Thursday, April 28, 2022

Slow, But Steady

Corona de Tucson

April 28, 2022 

I took this photo on April 19 at 5:40 am, but didn't include it in the blog as I had too many pictures already.  

I took this photo on Saturday, four days later at 5:41am after several very windy days.  It's a great example of how the wind and dust particles affect the colors we see in the sky.   

You might recall that last week (4-20-22) I tripped over Sally and sprained my big toe.  It is better as the swelling is gone from the bottom of my foot, but the top is still quite swollen at the joint.  We read on google that a bad sprain can take 4 to 6 weeks to heal...YIKES!  I'll be as big as a blimp by then !  Walking is something we really enjoy...not just for the physical benefits, but for the mental benefits as well.  The best comfort comes when I tape the big toe to the little toe next to it and wear snug fitting socks and shoes with good support.  I really, REALLY hope that by next week I can put my full weight on that foot and hit the trail !

The week seems to have flown by.  We have been to the dentist twice...once for  doctor exams and back again for cleanings.  We have been to the oncologist twice...once for blood work and then to see the doctor.  All is good and Joe is 8 years cancer free.  Always a relief to hear those words !  

Sunday, we headed south to explore and ended up at Kartchner Caverns State Park...a new to us gem that is nearly in our backyard.


We learned a lot at the Discovery Center.  It is very well laid out with tons of information about the history, the caves, and the bats that hibernate there.  The caves were discovered in 1974, but did not become public knowledge until its purchase in 1988 when the property was approved for purchase as an Arizona State Park.  Bones and fossils were discovered in the cave that proved to be 86,000 years old.  The biggest cave visitor to date is a ground sloth that roamed the area all those thousands of years ago. 

The Kartchner Cave 
is composed of mostly limestone which is a sedimentary rock.  That in itself is amazing considering that the limestone developed a few million years ago when the land was still under a shallow sea.  

Dripping water has played a huge part inside the caves.  

To say I am chomping at the bits (as my grandma would say) to go down under is putting it mildly.  Heal, big toe, heal !

My favorite part of the Discovery Center was all about the bats.  I always included a unit about bats when I was teaching mammals in Kindergarten.  

Listen like a Bat is a child friendly display that explains how bats have enhanced hearing.  I was curious...

Bats are such horribly, cute little creatures that care for their young, can find their food in total darkness and consume half their body weight in insects everyday...that is up to 1,200 mosquitoes an hour!  Their life span is 30 years + and they fly at speeds of 60 miles an hour.  Hold your heads high little bats and thank you !

Back at the oasis, it has been one of those piddling weeks with lots of patio time.  I was excited when Randy offered terra-cotta pots he didn't need any more.  

The front of the house faces west...not so good for plants in the hot afternoon sun.  We chose blue agave for their tolerance to heat.  We bought smaller plants to give them room to grow.  

We had a new visitor in the backyard this week.  A female Gilded Flicker perched on the concrete post.  She didn't stay long, but has returned several times for some orange.  I hope she convinces her handsome beau the oranges are really tasty at the Taylor's. 

For some reason, the male and female cardinals rarely visit the feeder at the same time.

The Lesser Goldfinch always visit and and eat together.

And the Curved-bill Thrasher never looks happy even with lots of choices.

Maybe this visit he was just bothered by the wind.


Joe and I spent a few hours putting a puzzle together.

Job well done...a futon for the extra bedroom.

Sally loves the patio as much I do.

Jack still loves to play ball and I still love my rocker.

And all three really love morning naps !

Well, that's a wrap for the week and for April.  The prickly pear are beginning to bloom and yesterday on the way home I spotted a saguaro with lots of buds and a single bloom.  Bring on May !

Until then, 

The palo verde trees have been so pretty !

The road home...


Friday, April 22, 2022

El Charro Cafe and Fire Station 1

Corona de Tucson

April 21, 2022

El Charro Cafe, established in 1922, is the longest-running family-owned and operated Mexican restaurant in the United States.  We have heard and read about this iconic Tucson restaurant and last Tuesday, we joined Randy and his son Mike for lunch there.

The yummy variety of food offerings is the culinary creation of Monica Flin.  It was a slow start for Monica.  In the beginning, when a customer arrived and ordered, she would dash out the back door of the one room restaurant and cajole the neighboring Chinese grocer into giving her the ingredients she needed.  Then she would rush back to her kitchen, prepare the meal, serve it and collect the customer's money and return to the grocer to pay her bill.  Somehow, she managed to make a profit and the rest is history.  

Today, El Charro...translated Mexican Cowboy (typically one wearing an elaborate outfit with silver decorations, tight fitting trousers, ruffled shirt, short jacket, and sombrero) located in the family home Monica inherited from her parents in 1968. The home is in the Presidio District and has earned a place on the National Register of Historic Places.  Another bit of history mentions that Monica's parents moved here from France when her father, a famous stone mason, was commissioned to build the St. Augustine Cathedral around 1776.  He also built their home/the restaurant using black basalt rock quarried from the base of "A" mountain.  

A lot of the tables, curios, calendars, and murals and pictures of saints are from the original El Charro restaurant.   

Today, Monica's great niece, Flores  is the owner and chef of El Charro.  It is note worthy to mention that El Charro is the birthplace of the Chimichanga and El Charro's Carne Seca is still made by slicing thin strips of lean beef which is placed into a special drying cage and hoisted above the roof of the restaurant to dry by the hot Arizona sun for several days.  

As I mentioned, Randy's son Mike joined us for lunch.  Mike is an assistant Chief at Fire Station 1 located not far from El Charro in downtown Tucson.  Mike offered to give us a tour and we jumped at the chance.  Tucson's Fire Department  has a long history beginning in 1880 with a volunteer department that serviced 2 square miles.  

Today, there are 22 fire stations in Tucson serving 231 square miles.    

Outside, Mike points out that in 1934 firemen were called to put out a fire at the Congress Hotel.  Firemen recognized the faces of John Dillinger and Gang which led to their arrest.  And inside, Mike tells us about the fire engine used in that fire...a 1923 American LaFrance pumper.

It is a beauty...

The 1923 pumper remained in front-line service until 1949.  

A crew of retired firefighters completely disassembled and restored all of these fire engines from top to bottom in an effort to preserve the history of the department.  These restored vehicles are frequently seen in and around Tucson in parades and at special events.  The group meets every Tuesday from 9:00 am to noon year-round. They say, "It is not a job, but a privilege to come down and work on them."

This is a 1928 Arenas-Fox Piston Pumper purchased by the City of Tucson in 1927 for $13,000.  It operated as a front line pumper for many years before being placed in Reserve status.   

 The 1910 Horse-drawn Nott Steam Fire Engine really caught my eye.   It was Tucson's first steam engine and served Tucson from 1910-1917.  


All throughout the station there are displays of days gone by.

A call log book from 1924

A safety net or jumping sheet used when someone had to jump out of a tall burning building

Mike shows us the air-purifying respirator he first used 31 years ago

There are 16 firefighters on call at Fire Station 1 at all times. 

We can't say enough about what a great day it was.  Nor can we thank Mike enough for giving us his time and energy to share his knowledge and take us on a tour of Tucson's Fire Station 1.   A huge thank you to Mike !

This fire engine with sirens blaring pulled out of the station as we arrived.

And a huge thank you to Mike and all the other first responders who risk their lives to keep us safe. 

Tuesday, April 19, 2022

Sahuarita Trail

Corona de Tucson

April 20, 2022

Last Wednesday, we woke up to rather chilly weather.  

In fact when we went out to feed the birds and put fresh water in the birdbath, the water in the birdbath had a thin layer of ice.

One good thing about being in Tucson is that on the these chilly spring mornings, it usually warms up quickly.  Our plan for the day was to explore a new trail just down the road from our home.  

Sahuarita Trailhead is at the end of Hwy 82  (Sahuarita Road) at the intersection  where we make a right turn onto Arizona Scenic Hwy 83 towards Sonoita.  We noticed the sign and trailhead when we were driving home after the Gabe Zimmerman Trail.  

Just like Davidson Creek and Gabe Zimmerman trails, Sahuarita Trail is also a part of the Arizona National Scenic Trail. The trail can be hiked from either side of Hwy 82.  Randy stopped by to pick us up as the trail is only 6 miles from our driveway.  There is plenty of parking and we only passed a couple of other hikers along the trail.    

We chose to head west towards the Santa Rita Mountains.  

It was an amazing clear blue sky day with cool temps and no wind...perfect !

The fairy dusters were blooming...

  the cacti were blooming...

and the ocotillo were blooming.  

I thought these ocotillo buds were pretty.  I have never noticed them before.

We saw lots of sparrows.

And the bunnies were busy.  After all, it was the week before Easter.

The trail offers enough ups and downs to make it fun.  

And one section had lots of rock outcroppings.

Wednesday night I tripped over Sally. I was checking my phone for the time when I stood up and stepped forward.  In my effort to not hurt Sally, I found myself on the floor.  I bent my big toe back or forward...I'm not really sure which.  It hurt like crazy and started to swell quickly.  Joe made an ice pack, but Thursday morning, I could not put any weight on it.  I hobbled around the house for a couple of days.  Now it's only a little swollen and all shades of blue, gray and yellow.   Talk about a sudden halt to morning walks and just when we were on a good routine.  Oh well, this too shall pass and the quicker the better!  

After sitting at home with a propped up foot, we were getting a little stir crazy.  Randy called to ask if we wanted to go to Tubac on Saturday and we jumped at the chance.  

Tubac is a small community situated on the Santa Cruz River and nestled between the Tumacacori and Santa Rita mountain ranges. 

It might be a small community, but it offers a rich history and an artistic experience.  

Randy joined us for a nice visit and dinner on Easter Sunday. 
I made the recipe Janna shared on one of her recent blog posts...creamy tuscan chicken.  It was amazing Janna and thank you for sharing.  

Back at the oasis, we have two new cacti.  After living in the desert for a year, it was time to have something desert worthy with lots of prickles.  

Our yard is mostly a clean slate and we have not decided on what "the big picture" is so we are taking baby steps and using pots.  At some point, we hope to transplant them.

Trichocereus grandifloras or Torch Cactus

Three fireball barrel cacti

I have never planted cacti before and it does look a  little intimidating.  Jay at Desert Bloom Garden Center gave us lesson 101 and was so helpful.  A pair of gloves is key, but you don't wear them. You hold them in your hand as you shake the cactus out of the "growing pot" so you don't get stuck or break any spines.  

The puppies are enjoying picnics...  

the Gamble's Quail have discovered the peanut butter bites...

the entertainment comes at no extra charge...

and we still pinch ourselves to make sure this is not a dream !

And that is another week in the memory book already.  Life is good.  

Thank you for the photo Randy!

Until next time,