post

Sonoran Desert Museum

February 14, 2018 Wednesday – Day trip from Dragoon Mountain Ranch to Tucson and the Sonoran Desert Museum

2018 Southern Arizona and Astronomy

I drive everyone to the Sonoran Desert Museum this morning, which is 15 miles west of Tucson. We stop to charge the Tesla for 20 minutes at the Tucson Supercharger, which is just east of the city. We then drive another half hour bypassing the city westward into the beautiful Sonoran desert.

It rains lightly while we are at the Sonoran Desert Museum, which keeps the daytime temperature down to the point we are wearing light coats for most of our time here. Since we arrive just after noon, first stop for most of us is to have a snack and drinks at the coffee shop before we walk the trails. We spot a beautiful Bobcat, nesting hummingbirds, a Peregrine falcon in flight, and lots of other birds, animals and of course all kinds of cactus. Our last stop before departing is the caves and a breathtaking mineral display.

Arizona Sonora Desert Museum – galleryslideshow – photos from 2017 and 2018

 

El Charro cartoon

El Charro cartoon

After driving back into the city, we meet some friends for dinner at the well-rated El Charro Cafe restaurant in old town Tucson. Being Valentines Day the place is busy, however the Mexican food is terrific. The drive back to Dragoon Ranch starts out with pouring rain as we leave the city, but it thins out by the time we pull into Benson for a quick shopping stop at Safeway. I wash the ranch road mud off the Tesla outside before I park in the garage and plug it in to charge.

post

Council Rock at the Conchise Stronghold

February 13, 2018 Tuesday – Council Rock at the Conchise Stronghold

2018 Southern Arizona and Astronomy

It is a bright day but some high clouds are coming in at Dragoon Mountain Ranch. After breakfast, we drive 10 minutes to the nearby Conchise Stronghold and climb the Council Rock area. The series of protective ramparts of granite domes and sheer cliffs were once the refuge of the great Apache Chief, Cochise, and his people. They held out against the US government troops at this location, and were never conquered. We find a cave with ancient pictographs on the walls, and a lovely canyon to explore further into the mountains. After an initial climb through huge boulders with striking turquoise and bring green lichen on them, it is an easy walk into the canyon, where we see a woman climbing a sheer rock face.

post

Dragoon Mountain Ranch Astronomy

February 11, 2018 Sunday – Dragoon Mountain Ranch

2018 Southern Arizona and Astronomy

The wild fires are mostly out, however there is still lots of smoke a couple of kilometres to the northeast, and there are still a few hotspots. The fire crews are still there, and the roadblocks are still in place. About 25 big fire trucks leave this evening at 7:45PM, so obviously they are finished mopping up.

NGC 2170 - Angel Nebula

NGC 2170 – Angel Nebula

We go grocery shopping in Benson today, since I still need some ingredients for the pasta dinner I’m making this evening, and others come along to pick up supplies. I roll the window down as we drive out and let the sheriff know we will be returning in an hour or two. He jokes with me about us having to give him the Tesla for a test drive on our return trip.

I make a double-sized turkey pasta casserole for dinner this evening – an easy meal which everyone seems to like. After dinner, we get organized to go outside to observe the night sky. We start early with observing Uranus, and move onto deep sky objects as the sky darkens. I get the opportunity to image NGC 2170 Angel Nebula this evening – a group of three beautiful emission and reflection nebulae. I obtain some good data over the next two hours, ending at 12:30AM.

February 12, 2018 Monday – Dragoon Mountain Ranch

JoeTourist: Dragoon Mountain Ranch &emdash; Lauri Roche preparing Moroccan ChickenWe all sleep in a bit this morning, since some of us didn’t get to bed until 4AM, although I was in bed by 1AM. We take the Tesla to drive down the road to see the damage of the wildfires. There are extensive burned areas, and yet all four houses in the area survived unscathed – a testament to excellent firefighting skills by the crews!

Finishing the Moroccan Chicken before servingWe have a wonderful Moroccan chicken dinner this evening using chicken thighs, dried fruit and nuts, olive oil, olives, onions, and various spices. It has been marinating for the last 24 hours inside a big plastic bag in the fridge before it is baked in the oven. We have salad, brown rice, and potatoes with the chicken. After dinner, the wind continues to build and cloud cover is over 50% so it is a write-off for both observing and imaging tonight, so we all have to find other entertainment!

post

Tucson to Dragoon Mountain Ranch

February 10, 2018 – Tucson to Dragoon Mountain Ranch

Joe in La Cocina's courtyard in the Presidio

Joe in La Cocina’s courtyard in the El Presidio

2018 Southern Arizona and Astronomy

My Tesla Model S rental car (Turo.com) is delivered to me mid-morning in the hotel parking lot. Both the owner of the car and I inspect it for damage, using the Turo app to document and photograph for the handover process. After the formalities are completed, I am handed the fob and the car is mine for the next two weeks. I then drive my friends to the downtown car rental location so they can pick up their rental car. We then go to the old part of Tucson to walk around the El Presidio area and have some lunch at La Cocina Restaurant & Cantina. We take a few photos in the area and we then split up. I find the Tesla Supercharger east of Tucson, since the car needs to be charged up. We buy a few things in the adjacent convenience store, and then leave for the Tucson Airport to pick up another friend arriving on a later flight.

We drive about 45 minutes from Tucson east on the I-10 freeway to Benson, where we pick up a few groceries and other supplies from Safeway. Our friend at the Dragoon Mountain Ranch calls to advise us that there is a wildfire near his place however the danger level is low since the prevailing wind is blowing the fire further away. There are road blocks into the area, but he has asked the officers to let us through. Needless to say we are all concerned since the flames and smoke from the wildfires are clearly visible in the area we are heading to! The officers let us through the roadblocks and we arrive at our friend’s place before dark, which I’m thankful for.

Dragoon Wildfire from JoeTourist on Vimeo.

I park the Tesla Model S in my friend’s garage, so we can plug it into a 115 volt 15 amp outlet. The car starts charging slowly at 12 amps, which means about a 20 hour charge time to 90% state-of-charge. This isn’t an issue, since I don’t expect to be driving anywhere close to the maximum range of the car – about 210 miles at 90% SoC. We have some pizza and salad for dinner, and get settled in after our travels. After dinner, we all go out to see the wildfire in the distance, and then go to the observatory for a quick look through the 25” telescope. There is a beautiful sunset with an arched cloud formation in the west, but ultimately there are too many clouds for observing tonight, so we call it an early night and go to bed.

post

Victoria to Tucson

February 9, 2018 – Flying from Victoria, BC, Canada to Tucson, Arizona, USA

2018 Southern Arizona and Astronomy

My friend and I take a taxi to Victoria airport and get in what must be the slowest-moving check in line for our United Express flight I’ve encountered for a very long time. Once we clear security to the gates, we have plenty of time to have a nice lunch in Spinnaker’s. The aircraft for our flight to San Francisco is very late arriving. We finally take off from Victoria airport at 4:30pm – three hours late! We have our doubts we will make our connecting flight to Tucson. Our flight arrives 50 minutes before our next flight leaves, but we manage to clear customs and immigration, get through security, and find the gate with 15 minutes to spare – very stressful!

Our flight arrives in Tucson about 10 minutes ahead of time. We call for the hotel shuttle to pick us up and check in by 11PM. We will pick up our car rentals and drive to our friend’s place tomorrow.

post

Kaua’i, Hawaii

Wednesday, Oct 11, 2017 – Nawiliwili Harbour, Kaua’i, Hawai’i, USA

Hawai’i Cruise 2017

We arrive in Nawiliwili harbour at 7AM this morning. I am taking an early snorkel excursion to Poipu Beach, but I have time to grab a cappuccino in the Explorer’s Cafe and some scrambled eggs from the Lido before clearing the ship and finding my snorkel tour group in the terminal building. We are soon off in two 9-passenger vans to the assembly point where we are given fins, a wet suit, and snorkel and mask for those who need it (I always bring my own snorkel and mask)). We are then driven to Poipu Beach, but after some serious discussion by the tour leaders, they decide to cancel the snorkel. The water is too rough and the waves breaking onto the beach are too aggressive for our group to safely enter the water.

My group of snorkelers waiting to enter the water at Poipu

My group of snorkelers waiting to enter the water at Poipu

Actually, I’m relieved, since even before they told everyone about the cancellation, I was concerned about the wave action. In any case, if we had gone in, there would be nothing to see with all the sand being stirred up from the bottom by the big waves.

I peal off my wetsuit and pull on some shorts and a shirt so I’m more comfortable. Apparently this is the first time in four years they have had to cancel a snorkel tour. We help ourselves to the soft drinks and snacks they provide before we are taken on a scenic drive, and then back to the ship to say our goodbyes to the good folks at Sea Fun Kauai. There’s always next time!

My friends and I have dinner in the Lido this evening. Two of us have the Filet Mignon and another has thick-cut roast beef. It was all very good…perhaps one of our best meals on this cruise. Despite being a casual, buffet-style restaurant, the Lido serves excellent food, which is especially appreciated when you want to skip the formal table service available in the other restaurants aboard ship.


Slide show of the South Coast of Kaua’i (2010-2017)

Photo galleries of Kaua’i

post

Lahaina, Maui, Hawai’i

Tuesday, Oct 10, 2017 – Lahaina, Maui, Hawai’i, USA

Hawai’i Cruise 2017

We go ashore to walk along Front Street on Lahaina’s shoreline. The tenders take a long time to move people ashore…in fact, we initially give up on it, but eventually take a number and wait almost an hour to leave the ship. Returning to the ship just before noon presents no problems. We are glad to leave the hot and crowded Lahaina street for the air conditioned ship.

After having our afternoon beer, we have dinner in the main dining room. I have Kauai-Style Poke, which is raw tuna and salmon marinated in sesame, tomatoes, ginger, avocado with a sesame kalbi dressing – very good! My friends find the Macademia Crusted Lamb Leg is also very tasty.

The glitzy production on the main stage tonight is called One World, featuring Eurodam’s singers and dancers. It doesn’t appeal to me much, despite being well-performed with some aerial spinning. The concussion sounds they use finally drive me out of the theatre. Back in my cabin, I pull out my snorkel and mask, and prepare my GoPro camera for underwater use, since tomorrow morning I’m taking a snorkel excursion on Kaua’i.


Slide show of Lahaina (2014-2017)

Maui photo galleries

post

Honolulu, Oahu, Hawai’i

Sunday, Oct 8, 2017 – Honolulu, Oahu, Hawai’i, USA

Hawai’i Cruise 2017

I go to the Explorations Cafe this morning for a cappuccino, muesli, and blueberry cake, and then I disembark the ship early. I walk a few blocks to Kaka’ako Waterfront Park, however I really have to screw up my courage to walk through this park, since there are so many homeless people camped out. The shoreline is beautiful, and when I get to Panic Point, I’m rewarded with a beautiful view of the Honolulu boat basin, Waikiki Beach, and Diamond Head in the distance (see above banner image). A local guy tells me the park will be closed this evening at 10PM by the city until further notice while they evict the squatters and clean up the park. I see the eviction signs as I leave the park and head back along Ala Moana Boulevard to the ship, which is only a few blocks away.

My lei floating in Honolulu harbour

My lei floating in Honolulu harbour

I have brunch in the Lido after returning to the ship, and then go for a swim in the Sea View Pool. I buy a dozen beer from the bar on my way back to my cabin, since they are selling some pretty good beer from Alaska 2 for 1, although at $6/bottle, it is still expensive! I toss the lei I received upon landing in Hilo into the harbour. It floats, which tradition tells us means I will return to Hawai’i some day – a pretty sure thing!

My friends and I have dinner at Canaletto Italian restaurant aboard ship this evening. I have the Melanzane Ripiene – eggplant roulade as a starter, and Banzino al Fiere – grilled Sea Bass as a main course.My friends share some antipasto and Mozzarella Bufala – buffalo mozzarella with salad for starters, and Costoletto alla Griglia – lamb cutlets and arugula salad. They also have a carafe of Montepulciano D’Abbruzzio.

After dinner, I go to see the main stage show : This is Hawaii – a show troupe from Maui. It is a pretty good modern song and dance showcase of the islands.

Monday, Oct 9, 2017 – Honolulu

Throne Room in the Iolani Palace, Honolulu, Hawaii

Throne Room in the Iolani Palace, Honolulu, Hawaii

This morning, we walk the few blocks to see the Iolani Palace, which is quite spectacular inside. Last time I cruised to Honolulu, the palace was closed because it was a Sunday, so I”m glad I have lots of time to see it this time. We also walk around in the vicinity, seeing the outside of the State Legislature, the Mission Houses and Kawaiahao Church.

We are beat by the time we return to the ship just before noon. The heat and humidity are building, so I am glad for the air conditioning aboard ship. I’m turning into quite the wimp! My friends and I have a beer before we go to the main dining room for dinner. It is Canadian Thanksgiving today, so we order turkey dinner and pumpkin pie along with our other Canadian table mates from Quadra Island, West Vancouver, and Brandon, Manitoba.

We don’t leave port until late this evening, bound for Maui.

Slide show of Honolulu (2010-2017)

Oahu photo galleries

post

Hilo, Hawai’i

Oct 7, 2017 – Hilo, Hawai’i, USA

Hawai’i Cruise 2017

I luck out this morning, since I’m facing northwest as the Eurodam enters Hilo Bay early this morning. I have a perfect view of Mauna Kea as the Sun lights it up from the top down to sea level. The bonus is a Full Moon shining brightly above the sacred mountain with so many telescopes at the summit. Despite the early hour, I call my friends to come over to my verandah to share in the wonder. I setup my GoPro to capture a 4k time lapse video of the sublime view while I take still photos with my dSLR. The Eurodam slips into the dock and ties up while many are still asleep, however the Sun has risen and the day is warming.

Eurodam arrival in Hilo at sunrise from JoeTourist on Vimeo.

Joy, Joe and John having lunch at the Hilo Bay Cafe

Joy, Joe and John having lunch at the Hilo Bay Cafe

A mutual friend who lives on the Big Island picks us up at 11AM  just outside the gate to the wharves, and gives us a beautiful lei to welcome us to Hawai’i in the traditional manner. Our first stop is to have lunch at the Hilo Bay Cafe. Our table on the patio gives us a wonderful view of the bay while we have a beer and fish and chips as we catch up with each others’ lives.

After lunch, we walk along the shoreline by the Lili’uokalani Gardens and over the foot bridge to have a look at Coconut Island. Since it is Saturday, there are lots of families enjoying picnics and swimming and paddling in the bay. We have a look at the tsunami flood levels marked on a coconut tree, which illustrates just how high the water level has risen in past years within the shallow bay.

We decide to go see the Hawaii Tropical Botanical Garden, which is along the coast just outside Hilo. It is quite a hike down to sea level and then back up the hill to the parking lot, however the foliage, spectacular flowers along the walls of the gulley are breathtaking. I remember this spot from my previous visits, however I used the public access to the shoreline, so missed the best parts.

We return to the ship by 4PM and sail out of Hilo Bay at 6PM, on our way to Honolulu tomorrow.

Slide show featuring Hilo, Hawai’i (2009-2017)

Big Island of Hawai’i photo galleries

post

Centralia to Victoria

2017 Total Solar Eclipse – Oregon road trip

August 23, 2017 – Centralia, WA to Victoria, BC

I’m up at 7:30AM despite being in no hurry today. I find a coffee shop open nearby so I can get my morning cappuccino, and drink it on the Parkside Patio back at the Centralia Square Grand Ballroom and Hotel – a nice start to the day. After finishing my cappuccino, I go downstairs to have breakfast in the Berry Fields Cafe – two eggs in a thick slice of their oat bread and fried. It is yummy! I check out of the hotel and drive over to the Centralia Supercharger for a top-up before driving for two hours through Olympia and up the Olympic Peninsula to Sequim. There are no congestion problems today and I don’t have to pay the toll to cross on the Tacoma Narrows Bridge northbound, thank goodness.

I stop at the Sequim Supercharger, not that I need a charge, but I want to try it out and see where it is located for when I might need it on future trips. It is at a Holiday Inn Express, and I’m in need of another cappuccino, so I drive by the Supercharger and go downtown. I find a coffee bar which makes a decent cappuccino, and they also have apple strudel, so that will be lunch! After topping up my charge, i drive the short distance to Port Angeles. I’m three hours early, so I waste an hour parked downtown, and then check into the Coho ferry parking lot to wait to depart for home. Canadian Customs and Immigration don’t have pre clearance like the Americans do, so there are no formalities before driving onto the 5:20PM ferry. Before arriving in Victoria, I switch my iPhone back to using my Rogers SIM. After our arrival, I drive off the ferry and am directed to the slowest line clearing Canadian Customs and Immigration, but eventually I’m free to drive the few blocks to my home. The eclipse trip is over!