Saturday, March 28, 2015

Bugs at McDowell

McDowell continues to be a superb place to ride.  The poppies and lupines and much of the yellow ground cover are turning a little brown, but it's still nice to be here.  The cactus bloom continues; it's kind of cool to be riding through a browning landscape and see a flash of color out of the corner of your eye.  The purples are just fluorescent they are so bright.

A pink buckhorn, we are still on the hunt for the less common fuscia.

Surrounded by all this beauty and all of these trails, there is a fly in the ointment.  Two nights ago we were invaded by this.  They're very small, and their goal in life seems to be to crawl up my nose or in my ears.  I ended up standing in the kitchen randomly swinging the Executioner,  listening to the pops as many of the bugs died.  Last night we did not open the door after dusk.

Today we are not riding.  My knees are feeling a little puffy after yesterday, which was a longer ride.  Also, today there is a cross country mountain bike race in the park.  They don't close any of the trails, so it's likely that racers and non-racers will be in proximity.  I am surprised that they are routing the racers up the steep part of the Bluff trail, which most people ride down.  Hopefully there will be no carnage.
We're going to make our way into the traffic hell that is Scottsdale this after noon to visit Jim's cousin.   It's amazing to me how dense the population is here.  My memories of the area are from 1972, and it's very different now.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Riding Uphill at McDowell

Today we were up and out earlier than yesterday, and it became hotter earlier than yesterday, as well.  We rode Pemberton to Tonto Tank.  It's been years since we were on that trail and I have to say I did not remember that much climbing.  Here is Jim, waiting for me.  Thank you, Jim.

Then we rode up the Rock Knob trail towards the recently opened Sonoran Preserve.  I think this may be the knob.

We were in the Sonoran Preserve over New Years.  We had intended to go hiking, but it was too cold.  You can read about it here, and re-visit the pictures of snow on the cactus.  Today we didn't go all the way into the parking lot due to the large numbers of hikers coming up from the trail head. 
The rock formation almost center photo is a thumb.  They're formed from erosion working against dissimilar rock layers.  Going back to the RV was a blast, smooth trails and down hill. 

Tomorrow we're up and out for a short ride.  We have to be off this site at noon.  We'll drive down and dump.  Then we will loiter in the visitor's parking lot with the bus and wait for it to be 1:00 so we can check in to our new site.  One may not check in early, or one may incur the wrath of the camp hosts.
This park is still good, it remains beautiful with spectacular scenery.  However, it's not as friendly as it used to be.  Before the on-line reservation system, sites were first come first serve.  The camp hosts would see you come it, and they would drive the gator over and collect rent. They would talk, pass the time, and make conversation.  None of that occurs now.  We see them raking, but there's no interaction. I miss the good old days.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Monday, March 23, 2015

Tucson to McDowell Mountain Park

Today we drove up to McDowell Mountain Park.  It was a very aggravating drive.  Extremely aggravating.  Fountain Hills has an enormous paving project going on.  We found ourselves approaching a major intersection, with the cross road closed.  The road crew had placed barriers and lane markers forcing traffic turn turn either left or right.  We were in the right lane, and there was no way we could make that turn.  When you have a big RV, you have a wide swing when turning.  Jim was forced to turn into the oncoming traffic lane.  Half the road had been torn up, the remaining lane was serving both directions.  Fortunately, there were no cars coming toward us, and we had a break in the lane markers in time to move back in to our lane.  Four cars behind us followed us, apparently equally confused as to where we were supposed to be on the road.  Anyway, while making the turn, we dragged the truck along a barrier.  It creased the sheet metal.  Jim is very upset about this. 

We are now at McDowell.  It's a lovely park.  It's very quiet here; no sirens, no motorcycles, no helicopters.  We are having to be conscious about water and internet usage.  In Tucson we have sewer and DSL, unlimited resources as it were.  Here, we must practice conservation.
The buckhorn chollas are set for an epic bloom.  They've just started, and there are buds everywhere.  These are my second favorite cactus.  The trico cereus is my favorite.

See the green bug in the flower?  It was an iridescent green.

So we're here for seven nights.  We have to move sites mid week, which is kind of a bummer, but they're really full.  It will be hot, riding will have to be done early.  Sunday is forecast to be 93 degrees.  That's really hot.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Spring in the Desert

Spring has come to the desert.  This is some sort of a thrush that recently appeared in the tree behind the RV park fence.  He spends a lot of time here singing his song of love.  It is a long, complicated song.  So far we have not seen any lady thrushes responding to him.

Look at the buds on this cactus.  If they would all open at the same time it would be magnificent. 

Yellow bushes at the ball fields where we stopped on a ride today.  They're very pretty.

The ocotillos are finally starting to open.

We rode the Santa Cruz, Rillito, Mountain loop today and stopped at Starbucks by the university.  The starlings were stalking anyone with food.  The boy pigeons were stalking the girl pigeons.

I love how intent they all are on getting to that piece of scone, except for the one bird who seems oblivious to what is happening behind him.

Flowers in the courtyard.

Jim is off to Home Depot.  Safelite came yesterday to fix the star crack.  It's now undetectable after being filled.  Unfortunately, the tech put his equipment on the very top of our ladder.  It then fell off on to the tray where a paint bucket would go, and then hit the ground.  Fortunately for us all, it did not impact the windshield or the front of the bus during its fall.  They are replacing our ladder, which is good, since it can't fully fold up anymore.  Note to self, pay more attention when people are working around the bus.

So that's it for today; songs of love and desire, flowers and ladders.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Rain in Tucson

Aaaargh!  It has been a day, maties!  Rain was in the forecast, so in the morning we decided on a long walk in the park with hand weights.   After returning to the bus,  Jim cleaned the inside of the windshield and discovered a star crack up high.  Note to self, start inspecting the windshield after each drive.  Safelite will be out tomorrow to fix it.  This week continues to fill up with nuisance items.
After talking to insurance and making the appointment, the skies lightened and we decided to get the bikes out after all.  Radar was showing no rain and the forecast was saying no rain until late in the afternoon.  Seven miles up the road it started raining; by the time we were riding up Mission to the RV park, the water was pooling on the road.  My brand new socks were black with dirt and oil from the road.  We had skunk stripes up our backs!  The very second we got back to our site, the rain stopped.  It took hours for Jim to get the bikes cleaned up and for me to do laundry.  We were covered in yuck.  As we were putting the clean shiny bikes back in the truck the rain returned.  It is now pouring.
It's kind of soothing, the sound of rain and the sounds of the Tucson airport control tower.  Jim has found a site that lets you listen to pilots and controllers talking to each other.  It's interesting to listen to them talking.  If this interests you, go here.  The internet has so many ways to squander time. 

The yuccas are in full bloom.  It's always amazing how such a spikey alien looking plant can put out such fantastic flower spikes.  These are along side the freeway.

We are trying to get things wrapped up so we can get out of here.  The week in Phoenix is looking like it will be hotter than the hubs of hell.  Guess we'll be up and out early on the bikes. 

Sunday, March 15, 2015

New Tires, More Wildflowers

Greetings Earthlings!  We're counting down the days until we are gone from Tucson.  This year, as is usually the case, the last week has filled up with dentists, eye doctors and trying to get the new (very expensive) truck tires to be balanced.  The truck has been back to Jack Furrier once for re-balancing; but the ride was still not good.  We took the truck to Watson Chevrolet and paid for them to do Road Force Balancing.  It's a pretty cool technology.  As it turned out the left rear tire was not going to balance with the addition of more weights.  We took the report in to Furrier, they looked at it and immediately said they'd order a new tire.  We were stunned, I was expecting to have to escalate the issue to a district manager.
Work continues in the Santa Cruz river.  They are now armoring a water control outfall.  They are doing massive work on this.  Why this needed to be done is still a mystery to me.

Friday we took the mountain bikes out to Fantasy Island.  Jim's front tire was not holding air, so he added a syringe full of latex to it.  We recently learned that one is supposed to remove the tires 3 times a year and scrape out the latex.  That's not happening, the latex seal is really difficult to break.  When they get too full of old latex, I'm paying for that maintenance.  Anyway, we needed to ride the bikes to distribute the new latex in the tire.  A church has purchased part of the state trust land and is now scraping the desert preparatory to putting up a new church.  I personally think we have enough churches and not enough mountain bike trails.  The Bunny Trail has been relocated by the construction zone. 

Someone has left this inside the fence at Fantasy Island.  It may be a commentary on the church construction, or it may just be a marker for the Bunny Trail.

Today was day two of blowing the dog of the chain winds.  There is a high pressure system in the north, and a low pressure system to the south and they are rubbing against each other and making wind from the east.  Enough already!  We hiked since it was too windy to ride.  The poppies are out.  This is the highest concentration that we have seen out there.

The jojoba is out, as well.  (Actually, I am wrong, fooled by the pictures of plants posted by the Marriott Resort alongside the trail.  The yellow bushes are brittlebush.)

It was 92 degrees in Phoenix today.  We are heading up there next Monday for seven days.  One fervently hopes that the temperatures will return to their normal range before we arrive.  We're going to ride a bunch of trails for a week.  We're back here through Easter and then we are gone as of  April 6.  We will be heading west.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Squamous Cells

Tuesday morning we were up and out early to take Don and Jaime to the airport.  They were flying to Miami to attend the annual meeting of the Americas-Hepato-Pancreato-Biliary Association.Their son, Elijah, is the outgoing society president.  He'll also be presenting a paper at the meeting.
As we were leaving the airport we saw this.  These riders are from the Air Force Academy.  They come out in the spring to ride the hills and train.  We've seen them before on Gates Pass.

We spent yesterday running errands.  There was a trip to Camping World, Target, Trader Joes and Costco.  There was much time spent in the truck driving driving driving.  We had planned to do a hard ride today, but noooo.  A late afternoon phone call from the dermatologist changed those plans.
We were at the dermatologist's office early this morning.  Jim's little bump on the arm turned out to be a squamous cell carcinoma.  Here he is receiving mass quantities of local anesthesia.

The treatment is to scrape the site and then burn, also known as curettage and electrodesiccation.  It was a new little cancer, it popped up about 4 weeks ago. Larger carcinomas can require surgical removal, but since Jim's was so young and tender it was amenable to this process.  Here we are scraping away tissue.

This is the electrodesiccator.  It is emitting low-power high-frequency high-voltage AC electrical pulses, via an electrode mounted on a hand piece.  You can see the the spark at the end of the tip, burning away Jim's flesh.  Ewwwww!

The dermo-dude did three scrapes and three burns.  It went quickly.  After leaving the office we went home so Jim could rest.   Then we did laundry, defrosted the freezer, vacuumed the bus, noticed the vacuum cleaner was smelling really hot, cleaned out the the vacuum cleaner filter (which is a pain) and then went to the grocery store.  We're tired!

Monday, March 9, 2015

Hawk on the Trail

Winter has improved somewhat in the Old Pueblo.  We've been hiking a lot when it's windy. The desert remains really lush.  The hill sides are yellow from the blooming jojoba bushes.

Yesterday we rode up the Santa Cruz trail and back via Mountain.  It was very pleasant, not too hot, not too cold, and fairly calm.  We saw this guy on the Santa Cruz.  There were two hawks, they were in the process of eating a pigeon they had killed.  Isn't he pretty?

After posing briefly, he flew away.

Other than a picture of the hawk, that's all I have to report maties.

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Pima Air Museum

Friday we went to the Pima Air Museum with Don and Jamie.  We had not been there for about three years and we were amazed at how much new stuff there is.  It's the third largest air museum in the country and is really worth a visit.
This is the first Lear Jet, the Model 23.  The interior is very small, the seats are small.  Basically you crawl into it.  When people would complain to Bill Lear (who designed it) that one could not stand up in it, he would respond "well you can't stand up in a f*cking Cadillac, either."  Mr. Lear also designed the eight track tape deck.

See the little sticky-uppy things on the wing of the Lear?  They are vortex generators, which are employed on an airfoil to delay airflow separation, which will improve the effectiveness of control surfaces such as ailerons, rudder, or flaps.  In the case of the Lear 23 they were employed to improve airflow over the ailerons.

They have an SR-71.  It's the most amazing plane.  See the engine over there on the right?  That pointy part of the engine would move out and in. The pointy thing is what is called an inlet spike, it would retract as the airplane accelerated to control airflow into the engine.  The spike operated in concert with other parts of the engine inlet to enable the engine to operate at the high speeds (over 3 times the speed of sound) that the SR was capable of.

This is a Martin PBM Mariner.  It's a WWII vintage amphibious plane.  It was a long range Navy patrol airplane.  It's really tall in the fuselage to keep the propellers out of the water.  This is the sole survivor of the almost 1,300 Mariners built.  There is one upside down in Lake Washington in the Seattle area.

There are many airplanes in hangars.  There are also some really cool models.  The concept of the flying submarine first arose in the 1930s.  With the advent of WWII the idea was tabled.  The thought resurfaces occasionally, but to date nothing has been built.

This is a Russian Sea Skimmer.  It's a 400-ton airplane with eight engines.  There are six anti-tank missiles on the top of the plane.  It can carry tanks and troops at over 500 miles per hour.  I'm putting up the descriptive text below this picture - it's a really interesting concept.

The Boeing YC-14.  Boeing made two prototypes of this Short Take Off and Landing airplane. Jim witnessed it taking off and landing at Boeing field during flight tests.  He says it was pretty cool to see something that big take off in that short amount of runway.  McDonnell Douglas also made two prototypes, (the YC-15) both were built for the military as possible replacements for the Hercules C-130.  In the end the military didn't buy either, but they were the precursors of the C-17.  There were four prototypes.  The museum has one of the YC-14s.  The other is in the Boneyard.  There used to be a YC-15 in the Boneyard.  However, in 2012, AMARG destroyed the YC-15 in place, rather than towing it over to the museum. It makes me sad to think about the other YC-14 meeting the same fate.  It's hard to comprehend the logic of destroying one offs and prototypes that defined the history of flight.  The other YC-15 is at Edwards Air Force base.

A Super Guppy, it hauls big light weight stuff.  It's difficult to believe something that looks like that can fly.

The B-24 Liberator.  The plane was used extensively in WWII.  It was an unpressurized airplane.  If you look at the nose of the plane there is a ball turret.  A very short man sat in there and fired a 50 caliber machine gun at the enemy.  There were two other waist gunners who fired their machine guns from an open hatch on the side of the airplane.  They were equipped with electrically heated flight suits, but they were unreliable. 

This ball turret is under the belly of the plane. 

This is how the gunner spent his day.  There was no room for a parachute.  He had to be cranked up and in to a position that would allow him to exit the turret.  The plane could land with the turret down, but if the landing gear collapsed it was over for him.  There is a really good article on the web which can be found here.

Sentimental Journey is a B-29 Superfortress.  This plane is restored, but does not fly, like Fifi.

The museum is good.  You really need two days to see it all and read it all, while avoiding airplane overload. There are many old gentlemen volunteering at the museum, and they know their airplanes.  They will be more than happy to tell you about them.
We also took the bus ride to the Boneyard which is where planes go once their usefulness is over.  That tour is also worth doing.  It does bug me that there are prototypes and one offs over there, which probably will be scrapped.  However, the US Air Force does not seem to be committed to historic preservation to the extent that I would like them to be.
Also owned by the air museum is a Titan Missile site.  It's the only one remaining of the 18 that surrounded Tucson during the cold war.  They have a missile in the silo.  Jim went many years ago and really enjoyed it.