Tucson, Part 2

Monday, January 24

Today is warmer, sunny, and very little chance of rain, so we decided to go to Saguaro National Park, picking the part on the West side of Tucson. The east part is closer, but since we got an early start it made sense to do the longer drive today. When we got there we were told that the King Canyon trail is the most popular, but we doubted we could park our big truck there, so we went to the other side of the park and hiked on the Sendero Esperanza Trail. This goes up into the mountains, but we only went as far as the point where it got steep going up and the trail was rocky and uneven. My knees are not up to that. Then we came back, and walked down the Dobe Wash Trail for a bit, but it was all downhill, which meant returning would be all uphill, so once we convinced ourselves it was never going to be level we turned around and went back to the truck. It was a good two hours of desert hiking, and we did some shopping on the way back to the RV.

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Tuesday, January 25

I used the Google Map skills I learned to create a map with all of the City of Tucson locations we were interested in, with pins stuck in the map, then added a few other pins just outside of the city. Then I added the theater where we had tickets, and found a Golden Corral restaurant right on the way for dinner. With that, we set out to hit a lot of places that we wanted to see, but which were not long stops that would take a significant part of the day. 

We started by going to the San Xavier Del Bac Mission, just south of the city. It was a nice place to visit, but 30 minutes was sufficient. Then we drove into Tucson to the St. Augustine Cathedral. This was not such a big deal after the cathedrals we have visited in Europe. We could have skipped it, but it was on the list of sites we found online. Again, we spent about 30 minutes here. From here, it was just a few blocks to the El Presidio Historic District. We walked around for about an hour, first through a part of the neighborhood devoted to arts and crafts, then on to the part with the homes of the wealthy. It was just a neighborhood, but one with the older homes that reminded us we were in the southwest.. At this point we looked for a Library so I could print out our ticket for the theater. We found one about 5 minutes away, and got that done, and discovered the restaurant I had picked out was literally next door to the Library. Talk about dumb luck! And the Reid Park Zoo was just a couple of blocks away, so with time to kill we went there , and when the zoo closed we went for a walk in the park around the pond. We had done so much walking by this time that we went back to the truck and sat for a half hour just to rest up a little.

Then it was time for dinner, so we went to the Golden Corral. While there, we got into conversation with 3 other ladies there when one mentioned growing up in Detroit, and another mentioned Buffalo. It was fun talking with them, but at 6:30 we had to tear ourselves away to get to the Gaslight Theater, which was about 5 minutes away. They do a musical comedy show, and the main show was ¨Arizona Smith and the Relic of Doom¨, a spoof of Indiana Jones. They had a great three-piece band, and did a lot of songs (with dancing) as part of the show. As an example, when the heroine announces her determination to get back with the hero, they break into ¨Ain’t No Mountain High Enough.¨ This show was two acts, and the band played in the intermission between acts. Following the conclusion of the play, they did a spoof Country Music review, hosted by ¨Roy Rogers¨, with appearances by the ¨Sons of the Pioneers¨, ¨Patsy Cline¨, ¨Johnny Cash¨ and three ¨Dolly Partons¨. It was all a lot of fun, and we recommend them highly if you are ever in Tucson. And after a very long but full day, we got back to the RV and to bed by 10pm.

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Wednesday, January 26

We refilled the propane in the morning, dumped the tanks, did some photo backup, put more diesel fuel in the truck, and then headed off to Fort Huachuca. This is an active Army base first established to fight the Apaches, then used as a jumping off point for the ¨Punitive Expedition¨ against Pancho Villa. It was a place to train soldiers in WWI and WWII. It looks like it is now mostly involved in intelligence and communications, though it also has an air field. Although one of the recommended places to visit, the museum was closed indefinitely at the beginning of this year, probably due to the Omicron wave of Covid. We did go on what was called an ¨Historic Walk¨, but it was mostly seeing buildings named after previous commanders. While going by the Parade Ground we did see soldiers with flags rehearsing what I think was ¨Salute the Colors¨. I don’t know what it would be like in the Museum since it was closed, but if we had skipped today we wouldn’t have missed a whole lot.

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Thursday, January 27

Today we visited the Colossal Cave Mountain Park and toured the cave. They did allow non-flash photography so I got a few pictures out of it, but between climbing the hill from the oversize parking lot and the more than 300 stairs inside that was enough for me and we came back to the RV afterwards. It was less spectacular than the Kartchner Caverns, so if you only have time for one cave visit, go to Kartchner.

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Saturday, January 29

This was a fun visit. About 20 minutes from where we are staying is the Mescal Movie Set, which has been used for both movies and TV shows set in the old West. Among the actors who have filmed here were Steve McQueen (Tom Horn), Paul Newman (The Life and Times of Judge Roy Bean), Lee Marvin (Monte Walsh), and Clint Eastwood (The Outlaw Josey Wales). This was also the setting for the 1993 film Tombstone with Kurt Russell, Val Kilmer, and Sam Elliott, and also the TV show The Young Riders. The first film shot here was Winchester 73, in 1950, and all of these buildings look like they have sat here exposed to the elements much on that time. As recently as last year the Kartchner family bought the property and set it up as an attraction. Volunteers are rebuilding some of the buildings, and they have some re-enactors on site. We had a very nice chat with a fellow who was the telegraph operator, and also with a lady who was a dressmaker. They also had a number of actors and stunt people on site that day who had been in various of the movies shot here. We also took a short ride on a Stagecoach, which was a very bumpy ride, but fun to do. If you are ever in this area you should do this, it is a lot of fun.

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Monday, February 7

Today we went to Bisbee to take a tour of the Copper Queen Mine. The tour was led by locals who once worked in the mine, which is now closed. You enter sitting on a very small train that you straddle, and it goes through tunnels barely big enough. We learned that while copper was the main product, the hematite ores also contained gold and silver, and it was these metals that paid for the mine. The copper was pure profit as a result. After the tour we went into the town of Bisbee, which was once prosperous when the mine was producing, but is now pretty run-down. We tried to find the visitor center but failed, so we just walked around the town for a bit until we had enough. On the way back to the truck, we discovered the Visitor Center, but by then we were through and just went back to the RV.

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Tuesday, February 8

For our last day in the Tucson area we went to the east side portion of the Saguaro National Park for one last hike in the Sonoran Desert. I have found I really love this desert, and had to get in one more visit before we left. We hiked a few miles with the help of our hiking poles, though for most of the way we didn’t really need them.

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