Friday, January 30, 2015

Superbowl XLIX Visit

Jim is a big Seattle Seahawks fan, so yesterday we took a road trip to Phoenix, home of Superbowl XLIX. The game is actually being played in nearby Glendale, but it’s all in the neighborhood.

Twelve blocks of downtown Phoenix have been turned into party central, with displays and activities indoors and out. We spent the day at "The NFL Experience” at the Phoenix Convention Center, described as “pro football’s interactive theme park offering participatory games, displays, entertainment attractions, youth football clinics and free autograph sessions.”  It was also home of the Superbowl Media Center.

About 75 percent of the attendees were wearing football jerseys or team hats; we saw more Seahawks clothing than that of any team. We also saw lots of Green Bay gear, plus people wearing Forty Niners and Cowboys shirts. Oddly, few folks were wearing New England Patriots clothing. Sadly, we did not see a single Cleveland Browns hat or shirt, but there is always next year for the Browns.

Staff and security were all over the place -- the staff was always saying hello and asking if people needed help.  We saw police, police dogs, hovering helicopters, and my bag was checked before I went in the Convention Center, but our wait times were mostly short even though many lines were long. Staff moved people quickly.

The weather was more Seattle than Phoenix -- it started to rain last night and has poured hard off an on all day today -- but it's supposed to clear by game day. We lucked out on the weather because it didn’t start raining hard until after we were back to our hotel last night. After we had dinner at a brew pub, of course.

As we walked to the convention center, a huge banner seemed to be predicting a Seattle win.  Blocked from view, however, are the letters "vs" plus the Boston Patriot's logo.
Scenes from the "NFL Experience" at the Phoenix Convention Center, clockwise from top left:  Jim selecting a Seahawks T shirt; posing with the real Lombardi trophy; Richard Sherman as seen on a huge display; and a couple of Hawks fans waiting to buy tickets to enter the Phoenix Convention Center ($35 each, but we got a half-price military discount).  Note that the guy on the left has a Seahawks logo shaved into his hair.
More "NFL Experience," clockwise from top left:  A Microsoft employee explained the tablets Microsoft makes for the NFL that allow coaches and players to immediately see any completed play; Jim and the Seattle quarterback's locker; one of the many banners hanging all over the Convention Center -- this one near the Lombardi Trophy; and Jim in his team's uniform.
Jim at the site of Super Bowl 49.  Go Hawks!

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Sabino Canyon: Seven Falls Trail

We celebrated our wedding anniversary Saturday with a hike on the Seven Falls Trail in Bear Canyon, an offshoot of Sabino Canyon in Tucson.  It's the best hike we've been on in a long time.  Lots of saguaro and other cactus, lots of water, and -- since we started mid morning -- plenty of shade.

A tram took us two miles up the canyon to the trail head. I'd read different on-line estimates on the actual trail milage, but per my iPhone Walkmeter app, from the trailhead to the pool of water and falls you reach at the end, it was 2.8 miles ones way. 

The hike is rocky in places but overall it's pretty easy. We crossed the stream that carved out the canyon seven times by stepping from rock to rock and barely got our feet wet. After doing the trail, we decided to walk down the road instead of taking the tram, then took a "short cut" trail that again crossed a stream. Jim hopped from stone to stone and got "kind of" wet feet. I finally found a place that looked calm and sloshed across in knee deep water. After the hike we ignored our wet feet and went out to lunch.

If we could recommend just one Tucson area hike, this would be it. Get there early to miss the crowds and to take the first tram up the canyon, which leaves at 9 a.m. Or you can walk the two miles to the trail head.
Beautiful saguaros are everywhere in Sabino and Bear Canyon..  They grow as high as 70 feet, can lives for  200 years, and the armless ones are called "spears."  Saguaros grow naturally only in the Sonoran desert.

Bev and a few of her cacti friends.
Hikers ahead of us cross the stream that meanders across the trail.  The water is dark because the surrounding trees and other flora leech into the water. 
At the top of the trail: A pool of water and its many admirers. 
The falls that feed into the pool.  While there were a lot of people at the pool and the falls, the rest of the trail was busy but not crowded -- but I'm guessing the trail was more congested later in the day.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Chris and Austin

My first cousin's daughter, Chris, and her son, Austin, drove the 850 miles round trip from El Paso, Texas, to the Phoenix area last week so Austin could visit his college -- the University of Advancing Technology -- in Tempe.  On their way home, they stopped to visit us in Tucson.

Austin -- a self-professed computer nerd -- has been taking classes on line and plans to move to UAT's campus this spring.  But first he and his Mom wanted to make sure the high-tech college is what Austin really wants. It is. Austin is stoked.

Chris' husband Jimmy -- and by extension as it is with military spouses, Chris -- are in the Army. Over the 20 plus years they've been a military family, they have lived at Lewis McChord near Seattle;  Fort Bragg, North Carolina; Fort Benning, Georgia; Stuttgart, Germany; and I'm not sure where else. Chris also spent time in Ohio with her mom (my cousin, Dicie) when Jimmy was deployed overseas. They now live in El Paso while Jimmy attends training at Fort Bliss.  

In addition to Austin, Chris and Jimmy have two younger boys: Jake, who wants a career in the Air Force and is in AF Junior ROTC, and Zack, who won two trophies playing Texas football this year. Chris says their family will move again in a few months to a still-unknown-to-them location.

It was great to see you! Have a wonderful experience at UAT, Austin.
Austin wanted to see a saguaro cactus up close, so we took him and his mom to one on the base. According to the local "cacti experts" we've talked to, no one really knows why a saguaro grows arms.
Sorry I almost cut your head off Chris, but this pic shows a saguaro (not to mention your faces) closer up.  Chris told me her dad said to tell me he reads our blog regularly.  Hi Rocky!

Chris and Austin are In and Out Burger fans and had stopped at one near I-10 on their way to Tempe. They were also up for a return trip with us.  If I had one word each to describe Chris and Austin, I'd use "vivacious" for Chris and "charming" for Austin.
Bev, Austin and Chris behind our car.  Austin asked a good question: Where do you kayak around here? Well, no where at the moment, although there is a kayak-worthy lake about 50 miles southwest of Tucson.  But there was lots of water at our last stop, Yuma, and we hope to use the boats  again when we head back toward Salt Lake this spring.  Right now the boats just make it easy to find our car in a parking lot.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Davis Monthan and the Boneyard

This is our fourth winter spending time at the Agave Gulch Fam (short for "family") Camp at Davis Monthan Air Force Base in Tucson. The base is just five miles from downtown Tucson.

Per the base web site, Davis Monthan's mission is to " Deploy, employ, support, and sustain attack airpower in support of Combatant Commanders anywhere in the world at a moment's notice. Train the finest attack pilots for the Combat Air Forces. Provide every member of Team D-M with responsive, tailored, mission-focused base support.”  

I'm not too familiar with fighter jets (correction: I know almost nothing about fighter jets) but Davis Monthan trains pilots and crews of A-10, OA-10 and EC-130 plane.  It's also the home of an air show demonstration team that must have been here last weekend because there were jets flying in formation.

And, Davis Monthan is home of the largest storage center for excess military aircraft in the world; it's called AMARG or Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group.  But everyone refers to it as the "boneyard"  and it's right next to the Fam Camp. I took the boneyard photos below through a chain link fence a couple hundred yards from our rig.
The boneyard is home to over 4,000 planes lined up in military precision on 2,600 acres of desert at Davis Monthan Air Force Base. The dry climate is good for aircraft storage and preservation.  
Many of the plane tails have two letters on them like the ones above.  Jim thought maybe these were national guard planes from various states --- then we saw one with "LX" on the tail.  So maybe not. White protective coverings seal all openings and keep out dust, sand and debris.
Our camp site at Davis Monthan's Agave Gulch Fam Camp, which  has 192 spots.  When we purchased our rig used from a California couple, they said "Take the contents, too." The lawn chairs and picnic table cover to the right were theirs and we're still using the towels and some of the utensils they gave us. 

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Heisman Winner Versus Third String Quarterback

A photo from a recent post that bears repeating:
Bev and her Ohio State Buckeyes ball cap.
Hurray for the Buckeyes! Gotta get one of those National Championship shirts to go with the above ball cap.

I'm an Ohio State grad and Jim is a native Oregonian -- but fortunately for me he went to Oregon State University (with orange and black uniforms) not University of Oregon (usually wearing some sort of green/gold combo except during the championship game). And orange and black Beavers dislike Ducks of any color combination. Still, the Ducks represented the PAC 12 -- and if you can't root for your home team, in the big games you root for your conference. Jim kept the peace Monday night by cheering (out loud anyway) for the offense, no matter who had the ball.

Thank you, Jim. And go Buckeyes!

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Cactus and Beer

Friday we took my brother Bob and SIL Suzie (visiting from Brecksville, Ohio, near Cleveland) to two of our favorite Tucson places: Sabino Canyon and Barrio Brewery.

Sabino Canyon is in the Santa Catalina Mountains not far from where we are staying at Davis Monthan Air Force Base. It's an oasis with lots of water, plants, beautiful mountains and thick stands of saguaros.

Then we hit the Barrio Brewery whose website describes it as "rustic chic."  That translates into a building near the railroad tracks with a rusted corrugated roof, good food, great service and really great beer.

Click on any of the photos to make them larger.
Bev took this shot from a tramcar that takes folks up the 4.5 mile-long Sabino Canyon.  Private vehicles are not allowed.
There was once a plan to dam the canyon's creek (Sabino Creek) but I read that water rights dispute and a drought put an end to the dam plans.  Thank goodness, because the resulting reservoir would have covered all the beautiful saguaros.  
Another shot from the shuttle.  A large earthquake centered in northern Mexico happened here in the late 1800s and sent huge boulders toward the bottom of the canyon.
We got off the shuttle at the top of the canyon and did a one-mile-round-trip hike to the creek where Jim and Bob peeked through some branches.

Suzie and Bob admiring and photographing the cacti.
On our way back up the one-mile-round-trip trail. There are lots of hiking trails in Sabino Canyon, plus lots of folks walk the paved canyon road.

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Bob, Suzie and Jim at Barrio Brewery.  We go there at least every couple of weeks when we are in Tucson.
After Sabino Canyon and Barrio Brewery, we walked the grounds of Tucson's Pima County Courthouse. It's the third courthouse at the same location and was completed in 1929.  It's no longer the main county courthouse but the recorder's office is there and we saw some brides and grooms -- not including the two on the right above, who have been married 42 years.

Close up of the Pima County Courthouse tile rotunda. And a saguaro to state the obvious.

Friday, January 9, 2015

Family and Saguaros

We left Yuma Monday morning for Davis Monthan Air Force Base Fam Camp in Tucson.  When we told people in Yuma we were headed for Tucson, almost unanimously we heard "Brrr, it's so cold there" -- which is funny to this originally midwestern girl and her Pacific Northwest husband who now call northern Utah home. Everything is relative.

It was also amusing to Bev's Ohio brother and sister-in-law who spent yesterday and today with us. Bob and Suzie live in Brecksville, Ohio, near Cleveland. I kept checking their weather at home: "Hey, it's 11 degrees in Brecksville with a wind chill of minus 20."  It's a good time to be in the southwest.

Suzie, Bob and Bev at Saguaro National Forest East.  It was in the mid 60s and rained all day, but at least it wasn't 20 below with the wind chill.  Suzie is a retired college professor and Bob is a veterinarian.  
Hazards of the desert:  While taking a photo of Bob and Suzie in front of a saguaro, Bev accidentally crouched  too close to a cholla and got a buttful of stickers.  Bob and Suzie tried tried their best, but some of the spines worked their way in so well I had to later use tweezers.
Suzie, Bob, Bev and Jim at Bev's favorite Tucson restaurant, El Charro, where Bob and Suzie treated us to dinner on Bev's birthday.
Last but not least:  Bev and her Ohio State cap.  Go Buckeyes!  Win Monday night's Nutquacker Bowl!