Thursday, July 31, 2014

Rural Tucson's graceful old mission

Mission San Xavier del Bac

The crisp white adobe stands out magnificently against the blue skies of the desert southwest. Guitars and voices ring out as a priest conducts mass inside the Mission San Xavier del Bac, located 10 miles south of Tucson, Arizona.

The mission was founded in 1692 by Father Eusebio Kino, a Jesuit. Construction on the current church stated in 1783 and ended fourteen years later The church, with its main entrance in wood, seems very large from the outside, but a lot narrower on the inside. The inside has the typical domed ceilings of Catholic cathedrals. The altar and backdrop are made of wood. Pews are a rustic wood.

A museum occupies several rooms to one side. These rooms were once used as sleeping quarters for the priests and nuns who ministered to their parishioners.

Inside the mission church
This section of Arizona was part of New Spain when the current church was built. The priest at the time borrowed money from a Sonoran farmer to pay for its construction. The mission is made of clay, brick and mortar. Cacti and other native vegetation fill a garden area in front.

San Xavier became part of Mexico when it declared its independence from Spain. San Xavier became part of the United States through the 1854 Gadsden Purchase. Nuns with the order of St. Joseph of Carondolet opened a school at the mission in 1872, The school is now operated by the Sisters of Charity.

The mission became a national historic landmark in 1963.

Sunday masses are at 7 a.m. and 10 a.m. Pictures may not be taken inside the church when mass is being held.

Admission to the church is free, though donation boxes abound. The church is located just off Interstate 19, which runs between Tucson and Nogales. The mission is visible from the freeway. Take exit 9 and follow the signs.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Cool yard decorations

I love the detail in this horse.
 If I lived in Arizona, I would definitely want some of these statues decorating my yard.

We were out riding scooters when we came upon these wonderful statues in a yard decoration/accessories store, Lora's, on Oracle Avenue in Tucson. I fell in love with them immediately.

A major portion of the grounds was given over to these statues, which also included a variety of other animals.

The statues are made in Mexico, starting with an iron frame that is covered with sheet metal. A rust glaze is then applied.

The horse's muscular rider
This bull has almost a whimsical look about it.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Where motorcycles go when they die

A small section of Bob's Used Motorcycle Parts

Bob’s Used Motorcycle Parks in Phoenix isn’t your normal tourist attraction. In fact, it’s only a tourist attraction if you eat, breathe and live motorcycles, or need parts to repair the bikes you have.

Bob’s is a salvage yard for motorcycles, scooters, ATVs, etc.  The huge bone yard is filled with motorcycles that have been damaged in accidents. Some bikes look to be pretty much intact, while others are piled in heaps by motorcycle manufacturer. My husband says the section for Yamahas alone is bigger than many auto wrecking yards.

Bob’s claims to be the largest motorcycle salvage yard in Arizona, and one of the largest in the United States. It is extremely popular with riders who like to repair or restore motorcycles.  With parts piled five feet deep, I’m not sure how anyone manages to find anything, but I watched a steady stream of buyers go into the yard outside and come back with the parts they wanted. Employees also would show bikers where parts they wanted could be found in the outside yard. The premises also included a big building with shelves of parts stacked to the high ceiling.

I know one thing, I would hate to be responsible for inventory control there. With acres and acres of parts, it would be a nervous breakdown just waiting to happen.

Bob’s is located at 1325 E. Elwood Street in Phoenix. It can be difficult to find if you’re not familiar with Phoenix streets. Elwood is a chopped up street, not a through one which would make the place easier to find.

Bob’s even has its own fan page on Facebook:


Saturday, July 19, 2014

Cocopahs of the desert southwest

The Cocopahs lived along the Colorado River.
Tucked away among the fields off U.S. 95in southern Yuma County is the Cocopah Museum and Cultural Center.

The museum isn’t very large, but what it lacks in space, it makes up for in the quality of the exhibits. There are ancient artifacts as well as exquisite beaded jewelry as well as women’s shoulder coverings.  From a few feet away, the beadwork resembles very fine crochet work, only a lot heavier.
Traditional summer housing

There’s an exhibit on war paint the warriors used as well as a display on facial tattoos.  Another display covers traditional clothing, such as bark skirts, worn by the women. As you enter the museum, a three-sided glass case shows Cocopahs at work and play. Outside the museum are two huts made from native vegetation the tribal members used in the summer.

The Cocopahs, a desert southwest tribe, have lived along the lower Colorado River in Arizona and Baja California for many centuries. The motto on their logo, Xawiƚƚ kwñchawaay, translates as ‘those who live on the river.” Early Spanish explorers interacted with the Cocopahs s early as the 16th century. Today, there are just over 1,000 Cocopahs,  

The museum probably isn’t worth a special trip from Yuma by itself, but combining it with a visit to the tribal casino or as a stopover on the way to San Luis Rio Colorado in Mexico makes it more worthwhile.

The museum is south of Somerton. Turn right onto G Street from U.S. 95 and follow the signs to the tribal business center. The exhibits are open from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday. Admission is free.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Yuma: Lettuce celebrate veggies

Come January and you’re munching away on a green salad, you can thank Yuma farmers for it. That’s because, from November through March, Yuma is the lettuce capital of the world.  In fact, during those months, Yuma grows more leafy green vegetables than anywhere else in the United States.

Some 3,000 semis leave Yuma every day to deliver fresh vegetables around the country. Here’s another interesting statistic: Yuma has nine plants that do nothing but process lettuce and bagged salad mixes. At the height of production, they process more than two million pounds of lettuce every day. And that’s a lot of green.

Agribusinesses work quickly to get produce to hungry shoppers. Lettuce harvested in the morning can be in Phoenix, more than 200 miles away, in the afternoon. Or at the East Coast in three days.

Thank Yuma for winter salads
Yuma grows so much lettuce that it honors the leafy green vegetable and its contribution to the Yuma economy with a Lettuce Days celebration in March.

But lettuce isn’t the only crop grown in Yuma, which is surrounded by thousands of acres of flat fields. More than 175 food crops are grown here, according to the Yuma Visitors Center. Yuma also grows citrus foods, melons and wheat. Some of the durum wheat is exported to Italy where it’s made into pasta. Dates are another major crop, with the Yuma region now producing more premium Medjool dates than anywhere else in the world.

Yuma’s sunny climate year round and its rich soil make agriculture so diverse here. With 350 days of sun annually, Yuma has the longest growing season in the United States. Irrigation water from the Colorado River that runs through Yuma also plays an important part in the growing process.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Yuma bridge connects oceans

Ocean to Ocean Bridge
Yuma, Arizona, has always been an important player desert southwest’s transportation system.  That’s because it was considered the safest place to cross the Lower Colorado River. Native Americans and early Spanish explorers crossed the river here.

As transportation evolved from horse-drawn to horse-powered vehicles, travelers needed a new way to cross the Lower Colorado. Enter the Ocean-to-Ocean Bridge, so called because it linked the Atlantic and Pacific oceans with a land route through the southern United States.

The bridge, which connects Yuma in the south with Fort Yuma across the river in the north, was built in 1914. At that time, it was the only vehicle bridge crossing for 1,200 miles.

The bridge is still in use today. It was closed for 14 years beginning in 1988, but was restored and reopened in 2002. While the bridge is 336 feet long, it is only one lane wide. Traffic lights t each end control the flow of vehicles across the bridge. 

The bridge is part of the Yuma Crossing National Historic Landmark. Pivot Point Interpretive Plaza and the Quartermaster Depot also are part of this landmark.



Friday, July 4, 2014

Yuma Art Center in Historic Downtown

\Mural on the back of Yuma Art Center
The Yuma Art Center is located in a graceful old building in Historic Downtown Yuma. Walk inside, though, and the interior is anything but old. The ceilings are super high, obviously the result of a few floors combined. The interior lighting is wonderful.

The center, owned by the City of Yuma and operated y the Yuma Fine Arts Association, has four galleries on the bottom floor. There's a children’s gallery, showcasing art projects they’ve completed in classes here, on the second floor.

What we found disappointing, however, is there’s all this wonderful wall space, and only little pieces of work, some as small as 8-1/2x11 (just guessing here) on the walls, though some of the paintings were somewhat larger. (Perhaps I am too used to the wall=sized paintings you find in European art museums?)

We weren’t very impressed by the displays on the day we went, but this may be a matter of taste more than anything else. The largest gallery was a temporary exhibit of paintings of tattoos, done in depressing colors. I did enjoy a photo exhibit in a smaller gallery, where some of the photos were printed directly on wood, while others were highly detailed portraits of people from various walks of life. We both agreed, however, that our favorite gallery was the children’s art. Some of the artists were as young as three years old, yet showed impressive talent at that age.

The best art in the galley was in the gift shop, in my opinion. Besides paintings, there was a colorful collection of pottery and sculptures, all done my local artists or non-locals who had exhibited there in the past.

The art center is located at 254 S. Main Street. It is closed Sunday and Monday, and opens at 10 a.m. the rest of the year. Admission is free.