Tucson -Cacti, Bombs, and Iced Coffee

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From Silver City, I threw the Colonel into the bed of a Texas sized F-250 and rolled east into Tucson, Arizona to catch up with my sister, plan out the next stages, and spend the week with friends Clare and Eduardo and their little dude with yellow moccasins - Cristobal 

Tucson is home to the giant Suguaro cactus.  Only occurring in a small section of the desert southwest, the city is flanked east and west by Suguaro National Park which hosts hundreds of these beauties.

Beneath the beauty of the Saguaro lies the remains of one of Tucson's main tourist attractions -  the Titan Missile Museum...  The Titan Missile Program was a land based nuclear missile system marking the height of the US / Russian nuclear standoff... 52 missiles were originally housed underground in three different locations; Tucson, Little Rock, Arkansas, and Wichita, Kansas.  Tucson turned the last of the 52 into a museum after it was decommissioned in the late 80's.

Comfortable shoe wearing Fred, our trusted guide, took my sister and me down into command central and ran us through the paces to ensure we were capable of turning the keys in the proper sequence to carry out Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD).

9 Megatons of America poised and ready to whip out Mother Russia faster than you can drink a cup of coffee...

All amped up, we headed over to the San Xavier de Bac Mission to take it down a notch...  Built between 1783-1797, the Mission is the oldest European structure in Arizona. Once through the ornate entry, it is surprisingly cool on the inside

and showcases a fully renovated mix of Spanish and Mexican influenced religious architecture.

A series of courtyards ring the entire Mission.

The Tucson tour of military might was not over, however... Eduardo is a plane guru and the perfect guy with whom to spend the afternoon wandering around the PIMA Air and Space Museum.

If you're into military planes, the PIMA is where it's at.  Hundreds of planes marking  a historical slice of aeronautical and weaponry advances. 

The Huey - one of the most widely used military helicopters still in operation today.  Originally brought into use in the Vietnam War, it ran attack, transport, and medevac missions through the conflict as a true workhorse.  

It also ran "missions" for bad ass dudes like Kilgore.

The A-10 Thunderbolt known as the "Warthog" - a tank shredding machine.

One of my favorites - the Harrier Jump Jet - capable of vertical takeoff and landing with its directed thrust engine. 

And of course a trip to Pima is incomplete without a tour of the Boneyard - the Airforce Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group (AMARG).  The tour does not include an aerial fly over but this Google image gives a sense of the scale and texture created by mile upon mile of decommissioned planes.  Attack, Bombers, Cargo, Helicopters, Fighters, Transport... you name it, the Boneyard has them stacked end to end as far as you can see.  

Rounding out all things Tucson touristic, we leashed up Cristobal and stepped into a tour of Biosphere 2 - an artificial, (originally) enclosed ecological system separate from Biosphere 1 (Earth). 

Biosphere 2 reached notoriety in the early 90's as eight scientists spent two years living inside.  They tended to and maintained an aquatic environment, a rain forest, a desert, and a mangrove swamp while growing the majority of their food and negotiating a web of personal squabbles that our Mr. Microphone toting tour guide nervously side-stepped. A primary challenge of the experiment was that the concrete throughout was absorbing oxygen and limiting the amount of fresh air the biosphere was capable of sustaining.

During the "sealed" years, the coral reef of the "ocean" passed onto the list of things that don't thrive in a carbon dioxide induced acidic environment... 

One of two "lungs" - pressurized air chambers that controlled air pressure within the main Biosphere structures.  A simple, circular rubber membrane that rose and fell with the fluctuation of internal temperatures.

The Biosphere 2 is a fascinating piece of scientific exploration and experimentation that left me wanting to read about the psychological and human experience of living in an almost hermetically sealed environment.

After a fun week in Tucson soaking up the heat and quirky culture of destruction/life with my fantastic hosts Eduardo, Clare and Cristobal, it's time to head back up into Colorado to wander around a few high passes before they get snowed in.