We have had terrible internet connections since we left Yuma, spotty wi-fi, no internet, relying on Starbucks and the occasional gas stations that had some reception. We’re going to have to figure this out, but then again, we’re supposed to be out exploring this country, not sitting inside glued to the internet. Balance.
We left Yuma some two weeks ago for Benson which is located about 40 miles south of Tucson, a small rural, sleepy and dusty town as are most of the rural towns in Arizona and New Mexico. As we were leaving Yuma, we passed what seemed to be the largest array of solar panels ever gathered in one place. It turns out that this is indeed the largest solar panel project in the world and was commissioned to ship converted electricity to the San Francisco area. At its height, the project, named Agua Caliente, will furnish all the electrical needs for some 230,000 homes in the Bay area. Pretty impressive.
Things are pretty impressive here in Arizona, because not too much later we passed the largest cattle farm again I’ve ever seen. It turns out that the farm, McElhaney Cattle Co. was recently purchased by JBS Swift, a Brazil based company, the largest cattle operation in the world. The farm in Arizona numbers 130,000 head of cattle, enough for my steak desires.
Jan has a cousin, Linda, who winters in Casa Grande with her husband Alan. Case Grande is about half way between Yuma and Tucson and we stopped to visit with them and with Aunt Gertie and also cousin Jackie. Aunt Gertie was one of seven girls, Jan’s mom Jeannette being the fifth and Gertie was the fourth. There was a brother Mac who was the youngest and was also the first to die, and there remains today four of the girls still alive. They all live within about a ten mile radius of each other, they are all in their 90’s and they all live within about ten miles of where they were born. Jan’s father was the oldest of nine children so her cousins outnumber the Rawson cousins, not an easy task to do.
As we were passing through Tucson we saw a huge array of airplanes sitting in the desert which turned out to be the Pinal Air Park, a resting ground for mothballed commercial aircraft that will either be sold to small airlines or private companies or actually scrapped for salvage. The base where they are stored was originally a military airfield during the second world war, was closed and then reopened during the Vietnam war to train military covert operations, top secret stuff. Supposedly that operation has ceased, but we somehow wandered onto the base by mistake while trying to find an entrance to the air park and the mothballed 747’s. A not too pleasant MP suggested we leave IMMEDIATELY and would offer no help as to how we could access the other part of the field. A trailer that claimed to be the field office for the Air Park was locked up tighter than the security we had just left, so our venture was incomplete. We did stand by the fence and took a few pictures, although we were not brave enough to go back and shoot some photos of the military installation.
On that first day we also visited the Pima Air and Space museum which was located right across from Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, a very active base that also has the largest fleet of mothballed military aircraft in the country. The museum is one of the largest privately funded enterprises in the world, and is home to some 300 aircraft dating back to the second world war. We took a tour that was hosted by a former pilot who did three tours in Vietnam and was fully versed in the history of every single aircraft there. A great tour! He also gave us directions to where we could take pictures of the “boneyard”, where mothballed military aircraft sit on a huge dusty field, never to be used again. Our guide told us that the government gets some 500 million dollars in revenue from the scrapping of the aircraft, hardly much of a return for the actual value of the hardware sitting on that field.
A fascinating day visiting the air history of the region. We’re to spend a week here in the Tucson area, and our planned visits included Bisbee, Tombstone, Old Tucson and much more. Blogs to follow.