Trip to Southern Arizona with the Ramblin' Recs  May 2007

Hi all,

Well, I am off again!

I will be with the Escondido First United Methodist Church RV group, the Ramblin' Recs for about a week.  My good friend Rosemarie McBride will be with me.

This trip was supposed to start at Campo, CA at the San Diego Railway Museum with a train ride to Tecate Mexico, a stay of several hours, and then a return trip to Campo.  All our checks were sent to the museum in January to assure a place on the May trip.  This train runs once a month, and fills up early.  Unfortunately, the museum lost our checks and filled up the train without us.  None of the checks have been cashed, and other than the receipt that shows they received them, no one knows what happened.  As a result, I decided to skip the substitute campground in the Campo area and meet the group on day 3 at the Picacho Peak State Park Campground in southern Arizona.  The group will move to Fort Huachuca, AZ for six nights, then on to Show Low Arizona for several days.  I decided to skip the last stop, and head home after one week directly from Fort Huachuca.

Non-Reported Recent Trips
Since my last report last September to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon, and southern Utah, I have taken several short trips.  These include:

Oct.   Went to Casa Grande, AZ with the Sun Country Road Runners (SCRR) for a rally where we were responsible for driving all the trams transporting attendees to and from events.  It was a lot of work and a lot of fun!

Nov.   Had a several-day rally in Cottonwood, AZ with the SCRR.

Dec.   Went to Escondido to see Debbie for Christmas and to take her to our annual Christmas Breakfast at Betty's neice's house with many other relatives.

Mar.   Went to a SCRR rally in Parker AZ for several days.

May    Went to Atascadero to visit David and family and to see Kylie perform the part of the housekeeper in My Fair Lady.  It was an excellent production, and of course Kylie excelled in her part! 

This is my granddaughter, Kylie.  She is playing the housekeeper in the Atascadero High School play "My Fair Lady"
This is one of the three live steam trains.  Two of them carried the attendees between the parking area and the main activity area.

The next day, we went to Santa Margarita to the annual San Luis Obispo Train Museum open house and fund raiser.  They had live steam trains and lots of exhibits.  It was a lot of fun.

The following day, Rosemarie and I went to Hearst Castle, saw their movie, and took a fascinating tour of the mansion and its grounds. 

It was a busy and fun trip.

Now back to this trip!

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Picacho Peak State Park
We originally thought about trying to attend a concert at church this afternoon, then making the 165 mile drive to Picacho Peak.  We had pretty much had decided against this approach when we heard they were closing a stretch of eastbound I-10 in downtown Phoenix all weekend for re-surfacing.  That confirmed our decision to skip the concert and leave early. 

As it turned out, the drive here was quite easy.  We took Loop 101 east completely around the construction, coming back into I-10 well below the Phoenix mess.

We had reservations at the group area of the park, which has no hookups, as they make no reservations anywhere else.  As I was signing in at the park, my cell phone rang.  It was Floyd Lamb, our wagonmaster.  He suggested I see if there were enough electric sites and change over to them.  There was only one RV in the camping loop which had electric hookups, so it was no problem at all.  Our 11 rigs filled less than half the available spaces.  It was MUCH better having electric hookups, as we would have had to run our generators a lot to power our air conditioners.  It is 100 degrees here today!

Our parking at Picacho Peak State Park was strictly natural desert terrain.  We were parked around a large loop.  Only one of our rigs shows in this picture.

Monday, May 21

Today was a relaxing one.  It seemed quite a bit cooler today.  There were no planned activities.  Rosemarie and I drove into Tuscon and did some light shopping.  The rest of the day was spent chatting with the other people and loafing, and ended with a potluck dinner.  No one has ever left a Methodist potluck hungry!

Tuesday, May 22

We left camp at 8 AM (with Floyd in control, that is not 7:59 or 8:01, it is 8:00!) and headed for Fort Huachuca, about 165 miles south.  Enroute, most of us planned to stop at the Asarco copper mine and then at the Titan Missile Museum.

Asarco Copper Mine
Our convoy found the Asarco mine without problem, and we all were able to park in their lot.  This mine has been in operation since the late 19th century.  It has started and stopped several times as the price of copper fluctuated.  The mine becomes profitable at about $1.30 a pound.  Currently the price is running in the low $3 range.  They have one milling plant in operation, and the other is being refurbished to reach maximum production.

Eight of our total of 11 rigs went to the mine and easily parked in their lot.
The Asarco Mine is over two miles long, a mile wide, and over 1000 feet deep.

Initially the mine was a series of tunnels.  These would be dug until they hit a vein of rich copper.  They would then dig to follow the veins.  The ore removed from these veins were about 40 to 60% copper.  As the copper veins were depleted, they transitioned to an open pit mine.  Currently they are mining ore which contains 0.6% copper.

To remove copper from the mine, they blast and collect the raw ore in sizes that range up to 5 feet across the rocks.  A series of milling operations gradually reduces the size of the rocks to about 8 inches, then to about 4 inches, and eventually to a sand like consistency.  Then by treating it with a series of chemicals which attach small bubbles to the copper particles, they float the copper in large tanks and scoop it off.  This is a black fine sand product containing about 75% copper.  This is the product the mine ships to other vendors for further refinement.

Our 1 hour bus tour of the mine took us around much of the huge pit which is over a mile wide and 2 plus miles long.  It is about 1000 feet deep.  We could see the huge shovels and massive trucks they place the blasted rock in for transport to the milling operations.  They appeared very small at the distance we were from them.  Everything we saw was of a massive scale.  The bus took us to the milling plant they are currently redoing.  They expect to be back in production by the end of the year.  Inside were massive ball mills, cone mills and other rock reducing equipment.  There are a minimum of two of each type of mill, so there is always a backup in case of equipment failure.

The bus driver took this picture for me of all our group in front of one of the tires from a 240 ton truck.
This is one of the ball mills which is currently being refurbished. 
Huge conveyors transport the crushed rock between the various crushing mills.
This is one of the large "slurry makers" that prepares the waste trailings for pumping to the disposal areas.
I am holding up a 170 ton hauling truck.  This has been surplussed off in favor of the larger 240 ton models.

After the copper has been removed, the fine sand residue is placed in a large concrete cylinder, with huge arms sweeping around where it is turned into a slurry which is pumped through hoses and sprayed out nozzles forming huge dike-type walls.  They periodically move the hoses to form terraces.  This is their disposal method for the tailings.  When an area of tailings is finished, they eventually cover it with topsoil and grass seed.  Eventually it will become typical desert landscape.  To ensure that the mine will do this, the government holds $.16 for every pound of copper produced until the tailings are satisfactorily returned to native condition.

Titan Missile Museum
From the mine, we drove a few miles to the Titan Missile Museum.  Of the 54 Titan Missile silos that were built, this is the only one which was not destroyed in the 1980's.  All the others had the missiles and equipment removed, and the top 20 feet of the silo blasted away such that they could never be used for an operational missile again.  This one was allowed, with certain safeguards, to remain as a museum, and is maintained and operated by volunteers from the nearby Pima Air and Space Museum.

We initially entered the new visitor center and bought our tickets.  As we had about 40 minutes to the tour, many of us went back to our RV's and had lunch.  The tour started with a video describing the purpose of the Titan program and how it was implemented.  There were three clusters of sites.  Southern Arizona was one of these locations.  After the video, we headed outside through a yard of antennas, radar based security sensors, and miscellaneous equipment to a half-pyramid of glass windows.  This was directly over the nose cone of the missile in the silo.  The massive track mounted top door was concreted in a half open position, and there were massive concrete stanchions which would prohibit the door from opening even if it were not cemented.  Our windows covered the other half.  Through these windows you could see all the way down the side of the missile to the circular thrust ring at the bottom.

This is one of the huge Titan main booster rocket engines.  It is capable of producing 430,000 pounds of thrust.
Looking down at the missile in the silo.  The hole in the nosecone is one of the changes required by the negotiated SALT treaty that allowed this silo to remain as a museum.
The massive silo cover door is now cemented half open.  The concrete blocks at the right were required to prove that the door cannot now open fully.

We were then herded through the access portal entrance.  This was the only way in and out of the silo and the master control room.  During the operational periods, the crew, which consisted of two officers and two enlisted men, had to call in on four separate phones to gain access along the way.  Each would call and gain access to this door,then after descending the 55 steps down to the level of the control room, he would gain access through a massive blast door.  While locked between two of these doors he would call and recite a daily code issued earlier.  Then as a TV camera watched, he would burn the slip with the code and place it in a can mounted there for that purpose.  Only then could he open the second blast door and enter the control area.  The two doors could never be both open at the same time.  Each crew was on station for a 24 hour duty.  The control room was flanked by 6 or 8 racks of electronic equipment with a control console in the center and a smaller console off to its side. 

As you might imagine, security was very tight!  There were very sensitive radar detectors numerous places above ground.  I already mentioned the check-in procedures for the crew.  Once in, the control room and surrounding areas they were in a "no lone" zone.  No one was allowed to be out of eye contact with at least one other crew member at any time - not even for a moment.  The only area which did not have this rule was in the personell quarters.

The control room is a little antiquated by todays standards, but was absolutely the state-of-the-art back in the 50's.

Security was extremely tight!

This is looking up past the missile to the half-closed door and the observation glass panels.

In the control room was a lock box with two locks.  The Commander and Deputy Commander each arrived with their own locks.  The first thing they did was to have the old crew open the box, they would inventory the contents, then the new crew would put their locks on.  In the box were various codes and two keys.  These keys were required to fire the missile.  There was a system to verify that any order to fire came directly from the President.  He was the only one authorized to permit the firing of one or more of the missiles.

There were three targets programmed into the consoles.  None of the crew knew the identities of any of these targets, only as targets 1, 2, or 3.

If there were ever a command to fire, after the verification process a target number would be given and a many-digit code would have to be entered into one of the panels.  This unit allowed only 6 false codes to be entered during its lifetime or it would self destruct.  After accepting this code the consoles would be armed.  One of the two keys from the lock box would be put in the Commander's console, the other in the Deputy Commander's console.  To fire, these two keys, which were more than 6 feet apart, had to be simultaneously depressed and turned for 5 seconds.  Once that was done, there was no turning back.  The launch process was started by opening the cover door, all the guidance data was downloaded, all systems were automatically started, and within a minute the missile was streaking its way toward the designated target. 

There was no abort! 

There was no destruct option! 

It was going!

Fortunately these missiles did exactly what they were designed to do.  Nothing!  They were a deterrent and were never needed to be fired.

Fort Huachuca
We then headed out for the last hour and a half to Fort Huachuca.

The FamCamp at Fort Huachuca is very nice.  There are hundreds of concrete pads with full hookups and many beautiful green trees.  There is a good separation between coaches, so privacy is not a problem.

Wednesday, May 23

Today was a relaxing one, with only an evening potluck on the schedule.

Rosemarie and I drove into Sierra Vista to do some light shopping and exploring.  We were amazed by the size of this city!  We then tried our first re-entry to the post by ourselves and had no problem!

This afternoon, we went to the museums on the post.  They are very interesting.  There are numerous military displays, including numerous ones depecting the Buffalo Soldiers.  This post was the origin of the Buffalo Soldiers, the black regiments with many accomplishments to their credit.  Upstairs there were a number of glass faced rooms depicting the living conditions on the post during the late 1800's.  My favorite was a bedroom with a small baby sleeping in a bassinet.  On the floor was a bear skin rug with a scorpion on its back.  Nearby was a lady with a very determined expression on her face holding a broom high above her head.  I pity the poor scorpion!  I pity the poor bear skin!

Across the street was the museum annex which contained a life size scene of a portion of a battle camp.  It showed tents, soldiers, cannon, etc.  Around the edges were numerous cases containing related items and artifacts.

My favorite museum was the MI Museum (Military Intelligence Museum).  This had many examples of communication, spying, and other intelligence gathering equipment.  These included field telephone equipment, fake plants containing monitoring cameras, a drone aircraft which had made over 50 reconnisence flights, a pen which contained a hidden probe for gathering material samples, code wheel devices, etc.

This evening, we headed up to a picnic area on a nearby hill and had a potluck dinner.  Actually, it was a "managed potluck", in that we had taco salad and desert.  It was great!  The view was spectacular.

The view from our evening potluck was spectacular!  We could see most of Ft. Huachuca and Sierra Vista, and well beyond.
We had a great time at our Taco Salad potluck.

Thursday, May 24

Karchner Caverns
We had reservations for Kartchner Caverns for the 9:40 tour this morning.  After about a 20 minute drive, we were there and picked up our tour tickets.  I had forgotten that they do not allow any photography, so I left my camera in the car.

In November 1974 two young cavers, Gary Tenen and Randy Tufts, were exploring the limestone hills at the base of the Whetstone Mountains. In the bottom of a sinkhole they found a narrow crack leading into the hillside. Warm, moist air flowed out, signaling the existence of a cave. After several hours of crawling, they entered a pristine cavern.
It wasn't until February 1978 that Tenen and Tufts told the property owners, James and Lois Kartchner, about their amazing discovery.

During the four years of secret exploration, the discoverers realized that the cave's extraordinary variety of colors and formations must be preserved.

The cave's existence became public knowledge in 1988 when its purchase was approved as an Arizona State Park. Extraordinary precautions have been taken during its development to conserve the cave's near-pristine condition.

As caverns go, this is one of the smaller ones, with only about 2 or 3 miles of underground passages.  There are a wide variety of cave formations and it is a very beautiful cave. 

This cave is a living cave.  Most of the formations are still growing in the 68 degree, 98 % humidity atmosphere.  Extrodinary measures have been taken to preserve them.  All tour members are spray misted as they enter the cave to add moisture to their clothes and to wash off any lint that could collect in the cave.  If anyone touches any of the formations during a tour, the tourguide marks the place with a piece of colored tape, and that locations is specifically cleaned by the nightly cleaning crew.  This crew also washes the paths to remove any lint and debris that collect there.  They have a diaily tour for which no reservations are made.  If the humidity is high enough, they will conduct this tour, if not, they will not.  All entrances are protected by gasket sealed multiple doors.

 We really enjoyed our tour.

This evening, we had yet another potluck dinner.  Yum!

Friday, May 25

There was a planned backroad tour today, which 8 of our members took.  It meandered through the hills, went over a high peak where they had a spectacular almost 360 degree view, and ended up in the vicinity of Nogales where they then took the highway home.  We did not go on this trip, but those who did raved about the beauty of the sights they saw.

The group who went on the off-road trip stops to stretch their legs and enjoy the view.

Tombstone and Bisbee
Rosemarie had never been to Tombstone or to Bisbee, so that is where we headed.

Tombstone is still Tombstone. (Can you say "tourist trap"?), but it was enjoyable.  We walked the streets looking at all the shops, watched the stagecoach and wagon rides drive by, and listened to the simulated gunfight at the OK Corrall.  We did not buy the tickets to go in and watch it.  After a couple of hours we walked back to the car and proceeded to Bisbee.

This is one of the Tombstone stages with a couple of the many period dressed people which were everywhere.
This is one of the oldest cowboy bars in the country.
The Copper Queen Mine is another open pit mine from which was extracted gold, silver, and copper.
These are a few of the many shops in Bisbee.
The Copper Queen Hotel is very famous.  It is up on the hill and shows through the trees.

Bisbee is a very interesting old copper mining town.  It is largly built on the side of a hill (It somewhat reminds me of Jerome).  The town was founded in 1880, and with the success of the mine became the largest city between San Francisco and St. Louis by the early 1900's.  It was a highly cultured town, but was still ragged around the edges with miners and ladies of ill-repute.  In 1908 most of the central business area burned to the ground.  By 1910 it was mostly rebuilt with the buildings which still stand almost intact today.

Today, Bisbee is largely an artist's colony, and the shops reflect this.

After going out to look at the open pit Copper Queen Mine, which ceased operation around 1975, we toured many of the shops.  They have NOT ceased operation!

Saturday, May 26

This morning I did a couple of things around the motorhome, and helped Dick Bartley remount their CB antenna which had broken during the previous owner's reign.  Dick and Alice have a Foretravel similar to mine.  I was happy to help.

This will be our final full day with the group.  After we leave in the morning, they will continue here at Ft. Huachuca for another day, then head to Show Low, AZ for several more days.

Arizona Folklore Preserve
We have reservations at the Arizona Folklore Preserve to hear Dolan Ellis, the official Arizona Balladeer, sing.  Dolan was the first state balladeer appointed in any state, and has held that position for over 40 years now, having been appointed by 10 different governors.

We arrived at the Preserve around 11:30 for a picnic.  It was a beautiful well shaded spot.  We really enjoyed just sitting, chatting, and of course, eating.

The picnic area at the preserve was beautiful.  Everyone had nearly full shade, and there were ample chairs and tables.

Dolan was very instrumental in creating and running the preserve.  It is now entirely volunteer run with Dolan as the artist in residence.  He takes no fee for his performances here.

The theater is very intimate with 16 small round tables, each with 4 chairs.  In addition to the 64 seats on the main floor, there is a small balcony which can hold an additional 10 or 12 chairs.

Dolan put on a wonderful concert.  He is a good singer, comedian, story teller and guitar player.

I look forward to seeing him again when he makes one of his stops in Prescott.

The concert was marvelous!  Dolan is a wonderful singer, comedian, story teller, and 12 string guitar player.  He has written over 300 original songs; many are ballads about the history of Arizona.  He was an original member of the New Christy Minstrials back in the '60's and has a Grammy from that period.  In 1966 he was appointed the official state balladeer for Arizona.

Some of the numbers he sang included: Ghost Riders in the Sky, Geronimo, Who's Gonna Run the Truck Stop in Tuba City When I'm Gone?, Wildfire - a history of the Rodeo-Chediski fire and a tribute the the brave firemen who conquered it, and the Ballad to Sheriff Joe - a tribute to the Maricopa County strict, level headed, contriversial Sheriff Joe Arpio.

The concert lasted 1 1/2 hours, and we all wished it would continue for much longer.

We started putting things away for the trip home in the morning.

Sunday, May 27

We finished getting the motorhome ready for travel, and pulled out at 7:55 on the six hour drive home.

After an eventless trip, we arrived home safely, got the vehicles parked, and proceeded to collapse in easy chairs.

It was a very enjoyable, active trip.  It is always wonderful to see my long time friends again.

Till next time,


Thanks to Doug Baker for allowing me to use several of his photos!