It turns out there’s a lot to see and do near Tucson, AZ and March is a very pleasant month to visit. Our timing was perfect because the snowbirds were mostly gone (so the RV parks had plenty of space), but the weather was still nice. We found a great RV spot at the Agave Gulch FamCamp on Davis-Monthan AFB, right next to “The Boneyard” where over 4,000 excess U.S. military and governement aircraft are stored in the largest airplane boneyard in the world.
We met an awesome full-timing family who were pretty close to being our mirror image. (It was great to meet you guys and hope to meet up again.) They started their full-time adventure about the same time as us with 3 kids and in the same brand 5th wheel as ours. While we spent our first year on the road visiting the Western U.S., they covered the Eastern U.S. They share many of our routines for homeschooling and visiting national parks to do the Jr Ranger programs. We got together with them for an Easter egg hunt on Saturday afternoon.
We found a lot of things to do while we were in Tucson and we had a lot of road-schooling opportunities. We learned all about the cold war at the Titan Missile Museum, discovered the Old West at Tombstone, hiked through a southwest landscape at Saguaro National Park, and toured an amazing airplane museum.
Tombstone is one of the most famous towns from the Old West. This is where Wyatt Earp and his brothers hung out and the site of the Gunfight at the O.K. Corral. Visitors today can see many of the famous buildings and sites from that era, including the Birdcage Theater and the Boothill Cemetery.
Walking down the main street is almost like being back in the late 1800s. The sidewalks are still made of wooden planks. Many of the shops and stores along the main street use the original buildings from the Wyatt Earp era and display placards telling about their original use and which famous characters were known to visit.
There are at least 3 or 4 different wild west shows, each telling the story of a different part of Tombstone’s history. People dressed in Old West era clothing and wearing six-shooters on their hips walk along the streets of the town and entice tourists to come see their show. We went to one that had a more comical slant where the audience would “Booo” if a bad guy appeared and cheer whenever a good guy showed up. It was fun to watch and great for the kids.
Saguaro National Park
Saguaro National Park was a little different from most we’ve visited. It is split by Tucson, with half the park on the east of the city and the other half on the west. It’s so close to the city, it is the only national park we’ve been in so far that we still had a full 5 bars of T-Mobile LTE in the middle of the park.
Our timing was just right to see many of the wildflowers blooming and most of the plants and shrubs were still nice and green from the sparse winter rains. We enjoyed hiking among the gigantic Saguaro cactus plants that cover the park. They can get over 40 feet tall and the big ones are up to 200 years old.
We learned all about the Sonoran Desert and the plants and animals that live there as the kids worked on earning their Jr Ranger badges for the park.
Pima Air Museum
After we heard about the Pima Air Museum, we decided to stay in Tucson for an extra day just so we could visit. This is the largest non-government funded aircraft museum in the world. It includes several large hangers full of all kinds of airplanes, plus a big yard outside with even more.
There were several hands-on exhibits for the kids to climb in and explore. They all got to try their hand at piloting a helicopter and an airplane, landing a spacecraft on the moon, and docking a spacecraft in orbit.
The kids’ favorite airplane was this behemoth “Super Guppy” cargo plane on loan from NASA. Some of our other favorites include JFK’s Air Force One, the actual command module used to train the Apollo astronauts and used in the movie “Apollo 13”, and several WWII bombers.
This was a pretty awesome museum and well worth the visit. Although we didn’t take advantage of it, the museum also provides a tour of “The Boneyard” on the Air Force base.