Tuesday 18 Feb – Tucson, Arizona. After quite a noisy night at the Casino carpark (there was a refrigerated truck parked nearby with its generator running for most of the night), we decided to hit a couple of things on the to-do list.
First stop – the mission of St Xavier del Bac. A very nicely restored mission from the 1780’s built by Franciscan Monks and a place of special significance for the local Tohono O’odham Indians. We tagged along to listen to some of the tour – these sites have a plethora of very knowledgeable volunteers who can explain in great detail their specialist subjects.
On leaving the mission, we noticed that a cop car had pulled up some hapless motorist and as always you think what could they have done? Well only a few minutes later what did we hear behind us but sirens blaring and lights flashing – never of course imaging that they could be wanting us to pull over – but that was the case. Someone must have had very sharp eyes as we passed them as they noticed that we didn’t have any plates on our vehicle. We were duly asked for registration, licences and insurance and after some deliberation they decided we must have been kosher. We were told that it was illegal in Arizona not to have any licence plates showing at the rear of the vehicle. We had to explain that we had a temporary permit (a tiny piece of paper taped to our windscreen) – we have to wait for 2 months to get our proper plates. They were both very polite and wished us safe travels.
Next stop after that wee bit of excitement was the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum. What a complex – it was spread out over several acres, with the most amazing array of displays relating to the desert flora and fauna of the region. There were live displays of reptiles (not the most comforting of things to see) including every imaginable rattlesnake, spiders including the tarantula that I saw a couple of days ago. Other animals on display were mountain lions, bobcats, bears (I didn’t realise that they had them here), coyotes, foxes, coati, otter, beavers and wolves. The paths around the complex wound through differing vegetations and the most stunning array of cacti. Had we been here in April they would all be in flower and that would be a sight to behold. Of special interest was a hummingbird aviary – what spectacular little creatures these are. Only about 3 inches long and with a beak about 1inch long they were buzzing about here and there with no fear of humans whatsoever. They are amazing and can hover in mid air with their little wings going flat out. It was a real treat to be able to see these close up, and we even privileged to see one sitting on a nest, a little work of art.
After spending all afternoon wandering around the museum, decided to head off for a different camping experience – this time we are on BLM grounds just west of the city and I suppose there are about 15 other rigs sharing the area. You can stay in these areas for 14 days if you wish. They have no facilities so you have to be self contained.