Tucson to Victoria

2018.02.23 Friday – Depart Tucson – flight delays and cancellations!

JoeTourist: Tucson &emdash; Joe's selfie in front of some Saguero cactus outside the airport entrance

2018 Southern Arizona and Astronomy

I take my time this morning in the hotel, going for breakfast around 8AM and then taking a walk around the neighbourhood, knowing that I’ll be sitting in airports and airline seats for most of the afternoon and evening. I check out of the hotel just before noon and drive over to the airport’s short term parking lot. I contact the Tesla’s owners to let them know I’m ready to return the car to them. They tell me to just leave the car where it is and they will remotely lock it and pick it up later. The trip display in the vehicle shows that I drove 666.5 miles, used 189 kWh of electricity, and averaged 284 Wh/mi energy consumption. So if I was paying for the electricity to power the car, it would have cost me about $20!

JoeTourist: Tucson &emdash; Noble Hops bar and restaurantI check in with Delta airlines and see that my boarding pass shows the departure time for my flight from Tucson to Seattle is delayed to 6:25PM (was 3:55PM). Before going to the gate, and knowing how much of an actual delay I’m dealing with, I decide to have a meal at Noble Hops, a bar/restaurant by the Delta ticket area. They serve very nice craft beer on tap, and I have a delicious Shepard’s Pie with my Dragoon IPA – the bill comes to US$37 (CAD$50)! That said, I know the airline won’t be serving meals, so I will at least have one good meal under my belt to keep me going on what it looking to be an endurance contest.

I proceed through airport security and find my gate, the estimated departure time has slipped yet again to 8:00PM. At this point, the gate staff rebook me to the last flight out of Seattle for Victoria at 11:17PM, arriving in Victoria at midnight. Our aircraft is still stuck in Seattle due to bad weather, and will have to be de-iced for a second time before they depart, which means it will be 9:10PM before it will depart Tucson back to Seattle. That means I’ll miss my connecting flight to Victoria and I will have to overnight in Seattle. I hate airlines!

The gate staff are doing their best by offering free snacks and beverages. They hand me three meal coupons worth $15 each for breakfast, lunch and dinner in either Tucson or Seattle airport. I go down a couple of gates and find a bar that serves food and order a grilled chicken sandwich, using one of the coupons. Several of the passengers on my flight are at the bar drinking. After all this, the aircraft finally pulls away from the gate at 9:15pm. It will be a 3 hour and 11 minute flight according to the onboard announcement. This is an Embaerer aircraft, which means it’s small: one isle with two seats on either side, small overhead compartments, and the seats are quite cramped.

Once we are clear of Tucson, we fly through some very rough air while the crew try to serve beverages – it never fails! The captain takes the aircraft to a lower flight level, which smooths things out considerably. I watch a movie using my iPad and Wi-if through the Gogo inflight network for free: “Pirates of the Caribbean- Dead Men Don’t Tell” – the first movie I’ve watched all the way through for probably a decade!

Orion constellation and the Crescent Moon are visible off the wing to the west during the last hour of the flight. Once we land in Seatac, the fun begins. My big bag is checked through to Victoria, so it doesn’t appear on the carousel, so I go to the Delta Baggage office nearby. Thank goodness a woman is still there despite it being after midnight. She advises me to go upstairs right away in order to arrange for an overnight hotel with the Delta agents before they go home. There are no agents to help me upstairs, so I return to the baggage office, and I try calling the Delta Customer Assistance number, but nobody answers – so much for customer service!

The baggage clerk indicates this is not something she normally does, but she makes a call and has someone walk her through issuing me a hotel coupon for the Red Lion Inn in nearby Renton. By that time, her co-worker in the back has located my bag and puts it on the nearby carousel for me to pick up as I go to the hotel shuttle area. I manage to squeeze into the last seat in the shuttle that is about to leave with my fellow wayward Delta passengers, taking us on a 20-minute drive from the airport.. The night clerk at the hotel slowly checks all of us in. The hotel is no great shakes, but it is clean, and after turning the heat up and having a quick shower, the bed feels good!

2018.02.24 Saturday – Seattle to Victoria

I’m booked on a 1:05PM flight to Victoria, so I can sleep in before going downstairs for breakfast. There is a buffet, but I prefer to have a vegetarian omelette along with the rather mediocre coffee. I check my Starbucks app, but there isn’t one close by and I don’t see any other coffee shops in the mall the hotel is located in, so no cappuccino for me this morning! I take the 9:30AM shuttle back to Seatac airport, since the hotel isn’t running any more shuttles after that until after lunch.

I have to clear security without the TSA Pre-clearance I usually have on my boarding pass, however I have lots of time, and the procedure isn’t too stressful. The flight leaves on time and I’m back in Victoria airport an hour later. My bag appears on the carousel, I clear Canadian customs and immigration in under a minute and take a shuttle back to town. They drop me off a few blocks from home, so I slowly walk home, and I’m greeted at the door by the dogs. I make myself a cappuccino before unpacking. My daily routine resumes tomorrow!


Pima Air & Space Museum

February 22, 2018 Thursday – Pima Air & Space Museum, Tucson

2018 Southern Arizona and Astronomy

I drive over to the Pima Air & Space Museum and spend several hours there on my last day in Tucson before I return home tomorrow. I took the tram tour last year when I visited Pima, and I take it again, since it is the most efficient way to see the huge number of aircraft on display outside. I check out Hanger 5, which is new from my previous visit. The new aircraft displayed in this hanger: a Spitfire, a PBY/Canso amphibian and a Mitchell bomber. The other hangers have much the same displays, but I experience them again in a new way, since I take far fewer photos than I did last year. There is lots of time to delve a bit deeper into the aircraft that interest me, and skip others without feeling I’m missing something. I have a nice lunch in the cafeteria before driving back to the hotel in the afternoon.

The last 13 photos in my online gallery were taken this year. The majority of the photos were taken last year.


Kitt Peak in a Tesla

February 21, 2018 Wednesday – Driving from Tucson up to Kitt Peak in a Tesla Model S

Energy graph showing triple consumption while climbing Kitt Peak and 25 miles of gained range while descending the Kitt Peak road

Energy graph showing triple consumption while climbing Kitt Peak and 25 miles of range gained from regeneration while descending

2018 Southern Arizona and Astronomy

The reason I wanted to charge the Tesla last night and not have to drive east for 15 minutes to the Tucson Supercharger is that I want to take the 11AM solar telescope tour at the Kitt Peak National Observatory. It takes an hour and 20 minutes to drive westward from the hotel, so driving east to the Supercharger would be inefficient.

I have breakfast downstairs in the hotel, and I’m on the road by 9AM. The Tesla uses about triple the energy to climb the 1,200 metre (3,400′) elevation change on the way up the mountain, but there is only about nine miles of actual steep climbing. The Model S still has 120 miles of range by the time I reach the summit.

Since I am so early, I am the only visitor for the telescope tour when I meet the Docent in the Visitor Center. She convinces me that the 2.1 meter observatory tour would be a better choice, since the solar observatory is closed, so all we can do is walk around it on the outside. A Docent-In-Training  and a few more people show up before the tour leaves – we stick with the plan to visit the 2.1 meter telescope.

I take a few photos, but restrict myself to areas of Kitt Peak that I didn’t photograph last year. By 1PM I’m ready to return to Tucson, so I rig up my GoPro Hero 5 Black as a dash cam and drive down the mountain and along the highways back to the hotel. The Tesla gains about 25 miles of range due to the regeneration on the way down the mountain road, so I still have just over 100 miles of range after arriving at the hotel. Since the staff have left the Tesla Destination chargers powered up, I plug in for about four hours to top up the charge for tomorrow’s adventures.

Driving to Kitt Peak in a Tesla from JoeTourist on Vimeo.

Kitt Peak photos taken 2017 & 2018 – galleryslideshow

Museum of Optics & Mineral Collection

February 20, 2018 Tuesday – Museum of Optics & Mineral Collection at the University of Arizona, Tucson

2018 Southern Arizona and Astronomy

I go downstairs for breakfast and then check out of the Red Lion Inn. I had down to the University of Arizona, since a friend suggested I see their Optics Museum at the College of Optical Sciences. the University is located downtown, which is on the way to my new hotel on the south side of Tucson. I manage to find pay street parking only a couple of blocks away, and use Google Maps to find the building on campus.

The Museum of Optics is self-guided, with displays on several floors of the building. After starting in the lobby with several beautiful glass sculptures and some telescopes, the tour starts at the top of the building on the 7th floor. I then work my way down floor-by-floor. They have an extensive collection of eyeglasses, binoculars, monoculars, opera glasses, historic cameras, stereographs, telescopes, and much more. It is all fascinating, and free-of-charge! The architecture of the Meinel Optical Sciences Building is quite striking, since it has a segmented glass front, the sides and back are wrapped in dark copper, and there are internal light shafts that go top-to-bottom.

Since I have well over an hour left on the parking meter, I go to the Flandreau Science Center and Planetarium which is across the street from the Meinel Building. I pay the $6 Senior’s admission and spend time taking in what is perhaps the most impressive collection of minerals on public display in Tucson area. Their amazing collection of meteorites includes some as large as a suitcase! It is a shame the displays aren’t better lit, since it’s hard to appreciate the colours and textures of the minerals when they are in glass cases under fluorescent lights.

After checking into the Baymont Hotel and Suites, I enquire about the Tesla Destination chargers outside. They charge $2/hour and have to turn it on when I’m ready to charge. I’m pleased the charge is reasonable…this is going to be so much more convenient than staying at a hotel with no electric vehicle support. Rather than drive out to the Tesla Supercharger (about a 15 minute drive), I decide to try out the Tesla Destination charger. The front desk clerk is thrilled, since this is new to her, and she has never seen a Tesla up close before. As it turns out, several of the charge points don’t work, but I finally find one that lights up green on my Tesla. It is a 40 amp 209 volt supply, so the charge rate is about the same as I have at home (Level 2 charger). I end up paying for 3.5 hours’ worth of charging at $2/hr.


Dragoon Ranch to Tucson

February 19, 2018 Monday – Dragoon Mountain Ranch to Tucson, Arizona, USA

2018 Southern Arizona and Astronomy

My friends and I leave the ranch this morning, bound for Tucson. With all the rain we’ve had over the last few days, I’m concerned about the washes on Sybil road being in rough shape, so I take the road to St. David and then take the state highway through Benson and join I-10 there. I meet my friends at their car rental agency in downtown Tucson and give them a ride to the airport.

I then head north to the Oro Valley and check in to the Red Lion Inn around 1:30PM. I ask them about using an external plug to charge my Tesla, but they say they have none. I look later, and sure enough there are zero plugs on the outside walls! My Tesla Model S is currently covered in mud from driving the ranch roads all week. I want to have a clean car to drive for my last few days in Tucson, so I go to the nearby Mister Car Wash (4941 N Oracle Rd). I pay them US$45 for a hand wash and “Hog Wash” (power wash the mud off) and clean the interior. The crew also give the car a light detail and do a terrific job (see above banner image), so I give them a generous tip. The Tesla Model S now looks better than when I took delivery of it!

Spiedino di Mare

Spiedino di Mare

Since I skipped lunch today, I decide to treat myself to a nice dinner at Carrabba’s Italian Grill. I walk the block up the main drag from the hotel to the restaurant, arriving at about 5PM. Their Happy Hour is 4-6PM, so I order a Classic Martini, which only ends up costing $4.46, and it’s nicely made! They also have a three course dinner special, so I have a lovely minestrone soup to start, Spiedino di Mare (grilled scallops and shrimp with broccoli) for the main, and mini cannoli for dessert. The food costs $18.99, so the total bill with tax and tip is US$28.97 which I consider a bargain for the good service and excellent drinks and food. I bring the cannoli back to my hotel to eat later.

After researching the Level 2 charge points near the hotel, I realize that once my existing charge is depleted, not being able to charge overnight is going to be a serious inconvenience. This issue is going to limit the distance I can take my rental Model S each day, so I decide to cut short my stay at this hotel and move to a hotel that has Tesla Destination Chargers. The Baymont Inn Tucson Airport has seven Tesla destination chargers (and 7 additional generic J1772 chargers), so overnight charging becomes a reality again. I book the next three nights at the hotel and go downstairs to cancel three nights off my stay with the Red Lion Inn, so I can change hotels tomorrow. I should have done more research and booked the Baymont for my whole stay, since it is also a bit cheaper than the Red Lion.


Dragoon Mountain Ranch – more astronomy!

February 17, 2018 Friday – Dragoon Mountain Ranch – astronomy!

2018 Southern Arizona and Astronomy

There is fog on the ranch in the early morning and clouds but no rain today.

One of our group leaves us this morning to pick up her rental car in Tucson, and drive to Sedona to visit with her family. I plan to drive to Sedona tomorrow to stay two nights, so we might connect up there for a visit. I also plan to drive further north to see the Grand Canyon, but we’ll see how the weather cooperates for that adventure, because if there is too much snow, I won’t go!
RASC Victoria Centre: John McDonald &emdash; Observing with the 25"
By sunset, there are only clouds on the horizon – it is clear overhead! Everyone gets their gear together, we open up the observatory, and pull an all-nighter. One of our group is a dedicate visual observer, so she operates the 25” Newtonian, climbing a ladder every few minutes to observe visually, and sketching many celestial objects. I join her to enjoy the wonderful views through this massive telescope, and add many entries to my astronomy log book.

The three of us who are photographers are using the 20” Newtonian astrograph this evening. Since my images taken a few days ago on Feb 11th turned out so well, I have some time to take more photos, but after taking two good images, we soon run into problems. I decide to enjoy some visual observing instead., so my buddies use the rest of the night to take some images of objects they are interested in while I observe using a 25″ Newtonian, my binoculars, and unaided-eye visual observing. I only last about an hour in the cold before I have to pack it in and go inside where it is warm.

February 18, 2018 Saturday – Dragoon Mountain Ranch

I am the first up this morning since everyone else stayed up into the early morning hours observing and photographing the night sky.

It isn’t raining today, but there are big clouds drifting overhead constantly. I decide to shoot a time lapse video of the clouds forming and passing over the Dragoon Mountains. I rig up my Canon 6D dSLR on a tripod with an intervalometer and shoot medium-sized JPG files all afternoon until sunset when the battery dies. After dinner, I make it into a one and a half minute video and show it to my friends on the living room TV. I also show them the video I shot of the wildfire on the day we arrived.

Dragoon Mountains Afternoon from JoeTourist on Vimeo.

The rain returns this evening with a vengeance – we can hear downpours happening outside all evening. I check the forecast for Sedona, and it looks abysmal, with torrential rain, hail and winds! I go online to cancel my arrangements up there, and also for Grand Canyon. My Plan B is to stay in Tucson for the next few days, so I reserve a hotel at the last minute. Thank goodness for online booking systems!

The rest of us are all leaving tomorrow morning, so we all use the down time do some laundry, pack, and cleanup the house.



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.


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.


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.


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!