Mon-Wed, February 10-12: Tuscon, AZ

Before heading for Tuscon, we went to Bisbee, a quaint little mining town in the Mule Mountains not far from the Mexican border.  Some good-looking rocks were discovered in 1877 in Tombstone Canyon where the heart of the old town is now located.  By 1880, the Camp of Bisbee was declared the Town of Bisbee.  The mines eventually produced 3 million ounces of Gold, 8 billion pounds of copper and silver, lead and zinc.  A permanent town was built in Tombstone Canyon, and many of the homes are perched on the surrounding hillsides.  After the mines closed in the 70’s, most of the residents and businesses moved out of the canyon, but many “hippies” moved in and restored “Old Bisbee”.  What was once a bustling early 20th century mining town is now a nice quiet historic site where artists, craftspeople, and retirees live.  We visited the Smithsonian-affiliated historical museum, many rock and jewelry shops and had lunch in one of their cafes.  We looked down into the Lavender Pit Copper Mine on the edge of town, which was enormous with layers of roads, and we could see different colors in the rock.

We headed slightly north next and pulled into Mission RV Park on the southern end of Tuscon, for the next 3 nights.

Tuesday morning we visited the Mission San Xavier del Bac known as the “White Dove of the Desert” located on the Tohono O’odham Indian Reservation.  Tohono O’odham means “people of the desert,” and the reservation is 2.8 million acres of desert; about the size of Connecticut.   The mission was founded in 1692 and this wonderful example of mission architecture was built in the 1780’s.  There were huge wooden statues, elaborate hand-painted murals on the walls and ceilings and carved woodwork throughout which was beautifully restored.  On the side of a hill overlooking the mission was a replica of the Grotto of Lourdes in France, the site of miracles.

Next, we went to the Sonora Desert Museum, another of America’s 10 best zoos.  Unlike any zoo we’d ever been too, we walked about 2 miles over 21 acres filled with Sonora desert plants and wildlife here.  We saw Bighorn sheep, Coati, Javelinas, Coyotes, prairie dogs, otters, black bears, beavers, and every kind of cactus, bush and tree.  They also had an enclosed Aviary with desert birds, ducks and butterflies, and inside was an aquarium and limestone cave to explore.
We stopped at a scenic view pullover to get a Palo Verde tree branch for our scrapbook.  After dinner, we checked out the Casino of the Sun in the Indian Reservation.  It was a colorful place, but only had slots and electronic games.  We played Black Jack but decided it wasn’t the same without a dealer and people sitting around shooting the bull while we lost our money.

Wednesday, we went to the Tucson Gem and Mineral Show that takes place the first 2 weeks of February each year.  Thousands of dealers specializing in rocks, minerals, fossils, beads, gems, Native American art and every type of jewelry imaginable come to this huge show from all parts of the world.  The main event, which is held in the Tucson Convention Center, didn’t start until Thursday, so we went to some of the earlier shows in the various hotels around Tucson.  We purchased an incredible hand-carved and beaded Sun & Moon wall sculpture made by the Huichol Mexican Indians and found a few items for Bonnie to wire-wrap from the rocks and minerals dealers, then we went back to change for another Valentine’s Square Dance, this time with the Sundancers in Rancho Vistoso.  There were  10 squares on the floor, and Ron Masters, their caller, was a lot of fun to  dance to.


Thurs-Sat, February 13-15: Phoenix & Scottsdale, AZ (& Mexico)

We began Thursday morning at the main event of the Tuscon Gem Show in the Convention Center where we picked up a few more trinkets, then headed north that afternoon to Scottsdale, Arizona, just northeast of Phoenix.  On our way, we stopped at the Casa Grande Ruins in Coolidge, southeast of Phoenix, where they have preserved the remains of an ancient Hohokam farming village.  The Great House (named Casa Grande by early Spanish explorers who discovered it) is 4 stories high and 60 feet long.  The Hohokam who built the home have been called the First Masters of the American Desert by archeologists.

That night, we visited our friend, Ann Allen, who moved from Baltimore to Scottsdale years ago.  She lives in beautiful home in a really nice part of Arizona.  Friday, we spent a nice sunny day with her in Old Town Scottsdale looking in all the jewelry shops and art galleries and had lunch at Pischke’s where we tried Tuna Lavosh, an Armenian type of pizza on unleavened bread—great stuff!  Later, we met her fiancé Gregg for dessert at the Sugar Bowl.

Saturday, we went back to the Tuscon Gem Show with Ann and Gregg where we found interesting gems like Moldavite and Smithsonite and Hemimorphite to make into jewelry later.  Then we crossed the border to Nogales, the best Mexican town we visited.  We even found the perfect Mexican-style mirror with Sun & Moon tiles around a really cool hand-stamped tin frame.  It was a gorgeous day in the 70’s and we had a great time.

Sun-Mon, February 16-17: Kingman, AZ

We left early Sunday morning heading northwest. About 60 miles later we came to Wickenburg, a cool little town, so we unhitched to look around.  We found out it was their 55th  annual Gold Rush Days Festival.  There were lots of art and crafts booths set up in their park, so we spent a couple of hours there.

The next 120 miles or so was mostly desert with huge Mesas and mountains.  We went through the Joshua Tree Scenic Highway that had Joshua Trees everywhere.   The only place we saw was the “Nothing Rock Shop.”   We liked their huge “All Mart” sign and had to stop.  This silly place had yellow brick roads leading to their restrooms since that’s what most visitors were looking for.  They also had silly stuff in boxes like this “Rare White Bat.”