McDowell Mountain, February, 2019

McDowell Mountain Regional Park is part of the Maricopa County Park System. Several of their big regional parks have camping facilities with electric and water hookups. This is the third time we have been to McDowell Mountain.

It is a big park, almost 90,000 acres, 80 camp sites and 75 mikes of hiking and biking trails. Many of the trails are shared with horseback riders.

Every day here seems to be different.

Four Peaks to the East.

The Superstition Mountains to the South.

Rain and sun to the South East.

And McDowell Mountain to the West as the sun goes down.

The campsites here are spread out. We have a great campsite for 10 days and then move about 100 yds to another for 11 more. Both face pretty close to South with almost nothing in front of us for miles.

Our days have been sunny, to cloudy to an all day rain. The desert here is very green and lush.

We have been walking almost every day. I am getting out bike riding almost every day. The trails here are lots of fun. I got a new bike helmet, knee pads (from Susan) and more aggressive tires. We have been looking for elbow pads. I wear gloves and glasses too. I just haven’t reached the point where I will get the brightly colored biker wear.

Uphill from the campground toward McDowell Mountain the flowers are in full bloom. These orange poppies are all over, brilliant. There are lots of blue lupines too, they remind us of Texas Blue Bonnets.

In the afternoon the patio awning is nice. We added a sun shade last fall knowing we were coming here again. It makes a big difference. We got some inexpensive buckets at the Ace Hardware in Fountain Hills to hold the edge of the sun shade in place. We tried filling them with water. That worked for a while until it got pretty windy. We watered the nearby bushes and filled them with desert dirt (mostly gravel). They work well and nest and stack in a pretty small space.

We are here for a couple more weeks.

More later, Much Love,

Roger and Susan

Tucson, February, 2019

Our month in Tucson has gone by quickly. Here are a bunch of short cuts.

Drawer Slides

Our friends Carol and Jeff, own a home not to far from Diamond Js. They were full timers staying at Diamond Js one year and drove through their neighborhood, a wonderful Pueblo Style house was for sale. They bought it furnished. Since then health issues have had them sell their coach and now they are full timers in their nice adobe style home. Carol was having trouble with her kitchen drawers. The old slides were just worn out. She got some new self closing slides. Kent Spears was over there for more than four hours one day working on the first drawer. The next day Scott Seibert and I went over to help. It was a bit of a challenge getting everything to fit and to work but we got seven drawers done by the time we went home.

Carol paints rocks. And then added all of the detail to make an amazing gift for my help. Totally unexpected, much appreciated. It was my pleasure to help them out.

Sabino Canyon Recreation Area

Sabino Canyon is in the mountains on the north side of Tucson. It is a popular place to visit, lots of hiking opportunities, picnic places, horse back trails, a river and a lake and a dam. The vast majority of visitors ride the tram up the canyon about 9 miles. You can get on and off at several places. Just our luck to show up to find that the tram was not running. It hadn’t been for some time and there was no scheduled time for it to restart.

We went to the Visitor Center, got a map and a suggested trail to follow. The guy said it was a couple miles, not much elevation change, and a nice smooth trail.

So off we went following the trail. We got to the river.

And the dam.

We found a thumb sized cactus getting started.

And an ocotillo in bloom.

Then we followed the Ridge Trail, up hill, lots of rocks which we expected to lead somewhere other than back to the river. So we back tracked, sat down for a while and then back to the Visitor Center.

We were hot and tired. Our phones said we had gone more than 10,000 steps. A bit more than a couple miles.

On the way we passed Poco and Mom’s restaurant. We went there a week earlier with George and Steph for breakfast. Great huevos rancheros! So we went back.


Dinner at Dave and Nancy’s

Dave and Nancy are another full time Foretravel couple we know. We first met them at Diamond Js several years ago and then again at the National Elk Refuge next to Grand Teton National park. When we saw them 2 years ago at Diamond Js they had done like Carol and Jeff and bought a house just a few blocks away. So now they are here about half time and back to Wyoming the rest of the time. Nancy is happy with more space for her hobbies and Dave is pretty pleased to have a two car garage to claim as his own for shop space. Their home was lovely, very comfortable.

Dave made a wonderful chicken stew and rice. Everyone brought something to share so there was lots to eat including deserts. It was a pleasant evening, 14 Foretravel folks who have become friends over time. Another one of those things we never expected that came with this lifestyle choice.

We are off to McDowell Mountain Regional Park just north of Fountain Hills.

More later, Much Love.

Roger and Susan

Tucson, February, 2019

First Contact

About 20 miles south of Tucson is the Titan Missile Museum. In the 1950s the US Air Force built 54 of these underground Titan II missile launch sites split between Arizona, Arkansas and Kansas. All of these sites were dismantled by 1987 except for this one as part of a nuclear reduction treaty signed as the Cold War thawed out.

Each launch site was staffed by a small crew of four who were responsible for making sure everything was working while they were on duty and for launching the missile if the proper orders were received. They were on duty for a 24 hour “Alert”. The underground site had sleeping quarters, a kitchen and everything they needed for their Alert shift.

Each of the 103 ft tall ballistic Titan II missiles had a reentry vehicle on top with a 9 megaton nuclear warhead inside. These were the largest land based nuclear missiles every deployed by the US. They were 450 times the power of the bomb dropped on Hiroshima.

Each launch control center was protected against a direct strike. Reinforced concrete walls up to 8 ft thick, three ton air sealed blast doors and a 740 ton sliding silo door that could be opened in 18 seconds.

We got a short orientation and then went outside and through two sets of security doors and down eight flights of stairs. And then came to the first of three blast doors.

If you are over 6′ tall you had to wear a hard hat. Lots of low clearance places.

We went down into a service area in the middle of the picture above. There were secure doors into the control rooms to the right and to the long tunnel to the missile silo.

First stop was the control room.

The person leading the tour was very technical. He picked this lady out to sit in the big chair. This whole place screamed 1950s. State of the art for 1950s. Lots of buttons, lights, switches, clocks, dials. The computer here was about the same as an early 1980 PC. No disc drives, no tape drives just a punched paper tape reader. The entire control center was in a hardened shell mounted on giant springs and shock absorbers to isolate it from a near direct hit. The tour leader went through each step necessary to launch a missile.

Alerts and orders to launch came in by radio. There are several different antennas and multiple radio systems. Once the orders came the control center was entirely on its own. They verified orders and codes, started the launch process, the silo doors were opened and the missile was launched in less than a minute.

We left the control center and went though the central area. There were safety suits there worn by the fuel handlers. The Titan missiles were fully fueled and ready to launch at all times.

And then through another blast door and a long tunnel to the launch silo. The tunnel had a suspended walkway full of power and control cables. All of this in another blast resistant structure.

We got to the silo. There were big windows to look inside.

This had a familiar look.

Very familiar.

The hole in the reentry vehicle is to provide verification that the missile is unarmed.

The launch doors are locked partially open, terms of the treaty verification process.

And then I knew where I had seen this. “Star Trek : First Contact” a great 1996 movie that follows the Enterprise back in time to 2063 following a Borg ship. Part of the story is the struggle with the Borg and the other is to ensure that Zefram Cochran makes his maiden flight reaching warp speed. His warp ship is made from a missile in abandoned missile silo in Montana. The first warp drive travel lasted only a minute or so but enough to attract the attention of a Vulcan science ship traveling through the solar system. They land at the launch site and in spite of the Borg’s efforts First Contact was made.

Many of those scenes were filmed here at the Titan Museum. I asked one of the tour guides if I was right and she smiled and said yes. She said almost no one made that connection.

Pretty cool visit.

More later, Much Love,

Roger and Susan

Tucson, February, 2019

Diamond Js is out in the desert. It might be Tucson but it is not in the city. Being in a big city is probably the last place we would ever choose to go. It is just not what we want to do. Apparently others feel the same way.

One of Everything

From a very small Airstream trailer.

To a very high end Newell Motorcoach.

And even a Tiny Home.

A nice Prevost pulled in here today. Some trailers, many fifth wheels, motorhomes of every type. And seven Foretravels. Here are six of themSnow

We had a week or so of cool weather. Lows several nights were in the 30s, a couple below freezing. In Tucson they set three records, most rain, most snow and lowest daytime high temperature for the day.

Woke up to snow.

We went for our morning walk anyway.

Snow in the desert. It was pretty neat. A week later there is still now in the higher elevations.

More later, Much Love

Roger and Susan

Tucson, February 2019

We went to the Pima Air And Space Museum with Scott Seibert, Ken Hathaway and George Denninghoff, all Foretravel folks we know. Scott (and Carol) and Ken (and Dori) are at Diamond Js, George (and Steph) are staying over at the nearby Airforce base campground, a benefit to being retired from the military.

George on the left and Scott are waiting for the shuttle that takes us around the out door displays. Harley is Scott’s service dog. He has the waiting part handled pretty well.

Inside we got a close look at an A10 Warthog. Davis Monthan AF Base has one of the larger squadrons of these formidable air planes. We see some flying almost every day. They entered service in 1976 and have been continuously upgraded recently with new wings and are expected to stay in service until about 2040.

This is one of my favorites. In all of the air museums we have been to I have only seen one more. It is a Grumman OV-1C Mohawk. The bug eyes made it well suited for its job as an observation plane. Wouldn’t this be a cool private aircraft?

This is a Beechcraft 2000A Starship. It was a very advanced Burt Rutan designed all composite pressurized business airplane. Only 53 were built, only 2 or 3 are still flying. I made a presentation to Beechcraft in 1989 on an advanced composite curing process. It never made it into a production aircraft.

And here is a Boeing 787-8 Dreamliner! It is one of the first built as test aircraft. Serial number ZA002. It has hundreds of miles of cables and instrumentation installed and was never intended as a passenger model. Boeing donated it to the Pima Air & Space Museum in 2015. This is the only one of these I have seen.

We had a nice lunch and a unhurried chance to look closer at a few planes. A nice way to do it.

Art’s Birthday

An older fellow from Canada here at Diamond Js had a birthday one day. He smoked a large brisket and invited lots of folks over for dinner (at 4:00 PM). Everyone brought something to share. It was a great dinner, as you can see it was a cool evening.

That’s Art standing up in the back of this two fire pit gathering. Glen, another fellow from Canada, brought his guitar for some very good music and sing along.

More later, Much Love,

Roger and Susan

Tucson, February, 2019

We stayed in Deming, NM for four nights. One day visited the local History Museum, went to Si Seńors for lunch and explored the town, found the old Army Air Base (now the airport) and cleaned the coach inside and out. One day we drove to Silver City and visited the City of Rocks State Park. And the last day we just did everyday stuff, filed my sales tax reports and just took it easy.

In the morning we packed up and headed for Tucson, about 4 hours away. Lots of wind that day. We stopped in Benson, about 50 miles to Tucson to fuel up. It was really blowing. When we stop for a longer time I like to be closer to full. I put an anti-bacterial additive into the tank. It prevents algae from growing while we are stationary.

Tucson, Justin’s Diamond J RV Park.

Justin’s Diamond J is on the SW outskirts of Tucson. We approached Tucson heading north on I 10 and then turn back south on I 19 towards Nogales. It is only a short way to the Ajo Highway. This leads west towards Kitt Peak and further to Ajo. It is about 8 miles to San Joaquin Rd. That leads north toward the Tucson Mountain Park, Saguaro National Park and the Arizona Sonoran Desert Museum. And Diamond Js.

We are in site F72. The sites here are generous. We put out our patio mats and all of the awnings.

And our bicycle tent.

It has been warm enough to wear shorts one day and a warm jacket on another. We had rain overnight last week, snow in the nearby mountains, three feet of it. It got down to 28° last night.

We got the table and the grill out, hooked up the lights (they really aren’t that bright) and we were ready. We are here for a month.

More later, Much Love

Roger and Susan

More Heading West, January, 2019

We split the drive from Kerrville, TX to Deming, NM into two chunks. We thought about going to Davis Mountains State Park near Fort Davis and then up to the nearby McDonald Observatory. It was an extra 2,000 ft elevation increase and a winding twisting road. Maybe next time. We thought about stopping in Ft Stockton but that left a long second day. So we headed to Van Horn a ways west of where I 10 and I 20 come together.

Van Horn has earned a bad reputation about not being friendly to RVs stopping on their streets. I am not sure why. There are several RV parks and they seemed just fine. Nothing special about the overnight or the park but they had a small cafe/pizza place in the park. We saw several folks bringing pizza boxes back to their RV. We did not.

The next morning we got fuel, about 50 gallons. We normally run between 90 and 150 gallons when driving across country. The coach holds 194 gallons. I don’t see much sense in carrying around an extra 400 lbs of fuel.

On to Deming, NM. West on I 10 is long and not much to look at.

About the same all the way.

Except where the entire west bound lanes get diverted through an immigration check point. We waited our turn, drove up past dozens of cameras where they saw we were from Minnesota and that we were older white people. They just waved us through.

To get to Deming we have to go through or around El Paso, TX. We have been through El Paso several times. There is almost always construction, congestion, delays and lots of traffic. So instead of taking I 10 through El Paso we went around.

It was a bit longer but about the same time and a much easier drive.

Shortly past El Paso we arrived in New Mexico. I 10 follows the Rio Grand River up towards Las Cruces and between I 10 and the river there are immense farms growing hay and almost as large cattle feed lots. Everything looks and feels different to us as we get into New Mexico. It is very familiar, very comfortable and somehow different.

Another hour and a half or so to Deming. We stayed at an Escapees Campground named Dreamcatchers. We have been here before, an easy place to stop. There is a motel next door with a pretty good restaurant where we ate an early supper one day.

We drove the Jeep Cherokee north one day to Silver City. It was about 80 miles. We had heard it was a nice place to visit. Along the way we stopped at City of Rocks State Park. It was pretty interesting. It is old volcanic ash and rock formation. Most of the surrounding area has long ago eroded but the particular area was harder and is still here.

There were trails all over to follow through the rocks.

The rocks covered an area about a half mile long by a quarter mile wide.

There was a small camping area with electric hookups and lots of campsites all over for just about every type of camper. Almost all of the sites were full. Another popular New Mexico State Park. Most we have seen have been someplace we would stay. Electric sites are $14/night. Out of state campers can buy an annual camping pass for $240. Unlimited camping for a year. Electric sites cost $4 extra per night. Pretty inexpensive.

Silver City turned out to be a long drive to an uninspiring destination. It is an old mining town. There is still very large open pit copper mines nearby. This is big scale mining where they also find some silver and gold but mostly copper. Huge mountains of tailings, huge pipelines moving used water into large man made lakes of used (contaminated) water.

Not much there to get us to return.

We went to The Deming Luna Mimbres Museum. We have been here a couple times before, worth the stop.

I spent some time looking at art work. There are some amazing pieces here.

These are all local artists.

This one reminded me of a Gustave Baumann wood block print.

One of the volunteers at the museum told us she grew up in the Deming area and knew where this Texaco Station was. She said it was gone but the small building behind is still there.

They have an expanding military exhibit area that goes all the way back to the mid 1800s through the present. Much more now from the Vietnam era.

Next stop is Tucson, AZ.

More later, Much Love.

Roger and Susan