Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Under the Tucson Sun .... The Sequel

Roger here...  We continue to love our time in Tucson.  If you recall from the last post, our hosts Greg and Barb have been referring to the adventures that they take us on as "appointments".  

Our fifth appointment took us to the Sunday Farmers' Market....  a long line of covered stands full of local organic produce, frozen grass-fed meat, free-range eggs, etc.  We did some restocking of our fridge and freezer.  The dogs enjoyed the attention of passersby.

After a few hours of free time, we drove about twenty miles to Biosphere 2.  This  was a truly fascinating place, especially for an ex-science teacher.

Biosphere 2 (Biosphere 1 being the Earth) was built with private money in 1986 as an ambitious center for scientific research.  At one time, it was completely sealed from the outside world (including water and air) as a self-sustaining environment.

Seven scientists were sealed in the Biosphere for two years in 1991. They raised their own food and worked every day to maintain their Earth-like habitat.  Their living quarters were encased in the Biosphere.  Every day one of the scientists was responsible for preparing meals in the kitchen shown in the photo.

They each had separate living quarters.  The biosphere had its own water cycle.  The plants provided oxygen doing their photosynthesis thing.  

It was interesting to ponder what life might have been like living in this small world with views of the outside world in every direction.

After the experiment ended, the ownership of the Biosphere passed to Columbia University and eventually to the University of Arizona, which continues to conduct ambitious research projects.   We were able to walk through the various biomes (which are no longer sealed from the outside world).  The photo below shows off the beach area of the ocean biome.

The tropical rain forest biome was warm and humid.  We were told by the docent that often it is warmer and much more humid.  We evidently picked a good day to visit.  The original plants have grown to the ceiling of  this space.  

The various biomes are controlled by a vast network of underground machinery.  Of the five total acres encased in Biosphere 2, two of the acres consist of underground equipment.  The desert biome was certainly more arid than the others.

After wandering through the biomes above ground, we were led through underground tunnels, passing the extensive equipment and into one of the two "lungs".  The lungs are no longer functioning at full capacity, since the Biosphere is no longer sealed.  However, they are fascinating.  The lungs controlled the air pressure in the Biosphere by expanding and contracting as needed to maintain a constant pressure.  In the picture above, the dark feature on the ceiling (weighing two tons) is made of fabric.  The lighter area of the ceiling (weighing three tons) is the metal center of an imaginary doughnut.  The flexible fabric portion allows the metal portion to move up and down, as required at any time.  When we exited the lung through an air lock, the escaping wind literally pushed us out of the door while the metal center of the ceiling lowered.

Before leaving this part of the post, I want you to see a couple of pictures of the plants in the rainforest from the outside as they press against the glass walls.

A night's sleep was followed by appointment number six... We began fairly early in the morning as Greg drove us to a desert area on the west side of Tucson.  Our destination --- The Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum.

Wow.  Was this ever fun for an ex-science teacher!  We spent the morning and early afternoon wandering among the desert plant life, animal life and geology.  This "Living Desert" is a must see in the Tucson vicinity (even if you aren't an ex-science teacher).

Intriguing and beautiful cacti, flowers and succulents graced the landscape with every turn along the pathway.

GIANT cactus flower!

Century plants, members of the agave family,  live for 50+ years before growing the towering flower stems that lead to their demise.

The energy expended as the flowers bloom is fatal to the plant.  When the blooms fade, the stalks tumble, and the green center of the plant withers and dies.

The desert animals were also fun to observe.  Many of them hid in crevices, but others were out and about like this bear.  Dianne got a great shot of the bobcat in the photo below.

This Mexican Wolf was taking a nap while his roommate ran circles around the enclosure.  He looks somewhat annoyed.

OK... now this is truly a prairie dog (of the black tail variety).  He is much bigger than the round tailed squirrel impostors back at our campsite.

Hey Dianne!  There is one of your favorite birds.  I always call them "one of your favorite birds" because I have no clue of how to pronounce "pyrrhuloxia."  The cactus wren perching in the breeze in the photo below is the state bird of Arizona.  We also saw a roadrunner, the state bird of New Mexico.  The cardinal is the state bird of the other 48 states.

Hummingbirds were abundant in any location with flowers.  A couple of them buzzed in front of our faces to check us out, almost as if they were tame.  This guy was eating lunch at one of the feeders.  The bird posing below is a black-chinned hummingbird.

We almost skipped the Sonoran geology displays.  That would have been a mistake. 

The photo of the exhibit in the dark room below only gives a hint of the interesting information that was on display.  Essentially, a chronological display of the development of the Earth  circled the room.  We could have spent hours in that room alone.

It was difficult to leave this place, but we needed to get back to the campsite to walk our dogs.  After some free time, we met up again for appointment number seven --- party time in downtown Tucson.

We started on an outdoor patio with wine and cheese at the Coronet Hotel happy hour. 

 Next, we sauntered through the streets a bit.  Fleetwood Mac, Dianne's favorite band, is scheduled to play at the Fox Theater.  We won't be here :-(.  We cut through the lobby of the historic Congress Hotel where John Dillinger was captured, on our way to The Hub restaurant, where we had dinner....

... But first we had another glass of wine.

I highly recommend the bacon mac and cheese --- comfort food at its best.  We finished the meal with a specialty of The Hub, ice cream.

The next morning Dianne and I drove to the Tucson Sprouts to replenish the food in our fridge and freezer.  We will soon return to meals that we prepare in the motor home.  

Greg and Barb steered us to the Tucson Animal Shelter for appointment number eight.  We are NOT in the market for another pet; however, their friend Jo volunteers there and we have a sincere interest in animal rescue.  It is a successful and well-run operation.  120 dogs and cats found adoptive homes just last week.  There was a sweet Queensland Heeler there that looks very much like Bandido.  We hope she finds a good home.

As I am writing this, it is almost time for our final appointment, appointment number nine.

Barb is fixing dinner for us again at their beautiful new home.  We may walk around the neighborhood with our three dogs before dinner so that Bandido and Tequila can say goodbye to Izzy.

Well, we took a few more pictures during our last visit that we needed to share...

This is a good view of their (no grass) back yard.  No mowing or weed eating every week.  Nice.

Here we are lounging with the three dogs in the Arizona room before dinner.

A walk around the block at Sun City before dinner.  What a stunning place.

Greg and Izzy on their street.

Barb's dinner was so delicious... grilled salmon in a cedar paper sheet, pasta salad and caesar salad.  Yum.

Thanks so much to Barb and Greg for an unforgettable week!  We will see you in Boise in June.

Tomorrow we will be doing a short drive to the north side of Phoenix, where our dogs will be the focus of a refresher course in rattlesnake avoidance training.

The pet picture of the day shows Bandido and Tequila zeroing in on a lizard from Greg and Barb's Arizona room.

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