Road Trip to Seattle: Tucson


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Tucson, Arizona’s second-largest city, has interesting historical architecture, a number of diverse attractions, and a college-town vibe from the 46,000 students at the sprawling University of Arizona campus. Area attractions include the Pima Air and Space Museum, the “aircraft graveyard”, and the Arizona-Sonora desert museum.

The Pima Air and Space Museum is one of the largest privately-funded air and space museums in the world. The museum dates to the 1960s when commanders of a nearby military storage facility began preserving some World War II and 1950s aircraft that were otherwise destined for the smelter. Initially the planes were lined up just inside the base fence line for public viewing and the collection moved to the current publicly-accessible location in 1973.

The original military storage facility continued to grow and now is the largest aircraft storage and preservation facility in the world, known as the “aircraft graveyard”, and containing nearly 4,000 planes. Hundreds and hundreds of planes just lined up in the middle of the desert is an amazing sight.

The Arizona-Sonora desert museum is a combination zoo, botanical garden, natural history museum, art gallery, and aquarium focused on the Sonoran Desert and adjacent ecosystems and is one of the most popular attractions in southern Arizona. As a scale point on how interesting the museum was, we spent most of a day there, despite the fact that it was 113F (45C) and most of the attractions are outside. The desert life was diverse and beautiful and the visit was a real highlight of our road trip.

We spent two nights in Tucson on the next leg of our road trip to Seattle, traveling 318 miles (511 km) from El Paso, Texas. This brought our total trip distance up to 2,215 miles (3,564 km) across nine states (South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, Texas, New Mexico and Arizona).

Below are highlights from June 14th and 15th, 2021. Click any image for a larger view, or click the position to view the location on a map. And a live map of our current route and most recent log entries always is available at mvdirona.com/maps.

6/14/2021
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El Paso Sunrise
Sunrise over El Paso shortly before we depart our room in the Hotel Indigo.
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New Mexico
Crossing briefly New Mexico just north of El Peso. This is the eight state on our road trip, but we’ll be just passing throught into Arizona.
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Pecan Orchard
Passing through a huge pecan orchard just inside the New Mexico border. 20% of the US pecan production is grown in New Mexico.
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Border Patrol
Passing through a Border Patrol station in New Mexico. These federal facilities were setup decades ago to control the illegal trafficking of migrants, drugs and other contraband. We were waved through with no questions asked.
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Boat Transport
A Florida boat under transport in New Mexico.
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Mogollon Mountains
The Mogollon Mountains in Gila National Forest. The tallest peak in the range is 10,895 ft (3,321 m) Whitewater Baldy.
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Arizona
Entering Arizona, the ninth state on our road trip to Seattle. We’ve really been looking forward to visiting, particularly to see the Grand Canyon.
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Four Engines
Very busy train tracks run alongside this section of I-10. The trains often are quite long, some with four engines in the front and others with extra engines in the middle.
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Dust Storm Warnings
Dust storms seem to be a real hazard here in Arizona. We’ve passed several sets of signs warning drivers to pull over, stop the car and take their feet off the brakes.
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Rock Formations
Striking geological formations near Roadforks, New Mexico. The landscape is becoming decidedly more desert now.
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Peloncillo Mountains
The western edge of the Peloncillo Mountains in Arizona, where they extend into the state from New Mexico.
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Accident
A scary-looking accident on I-10. The tractor and trailer look to have been recently righted after overturning.
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Kitty Central Portable Edition
Between the hotel and the car, we pack up most of “Kitty Central” into this large North Face duffle bag. Inside are Spitfire’s litter box, food, food bowls, sleeping bed and toys. This picture as we arrive into our hotel in Tucson AZ shows everything we carry into the hotel room, except for Spitfire in his carry bag. We each carry a knapsack with our laptops and other items, Jennifer carries Spitfire and “Kitty Central” while James brings an LL Bean XL rolling duffle bag (behind Jennifer) and our Engel cooler (at right).

Today we traveled 318 miles (511 km) from El Paso and were in three states: Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona.

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107 F
The temperature in Tucson is 107 F (41 C), with a heat advisory in effect for a predicted 111 F (44 C) this afternoon. We’ve never seen temperatures that high before.
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Pima Air and Space Museum
McDonnell Douglas F-15A Eagle Fighter on display at the Pima Air and Space Museum in Tucson AZ, one of the largest privately-funded air and space museums in the world. The museum dates to the 1960s when commanders of the nearby Davis-Monthan Air Force Base and Military Aircraft Storage and Disposition Center (MASDC) began preserving some World War II and 1950s aircraft that were otherwise destined for the smelter. Initially the planes were lined up just inside the base fence line for public viewing and the collection moved to the current publicly-accessible location in 1973.
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Air Force One
The Douglas VC-118A (militarized Douglas DC-6) Liftmaster Air Force One used by presidents Kennedy and Johnson between 1961 and 1965.
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Super Guppy
Aero Spacelines B-377SG Super Guppy cargo transport in use from 1965-1995. The Super Guppy is designed to carry oversized cargo and is the only plane to have carried a complete S-IVB stage, the third stage of the Saturn V rocket, several times during the Apollo program.
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Convair B-36J
With a wingspan of 230 ft (70 m), the longest of any military aircraft ever built, the Convair B-36J “Peacemaker” Strategic Bomber really stands out among the several-hundred planes at the Pima Air and Space Museum. It’s absolutely gigantic when seen in person. This was the primary nuclear weapons delivery vehicle for the US Strategic Air Command from 1949 to 1955, when the B-52 Stratofortress was introduced. The B-36 left service in 1959.
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Bomber Flying
A bomber from the nearby Davis-Monthan Air Force Base (DM) flew past several times while we were visiting the Pima Air and Space Museum. The base is best known as the home of the “aircraft graveyard” where about 4,000 planes are stored.
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MIG-29
A Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-29, one of six of the Soviet fighter aircraft on display in the US.
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Sikorsky CH-54A
A Sikorsky CH-54A heavy-lift cargo helicopter, one 105 purchased by the US Army, can carry payloads of up to 20,000 lb (9,072 kg).
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Blue Angel F-18
An F-18 Hornet painted in the color scheme of the Blue Angels, the U.S. Navy’s aerial demonstration team.
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F-14 Tomcat
James’ favorite fighter, an F14A Tomcat, on display at the Pima Air and Space Museum.
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SR-71 Blackbird
A Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird stealth reconnaissance plane. It was one of the first designed with a shape to reduce detection through radar, but its primary defense mechanisms were extreme altitude and speed. The SR-71 still holds the record for speed of 2,193 mph (3,529 km/h) and altitude in horizontal flight of 85,068 ft (25,929 m).
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Solid Rocket Booster
A combination of real and replica parts of a reusable Thiokil solid rocket booster, developed specifically for the Space Shuttle program. After launch, the booster detaches from the shuttle and parachutes into the ocean for recovery. It’s one of the rubber-sealed joints visible looking down the fuselage that failed and destroyed the Space Shuttle Challenger during its tenth flight.
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Airplane Graveyard
A view to the astounding “aircraft graveyard” just outside Tucson where about 4,000 planes are stored. Hundreds and hundreds of planes just lined up in the middle of the desert is an amazing sight.
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Desert Garden
We’ve not spent much time in the desert, and were really impressed with the beauty of this cactus garden we passed while walking to dinner in Tucson.
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El Charro Cafe
An enjoyable Mexican meal streetside at El Charro Cafe in Tucson AZ.
6/15/2021
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Flushing Watermaker
Performing a remote flush of Dirona‘s water maker from our hotel room in Tucson. We can see the power draw went from 20 amps to 26 amps (at right), confirming that all went as planned. Remote flush is a new addition for us, since in the past we’ve rarely been away from the boat for weeks at a time.
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Engel Cooler
Another item we purchased for our road trip is this Engel soft-sided cooler that has worked out remarkably well. The cooler seals like a drysuit and is amazingly effective at keeping items cold. We put a few cold beverages from the boat fridge inside when we left on the trip and they were still cold that night when we reached Jacksonville FL without even putting any ice inside. When the bag is in the hotel room, ice will last a good two days and it will last the full day even when the cooler is left in the hot car while we are out hiking. It’s also easy to transport, either by the shoulder strap or carry handles, and just fits on the floor behind our car seats, where it takes up no valuable cargo space and we can reach it easily from the front seat.
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Saguaro
Our first view of the ubiquitous Saguaro cactus in the Sonoran desert outside Tucson, seen while driving to the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum. Having seen so many images in our childhood of the tree-like cactus in cartoons, it’s fun to see a live field of them. The saguaro’s blossom is the Arizona state wildflower.
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Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum
At the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum, about a half-hour’s drive outside of downtown Tucson. The museum is a combination zoo, botanical garden, natural history museum, art gallery, and aquarium focused on the Sonoran Desert and adjacent ecosystems and is one of the most popular attractions in southern Arizona. As a scale point on how interesting the museum was, we spent most of the day there, despite the fact that it was 113F (45C) and most of the attractions are outside. The desert life was diverse and beautiful and the visit was a real highlight of our road trip.
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Mountain Lion
The mountain lion Cruz, partaking in one of his favourite activities, lazing in the shade. The lion was rescued as a 5-month-old cub weighing only 15 pounds and has been nursed back to health, but is unsuitable for release back into the wild. We’re pretty sure his tail now weighs more than 15 pounds :-).
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Black Bear
American black bear at the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum. Adult male bears are about 4 to 6 feet (1.2 -1.8m) in length and can weigh up to 600 lbs (272 kg). Adult females are a similar length, but generally weigh 90 to 175 lbs (40 to 80 kg).
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Mexican Gray Wolf
The Mexican gray wolf is is an endangered species who once inhabited mountainous areas, woodlands, and riparian habitats of the southwestern United States. In today’s unusually hot weather even for Arizona, when sprinklers came in their enclosure, the wolves rushed over to stand in the spray until they were dripping water.
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Desert Loop Trail
Overlook above the desert loop trail, a half-mile walking path through diverse desert habitat.
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Teddy Bear Cholla
The formidable spines that cover the Teddy Bear Cholla give it a soft appearance, hence the name.
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Javelina
A Javelina, a medium-sized pig-like hoofed mammal, found in Central and South America and in southwestern North America.
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Grey Fox
The grey fox has a silver-grey coat and red legs and chest.
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Ocelot
Arizona is the northern range of the endangered Ocelot. A museum worker just brought in this block of ice that the cat began licking immediately. Even the locals are finding it unusually hot today :-).
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Greater Roadrunner
The Roadrunner is undoubtedly the most famous bird in the Sonoran desert due to the Wile E. Coyote and the Road Runner cartoons. While highly fictionalized in the cartoon, the Roadrunner is fast and can reach speeds of 15 mph (24 kph).
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Bobcat
A bobcat, with beautiful tufted ears, sleeping in the shade.
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112 F
It’s another really hot day, with the temperature already near the predicted 113 F (45 C) peak, even hotter than yesterday’s 111 F peak. The museum fortunately has water fill stations throughout, and we’ve drunk gallons from reusable water bottles.
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Mule Deer
On the mule deer, we were unable to get its best side, but they can be found throughout desert regions where food is sufficient. In the warmer months they move to higher elevations and return back down in the winter.
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Rattlesnake
One of the many rattlesnake species on display at the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum.
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Prairie Dog
Black-tailed Prairie Dog in the Desert Grasslands exhibit. The animal was once numerous in the Arizona desert grasslands and now are completely gone. The only place in Arizona you can see them is here in the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum.
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Cactus Garden
One of several impressive cactus gardens at the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum. Cactus grow in surprisingly diverse and interesting shapes and sizes, some with beautiful flowers.
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Sheep
A desert bighorn sheep keeping a watchful eye on us.
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River Otter
River otter in the Riparian display at the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum.
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Beaver
Beavers and the desert don’t seem a likely pairing, but the animals once were found through Arizona wherever there was permanent water. They mostly disappeared due to trapping and habitat destruction, but have recently been successfully reintroduced.
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Peppers
Hot peppers growing in one of the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum’s cactus gardens.
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Gates Pass
View across the Sonoran desert at Gates Pass, named after pioneer Thomas Gates, who built a road through the pass in 1883.
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Barrio Brewing
Delicious beer and a good meal at Barrio Brewing in Tucson, AZ.
6/16/2021
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Breakfast
Spitfire having a look around while we’re eating breakfast on the patio at our Tucson hotel. This is his first time outside other than in the carry bag since we left Charleston, and he’s a little cautious. The tree just visible at left is full of ripe oranges.
Show locations on map Click the travel log icon on the left to see these locations on a map, with the complete log of our cruise.

On the map page, clicking on a camera or text icon will display a picture and/or log entry for that location, and clicking on the smaller icons along the route will display latitude, longitude and other navigation data for that location. And a live map of our current route and most recent log entries always is available at mvdirona.com/maps.

 
 


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2 comments on “Road Trip to Seattle: Tucson
  1. Andy H says:

    Your trip is so full you undoubtedly will not have time to visit Mt Lemon just on the outskirts of Tucson. This mountain has a road to the top – which is around 7800′. The interesting aspect is that you pass through many different geological and botanical zones as you progress up the peak.

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