Biosphere 2

Bio1Today we went to the Biosphere 2. Before our tour we looked around at a small museum about the Biosphere 2. Our first stop was the rain forest. It was awesome, hot and humid.bio3

The next stop was the ocean biome. There was a coral reef in it that wasn’t doing that well. They are about to remake it similar to the sea of Cortez. It is using new advancement in ways to make coral more durable/ ocean

Then we saw the hydroponics area. It was a irrigation system where koi fish poop was the fertilizer of plants, and that poop water flowed through lava rock that 4 levels of plants were in, and then the water was recycled back up to the top. This saved 90% of the water that was needed to grow the crops. Some different types of plants growing here were chili peppers, Swiss chard, strawberries, rosemary, tomatoes, corn and lemons. I would like to try this at home someday because not only does it save a lot of water, it would be kinda cool to have a koi pond.

Right next to it was the Mangrove Forest and then we saw the desert. There were different cactus in this desert biome then were just outside the building, so it was fun to see the different varieties.bio4

Next we saw the technosphere which was all of the electronics and technology underneath all of Biosphere 2. All of the air that would expand and contract because of temperature changes went to the “lung” which we saw next. There were 2 lungs built with the worry that the building’s windows would break with the pressure, but this worked perfect. Only one was ever used.

The Biosphere 2 was a great way to learn about the world and the possibility of life on Mars or perhaps the moon. I really do think that could happen with what I saw today! To see the inside check out my Vlog.


Tucson, AZ

On our way to Tucson for the day, we stopped at Saguaro National Park where we saw a high concentration of saguaro cactus’s. There were cacti all over each other.

We also stopped at Pinal Airport which is a general aviation airport that is also a large boneyard for old airliners. Additionally, it has Marana Army Airfield, where British Army and Army National Guard pilots learn how to fly attack helicopters. It is also a home to CIA operations and US Special Operations Command parachute training. After that, we continued our way into Tucson.

In Tucson, our first stop was at a food truck where we tried the Sonoran Dog. It was a bacon wrapped hot dog on a grilled bun with cheese in it. It also had beans, grilled onions, tomato, and fresh onions. I’m not a hot dog guy but I would definitely get that the next time I am in Tucson.

Later, we went to the Pima Air Museum, the largest private air museum in the US. They have over 300 aircraft there. I really liked the helicopters and my favorite ones were the MH-53 “Pave Low”, the Mil Mi-24 “Hind”, and the CH-37 “Mojave.” I also really liked the B-24 that they had in one of the hangars. While these were my favorites, I definitely really enjoyed seeing them all.Pima4pima2Pima5Pima3pima1

At the museum we saw A-10 Warthog planes flying in formation right over. This reminded us that we were right outside of Davis-Monthan Air Force Base. This base is home to a large boneyard of aircraft that we got to drive by. I think we saw 2,000 C-130s, 300 C-17s, 1,000 F-4s, and an array of other aircraft. I had a lot of fun checking all of this out in Tucson.


On our way home, we stopped by a friend’s winter home. Our family knows Jo from summers at Ottertail Lake. She had the most green grass we’ve seen in months and the largest grapefruits I’ve ever seen. (AT)bio5

Family in Arizona

Lucky us, we’ve been able to spend more time with family while in Phoenix. The Hailey’s from Los Alamos have been in town for a soccer tournament for Alix – there is no off season for this spectacular athlete! What’s crazy is that their hotel is only a mile away and the soccer fields were only a couple miles down the road, so we were able to watch all her games, including the one she kicked the game winning goal at. It was the greatest kick I have ever seen or probably will see for a long time – nice job Alix! But it was fun hanging with Stephanie, Shawn, Alix and Ella, playing games and shopping with teenage girls was a highlight of mine!soccersoccer2

We have some fun stalkers too – Jesse’s parents Ron and Marilee have made another surprise visit. They were able to see a soccer game too, and we even spent a day in the Superstitious Mountains east of Phoenix. We did a great hike, toured an outdoor museum and made it down the awestruck Apache Trail to Tortilla Flats, an old cowboy town. Woody made a super funny vlog about it – check it out here:

Marilee happens to have a load of cousins that live in Phoenix, and they graciously hosted us one afternoon. It was fun to hear their family stories and recollect stories of Jesse’s family heritage. Not only were they all great hosts, they even let the boys pick as many grapefruit and oranges as they wanted. Another great memory for the boys to have, and for sure, no one in our family is getting scurvy any time soon! (MT)

Phoenix – FLW, DDD and the Capitol

A couple of years ago, my book club read “Loving Frank”, a memoir style book about one of Frank Lloyd Wright’s mistresses. Even though he sounded like a goofy dude, I started to fall in love with his architecture! I’ve seen a couple of his works of art in Chicago and in other places, and I was highly interested in touring his home and studio in Scottsdale. The boys and I spent a morning at Taliesin West, and we really enjoyed it all, it totally lived up to my expectations. Woody had a classmate that did a report on FLW so he was excited to learn even more, and Andy is always my lover of unique architecture and could appreciate it all. I could totally live in one of his homes, but I’d probably have to raise the ceilings a bit since he was short and wasn’t very kind to us talk folk!

Andy had looked into more Food Network Diners, Dives and Drive Ins and found a great Pakistan Restaurant near the Arizona State University Campus that was amazing. We were even able to meet the owner and chef of Curry Corner, and the boys gave sincere compliments to her! The food was amazing!FLW4

I’m always curious about state capitols, and Arizona’s did not disappoint. While it’s physically nothing all that special, there were about 30 monuments around it that were spectacular art installations. Everything from a memorial to the USS Arizona that sank in Pearl Harbor, to a 911 exhibit, to a statue honoring Navajo Code Talkers.  It was educational art for the boys and I and for Phoenix.(MT)FLW5

The Petrified Forest National Park

image1.JPG4Today we started the day at the Petrified Forest National Park in Northeast Arizona. The Park was mostly a 23 mile drive through amazing terrain. It was so beautiful. Our first stop was the Painted Desert Inn. This was a popular stop for people on Route 66. We learned a lot about the Hopi and Navajo tribes here.image2image1

Then we kept going to the Newspaper Rock. There were 250+ petroglyphs on 2 large rocks, it was so cool. Next was the Blue Mesas, which were layered teepee-like rocks. It reminded me a lot of the Badlands National Park in South Dakota. It was like I was in another world. image1 - Copy

Our next stop was the Juniper Forest. Here were more layered mesas, and a ton of petrified wood. Here’s a video I took from there:

Did you know, this area used be as thick with trees as the Amazon, millions of years ago. The petrified wood was wood that crystals steeped into, turning it into a stone-like stump.image4image2 - Copy

We ended at another visitor center where I became Junior Ranger again. Did you know this is my 38th National Park/Monument? Petrified Forest is one of my favorites!image3

We happened to be staying in the same town as the famous WigWam teepee motel on Route 66. I recognized its similarity to the traffic cone motel on the movie Cars. I bet this is where they got the idea from. Each teepee had a retro car in front too.image3 - Copyimage1.JPG5

We decided to travel the whole way to Phoenix and check into our RV Park one day early. We took a back route and saw a bunch of beautiful hills and mountains. For about 30 miles, there was fresh snow on the ground. At one point, my mom pointed out a saguaro cactus and then we just started seeing them all over. They are exactly like the cactus you see on postcards of the desert. Even though we hit rush hour traffic, the weather was warm and we have beautiful views at our RV park. They were emptying the pool when we got here. I really hope they fill it back up tomorrow so we can go swimming! I can’t wait explore more of Phoenix! (WT)

3 National Monuments in 1 Day

Today we left Los Alamos for Phoenix. We have 3 days to get there, so we’re just moseying our way down the highway. Our first stop was the Petroglyphs National Monument, on the edge of Albuquerque. There was volcanic action close to here, and that created large lava rock hills. Native Americans drew on the rocks shapes and animals, telling stories and such. We did a cool 2 mile sand hike checking out the different petroglyphs.

As we headed west, we came upon a sign for another national monument, one we had never heard of, and as we really did have time on our hands, we checked it out. El Malpais National monument was like the 3rd National Monument proclaimed, and full of gigantic lava rock formations and “lava tubes”. The tubes were like tunnels and the boys got to hike down into one, but not all the way into the tunnel and out the other side. (we’re such mean parents!)

Their sister monument was El Morro National Monument, a bit further down the road. There is a huge sandstone formation, that an early settler carved his name into it at the bottom. Subsequently, many others carved their name into the rock. Notably, near this rock was an eternal water source that native Americans and early settlers marveled at and used. This area is ridiculously dry, so I can see the novelty it held to keep you alive.

We are so close to the Wig Wam Motel tonight. You may have seen the teepee houses on Route 66 before. The movie Cars did a spinoff of them as road cones instead of tepees. I hope to check them out along with the Petrified Forest National Park. Further west though is Flagstaff. They are getting a ton of snow so we’re headed south tomorrow, and fast!

Altitude Sickness Strikes!

Yesterday (Sunday) started out fairly normal. Woody and I got up early to go to the grocery store so we could stock the camper before heading out of Los Alamos. On our way back we saw 7 deer on the mesa by the road but that’s another story. Back at the camper, as I was putting the ice cream into the freezer, I tripped a bit over the heater that was on the floor, tried to catch myself and was just fine. But in that instant, I became dizzy and nauseous.

This was totally vertigo and I was freakin out. I’ve had a couple of serious bouts of vertigo but not since I’ve had the boys! During rehearsal for our wedding 16 years ago, I remember laying down in the last pew of the church, and having my friend Nicole Richard fill in for me as the bride at the front of the church. Some say perhaps the wedding isn’t legit because I was on a ton of meds, but as soon as I started walking down the aisle, it all went away! Anywho, this hit me like a train wreck, and so I laid down asap.(not hard since my bed is 3 feet away!) I was the only one in the camper so I called jesse on his phone and made him come out.

Loooooong story short, we stayed an extra night in Los Alamos with the Haileys. The boys got to go to Albuquerque to see Seth Hailey and the International Hot Air Balloon Museum, Jesse almost finished our taxes and I slept for pretty much the whole day. Early evening Jesse actually gave me oxygen and an iv, I wasn’t nauseous anymore but I was still dizzy. Weird!

The devil caught up to us though, when we woke up this morning, there was SNOW on the ground! Yuck! I felt better though and we hit the road out of LA, leaving that altitude sickness far far behind us!

Los Alamos, NM – The Secret City

This week we have been parked in front of Jesse’s cousin Steph’s house in Los Alamos, New Mexico. The backyard in their house is literally a million foot canyon. Literally. I’m not afraid of heights, but watching the boys (and dog) out there makes me very very afraid!

Los Alamos is such an interesting place. The Los Alamos National Laboratory is a United States Department of Energy national laboratory initially organized during WWII for the design of nuclear weapons as part of the Manhattan Project, the birthplace of the atomic bomb. Steph’s husband Shawn works for “the Lab”, but no one can ever know what he does! (hehe!) The locals call it “Los” and the city is built on top of mesas that make it super hard to get to!

Only 15 miles away is the Bandelier National Monument. There is evidence of human activity from over 11,000 years ago. Because of volcano activity nearby, the sides of the cliffs were easy to carve out homes. We were able to climb up ladders to see inside, many of the ruins are still intact! The boys loved being up high, the sights were beautiful!!

We also took a day trip into close by Santa Fe. We were not dressed fancy enough for this artist city but it was neat to see the Plaza, the adobe architecture and the “Roundhouse”, the only round State Capital in the USA. (And the capital with the highest elevation!)

Steph and Shawn’s kids have been fun to be around too. Their son Seth is at college in Albuquerque, Alix is a Junior and Ella is a Freshman in high school. We’ve been lucky to watch 2 of Alix’s basketball games this week, she’s a great player! Ella had a tennis tournament in El Paso, we wish it was a home tourney so we could watch it! Go Hilltoppers!

Just down the street from us was an amazing hike we just did with Alix called “Deer Trap” due to the small “traps” the Native Americans made and lured deer into. This hike also led us down the tippy top of a mesa, really feeling on top of the world!

We were also convinced to wake up at the crack of dawn to go watch the sunrise. IT WAS AMAZING! The colors changed every 5 minutes or so and it was just so cool. Afterwards, we picked up breakfast burritos from Chili Works. The girls were pretty impressed that my boys would order the “super brick” with 4 kinds of meat and green chilies! Andy finished his is 2 minutes flat but Woody finally found his match with the spicy green chilies – they were too hot!

LA is a pretty memorable place – for more reasons then one! (Inside joke for Tischers and Haileys!) (MT)

B4, I’ve Never Played Competitive BINGO B4!

Bingo spells bing, bong and boing!

Tonight, after a very productive day around the house with wheels, Maureen and I decided we needed a date night. Since we embarked on this adventure, we have not had a night to ourselves. As luck would have it, directly across the street from the handy dandy KOA in Alamogordo, lies the Eagles Airie #2019 with bingo on Tuesday nights!

For those of you who don’t know my habits and hobbies, bingo is not one of them. At least not “serious” bingo.

We walked across the street, hand in hand, ready for casual bingo without boys but maybe with an adult beverage or two. The sign said “doors open at 5:30-bingo calling starts at 7”. As we entered the lot, it looks fairly full, but there is no activity. We open the only door we see and….creek it opens with a slight breeze. We step into a room where bingo is already underway and we are new people. No bar, nothing but bingo daubers, bingo paper cards and cigarettes! Maureen and I are out of place from the start! We buy the minimum mega pack of nine cards each for each game. They are already three games into a ten game night. We missed the first three but paid for them anyway! Of course, we didn’t have the special daubers, so Maureen rushed up and bought some. She, of course, got the bright purple and I was blue!

For those of you who haven’t experienced competitive bingo, I will give you a little picture of what I saw:

-I was mildly challenged managing my 9 cards. Several people were playing with 60+ cards. One lady had at least 90 cards!

-If you are “of status”, you must arrive with special “bingo bags”. These bags have pockets for lots of daubers, pens, cigarettes, snacks, etc.

-If you intend to manage 99 cards, it’s best you have a plastic glove on one hand, a pillow on your seat and tape to hold all 99 cards together.

-There are “special” games that you buy in addition to bingo. If the caller says “this next game is Wonky Willy”, you best know what that means. Maureen and I started marking our cards, but we didn’t have the “special cards”. This meant that when we started “real bingo” again, we had to use different colors on the cards we had already marked…thankfully we didn’t win that round!

-“I26, I26. Mark it now because I26 doesn’t light up!”

-Proper bingo calling attire includes t-shirts. I really have nothing funny about wearing a t-shirt, unless of course the shirt says “Healthy Foods” with vegetables printed on the front…while she eats one of the largest ice cream bowls I’ve ever seen!

-Competitive bingo includes shapes and games which are unique. Small diamond with corner squares and wild numbers with nine blocks. Pay attention folks!

-During blackout bingo, when you only have nine cards to manage versus 99, boredom can set in. Maureen decided she would draw with her dauber. Finger painting while playing bingo is frowned upon! Our success at blackout was nil. Just look at all the space left on my card!

In the end, date night wasn’t a complete bust. We got out of the trailer, we had some fun and we saw all kinds of interesting! Here’s to many more nights of interesting!

Sledding on Sand in New Mexico

This morning we got up at the Guadalupe Mountains National Park and saw U.S. Border Patrol special forces. They were ready to go on a hike with all their gear, it was super cool to watch.

Then we headed down the road toward Alamogordo, New Mexico. When we were driving through El Paso we pulled over at a gas station. There they had a fair amount of Mexican candy, things that Andy and I had been looking for like tamarind flavored candy. We also got a mango chili icee that was amazing. I like the flavors of the Southwest. We also passed Fort Bliss, an Army base that specializes in tanks and artillery. They have a ton of space to train in the New Mexico desert, and while we were driving in the middle of nowhere, we even saw some tanks and APC’s practicing and it totally look real! We also drove by Holloman Air Force Base where Germany trains some of their Air Force (we heard over 3,000 Germans are stationed here!) We saw a couple of fighter jets flying over us too, that was really cool.

We went to the first KOA we have ever been to in Alamogordo. The guy working there said that they have sleds for the White Sands National Monument that we could borrow. Just down the highway, WSNM is where you can sled on beautiful sand. When we got there we started looking for a place to sled. We found a perfect place and started sledding. We sled until we were tired of sledding. Here is a video of that:

Then we started jumping down the dunes and rolling down the dunes. It was a blast and I think Gunner loved it the most! It was nice that dogs could come into the park. Then we went home and took showers and got all the sand off our bodies. Mom made a really good instant pot meal, she has been a great cook in the camper! (WT)