Day 1: Nov. 14, 2003
To The Border



By mid-morning, I had wrapped up my work obligations and could head out of Phoenix. My "plan" was to drive to Tucson and, depending on timing, on to Nogales. I had only a vague idea of how I would accomplish this but hoped that much of the Phoenix to Tucson leg could take place off of the interstate. Someone reminded me that Biosphere 2 was near Tucson and I added it to my itinerary without any real idea of how to get there. My only clues were from a "not to scale" map on a Biosphere 2 brochure I found in a rack in the hotel lobby. It showed how to get there from Phoenix or Tucson and not much else. I headed south on I-10 and, by the time I got around to looking over the brochure map, was well beyond its suggested routing. I had my GPS point me to a town that the brochure told me was near my target. This is a handheld unit that can locate cities & towns and shows roadways but does no routing. Excursions off of the expressway were rather frustrating. Roads that were not either dead ends or loops back to the interstate headed away from where I wanted to go. I knew where I was in relation to the biosphere but not how to get from here to there. But the city was fading away and the scenery, of which Picacho Peak State Park is a great example, was getting better.

At last, near the town of Red Rock, I found a road, named Park Link, that seemed headed in the right direction. As I crossed over the railroad, I spotted a small green sign that really gave me hope. Both SR 79 and Biosphere 2, said the sign, were somewhere up ahead. Thirty-two miles to the biosphere and, at least this is what I recall, 10 miles to the state route, which happened to be one identified on that brochure map. Maybe I read or remember the sign incorrectly but, whatever the case, Arizona 79 was about twenty miles away. What was ten or twelve miles distant was the next stretch of pavement. Until then, I had some very straight and some equally not straight dirt road pretty much to myself. As the third picture shows, there was not much hint of civilization beside the road, either. While I was stopped taking that picture, an SUV, headed in the same direction as me, passed by. Both the SUV and a pickup truck that had gone by a bit earlier in the other direction, were reassuring.

SR 79 lead to SR 77 and SR 77 lead to Biosphere 2. This huge enclosed space was originally built in an attempt to develop a self sustaining environment that might allow interplanetary or even interstellar travel without relying on large quantities of Tang & Spam and a really big port-o-let. In the early 1990s, eight humans, four men - four women, spent about two years inside. Today, Columbia University operates it as a bigger than average laboratory. Guided tours are available, including interior tours referred to as going "under the glass". I limited myself to an "outside the glass" tour conducted quite nicely by Norm. Even this tour provides a short visit inside.

I returned to 77 and followed it to Tucson. Nothing in Tucson prompted a picture but that is not entirely the fault of the city. With less traffic and without a desire to be in a position to reach Tombstone fairly early on Saturday morning, I would probably have tried to walk around the downtown area. A pedestrian overpass, painted and trimmed to resemble a rattlesnake, did catch my eye but I could not figure out where I might grab a decent picture or even park for convenient exploration. So it was on to Nogales. As could have been expected, I found a typical border town with at least as much Mexico leaking north as I suspect there is USA leaking south. A few miles away from the border, there are more "normal" commercial areas and I ended my day in a rather nice Super 8 motel. Across the street, carnival rides filled the area behind a Dairy Queen and other businesses. When I asked if this was a fixture or some sort of festival, I was told that they only appear when it rains. Perhaps their normal home gets flooded and they have to relocate temporarily. Perhaps their visits are seasonal and the rain link is only a coincidence.

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