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Tucson, Pima County Seat of Arizona

100_9135Louise Speaks:    Being that we live in Arizona, I thought it would be interesting to go to ALL the county seats in the state.  That way we could say we truly have toured and blogged about the entire state of Arizona.  There are currently 15 counties in Arizona, so this could take awhile.

Today we are in Tucson, which is the county seat of Pima County.  The county is named after the Pima Native Americans who are indigenous to this area.  The vast majority of the county population lies in and around Tucson, filling much of the eastern part of the county with urban development. The rest of the county is sparsely populated; the largest towns are Sells and Ajo  in the far western region of the county.  Pima County, is one of the four original counties in Arizona.   The land was acquired  from Mexico in 1853.  The original county consisted of all of Arizona Territory east and south of the Gila River.   Soon thereafter, other counties  were carved from the original Pima County.

Since Tucson is the second largest city in Arizona, behind Phoenix, most things to do in Pima County will be in the Tucson area.  I would describe Pima County as a bit of nothing…there are things to do and places to see, but I wouldn’t make this a top priority on my vacation list.  To read more about Pima County check out the previous posts about Tucson, Tucson Resorts, Biosphere 2,  The Saguaro National Park. Buenos Aires National Wildlife Refuge and the Ranch De La Osa Guest Ranch in Sasabee.  I’m sure from reading some of the other posts you’ll know how I feel about the city of Tucson…however, there are some pretty neat things to do in Pima County.  The Ranch De La Osa is a great place to stay and The Saguaro National Park is a site like no other.  Even though I don’t like Tucson, I do like Pima County, so I would give it a rating of a B.



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Tucson, Arizona

Louise Speaks:  While in Tucson there were a few other things mentioned in Patricia’s book, “1000 Places To See Before You Die” so I said let’s go ahead and finish the list.  Tucson gives you a deep sense of history.  Being Arizona’s second largest city it is almost as old as the U.S. itself.  Surrounded by jagged arid mountains, it’s the epicenter of southwestern cowboy and cactus landscape.  After touring all these resorts and other sites the day was slowly coming to an end.  We headed out-of-town to search and find the Arizona Sonora Desert Museum.  Unfortunately by the time we arrived they were ready to close as they have a 2 hr window to allow people into the museum.  However, a tour guide did come out to talk to us and handed us pamphlets and brochures to tell us all about the museum and invited us back in the morning.  Since our time frame did not allow that, we had to peek through the fence and get all our information from the information we were handed.

The Arizona Sonora Desert Museum  www.desertmuseum.org  ,is a world-renowned zoo, natural history museum and botanical garden, all in one place. Exhibits re-create the naturalistic feeling to inspire people to live in harmony with the natural world by fostering love, appreciation, and understanding of the Sonoran Desert.  For a half-century the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum has enchanted millions of visitors with its exhibits of live animals in astonishingly natural settings, while intriguing and instructing them with fascinating educational programs. At the same time, the Museum has gained a worldwide repute in the scientific community as an institution committed to researching and protecting the land, plants, and the animals of the Sonoran Desert Region.

 Exhibits re-create the natural landscape of the Sonoran Desert Region so realistically you find yourself eye-to-eye with mountain lions, prairie dogs, Gila monsters, and more. Within the Museum grounds, you will see more than 300 animal species and 1,200 kinds of plants. There are almost 2 miles of paths traversing 21 acres of beautiful desert, no wonder they want you to spend at least 2 hours here.

Founded in 1952, the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum is widely recognized throughout the world as a model institution for innovative presentation and interpretation of native plants and animals featured together in ecological exhibits. The Museum is regularly listed as one of the top ten zoological parks in the world because of its unique approach in interpreting the complete natural history of a single region (in this case it is the Sonoran Desert and adjacent ecosystems).  This represents a significant achievement, as the Museum’s collections and size are smaller than many of its counterparts. Not a “museum” in the usual sense, it is an unparalleled composite of plant, animal, and geologic collections with the goal of making the Sonoran Desert accessible, understandable, and treasured.

Today, this approach can be most easily understood by noting that the collections consist of 2,744 animals (representing 320 vertebrate and invertebrate taxa); 1,217 plant taxa cataloged (an estimated 72,000 plants are found on the grounds, but most are in the natural desert areas and are not accessioned); and 14,482 rock and mineral specimens (including 2,068 fossils).  More than 175 of the plants and animals in the collection are of conservation concern in the Sonoran Desert region.

As the Desert Museum is now over 50 years old, the commitment to the founding ideals are as strong as ever.  This has been most recently evidenced by the creation of the “Desert Loop Trail,” a half-mile long loop through natural desert along which are large enclosures, made of Invisinet developed by Museum Director of Design, Ken Stockton, for animals such as javelina and coyote. This fine stainless steel netting is nearly invisible to visitors providing a greatly heightened sense of seeing animals in natural conditions and is now on the market available to other institutions.

The more we read about this museum that isn’t really a museum the more we wished we had arrived earlier and were able to go inside.  I guess this is going to have to go on the list of things to go back and see.  From the friendly staff, to the amount of people exiting the museum, we could tell this must have been a great place to visit.  That being said, I would rate this museum a B, and it would make my list.

AM…Page 700

From the museum it was dinner time and it just so happens that the last place to see was a resturant so we decided to go there for dinner.  I know, as those of you who know me are saying, you can’t believe I ate in Tucson, but I am making huge sacrifices to complete all the destinations in the book.

The resturant is the Cafe Poca Cosa http://cafepocacosatucson.com/  and it is in the heart of downtown Tucson.  With Tucson having a tricultural population of  Hispanics, Native Americans and Anglos and being only 60 miles north of the mexican border, it has it’s fair share of Mexican restaurants.  However, Tucson claims to be the “Mexican Food Capital of the U.S.”.  The Carfe Poca Cosa is an impressive showcase and serves creative dishes inspired by different regions of Mexico. 

In Cafe Poca Cosa, chef and owner Suzana Davila has placed her imaginative mexican cuisine within the lively confines of an upscale, yet casual, downtown bistro setting.  The combination of the unique types of food on the menu to the ambiance setting, The Cafe Poca Cosa gives diners the opportunity to indulge in a memorable dining experience.   As we saw food being served to other tables, we could see that the portion sizes were huge. 

We were waiting for a menu when finally our server came to us with a chalk board and easel and set it at our table.  The menu which changes twice daily is printed in both English and Spanish and was on this chalkboard.  The waiter takes the chalkboard from table to table.  This fun, spontaneous approach encourages guests to sample old favorites or to discover new ones.  Elaine and I could not recognize the names of anything on the menu, so we had to have the waiter explain each dish.  One selection was a sampler.  However you don’t know what is on the sampler.  The chef, at her discretion, il pick 3 items from the menu and that is what you get…it’s a surprise.

After seeing the size portions throughout the room, and the price of the entre, we decided to be brave and pick something with chicken and to share it.  We were very pleased as it had a powerful taste, yet not spicy.  There was something in it that made you go for another bite, yet you couldn’t tell what it was.  The service was excellent, the atmosphere was relaxed and the food was very tasty.  Elaine ad I both said we would eat there again.  I would rate the Cafe Poca Cosa a B,  after all it is mexican food and $25 an entre and up is a bit high, no matter how nicely the place  it is decorated.

AM…Page 700

Thelma Speaks: 

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Biosphere 2, Tucson Arizona

Louise Speaks:  As we were leaving the Saguaro National Park we saw the sign for Biosphere 2  , just 10 miles up the road.  Although not in Patricia’s book, “1000 Places To See Before You Die”, we thought we would go anyway. 

The University of Arizona assumed ownership of Biosphere2   www.b2science.org  in July 2011.  A generous gift from the Philecology Foundation helps fund Biosphere 2 operations and some research projects.  Other grants and awards, primarily from the National Science Foundation, also support research activities.  In the 1800s, the Biosphere 2 property was part of the Samaniego CDO Ranch.  After several changes of ownership, it became a conference center in the 1960s and 1970s, first for Motorola, then for The University of Arizona.  Space Biospheres Ventures bought the property in 1984 and began construction of the current facility in 1986 to research and develop self-sustaining space-colonization technology. 

Two missions, between 1991 and 1994, sealed Biospherians inside the glass enclosure to measure survivability.  Behind this highly public exercise was useful research that helped further ecological understanding.  Several first-person accounts have been published by former crew members that provide different perspectives on the experiment.  Their opinions and stories differ greatly from those opinions of the news and media as the media states this project was a failure.  There reasons were that starting when the crew members were first sealed in Biosphere 2 they experiences a constant and puzzling decline in the percentage of oxygen in the atmosphere.  It was initially hoped that the system was merely stabilizing itself, but as time passed it became increasingly clear that something was wrong.  Not quite 18 months into the 2 year experiment, when oxygen levels dropped to the point where the crew could barely function, the outside managers decided to pump oxygen into the system so they could complete the two years as planned.  Obviously, Biosphere 2 was not-self sustaining if outside oxygen had to be added in order for the crew to survive.  The reasons behind the flaw in the project was not fully understood until some time later.  As it turned out, the problem had more to do with carbon dioxide than with oxygen.  

In 1994, Decisions Investments Corporation assumed control of the property and Columbia University managed it from 1996-2003 and reconfigured the structure for a different mode of scientific research, including a study on the effects of carbon dioxide on plants.  Columbia also built classrooms and housing for college students of earth systems science.  The property was sold June 4, 2007, to CDO Ranching and its development partners who then leased the property to UA from 2007-2011. The enclosure now serves as a tool to support research already underway by UA scientists. As a laboratory for large-scale projects,  the university’s stewardship of Biosphere 2 will allow the UA to perform key experiments aimed at quantifying some of the consequences of global climate change.

The B2 Institute is a think tank and research incubator that addresses scientific grand challenges whose solutions require the combined expertise of a broad range of scientific fields and diverse interdisciplinary talents.  Building upon  it’s reputation in interdisciplinary research, it provides a non-traditional structure that facilitates interaction.  Its current focal points include the water energy nexus, STEM education, and ultimately the development of interconnected ‘dscovery ecosystems that will facilitate collaborations toward the solution of major problems.

The tour was very interesting and we were able to go into the crews living quarters, the basement where all the technical equipment is maintained as well as the rain forest and the ocean life habitat.  There are many steps to climb and lots of walking but definitely worth visiting.  See its things like this where I question Patricia, asking how did this place NOT make her book…it surely would have made mine.  I would rate this attraction an A.  It is a part of science and history and was fun as well as educational.

Thelma Speaks: