Monday, December 26, 2011

Death Valley Birthday/Getaway Trip

Pat and I had a great trip to Death Valley.  Supposedly the trip was to celebrate my upcoming 60th birthday but the real reason was for us to get away from the computers and the telephone.  I spend entirely too much time on line and many days we both sit on the computers without really talking.  This gave us a chance to just get away without all of the electronic distractions.  Plus we really enjoy road trips in van...our second home.

I had a hard time deciding on this birthday trip.   At first I was thinking of hiking the trails of the Napali coast in Kauai...we did a short day hike there years ago and it was beautiful.  Bareboat sailing the BVI's is always a great trip also. But I was dreading the long air travel to those places.  Plus it's hard for me to leave our Tucson desert home since this is like being on vacation every day.  So we decided on a quick trip to Death Valley via an over night stay in Las Vegas.

Our first stop on the way to Vegas was the Hoover Dam.  Am amazing feat building that dam.  We went on the full tour ($30 each) that lasted about an hour.  It was interesting but a little over-priced since a lot of the tour is just walking from Point A to Point B.  Also the high price probably kept the crowds down as it was pretty crowded anyway.  We still had about 40 people in our group. We were glad we did it.

Then we spent the night in Las Vegas and just ate dinner and saw the sights.  The water fountain show at the Belagio was pretty amazing.  What really sticks in my mind is the city lights as we topped the hill then drove down into LV.  The place is lit up like a huge Christmas tree.  Pat and I try to be conscious of our water and electricity use on a daily basis but when I saw all of the lights and water usage in Vegas I figured our efforts are pretty useless.  We ate dinner, seated outside, across from the Belagio and watched the show.

The next morning we were off on a 3-hour drive to Death Valley.  The mountain range we crossed was snow-covered and slightly icy.  Made for an interesting trip.


The desert is an amazing place.  So desolate but so beautiful at the same time.  The views from Zambriski Point are breathtaking.

From there we were on to the Furnace Creek Ranch where we had a room booked for 2 days. We did some exploring around the area and then played a few sets of tennis...of course Pat beat me as always.

The next day we rented mountain bikes and rode the West Side Road which is a gravel road cut through the bottom of Death Valley.  Our route was around 25 miles and winded through the salt flats past Shorty's grave and ended at the abandoned Eagle Borax Mine works.

The only restaurants at Furnace Creek are at the Ranch and the FC Inn. The Inn is a 5-star hotel with all of the amenities.  The Ranch is more basic but great accomodations and the restaurant was good.  There is also a grill at the FC golf course.  We had the best hamburger cooked by Justin on the second day. Perfecto!

The next day we did a 14 mile bike ride around Artist's Drive which is a one-way scenic drive up into the mountains on the road to Badwater.  We didn't think it would be as strenuous as it was.  The first 4 miles was a steady uphill climb against a 15 mph wind.  We both struggled to get up there to the top.  I'm not sure what the elevation change is but it is very steep.  Coming down the mountain was a lot of fun though...and fast.

After our ride we set out for Badwater Basin, the lowest point in the USA at 282 feet below sea level.  The salt flats look like snow.  Hard packed and you can easily walk on it.  Lots of foreigners here...Asians and Dutch.

We wanted to make some headway getting home so we drove the rest of the day only stopping at Shoshone, CA to eat at this great little kind of place.  Gas was $5.00+ at the small gas station!  Luckily we had plenty.  Later on we drove through 1,000's of Joshua trees in the Mojave Desert Preserve.

We spent the night sleeping in the van at a roadside stop.  Comfortable but cold...had to be in the mid 30's!   Pat wakes up in the middle of the night and wants to put her sleeping bag (with her in it) inside my sleeping bag.  Needless to say I didn't sleep that well but she was snug as a bug in a rug.

The next day we drove home and the only memorable thing that happened that day was meeting Richard Radstone and his family at a rest stop.  I guess a link to his blog will suffice to explain.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Redemption Mountain. Someone was repenting.

Bruce here.

About a mile from our house, high in the West Tucson Mountains on what I named Redemption Mountain, is a very strange place.  Whenever I go up there I feel like I am intruding onto someone's sacred ground.  Someone long ago was making a pledge to Jesus.  It is spooky.

The little used hiking trail doesn't make it easy getting up there as some of the hike is actually rock climbing.  In fact I have never met another person on that trail since we moved here in 2009.  Our neighbor says that the writings were there when he moved here 21 years ago.

Recessed into the side of an outcropping at the top of the mountain is a rock wall with the pained writings of a troubled soul...or maybe a formerly troubled soul.  I can't decide which one.  It's obvious that the writings are old because of the condition of the rocks and also the paint.  One of the large rocks appears to have naturally tumbled onto it side many years ago.

Here is a picture of Redemption Mountain from our back deck:

Following are pictures of the paintings.

"Jesus, I, Owen Brosam, Am Going to Work for You the Balance of my Life".  I'm not sure about his last name spelling:

"Jesus I Will Never Give Up".  This rock looks like it tumbled here a long time ago.

"He Is the One and Only Savior":

"Have Faith in Jesus":

The following video will show the strange pile of rocks under the writings.  It looks like the rocks were purposefully pulled down from the side of the rock outcropping and thrown in a pile.  I wonder what's under those rocks?  Meh,  probably nothing.

A web search of Owen Brosam found only one possible link.  A marriage announcement to a Sara Lynn Sanders from Tucson.

Anyway, FWIW,  I find this intriguing.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Casa del Padre Flora and Fauna May 2010

May 23, 2010

This being our first Spring it has been a treat watching the variety of plant blooms. They seem long lived and attract birds (hummingbirds) and the bees.

The giant saguaro off our back porch is putting out flowers on both limbs and central trunk.

Mexican Palo Verde with bright yellow blooms.

Tip of an Ocotillo. These plants look dead late in the year but bloom dark green leaves directly from their branches (hiding their thorns) and put out a cluster of red trumpet flowers..the hummingbirds love them.
Brucito spotted this critter searching for a way out. Gila Monster....many tell us we were lucky to see this venomous lizard.
Woolly seeds from blooming creosote bush
Cape Honeysuckle came back to life to attract the hummingbirds.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Nephews, veggies and a swamp cooler

April 17, 2010

The last two visitors of the season were two of my little sister's children: Sean and Ethan, who came out at separate times. Sean, 19 y/o, was a blast with his college-learned political innocence and highly creative non-fiction story telling. We took him to Colossal Caves, the Arizona Sonoran Desert Museum and a 2 mile desert hike. For those who know Sean, hiking is something he does not usually request but with the accessibility (out our back door) he was game. The highlight for Sean was taking him to Tucson Studios. Sean is a film buff and seeing where the old westerns were made was a treat. We enjoyed it immensely.

Bruce and Sean awaiting the "Can-Can Girls" at Tucson Studios.

Sean with local Western Actors.

A week later his earthy, philosophical and musical brother Ethan (16 y/o) comes out. Lucky for me Ethan wanted to earn some dough and doesn't mind doing manual labor (I think it's the Mexican in him). He and I laid out a modified "flagstone patio"...we call it a "Patty-io" which turned out better than I imagined. He became familiar with a caliche bar (a 25# iron bar used to break up tightly compacted rock and buried calcium carbonate layers) and helped plant some low-water plants, move rocks, hauled dirt and gravel. He also entertained us with performing a couple of balladeer songs at "open mic night" at the Sky Bar on 4th Ave (every town has one).

Ethan poses with rare Crested Saguaro on McCain Loop.

They both seemed to enjoy the house with it's charm and the uniqueness of Tucson. Bruce and I agreed to make this an annual visit for both of them.

Before and after of back patio.

Meanwhile, the rehab work continues. I've been landscaping the north and east side in addition to my hand at veggie gardening. I've spent hours learning all about xeriscaping: choice of plants, water/rain harvesting needs, sun, soil quality, etc.....and days doing the prep and planting...all fun work.

Veggie garden on east side, beets and carrots should be ready for harvest early May.
North side of house looking east...lots of dirt moving and rock work.

Bruce took on a major project of installing an evaporative cooler in prep for the summer.....he was quoted 2400USDs by a local air conditioning business but could not fathom paying that amount when the unit cost on 800 USDs. While Ethan (someone with muscles) was here he bought the unit and had Ethan help him with put it on the roof. He then requested a quote for the ducting (evaporative cooler to be hooked into the heat pump ducting) and was given a price of 375USDs by a small business minded Mexicans but he felt he could do it cheaper....and yes he could..he's saving 150 bucks.....but after 5 days of work (hard work)..he reluctantly admits.."I should have hired the Mexicans". For me, it would be a no brainer...I would like an 18" deep hole dug (4x8 ft) on the west side (sun-beaten side) in rocky hard and sandy loam.....$50 USDs will get the job done by an expert Mexican and I'd gladly pay! But then again, there is nothing more satisfying than giving yourself a challenge (if you have the time) and accomplishing something you wouldn't normally do. So kudos to you Brucie! Your determination to "do-it-yourself" amazes me.

Bruce bought a 4x8ft thick gauged sheet of galvanized metal, a strip of flashing and ordered these specialized vents online, cut it with a jig saw and modified this connecting duct work for our newly purchased swamp cooler.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Spring in Tucson

March 9, 2010

We've had several visitors out since the end January: my sister from Boulder, CO; the Gildenhar's from Tacoma, WA, Bruce's Mom and Steppin Daddy from Cedar Hill, TX and a nephew from Cape Coral, Florida. It's been a lot of fun visiting with our friends and family and sharing our desert home. We've gone to all local tourist attractions, sometimes more than once: Arizona Sonoran Desert Museum (being our #1), the Tucson Botanical Gardens, Tohono Chul Park, San Xavier del Bac, and the International Wildlife Museum...the first and last ones being within a 5 miles from our home.

San Xavier del Bac

My sister gave me her expensive old mountain and road bikes so I can enjoy the more physical activities (other than tennis) that Tucson is suited for. She's exposed me to another sport I'm thoroughly enjoying: road cycling. Our first time out was 14 miles, our second was an advanced 30 miler and I have since ridden this path every Friday and shortened the path time. There's something about being on the road that makes your body feel good and your mind clear. Bruce even bought a road bike to join me. Just out our door we have easy access to some of the best road biking on the edge of Tucson.

The desert gardening is still in progress as we've planted a blood and navel orange tree, the pomagranate tree is doing well and we've added a fig and avocado tree as well as started some container gardening. I have not had to water much as the rain seems to come once every 5 -8 days at this time. I'm learning more about xeriscaping, plants, propagation, soil and planting in the desert as I try to spruce up the landscape....keeping in mind to make things low maintenance.....minimal effort, maximum results. The only thing we've been able to harvest is the cilantro for our guacamole....more to come in April..I hope.

Our twiggy pomagranate behind the blood orange and WA navel to the their infant stage.

Janet and Mark from Tacoma WA....oh how we don't miss the chronic rain....