Friday, November 2, 2012

DAY 72- Biosphere 2 & a BIT of Halloween Fun!

I got up early and ran 1.5 miles in the hotel gym.  I’ve decided that I’m going to try to do something active every other day to try to keep in shape.  I’ve noticed some of my clothes have been a bit snug of late.  Some of that could be due to them being dried in an actual dryer where when I lived in Salt Lake I always hung the clothes to dry.  But I do a fair amount of walking with my travels and am getting some but I could always use a bit more.  After all, I need to keep my bikini shape.  Ha-ha!
Photo- The Hertiage Hall which used to serve as a church in Casa Grande.

After a quick small breakfast, I loaded up the car and I was off.  Down the street about 2 blocks, I went to a rock church that I had seen last night.  I got out and went to the museum doors to discover they don’t open until noon.  Noon?  I was hoping to be long down the road by then.  So I just walked around the area, read some signage, and took some pictures.  It was an interesting little church that had been built in 1927 with fieldstone (stones from local desert area) and served as a Presbyterian church until the 1970’s when it fell into disrepair.  It was renovated in 1984 and since has been in use as a community center and theater.  It was cute and I wish they would have been open to see the inside.  But, oh well!
Photo- Closed! DARN IT!

Off I went over to I-10 heading east towards Tucson.  Last night while talking with Terri, I had heard about an Ostrich farm where you could actually feed the ostrich; that sounded like something fun and interesting.  It was just off an exit on I-10 and I thought I might just go ahead and do that.  I drove up to the entrance only to discover it’s closed on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursdays.  DARN! 

I drove back up to the Interstate exit and went across to the Dairy Queen that Terri had told me was the best in the state.  It was lunch time and I ordered some chicken strips and a small pumpkin shake.  I told the gal at the counter that I heard they were the best DQ in the state.  She said that it more of a case that they were the only well stocked DQ in the area.  The food was fresh, good, and served hot.
Photo- The scenic back roads way to Biosphere 2.

After lunch, I took off on the frontage road and drove through back roads on my way over to the Biosphere 2.  It was wonderful scenic drive with the windows down.  35 miles later, I arrived at the entrance to Biosphere 2; not sure of what to expect.
Photo- The entrance off of the highway for Biosphere 2.

I paid my entrance/tour fee and then proceeded to door #8 which is the air lock door to the Biosphere 2.  I went in and waited with others in a theater room.  The blonde girl that was to be our tour guide started a film that talked about how Biosphere 2 developed and became what it was today.  The film also talked on the subject of how Biosphere 2 is a smaller designed version of our earth which is referred to as Biosphere 1.  The hope is that by studying this smaller that we can learn more about the earth we live on.
Photo- Biosphere 2 as seen from the guest compound situated nearby.

After the film we got to tour some of the actual Biosphere 2.  We went from the entrance area to a walk way through the ocean area and then through a door into the rain forest room.  It was interesting how we went from a salt wet atmosphere and into a hot humid atmosphere in such a short distance.  Our tour guide talked about how currently they are doing an experiment in the rain forest area on the effects of drought in a rain forest.  Drought in a rain forest?  But there was still water for a water fall.  It wasn’t a total drought but a percentage of less water that would cause a drought for a rain forest.  There were sensors all over the environment measuring different factors within the area of the rain forest she told us; though, I couldn’t see any actual sensors.
Photo- Inside Biosphere 2, heading up to the Ocean walk way.

Photo- The Tour guide explaining in the Desert section of Biosphere 2.
We back tracked a bit; going back through the ocean room and into the savannah area.  She said there’s always a savannah area that separates an ocean from a desert.  She stopped here and explained a barren area along the walk way that had just finished being used for a prior experiment.  They were now preparing for the area to be used for another experiment but she didn’t have any of the details about what that experiment would be.  She also mentioned about how there are birds and various other animals that were left over from the locked down time of the Biosphere’s history that still remain in the Biosphere 2.  She said however that they were never kept track but that currently the system is open and that there may be other wild life that may have gotten into the Biosphere 2 also.  I found it interesting that they were keeping sensors on atmosphere, temperature, and water but were not keeping track of animals in the system.

Next, we went into the desert area where they were doing an experiment of 7 degrees lower temperature.  It was rather cooler than what I would expect a desert to be.  She explained that a desert was a crucial part of the Biosphere 2 because of the fog that is produced in the desert area is a way to retrieve water in the whole system.  This I found an interesting concept because I never thought of fog in the desert.  They also had another experiment going on in the desert area that was controlled in closed of plastic covered vessels.  The experiment was trying to test how much is needed to grow plants in rock and lava soils.
Photo- A lot of mechanical equipment needed to maintain Biosphere 2.

From the desert, the tour took us to the bowels of the Biosphere where we walked through the heating and air conditioning systems of the desert part of the Biosphere 2.  Hold on to your hat in this area!  It’s very windy just before you enter into the mechanical rooms.  It was amazing what machinery was needed to maintain just one area of the Biosphere.  We took a peak down another hallway that looked like it went on forever.  These were the mechanics for the rest of the Biosphere 2.  I found this all rather interesting because about 72 days ago I was a secretary in a small HVAC mechanical firm.

Next, we went in an underground tunnel that went on for 200 ft. At the other end we came out into an area that’s called the lung for the Biosphere.  The lung serves the purpose of an area where pressures within the system can escape.  The ceiling of the lung is made a neoprene rubber which contracts or expands as necessary.

Then, we went outside where our tour guide pointed out different areas on the property.  Through another door we went walking by the LEO experiment which is the latest largest thing to happen at the Biosphere 2.  LEO is an experiment to measure water in a sloping earth landscape.  There are three large tunnels areas that are currently being prepared with soil which has sensors all around it.  The general idea I got from the explanation of the experiment is that they are testing what happens to water as it goes over a sloping landscape to see how much of the water runs off, how much is absorbed into the soil and how deep some of that water is absorbed into the soil.
Photo- A residence room of the Biosphere 2 on display for the tour.

We went upstairs into the living quarters of the Biosphere 2.  It was here that the tour ended.  We watched a video on a TV screen in what served as the dining room of the facility where you could look into the kitchen area.  The video spoke about about the cooking and gathering of food that occurred during the 2 years the Biosphere 2 was a locked down system.  The Biosphere hit a wall during those two years in the experiment.  The humans couldn’t maintain enough of a calorie intake that they were all losing weight. They found it too time consuming to plant, grow, and harvest food on top of their other duties of experimenting.  Plus, the mechanical aspect of the facility was time consuming too.  It was all too much for them to do.  To the outside world this was seen as a failure but to the scientific world is was much needed data for future experimentation. 

I walked around the outside of the facility reading other signs along the way and then took an elevator down to look into the side window of the ocean.  It was strange because the color of their ocean was yellowish in color.  There was an explanation for that which I can’t remember now as I type this.  But it made sense at the time when I read it.  Sorry, my brain can only hold so much, and it was getting quite a bit of information within the 2.5 hours that I had spent there.

Off to Tucson, I went and ended up getting bogged down for a bit in rush hour traffic.  Well, it was 4:30pm going on 5PM.  I managed to eventually find my way to the west side where I would be staying for the next 2 nights at Starr Pass Golf Suites.  I found them on-line through and they weren’t too bad of a deal for a couple of nights stay.  I arrived at the Starr Pass Resort and quickly got lost trying to figure out where to check in at.  I didn’t see a specific area that was labeled as an area to check in or even a real club house.  So as I’m driving around I see a guy on a golf cart with a colored polo that says Starr Pass.  I flag him down and asked where I can check for my room.  He, Alberto, gives me directions to a large building that I had driven by.  He says if I need any further assistance to feel free to just call him.

I head back and park in front of the covered over hang area.  No labels or signage anywhere.  I pull the door open and there’s a lobby area, a restaurant, a bar, a pro golf shop, and a front desk area.  I go up to the desk and the whole time I’m checking in she kept on referring to me as Miss Allgood.  Not that I’m complaining, it’s just that I’m not used to being referred to as a Miss and I’m not often called by my last name either.  She gave me a map and a typed up information sheet about my room.

I’m back up driving through the area trying to find my room when I stumble upon Alberto again.  He stopped off to the side of me and asked if he can help me.  Yeah, I say I’m lost again.  He turned his cart around and lets me follow him to where my room is.  All of the rooms in this place are like separate single level townhomes that just vary in size and features.  I thanked Alberto and again he said if I needed anything to feel free to just give him a call.  I had to laugh because he doesn’t give out a number or a way to actually reach him when he says this.

I get inside the room and see a desk for a computer but no chair.  I called the front desk and asked about the chair if the room is supposed to have one.   The gal said yes there should be one and that she’ll send someone over with a chair in a short bit.  A short time later who shows up at my door with a chair?  Yep, you guess it Alberto!  I laughed as I open the door and told him I’m not usually this much of a pain in the ass.  He laughed.  He brings in the chair and I ask him about restaurants in the area.  The next thing I know he’s jotting down directions to a Mexican restaurant that he says I will really like.  He says that I should dress up for Halloween because they are probably doing specials for those that are dressed up.

So 20 minutes later I head out in a squashed cowboy hat and jean skort overalls armed with the directions.  I did find El Charro which I later found out is the oldest Mexican restaurant in continuous operation by the same family since 1922.  BUT I appeared to be the only customer in costume and the only other ones that were dressed were employees.  I think I was being played by Alberto!  But the hostess got me a table and I have a WONDERFUL Mexican meal. 
Photo- The interior of the El Charro restaurant.

Right from the start, one taste of the salsa that comes with the chips and I knew I was in the right place.  SO GOOD!  I could’ve made a meal of just the salsa and chips but with quality and flavor like this I HAD to try their mole.  OMG!  The chocolate mole sauce was a blend straight out of heaven; sweet and spicy but so much more flavor served over a tender piece of chicken that rested on a bed of rice.  I was in a food heaven that was quite colorful and had costumed servers running around.  There was the cop hostess, a Scooby Doo, a Charlie Chaplin, an Irishman, a Hippie, and my server which was Jack the Skeleton King. I asked to take a picture with my server and the next thing I know I’ve got three of them jumping to get pictures. 
Photo- Some costumed characters with me.

Next, I went into the bar next store which is part of the restaurant.  I had a beer over there but it appeared that they were closing down early because it wasn’t very busy.  That’s okay I thought this was enough for tonight and I still needed to figure out how to get back to my hotel from where I was.  Plus, I needed to do some blogging too.

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