April 28, 2014

A Quick, Memorable Trip To Tucson

Betty and I returned a few days ago from a delightful RV trip to the outskirts of Tucson. Catalina State Park was the perfect place to break our routine for a bit and join up with Mike and Tamara Reddy (known for her Early Retirement blog before its shutdown in March). 

The "most energetic retired couple in America" was just beginning a 41 day trip in their trailer camper. As it turned out their first stop was a state park about two hours south of our home. So, we made arrangements to spent a few days together in RV camping spots that were side-by-side.

While Mike and Tamara hiked through Saguaro National Park or Catalina State Park, Betty rested after a very strenuous period of working on a major project at our church for Easter. She was beyond tired and needed to just become a "puddle" for awhile, reading, relaxing, and sleeping late. Somehow she did find the energy to make appetizers and a scrumptious desert for our last night together.

While Mike and Tamara logged hikes of over 8 miles, Betty, Bailey and I confined our hiking to a few miles around the Catalina State Park campground trail system and then returned to the RV for relaxation and afternoon siestas. Mike and Tamara, Betty, Bailey, and I gathered together each evening for conversation, wine and appetizers, dinner, and desserts at the picnic table just outside the RV door.

We discussed plans to join up again next January at the Palm Spring Film Festival and then decided to add a stop together at the world's largest RV show in Quartzsite, AZ a few days later. Our conversations (and desserts !) lasted until well after dark. It was an absolutely magical time together.

Then, on the spur of the moment the four of us decided to visit Biosphere 2, located about half an hour north of the park. What an amazing few hours! It was constructed in the 1980s to replicate a miniature earth environment and included a rainforest, ocean with a coral reef, mangrove wetlands, savannah grassland, fog desertagricultural system, human habitat, and a below-ground infrastructure.

in 1991 eight people went inside the sealed Biosphere complex. Their mission was a two year planned experiment to see if they could not only survive, but thrive while growing all the own food, cleaning their air and converting waste to breathable oxygen and drinkable water, all while conducting scientific experiments inside a sealed series of domes.

While the history of Biosphere 2 contains both successes and failures, it is a fascinating place to tour. Owned by the University of Arizona since 2007, walking through a tropical rainforest or desert, gazing at a miniature ocean, and seeing the incredible engineering complexity of the entire complex made for an unforgettable 90 minutes.

Our original plans for this trip did not include Bisophere 2, but it made a special time with friends even better. 

While it was warm (hot to most non-desert dwellers!), the weather cooperated with some breezy conditions to make the afternoons quite pleasant and mornings cool enough to require long pants and a jacket. We all parted last Thursday morning: The Reddy's off to New Mexico and us back to Scottsdale, loving our time together and looking forward to future RV encounters with each other.

I thought you might enjoy seeing some pictures:

R.T. beneath the Catalina Mountains

The Reddys and the Lowrys ready for our adventures

After a tough day of hunting for gophers

Daddy and daughter out for a stroll

Who says the desert isn't green?

Our family ready to hit the trail

Round up the four usual suspects

Biosphere complex is too large to capture in one picture

Inside the Dome

Almost 3 football fields long

Amazing sight in the desert

Glass panels everywhere

Our morning view

Betty and Bailey ready to conquer the world

A great time with friends and on the road again, if only for a few days.


  1. Husband and I are always looking for short trips to take from our home in So Cal. I have just added Biosphere 2 to our bucket list. Anything else around Tucson you recommend? Hubby can not hike because of bad knees.

    1. There are approximately 150 stairs to be navigated for Biosphere, so take that into consideration. But, it is an amazing complex that deserves a visit.

      The Arizona Desert Sonoran Museum (https://www.desertmuseum.org/) is also first rate. It is an outdoor zoo, botanical garden, and natural history museum. It involves some walking but virtually all of it is level and paved.

      Although somewhat touristy, Old Tucson Movie Studios can be fun if you like old western movies. The original studios burned down several years ago, so you are seeing a recreation of where many John Wayne, Clint Eastwood, and Paul Newman films were made. Movies and TV shows still shoot there; if you are lucky you will be there on a day of such an event.

    2. I would add the San Xavier del Bac Mission. It is a Spanish Catholic mission that is over 300 years old and is a national historic landmark. There are free docent led tours during the week and the architecture, murals and statues are just beautiful. When we snowbirded in Tucson for the first time this winter, we went there 3 times (I fell in love with the place) and we are not even Catholic. It is still a very active parish and if you get the opportunity, I would recommend attending one of the masses. It adds a whole different dimension to the mission. But if you go on Sunday, go to the early 8:30 mass, since the later masses fill up very quickly.

    3. Anne, If you go, you might want to check out buying the Tucson Attraction Passport book. http://www.visittucson.org/deals/passport/ It cost only $18 and gives you 2 for 1 admissions or 50% off if you are single. It will pay for itself very quickly if you plan on doing Biosphere 2, the Arizona Desert Sonoran Museum and the Old Tucson Movie Studios.

  2. Looks like everyone had a great time. It's nice to have little impromptu get togethers. And, Bailey seems to be growing into a great dog!

    1. She is happier in the RV than I home, I think. She gets many more opportunities to run around and smell new smells, plus we are always near her.

  3. So much fun for you & fun for us to ride along! Thanks for sharing & so glad you had a good time with Tamara & Mike. Their blog will be missed, but I picture them having so much fun, especially with a new little one on the way.


    1. Their travel schedule is amazing, and they fill each day with some activity that keeps their blood pumping and their minds sharp.

      Betty and I have an RV weekend in Flagstaff with the whole family in mid June before the summer-long adventure. Look for pictures and stories!

  4. Replies
    1. Just on the other side of town from your new winter home!

  5. What exciting times these are for you and Betty and Bailey! I love hearing about the RV trips-- we are still considering, maybe.. will revisit the idea in the fall.. will be reading your RV summer posts with relish!! I miss Tamara and Mike's blog although I have to admit reading how busy (and fit!!) they are made me feel lazy at times!!!!!

    1. You two have a lot of adjusting and exploring to do in your new home. Even though you have vacationed in the area for years, living there full time makes things quite a bit different.

  6. How do the Reddy's like their TrailManor? My wife and I have been look at one to replace our old popup camper in retirement.

    1. They love it. It is easy to tow, set up, and take down. They can take trips of several months without a problem.