Monday, March 17, 2008

Tucson - Week 1

March 1-8. On our way to Tucson we stopped at Fort Bowie in Bowie, AZ. It took a while to actually get there because the GPS kept telling us to turn where there wasn't a road. (We finally got good directions from a man on a tractor.) The fort was a 45 minute hike up a hill to a very picturesque site. Fort Bowie (5000' el.) was on the Overland stage route and the control center for skirmishes with the Apaches. Geronimo finally surrendered here in 1886. There are so many mountains around here that the military communicated with each other using "talking mirrors" on the mountaintops. You can see the remains of most of the 30 some buildings and was finally closed in 1894. There's a small visitor center with lots of historical info and pictures.

We were thrilled to finally get to Tucson and see the condo where we were going to spend the month. It's beautiful and sits at the foothills of the Santa Catalina Mountains. Our "backyard" is full of stately saguaro cactus.

Sandy has been consumed with doing the taxes for our Amherst condo association and our own taxes. Obviously, we are also doing a bit of sightseeing and hiking.

We went on a self-guided walk through the downtown following the Presidio Trail (an aqua line painted on the sidewalk). Fort Tucson was the first establishment here in 1775. (The name Tucson is from the local native American tribe (Tohono O'odam) word Chuk Shon meaning "at the black base" of the mountain.) All that's left of the 11 acre fort with 10 foot high walls is one wall. On the trail was also a beautiful renovated plaza (La Placita) with a gazebo where, in the 1880's, the stagecoach would stop. Now it houses the Visitor's Center and lots of small shops and restaurants - very relaxing and beautiful. It was wonderful to see orange trees in peoples yards! Besides a number of other interesting historical buildings we stopped at the Temple of Music & Art. It was built in 1927 and now is the home of the Arizona Theatre Company (where we'll see a play in 2 weeks).

It was a beautiful, sunny day for our downtown visit. The only downside was returning to our parking lot and discovering that our front license plate was missing! Well, it could have been taken anywhere from Big Bend until that day. We had to file a police report and will hold on to the report in case we get stopped by the police when we come back to Massachusetts in May. Then we'll have to get new plates. I guess we should be thankful both plates weren't taken.

The Ventana Canyon Trail is accessible from our development. It's a very cool trail because it's narrow, has lots of stream crossings (you step on the rocks), and takes you a couple hours up the mountain if that's what you want to do. We also hiked the Sabino Canyon about 15 minutes east. Some of the saguaro is huge and the skeleton is really interesting. Native Americans had a number of uses for the balsa-wood like sticks from the skeletons.

The weather has been in the mid to high 70's during the day and in the high 40's at night - a refreshing change from Texas and New Mexico weather.

We had George Sierra, our "stepson" from the Amherst ABC house, over for dinner and had a great visit. We hadn't since him since Denver in July 2006. He works in Tucson at the Starr Resort, a 5 star resort!

For nighttime entertainment we've been watching Season 1 of the TV show "24". We love it!

We took in a spring training game between the Arizona Diamondbacks & the Chicago Cubs. It wasn't too exciting until the last 2 innings. AZ had been behind until the 7th inning and ended up winning. It was a really nice stadium and we enjoyed talking with some other retirees from Michigan.

We also went to a University of Arizona softball game. We knew they were outstanding because of their wins against UMass and their NCAA wins (the last ones in 2006 and 2007). Wow! We were impressed. They won 18-2. There were a bunch of people in their 70's and 80's near us who seemed to know all the players. It was a really nice stadium with a board that showed a picture of the player when she was up. Definitely more money has been put into it than UMass's stadium.

We had a great visit to Biosphere2 in Oracle, northwest of Tucson. It was opened in 1991 by Space Biospheres Ventures as a human experiment living off the land in a closed air environment. There were different ecosystems for small animals, insects, plants, and areas to grow their food. There were also "lungs" which compensated for the heavy cold air at night replacing the warm daytime air. Two problems arose: they couldn't grow as much food as they needed and they ran out of oxygen (fake hills made from cement were absorbing it!). Besides the tour it really meant a lot to hear a talk by Jane Poynter, one of the people who lived there from 1991-1993. Her book, "The Human Experiment," describes how the 8 people (4 men, 4 women) struggled socially.

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