Monday, April 5, 2010

Brrrr....Tucson!

It's about 120 miles to Tucson, so a pretty easy drive. We noticed this spot on the map showing Casa Grande Ruins and decided to check it out. We could see this from a distance and were wondering what it was!

And here we are...

I took this more for the cactus than the sign!

Casa Grande was built in the 1300s by the Hohokam. They studied the motions of the sun and the moon and built the "grand house" so that the windows and doors aligned with the sun at certain times of the year, much like Stonehenge. They had a definite lack of building materials in the desert and the buildings were made of caliche, a concrete-like mix of sand, clay and limestone. The roof was constructed in 1932 to prevent further deterioration of the structure.

Tiny doorways!

You can see where travellers in the late 1800s left their mark on the structure. This compound was designated as a national momument in 1918 so defacing it in any way is now illegal.

The small opening on the right aligns once every 18-1/2 years with the setting moon at an extreme point in its cycle. Other windows and doorways also align with the sun and moon at significant times of the year.

The great house was part of a large compound that would have been surrounded by a wall. They tapped into nearby rivers with primitive but highly effective irrigation canals.

Some of the walls remaining from earlier buildings...

Birds and insects seeks sanctuary from the hot desert sun in the cactuses.

Old Man cactus...

Jim with our rental car...

Prickly pear cactus...you could make a lot of margaritas from this one!

We headed on to Tucson which is surrounded by four mountain ranges...Santa Catalina to the north, Rincon Mountains to the east, the Santa Rita Mountains to the south, and the Tucson Mountains to the west. It was beautiful...somewhat like seeing the Rockies rise from the Prairies.

Coming into Tucson...

Tucson was very wet and cold when we were there although you wouldn't know it from these pictures. I think we retreated to a casino during the worst of it! We found a really nice artsy area in downtown Tucson. This was the courtyard and all the art stores were accessible from it and most of them led into each other. We saw some beautiful paintings...oooooohhhhh (note to selves "We don't have room for any more paintings!!!")

Beautiful Saint Augustine Cathedral, part of a Spanish fort built in 1776...

Colourful archway...

Friars of Santa Cruz Parish...I have no idea! I just liked the building.

I noticed this red, white and blue letter A on the side of the mountain and we wondered what the heck that was about. Not like we had anything pressing to do, so we went off in search of it!

We finally found the right road and headed up...

Lovely view of Tucson from the top...

I am so in love with those darn cactuses!!

Very flat and spread out...not too many high rises!

And ta-da!! Here we are! What is that tiny thing on the left side of the blue part? A person talking on a cell phone...good grief...

And now we know!

Wah...I think a few too many birds pecked a hole in this cactus!

This story was brought to you by the letter A...

Love, love the artwork along the highways...

Joni had mentioned Green Valley as an interesting community near Tucson, so we decided to check it out. Saw this waste rock dump and a mill tailings pond from a copper mine. It looked so perfect! It was huge!!

Oh! We like Green Valley already!

It's mostly a retirement community now. Don't ask me why this is the only picture I took there. It doesn't even show anything!! GreenValley was very attractive and only about 20 miles from Tucson.

Passed by the University on the way back...love it when I can sneak in a few more cactus pics!

Interesting peaks...

Now we were wondering where we should go next. Tucson, although nice, wasn't doing it for us and it was chilly after the warmth of Yuma. Yuma! We checked out the temperatures for the next three days and Yuma had everywhere beat. So Yuma it is for the next couple of days until we head back to Las Vegas. And we're off!



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