State #37 Arizona

Before we went hugging cacti, we saw billboards for The Thing. You can’t drive out I-10 without seeing their billboards.

I had seen information about this roadside stop before we left home but it was information and pictures before the new museum opened.

We were blown away with the professional look of this quirky “museum” inside a remote Shell gas station. It all started with something was found in the Arizona desert that landowner Binkley Prince put on displayed in the mid-1950s. It was in a plexiglass case and people used to pay $2 to go out to a shed in the back to see the “thing.” Well, in August of 2018 they opened the musesum.

So apparently it has to do with aliens and dinosaurs.

As you know from the New Mexico post, I’m not an alien believer but this museum is done well and the storyline is very imaginative.

Hokey? Yes. Entertaining? Sure. Glad we dropped the $10? Sure, why not. It broke up the drive.

I won’t give it all away. So I won’t show you the picture of the Thing. I’ll leave you to wonder about the of the Mystery of the Desert.

On the way to Tucson, this little knucklehead pulled his third tooth in a month. Good grief, the kid won’t be able to chew if he keeps this up.

So we made it to Tucson in order to visit Saguaro National Park. It is named for the saguaro (sa-wah-ro or suh-wahr-oh) cactus that grows here. These are the really big cacti with the “arms.” These babies are HUGE! The park websites states that “the largest ever recorded was 78 ft tall but fell down in 1986. Currently, a saguaro in Scottsdale, AZ holds the title at 53 ft tall.” They can weight more than a ton! So we went to check them out. Both boys completed the Jr Ranger Program.

Saguaro Park is actually split into two different sections through Tucson; East and West. We visited Saguaro East the first day, as it was the closest to out hotel. (Hampton Inn Tech Park, by the way, was brand new and super clean. The front desk was super friendly and helpful and the lady taking care of breakfast was amazing. She kept everything stocked, super clean, and she was extremely friendly).

We were there in time for a guided tour. Volunteer Bob, is very passionate about the park. He did a great job helping us to identify safe verses unsafe plants and he gave us lots of information about how these plants grow in this environment. The boys helped him demonstrate a saguaro cactus’s root system.

Tuck was photographer today. I think I should give him my phone more often.

Even though we are here in winter and the cacti aren’t blooming, you can still find some pretty blooms in the desert if you look for them. You can also find a little snake along the trail. Trevor and Tucker, both walked right past this little fella. But he was pretty agitated by the time I passed by. So glad he wasn’t a big rattlesnake!!

The next day we decided to explore Saguaro West. Knowing that the boys like to scramble over the rocks, the ranger recommended the King Canyon Wash trail. And scramble they did.

Every time we though we found a big saguaro, we would find a bigger one.

The wash trail loops using a couple other trails, one of which is the Gould Mine Trail.

This trail turned out pretty good for the boys.

Mason was fascinated by the fishhook barrel cactus. You can’t see in the bottom left picture in the collage below but I was trying to take pictures of a swarm of bees. There are warnings that these bees are “Africanized” and will attack if their hive is threatened and if they start bumping you then you are too close to their hive. Given that Trevor is allergic and Mason is always the one to get stung (even on a boat in the middle of the ocean) we stayed clear of the bees.

We had such good weather. The car said it was 68 but it felt much, much warmer. Real feel had to be in the upper 70s. I can’t imagine being out here in the summer. Winter is perfect. We missed the blooms but we beat the heat.

So I found this tall guy (left) then I found this other guy (right) that made the first one look like a baby.

This cactus was so big! Look how tiny we look beside it!

About an hour away was another strange stop. It’s called the Biosphere 2. It is currently ran by the University of Arizona but it was originally constructed from 1987 to 1991 and initially paid for by oil heir Edward Bass to the tune of $150 million. The facility was for closed systems experiments from 1991 to 1994. The first experiment had eight scientists closed inside the biosphere to be totally self sufficient. The next experiment included seven scientists. There’s debate about the success or failure of these experiments.

Anybody, remember the Paula Shore/Stephen Baldwin 1996 movie Biodome. Well, the Biosphere was the inspiration and that movie was all Trev and I could think about while walking around.

There is over three acres under glass, two geodesic domes that houses the “lungs” that were used when the Biosphere was sealed during the experiment groups, and the control houses.

I took a picture of some information about the project. Mason is standing in front of a self sustainable garden.

Before the guided tour, there was time to check out one of the scientists’ apartments and the kitchen and dining area.

After a 10 minute movie, we started the tour. Just FYI about the tours. They costs us $72. Ouch. We did not add on any additional tours ($8). You can buy tickets online but there is no way to select a time. So you show up and you get the next available tour. Tours run on the hour every hour. If the facility is really busy, they will run on the half hour too. Wear good walking shoes and just know there are several sets of stairs.

The Earth system science research facility has seven biome areas including a rainforest.

It has a 9,100 square foot ocean with a coral reef.

It includes a 4,800 sq feet mangrove wetlands.

From there you walk around the 14,000 square foot savannah wetlands to a 1,400 square foot fog desert.

The two other biomes are the agricultural space where the scientists grew their own food (today the University is conducting the LEO project in that area) and the living/work area for people. Below in the basement of the Biosphere is the Technosphere. This is the guts of the project. This is where the mechanical equipment is housed.

Below is a picture of the “lungs” of the Biosphere. The guide explained it but there’s no way I’ll be able to repeat it intelligently. Basically, it regulated the pressure inside the Biosphere from expanding gases causes by the changes in temperature inside the dome that could bust the glass of the facility. Or something like that. 😉

When you leave the “lungs” you walk back around to the front passing the agricultural hills and the solar panels. Mason thought it would be amazing to be one of the people to be sealed inside. Based on some of the information I read about this place, it wasn’t so amazing. Long hours, hard work, low oxygen, interpersonal issues, and management problems made for a lot of drama. But a lot of research came out of the closed systems projects and the experiments that are continuing to take place.

Tucker’s birthday is tomorrow but we have a long travel day so we decided to celebrate today. Tucker just found out the good news and is stoked.

We started the day at Legoland Discovery Center in Tempe, AZ. We used our passes so it didn’t cost us anything. It is very similar to the one in Atlanta, GA.

Tuck got a birthday button and one of the employees gave him a Ninjago minifigure. Super nice. The employees here are serious about their legos. Sam came over and showed the boys how to make a car to race.

The boys made a mallard during creative workshop master build. Isn’t Yoda so cute? Yes, that is my children crawling on the floor drooling over legos.

After lunch we headed over to Peter Piper’s Pizza for Tuck’s favorite meal of all time – pizza buffet. He loves the buffet. Well worth the money for the two slices of cheese pizza he eats. Ha! Hey, its the kid’s birthday and that’s what he wanted.

Then is was time for a trip to the movies. We watched Sonic the Hedgehog. It was a cute movie and the boys loved it. Add in some Skittles and this kid was all smiles.

While driving we came across a series of road signs you don’t see in Georgia – In a dust storm, pull over, turn off car, foot off brake, stay buckled. Now you will be prepared.

Another state in the books. There is still so much to see in Arizona. And for those of you who haven’t read the blog from the beginning you may be wondering how we could leave Arizona without seeing the Grand Canyon. Well that reason is in an earlier post titled The Route. But now it’s time to move on to our next state and check out some guy’s trees, some more legos, and our third time change???

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