2015 Tucson Ride

Exploring Humanity’s Relationship with The Beyond

I waited here at the Amado turn-off for over 20 min for Mike … who was waiting for me at the store where we’d agreed.

Sweet church in the town of Amado, a preview of coming attractions.

We took the delightful curvy Arivaca Road south and amazingly enough through the town of Arivaca, which is clearly pro-immigration, and west before we turned north on 286 which borders the Tohono O’odham reservation. “The Tohono O’odham of today is a nation with a population of more than 24,000 people. They live on four separate land bases totaling more the 2.7 million acres. …For years, many have known the people as Papago, but during the 1980s, Papago was officially changed to the Tohono O’odham, meaning Desert People in the O’odham language.”

This fascinating peak kept calling my attention.

Our guide at Kitt Peak clued us in. “Iʼitoi or Iʼithi (“Elder Brother”) is, in the cosmology of the O’odham peoples, the mischievous creator god who resides in a cave below the peak of Baboquivari Mountain…. He is also responsible for the gift of the Himdag, a series of commandments guiding people to remain in balance with the world and interact with it as intended.” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/I%27itoi

He is the one who taught them what to eat and how to hunt and farm. “The O’odham were seasonal farmers who took advantage of the rains. “ How would people know how to live if someone had not come to tell them?

First glimpse of “the observatory” and the shift from Spirit to Science.

Following Mike up toward the twisty section

Goodness! It’s not just one observatory! It’s an entire farm of them worshipping the heavens. I kept waiting for the Imam to call us to prayers.

The various types of telescopes are shared by many researchers.

When they get their scheduled time slot for the year, they make the most of it.

Looking out over the desert

Looking back south, I recognized my friend.

Kitt Peak itself is I’itoi’s garden, and signs all over prohibit any hunting or collecting. I’ve no idea by what means the Tohono O’odham were convinced to allow all this construction in the garden of a god. Perhaps Spirit has room even for Science.

Some of the observatory buildings are open to visitors.

According to Scripture on the wall, “The golden camera is a CCD spectrometer. Astronomers use this instrument to measure how much light a star or galaxy is emitting at different wavelengths. … The GoldCam CCD is sensitive to light ranging in wavelength from abou t3400 Angstroms (near ultraviolet) to about 10,000 Angstsroms (near infrared). Astronomers use the GoldCam to investigate a wide range of properties of stars and galaxies. … determine the object’s chemical compositions. Other investigators have employed this instrument to study how galaxies rotate using the Doppler effect.”

Maintenance section

The solar telescope was open for visitors.

Mike had a good look-see.

One scope shows the black spots, the other shows solar flares. Unfortunately, my camera through the scope didn’t actually pick them up.

Random artsy image of the roof

This long building allows them to change the focal distance by moving a refracting mirror.




The refracting mirror moves up and down on a trolley.

And everywhere, the desert. Just as simple and zen. Not giving a rats arse about Spirit OR Science.

A good time looking at the heavens through that lens, now onto the next!

San Xavier del Bac Mission

http://www.sanxaviermission.org

Back through the border patrol checkpoint we went (those guys were out everywhere!), and Mike navigated us to the San Xavier del Bac Mission.

The mission looks rather odd on approach, with its uneven towers and desolate “garden” in front. Another view of white domes, reaching toward the heavens:

The front entry is heavily carved, unlike the simplicity of the California missions.

“A National Historic Landmark, San Xavier Mission was founded as a Catholic mission by Father Eusebio Kino in 1692. Construction of the current church began in 1783 and was completed in 1797.

“Following Mexican independence in 1821, San Xavier became part of Mexico. The last resident Franciscan of the 19th Century departed in 1837. With the Gadsden Purchase of 1854, the Mission joined the United States. ” (http://www.sanxaviermission.org/History.html)

Beautiful weathered doors

Delightful ironwork


Here, the messengers who bring instructions on how to live properly have wings.

Baptismal font inside the front door

No door on the other side, so we’ll just paint one in.

Or a very small door

These pews have seen a lot of hours of prayer.

Alcove on the left transept. I’ve never seen a shrine like this in any Catholic church.

Closer inspection reveals an effigy of St. Francis

Apparently with prayer requests. Somehow from the Milagros I got the idea they were prayers for the dead, and this one broke my heart (baby ultrasound)

The back of the chancel. “Little is known about the people who decorated the interior. The artwork was probably commissioned by Fr. Velderrain’s successor and most likely created by artists from Queretero in New Spain (now Mexico). The sculpture was created in guild workshops and carried by donkey through the Pimeria Alta to its destination at the Mission. Craftsmen created gessoed clothing once the sculpture was in place.”

The right transept seems to honor the feminine influence.

The only native American image indoors. The small museum at the mission identifies her as the first tribe member to convert to Christianity and assist the Friar.

This image out in the courtyard identifies St. Kateri Tekakwitha, 1656-1680, a Mohawk from NY who was canonized.

Leaving the nave, the gifts on this crucifix reminded me of the offerings at eastern temples. I hadn’t seen gifts like these in a church before.

The back courtyard is lined with icons and devotionals, the flames of the candles carrying the prayers to the heavens.


Somehow the homeliness of the dirty corners and electrical box makes the prayers that much more real to me.



The Tohono O’odham image of the labyrinth appears many times, weaving the old culture into this younger religion.

The side courtyard houses more prayer offerings.


From there we rode back down to Tubac, where Mike’s wife Cindy joined us for a delicious Italian dinner and delightful conversation. I really enjoyed getting to know more about her world. I get to meet the coolest people through motorcycles!


(I was too hungry to stop for food pictures!)

Forward to the Past

Mike woke up too sick to ride the next day, so rather than ride on my own then back to my mom’s in Phoenix the following day, I just packed up and found the twistiest route headin’ north.

The directions had a bazillion “continue on” statements where the roads simply changed names. I didn’t think too much about it – looked pretty straight forward to follow the main road. I’ll copy down most of the turns onto paper and stick it in my tank bag. And there’s always the smartphone to recheck route as I go.

Apparently google maps doesn’t distinguish so much between paved and unpaved roads. FINE BY ME!

Time to have a little quiet time, up close and personal with the desert.


Wait, wasn’t that River Road that I just passed? I think I was supposed to turn left onto River Road. But… it’s a hard left, almost a U turn, and that seems like the wrong direction. Guess I’d better go check it out for a ways and see if it connects to the next road.

So I went down to where I could turn around more or less safely, and came back and turned into River Road. Kind of a steep, rocky incline to get in there, but I’ve done worse. Then one of the fords was about 3” deep in large gravel. No likey! But I went down one side, across it at an even pace, and up the other side. Go me! Jeepers, the next crossing was sand. By this time, I was starting to think, “I don’t care if this is the proper route, this is tougher than I should be doing on my own. If I don’t see something soon, I’m turning around and I’ll just navigate by the sun.” I made it across the sand, complete with a satisfying swish back and forth and continued upright. All that practice on dirt this summer really has helped!

By the time I got to a junction (unlabeled), I was pretty sure this was not the right way, and definitely sure this was not the right way for me today. So I used the space to make another thousand-point turn, realizing that it meant BACK through the sand and the gravel and the rocky hill. I’ll just ease it down slowly, standing and leaning back on the pegs…

Oh. No.

The rear tire slid off a large rock, then caught in the sand and lost momentum. At least since I was NOT in “when in doubt, throttle out” mode, I was able to easily step off and let it down gently. And take the obligatory pictures.

I could lift it over onto the tire easily enough, and wedged enough rocks under bars and things to hold it there. I even managed to leverage it up a couple inches more, and tried stuffing rocks under that. But then my boots started slipping in the gravel and I didn’t have more strength to give it. Huh.

“Never ride in further than I’m willing to walk out.”

Luckily I was almost back to the slightly-more-travelled road. You can see the yield sign just over the side case. And there had been a ranch about a mile-ish back. Time, once again, to get over myself and ask for help. So I started walking toward the intersection, and heard a vehicle coming. Not gonna miss it! I started running (boots, overpants, hot hot hot!) and flagged down the elder woman in the pickup. She couldn’t help me, but she owned that ranch and would send a couple hands right over. I thanked her profusely and headed back to the bike. Not 5 minutes later, a pickup came from the same direction she had come from (not gone to), and it actually turned into my road. I was pretty sure they weren’t going to get by without helping in any case, so I asked them, too. Two retired gentlemen got out and the three of us got the bike righted, but couldn’t get the stand down because of where the rocks were. So I had them steady the bike while I got all the way up on it without pushing (touching) it.

And I looked at the short remainder of the rock-strewn hill. Dicey. 50-50 maybe, unless I can get up on the pegs (‘cause that really does seem to work better!). Started right up, took a deep breath and started to let out the clutch. No movement. Huh. Little more throttle behind it… no movement. What the??? OOOOOHHHH yeah! When I’d been trying to get the bike up by myself, I’d chocked the wheels with big rocks so it couldn’t roll if I ever did get it righted. Brilliant. Forgetting them… not so brilliant.

I asked one of my helpers, and he said I was almost over them already. So all I had to do was gas it enough to get the wheels over the rocks, then balance through the next scramble, and get up on the pegs. 3. 2. 1. GO! (There really is no other way at that point.)

I’m sure they heard the whooping from my helmet as soon as I stood up. I stopped at the sign, partly to breathe, but mostly to blow kisses to my heroes. And we went on our ways.

Ya know, the road kept the same name. So if I’d been coming out of there, I would have just turned left onto River Road. Sometimes we make things so much harder on ourselves.

And on we go

Then – there was pavement again. And ya know, that was also FINE BY ME!

Mining. Must be coming back into “civilization.”

Oooh, weather! It’s so beautiful Over There!

From there it was just slab and surface streets to Mom’s house. We hung out and decided that the next day we’d head down to the Pueblo Grande ruins. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pueblo_Grande_Ruin_and_Irrigation_Sites We never get to do it when the kids are all around at holidays.

These buildings were part of a massive platform mound built by the Hohokam around 450BC and abandoned by 1450AD. The Hohokam were the first to use irrigation – the Salt River ran year round at that time. More than a simple village, this centralized mound gave access to multiple canal control points and housed many families.

“The Tohono O’odham are closely related to the Pima Tribe and are most likely descendants of the prehistoric Hohokam Culture.” (http://www.sanxaviermission.org/Tohono.html) The very name Hohokam means “those who have gone before.”

Now the Sky Harbor Airport is just on the other side of the riverbed.

And the city begins just across the street


Most of the old brick and fill work is just exposed to the elements





Rooms and connections evolved over time. Lower levels became trash fill. Mazes of interconnected rooms were built. Here a doorway was blocked off.

In this particular room, the doorways line up so that light passes through at sunrise on summer solstice and sunset on winter solstice. Science? Shamans? We no longer know for sure.

Ironically, the ancient sandstone and adobe weathers better than recent sidewalks.

The interpretive displays do a nice job of recreating what they can of the lifestyle.


These ball courts figured largely in the culture at one time. The site holds 3 of them. Whether the games were sport or ceremonial… modern science can only speculate on ancient spirit.

Mom and I thoroughly enjoyed our time together at the ruins. From there we went to the Temple of Starbucks.