grandson mason

grandson mason

grandson jaxson

grandson jaxson

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

29-31MAR09 - Tucson, AZ (we've been here before)

Sunday, 29MAR, we arrived at Agave Gulch Family Camp on Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, on the east side of Tucson, AZ. And yes we have also been here before, see our below BLOG entry about our OCT07 visit.

Monday morning we headed off to Saguaro National Park, you may remember that during our OCT07 stop in Tucson we visited the Rincon Mountain District of the National Park to the east of Tucson. This time we visited the Tucson Mountain District to the west. (NOTE: This park is also a part of the National Trail System, specifically the Anza Trail named after Juan Bautista de Anza.) We had a wonderful tour led by one of the park volunteers that focused on how the Native Americans used all of the various cacti to survive (turns out the oil of one cactus is better than Sperm Whale oil for cosmetics and fine machinery, and this cactus is now grown commercially). We were going to return to our RV via the Ironwood National Monument. Unfortunately the Monument was established by Congress with no funding, as a result there are no facilities and no Ranger presence. The end result is that the remote area is heavily trafficked by smugglers and dopers, and is not recommended to be traversed by any the National Park staff.

So we returned to Tucson via freeway to have lunch at Gus Balon’s. They are famous for their cinnamon rolls half the size of a loaf of bread, and that all breads & pies are made on site. Even though it was well past breakfast, Dan had the breakfast burger, while Corrie had a Spanish omelet that she will be eating for three days. We asked the waitress if they had rhubarb pie? They did and she recommended that she could deliver it before the meal. So we had dessert first! That evening we went to the top of Sentinel Peak (aka A-Mountain) to view the sunset and the lights of Tucson.
Tuesday morning Dan headed off to check out the “eccentric” sights of Tucson and the Pima Air & Space Museum, leaving Corrie to RV/house clean! First Dan had to go out and photo document some of the eccentric sights of Tucson before touring the Pima Air Museum. Turns out the Air Museum is the 3rd largest in the USA, behind the Smithsonian and the Air Force one in Dayton, OH. Pretty phenomenal when you consider they do it with no tax dollars! Dan timed his visit so he could take one of the free walking tours with a Docent. It was a great two hour tour starting with an exact replica of the Wright Flyer and finishing with modern jet fighters. Plus there are about three hundred aircraft (including MIGs) and helos sitting out in the desert for you to walk around.

If you ever visit, Dan recommends two unique parts of the Museum. The first is a bus tour of the “boneyard” (aka 309th Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group (AMARG)). AMARG is the storage area for all military aircraft that have been declared obsolete or excess and this is the only way you can tour it. We are talking over four thousand aircraft, totally over $50 billion of your tax dollars! Sometimes aircraft are sent to the boneyard, only to have DOD reverse their decision. Such was the case of the A-10 “Warthog”. The Air Force decided in early 90s that there was no further need for the aircraft, but Desert Storm soon changed that thinking and now they are upgrading the airframe and avionics to fly it for another 20 years. And they are using parts from scrapped B-52s to keep the remaining two squadrons flying until 2050! We’re talking B-52s that may fly until they are 100 years old!
The other unique feature of the Air Museum is a “Museum within a Museum”. One of the hangers in the middle of the compound is 390th Bomb Group Museum. This is a stand alone Museum dedicated to the entire short history of the 390th, and run by the survivors of that Group, including a fully restored B-17G. One very sobering statistic was that the original Group deployed to England in 1943 with 37 aircraft; the number of original missions ranged from one to fifty-nine, with the average being 18, and only one of the original 37 planes made it back to the USA. Two unique items on display is the first USA flag ashore at Utah Beach on D-Day, and the Samurai sword presented to General Doolittle at the Japanese surrender onboard the battle ship MISSOURI in Tokyo Bay.

One display in particular caught Dan’s attention since we used to live in Holland, and Corrie’s parents emigrated from Holland after the war. It was devoted to Operation Chowhound (or Operation Manna as the Brits called it). Seems that after the Allies Operation Market Garden failed in 1944 and they retreated, the Germans retaliated against the Dutch for their support of the Allies. They retaliated by removing all remaining food supplies and coal from the occupied portions of Holland and giving these supplies to their citizens. It was brutal winter (known as the Hunger Winter) and spring in Holland in 1945, and many people were in danger of starving to death. Prince Bernhard of the Netherlands, who was in exile, negotiated directly with the Nazi government in Holland, and Eisenhower and Churchill to allow Allied bombers to drop food supplies at select sites without being fired upon by the Germans. The Nazis probably realizing the end was near agreed, and 11,000 tons of food was safely dropped to the starving Dutch in April and May. Truly the Greatest Generation!

Trivia: Who was Irishman Hugh O’Connor and what was his significance to Tucson? What are the four deserts in the continental USA? What company was specifically formed in 1943 to make small, high performance, two-stroke engines, for the war effort (think yellow chain saws)?

Saturday, March 28, 2009

28MAR09 - Gila Cliff Dwellings & Silver City, NM (we've been here before)

Bright and early Saturday morning we headed to the Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument north of Silver City, NM, in the middle of the Gila Wilderness Area (nation’s first wilderness area). If you check out the Monument’s website below you will see there are two ways to get there; but both ways end up on state road 15 coming into the Visitor Center. You will note also that if you take the entire state road 15 from Silver City the website cautions that it is a very bad road, not to take any trailer longer than 25 feet, AND it will take two hours to go 44 miles!!! Dan didn’t really believe that it could be that bad, especially just being in the Toad not the RV, but decided we would drive up on the alternate route and come back on the “bad” road and site see in Silver City at the end of the day.

We made it to the Visitor Center with plenty of time to spare to catch the daily Ranger led tour of the Cliff Dwellings. (NOTE: almost all National Parks, Monuments, etc, have one or two daily tours that are free. We check out the website for the time of the tour(s) and almost always take them. Highly Recommended!) These cliff dwellings are one of the few that you can actually enter and view from the inside. They were only occupied for thirty years around 1300, by the Mogollon people. Mogollon is not a Native American term, but the Mogollon were named after some Spaniard because there was no trace of them when the Europeans arrived. In addition, none of the surviving Native Americans (Apache, Zuni, Acoma, etc) “claim” them or know what happened to them.

The dwellings themselves consist of about fifty rooms in seven caves, and you can enter five of the caves. We learned from the Docent that even the experts can not agree on exactly what the rooms were used for. One theory is that the caves were used by about seven or eight families; another theory is that the entire site was for special and/or religious ceremonies, with only a few special tribe members living on site and everyone else living outside the caves. What makes it almost impossible to determine anything, is that after the Mogollon left, the site was picked over by other tribes, Europeans and then cowboys before finally gaining Federal protection. What was very interesting was the range of their trading. Archeologists have found parrot feathers from Central America and shells from the Pacific Ocean on this site. The big mystery is why they left a canyon with abundant water and food after only thirty years?


After a fascinating and informative day at the National Monument we headed to Silver City via different route, we have also been here before (see below BLOG link). When we got on the last 20 miles of state road 15 going into Silver City we soon discovered why the National Monument website cautions you about this road and recommends two hours to go forty-four miles. This portion of the road is barely one and one/half lanes wide with no center stripe. It is constantly going up and down, with hairpin turns and switchbacks. Anytime you meet another vehicle, you come almost to a stop and half drive on the shoulder to get by each other. Because there was no traffic, we made the drive in one hour, but could see how it could take two if there was constant traffic in both directions. Corrie’s reward was to shop by herself in the boutiques, while Dan and Gumbo sat outside the Buffalo Bar with the other derelicts.

Friday, March 27, 2009

26/27MAR09 - Deming, NM (we've been here before)

Thursday, 26MAR, right around lunch time we made it to Deming, NM, before the winds really kicked-up. It definitely got windy, and the gusts probably hit 50mph easily. We probably could have continued driving safely, but we would have to slow down and it would have been no fun; not what we want to do as full time RV’ers. We checked into the Dream Catcher RV Park that we stayed at back in OCT07. Seems that we didn’t get any pictures of Deming last time, so we shot a few this time.

That evening in spite of the winds, we drove several miles out of town for dinner at the Adobe Deli, known for hot beer, lousy food and bad service. Dan discovered this unique restaurant during his SEP08 business trip, see our 25SEP08 BLOG. This restaurant which is an old 1955 school and is literally in the middle of nowhere, is famous for its steaks, live Maine lobster and French onion soup. Even though it was a Thursday night, reservations were recommended! Dan pointed out that the info (ie phone number) on the website was wrong; turns out the web designer took the money and ran, and no one knows the password to get in and fix it.

The next morning we headed to the Pancho Villa State Park in Columbus, NM. This is a beautiful state park set in the high desert country of New Mexico, and has a two year old museum dedicated to the 1916 raid into the USA at the town Columbus, NM. On 09 MAR 1916 five hundred Villistas crossed the border and attacked the USA Army and civilian population of Columbus. (It is now believed the Pancho Villa was not present, but had probably ordered it.) Eighteen Americans were killed, but once the Army got the armory unlocked and figured out how to use their machine guns without jamming them, about 90 Villistas were killed and the attack was easily repulsed.

Within weeks there were thousands of USA Army troops staging in Columbus under General “Black Jack” Pershing, under Presidential orders to pursue Villa into Mexico and capture him. Eleven months later and 10,000 troops four hundred mile into Mexico the chase was given up. Villa was never captured but his Army was scattered and much of his supply infrastructure was destroyed. In addition, the USA Army quickly realized the value of the new fangled cars and trucks over the horse and mule, and the value of airplanes for scouting, carrying messages, and moving key personnel. In fact Pershing’s forces went from two vehicles at the start to over one hundred at the end; and the entire USA Air Force (aka Army Signal Corps consisting of eight planes) was located at the first dedicated USA Air Base outside Columbus to support Pershing. All of this and more proved to be extremely valuable when General Pershing led the first expeditionary forces to Europe when the USA entered WWI.

We next visited the local Museum located in the renovated RR Station that survived the Villistas raid. As is often the case in small towns and/or counties, the museum consists of various (and sometimes odd) collections collected for decades donated by local citizens. Sometimes the collections deal with the local history and culture of the immediate area, and sometimes not. And the quality and informative nature of the museum is directly related to “enthusiasm” of the volunteer(s). This museum was okay but was spoiled by the “politics” of the volunteer on duty. She called herself a Constitutionalist, but Rush Limbaugh is a Liberal compared to this person. We hastily beat a retreat to have lunch at the Patio CafĂ© home of the famous Terry’s Burgers. We didn’t have any burgers but Dan did have the house specialty – pork tenderloin sandwich. This is 6 inch diameter piece of deep fried tenderloin on a 4 inch bun, very good.

We headed back to the town of Deming – Corrie decided to walkabout and see what shops were in town, Dan decided to go to the Deming Luna Mimbres Museum. The name of museum is for the town (Deming), the county (Luna), and the Native Americans that inhabited the area (Mimbres) before the Europeans showed up. Corrie quickly discovered that aren’t many shops in Deming and soon joined Dan in the museum. This is a great museum and we needed more time to see it all, since we got there only a couple of hours before closing. There are art exhibits, cowboy exhibits, antique autos, Hispanic exhibits, military history, gem & mineral displays, an unbelievable display of Mimbres pottery, and Dan’s favorite – hundreds of ceramic whiskey bottles.

Trivia: Dan was once a “thurifer”, what is it? What is a Harvey Girl?