Thursday 20 Feb – today was a day of planes, planes and more planes. We got up early and made for the Pima Space and Aviation museum. This museum had over 300 planes on display in a series of large hangers as well as dotted around outside in their grounds. But that’s not all – as part of the trip to the museum you take a bus ride to the AMARG site run by the US Air Force and over 2,600 acres are spread around 4,000 planes in varying degrees of completeness. They have different sections – some for planes that are still able to be returned to service; celebrity row where they display the special ones; some that are being kept for parts – so that they can be sent all over the world to countries (like NZ) that still have ancient planes operating; and others that get stripped down and any useable parts kept. There was around US$40 billion worth of aircraft – because of the dry desert atmosphere these can be kept here without going rusty – they do protect the vital parts and all windows etc with a latex type coating – more to stop the sand getting in than anything else. The bus tour lasted over an hour and we didn’t see everything. This site is next to the Davis-Monthan airforce base, so we were treated to non-stop flying shows from their trainees going through the paces – mostly in really fast jet planes.
The museum itself contained mostly WWII and newer planes, all nicely restored and presented in spotlessly clean hangars. There were numerous volunteers around the place – either giving tours or just hanging around to answer questions. It was an impressive place (even for me) and we didn’t leave the place until after 4pm and as it was late decided to return to our BLM site from the night before – a nice quiet spot with no floodlights!
Friday 20 February – our power inverter packed up overnight so had to first make a stop at Camping World to get it exchanged which they did with no hesitation. We had thrown out our original receipt but with the miracles of modern technology they were able to retrieve it from their system. With new inverter in hand we just had to do a dump of our waste water before starting on our journey south. Fairly short trip of around 100 miles – first to Tombstone – the town of the ‘Shootout at the OK Corral’ – the main street has been well preserved with many of the original buildings and there were loads of tourist attractions if one wanted to partake. We visited the Boothill Cemetery which was an interesting area – the graves were from the 1880’s and it was a torrid time – if you weren’t killed from being shot (either by Indians or your poker buddy), you were stabbed, murdered or hanged. There weren’t too many deaths from natural causes, but quite a few women committed suicide.
Interesting scenery on our drive from Tucson – as soon as we climbed to around 3,000 ft the cacti all disappeared and were replaced by grassy (I use that term loosely as it is very brown dry looking stuff) plains. The soil changed from sandy to a rich red and there were quite a few ranches although we only saw a handful of cattle.
After Tombstone our target for the night was Whitewater Draw – a particularly significant water wildlife refuge. The Sandhill cranes migrate here each year from as far away as Siberia and there must be several thousand roosting in this wetland area. We understand that at dawn you get to see the spectacular sight of them all taking flight together in search of their day’s feed. We are able to camp for free here for up to 3 days and are sharing the area with around 6 other rigs.