I’m on the Side of Roxy Rex

Roxy Rex resides right down the street from someone I love very much. She (Roxy, not my loved one) stands next to the McDonald’s at the intersection of Tanque Verde and Grant Road in Tucson. She’s been there since 1994, and many residents look upon her as a beloved icon of the neighborhood.

In the interest of full disclosure, I’ve only been to Tucson once, but I instantly fell in love with the place. We probably drove right past Roxy a time or two. I can’t remember. I do know she’d fit right in with this quirky, artistic, amazing town.

Roxy is a T-Rex statue that actually has a rather interesting resume. She was in the Jurassic Park movie. I think that’s pretty awesome. I wish she could give autographs.

But apparently some people aren’t quite as enamored of her as I am. Believe it or not, there’s a Facebook group called “Christians Against Dinosaurs”, and they recently decided to focus on Roxy, who isn’t doing anyone any harm, as far as I can tell.

Believe it or not, CAD has more than 29,000 followers. Their basic tenet is that dinosaurs never existed. This makes me weep for our education system. If you visit their about section, the first thing you’ll notice is that they are extremely defensive. Every single FAQ response ends with the phrase, “maybe this isn’t the right group for you.” Ya think?

Talk about the mother of all conspiracies! Apparently these misguided people believe that someone has been scattering fake bones and fossils all around the planet, and they’ve been popping up at random since 1676. Hundreds of people have dug them up, so they all must be co-conspirators. These bones and fossils are now residing in museums throughout the world, duping thousands upon thousands upon thousands of scientists, all of whom, apparently, are less capable of determining if a bone is a bone than these CAD members are. So, wow, they’re in on it, too! What would be these hoaxers’ agendas? Seriously?

Since the world is such a wonderful place right now, these CADs have nothing better to do than pick on Roxy. They started calling the McDonalds, insisting that she be taken down. Fortunately, the managers and their patrons are having none of that.

Check out this article from KVOA news. In it, there’s a video of a guy saying, I swear to God, “I would be willing to bet, without even looking, that homicide stats have risen since the dinosaur has been there… addiction rates, unemployment, all types of negative energies.”

I am really struggling to be diplomatic here. So I’ll just point out that this group does not show Christianity in its best light. I just hope some fanatic fool doesn’t vandalize Roxy. I’m fairly certain that Jesus wouldn’t advocate that.

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Impressions of Tucson, Arizona

Recently I got to spend five days in Tucson, Arizona. I’ve written about the food, the desert, Biosphere 2 and Kartchner Caverns, but it occurs to me that I haven’t really written much about the city itself.

After hearing so many horror stories about this red state, I was really kind of braced not to like this city, but from what I can tell from a lazy Google search, Tucson runs about 50/50 in its politics. I only saw one Joe Arpaio for Senate sign. (That still made me sick, but he did wind up losing in the primary, so yay for AZ!)

My first impression of the city was extremely favorable. Any city with an abundance of public art, in my opinion, is one in which the local government really cares about making the place livable. And there is art everywhere in Tucson. Even the overpasses are decorative. Where else can you say you’ve walked through a rattlesnake?

Rattlesnake

And I really loved this sculpture of a horse and its colt. Made in flat layers, at some angles it completely disappears.

 

And of course, I have a weakness for Kokopelli, and you see him absolutely everywhere. Even in the airport.

kokopeli

And then there’s the funky historic Fourth Avenue district, with its eclectic shops and restaurants and murals. I absolutely love the vibe there.

 

Between that and the fact that there’s hardly any traffic (compared to Seattle), and the amazing landscape that takes your breath away at every turn, I’d be tempted to move to this place.

Except for the blistering heat. Yeah. You can’t forget the heat.

Dry heat

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Tucson Food

“Have you had a Sonoran Dog yet?” a friend asked, upon discovering that I was in Tucson.

“What’s a Sonoran Dog?”

I wish I’d never found out, because it has officially ruined me for other hot dogs. Seriously. I’ve seen the promised land. Nothing else will do.

Imagine a hot dog wrapped in bacon. That should be all I need to say, right there. But then they add salsa verde, pinto beans, tomato, onion, mustard and mayo. My mouth is watering just thinking about it.

Tucson Food 3

We went directly to the source for this delicacy: El Güero Canelo has several locations around town. Washing this hot dog down with the kind of apple soda that I used to live on when I was a student in Mexico nearly made me swoon. It wasn’t the first excellent meal I had eaten in Tucson, and it certainly wouldn’t be the last. I was only there for 5 days, and I’m quite sure I gained 5 pounds.

We also went to a place in Benson, Arizona called Mi Casa Restaurant. It is, literally, in a house, well back from the road. You could easily drive past it without even noticing it. But what a shame that would be. It’s a little mom and pop place. Mom is the chef, pop is the waiter, and the Mexican food that place produces is not only a culinary delight, but also a work of art.

We went to several tiny little places with scrumptious food, including Frank and Francisco’s, which is a diner that has, I’m told, the best breakfast in town. I’m not going to argue. So good.

Tucson Food 4

As a respite from all the Mexican food, we went to Inca’s Peruvian Cuisine. Known for hardy meat and potato type fare as well as seafood, this was a very satisfying meal. (The only exception was the Arroz con Mariscos, which is apparently the Peruvian version of Paella, but was 80 percent rice.) We even partook of a drink called Chicha Morada, which is made from purple corn, pineapple, apple and cinnamon. It sounds strange, but it was actually quite delicious.

If I lived in Tucson, I’d probably turn into one of those people who could only be removed from my house by taking down a wall. The food is irresistible. The desire to not exert oneself to beat the heat, even more so. And every restaurant had better guacamole than the last. I’d be doomed.

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The Sonoran Desert: Here There Be Thorns

I really must be in love, because on my fiancé’s behest, I was about to fly to Tucson, Arizona. In August. If I wanted to experience 100 degree temperatures, I’d have stayed in Florida. And yet, here I was, on a plane, heading into what felt like the world’s biggest pizza oven.

Ah, but it’s a dry heat. The better to desiccate you with, my dear. It felt as if the inside of my nose was going to crack open and crumble to dust.

And yet, upon arrival, a funny thing happened. I fell in love with the place’s unique beauty. I strongly suspect that Arizonans are treated to more thorns per capita than residents of any other state in the union. Saguaro cactus. Organ pipe cactus. Barrel cactus. It has more plant species than any other desert in the world. Cholla. Prickly Pear. Creosote bush. Bur sage. Palo verde. Mesquite. Ironwood. Acacia. I was enchanted.

And running around amongst that flora was an amazing amount of fauna. An astounding variety of lizards, too quick to be photographed. Turtles. Bats. Rabbits. Coyote. Gila monsters. Hummingbirds. Quail. Roadrunners. Snakes. And lest we forget, the troublesome Javelina.

It seems like life should be impossible in the blistering heat of this desert, and yet there it was, all around me. The terrain was amazing, too, with its mountains and plains and dry washes. And, being monsoon season, when it rained, my goodness, it rained, causing floods where one would think water had never been before. And then the temperature would drop 25 blessed, blessed degrees and the desert would bloom and be as lush as it could ever be.

Would I live in the Sonoran Desert? No. I’d miss moisture and grass and nothing scary to step on when barefoot.

Will I visit again? I hope so! There’s a certain poetry to the place. But I hope I won’t be back in August. Please, God, not in August.

Here are some pictures we took of this beautiful land.

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Biosphere 2

Recently, I visited Tucson, Arizona for the first time. I met a lot of really great people, ate a lot of delicious food, and the desert is so amazing that these topics will call for additional blog posts, but I thought I’d start with the first thing we did on our first day, because it was so geek-fabulous that even as I write this I have a silly grin on my face.

Please forgive me. I’m bouncing up and down in my chair, and I can barely contain an excited scream. I got to see Biosphere 2!!!!!!!!!!

This facility, in Oracle, Arizona, first captured my imagination in 1991, when 4 women and 4 men entered its closed ecological system to conduct scientific experiments for two years. They produced their own food, and maintained a mini ocean, rainforest, fog desert, and mangrove swamp as well as a fruit orchard. They even grew their own coffee, but only produced enough for a cup once every few weeks, which must have been torture for coffee lovers.

The purpose of this entire elaborate experiment was to see if it would be possible to maintain human life in outer space. That was what I found so exciting. It was like a space mission right here on earth. I wanted to pull up stakes and move right in myself.

It’s probably best that I didn’t, though. It was hard work. They were constantly hungry. They burned 400 more calories than they ate on most days. I’d have been grumpy. I’d have wanted ice cream.

And, in fact, the psychological aspect of the experiment was what intrigued me the most. The group of 8 wound up splitting into two groups of 4, and the two groups really didn’t like one another. They barely spoke. And yet they still managed to put the biosphere first and maintain the mission. The divisions make me sad for humanity and its attraction to drama, but the fact that they still worked toward a common goal, the health of the biosphere, gives me hope.

Because where’s Biosphere 1? You’re living in it. We all are. It’s planet earth. This complex, life-sustaining ecosystem of ours is critical for our survival, and if we don’t start taking climate change seriously, we’re not going to leave much for future generations. And as the saying goes, there is no Planet B. To heck with surviving in outer space. We need to be able to survive right here, and we’re certainly doing our level best to make that a challenge.

The tour of Biosphere 2 also takes you beneath it, to where all the mechanical systems are, and into the gigantic lung, which kept the facility from imploding or exploding during differing pressure systems. A picture of the lung room is below. (A fun fact is that it was also used as a film set for a very bad movie starring William Shatner in 2002, entitled Groom Lake, which sounds like an entirely miss-able movie.)

Both closed missions in this facility were fraught with controversy, but they taught us much. Currently, Biosphere 2 is owned by the University of Arizona, and they’re doing untold numbers of research experiments, including a Landscape Evolution Observatory (LEO), a Lunar Greenhouse, and a vertical farming project. I’m so glad that this amazing place is still contributing to our knowledge. We need all that we can get, in this age of ignorance.

If you ever get a chance to take a tour, I highly recommend it. I’m also adding a book that was written by two of the original biospherians to the very top of my reading list. Life Under Glass: The Inside story of Biosphere 2 by Abigail Alling and Mark Nelson sounds like a fascinating read. There are actually several books on the subject, but this seems like a great place to start.

Without further ado, here are some of the pictures from my visit.

Biosphere 2

Biosphere 2 Rainforest
The rainforest

Biosphere 2 Cloud Desert
The Cloud Desert

Biosphere 2 Ocean
The Ocean

Biosphere 2 Lung
The lung. That heavy aluminum plate sinks to the ground when it’s cold, and rises when it is hot. It was 100 degrees that day.

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