roger September 23rd, 2009
As I may have mentioned previously this trip was a bit different for us. Normally I will plan out things to the day and any variation is verbotten! This trip was vastly different for me and us. We would pretty much just plan out the next stop and not any further. So one of the things we were thinking about while at Kartchner Caverns was where next? We had heard from Rich Luhr about some southern Arizona things to do. But the weather was clearing up so should we head back north? Unfortunately we did not have unlimited time (not yet) so we could not do a north detour so it was stay south. So we decided on Green Valley.
We had to head north on AZ90, west on I10 (ugh, backtracking), south on AZ83 then take the cut off to Sahuarita. On the way there we were trying to find out where we were going to stay. Little did we know that Green Valley is a HUGE retirement area for Snowbirds. There weren’t may RV parks. One that was listed was actually in a mobile home park. There was one slight drawback, it was 55 and older park. We called and I explained that we were planning on staying only one night but we had not reached their minimum age yet, just 7 more years! They were willing to let us stay, so this was a double first for us, a mobile home park and a 55 and older park. We dropped the trailer and immediately took off to see what we came there for.
The Titan Missile Museum. This is the only remaining missile silo left over from the cold war, all the others were destroyed as part of arms agreements. It was impressive to see the level of technology (or lack of it) that protected our country during that time. It shows how paranoid the world was and also how thoroughly all the aspects of the defense were thought out. Things like when the replacement shift came in, they had 30 seconds to get from one point to another or the site would lock down. The fact that it required two people to fire the missile, each turning a key that were so far apart that you could not do it with one person. Certain areas required two people at all times to avoid sabotage. Wow! Everything was still looked like it did then, some things were even still functional. If you ever get near Green Valley, by all means take the tour!! I even bought some canned emergency ration water from the late ’50s. I have not, and probably will not open it. I am not sure how close to water it really is.
Our trip is winding down now since we unfortunately do have to get back home is some semblance of the future. So we will continue heading west (homeward) but we are still going to have to stop some more. Part VII coming next (sorry about the lack of photos in this post).
roger September 20th, 2009
So Bisbee is now a memory and we are off to our next stop. We had heard great things about Kartchner Caverns State Park and decided to give it a go. We had no idea how popular this spot turned out to be. In keeping with my aversion/distaste/displeasure of retracing my route, we headed south then west on AZ 92. This took us back to Sierra Vista/Ft. Huachuca and AZ 90. I know I had to do some backtracking (about 10 miles). We continued north to the caverns. We knew they had camping but did not know if we were going to stay there or not.
We pulled into the park and went to the visitor’s center to see when the next tour was. They had two different tours, one where you can walk up and get tickets and the other where you had to have reservations. We got tickets for the walk up tour (Throne Room) but it was the last tour of the day. So we decided to see if there was room in the campground for the night and there was. We only had electricity and water but that was fine:
As you can see the weather was changing. The stormy cloudy weather was clearing and blue skies being revealed. Unfortunately this meant it was going to warm up also. We parked the trailer, waited a bit and went to the tour.
These caverns are amazing. They were not discovered until the ’70s. Then they were not publicized in any way. Eventually the family that found them turned them over to the state of Arizona. They took many years to get them ready for the public. Since they were unknown until recently they have not been ransacked like most caverns we have been to. No broken formations, with the exception of natural acts. The state made the entire tour handicapped accessible, all ramps. They have airlocks for entry and exit so there is not a continually open door to allow the moisture to escape to the desert. The cave is surprisingly warm and moist, something we rarely feel in other caverns. They don’t allow cameras as this could slow down the tour and flashes can be disruptive to the formations. Coats must be rolled up tight and tied around your waist to keep the lint problems down.
The formations are pristine. The historical story about the caverns is intriguing. The engineering put in for the public’s enjoyment is impressive. We thoroughly enjoyed the tour. We wanted to see the other tour also, the Big Room. We asked the ticket counter about getting tickets since they were sold out for the next day. They told us we could come down the next AM and wait for any cancellations. We went back to the trailer for a welcome rest.
The next day we went right down to the ticket booth. Nothing initially. We waited about 30 minutes and two tickets opened up! But they were different times. Sigh. We weren’t going to split up like that. We waited about 30 more minutes and finally two showed for the 11:15 tour. We took them. We had about 2 hours now and decided not to spend another night. We hooked up and parked in the visitors parking lot and took the tour.
The Big Room tour was just as impressive but in a different way. It was not the same as the previous but that was a good thing. We felt very fortunate that we were able to just show up and see both tours. But it was time to go. Where to next? See part VI.