Sunday, December 2, 2012

Tucson 2012 Part 1

Rather than retrace our route that we had taken to Rusty’s RV Ranch via Sierra Vista, we jumped up to I-10 for the almost three hour trip to Tucson and Justin’s Diamond RV Park west of Tucson. We’ve parked at Justin’s before. What had attracted us was the close proximity to Sonoran Desert habitat which once again became our backyard, and, the short driving distance to the Arizona-Sonoran Desert Museum.

site at Justin's and our "backyard"
We had planned on spending at least two months at Justin’s but when we arrived, learned that the monthly rate for sites was going to be bumped up substantially in November. Since we had already discussed a return stop in Kerrville, TX before we went to the Rio Grande Valley, we amended our plan and to leave Justin’s at the end of October instead of December.

male Gambel's Quail
female Gambel's Quail
Gambel's Quail cued at the water dish
It didn’t take long after we were parked to get into the swing of things. After a trip to Wildbirds Unlimited in Tucson, we stocked up on bird seed. Carol made up a peanut butter/suet mix, and I had put out a pan to catch condensation runoff from the RV’s air conditioner. Then we sat back and watched the show begin. In short order we had Gambell’s Quail foraging for cracked corn. Curve-billed Thrashers, Bridled Titmice, White-crowned Sparrows, Rufous-winged Sparrows, Ladderback Woodpeckers, and Gila Woodpeckers at the seed and peanut butter/suet feeders. Anna’s Hummingbirds vied for space at the hummingbird feeder. But our prize surprise was when we heard a somewhat but not quite familiar “PEAH!” call. It turned out to be a pair of Gilded Flickers. Typically we have had to drive to the Saguaro National Park (west unit) to find these cousins to the Northern Flicker but here they were, at our feeders! Life yard bird!

male Gilded Flicker
During our month at Justin’s we made the best of our time. Almost immediately we renewed our annual family membership at the Desert Museum. We explored a few birding places we had either not been to in quite a while or that were new to us: Florida Canyon, Montosa Canyon, and a separate day trip to Madera Canyon (included lunch in Green Valley). The two former locations were reportedly good for Black-capped Gnatcatchers. For other folks but not for us this time around.

La Pilita Museum mural
T-shirt sale - like quail to cracked corn
Carol in front of El Munito Cafe
We took care of some business in town. Swapped out a cracked wine glass for a new one at Crate’N’Barrel, an appointment to replace a missing piece of trim on the truck at Quebedeaux GMC plus an oil change (and eventually bought a new set of truck tires).

Saguaro National Park Visitor Center
view from Saguaro National Park toward Kitt Peak
There was a day spent driving up to Mount Lemmon on the Catalina Highway for a last ditch search of straggler high elevation migrants. Pretty much struck out on getting any stragglers so we consoled ourselves with breakfast at the recently opened Sawmill Restaurant in Summerhaven. There was wine and pizza with friends in Tucson, more shopping in Tucson, and a massive T-shirt sale at the La Pilita Museum followed by lunch at the El Munito Cafe. The T-shirt sale turned out to be quite a big deal. It’s was a one-day only annual sale of Nancy Lenches designed T’s. We had ogled her T-shirts for sale at a Desert Museum gift shop where they sold for between $30 and $40. The sale prices? From $8 to $16! Her clothing line (T-shirts are only one of many articles for sale) can be seen at Sabaku Artwear. Even Tom scored a couple of T's he had his eye on.

Tom, Alice, Carol
One special trip was to Scottsdale to visit Alice Seaborne, mother of Tom's boyhood best friend Scott Seaborne. The Seabornes, Ben and Alice, had been like second parents to Tom as he grew up in Appleton. Ben had passed away but through correspondence with Scott we obtained Alice's location and made arrangements to see her. During our visit Alice treated us to lunch at her retirement village complex's dining hall. So glad we were able to connect and catch up on how Alice is doing - and she is doing quite well! (Note to Scott: No I didn't spill the beans on any stories from our, shall we say, our more "adventurous" episodes that may have involved borrowed cars, beer parties or other late night antics that would give a mother heartburn).

Carol, Robin and Golda
In mid-October Robbin Kinney and Golda showed up a Justin’s for a few nights while on their way to California. We drove Robin (actually she drove her us in her more fuel efficient vehicle) up to Mount Lemmon where she had never been before. An annual Octoberfest  celebration of Fall color in Summerhaven was going on. But ever since the extensive Aspen Fire in 2003 which destroyed more than 250 of the 700 homes, Fall color just wasn’t the same. On our way back through Tucson we stopped for dinner at the Mariscos Chihuahuan Restaurant.

Kitt Peak National Observatory
view from Kitt Peak
We’d hoped to catch a musical performance of our friend Troy Gray but at the last minute his gig was cancelled. However, we had a delightful late afternoon/early evening at El Charro in Oro Valley with friend Nancy Novak and a recently moved to Tucson friend of Nancy's, "K.P.".
There was a return visit to Kitt Peak National Observatory to explore a few of the telescopes that we’d missed during a visit in 2011. But, much of our time was spent making multiple visits to the nearby Desert Museum. So much so that a few extra blog entries will be devoted to the museum.
When October drew to a close we put everything away and struck out for Kerrville Texas. We had tried to get Marge to visit us in Arizona (warmer, sunnier) but her accrued air miles would only get her as far as Kerrville where, as winter was approaching, it would likely be a cooler. And it was!

sunsets at Justin's

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