes, there were surprises too! Rick and I celebrated our anniversary long distance! We actually enjoyed a wonderful dinner together when I returned back to Arizona, but being the thoughtful, loving husband he is…I received a gorgeous bouquet of red roses while in Missouri. 

And what a total surprise when David came to me and said “Granny, I lost a tooth!” Oh my! I had to make several inquiries as to what the tooth fairy pays these days! Yep, the tooth fairy did arrive sometime that night and we had a happy boy in the morning!

Living in Colorado, and having the blessings of our grandchildren there, and with traveling as we do, we do not always have the opportunity to be “in person” with the St. Louis kids. Although we all talk, text, email, Facebook, and Face Time, with all of the grandchildren…there’s that very special blessing of being with, and interacting with them! Real hugs and kisses…not just the “cyber kind!” 

Many of you remember that it was just about a year ago when our son Jeff, his wife Maggie, and kids Addie and David lost their home and belongings to a horrific fire. We wrote about it when we headed back to see them in April 2012 . 

Thankfully, they are now all enjoying the miracle of a home that is now truly brand new…exterior to interior, foundation to roof! I know the arduous job of making choices on color, fabrics, textures, layouts and the like is difficult, however the selections they have made are just fantastic! 

It was an amazing, fun time! My weeks stay just flew by however the time I was there I was able to delight in and with them. That special time provided me, and hopefully them some beautiful memories! 

More pictures here.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

JoAnne is Back


Last Wednesday, I picked up JoAnne at Sky Harbor Airport – Yea! She had a great trip to St. Louis and enjoyed spending time with our grandkids.
 It was great to have her back and I was happy to end my stint as a bachelor.
 Before JoAnne returned from her trip, I spent the days since my last post at McDowell Mountain Regional Park hiking the Dixie Mine trail and watching the Spartan Race.



I had seen signs during the week announcing the Spartan Race that would be taking place over the weekend. I had no idea what a Spartan Race was until I googled it. According to Wikipedia, “Spartan Race is a series of obstacle races of varying distance and difficulty ranging from 1 mile to marathon distances.” It sounded interesting enough so, on Sunday I became a spectator. I think the pictures speak for themselves.

I also found time to take the Dixie Mine hike. It is about 5 miles and I think an interesting hike with some wonderful views and varied terrain. There are pictographs at the end of the hike above the mine – but the day I hiked the overcast lighting made them impossible for me to see.

The highlight of the hike for me was spotting a Crested or Cristate Saguaro. I first heard about these very rare (1 in 250,000) Saguaro’s from reading Pam and John Wright’s blog. Since reading their post we have been on the lookout for these unique Saguaros. As I parked as started heading toward the trail head – there it was. Very Cool.

It rained all day Saturday – a good day to stay inside. But look what I got in my email. Alex (my next door neighbor) had taken this picture of Tiger III (our RV) When I saw him on Sunday, I thanked him and he said that they always appreciate getting pictures of their home in beautiful settings and he thought we might like this shot and he felt the rainbow was a nice touch – I agree.

Monday was moving day as our reservation at McDowell was up – this is a wonderful park and we will be back. I woke to a very cloudy and rainy day and would have rather hunkered down and not moved at all. But move I did … to Casino Arizona. The Casino allows RVers to park (dry camp) for free for 3 days.

Clearly, it was a much different setting than I had just left. Yet, they have a wonderful Cholla Steakhouse in the Casino where JoAnne and I celebrated our delayed Anniversary and Valentines Day.

On Friday we left the Casino and headed south. We are now at Picacho Peak State Park about 40 miles North of Tucson – more on this adventure in a future post.