Thursday, March 23, 2023

Las Vegas


In March/April, 2020, Mark and I spent 45 days sheltering in place, in our small camper, at Nellis Air Force base, in Las Vegas, Nevada. It was my first visit to Las Vegas. The city shut down, like everywhere else in the world, but we were able to explore (without crowds) Red Rock Canyon, Valley of Fire, Lake Mead and Spring Mountain National Recreation areas, Mount Charleston and the Vegas Strip. I thought it was a magical place. The only “must see” we couldn’t get to at the time, because of closures, was Hoover Dam. As soon as we got settled on this visit, priority one was to see the dam. With that mission accomplished we have tried to revisit a lot of the places we went three years ago but it is surreal how different and crowded everything is. You have to get a reservation to drive through Red Rock Canyon now and the quiet, deserted Strip I remember, from three years ago, is unrecognizable to the congested reality of the neon city today. I’m not saying we haven’t enjoyed our stay. In hindsight it just seems like Mark and I were sort of like time travelers, in 2020, seeing the area (after The Strip shut down) more in keeping with what the name Las Vegas actually means. The city was named, in 1829, by Rafael Rivera, a Spanish trader traveling to California. He was most impressed, on his visit, by the area’s natural springs and wild desert grasses, thus the name Las Vegas; literally translated, The Meadows….such a far cry from the attractions today, that make Las Vegas one of the most visited cities in the country.

Sunday, March 12, 2023

“Oh Happy Day”


We are celebrating today in “Fabulous Las Vegas”. Nine years ago Starbaby was born. Her mom’s name was Twinkle Little Star, hence the name Starbaby. I’ve always loved animals but my attachment to this little terrier borders on the side of foolishness.

However, the birth of Starbaby isn’t the only thing we’re celebrating today. We are also celebrating the start of daylight savings time. I usually hate any kind of time change. One of the hardest adjustments, on the road, is traveling to new areas/zones and adjusting eating and sleeping patterns to the new time. Our regular life takes place in the eastern time zone. When we begin a trip, especially headed west, I always dread crossing from eastern to central, then mountain and finally pacific time. This year, without even planning it, we crossed into the pacific time zone just as time was “springing forward”. We didn’t have to reset one single clock. Oh happy day!

Thursday, March 9, 2023

Lake Havasu


Today is our last day in the Grand Canyon state. We are camping on the shores of Havasu Lake, at Cattail Cove State Park. We are just a few miles from the border of California and the Mohave Desert, but we’ll head due north tomorrow, into Nevada, to wait for weather conditions to improve in the Golden State. Our weather and location have been practically perfect, at this small park, so we have enjoyed catching our breath and embracing the much anticipated spring weather that has been so elusive this year.

However, 15 miles down the road, the peace and tranquility of Cattail Cove gives way to the hustle and bustle of Lake Havasu City, where the second most visited tourist attraction, in Arizona (topped only by the Grand Canyon) happens to be; London Bridge. In case you didn’t know, London Bridge is no longer “falling down” in England. Lake Havasu City’s founder, Robert McCulloch, spent over 2 million, in 1968, to have the bridge that spanned the Thames River for 137 years, dismantled and reconstructed in Arizona. This is the bridge that survived the Battle of Britain, has felt the footsteps of royalty and still bears bullet holes from WWII.

McCulloch had a vision of turning a spot in the desert into a bustling city and holiday resort when he purchased the world’s largest and most expensive antique. It worked. Millions are expected to visit the tourist trap this year. I have to confess Mark and I were two of them!

Saturday, March 4, 2023

Wishful Thinking


We’re camping for the week at Lost Dutchman State Park, 40 miles east of Phoenix, in the Sonoran Desert, at the base of the Superstition Mountains. If you like hiking, you’ll love this place. Several trails in the park lead into the Superstition Wilderness and surrounding Tonto National Forest.

We were a bit disappointed when we first got here because a front bringing rain and temperatures 20° below average were expected. Little did I realize what a blessing the “bad” weather would be.

When researching the area, I discovered there was an  obscure hike I could do to a place called Massacre Falls, just a few miles from the park. The falls are elusive and are only visible after a heavy rain. The forecasted rain came, despite my wishes, and brought something magical with it. We woke up to a beautiful snow in the desert.

You really have to be careful what you wish for. If I’d gotten my preference of a cloudless day in the 70’s, I would have missed an epic snow hike and rarely seen waterfalls!

Tuesday, February 28, 2023

Lovely Linda


When Mark and I met in college, the only common album we shared was Paul McCartney’s “Band on the Run.” Coming of age in the 70’s, we loved the Beatles but realized that they belonged to an older generation. After the Beatles break up, when McCartney pursued a solo career with his new band, Wings, we felt like the new music they created was ours. Paul’s solo career was a huge success and his wife Linda played a big role in that.

I didn’t realize, until we stumbled onto the North American premiere of “The Linda McCartney Retrospective”(hosted by the University of Arizona’s  Center of Creative Photography) the important role Tucson played in the McCartney family’s life.

Linda actually went to school at the University of Arizona and studied photography while majoring in art history. Before she met Paul, she was a barrier breaker of the times becoming the first female photographer to have work featured on the cover of Rolling Stone magazine; a photo of Eric Clapton. After meeting and marrying Paul, the McCartneys purchased a ranch in Tucson that Paul still owns today. While battling breast cancer, Linda chose to spend her final days on the ranch, with Paul and her children, and when she died, her ashes were spread across the property.

The exhibition of over 200 photos, ranging from pictures of the dynamic music scene of the 1960’s to images of Linda’s home life with Paul are incredible. A favorite photo of mine has always been one of Paul and daughter Mary used for the album cover “McCartney” over 52 years ago. How fitting that father and daughter, in partnership with The Center for Creative Photography, curated this premiere event in Linda’s beloved Tucson.

Sunday, February 26, 2023

Biosphere 2


In the 1980’s, Space Biospheres Ventures constructed a $150 million facility, outside Tucson, to research self-sustaining space colonization. The mostly glass terrarium they constructed, in the middle of the Sonoran desert, came to be known as Biosphere 2 (since earth is considered Biosphere 1).

The Biosphere 2 launch, in 1991, was staged much like a space mission. The media descended on the facility in Arizona and there were speeches and fireworks as eight jumpsuited volunteers (4 women, 4 men) sealed themselves inside the Biosphere for a two year journey into the unknown.

During their mission the biospherians were completely self sustained growing and harvesting their own food from the half acre farm they tended. Their diet consisted of mostly beans, rice, wheat, sweet potatoes, beet root and peanuts. The low calorie diet resulted in the participants losing 25% of their body fat. They also didn’t realize the soil in the Biosphere was too rich in organic matter and it’s thriving bacteria gobbled up too much oxygen, thus after about a year they ended up starving, gasping for air and at each other’s throats while the world’s media looked on. The project was eventually dismissed as non-science and trendy ecological entertainment.

In 2011, ownership of Biosphere 2 was transferred to the University of Arizona where they opened it to the public for tours. On the tour you can see the living quarters of the biospherians as well as the different ecosystems that remain intact; a desert, rainforest and even a small ocean. Ongoing research is being conducted by the University, within the facility, especially in regards to climate change.

Even though the original experiment was deemed a failure the former participants came away understanding the interconnectedness of everything and have  cautioned future generation’s to take heed….in their words “for one thing to exist, everything else also needs to exist.”

Favorite Place


Mark and I are often asked, “where is the most favorite place you’ve visited in your travels? It’s a difficult question considering the complexity of what makes an area your “favorite” but after six years of camping, in all 48 of the continuous states, I can confidently say Tucson, Arizona, in the Sonoran Desert, is a favorite place for me.

This is our third extended visit to the region and we continue to add to our list of things we love about this area. Of course, this is the home of the giant Saguaro; the universal symbol of the American west. These majestic plants are protected by Saguaro National Park on the east and west of Tucson and there’s something so peaceful about being surrounded by them as well as the Catalina and Rincon mountains. But it’s not just love of nature that makes this area special. The modern, mid-sized city of Tucson is accessible, vibrant and loads of fun too. When I picked up a local newspaper, after we arrived, there were so many things to do in the area, I regretted we hadn’t planned to stay longer. 

The University of Arizona, and its downtown campus, seems to be a major contributor to the variety of activities available and the positive energy of the city, but whatever the reason for the great vibe, we love it here! My next two posts will highlight just a sampling of what we’ve gotten to see and do the last few days in this “favorite place”. 

We are currently camping at Miro Vista Resort where we are enjoying nature with fellow naturists as well as the occasional visit from curious javelinas.