Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Davis Monthan Bone Yard

Yesterday we took the bus tour around the Boneyard (aka 309th Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group, or AMARG) at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base It's huge. This is the only one in the US. This location in Arizona was chosen because of the weather, it's very dry here, and because of the dirt. The dirt here is hard, much of it is caliche, which is Arizonan for "needs a jack hammer to dig a hole." The advantage is they didn't have to pave the facility, which is just huge.

This is a Navy E 3 C Hawkeye, its mission was to provide early warning of aircraft approaching a carrier battle group. Notice the big radome.

Planes, lots and lots of planes, the ones in the foreground are C-130's, those in the background are Lockheed P-3's, they were used to hunt Russian submarines during the Cold War. There will be many more P-3's here once the Boeing Multi-mission Maritime Aircraft goes into service in the coming years.

This is a Boeing 707-320. It came in from Special Operations. Apparently it is still cloaked in secrecy, as the tour guide knew very little about it.

A B52-G. Only the H's are still flying.

There is a bridge between the two sections of the bone yard. One side consists of planes that could fly again, the other side won't ever fly. Many are being used to provide parts for aircraft that are still active, and many will just be destroyed. These are McDonnell-Douglas (oops-Boeing!!) F-4 Phantoms, many F-4's are being converted into target drones, but these are on the "wrong side of the bridge" and will soon be destroyed.

Although it's good to beat swords into plowshares, it's kind of sad to see all of the airplane corpses; of course it's not possible to save them all, but it is hard to see once beautiful and powerful airplanes waiting for their inevitable destruction.

Today's post was largely written by my beloved (Jim) and I thank him, since he's the airplane guy and I'm not.

Happy New Year!

Riding Fantasy Island

Sunday, December 28. Hiking from the Sarasota Street Trail Head. I love these boulders. They're big, they're impressive.

Monday, December 29. Mountain Biking at Fantasy Island. This is State Trust land; AZ allowed MTBers to create trails on it. They also graze cattle here, which strikes me as a recipe for disaster. This part looks like the dark side of the moon. It had rained recently and the area was full of mud and ruts. The ruts are interesting, they dry hard, like concrete. One shall stay in the rut or face the consequences.

We rode the Res Loop with no dismounts required. It's very benign. After coming back to its start we saw a sign for the Fire Loop and decided to try it. It was more challenging. This whoopty-do (MTB terminology for where the trail goes down and up abruptly) is called the Goal Post. It was not terrible and Jim rode it and liked it.

Then there was this.

It goes straight down into a wash full of big rocks and pot holes, up and then back down and then really up.

This one was just really really steep.

I was very glad to see this sign because it meant we'd reached the turn around point (all trails are one way) and that we could get back to the car without incident.

It was fun. We need to find a few more benign loops so we can increase our mileage sitting on the bikes instead of pushing/dragging the bikes. It's trial and error because all the maps are old and wrong.

There's a company here called SW Trekking, we met one of their guys up at the fabulous J.W. Marriott Resort and Spa. They take guests out for rides, most of which are older people, so you know they aren't taking them on really scary stuff. So I inquired as to how much it would be to hire someone for 4 hours to show us the benign places and provide some instruction for riding rocky stuff. We don't want their transportation, bikes, food or water, just a person. They guy quoted me $150 for one person, or $125 a head for two people. Does $250 for 4 hours of a person's time seem like a lot to you? It seems like a lot to me. I countered with $150 for both of us (which still seems like a lot), but he has not emailed me back. I don't really expect to hear from him. I think they're used to dealing with people way on the other end of the money spectrum.

We will be traveling in March. March 12 we depart for the Great Pacific Northwest, returning March 19. We'll be getting shoulder botoxed, having the physical, seeing the podiatrist for orthotics, tooth cleaning, and all of that. Hopefully the climate will improve just for me.

Yesterday we toured the Davis-Monthan airplane boneyard. Pictures will be up soon. Hope you are all well.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Boxing day, Nature and cold weather

Vegetarians! Avert your eyes.
Christmas Dinner, little lamb chops from Costco. They were really, really good. We were not able to eat them all. Costco also had fingerling potatoes that we like, so we made some of them as well. We opened our last bottle of Biltmore Hotel Syrah and enjoyed it a bunch.

Boxing Day dawned rainy and cold. The string of fabulous weather was at an end. So, we ran errands and returned over due library books.

One of the stops was at the library, where we could see the aftermath of an accident. This is a major intersection in South Tucson, we have to go through here to get anywhere. We think people don't drive with enough care anymore. No one was seriously injured, but the cars are toast.

We drove up to the top of A mountain, also known as Sentinel Peak, to observe the weather. Grisly, everywhere.

Then it was off to the Tucson Mall, north of town to observe the after Christmas sales. The discounts being offered were substantial. Alas, we lack for nothing, and the non-acquisition fatwa is still in place, so very little money was spent. We came back through town, and I finally got a picture of this motel. It has been here forever, and it is exactly what you think it is. You just have to love the name. Click on the photo if you can't read the yellow sign.

Today was much better, although still fairly chilly. This morning we were treated to the unexpected sight of a hummingbird sitting on the tripod stand that hold the lantern. It's not a great picture but he wouldn't hold still, and I took it through the blinds. He's an Anna's hummingbird.

This is a better picture of the species off the web.

As we went outside to leave he had moved, and was sitting on top of the ladder. We wondered why we'd never seen them before.

Then we noticed a new feeder on the neighbor's RV window. We realized that he was sitting on our RV defending his feeder turf against all other hummers. At this point I was still entranced and saying things like "awwwwwww, isn't he cuuuuuuuuuuuuute."

Then we looked under his cute little hummingbird butt and noticed the cute little hummingbird poop that was piling up on the RV. When the neighbors got home tonight we asked them if they would pretty please move the feeder. There is one on the other side of the slide he can use, and he can sit in a palm tree to defend that territory.

Since it was so cold today, we did not ride. Too much wind chill. We hiked for a couple of hours. It's a difficult climate to dress for. If the sun is covered by clouds, it's really cold. If the sun comes out, the thermal gain is immediate and significant. I think we could have dressed a little warmer than we did. We were on a forced march pace trying to stay warm.

Tonight it's supposed to go into the 20's. That's seriously cold. But tomorrow should be sunny again, so it's all good. It snowed on Mt. Lemmon yesterday, they closed the road at the base, they're taking no chances. See the side bar article title, "La Paloma woes signal trouble in hotel sector?" Occupancy rates here are just tanking and this is high season. If one were to desire a break from winter, I'll bet one could negotiate a better rate than normal. Come see us!

So, that's it from here. It was cold, it's warming up. Tomorrow we're bundling up and riding, it's time.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Christmas rainbow

This was a beautiful sight.

Christmas Day posting

This is the trail off the Gerson trail head. Yes, this is a mountain bike trail as well. No, we will not be riding this anytime soon! We were out here Christmas Eve day. It was just a delightful day, absolutely stupendous. It was truly the kind of day that causes one to winter in Tucson.

We spent some time talking to some mountain bikers. They're heading out for the valley floor after riding up the above mentioned climb. They are really good bike handlers.

We took a new trail out into the hinterlands. We had a little nosh and enjoyed the day.

Christmas in the desert. The inflatable Christmas decorations have just taken it in the head from all the wind. Give these guys some air!

Today we are having winter storm number 2 out of 3, which seems to mainly entail gusty winds and gloomy skies. We've decided that bike riding would not be that much fun so we're going to go see a movie instead. Tonight we're going to grill a passel of lamb chops and try to eat them all. Merry Christmas to you and yours.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

The search for the perfect MTB ride continues

The search for mountain biking trails with limited maiming potential continues. Saturday, we hiked up from the Gerson trail head out by Starr Pass to investigate its possibilities. It's a lovely hiking trail, less sticky uppy rocks than the trail we've been hiking, but I don't see us riding it this year. However, we are pretty happy about a new, less rocky hike.

This is a little tableau at the top of the long climb.

This is cool, it's pumping water up from somewhere and flowing through so it doesn't get all green and scummy. It's for the horses.

Monday morning we set out to investigate the previously mentioned Sweetwater Preserve. But first, Jim had to pull thorns out of his tire and change the tube. It's just amazing to me that those skinny little things can work their way intact through all of that rubber. They are a bear to get out. We ended up using a sewing needle and a thimble, we'd stick it in on top of the thorn and smoosh it up.

The trail began with such promise, it lulled us into thinking maybe, this could be true love.

But no, love was not to be. As the trail went up it got narrower, more off camber and rockier. We would have been more willing to try it except for the fact that it's a hillside trail, and mistakes could result in departing the trail and going down the hillside. At one point I was hyperventilating, never a good sign. This is Jim waiting for me, I walked a lot of the rocky bits.

Isn't this housing perfection? They have a beautiful house with an unsullied view of the Sonoran Desert.
So, the search continues. One of the guys at the Ajo Bikestore gave us a few tips. One is a local ride, the other two are pretty far away. But, at least we're outside and pushing one's bike still counts as exercise.

There will be more desert pictures tomorrow - we were out today for awhile. New trails! New vistas!

It's Christmas Eve! Merry Christmas to you all.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Mountain bike trails that Other people can ride

Jim and I have been riding our mountain bikes off the pavement. This is something new for me, and it has caused me some level of consternation because of my ongoing issue with maiming. We've been riding out at a park called Fantasy Island which I like a lot. It's almost all single track through the cactus, some dips through the washes, and a big technical section I don't plan to ride this year. I'm getting better with it, I still walk some of the deep washes, but I'm also riding more of them than I did. However, it's 22 miles round trip to get there. So we've been hoping to find something closer to us. One of the guys we have ridden with in the RV park told us about a trailhead off a road about 6 miles from here. We tried to ride it yesterday, but after dragging the bikes up and down hills for 15 minutes (note I said drag, not ride), we decided that our neighbor is obviously a much better rider than I will ever be.

Today we went out and walked part of it. Foreground is rock, it gives way to some desert trail, then turns into a trough that's a foot wide and 8 inches deep.

Here we have a wash full of soft sand. Sometimes I can ride these, sometimes I can't. The technique is to sit back, unweight your hands, and pedal like hell. But wait, look at the other side. Once crossing the wash we must ride up a rock face. Hah! Double Hah HAH!

This is more of the trail. Don't see the single track? It's rock. I have no clue how to ride that, or how to learn how to ride that without being maimed. It was a nice hike, but I don't see us riding this. People do, there were lots of tracks. Their sense of balance is obviously more developed than mine.

Then we drove up and over Gates Pass on our way up to the Sweetwater Preserve where we had been told there were some nice trails. This is part of the pass in the late afternoon sun.

Sweetwater looks promising. We walked a little of it, and it appears to be swoopy single track like Fantasy Island. It's out in the middle of horse country. There are many houses with attached horse facilities, as well as a stable nearby. It will be interesting to see how much contention there will be for the trail resource. It's surprising that it's open to bikes and horses, generally the two are separated. Since we can go during the day during the week, we're hoping it won't be too crowded.
The Pacific Northwest climate looks gruesome this weekend. Hope all of the Northwesterners are staying warm and off the roads. Be safe!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Decorations and gaudy sunsets

Greetings! Here are some of our exterior decorations. The lighted topiary, very southwestern with its chili pepper lights.

The front of the RV, we have twinkling stars and little trees. Pounding the stakes for all of those items required a steel spike to make the hole in the ground and a couple of hammers. But they are very cute.

Yesterday we had another gaudy Arizona sunset. It was just magnificent.

Other than pictures, I have not too much to offer. We're getting the effects of the giant winter storm which is gripping the nation in its icy clutches, primarily in the form of wind and lower temperatures. Tomorrow may be good enough for biking, that would be good. I'm kind of hiked out. Did laundry today, cleaned house. The chicken in the crock pot comes inside (we crock pot outside so we don't smell it all day) in 30 minutes, then we will have food for two or three meals. Love that. Hope all is well with all of you. Give someone you love a hug, just because.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

One day post lunar perigee

This is the moon one night after perigee. The clouds were just ripping by. It was a cool thing to see.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Windy in Tucson

Saturday was windy! Look at the vertical-ish brown bands in front of the far away mountains. That is blowing dust. We found a new trail, we were out for about two hours. Our feet were happy to put on the flip flops when we arrived back at the truck. The trails are full of sticky-uppy rocks which are tough on the feet. At present the topiary and the lawn chairs are laying on the ground, there is no point in picking them back up. Maybe tomorrow.

Other than that, we have nothing of any import to report.

4th Avenue Street Fair

Friday was a good day. We got up, went for a bike ride west of Gates Pass. We confirmed, once again, that there is no training crossover between hiking and biking. I didn't ride while Jim was gone, and I could tell! But now he's back and we'll be back.
We decided to go to the 4th Avenue Street Fair. This was an event back in the day when I went to school here in the mid-70s to the early 80's. It's a pretty good fair. 4th avenue is the non-traditional shopping part of town. There are stores for shredders and hippies and the natural food co-op, and rather more bars than I remember.
Tucson has reactivated their trolley. It goes from the University to 4th avenue. We did not see where it turns around, or if it was double ended.

The fair is always good for pet and people watching.

The hippies live on through tie dye.

There was a lot of food. On the right of this photo there is something big on the rotisserie. We were not sure what it was, some large piece of cow or pig, no doubt . Giant turkey legs were also popular.

This booth did a terrific job of merchandising their product.

But these people got the prize for most meat on a smoker.

Eventually Jim gave in to the siren smell of grilled animal flesh. That's Chinese chicken on a stick and it was really good. Look behind him and the sign for walking tacos. It was an interesting, but unpopular idea. They would cut open a small bag of Doritos and put taco meat and cheese in the bag. It was not catching on with the fair goers.

This is the hippie store. I wanted to get pictures of the shredder store, but there were too many people in front of it.

Caruso's Italian restaurant has been here forever. It's cool to see that it has survived.

Driving home we were treated to a spectacular Arizona sunset.

This is a cool picture my brother sent me. Look at how close they are to each other. It's a really good shot.

Today a front is moving in which means that it's blowing the dog off the chain again, so we're hiking. The talking weather heads are actually forecasting rain for Wednesday and Thursday. We know that the December rains are important for the spring bloom and so we will not whine about a little rain in the desert, much.