Tucson – November 2022 – Characters of El Tour de Tucson Bike Races

The Saturday before Thanksgiving is the day that over 7000 bike racers take to the streets of Tucson. Last year I was able to capture the action in the far east side of Tucson in Vail (posting here https://rdzphotographyblog.com/2021/11/20/tucson-november-2021-el-tour-de-tucson/ )

For this years I made my way downtown for the 6:55 AM start!

The event is actually 4 different races, each taking off at different times. the 6:55 AM start is for the 100 mile race.

The motorcycle police were lined up and ready to go.

The lead vehicle was in position.

The workers pulled back the tape holding the riders back, then ran to get out of the way.

And they are off.

It is always impressive how some people can overcome the greatest of obstacles – this rider is starting the 100 mile race, and he has 1 leg.

The early start meant it was chilly – 42 degrees.

During the 62 mile (100 kilometer) race, the riders are headed through the neighborhood street, including many that have small traffic islands in the middle of the road. With a couple of thousand riders coming through it was amazing there wasn’t a huge collision as they ‘parted the seas’.

The highlight is of course the collection of characters riding in the race.

I am impressed when those who are a bit more ‘experienced’ go by in the middle of the pack.

A cool helmet, and a support of the local animal shelter – Pima (County) Animal Care Center.

Racers who are proud of who they are and where they are from.

Snowbird Santa racing off for the North Pole? With the Go Pro he is watching to see who is naughty and nice during the race.

Another beautiful day for El Tour de Tucson. See you next year.

Cochise County, Arizona – November 2022 – Ramsey Canyon Fall Foliage

While most of Arizona is known for the hot desert landscape there are places where in just a few miles, or feet in elevation, that changes completely. One of those areas is Ramsey Canyon near Sierra Vista, less than 10 miles from the Mexican border in the Huachuca Mountains.

Because of a spring feed stream, high canyon walls and an orientation facing northeast, the canyon has numerous sycamore and maple trees – very un-Arizona like.

The creek bank has even more wetlands vegetation.

The Ramsey family had settled in the canyon around 1900 and over the years built a couple of cabins.

As you hike through the preserve and climb up just a few feet above the stream you quickly go back to more typical Arizona landscape.

While in some spots the desert like landscape is integrated with the wetlands.

The canyon is home to lots of wildlife.

The trip back down the canyon to the visitor center returned us to the colorful foliage. Ramsey Canyon is a great destination for a different look at Arizona.

Diné (Navajo) Nation, Arizona – September 2022 – Amazing Landscapes

The drive from Cameroon, Arizona to Mexican Hat, Utah goes through Diné (Navajo) Nation for about 100 miles, with 20 miles of it being in Monument Valley. The landscape along the way is amazing.

On an earlier trip this year we went through the Navajo Park in Monument Valley which can be found here.

https://rdzphotographyblog.com/tag/monument-valley/

As you start the trip north of Camaroon you go through some of the Painted Desert.

Just beyond Tuba City is Elephants Feet Rocks.

Once you are north of Kayenta, Arizona you begin the trip through Monument Valley. The drive along the road is impressive enough.

Eventually you arrive at the town of Mexican Hat, Utah. This small town has 3 motels, 2 restaurants and a gas station, but amazing views. Note the balanced rock in the center of the photo – giving the town it’s name (more on this in the next posting)

Diné (Navajo) Nation, Arizona – September 2022 – Moenave Dinosaur Tracks

This is Dale. If you arrive in the windswept, Martian looking landscape of northern Arizona at the Moenave Dinosaur Tracks site Dale is most likely to greet you as you drive in.

If you have ever seen a movie that says ‘based on a true story’, and thoroughly enjoyed it even though you know parts were embellished a bit you will love taking a tour of the dinosaur tracks with Dale.

There is no set fee, he just says ‘follow me’, and takes off through the desert chattering away with lots of details about the tracks. (for what it is worth they are indeed real dinosaur tracks, and believed by many to be some of the most important in the country).

As soon as you go down the small hill you see them everywhere.

We continued chasing after Dale trying to keep up and hear what he was saying, Some seemed a bit far fetched, but much is accurate. Is this a fossil that is being exposed?

Dale explains to us that in their culture they won’t dig up, or try and preserve anything so eventually it will all wear away.

For the scientific facts (thanks to the internet) – This is known as the Moenave Formation. It is a layer that sits on the Triassic Chinle Formation, part of Mesozoic rocks. There are dinosaur footprints all over the place here, as well as other nearby locales.

After chasing Dale for about 15-20 minutes we headed back.

We arrived back at the parking lot with a row of small stands. Dale informs us that no payment is necessary but reading before we arrived it is obvious that such a colorful story and tour is worthy of payment.

Afterward we checked out some of the stands. Overall a great way to spend 45 minutes in the Northern Arizona desert.

Gray Mountain, Arizona – September 2022 – Painted Desert Project

Dr Chip Thomas is a native of North Carolina who went to Diné (Navajo) Nation decades ago as a fulfillment of a National Health Services Corps scholarship he had received. He arrived in this area in 1987.

Decades later he began to paint large scale murals on abandoned buildings throughout the area. Early on he painted what he believed to be an abandoned roadside stand, only to find it was still used and the new art attracted more business. These stands are crucial to the economic survival of the community.

The mural in Gray Mountain is on an old motel that had been owned by a group known as the Whiting Brothers, who had a chain of motels all along route 66 and elsewhere in the west.

The art is a tribute to the Diné Nation and their struggles and heritage, and was completed by Dr Thomas as well as Diné artists.

Rimrock, Arizona – September 2022 – V Bar V Petroglyphs

The Verde Valley has a number of ancient Native America sites including the incorrectly named Montezuma’s Castle and Well. Not far from these is a collection of over 1000 petroglyphs at a site known as V Bar V Heritage Site.

The area was home to the Sinagua (yet another European assignment of a name – in this case it is Spanish for Without Water). While many of the meanings to some of the symbols have been lost to time, today’s Hopi can interpret most, including sun dials to track the seasons, various activities, animals and events.

The Sinagua were both hunter gatherers as well as sustaining an agricultural environment, hence the symbols.

The lichen has taken over many of the petroglyphs, forever changing them. Attempts were made in the past to clean the lichen off but it destroyed the petroglyphs underneath.

This image from 100 years ago shows how much cleared the petroglyphs were.

V Bar V Heritage Site is a great place to see a large collection of petroglyphs, and the staff and volunteers at the site do a great job explaining the meanings of them.

Southeastern Arizona – September 2022 – Wildlife Encounters

When wandering about Arizona you often come across various animals, insects and reptiles.

September and October are known as the busiest rattlesnake months.

Arizona is known as an Open Range State, which means you are constantly crossing cattle guards in the roads, and every once in a while come across some in the road.

I saw a bug on the walkway, snapped a quick photo, and only later realized I was interrupting…

Fairly certain I am getting a dirty look.

Agua Caliente Park attracts lots of visitors due to the readily available water.