Saturday, January 30, 2010

Old Tucson Studios

Fri - Jan. 29th
We spent the whole day at Old Tucson Studios, Arizona's Hollywood in the Desert, where over 600 feature films have been made, more than any other city except NY or LA. These girls are doing a can-can performance at the saloon.

Here is a shoot out in front of the hotel between Billy the Kid and a couple other gang members. The first movie ever filmed here was "Arizona" in 1939 with the Tucson Mountains in the background. The set was built of adobe bricks by the local Tohono Indians.

After the movie it was leased to the local Jaycees. They opened it on weekends for tours by donation. The sets were rented for $60 a day for movies. In 1960 it was revamped and opened to the public as a theme park. 15,000 people showed up the first day.

Liz Taylor did the movie "Poker Alice" to promote it. This is the fake river built for the movie "Rio Lobo" with John Wayne. 5,000 gallons of water were stored in a water tank. When someone yelled action, the plug was pulled and they had a raging river. Otherwise it was dry. Now they recirculate the water, so it is always full. John Wayne did three
other movies here, "McClintock", "Rio Bravo", and "El Dorado".

Here is the local bath house for cowboys in off the trail. Depending on the needs of any particular movie, the look of the whole town was changed. For "The Three Amigos" all the buildings were stuccoed over to create a Mexican village.

This is the set for the TV series "High Chaparral" 1966-1971. Note the sign Rattlesnake Mine and the smaller one that says rattlesakes have right of way on the trail.

This was the mission where they did a show to demonstrate how stunts are done. Note the escaped convict falling off the tower, having just been shot by the sheriff.

This is Golden Gate Mountain seen in over 500 productions such as "The Lost City of Gold", a Lone Ranger episode, and Little House on the Prairie and Father Murphy in Mankato, Mn.

Here is a peddler of an elixir that cures everything.
He had to hurry off when word came that the folks from the last village he visited, were coming to give him a rope party.

I think John is thinking ahead about what to do with me when I kick the bucket.

Hmmm. Maybe this is a second option, so he can keep me with him. I'm sure he would enjoy the peace and quiet, no nagging.

Here are two joshua trees at the back side of the jail. They have train rides, stage coach rides and trail rides here, too.

Pat Garrett's deputy is testing out the gallows for the upcoming hanging of Billy the Kid.

But once again, the Kid makes a last minute escape, his last one.

These studioes have been used entirely or partially in 202 movies, 148 TV shows, music videos, 50+ commercials. It is a favorite of the BBC.

A posted list of rules for old west towns. Following is a list of some of the films that have been done here, some just in part. Bonanza, Yuma, Joe Kidd, Hombre, Death Wish, The Hanged Man, The Gun and the Pulpit, A Knife for the Ladies, Petrocelli, Hawmps, An American Terrorist, Young Pioneers, Pray for the Wildcats, Posse, Outlaw Jose Wales, The Quest, Wanted, The Sundance Woman, How the West was Won, Incredible Rocky Mountain Race, Go West Young Girl, Buffalo Soldiers, Dooley Brothers, Frisco Kid, The Gambler, Hart to Hart, Calamity Jane, Canon Ball Run 2, Flashpoint, Judge Roy Bean, Desperado, Once Upon a Texas Train, Red River, Stones for Ibarra, Young Riders, Grizzly Adams, Young Guns II, Four Eyes and Six Guns, Gunsmoke III, Geronimo, Tombstone, Legends, Lightning Jack, The Quick and the Dead, Cutoff, Ghost Town, Miracle at Sage Creek, Al's Beef, Burr, Four Guys, Ten Wanted Men, The Man Who Loved Cat Dancing, Monte Walsh, The Bells of St. Mary, The Alamo, The Last Hard Man and last, but not least, The Sacketts.
Lots of them I have never heard of or can't remember, but I'm sure lots of them bring back good memories for lots of you.
See you at the movies.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Titan Missile Museum

Comment I received on yesterday's blog, too funny not to share.
"I, myself, am married to a wood rat (pack rat).
Ironically, she claims to be married to a stink beetle!"

Thanks for sharing, Steve.

Wed. - Jan. 27th

Today we toured the Titan Missile Museum a few miles south of Tucson. We are on our way down five stories with 8 foot thick cement walls. The bottom of the missile is seven stories down.

Here is a picture of the top of it from below. It is the only one left. All of the others have been destroyed. There were originally others at Wichita, Kansas and Little Rock Arkansas. They were built 1959 to 1962 during the cold war with Russia to discourage them from starting a war with us. The hope was that we would never have to use them, which fortunately we didn't.

Here is the place where it would have been set off, if the president had given the word. It took two people and several secret codes to set it in motion, but once they were set, it could not be canceled.

This is a picture of some of their security radar and they had hatches like the one below with extras, in case they were compromised in any way. Everything had backups to the backups and it could be set off with a generator or even batteries if need be.

It was 9 million tons, more than all the bombs by all the allies in WWII, including the two atomic bombs. It had to be capable of demolishing a very large area because they did not have the accuracy capabilites they have now with the Minute Men.
I must have said something blond again because John said, "I know it was a different time back then, but I still think your Mom should have quit drinking when she was pregnant with you." Oh, what does he know?

On a side note, we have noticed lots of smoking shops. We have driven by the Tobacco Barn several times since we have been here in Tucson. They have two drive thrus, one on each side of the building. Everytime there was at least 25 cars lined up and waiting. We finally figured out that it must be on the reservation, no taxes. Duh!
A t-shirt we saw that John liked said, "If a man speaks in a desert where no woman can here, is he still wrong?". Once again, Duh!
Over and out.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Saguaro National Park

Mon - Jan. 25th

We went on a quided tour with an expert on mammals in the desert. He showed us how to look for signs of their presence.

It was such a clear day, according to their chart, the peaks we could see were 81 miles away.

We saw tracks of javalina and a spot where it had perhaps rolled in the dirt or some other animal such as a coyote. We saw a couple of wood rat (pack rat) nests. Our guide said there has been a pack rat nest as old as 10,000 years found in the Grand Canyon. They tend to take over abandoned nests and continue to collect things and hoard them in their nests. We saw lots of little burrows of small animals. One he said is called a grasshopper mouse that is a predator and actually
howls like a coyote or wolf, but it comes out as a little high-pitched squeak. They actually bite the stinger off a scorpion to protect themselves before they attack it and eat it. There is a beetle that emits a stink from it's rear like a skunk and they force it's rear into the ground and eat it's head. Quite vicious for a tiny little mouse. It is the only mouse of it's sub-species that has the enzymes to
be able to digest the nut of the jojoba plant. The nut produces an oil very similar to whale oil. They are starting to try to farm it, since whale hunting is very limited now due to environmental restrictions.

Our guide said there were about 40 different mammals that could be found in the west part of Saguaro National Park where we were, and perhaps twice as many in the east part on the other side of Tucson, which is at a higher elevation. It's hard to believe there is so much life in what appears to be such dry and barren land.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Tucson, Arizona

Sun - Jan. 24th
The visitors center is in the center courtyard of these colorful shops in the original old downtown area of Tucson. We started from there and walked the old Presidio Trail.

This is the walking bridge over Broadway Street just outside the little downtown shopping area. John is checking out the busy traffic below. There was a quilting show and a gem and mineral show going on at the convention center nearby.

This is the old courthouse built on the location of the original fort. It has a beautiful courtyard in the back with statues, memorials, fountains, etc.

St. Augustine Cathedral.

This was taken from right behind the colorful little shopping area above. Notice the big "A" for University of Arizona on the top of Sentinel Peak (2,900 ft.). A Spanish chapel was built at the base of the hill in the late 1700s making it the birthplace of Tucson.

Here is a view at the top with some kids playing on the "A". Students celebrated a football victory in 1915 by constructing the "A" out of rock and whitewashing it. It has become a cultural icon and the whitewashing custom is repeated every fall.

This is a view of the old downtown area where we just walked with the colorful little shops just in front of the skyscrapers. The University of Arizona is the big complex of buildings just behind the skyscrapers on the left side and extending all the way to the right side to the football stadium.

Here is a picture of Old Main on campus. There are 37,000 students here and they have their own shopping district right on campus for several blocks with lots of restaurants, pubs, book stores, clothing shops, etc.

This is just the entrance to the football stadium.

I just thought this was an interesting arrangement of palm trees showing four or five different varieties together. There are several hundred different kinds of palm trees.


Monday, January 25, 2010

Friends near Tubac, Az.

Sat - Jan. 23rd

We stayed an extra day in Why and waited for the rain and wind to subside. When we left Friday morning, we ran into this about a half hour down the road on Hwy. 86 to Tucson.

He made it. We should be okay. The highway was like this for at least a third of a mile. Kind of scary, but it wasn't very deep and we made it okay.

Did I mention we had excessive rain this week? At least as much more rain after I sent the last pictures as we had before I sent them.
This is where we camped on the east edge of Tucson on BLM land, Bureau of Land Management. You can camp for free 14 days anywhere on their land in the desert.

On Saturday we headed down to the Tubac area in the Santa Cruz Valley south of Tucson to visit an old friend of mine from grade school. We stopped in the charming little artist village of Tubac to do a little window shopping. You can see how excited John is to get started. He just loves shopping!

This town is a shopper's delight. They have all kinds of artwork and handmade things, pottery, rugs, metal work, paintings, etc. They have dress shops, homemade candies & jellies and lots of quaint little restaurants.

They also have Arizona's first StateHistoric Park and they were having an antique car show at the golf course today.

This is a metal work showing man's evolution. Notice that the most recent man has a beer belly and is carrying a can of beer, or maybe it's pop?

Well this is the whole 1967 DeLamere Lutheran confirmation class reunited! We have arrived at last to visit my friend, Judy, and her husband, Charles. Also known as Nicieen (Nee-ci-een) and Ahnuit (On-weet).

Nicieen and Ahnuit live with a small community of about 100 people at Avalon Gardens. It is a farm of about 160 acres along the Santa Cruz River. They invited us to join them for lunch in the main dining hall with everyone.

They all share the work load and try to raise everything they need and build their homes and buildings all out of natural or recycled materials. These little homes are made out of papercrete. It is a mixture of ground up paper and concrete.

The nearby community bath house has solar panels that heat the building and the hot water is circulated under the floors of nearby buildings to create radiant floor heat. They are very resourceful. We could all learn a lot from them.

The building they live in is made of ground tires and concrete. It looks just like any other adobe house we might see in the southwest.

Here is Nicieen watching the goats. They use the goats milk for drinking and cooking and they make cheese and yogurt. They also have horses, cows, chickens, ducks, geese, a mule and a couple of parrots.

The teepee is used for a chapel for individual meditation and the structure on the left is a sweat lodge like the native Americans use.

This is a stage they use for teaching the kids and putting on plays and skits and also for concerts that they invite the public to. They get big crowds for their concerts.

The house behind the pond is where they have their main business office, a small library and a large common room that they use to show videos and for worship services. Ahnuit is the business manager and is involved in hospice activities in Tubac. They also have a law office and real estate office there and a store where they sell their craft products and garden produce. Nicieen teaches middle school sciences part time and works in the library and takes her turn working in the kitchen.

This is just an example of the beautiful scenery that surrounds their community farm. You can read more about them at