Wednesday, February 21, 2018

2/20 Gilbert Ray Campground

Gilbert Ray Campground is part of Tucson Mountain Park, which is owned by Pima County. It is a very busy, cash or checks only, no-reservation campground with a seven-day limit.  This means you have to get here before noon during the winter season to have a reasonable chance of getting a spot.  I spent a couple of nights at nearby Picacho so I would get here before noon.  Roads are paved, but sites are gravel, and you don't get to pick your site.  They assign you to a site based on the size of your RV.    

The campground is west of Tucson.  If your RV is heavier than 12,000 pounds, which mine is, you cannot come over the very scenic Gates Pass, but have to take roads either from the east or south of the park. 

Another nice thing about the campground is that it is only a miles from the Sonoran Desert Museum and from Old Tucson, and about three miles from Saguaro National Park.  This means there is a lot to do in the area.  All of these things are within bike riding range, although you have to ride on a shoulder-less road that can be busy.  Speed limits are fairly low for cars, however, and commercial trucks are limited.  Here is one road on the way in through the national park.  

As you can see from my photos, the desert is usually dry, but it does get some rain.  

I took this photo later in the afternoon, when the typical no vacancy sign had been posted.

One nice thing is that they have recycling, so I can leave the large bag I have been accumulating.

A very pretty place and extremely quiet at night.

A couple of days ago, I was on my way to the dump station down this road, when I got crowded by another RV coming toward me.  I moved over and blew an outside dually tire on these rocks.  

These VERY shark rocks!  Luckily, I have a second tire (dually) on the rear bolted to the damaged tire, so was able to get back to my site safely.  However, even with a second tire, it was nerve wracking because the second tire is not designed to carry the entire load of that side of the vehicle on its own.  

I called my road service company, CoachNet, and they sent a service vehicle to change the tire to my spare.  Long story, but ended up with a whole group of sightseers because the service truck had only a 2-ton jack because the service guy was expecting a Ford Econoline van.  He had been told my vehicle was an "E-450," which it is, except it is a 15,000 pound motorhome built on a Ford Superduty E-450 chassis, and a 2-ton jack will not lift it. (Basically, my vehicle is a medium-duty truck.)

Luckily, my neighbors rallied around and brought over both a 6-ton jack and a 12-ton jack, and offered a lot of "support" to the poor service guy who had never changed a tire on such a big vehicle or even one with dual wheels!!  (Last time I had a blowout three years ago, they sent a guy in a car with his girlfriend.  They were on their way out to dinner or something.  He had to call a friend who brought a bigger jack in his pickup truck.  Don't know where they find these guys!  CoachNet is a specialized road service company for trailers and motorhomes, so they should have communicated better with the service company they called.)  

Note: If you want to attract a crowd in a campground, have some sort of mechanical trouble and your fellow campers will all come to watch the excitement and even help.  Anyway, I provided an hour's entertainment to the neighbors. Guess I should have taken photos.  And I haven't even talked about how the service truck guy arrived by driving the wrong way around the one-way, single-lane campground road and got the notice of the camp hosts.

Luckily, I had a good spare, but it was low on air, so he used my air compressor to pump it up to the required 80 PSI.  Anyway, here is my old tire.  

Nice big hole you can put your hand through.  I will be stopping at a tire store on my way to Phoenix tomorrow to buy a new tire.  

Another set of sharp rock curbs on the way out of the campground!  Will try not to be crowded over next time.  Took this photo from my bike.  As you can see, today was sunnier than last Friday or the weekend, although it rained during the night and is still cold. 

 I'll be back here in a couple of weeks, and maybe the weather will be warmer so I can spend more time at the museum and visit Old Tucson.

2/16 Sonoran Desert Museum

The Sonoran Desert Museum is mostly a botanical park, but since it also contains animals from this area, it is a zoo as well.  I am camped at Gilbert Ray Campground nearby, but it has been cold and drizzly in this desert, so I have been mostly huddling inside around my electric heater and keeping my furnace running at night.  

However, some fellow RVers that I know from a women's forum stopped by so we headed out to the museum for a few hours--wearing jackets, of course.  I bought a season pass, and my friends got in using the two guest passes they gave me.  I will be back here in a couple of weeks and the passes are good through February 2018, so I think I will get my money's worth. 

I have been here several times--the first way back in the late 1990s when my son was working for a summer nearby here.   Except it was 110 degrees and sunny that day!

Lots of paths to follow, and it is easy to get lost, but there is always something interesting to see.  

A local deer in this pen.  

And there is black bear in this area, but he has his back to us and is taking a nap.  See the black lump on the ledge?

Here he is! 

Nice view across the valley.  Tucson is in the distance, but my campground is only a mile away.  You can see the low clouds in the distance. 

This little burrowing owl was all fluffed up against the cold. 

We saw several yuccas in various stages of blooming.  Maybe this one will be flowering when I come back in a couple of weeks. 

And another. 

And here is one that is almost in bloom.  It needs to open just a bit more. 

This is a young saguaro where the main stem died and two new stems started growing.   Saguaro National Park is just down the road, by the way. 

Pretty hummingbird in the hummingbird house. This is a Costa's hummingbird, and his throat is dark red or purple depending on the sun. This is a male--the females are drab so they can hide in the nest.

 Can you see the hummingbird sitting on a nest?  I circled it because it blends in so much.
Here is an enlargement, but this is a very tiny bird.

A couple of Gamble's quail in the bird house.

This bird was all fluffed up and crouched against the cold.  Don't blame it.

By this point, it was getting colder and really starting to drizzle heavily, so we headed back to my campground for sandwiches.  

Will take more photos when I come back, and hopefully, it will be warmer and sunny, resulting in more birds and animals being out then.

Saturday, February 17, 2018

2/14 Picacho Peak

As you drive on I-10 between Phoenix and Tucson, you will see a mountain on the west side of the highway with a unique shape, less than a mile off the freeway.  This is Picacho Peak, and there is a state park campground at its base.  The peak was formed by a volcanic flow that never reached the surface, but is now eroded away by time.

This mountain has a long history with travelers as a landmark for travelers because of its unique shape and the fact that it can be seen for miles.  In fact, even pre-historic travelers knew this peak and one of their major trails went past it.  In fact, the park even boasts a Civil War battlefield.  In looking online for more history, I found an excellent student paper on this place. 

I only stayed here for two nights, and it was cloudy during the day, so I did not take many photos, but this is one of my favorite way-points along I-10 and a highly rated campground.  

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

2/10 Brief Tour of Heard Museum

In between watching hoop dancers, I went inside the museum and wandered around.  I have been here before, so did not spend a lot of time at each exhibit.  They have two gift shops and a very nice restaurant/cafe. 

This was a jewelry special exhibit.

And just some random photos of the museum.

The museum owns thousands of katsinas.  Surprisingly, many were donated by the late Barry Goldwater. This explains what katsinas are and how they were used.  Sorry for poor photo quality, but I was not allowed to use a flash.