On to Arizona, first stop Tucson

December 2nd-December 9th

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We will make 3 stops in Arizona because this is the only time, on this 2 year adventure, that we will be in this state. We will stop back a few of the states next fall/winter but not this one. We will stay a week in Tucson, a week in Phoenix/Scottsdale/Tempe and then two weeks in the Grand Canyon (for Christmas). We are very excited about that!

Tucson, AZ

We crossed the continual divide… that was a perfect opportunity for us all to learn about the divisions of water in the US.

Continental Divide

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas! Amazingly, our elves were able to find us! Thank you, Dana, for digging through my Christmas decorations to retrieve our stockings! That’s true friendship! I found the adorable “Home for the Holiday’s” pillow at Target. Isn’t the USA cut out just perfect! The girls picked out our tree this year, can you tell?

The girls found a few kids at the swing set on Sunday.  The next day, they painted rocks and hid them for kids in the future. We stayed at Cactus Country RV Resort in a nice pull through site. The Saguaro (Sa-WAH-row) cactuses (according to Mackenzie, she learned in 3rd grade from Mrs. Rooke, that this is the English spelling, the Latin one is cacti) are HUGE! They are truly the quintessential vision of Arizona and we didn’t see them until we drove into the state. They are the nations largest cactus and are only found in the Sonoran Desert.

Biosphere 2  Oracle, AZ 

This place was so cool! I had read an article about this awhile ago, as soon as we started mapping out our itinerary, I put it on the list. I’m so glad I did. Biosphere 2 was developed as a unique research facility to study ecosystem processes under controlled conditions. We can’t study Biosphere 1- Earth 🙂 in a controlled environment so this research center allows scientists to study the effects of things like increase temperature and CO2 levels on plant and animal life. There are 5 ecosystems within the dome- the rain forest, savannah, marsh land, desert and ocean. The University of Arizona has owned and operated it since 2011. Back in 1991-1994, the Human Missions 1 and 2 were conducted. They sealed in 8 scientists for 2 years and studied how they lived and effected the environment within B2.

In addition to their studies on solar panels, and LEO (Landscape Evolution Observatory) lab, they study space-colonization. If you visit, I highly recommend signing up for the guided tour for a more in-depth look at this iconic facility.

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Tombstone, AZ

The girls read a book in the Carol Marsh series called Haunted Tombstone. They wanted to visit Tombstone, AZ and the Boothill Cemetery.  It was only an hour away from where we were staying and I was excited to see this old ghost town as well.  Tombstone is known for being one of the last mining boomtowns and it’s infamous gunfight that started at the OK corral. We watched a reenactment of  the gunfight between Wyatt Earp, Doc Holliday, Virgil and Morgan Earp and the McLaurys (Frank and Tom)  and Clanton brothers (Ike and Billy). The famous gunfight took place on October 27, 1881 behind the OK corral. three men were killed and three wounded in the 30 second gunfight. After the reenactment we had lunch at Big Nose Kate’s Saloon (the center of town and Doc Holiday’s girlfriends bar). There was live music, everyone was dressed in period pieces, and the menu’s were newspapers. There aren’t many kids at tourist attractions during the week this time of year so they stand out and then add to the fact that we are in a bar… they really stood out. The owner came over and asked if he could borrow the girls for a few minutes. The girls were able to sit on the top of the bar holding the owners guns. Where else in America can children sit at a bar holding revolvers?

The girls have been looking for ‘Thee” Cowboy hat for a month. Mackenzie found her’s in Las Cruces and Abby found her’s today in Tombstone. Aren’t they cute the cutest cowgirls?

We spent an hour at the Boothill Grave Yard (laid out in 1878) going through each of the 250 grave markers and reading how each one died. Buried here are outlaws and their victims, suicided and hangings, legal and otherwise and illnesses.

We received a copy of the Tombstone Epitataph paper from October 1881 which has the story about the OK Corral gunfight. We read the testimonies on the hour drive home. After reading the testimonies I’m not sure who was at fault. The stories didn’t add up. Justice Wells Spicer released Wyatt Earp and John ‘Doc’ Holliday and said he didn’t think a jury would find them guilty based not the testimonies he heard.

The meet up

The girls have missed playing with their friends so I thought I ‘d try to find them some to meet up with. I found a homeschooling group on Facebook and joined. Then I posted a message on their page explaining my situation and they invited us to their weekly Tuesday afternoon park get together. We met at Fort Lowell Park at the playground. It was awkward for all three of us. We weren’t sure what anyone looked like so we just sat down at an empty picnic table. We saw 3 different groups of moms gathered in different sections of the park and the children were running all around the ballpark and playset. I sent the girls to the playset to play and I sat and ate my lunch. I kept looking at the women and then I looked up the Facebook page and tried to see if I recognized any of their faces. I could not make a connection. I really didn’t want to interrupt any of their discussions so I just sat there quietly eating and waiting… waiting for what I’m not sure. I watched the girls play with each other knowing they were probably going through the same thing I was… trying to figure out how to make contact with other humans. After what felt like hours (really it was 20 minutes) a women walked over and introduced herself. I had watched her in the closest group to me and decided she must be the one in charge of gathering and organizing this group. I can recognize a leader because I am one. But for some reason in the last 3 months of being out of my comfort zone and not interacting with other people in a social setting I have changed. I am normally really outgoing and can talk to anyone. I really was frozen and wasn’t sure how to approach a stranger. This would be a great social experiment for someone to follow us and see how we all change after 2 years in this adventure. So, the women did turn out to be from that Facebook page I mentioned and was on the look out for me. Just as she suggested her finding her daughter so she could introduce her to my girls, I looked over and saw Abby and Mackenzie walking over to the ball field where there were a group of 4 girls doing cartwheels. They did it! They got up the courage to walk up to a group of strangers and introduce themselves. I was so proud. We stayed for an hour and a half. I met a few more moms and listened intently to all their discussions about homeschooling and suggestions on what we should do while we are in here in Tucson. When a few drops of rain began to fall, everyone  was so excited. They hadn’t seen rain in months and were thankful but they did start packing up to leave. Abby and Mackenzie came over with handfuls of Mistle toe they had gathered climbing trees. As it turns out, Mackenzie had a grand time with the kids her age but Abby’s age group of girls was a little more difficult to maneuver over the hour and a half with gals that are BFF’s, the joys of the tween ages. Not sure if I will try that again. We were all nervous before hand and during. Abby and I were glad it was over but Mackenzie was wanting more. Kids her age are so easy and accepting.

After that afternoon we headed to the mall to do some Christmas shopping and to hide more painted rocks.

Pima Air and Space Museum

Chris actually lived in Tucson, as a child, for 2 years, stationed at the Davis-Monthan Air Force base. Francey still remembered their house address! We drove over there to see his house and old elementary school. After sending Francey the picture of the front of the house, she said it still looked the same, after 40 years.

Across from his old neighborhood is the airplane boneyard and near it is the Pima Air and Space Museum. We visited this the next day.

The Pima Air & Space Museum is one of the largest non-government funded aviation and space museums in the world! Featuring over 350 historical aircrafts, on 80 acres,  with  six indoor exhibit hangars (three dedicated to WWII). The girls enjoyed taking pictures of all the aircraft as we watched the training pilots fly over head from the Air Force base. The Air Force One plane used by JFK and LBJ was a perfect picture opportunity. We have been reading about WWII so seeing the planes used in the war was meaningful to them.

It was December 7th, while we were here in Arizona, so we decided to remember Pearl Harbor day by letting the girls watch the movie Pearl Harbor. We fast forwarded through a few inappropriate parts. It was so impactful! We will be visiting Phoenix next week to see the exhibit and the memorial for the USS Arizona and then in February we will visit Pearl Harbor in Hawaii.  They will have a better chance of remembering this date than I ever did from just reading about it in a book. I’m loving this experience we are able to provide for them.

Mt. Lemmon Scenic Byway

We drove to the top of Mt. Lemmon, located in the Coronado National Forest, to a summit at 9, 159 feet! At the bottom it was 70 degrees, when we reached the top it was 37 degrees. We were prepared, I haven’t lost the characteristic of being over prepared yet. We dug out the hats, gloves and jackets, parked and played in the snow among the pine trees. It was wild to see the different ecosystems as we drove up the mountain. We had dessert with cactuses and then they would just stop at 4000 feet (turns out Saguaro’s don’t grow above 4,000 feet) and we’d see taller bushes and oak trees, deer crossings to the top where there were thick pine tree forests. Abby shouted, “Looks like Georgia” We rolled our windows down and could smell the pine. Smells like Christmas:)  The girls were beyond excited about seeing snow!

At the top there was a cute cabin in the ski resort area of Summer haven that had plate size cookies. We had the sampler since we couldn’t decided agree on which kind to share. It was warm and cozy inside. The rest of the town was closed because they don’t have enough snow to ski on. On the drive down the mountain we were able to enjoy an amazing sun set. We stopped at several lookouts to take pictures.

It takes an hour and a half to drive to the top so plan accordingly.

UA Flandrau Science Museum

University of Arizona. College Campus Visit # 6. We had to visit this campus because Chris’s dad went to Grad school here.

The other campus’s we have visited: University of Florida (Gainesville, FL) , William and Mary (Williamsburg, VA), Flagler College (St. Augustine, FL),  Louisiana  State University (New Orleans, LA), University of Texas (Austin, TX) and University of Arizona (Tucson, AZ). The girls are getting started early on their college tours. The girls like to take pictures on the campus (preferably in front of football stadium) doing the Gator Chomp.

This science center has a planetarium, rocks and mineral display, and very large puzzle section. We stayed 3 hours, 2 of which was spent manipulating puzzles. Several were very challenging! This museum is perfect for 9 and 11 year olds. I saw a few moms in there with younger children and they didn’t have much to do.

We purchased the Kern County Museum annual family membership for $120 and it gives us reciprocity at a long list of science, art, children’s and history museums nationwide. It has saved us so much money since joining last month. This is one of the museums on the list.

Saguaro (Sa-wah-row) National Park

This National Park is divided into two sections; East and West. Both have visitors centers with a 15 minute movie, junior ranger program and hiking. We chose the East because it was only 20 minutes away versus the 45 minutes to the other one. The East has the Cactus Forest Drive which is on the National register of Historic places. It is a 8.4 mile drive with lovely pull over spots.  The girls earned their junior ranger badges and this was the first park that gave them a nice poster, a 15% coupon to spend in the gift store and certificate.  The ranger also checked every page and every answer in their booklets. The ranger spent a lot time with the girls and went more in depths with them than any other ranger has before.

There is a unmanned observatory station used for monitoring Earth’s variable magnetic field located here. It’s one of 14 in the US. The data collected here is used for geomagnetic  mapping, research, and assessment of magnetic storms.

The Jeep has it’s first bumper sticker… it’s a National Park GEEK!

Wow, that was a busy 7 days!

AZ facts: It’s the 6th largest state. It became the last state in the continental US on Valentine’s Day of 1912. State Bird is the Cactus Wren. State Tree is the Palo Verde with it’s green bark.

The state flag has 13 stripes to represent the first 13 colonies and are arranged to represent the western setting sun. The copper star represent that they are the top producer in copper.

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