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Tucson to Dragoon Mountain Ranch

Feb 18, 2017 Saturday – Tucson to Dragoon Mountain Ranch, near Benson and St. David, Arizona

2017 Southern Arizona & Astronomy

After my arrival this morning in Tucson aboard the Amtrak Sunset Limited train from Los Angeles, I rent a car from Enterprise for the next two weeks and then drive to my friend’s ranch. I drive east out of Tucson on the I-10 freeway, stopping in Benson to pick up a few groceries before driving the rest of the way to the ranch. It takes me about a half hour driving on dirt & gravel roads through the Dragoon Mountain Ranch, which is 8,400 acres (13 sqmi) in total.

Cody's house in the early morning light
Luxury house in the early morning light

As I arrive, it is overcast and raining lightly, but I hope it will clear off for the coming week when my astronomy buddies will be here. We go over to his neighbour’s place, which is where I am staying along with some other friends, who are already settled in.

As it turns out, I have a bedroom in the adjacent garage, which is massive, and has an apartment with a kitchen, great room, bedroom and bathroom. I am quite comfortable once I turn up the heat to get the place warmed up. The temperatures in this part of the high range land plateau can get close to freezing at night, and daytime temperatures are not hot, although the Sun can be intense. The reason I’m here? The very dark skies, of course!

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Los Angeles to Tucson by train

Feb 18, 2017 Saturday – Los Angeles to Tucson by Amtrak’s Sunset Limited train

2017 Southern Arizona & Astronomy

Rainbow over the desert as we approach Tucson train station
Rainbow over the desert as we approach Tucson train station

After a good sleep overnight from Los Angeles, I’m up early and sit down for breakfast shortly after the dining car opens at 6:30AM. My new friend Jim joins me, so we talk about our upcoming plans over coffee, scrambled eggs and croissants. Jim is having grits, and assures me they taste great providing they are seasoned with salt and pepper – but I pass on them! The train is running late, so we have plenty of time before our projected arrival around 10:15AM. Outside there is desert scrub and a few cactus, and the mountains behind. We see a vertical rainbow to the north as the Sun rises over the mountains to the south.

It’s a cloudy day here in the desert. As we approach Maricopa, Arizona (near Phoenix) it is raining lightly. There is a crew change here before we leave for Tucson, my final stop for this train trip. This morning, the conductor says our delays last night when leaving Los Angeles were caused by staying clear of freight trains and there were also some weather-related delays, whatever that means.

The train pulls into Tucson station at 10:15AM (see banner image above) – the end of my train trip.

Map of Amtrak's Sunset Limited train route between LA and Tucson
Amtrak’s Sunset Limited train route between LA and Tucson – the blue line