Sunday, December 30, 2012

Dinner at Ambers

With today being our anniversary, it officially marks the end of
Love Week 2012.
We celebrated the event with another special dinner out.

Before that however we took a drive up Mt. Lemmon.
Mt Lemmon is the summertime escape venue for the residents of the
Tucson Metro.
Rising to almost 9,157' it represents almost a 7,000' elevation
increase so in the summertime this can provide a welcome respite from
from the sizzling daytime temps in the valley.

Driving up the Catalina highway you immediately begin to climb
and as you do you pass thru numerous botanical life zones.

Around 3,900 we notice the end of the Saguaro Cactus.

By 4,000 most of the lower valley cacti had been replaced with the dry
scrublands you would see further north.

Around 5,000 we began to enter into pine forests and started to see snow
in the shadows and on the north facing slopes.


Unfortunately our timing (or lack thereof),
combined with our need to make our 4:30 reservations...
(yes us geezers actually ate dinner at 4:30)
We only could make it up to windy point - about the 1/2 way point on the road,
and the 6,000' mark, before we had to turn around.

Luckily for us, the view at Windy Point of the Tucson Metro,
is one of the highlights of the road.


You can see that with a view like this timing is everything...
the right light and clearer skies and you would have quite an amazing shot.

We still had not make it far enough up the mountain to get into the deep snow,
(Mt Lemmon Ski Area has 20")
But I did get a few "Snow Pictures" for you.



Windy Point was also the scene for todays Self Portrait.


Soon we had to rush down the Mountain for dinner.
Tonights venue was the Amber Polish Restaurant & Gallery.

It is a small but picturesque place with a lovely garden off of
the dining room.  Our table was located so as to overlook it.

We started off with some wine for Kate, &
a Hofbrau Heffewiessen Draught for me.


Some Potato Pancakes with apple sauce and
sour cream for a warm up.


When it was time for the main course, there was so much to choose from
and it all sounded so good that we decided to go with some sampler
dinners for a wider cross section.

For a main course Kate had a Pierogi Sampler.
The varieties were Potato & Cheese, Mushroom & Sauerkraut,
and Beef.


I went for the Polish Sampler.
It consisted of a Goblaki, which is a pork & rice stuffed cabbage roll, covered with
a sweet and sour tomato sauce.
It also had a Polish Sausage, One each of the Pierogi's,
plus Sauerkraut and Red Cabbage.


When it was time for desert, we both decided to pass.
We've been eating rather well the past week and while neither of
us have put on any poundage we decided not to push our luck.

With such delectable sweets as German Chocolate Cake, numerous types of
Crepes, European Cheese Cake, Creme Brûlée etc it was a lot
harder to pass than it sounds....   so score one for willpower.

So tomorrow we start year 23 of our marriage and it just keeps getting better.
Happy Anniversary to us!

Stay Thirsty my Friends.


Saturday, December 29, 2012

The full moon blues

Today was one of those classic full moon days.
We had our phone & data T1 lines go down at the office in NY
That cripples me on the road and creates work for myself
and the staff as this infrastructure falls under my responsibility.

There were several other fires that cropped up...
One that kept me on the cell phone for 90 minutes....  ugggh!
lets just say it was a busy Full Moon Day.

Since I am in Mountain Time and that is 2 hours earlier than the office
it really allows us to put in some sightseeing time in the afternoon. 
We can usually hit the road around 2pm here as the day is
winding down there - and get 4 hours of touring in at the end of the day.

Today our plan was a late afternoon visit to the Desert Museum 
but the moon had other plans for us today.
Bad Moon...

So instead let me share a few more shots.

Our self photo yesterday as we were leaving the Air & Space Museum


Kate posing in front of a Northwest Airlines Lockheed Electra.


It was an Electra that Amelia Earhart was flying when she disappeared on
her round the world attempt in 1937.

Many of the planes had interesting Nose Art.
Is it live or is it Memorex?


Meanwhile tonight back at camp.....

I have been on a quest to try and capture a certain lighting on the Catalina Mountains.
The lighting was mentioned nostalgically by a friend from here.
I think I'm starting to zero in on the timing.

I kept looking out the window of the coach because I thought 
tonights sunset might be the one.

At a certain time the mountains seemed to look like they were starting
to get that fiery hue, so I rushed out looking for a decent place to try and get
a shot.


The shot above was my first attempt.
I thought that if I could get up on the small mound in the center of the above
photo (where the trees are lit by the sun in the center)
That I would get a better view of the mountains.

So here I am running around in shorts and a T Shirt.
Everyone in the Campground was wearing jeans and sweatshirts.
The temps were now in the mid 40's..

As the sun drops out here - the temps drop twice as fast.

So I'm running thru the woods, up the side of the hill,
trying not to run into any low lying cacti on the way..
and by the time I got to the top the light had changed and I was left with this.


I needed to be up here 15 min sooner and get about another 1000' to the other
side of the hill to wait and get a better shot.

Ok Linds....  I get it.
I now know those colors of which you spoke.
I don't think my skills will ever do yours justice but I'll
try and get some shots for you to give you that elusive taste of home.

Have a nice weekend and most importantly...

Stay thirsty my friends.




Friday, December 28, 2012

Pima Air & Space Museum

Today we went to the Pima Air & Space Museum.
It is just south of Tucson next to Davis-Monthan AFB.
It is a large (80 Acre) Collection of over 300 aircraft spanning
over 100 years of aviation history.

All this is set against the backdrop of arriving and departing Air Force
Jets silhouetted against the nearby mountains.

As a licensed pilot - I was like a kid in the candy shop.

I'd like to talk about every plane that we visited & photographed,
but I'll try to keep the list reasonably short.

I'm going to put the aircraft in a chronological order so you can
see the evolution.

First the Bombers

The B24 Liberation was a 4-engine WWII era bomber that saw action 
in every theatre by every service.  It was the most produced 
aircraft of the war.  They were retired from military service immediately
after the war but continued to see forest fire service into the 1990's.
It had a top speed of 290 mph with a 2,100 mile range.


The Boeing B29 Superfortress was introduced towards the end of WWII.
It was designed as a "Hemisphere Defense Weapon"
It's 4 piston engines developed 2,200 HP each.
It carried more bombs, higher, farther, and faster, than any
aircraft prior to its introduction and was quite advanced for its time with
features such as pressurized crew areas, electronic bomb controls
and remote control machine gun turrets.
It is most noted as being the type of aircraft that dropped
the Atomic Bombs on Japan ending WWII
It had a top speed of 358 mph with a 4,100 mile range.


Our next bomber-
The Convair B36 - was a unique aircraft in many ways.
It was the last of the piston powered bombers and bridged the gap between
the WWII era aircraft, and the jets that are now commonplace.
Even though it was technically obsolete by the time it entered service its
predecessor, the B47 did not have the ability to carry the heavy early
generation nuclear weapons of the time, so the B36 remained an important
part of our arsenal during the early days of the Cold War.

It had 6 pusher piston engines that put out over 3,000 hp each.
2 jet engines were later added at the outboard end of each wing
to reduce the takeoff roll.  With its 10 engines- "6 to turn and 4 to burn"
was the phrase its pilots used to describe its power plants.
It had a top speed of 435 mph with a 10,000 mile range.


The Boeing B47 was the first all jet bomber built anywhere in the world.
While the Air Force had issued a jet bomber requirement in 1941, it was not
until the end of the war when German Jet Engine research information became
available that the B47 was developed.
It was developed with one mission in mind...  to drop atomic bombs on the
Soviet Union.  Unlike the earlier B36 however it lacked the long-range and thus
required mid-air refueling to complete its missions.
The B47 was the aircraft featured in the book and later the movie "Fail Safe".
It had a top speed of 606 mph with a range of 4,000 miles.


Finally in the bomber category is the modern big boy of the group - The B52.
With its 8 jet engines it can carry a massive 70,000 lb bomb payload
at 635 mph for 7,100 miles.
During the liberation of Kuwait - the B52 provided many of
Saddams Republican guard their goal of a face to face with Allah.
There are still about 85 of them in service.


The fighters

The F4 Cosair is perhaps one of the most recognizable fighters of WWII
It was a carrier based attack fighter that was produced thru 1952 seeing duty
in Korea as well.
You might remember this aircraft from the show about Pappy Boyington
and the "Black Sheep" squadron.
Its speed was over 400 mph.

Another recognizable fighter was the P51 Mustang.
The Mustang was arguably the finest fighter of WWII.
It was first produced at the request of the British Government whose
requirements stipulated that a prototype be ready in 120 days!
So - in the pre-computer days of slide rules and mathematics using paper
and pencil - the finest aircraft of the war was designed in 4 months!
It was a land based fighter that saw action in the European & Pacific Theatre.
It had a top speed around 440 mph.


Bring on Tom Cruise & Top Gun.
You might recognize the aircraft below from that movie.
The F14 Tomcat was a carrier based attack craft that was retired from
Naval Service in 2006.
It had a top speed over 1,500 mph!


Other Aircraft

The C47 is the military version of the DC3.

This aircraft probably deserves as much credit for our victory in WWII
as any.  It was used for cargo transport, carrying troops, paratroopers, towing
gliders...  you name it.
After the war it saw service with the airlines as a commercial airliner.
There are many still in service today in various roles around the world.



The baby below is one of the Bells of the Ball.
The SR71 Blackbird was the last of the aircraft designed & built by
the Secretive Lockheed Skunkworks.
The first one was built in 1964, but even today it is hard to overstate
the technological achievements represented by this aircraft.
Built as a spy plane to replace the U2, the SR71 still holds numerous records.
Worlds Absolute Speed Record  2,193 mph
Record for Sustained Altitude  85,069 ft.
NY to London  1 hr 55 minutes.
LA to Wash DC  1 hr 4 minutes.

This is one Beautiful Bird.


The VC118/Douglas DC6 saw service as a commercial airliner.
This one below was Eisenhowers, then JFK's Air Force One until
Kennedy replaced it with a jet - the 707.


Around the same time - the Lockheed Constellation was providing
comfort and safety for the traveling public.
The "Connie" used the same engines as the B29.
Here is Kate doing the job that she did at Northwest.


Look at the line of this Aircraft.
Designed with sliderules.




The Boeing 707 ushered in the era of Jet Travel.
I traveled on a PanAm 707 to Europe when I was a kid.
This one served to transport VIP's


Last but not least - the Cessna 150.
This 2 seat monster is the first plane that I ever flew myself.
It has 100 HP, a blistering top speed of 125 mph
and about a 740 mile range. 


If you've made it this far...  congratulations.  You must like planes!

As we left the Museum, the skies to the north had darkened and you could
see that precipitation of some type was falling.

On the way home we drove thru some showers as the temps dropped into
the mid 40's.  


Soon we got some glimpses of new snow on the peaks above.


It was an interesting & informative day.
I hope you've enjoyed visiting the Museum with us.






Thursday, December 27, 2012

Looking Back

After Breakfast we took the doods on multiple laps of the campground.
I peg it about 4 1/2 miles.
A tired Doodle is a happy owner.

After work today - about 2pm local - 4pm eastern, we went on a
pilgrimage of sorts.

Tucson holds a special place in Kates heart.
Her Brother went to college here at U of A,
Her Uncle Phil & Aunt Rose lived here.

I've heard many colorful stories about Uncle Phil & Aunt Rose.
Kate always speaks of them with a special twinkle.  They sound
as if they were a special kind of people.

One particularly interesting story of uncle Phil however is that he was
Joe Bonanno's Chauffer for many years.

For those of you not up on your Sicilian Pop Culture - Joe Bonanno was one of
the 5 bosses (Godfathers) of the NY Mafia Crime Families.
His leadership spanned almost 40 years from the 
early 1930's to the late 60's.

The character of Vito Corleone in The Godfather - although a composite
 of many - was largely based upon Joe Bonanno's life.

Joe eventually was able to do the unimaginable...
He retired ALIVE - to Tucson.

I do not believe that any Godfather did that before or since.
The agreement however was that once he retired - he stayed retired.
If he broke that oath - he would be immediately killed.

Kate once had dinner at Uncle Phils house with Joe and his wife.
Of course Kate has an interesting story to tell of that night, but the bottom
line is that they were warm and pleasant people.

Today we went in search of Uncle Phil & Aunt Roses Graves.
We located them in the Holy Hope Cemetery.
Which is incidentally the same Cemetery in which Joe was laid to rest.

Joe has the biggest grave marker in the cemetery.



After visiting Joe we went in search of Uncle Phil & Rose.
We had called the Cemetery earlier and had a location...
We just needed to find it.

And we did.


Kate left some flowers on the grave and spent some time
saying whatever Kate says to the dearly departed.

Our next stop was a little lighter, but still about the past.

We drove 10 miles south of Tucson to the
Mission San Xavier del Bac.



In the early days of the southwest - this area was still "owned" by Spain/Mexico.
The Spanish Kings would send the missionaries - Jesuit, and later Franciscans
among the indigenous people to spread the word.  The reason for doing this was
more about pacification of the locals than enlightenment.



The mission was founded in 1692 by Eusebio Francisco Kino, 
a Jesuit missionary who was also the founder of the Spanish missions 
in the Sonoran Desert chain. 
 He often visited and preached in the area. 
The original mission was built about two miles away and was subject
to numerous Apache attacks who finally destroyed it in about 1770. 



Charles III of Spain - who distrusted the Jesuits, banned them from all 
Spanish lands in the Americas in 1767. From this time on, San Xavier mission was led
 by the more pliable and "reliable" Franciscans. 


The present building was constructed under the direction of 
Franciscan Fathers Juan Bautista Velderrain and Juan Bautista Llorenz. 
mostly using native labor from 1783-1797.



Unlike the other Spanish missions in Arizona, 
San Xavier is still actively served by Franciscans, and still serves 
the Native community by which it was built.



Having been constructed by the Spanish - It is interesting to see the
Moorish influence in the Architecture on a building located in the US.



If you recall my blogs from Spain last year - you would see similar
architectural elements on the buildings there such as the Alhambra.

This courtyard in the back led to green farm fields 
with the desert mountains beyond.


Finally our self-portrait.


We managed to squeeze in a lot after putting in a full workday.

Like I say - plenty of time to rest when you're dead.

No disrespect ......  capeesh?



Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Christmas in Tucson

Ho Ho Ho!

I promised yesterday to try and get a few shots of our Christmas lights
on the Coach.  So last night I put my lower light lens on the Nikon
and tried to hold the camera as still as I could.


Unfortunately not still enough but will have to do for now.

I need to get the flexible kind of soft Tripod that John who owns
JaySeaDee has...  He used it while we crossed the Atlantic and it
was amazing how versatile that little booger was.
That would be perfect for my use.

Finding one will be a project for this week.

(late entry - found a tripod - it's on the way)


The lights go up the side around the hitch and down the other side.

They are all LED's and use very little power so I can use them when 
running on the inverter as well.



Our day began with our usual laps around the campground with the Doodles.

I clocked it out and they are getting 2 - 3 miles each day on their little paws.

Once back - they settled in for a nap.
Its tough being one of our dogs.


While they rested I got busy whipping up some Texas Sized
Cinnamon French Toast with Raisins.

I mixed some Maple Syrup into the egg mix to give it a little sweet
edge, plus the sugar caramelizes on the outside and gives it just
a bit of crunch to contrast with the soft interior.

Did I mention YUM!


After Breakfast it was time to wake up the Doods for our
Christmas Family Portrait.


Soon it was noontime and that means it's time for Kate and I to hit the trail.
Today we walked down the road to the entrance of the park and back.


It is about 2 miles each way.


At the entrance we stopped and in the interest of Christmas giving,
I took a Bonus Self Portrait.
How's that Margie?


This is looking from the Park Entrance out to the "Outside World"
The Oro Valley Marketplace is right outside the gates.


This is looking from the gate into the park...
The campground is about 2 miles down the road and left on a side road.


One last shot of my Christmas Goose before we head back to the
Coach for our pre-dinner hors d'oeuvres.


On the way back I stopped to chat with one of my friends,
Mr. Saguaro.

He's the quiet sort - but his face tells a story.


Soon it was time for the main course...

At Thanksgiving we made an extra large fresh bird, and immediately
reserved 1/2 the bird, the stuffing, and the gravy...
(all of which came out amazing)

We vacuum packed and froze that 1/2 and
voila....

Its Christmas Dinner in Tucson!

Prior to dinner however, I went down into the RV Wine Cellar 
and dug out a nice special bottle of Margaux.


Pavillon Rouge is the "second wine" of Chateau Margaux,
one of the finest Chateau in France.

A bottle of the "first wine" of the same vintage currently sells for
$500+.  Other vintages of Margaux sell for over $1,000.

For a fraction of that you can have a wine made by the same people, from the same
Chateau.  Excellent quality - just minus the "snob factor"

I popped the cork, let it breath a spell, then set back in
my easy chair with a glass to watch 
"A Christmas Story"
for the 500th time.

Then it was dinner time.


Dinner was topped off with coffee & homemade mini
Apple & Pecan Pies that Kate made before we left and then froze.


The dinner was delicious.

The wine was fantastic.

It was all topped off with a fiery red Arizona Desert Sunset which has now
turned into a star filled night sky.

So that was our Christmas Day in Tucson.

Thanks for joining us and Merry Christmas to Everyone!