Day Eight ~ Sonoran Desert Museum to Old Tucson
Tucson Travel Blog› entry 15 of 20 › view all entries
I was completely fascinated by the giant saguaro cactus that sat in the front lawn of our motel. Probably forty feet tall and covered with beautiful cactus blossoms, it was unlike anything I had ever seen. The delicate desert hummingbirds were enjoying their snack of sweet nectar. These tiny wonders of nature were well aware that their breakfast buffet would soon be tightly closed in the hot noonday sun. The night-blooming flowers only appear in April and May and are visited by bats at night, who feed on the nectar and in return, serve as a pollinator.
This particular cactus had three arms, meaning that it was at least 75 years old. Because these cacti are so slow growing and slow to propagate, they have been placed on the endangered species list.
We had already planned our agenda for the day. First stop would be the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum, a two-hour ride from our motel in Gila Bend. The admission price was reasonable and the exhibits interesting. Every desert animal native to the Sonora Desert was on display in various walk-through mazes and buildings. The aviary allowed the various birds to freely fly overhead, darting from tree to tree. The ground-feeding birds were scurrying in and out of the scrubby bushes, right next to the walking trail.
After a tasty lunch at the museum, we took the short ride to the Old Tucson Studios. This is a working film studio and a family fun park as well. It was built in 1939 when Columbia Pictures chose the site for the movie Arizona. A replica of 1860's Tucson was built from scratch, erecting more than 50 buildings in 40 days. More than 350,000 adobe bricks were made from the desert dirt to create authentic structures for the film without the convenience of running water.
Of course, the movie set fell into disrepair as the sun, rain, and wind took their toll over the years. But in 1959, the antiquated "town" was revived and expanded from the ghost town it had become into a viable movie studio and a family attraction. Randy and Jerry are huge "old west" fans, having seen every John Wayne movie ever produced. Jimmy Stewart, Dale Robertson, Glenn Ford, Ronald Reagan, just to name a few, walked along these dirt roads and sidled up to the bar inside the saloon. This was indeed a treat for all of us. Any fan of Hollywood would enjoy seeing the sets and props used in hundreds of televison and movie productions.
The park had very few visitors this particular day and we were free to come and go without standing in lines.
We could have easily spent an entire day inside this park; there was something for everyone. It is definitely a "must see" for anyone that is a fan of western-themed movies and television. The four of us had plans that involved taking a visit over the border into Mexico, so we had to head on down the road. The ride to Nogales was less than two hours, so we were going to wait and have dinner in Mexico. Randy likes authentic Mexican food, and I suppose that is exactly what we could expect to get once we were over the border.