Thursday, April 27, 2017

Some Luxury in Las Vegas

After leaving Tucson, we headed back up to Phoenix and 
Lake Pleasant Regional Park with Ron & Maxine.

We spent 4 nights there before we once again said good-bye and
they headed home and we slowly continued to work our way north.

My only disappointment with our visits with Jim, Kristi, Ron, and Maxine has been that
I have been locked up all day and much of the night working.
They came from far away to visit with us and I was MIA much of the time.

Sorry guys!
Hopefully next time wont be so crazy.

We have relocated the Party Bus back to Las Vegas for the past week
and are staying at the luxurious Las Vegas Motorcoach Resort

The view from our front window

We love it here.
Las Vegas is fun and has a lot to do.
Walk the hotels, great restuarants etc, but its not the Vegas Lifestyle that we enjoy so much...
It the peace and beauty of this Motorcoach Resort.

It feels like you are on a tropical island - but without the bugs and damn humidity!

Our site #162 is a premium lot with a full kitchen, grill, and Palapas  providing shade.

The weather has been absolutely delightful.
Temps in the 80's with nice breezes.
The jasmine is blooming and the air is filled with the sweet scent.

Coffee time

While here I put new heavier weight tires on the truck.
This is in anticipation of some of the rough roads in Alaska and the Yukon which
we intend to travel later this year.

I get a steep discount from my Motorcoach Association on Michelin Tires.
I saved about $700 on the tires for the Coach a couple of months ago, and
saved $300 for the tires on the truck.

We have been enjoying cocktail hour (diet coke for me) every night.

In anticipation of the mud to come, I took this opportunity to put a protective layer of
Acrylic Sealant, followed by a coat of Carnuba wax on the bus.

How does that shine look?
Trust me... in a month or so its gonna be looking rough.

I've been good.  I've been dieting and staying away from all the good stuff but
no trip to paradise would be complete without my having one proper cocktail hour
followed by some good grilled meat.

Marcel & Michaela brought me this wonderful gin from Europe last winter.

I was introduced to it by a sailboat buddy about 5 yrs ago and it was love at first sight.
It is smooth and has this citrus fresh flavor.
As far as I know you cannot buy it in the US
(if anyone knows that you can - please let me know)

So...  for my "bad night" I made a delicious Martini...

Followed by a pair of Fillets on the grill.
Kate made some mashed potatos and a salad and it was a great meal!

Of course that meant I needed to do some extra miles so we made some serious
laps around the beautiful resort with the doodles.
This place has 5 swimming pools and hot tubs!

Its hard to believe that we are in the desert!

No trip to Vegas is complete without at least taking a walk downtown and visiting some
of the beautiful and interesting Hotels & Casinos.

You can visit Paris

I had never been inside the Bellagio Hotel so that was in my sights this time.

It was another hotel with Wow Factor!

I was particularly impressed with how clean, bright, and colorful it was.

Shopping area in Bellagio Hotel
It was hard to get this picture with my iPhone, but the reception area was beautiful.
Behind reception, light from above flooded in lighting up all the fresh flowers and colorful painting.

A beautiful atrium in Bellagio

The beautiful Bellagio Pool Area.

Anyone for a swim?
Another picture of the Atrium in Bellagio.

We put quite a few miles and many floors up and down on the feet and
we returned to the truck worn out and ready to head back to the bus.

Tomorrow is our last day here and we have errands to run.
First thing in the morning is off the great dog wash where we will give the Doodles
their Pre-Alaskan Bath.

Some food shopping etc and then Saturday morning
we head 300 miles north into the Wasatch Mountains just east of Salt Lake City, Utah.

The plan is to spend a week or so at Deer Creek State Park just outside of Heber City, Ut.
The temps will be much cooler than here so it will be a good
conditioning for our bodies which have become acclimatized to these
warm sunny temps.

Its time to head for the cooler temps as we have places to be and people to see.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Stretching our legs in Tucson

One of the many things we love about Tucson, and Catalina State Park
is the variety of hiking which abounds in the area.

There are hikes for all ages, skill levels, and physical conditions.
Many great hikes leave right from our campground.

My job continues to be a real bear lately and  I have been locked up 
working 12+ hr days, 7 days a week - for the last 3 weeks and
as Jack Nicholson said in "The Shining":
"All work and no play makes Greg a Dull boy"

To break the monotony and provide some needed head clearing - having these
great hikes at hand provided a welcome respite for a couple of hours each day.

The Bridle Trail connects the Campground with the Trailheads
One of our favorites was the Canyon Loop Trail.
An nice 2.5 mile hike, it crosses a wash several times (stream was running).
It loops up the sides of the wash climbing and descending a few hundred feet a few times.

At times you are in a lush river bottom, and at other times on a dry plateau
with long range vistas.

Kate & Maxine crossed the wash
After climbing up to the plateau we stopped for this photo. 

The desert scenery and mountain vistas are one of our many rewards.

We did this hike several times - taking the loop in different directions.

Meanwhile back in the campground, this "Land Yacht" pulled in and stayed for a few days.
They had 2 large dogs onboard...   it had to be tight quarters.

On our hikes it has been enjoyable spotting all the different flora.
While the spring bloom has been declining, there is still plenty to see.

One of the neat desert plants is the Ocotillo.
The first time I saw one in the winter - they all looked like dead plants.

An Ocotillo without leaves
To conserve water, many desert plants will shed their leaves during dry spells.
Below is another Ocotillo.
It must be in a spot which held just a tad more water than the above plant.
The photos were taken the same day a few hundred yards apart. 

The Ocotillo will grow and shed leaves several times a year as needed, and
will also grow and shed its bright red flowers.

Below - some blooming Prickly Pear Cactus.

A blooming Thistle.
(look close and you will see a butterfly on it)

A variety of Desert Poppies

These small purple flowers were just about past their prime but were hiding
in a shady spot behind a rock.

A Barrel Cactus is getting ready to flower.
The Barrel Cactus always leans toward the south.
Its a reliable Desert Compass.

One of the most interesting trees is the Palo Verde.
The State Tree of Arizona, the Palo Verde, like many desert plants - grows tiny leaves
that it will shed during periods of low moisture.   An interesting feature however is
that it also has a green bark that can perform photosynthesis and feed the tree with minimal
moisture loss while the leaves are gone.

A flowering Palo Verde Tree

Meanwhile this Roadrunner crossed our path.
Beep Beep!

Sabino Canyon

One of the must-do's in Tucson is Sabino Canyon.
I've wanted to take this hike all the times that we've been here but something always
got in the way.    This time we made it.

Part of Coronado National Forest - Sabino Canyon is a desert oasis!
While the creek is not always running, there are usually pools year-round.
The stream was running quite well during our visit due to the abundant
rainfall this past winter.

From the visitor center, we rode the Tram 3.5 miles up to the head of the canyon
and walked back down.
Some people take the tram round-trip up and down, and others take it part way
to enjoy a lazy day at one of the many swimming holes.

Like many of the National Treasures that we have enjoyed over the years, the
road and 9 bridges in the canyon were built during the depression by
the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC)

Below - the stream is running across the bridge.

One of the many cool clear pools in the canyon.

There was a line to get into the parking lot and a hundred people or more waiting to take
the tram up the canyon, but once we began our hike it seemed that the crowds thinned out
and we really had our own little piece of desert oasis to ourselves.

While in Tucson, no visit is complete IMO without making a trip to
Old Tucson Studios.
I know...  a lot of people call this stuff touristy...  but we like Touristy...
We are tourists after all!

Old Tucson has operated since 1939 and at one point was called
the Hollywood of the Desert.
Dozens of Westerns were filmed here and all the great western stars have spent
time shooting here.

At the end of the street is the church from "The Three Amigos"
The town has grown as a particular movie wanted a certain type of building.

At the end of the street (above with archway) is Rosas Cantina 
which was built for Rio Lobo with John Wayne

Walking about there are employees who are dressed the part, and thru out the day
are gunfights and other activities.

I finally figured out how to curtail Kates Gift Shop Excursions.

Ron & Maxine took a tub.

Finally - Kate convinced us to take the train ride that travels around the perimeter.

Tomorrow is Monday and we are up against the 14 day stay limit at Catalina SP 
so its time to move on.

We will be heading back up to Lake Pleasant with R&M for the week, after which 
we will head our separate ways it's off to
Las Vegas for us and the beautiful Las Vegas Motorcoach Resort for a week.

See you down the road.

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Catalina State Park & Biosphere 2

We are nestled in one of our favorite hangouts...
Catalina State Park in Oro Valley, Az
about 10 miles north of Tucson.

We like it here for several reasons:
Tucson is a great town with tons of things to do.
The park is beautiful with lots of great hiking.
Outside the park is every imaginable type of shopping one could need.
It's a very convenient location yet feels a world away from the outside.

Over all it's a great place to spend some extended time.... I have good internet
here so with a fast connection so I can get more work done in less time.

Our site for two weeks.

Site B7 Catalina State Park
 Ron & Maxine plus Jim & Kristi are here.
Looking down the loop - back ins (we prefer) are on the left, and pull-thrus on the right.

About the only ding I can give the park is that we have 50amp and water, but
no sewer.   There are several dumps in the park so you either can practice some conservation
to extend your holding tanks (like we do) or you can dump during your stay.

One of the fun things to do while here is to travel about 30 min north on Oracle Rd
is a visit and tour of  Biosphere 2  (click on link for detailed info)

Having been here a few years ago, it was fun to come again to see the changes.

Built between 1987-1991 and privately financed, it's original mission was to
function as a closed earth system to study the feasibility of long-term
space missions and space colonization.

It is now owned by the University of Arizona
and serves as a one of a kind earth sciences laboratory on an previously unheard of scale.

View of Biosphere 2
Inside the Biosphere are 5 different Biomes:
Ocean with coral reef
Mangrove wetlands
Tropical rainforest
Savanna grassland
Fog desert

Inside the Rain Forest
 The Biosphere operates as a closed (now semi closed)
environment where scientist can conduct earth sciences and climate change
experiments on a scale that would be unheard of without this tremendous resource.

The Sea with Coral Reef

The Fog Desert
In order to maintain the various climatic conditions needed for the 5 different Biomes with
over 7 million cubic feet of environment under glass - it takes a major league infrastructure
to heat, cool, humidify, dehumidify, create ocean waves and currents etc. 
The basement climate control system - called the Technosphere - covers over
3 acres of space.

Built as a closed environmental system, there needed to be a way to control the rise and fall
 of the inside air pressure as day time heating expanded the atmosphere and night time cooling
reduced the volume.

Additionally - the changing air pressures outside needed to be dealt with otherwise the pressure
differentials would have destroyed the air tight barriers.

To handle this challenge they designed two giant "lungs"
These giant steel discs suspended on a rubber diaphragm, will rise or fall with the change of
inside/outside air pressure differential.

It allows for the changing pressures without any transfer of air between the inside
and outside of the Biosphere.

The south lung at Biosphere 2
 Our tour concluded after we exited the lung to the outside.
We then walked back to our starting point on the outside
to begin a self guided tour of the crew quarters.

Inside the kitchen where the 8 inhabitants prepared their meals for 2 years.
All the food was grown or raised in the Biosphere.

One of the crew living quarters.

One of the more recent and large scale projects undertaken by U of A is
The Landscape Evolution Observatory or LEO.

It was built in the part of the Biosphere that originally functioned as the
inhabitants farming area where they grew their food.

The largest project of its kind - it will study the evolution of a pure rock surface into
soil and eventually plant life.   It has over 1800 sensors monitoring all facets above
and below the surface.

Another very interesting facet of the LEO is the study of the Earth Water Cycle.

We know that rain falls on land.  Some will evaporate, some will soak into the water
table, some will run off into streams and oceans and eventually form clouds that will
fall as rain again....   But we do not precisely understand  the how, why, and how much.

All facets of this cycle are being precisely measured.

One of the three LEO study beds.
It's hard to imagine just how much is being learned here.
A unique Earth Science Laboratory on a grand scale, the Biosphere 2 has
morphed from its original space oriented mission into one that is
providing science with a better understanding of the fragile planet which we all share.

If you are ever in the Tucson area...  this place is a must!