|the city of Tucon from Sentinel Peak, at dusk|
From everything we heard, city size, climate during winter months, and other criteria (please see http://rvcruisinglifestyle.blogspot.com/2012/01/wow-slowing-down-taming-our-bucket-list.html), Tucson was in fact getting to be at the top of our list. Excited, we went to inspect 6 RV Resorts and chose 3 finalists (Voyager RV Resort, Far Horizons RV Resort, and Western RV Resort) for an interim settling period called snowbirding. In the next three years we plan to keep our RV for visiting family and friends and places we want to go back to (July to September), staying in a winter haven RV resort during the cold months (October to March), and making trips to Europe and Asia (April to June).
Tucson (city population more than half a million, SMSA almost 1 million) is a modern metropolis already with the demographics of what the US will be in 2050 (non-Hispanic whites as minority). Sentinel Peak is an easy to access vantage point for an aerial view of the city. Two districts of the Saguaro National Park conserve fine tracts of the Sonoran Desert, including ranges of significant hills, the Tucson Mountains in the west and the Rincon Mountains in the east. The park gets its name from the large cactus of that name which is native to the region, the largest of which grew to 75 feet tall and 10 feet wide! For American Indians it represents a man reaching out to the sky! Much like the Joshua trees of California.
|the flistening Biosphere 2|
|Bill at the South Lung of Biosphere 2|
With the University of Arizona located in Tucson, the state now has the only Biosphere2 in the planet, designed to mimic Biosphere 1 (the earth). It is an amazing venture started in the late 1980s by the Texan billionaire Edward Bass who put in $250M to create this infrastructure with five different ecological systems: tropical rainforest, savannah, marshland, ocean, and desert. In the early 1990s, 8 Biospherians (4 women and 4 men) lived there for 2 years and learned much about human ecology. The University of Arizona has recently expanded it to include LEO (Landscape Evolution Observatory). The main thrust today is to study the conservation of water on earth, one of the key ingredients to life.
|LEO: Landscape Evolution Laboratory|
|Mission San Javier del Bac|
The influence of the Spanish and American Indians is very evident in many places in Tucson. The Mission San Javier del Bac is a beautiful white adobe church, one of two notable churches in honor of St. Francis Xavier. It was founded in 1692 and internationally recognized as the finest example of Spanish Colonial architecture in the United States, much evident in the rough but gilded altars and saints. We heard mass there on his Feast Day, Dec. 2 and witnessed men happily lighting ground fireworks, like when it’s New Year in Manila. And what a delicious lunch we had that day, with all the Mexican/Indian tiendas selling hot local frybread with carne de seca!
|the Mission at Tucumcari|
|Chapel de San Pedro|
Other fine churches are the Cathedral of St. Augustine, completed in 1868, housing the Diocese. Another charming chapel, the Chapel of San Pedro, belonging to the Old Fort Lowell Neighborhood Association, is frequently used for weddings and belongs to the National Register of Historic Places. South of Tucson is the Tucumcari Mission built in 1691. There the trail of missions started on to California by the Spanish Anza. We also visited Barrio Historico which featured so many old colorful adobe homes with many cacti growing around their perimeters.
|the lights were best at Elvira's|
|molcajete with side beans and guacamole|
Tucson is also a base for some interesting towns, notably Tombstone where the Battle of the OK Corral happened and is still regularly played out every day for tourists. We visited the town three years ago enroute to Mexico, only 60 miles from Tucson (please see http://rvcruisinglifestyle.blogspot.com/2010/11/exploring-southwest-part-2.html ). We also went to Tubac, famous for its fine furniture and craft making and where thousands of lights mark its Iluminaria Night on Dec. 7 & 8 every year. At Elvira's, Mexican restaurant since 1927 we had molcajete with flank steak and cactus that kept on boiling in a volcanic bowl until we finished it! It tasted MUCH better than it looked! Bisbee, the setting of several mystery novels Bill has read was a real magnet, too!
|another one of those stairs in mysterious Bisbee!|
Base number two, Tucson, is definitely a contender. It is a big enough city, the winter weather is fine, there are good hospitals and educational institutions, there is LA Fitness (which has bought Ballys) where we can use our lifetime fitness membership, cheap Mexican goods are easily available, taxes are low (thus a Redbox movie rents for only $1.10 whereas other cities do so at $1.30!) But we will suspend our decision until we can finish the three other bases in Arizona -- Phoenix, Yuma, and Bullhead City, and the bases we will find in southern California next year! Home-hunting is exciting!