Time to spend a week in Tucson before heading off to Baja for our annual Loreto Whale trips. I probably say this about most places I visit and Tucson is no different, too much to do and see and not nearly enough time! Fortunately I will be spending another week here after I return so will get to check more cool stuff off my Tucson list. In addition to getting stuff ready for Baja and scheduling some work on the motorhome I was able to spend some time with Annette (a friend from AZ State Parks) who lives and works here
“Some people, like flowers, give pleasure, just by being.” -Ralph Waldo Emerson
First a few words about the RV park where I am making my home. The Desert Trails RV Park in Tucson is just great. Probably one of my favorite RV parks so far on this journey. Although the sites are packed in pretty tight the folks here are very friendly, the owners are great and there are more activities than anyplace I have been to date. The sunrises and sunsets are beautiful from this location and there are numerous trails right from the RV park that go into Tucson Mountain Park. Cory and I have taken advantage of the trails and done some desert hiking. As mentioned in a previous post, you find some crazy things in the desert! Here it was a rusted knight relaxing in the desert with his own beverage of choice.
Annette is a wonderful person and a certified workaholic (even she will admit to this). The best place to catch her was to spend the day at Old Tucson where she is the Director of Revenue. I took along Susan who is my neighbor at the RV park for the Old Tucson experience. Thanks to Annette and Kirk (Facilities Director) for a great tour and the opportunity to see the inner workings of the park.
Built in 1939 for the movie Arizona, the studio was opened to the public in 1960. When the world-famous Old Tucson Movie Studio was set ablaze by arson in 1995, the backdrop for some of Hollywood’s greatest movies went up in smoke. Since then they have done a remarkable job of rebuilding and creating a park that gives the visitor an opportunity to go back in time to an old west movie set. The Old West comes alive for the visitor with action-packed gunfights in the streets throughout the day and dedicated staff members in period costume greeting visitors in the streets.
“You gonna do somethin’ or just stand there and bleed?” Wyatt Earp – Tombstone (1993)
Famous for its rich film history, Old Tucson has been the setting for more than 400 movies and TV productions and remains one of the region’s premiere film locations. Expanding beyond the movie sets and Hollywood memorabilia, Old Tucson featuring live action stunt shows, musicals and live entertainment, vintage rides for the kids, genuine southwest BBQ and special events throughout the season. It is an eclectic mix of a little bit of everything for everyone.
“Wherever there is injustice, you will find us.”
“Wherever there is suffering, we’ll be there.”
“Wherever liberty is threatened, you will find…”
“The Three Amigos!”
¡Three Amigos! (1986)
One of the most interesting and engaging parts of the Old Tucson experience is the great staff that works there. They all seem to be very excited and proud of the park and their enthusiasm is certainly contagious. If you are going to be a workaholic you might as well do it with a team that is more like a family!
We took a look at some of their projects in the works and some of the cool opportunities for future restoration. They havea steam locomotive that is a sister to one in the California State Railroad Museum. The Virginia & Truckee #11 Reno built in 1872 by Baldwin Locomotive Works is a 4-4-0 steam locomotive (for all you train buffs) and is the oldest existing V&T locomotive, certainly deserving of restoration. Serving in numerous movies starting in 1938 when it was leased to Paramount Pictures this engine really is a Hollywood star. Old Tucson Studios picked up this engine in 1970 where it continued its movie star status. They also have a very interesting looking wooden passenger car, hoping to help them get some historic information on this piece of history.
I wanted to visit the San Xavier Mission in Tucson before heading to Baja as we also visit the San Javier Mission down there each year, so off I went and invited Susan who joined me on an afternoon trip to the mission.
As Spanish colonists moved northward from Mexico into present day Arizona claiming more land for New Spain, Jesuits founded a chain of missions along the Sonoran Mountain range. A National Historic Landmark, San Xavier Mission was founded as a Catholic mission by Father Eusebio Kino in 1692. Construction of the current church began in 1783 and was completed in 1797. The oldest intact European structure in Arizona, the church’s interior was amazing chock full of marvelous original 18th Century statuary and mural paintings. Often called the “white dove of the desert,” the mission is located in the San Xavier Reservation, part of the Tohono O’odham nation, southwest of Tucson in Pima County, Arizona.
In 1783, when Southern Arizona was part of New Spain, Franciscan missionary Fr. Juan Bautista Velderrain begin construction on the present structure using money borrowed from a Sonoran rancher. He hired an architect, Ignacio Gaona, and a large workforce of O’odham (Native Americans in the area) to create the present church.
During the 17th and 18th centuries, the Catholic missions were an integral part of Spanish colonization. Missions, usually run by Jesuit or Franciscan friars, intended to Christianize and Hispanicize Native Americans. At San Xavier del Bac, Jesuits first introduced the Tohono O’odham, a Piman-speaking group, to domesticated horses and cattle. The Spanish also brought European crops, like wheat. Missionaries transformed the lives of semi-nomadic Native Americans with animal husbandry and permanent, rather than seasonal, settlement. The settlement of San Xavier del Bac near the Santa Cruz River was a Tohono O’odham town called Wa:k, a Piman word for water. The mission’s name reflects the mixing of Spanish Catholic and O’odham desert cultures.
“Heaven is under our feet as well as over our heads.” – Henry David Thoreau
This continues to be a working mission and nonprofit entity and the Franciscan Sisters of Christian Charity now teach at the school and reside in the convent. It was a beautiful site to visit and they are doing some great restoration work on the buildings that is really heartwarming to see. As an added bonus there were booths set up out next to the parking lot that sold indian fry bread – one of my favorite treats.
As mentioned previously the folks here in the Desert Trails RV Park are very friendly and welcoming. I met Juliet who has a great blog about traveling with dogs – check it out here: Tails from the Road. Leaving the dogs behind, Juliet and I took in a movie at a nearby theater and saw academy award nominated “Lion”. It was an excellent film based on a true story and a real heart wrencher.
There remains much more to do around Tucson and I will be back after Baja. It has been great spending time with Annette and meeting some great new friends in the campground. I look forward to heading back to Tucson.