June 7, 2020

Week 23: Return to Tucson 2014


All photos by the author.

I remember well the first time we laid eyes on Tucson and the desert southwest of Arizona way back in late 2001. As we came up over Texas Canyon from New Mexico and the expansive basin ahead stretched out before us, we were greeted by a terrain that was both alien and bizarre, as cacti replaced trees, and road runners and rattlesnakes seemed to be the dominant life form. It reminded me a bit of the red heart of Australia, and “Planet Tucson” became the buzzword in our family for this unique world that we would call home for another five years.

Touring the pet bakeries of Scottsdale, Arizona with Astro-Lab.

This past week, we returned to that world once again for the very first time in almost eight years.  We’ve certainly managed to see Arizona from a different perspective this time around as we entered the state from the north, crossing into Flagstaff and into Scottsdale last week.

The drive down I-10 from Phoenix into Tucson is a rite that nearly every Tucsonian makes, if for no other reason than to make the pilgrimage to the nearest IKEA and  utilize Phoenix’s Sky Harbor Airport. I’ve known of folks who even commute the +100 mile span between the two largest cities in Arizona several times a week, no lie.

The Super Guppy at the Pima Air and Space Museum.

Our first stop was a visit to the Pima Air and Space Museum. Located on the southern edge of town, the museum serves as a great place to tour the expansive aircraft bone yard seen along Kolb highway transecting Davis-Monthan Air Force Base. Tours of the bone yard depart the museum daily. Some highlights include NASA’s Super Guppy transport and an Air Force One aircraft from the Kennedy administration. The Pima Air and Space Museum has also upgraded several of their interior displays, including an outstanding hall of space hardware and memorabilia.

An F-106 fighter/interceptor at Pima Air and Space with the Catalina Mountains in the distance.

True story: we once spent an afternoon wandering around the Pima Air and Space Museum while we were still in the Air Force to study to make rank! It came in handy to see some of these munitions and bomb racks up close and personal.

We also managed to catch the final eclipse of 2014 from Sabino Canyon on the grounds of the Loews Resort on the north edge of Tucson. The Moon just took a bite out of the edge of the Sun, and we wandered around the property taking photos and showing off the celestial spectacle to anyone interested. The resort also hosts sky watching events every Wednesday and Saturday night, and we actually ran into Rob Sparks, an old friend of ours manning the scope on the very first night! All astronomers ultimately gravitate back to Tucson at some point in their lives…

The mirror of the the LSST telescope under construction at the Mirror Lab. Note the two separate focal curves!

We also finally got an inside look at the Mirror Lab on the University of  Arizona campus. It was an extra treat, as mirrors for the Giant Magellan Telescope and the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope were undergoing construction in the lab while we were there.

Did you know: the 8.4 metre diameter size common in large mirrors today is due to the beam clearance in the underground lab? A tour of the Mirror Lab is well worth your time, and the 15$ for adults and 8$ admission fee for children and students!

As I write this, we’re based in Yuma, Arizona for the next week, once again exploring a new part of a familiar state.

It’s a blogger’s life on the road in Scottsdale, Arizona…

More to come!



  1. [...] never know what you might find in your own backyard. This past week saw us transit from our Arizona adventures in Tucson to the town of Yuma. Located far in the southwestern corner of the state, Yuma sits right on the [...]

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