We arrived on Saturday at the Tucson KOA to overcast skies and chilly temps. It was not the Arizona weather we had been looking forward to. It rained nearly all day on Sunday, which was fine with us since it was Super Bowl Sunday and we planned on hunkering down anyway to watch the game.
Charlie spent much of the day on Monday at the Pima Air & Space museum while I ran some errands. He enjoyed touring the museum, except for the portion outside where he had to walk through mud to see the planes.
Tuesday’s forecast remained cold and the winds were picking up so hiking did not seem like a good idea. Considering this, we decided to explore the Kitt Peak National Observatory ( https://www.noao.edu/kpno/ ). Now, one would think that going to the top of a mountain where the wind speed was 20-30 miles per hour and the temperature was hovering around 30 degrees, would not be the wisest choice. I might also add that the mountain top was in the clouds. When we arrived at 9:00 am we were the only crazy tourists there. We signed up for the telescope tours and then strolled through the very informative museum until the first tour began. The Observatory is an easy hour drive outside of Tucson. The Observatory offers 3 telescope tours. The first one we took was to the McMath-Pierce Solar Telescope. This particular telescope is used primarily during daylight hours to study the sun and other close stars. The second tour was to the 2.1-Meter Telescope. This telescope originated in 1964 with a mirror made of a new material at the time, called “Pyrex.” The telescope has been instrumental for researchers to understand dark matter in the Universe. The last tour was to the 4-Meter Mayall Telescope. This telescope is the largest optical telescope on Kitt Peak. The telescope is currently being reconstructed for a multi-year research project exploring dark energy.
When we were not touring the telescopes we were learning a lot from our guide back at the visitor center. It was a very interesting day and we were very happy that we went. If you decide to take the tours make sure you take a lunch with you, as we did. It is an all day event and there is nowhere to purchase food on the mountain.
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After a day of getting educated and excited about telescopes we decided to tour the Richard F. Caris Mirror Lab at the University of Arizona (https://mirrorlab.arizona.edu/) on Wednesday, since it was again supposed to be wet, windy and cold outside. The Mirror Lab is currently casting eight 8.4 meter segmented mirrors for the Giant Magellan Telescope which will be installed in Chile. There is no other lab like this one in the world. The hour and a half tour included about 45 minutes of information in a classroom setting followed by a tour through the mirror lab. We learned a lot about telescopes and how the mirrors are fabricated. We highly recommend taking the tour if you ever have the opportunity.
After our mirror lab tour we stopped by the University of Arizona’s Planetarium and Mineral Museum. We enjoyed the Planetarium show and even found the Mineral display to be quite interesting.
Finally on Thursday we got some sunshine and temps in the 50s so we headed over to the Saguaro National Park – East. We took the 8 mile loop drive in the park to check out the scenery and then we drove a few miles outside of the park for a hike. We took a 5 mile roundtrip hike from Douglas Spring. The weather was perfect and the trail led us to a small ‘waterfall’ where we sat and had lunch. I’m always amused with the tall cactus figures, as you can see from the pictures below.
In the last picture, in the distance, you can see snow capped Mt. Lemmon. The road to get up there was closed due to ice and snow so we did not get an opportunity to venture up there.
For our last day in Tucson we hung out around the RV, for the most part. We also had to take our 4 week old Jeep Wrangler to Safelite to get a crack in the windshield repaired. It looks like new now. Hopefully it stays that way.
We did not eat out at all in Tucson because early on I discovered a fantastic market nearby that had the freshest seafood. Yuri, the fishmonger at Rincon Market, has fresh fish delivered up to 4 or 5 times a day. During the week I cooked up Halibut, Ahi Tuna, Scottish Steelhead, and Scottish Salmon. Everything was exceptional. One evening, after our long day of tours, we stopped by the market but I decided I was too tired to cook so we grabbed a bottle of wine from the market, sat at their counter and ordered dinner. I had salmon while Charlie had New York Strip. I highly recommend the Rincon Market https://rinconmarket.xyz/
We are now on our way to Lake Havasu for a short week, and then onto Palm Springs, CA. On our way we are stopping over in Eloy, AZ for a Chinese New Year celebration with friends. More on all that later…..