Monday, May 18, 2015

Biosphere 2 Tucson, Arizona May 2, 205

                             The Ocean environment and grassland on the right

Directions: Biosphere 2 is located about 20 miles to the north of Tucson.The easiest way to get to the facility is to take Ina Road toward the Oro Valley. A driver has to be patient because of all the stoplights and traffic. Hours are 9-4 pm Monday through Sunday. Admission is about $20 per person but discounts are offered for U of A students as well as military and senior citizens.

History: Biosphere 2 has had a rich history throughout the years. In 1960 and 1970 this area served as a conference center for Motorola and the University of Arizona. Space Biospheres Ventures brought the site in 1986 to research the feasibility of self-sustaining space colonization technology. The idea behind the project was to construct a small representation of the Earth with a rain forest, desert, ocean, orchard and farm. "Biospherians" would live inside the facility for up to two years excluded from the outside world grow their food and raise their own animals. The first group of  eight entered the Biosphere in 1991 and stayed for two years. A second group entered in March of 1994 and stayed for about six months before they were extracted. Many people thought the experiment was a failure however, it did show how difficult it is for a group of people to be self-sustained in an enclosure and survive. From 1996-2003 Columbia University managed the Biosphere and reconfigured the building to study the effects of carbon dioxide on plant life. The facility ceased to be a closed system. In 2007 until 2011 the University of Arizona leased the property from CDO Ranching. In 2011 the structure was given to the University of Arizona for scientific research. Through the years hundreds of papers have been published based on research that has been done at the Biosphere. (Information from

Tours are required to visit the Biosphere. They are about 1.5 to two hours long. Make sure to bring water and walking shoes because visitors walk about a mile and temperatures can be hot at any time of the year. On each tour visitors will see the rain forest environment, the ocean/grassland, a desert environment based on the Baja California ecosystem, and a visit to the south lung (helps regulate air pressure inside the structure). The tour guides are very knowledgeable and provide a wealth of information about the facility's history as well as present experiments being conducted by the University of Arizona. For example, one of Earth system's processes that couldn't be duplicated in the Biosphere was wind. As a result, the trees have not developed a strong outer supportive layer and have to be supported to keep from falling over. In the future researchers are going to change the ocean to model the Sea Cortez. It will have a tidal zone complete with tidal creatures and an island.

             Rain forest, which is self-contained from the rest of the Biosphere.

             Waterfall in the rain forest

                    The beach and vegetation

           Looking back toward the rain forest

                         A photo of the structure specially designed to be self-contained

            Desert environment; modeled after Baja California

                        The desert

                     The chilled water return for the Biosphere

                  Outside the Biosphere looking toward LEO

               View of the ocean from underneath

                    Ocean and displays

                      Hydroponic garden; similar to the one on the Apollo missions.

Degrazia Gallery in the Sun Tucson, Arizona May 1 , 2015

                     Front entrance to The Gallery in the Sun

Directions: The Degrazia Gallery in the Sun is located on North Swan Road off of Skyline Drive. From the University of Arizona take Campbell Road north to Skyline Drive. Turn right. Follow until Skyline Drive turns off on the left. Drive until you reach Swan Road and turn right. The gallery will be on the left.

Brief History: Ted Degrazia was born in Morenci, Arizona After briefly working in the copper mines, he moved to Tucson to attend the University of Arizona where he earned a degree in education. After earning his degree, Ted moved to Bisbee where he continued to paint. In 1942, while on a trip to Mexico, Ted met Diego Rivera and Jose Clemente and soon became an intern. After he returned to Tucson Mr. Degrazia built his first small studio off of Campbell Avenue. He was not well-known and the gallery received minimal visitation. After marrying Marrion Sheret in 1947, Ted brought 10 acres in the foothills of the Catalina Mountains to build the Degrazia Gallery in Sun. His main goal was to build an adobe mission to honor Padre Kino and the Virgin Guadelupe. At first there was a small gallery where Mr. Degrazia displayed his art. After he earned more money Ted built a bigger more permanent studio. His fame grew  when NBC and National Geographic  profiled him on a TV show. In 1957 UNICEF chose the painting "Los Ninos" for a holiday christmas card which sold millions of copies throughout the world. Mr. Degrazia is famous later in his life when he hauled 100 paintings into the Superstition  Mountains and set them on fire to protest inheritance taxes on art. Over his life Degrazia used various mediums including watercolor, oil, sculpture and ceramics.

There is plenty to see at the Gallery of the Sun. Inside there are six permanent collections including: Degrazia Paints the Yaqui Easter and Degrazia Paints the Bullfight. There is also a rotating exhibit. When I visited in early May it was 15 oil paintings depicting the suffering of Jesus Christ. The grounds are full of sculptures as well as many different species of cacti. On the grounds is the original mission which is beautiful and not to be missed. I would definitely recommend a trip to the Degrazia Gallery in the Sun. In fact after visiting, he has become one of my favorite artists. (Information

In order to make the pictures clickable I needed to scale them at original size  To display the entire image please right click on image and choose to open image in new tab.

                     Oil painting, most of his paintings do not have their faces filled in

                  Native American and child

            In these series of paintings you can see his use of color

                   One of my favorites showing a cowboy herding cows

                        Impressionistic painting of Native Americans

                       An impressionistic painting; this one shows his vibrant use of color.

                  Yaqui Easter Celebration. He spent seven days and nights with the Yaqui.

                     The grounds in the courtyard

                    The original mission created by Ted Degrazia

                  The mission was very beatiful

Hugh Norriss to Wasson Peak Saguaro National Park West April 25, 2015

                           Blooming Saguaro cactus

At 6 am in the morning I drove out to Saguaro National Park West to hike the Hugh Norris Trail to the top of Mount Wasson. This trail at 10 miles round trip is the longest hike in Saguaro Park West. When I completed it last year it also became one of my favorites as well because of its extraordinary views and desert vegetation. The Hugh Norris trail is steep in places but easy to follow. Remember to carry water, food and a hat because a hiker even during the winter can suffer from heat stroke and dehydration. During the summer I would not suggest hiking this trail after 10 am. In late April the hike did not disappoint with blooming Saguaro, Ocotillo, Staghorn cholla and Prickly pear along the trail. The wildflowers in southern Arizona have been blooming in waves as a result of the summer rains and it truly has been spectacular. . Each hike has given me the opportunity to photograph different species of flowers.

Location: The trailhead is located 3.5 miles north of the Red Hills Visitor Center in Saguaro National Park West. Turn right onto Kinney Road and follow it until the turnoff for Hohokam Road (also known as part of the Bajada Loop). The trailhead will be on the right and it can accommodate up to four cars if they are parked correctly. (Information from

                   View from the Hugh Norris trail

                   Three Saguaro cacti and rock outrcrop in early Arizona sun

                  Blooming Ocotillo

                 Sonoran Desert vegetation

                                Blooming Staghorn cholla

                         Blooming Staghorn cholla

                       Prickly pear

Collin's Foundation B-24 and B-17 Marana, Arizona April 19, 2015

                                   B-17 Nine-O-Nine

Over the course of three days in late April The Collings Foundation stopped in Marana, Arizona, with their restored B-24 Liberator, B-17 Flying Fortress and P-51 Mustang as part of the Wings of Freedom Tour.  I drove out to Marana, Arizona, on April 19 after volunteering, arriving at 2:30 pm in the afternoon. Admission was $12 and if $450 for a 30 minute flight in either the B-17 or B-24.. I toured each aircraft and then decided to wait for the daily flights; sadly the P-51 was at a hangar due to a broken wheel strut. The history of the Collings B-17 and B-24 is fascinating story.

The B-17,  Nine-O-Nine was built at Long Beach, California, and accepted into service in April 7, 1945. It served for a while as part of the 1st Reserve Squadron. In April of 1952 Nine-O-Nine was subjected to the effects of three nuclear explosions. After a 13 year cool down period, Aircraft Specialties Company brought the aircraft and used it in fire fighting. For twenty years it dropped water and borate on forest fires. In 1986 The Collings Foundation bought the B-17. They named is Nine-O-Nine in honor of same plane which completed 140 missions in Europe without losing a crew member.

The Collings B-24 Liberator Witchcraft is the only fully restored and operational Liberator. The Royal Air Force acquired the B-24 in 1944 after it was built.  It saw combat in the Pacific theater as KH-191 where it participated in anti-bombing raids and resupply missions. After the war the RAF abandoned the plane at a graveyard in Khanpur, India. The Indian Air Force restored 32 B-24s and used them until 1968. Thirteen years later Doug Arnold bought KH-191 who sold it to Robert Collings. It took over five years and work on over 80 percent of the plane to restore the B-24. In 1989 the B-24 took to the skies painted to represent Witchraft: a plane that flew 130 missions in Europe without an injured crew member.(www.collingsfoundation,org and informational placards provided information for this post).

                           Inside the B-17

                             Flight controls of the B-17

              Side machine gun

               B-24 Liberator painted to represent Witcraft

                   Inside the B-24

              Looking back toward the B-17

     Looking out the side machine gun of the B-24 and its open window

              Me in front of Witchcraft

                                Flight controls
                             Side machine gun