post

Dragoon Mountain Ranch – Days 4-6

March 6, 2019 – Tucson & Vail

2019 Southern Arizona Astronomy

Some of us visit the Pima Air & Space Museum today, and others go to downtown to see the Tucson Museum of Art. Since I’m a confirmed aircraft nut, I make my third visit to Pima with my buddies, finding some fascinating new aircraft and equipment to learn about. We meet back at the main building at 12:00 noon to take the tram tour around the grounds, and then it’s time for lunch in the cafeteria before carrying on with touring the hangers and field until we are picked up at 4PM to return to the ranch.

Lockheed L-049 Constellation airliner
Lockheed L-049 Constellation airliner – Pima Air & Space Museum
RASC members at Argenzianos restaurant, Vail, AZ

We then meet the rest of our group (and others) at Argenzianos restaurant in Vail (Yelp review), which is between Tucson and Benson. This dinner meeting was arranged by one of our fellow amateur astronomers from the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada who happen to all be staying in the area, with the guest of honour being a fellow RASC member and famous comet hunter David Levy and his wife Wendee. The food and service is great, and the conversation is fascinating. Who knew there were so many RASC members in southern Arizona!

March 7, 2019 – Dragoon Mountain Ranch

Northern Mockingbird at Dragoon Mountain Ranch
Northern Mockingbird

I’m up early to see another beautiful sunrise over the Dragoon Mountains. We stay home today, but some go into Benson to shop. I observe a Northern Mockingbird on the birdbath at lunchtime, and manage to get a pretty good photo through my telephoto lens. This evening we celebrate one of our group’s birthday with steak and a birthday cake.

March 8, 2019 – Dragoon Mountain Ranch

Sunset lighting the Dragoon Mountains with a rainbow in front of the storm clouds

I fly my drone over the observatory this morning, but otherwise I just sit around inside the house. Everyone else is doing the same thing since there is a wicked wind outside – gusting to 60 mph by this afternoon. We have a spicy ground beef casserole with cheese on top for dinner – very tasty! I dash outside for the superb sunset lighting the Dragoon Mountains east of us, and a rainbow appears just to put a cap on it.

The cloud cover and wind dissipates as forecast by 8PM, so the group go out for observing and night sky photography. One of the beautiful celestial targets tonight is the very faint and wispy Witch Head Nebula (see banner image above).

post

Victoria to Phoenix to Dragoon

March 2, 2019 – flights from Victoria, BC, Canada to Phoenix, Arizona, USA, and onward to Dragoon Mountain Ranch

2019 Southern Arizona Astronomy

Bombardier Q400 aircraft

My friend and I take a taxi to Victoria airport several hours before our 6:30AM flight leaves – WestJet flight from Victoria to Vancouver on a Bombardier Q400 regional jet. The pre-dawn light on the scenery out the window is nothing short of spectacular over Georgia Strait, so I take lots of photos of the islands before landing. (see banner image above)

After we arrive at Vancouver airport, we have two hours between flights, and it takes most of that time to walk kilometres to the US-bound gates (E-series), and to pre-clear US Customs & Immigration. I have to remove my drone and my notebook computer when clearing airport security at both Victoria and Vancouver. I still haven’t had a coffee by the time we board our flight to Phoenix!

We are number five for takeoff at 9:38am from Vancouver. The WestJet captain announces that we will be flying at 33,000’ with a 2:39 flight time on the Boeing 737-800. The flight is not full, and the legroom where I’m sitting in Economy is amazing! I have my usual hummus and crackers when food service is offered aboard the flight, and have some Coca Cola as well.

Mount Baker & the San Juan Islands – enroute from Vancouver to Phoenix

It is a spectacular sunny day as we climb out of Vancouver bound for Phoenix, so I take photos with both my iPhone XS and my Sony a7 III. I don’t bother with the in-flight Internet at $10.99 for 90 minutes, since the duration of the flight is only 2.5 hours. I read some workshop material on my iPad since there are no views today as we fly over the Grand Canyon enroute to Phoenix..

After landing, we retrieve our bags and since we pre-cleared US Customs and Immigration, we are free to be on our way. I make contact with the Turo rental guy for the Tesla Model 3 I’ve rented, and he meets us curb-side in the airport arrivals area. My friends and I manage to squeeze all our bags, gear and ourselves in to the Model 3, which is a bit smaller than the Model S I rented last year. Getting out of the Phoenix airport proves to be a bit of a challenge, even with the in-vehicle navigation, however eventually we are on I-10 heading south to Tucson and onward to Dragoon Ranch.

On final approach to Phoenix airport aboard a WestJet Boeing 737-800.

I decide to stop at the Florence Tesla Supercharger midway between Phoenix and Tucson, not because the vehicle needs a charge, but because I want to have a few minutes to have a look at the Model 3’s controls and find out how it charges, since this is my first time driving this vehicle. Since I haven’t had a coffee all day, it would also be nice to have a cappuccino or even a regular coffee, but the food places near the Supercharger don’t serve coffee! I pull out of there once the car has 50 miles of extra charge and drive about a half hour further down I-10 until I see an interchange with a McDonald’s sign. We pull into the parking area and have a proper rest stop, where I finally have my first cappuccino of the day! My friends and I also have some lunch and take advantage of the restrooms before we continue down I-10 through Tucson.

My last stop for about a half hour is at the Tucson Tesla Supercharger at Rita Road east of the city, since I want a decent level of charge by the time I get to our friend’s place on Dragoon Mountain Ranch, so we don’t have to rely on slow charging when we drive out of the ranch to see the sights. We also stop at the Safeway in Benson to stock up on food and beverages before completing the drive, arriving after sunset. Two more in our group arrived earlier today, so they have dinner ready for us. I’m very tired after the flying and driving, and starting the day at 4AM this morning, but I have a good sleep tonight.

post

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 has new aircraft displayed: 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. This gives me lots of time to delve a bit deeper into the more interesting aircraft 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.

My online gallery contains photos taken in 2017, 2018 and 2019.

  • Solar panels on the parking lot roofs
    Solar panels on the parking lot roofs
  • Closeup of an electrical box for the solar panels
    Closeup of an electrical box for the solar panels
  • Wiring and electrical boxes for the solar panels
    Wiring and electrical boxes for the solar panels
  • A white Model S 90D parked beside my Model S75D under the solar canopy
    A white Model S 90D parked beside my Model S75D under the solar canopy
  • Diane Bell, Matt Watson and Reg Dunkley in front of the Space Shuttle booster and Pima Air Museum sign
    Diane Bell, Matt Watson and Reg Dunkley in front of the Space Shuttle booster and Pima Air Museum sign
  • Reg Dunkley and Matt Watson in front of the Space Shuttle booster rocket with the infamous Morton Thiokol  o-rings
    Reg Dunkley and Matt Watson in front of the Space Shuttle booster rocket with the infamous Morton Thiokol o-rings
  • Joe's selfie at the Pima Air Museum
    Joe’s selfie at the Pima Air Museum
  • Bell UH-1C *UH-1M) Iroquois (Huey) helicopter
    Bell UH-1C *UH-1M) Iroquois (Huey) helicopter
  • Engine in the Bell UH-1C (UH-1M) Iroquois (Huey)
    Engine in the Bell UH-1C (UH-1M) Iroquois (Huey)
  • McDonnell Douglas F-4E Phantom II
    McDonnell Douglas F-4E Phantom II
  • McDonnell Douglas F-4E Phantom II
    McDonnell Douglas F-4E Phantom II
  • Canadair Sabre Mk. V
    Canadair Sabre Mk. V
  • Lockheed Model 10A Electra
    Lockheed Model 10A Electra
  • Lockheed SR-71A Blackbird
    Lockheed SR-71A Blackbird
  • Lockheed SR-71A Blackbird
    Lockheed SR-71A Blackbird
  • Lockheed SR-71A Blackbird engine
    Lockheed SR-71A Blackbird engine
  • Consolidated B-24J 'Liberator'
    Consolidated B-24J ‘Liberator’
  • Consolidated B-24J 'Liberator'
    Consolidated B-24J ‘Liberator’
  • Looking up inside the bomb bay of the Consolidated B-24J 'Liberator'
    Looking up inside the bomb bay of the Consolidated B-24J ‘Liberator’
  • Inside the bomb bay of the Consolidated B-24J 'Liberator'
    Inside the bomb bay of the Consolidated B-24J ‘Liberator’
  • Consolidated B-24J 'Liberator'
    Consolidated B-24J ‘Liberator’
  • McDonnell Douglas (Boeing) F/A 18A Hornet figher bomber
    McDonnell Douglas (Boeing) F/A 18A Hornet figher bomber
  • Boeing B-52D Stratofortress bomber
    Boeing B-52D Stratofortress bomber
  • Vickers 744 Viscount airliner
    Vickers 744 Viscount airliner
  • Sud Aviation SE-210 Caravelle VI-R
    Sud Aviation SE-210 Caravelle VI-R
  • Douglas VC-118A
    Douglas VC-118A
  • Convair B-36 Peacemaker
    Convair B-36 Peacemaker
  • Convair B-36 Peacemaker
    Convair B-36 Peacemaker
  • Convair B-36 Peacemaker
    Convair B-36 Peacemaker
  • Boeing B-52G Stratofortress bomber
    Boeing B-52G Stratofortress bomber
  • Landing gear of Boeing B-52G Stratofortress bomber
    Landing gear of Boeing B-52G Stratofortress bomber
  • Sikorsky CH-54A Tarhe (Skycrane) heavy lift helicopter
    Sikorsky CH-54A Tarhe (Skycrane) heavy lift helicopter
  • Fairey AEW.3 Gannet
    Fairey AEW.3 Gannet
  • Sepecat Jaguar GR.1 fighter-bomber
    Sepecat Jaguar GR.1 fighter-bomber
  • Boeing B-17 bomber
    Boeing B-17 bomber
  • Bomb bay
    Bomb bay
  • Front guns and gunner
    Front guns and gunner
  • Cockpit and top gunner
    Cockpit and top gunner
  • Side gunner & inside fuselage
    Side gunner & inside fuselage
  • B-17 bomber
    B-17 bomber
  • Boeing 787 Dreamliner nose-on
    Boeing 787 Dreamliner nose-on
  • Wing against the Sun
    Wing against the Sun
  • Rolls Royce engine
    Rolls Royce engine
  • Rolls Royce engine
    Rolls Royce engine
  • Petal engine cowling of the Boeing 787-8 Dreamliner
    Petal engine cowling of the Boeing 787-8 Dreamliner
  • Landing gear
    Landing gear
  • Lockheed L-049 Constellation airliner
    Lockheed L-049 Constellation airliner
  • Lockheed L-049 Constellation airliner
    Lockheed L-049 Constellation airliner
  • Airline cabin service memorabilia
    Airline cabin service memorabilia
  • Rationing memorabilia
    Rationing memorabilia
  • Joe inside a Boeing 720B cockpit simulator
    Joe inside a Boeing 720B cockpit simulator
  • The Crescent Moon between three blades of the Sikorsky CH-54A helicopter
    The Crescent Moon between three blades of the Sikorsky CH-54A helicopter
  • Sikorsky CH-54A heavy lift transport helicopter
    Sikorsky CH-54A heavy lift transport helicopter
  • Engine, blades and winches
    Engine, blades and winches
  • Gunner's nacel beside the M-25 Mitchell
    Gunner’s nacel beside the M-25 Mitchell
  • Sighting scope on a B-25 Mitchell bomber
    Sighting scope on a B-25 Mitchell bomber
  • Engine from a SR-71 Blackbird
    Engine from a SR-71 Blackbird
  • McDonnell Douglas (Boeing) F/a-18A Hornet figher bomber
    McDonnell Douglas (Boeing) F/a-18A Hornet figher bomber
  • Andrew Schoultz Spy Tiger, 2012 - acrylic on Lockheed VC-140
    Andrew Schoultz Spy Tiger, 2012 – acrylic on Lockheed VC-140
  • Budd RB-1 Conestoga Transport
    Budd RB-1 Conestoga Transport
  • Douglas DC-10 with Orbis markings
    Douglas DC-10 with Orbis markings
  • Douglas DC-10 with Orbis markings
    Douglas DC-10 with Orbis markings
  • Douglas A-24B Banshee
    Douglas A-24B Banshee
  • Consolidated Model 28-5AMC Canso A (PBY-5A Catalina)
    Consolidated Model 28-5AMC Canso A (PBY-5A Catalina)
  • Consolidated Model 28-5AMC Canso A (PBY-5A Catalina)
    Consolidated Model 28-5AMC Canso A (PBY-5A Catalina)
  • Consolidated Model 28-5AMC Canso A (PBY-5A Catalina)
    Consolidated Model 28-5AMC Canso A (PBY-5A Catalina)
  • Spitfire in the foreground of Hanger 5
    Spitfire in the foreground of Hanger 5
  • Spitfire
    Spitfire
  • Supermarine Spitfire FR. XIVe & Rolls-Royce Griffon 65 engine
    Supermarine Spitfire FR. XIVe & Rolls-Royce Griffon 65 engine
  • Rolls-Royce Griffon 65 engine
    Rolls-Royce Griffon 65 engine
  • Hawker Hurricane
    Hawker Hurricane
  • Hawker Hurricane tail markings
    Hawker Hurricane tail markings
  • Douglas A-24B Banshee
    Douglas A-24B Banshee
  • Lockheed VC-121A
    Lockheed VC-121A
  • Jacobs J-755 Radial Engine, 1943
    Jacobs J-755 Radial Engine, 1943
  • Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-28 Fulcrum A Interceptor
    Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-28 Fulcrum A Interceptor
  • Avro AEW Mk 3 Shackelton airborne early warning
    Avro AEW Mk 3 Shackelton airborne early warning
  • Boeing VC-137B VIP Transport 'Freedom One'
    Boeing VC-137B VIP Transport ‘Freedom One’
  • ITEK KA-80 optical bar camera
    ITEK KA-80 optical bar camera
  • Grumman F-14A Tomcat
    Grumman F-14A Tomcat
  • Hughes OH-5A Cayuse helicopter
    Hughes OH-5A Cayuse helicopter
  • Bede BD-5J "Microjet"
    Bede BD-5J “Microjet”
  • Pratt & Whitney R-1340 radial
    Pratt & Whitney R-1340 radial
  • Pratt & Whitney R-1340 radial
    Pratt & Whitney R-1340 radial
  • Phoenix Mars Lander scale model
    Phoenix Mars Lander scale model
  • Mercury capsule
    Mercury capsule
  • X-Plane
    X-Plane
post

AMARG aircraft bone yard

Feb 27, 2017 Monday – 309th Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group (AMARG), Tucson, Arizona, USA

2017 Southern Arizona & Astronomy

I drive to the Pima Air & Space Museum, arriving as they open, and buy a ticket for their AMARG “Bone yard” tour for US$7.00. Although there are several “Bone yard” tours running today, they fill up quickly. A full-sized tour bus pulls up to the front entrance and takes my 10AM group on a one hour tour along with a Docent describing all the aircraft, the history of the place, and the reason it exists. We drive through the Davis-Monthan Air Force Base base gates twice in the process, so we have to be careful to not take photos inside the base.

For security reasons, there is no opportunity to get off the bus, so my photos are mediocre, since I’m forced to take photos through the bus window. That said, the tour is very interesting, and it’s the only way for civilians to see this facility. Please note that all prospective participants on this tour must apply for security clearance in advance of showing up for the tour – booking info.

AMARG is massive – 2,600 acres or 11 square kilometres. Some 4,400 civilian and armed forces aircraft are stored here, making it the largest aircraft storage facility in the world. The ground in this area is so hard, it can support any aircraft without pavement. Since the air is so dry in this area, the aircraft don’t deteriorate rapidly once their windshields and sensitive parts are covered in a white plastic film. I learn that some previously-piloted aircraft are converted to drones to save money.

post

Pima Air & Space Museum

Feb 20, 2017 Monday – Pima Air & Space Museum, Tucson, Arizona

2017 Southern Arizona & Astronomy

After having breakfast, I drive over to pick up my friends who want to see the Pima Air and Space Museum in Tucson. We spend most of the day exploring the huge number of aircraft on display inside, have some lunch onsite, and then take a tram tour of the many aircraft displayed outside. We have some time to wander around outside, so some of us check out the TWA Constellation and the Boeing 787 Dreamliner. I also check out the Boeing B-17 bomber, which has a building all to itself. Before returning home I buy a nice lightweight jacket from the gift shop as a keepsake for this wonderful aviation museum.

JoeTourist recommended!

Since the skies are nice and clear, we make good use of my friend’s observatory. I have a wonderful time with visual observing tonight, using the 25″ Newtonian operating at f3.3 – what a treat! I also shoot a two hour time lapse of the night sky. My observing log

post

Flight: San Diego to Victoria

March 16, 2014 – Sunday – Disembark & flight from San Diego to Victoria

Venus rising in the east before sunrise with the pilot boat beside us, as we approach San Diego

Venus rising in the east before sunrise with the pilot boat beside us, as we approach San Diego

I wake up before my 6:00AM alarm when the Pilot boat shines his light on the side of the ship my cabin is on. The pilot is scheduled to come aboard at 5:15AM, but it is a bit later than that I think. As I peek out the windows, I see Venus shining through the clouds above the shoreline, which is visible since we are quite close to shore in the navigation lane to San Diego. I take a few photos in the pre-dawn with my dSLR.

The ship arrives about 15 minutes early and I am one of the first group to disembark the ship, since I enrolled for Expedited Disembarkation. I roll my big bag, with my briefcase on top and walk out of the ship and down the ramps with my camera bag over my shoulder. The U.S. Immigration agent doesn’t ask any questions, stamps my passport, and I’m free to go. I am one of the first to grab a taxi, and I’m at the airport about a half hour before I expected.

San Diego airport is great because it is located right on the harbour and in the city, so it is easy to get to. United Airlines check-in is now automated, so I’m forced to check myself in. Thank goodness there are staff there to help with the process and to tag my bag! The TSA must have been listening to their clients, because the security check is all over in a couple of minutes, thanks to TSA Pre-check. I didn’t have to remove shoes, belts or watches, and I didn’t have to remove my notebook computer from my bag. I just had to take my cellphone out of my pocket and put it in my camera bag, put the two carry-on bags on the scanner belt and walk through the scanner archway. That was it…I just picked up my bags and continued on my way. The terminal where my flight leaves from is brand new, and really nicely done. The airport offers free Wi-Fi and there are power and USB outlets at every seat. I update the apps on my MacBook Air while I wait three hours for my flight to leave from San Diego airport.

The flight to San Francisco starts off with a bit of conflict in the cabin, since seat assignments seem to be a big issue with several people involved. Eventually everyone is seated and we roll away from the gate. Shortly after takeoff, the guy behind me and one seat over starts ranting very loudly about something. All three of us seated ahead of him ignore his outburst and he seems to calm down for the rest of the flight. When we arrive in San Francisco, we are a bit late, but as it turns out, I stay on the same aircraft as it continues to Vancouver. So I don’t have to go looking for a gate…it’s right here! Just as well, since the boarding for the onward flight starts about 20 minutes after our arrival. Our passports have to be checked before we can board, so that adds a bit of a complication, but everyone eventually is processed and seated on the aircraft.

We pull away on time, and the pilot reports at the start of the flight he expects our arrival to be 10 minutes early, so the flight takes two hours flat.

After landing in Vancouver Airport, here is possibly the most convoluted disembarking procedure I have ever encountered:

  1. Disembark the aircraft.
  2. Walk along an overhead glassed-in walkway to Canada Customs, which is a very long distance away.
  3. Directed to self-reporting kiosks for customs and immigration, where my passport and declaration form is scanned.
  4. Wait for my bag to arrive on the carousel.
  5. Walk to the far corner of the huge baggage claim floor, take an elevator up to the 4th floor, and walk half way across the terminal, schlepping my bags.
  6. Check in with an Air Canada clerk, and put my bag on a conveyor belt. There is an Air Canada agent at the belt, but he doesn’t offer to help!
  7. Walk out to the main terminal entrance.
  8. Clear security again.
  9. Walk the rest of the way to the domestic terminal to find my gate and board my final flight to Victoria.

The weather in Vancouver is cold and rainy – welcome home!

post

Cape Town to Victoria

November 9, 2008 – Sunday – Cape Town, South Africa to Victoria, BC, Canada

I kill time in my hotel room until my 4:30pm transfer to Cape Town airport arrives. The hotel insists that I pay 450 Rand (US$54) for a late departure, and I have to change rooms, so I feel entitled to take full advantage of the facilities before I depart. I use the time to catch up on my travel journal, annotate photos, have a couple of naps, and have a shower before leaving for the airport. I will be traveling for over 30 hours before I arrive back home!

The South African Airways flight from Cape Town to London/Heathrow takes 12 hours. SAA serves a wonderful dinner and complimentary wine after we leave Cape Town, and then the cabin lights are shut off until a couple of hours before our arrival. As usual I don’t sleep during the flight. We are in a holding pattern over Heathrow since we arrive a bit early. Apparently they have a 6am curfew at Heathrow – no doubt to give the surrounding neighbourhoods a bit of respite overnight.

Cape Town to Heathrow flight map
Cape Town to Heathrow flight map

South African Airways uses Terminal 1 at Heathrow and Air Canada uses Terminal 3, so I catch the shuttle. At least Terminal 3 is a more modern and civilized place to wait five hours for my 12:05pm departure, although I still can’t find any Wi-Fi networks. This is a prime people-watching place, since Heathrow is probably the busiest transfer point in the world.

After boarding my Air Canada flight to Vancouver, I notice right away the more “basic” service provided as compared with the full service provided by SAA on my previous flight. The 9-hour Air Canada flight departs on time and goes smoothly. I don’t see any aurora over the polar region this time, like I did on the Victoria to London flight at the start of my trip.

I only have an hour and forty minutes connection time in Vancouver, but manage to clear customs and immigration and board my flight for Victoria with time to spare. I’m home by dinner time on November 10th, having gained 10 hours as I cross so many time zones traveling in a westerly direction for some 32 hours elapsed time. The marathon flights are over, and I can finally sleep!

Heathrow to Vancouver flight map
Heathrow to Vancouver flight map

Southern Africa 2008