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Bisbee

February 16, 2018 Thursday – Dragoon Mountain Ranch to Bisbee & the Queen Mine

2018 Southern Arizona and Astronomy

The rain has stopped, but the skies are cloudy and sunny today. We are hopeful it will clear a bit more by this evening so we can observe the night sky for only the second time this week. By all accounts this is unseasonably poor weather for this part of southern Arizona, but there’s not much we can do about it!

We drive to Bisbee to take the Queen Mine Tour by crossing Dragoon Mountain Ranch in a southwest direction to the St. David entrance. Once we are heading south on the paved road through Tombstone, we are hit with heavy rain most of the way to Bisbee.  We park at the mine tour entrance and manage to get on the noon tour – getting the last seats. We are given hardhats, vests and lights, and walk into the mine entrance to get onto a little electric train that takes us below, down the shafts. Our guide is Benny, and old guy who worked in the mine mainly building railway tracks. We see how the copper ore was blasted, the air drills and blasting that was used, and the system of shafts and railways that made it all possible. It is a complex of several mines all in the same mountain, built on different levels, although the companies were eventually consolidated into one big one.

Playing the Fordson Major fuel tank guitar/cello

Playing the Fordson Major fuel tank guitar/cello

After the mine tour, we have a nice lunch at our host’s favourite cafe in the town. I get a nice cappuccino to take with me and then park the Tesla in the town’s public parking. We then split up to see what the town has to offer. I wander down the main street in the rain, keeping dry under my Tesla umbrella that came with the car rental.

There are lots of shops offering artwork and tacky stuff, so I decide to take a series of alleys looping back to the car, hoping to encounter more interesting sights. Sure enough I stumble upon a guy with a long grey beard playing a guitar/cello built from an old Ford F-series truck fuel tank! He is being interviewed and recorded with video as I sneak my own candid photo of him and his funky instrument. This makes the trip so worthwhile!

We make a quick stop in Tombstone on the return trip, but quickly call it quits and return home, since it is still raining pretty hard.

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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.

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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.

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Newberg to Centralia

2017 Total Solar Eclipse – Oregon road trip

August 22, 2017 – Newberg, OR to Centralia, WA

I am up by 7:30AM this morning and see the Sun rising through the smoke from local wild fires near Newberg. I pack, put my things in the car, and after grabbing some breakfast at the hotel, drive down to the nearby Woodburn Supercharger for a 15 minute charge. While I’m recharging, I find a Starbuck’s and have cappuccino while waiting for my Tesla Model S to charge to 90%. The drive north on I-5 to Centralia isn’t as smooth as I thought it would be the day after the eclipse. It appears the extra visitors to the area are still causing volume delays along the way at each interchange just like yesterday, but I arrive in Centralia only about 10 minutes later than estimated.

Joe enjoying a glass of Prosecco while I wait for my room to be made ready

Joe enjoying a glass of Prosecco while I wait for my room to be made ready

I park across the street from the Centralia Grand Ballroom and Hotel in the afternoon heat of the historic district. The front desk informs me my room isn’t ready since I’m a couple of hours early, so I go for lunch at the Berry Fields Cafe located in the same building. They serve me a huge Cobb Salad with a big wedge of bread and an endless glass of iced tea. When I check back at the hotel desk after lunch, they tell me my room is almost ready, and pour me a chilled Prosecco sparkling Italian wine while I wait. I find a seat in their lovely guest lounge area, and about 10 minutes later I am taken to my room – up the main staircase.

There are no elevators in this three story historic building, but the rooms all have individually-controlled heat pumps. I really appreciate the cool room, since this afternoon the outside temperature is past 30ºC. I take the rest of my stuff up to the room and move my car to the free parking lot behind the hotel.

After cooling down in my room for awhile, I take my camera and explore this historic district of Centralia in the late afternoon, taking a couple of photos of the train station and the historic Fox Theater. On the way back to the hotel, I stop at The Station Coffee Bar for a nicely-made cappuccino. This coffee place is huge, with a performance space and an upstairs. I sip my cappuccino in my room while editing more photos. I can’t face eating any dinner after having such a big lunch. I also take quite a few photos of this historic hotel – the Grand Ballroom is indeed grand, and the shared bathrooms and polished wooden floors the hallways remind me of hotels my parents and I used to stay at in the 1950s and early 60s. Thankfully, my room has a toilet and shower, and there is a sink is in the room, just like the old days.

Centralia Square Grand Ballroom & Hotel - links to Centralia slide show

Centralia Square Grand Ballroom & Hotel

When I booked this historic hotel, I had a feeling it would appeal to me, and it certainly does! It started life in the 1920s as a very grand Elk’s Hall, but was sold in 1985 and became an antiques mall with the restaurant on the main level. In 2013 a young Centralia couple bought the building with the goal of restoring the ball room and other event rooms, and making the hotel rooms once again available to the public. They have done a wonderful job of restoring the old building, with the view of hosting weddings and other events in addition to hotel guests. I hate to think how much it has cost them to bring the building to the point it is today!

I’m going to try to promote the hotel and this historic city, since driving to Centralia is an easy trip for those who live in Victoria, Vancouver and the Lower Mainland of BC, as well as from anywhere in Western Washington or Oregon. The bonus for Tesla owners is that there is a Supercharger in Centralia with outlet stores adjacent, and it is just a five minute drive to the hotel and the city’s historic district.

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Malacca, Malaysia

Feb 28, 2016 – Malacca, Malaysia

2016 – SE Asia and Total Solar Eclipse cruise

Our ship anchors for the day offshore. Malacca is a city with an interesting history. It was originally colonized by the Portuguese, and then the Dutch came in and took over. Finally, the British ousted the Dutch, in the final wave of colonial rule before Malaysia gained independence in modern times.

Dutch Square, including bell tower and Christ Church, Malacca, Malaysia

Dutch Square, including bell tower and Christ Church, Malacca, Malaysia

We need to cover very little ground with our shore excursion today Walk the Dutch Trail, since the history of this small city is concentrated within a few blocks in the centre of the city. Malacca was once a spice centre for eastern and western traders, and boasts a colourful history forged by Malay Sultans and European colonial powers, which resulted in the formation of multi-cultural communities. Each of these historical eras left its own heritage and influence, as we walk back through time to discover the great empires of Malacca: the Malay Sultanate, the Portuguese, the Dutch and the British. Starting in Dutch Square, we see the Stadthuys, built as the official residence for the Dutch governors and their officers – an excellent example of Dutch period architecture. Christ Church, standing tall since 1753, is another contribution of the Dutch who defeated the Portuguese in 1641.

Two trishaws, Malacca, Malaysia

Two trishaws, Malacca, Malaysia

Seri Melaka, now known as the Governors Museum was the location of the head of state for this area from the Sultanate of Melaka’s time onward through the various colonial governors. Also on St Paul’s Hill are the ruins of St Paul’s Church, where Catholic missionary St Francis Xavier was briefly interred in 1553. The ruins of the Portuguese Fortress are visible as we descend the hill to tour the replica of the Malacca Sultan’s Palace. Finally, we head back to the pier by trishaw – gaudily-decorated bicycles with the back axel extended so there are two back wheels and a small seat with a canopy is rigged up.