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  • Writer's pictureJ. F. Rowan

Tucson, AZ

Sunset at Gilbert Ray Campground in Tucson, AZ.
Another great Arizona sunset while at Gilbert Ray Campground. Several great campgrounds that surround Phoenix, Tucson and other cities, are owned and operated by the counties specific to that area.

I won’t go into detail regarding the trip from Organ Pipe to Tucson itself, but we did hit two checkpoints, one on Rt 85N about 30 miles north of Organ Pipe National Monument, and then another on Rt 86E, about 50 miles west of Tucson.

Being funneled into a Border Patrol checkpoint on Route 85 heading north. Once on Route 86 heading east, we would repeat the process just before entering Phoenix.

I did have a quick conversation with the Border Patrol Agent at the second checkpoint, but you can read more about that in the blog post by clicking HERE, or, if you would like to see the video of the Border Wall, you can click HERE.

We stayed a week at a campground near Tucson called Gilbert Ray County Campground. It was very clean and fairly quiet. Why not boondock in the area here? Well, the 2020 Gem Show has come to Tucson, so everywhere seems to be full and some of the BLM land in the area looked fairly crowded as well. And, even if there wasn’t a gem show, good boon-docking here in this area (good by our definition anyway) can be difficult to find. These places are loaded with snowbirds, folks from Canada or the northern states that have come here to escape the cold and snow. And to be honest, we’re just having issues with finding off-grid places that feel right. I’ll do another post later describing and explaining our issues. For now, boondocking we’ll have to wait a bit. But it’s all good because at present the campground here (or in Phoenix) is great.

Our first point of interest to visit was The Biosphere 2. Amazing! We scored a 50% off entrance discount on Groupon and took the main tour as well as a tour of the "ocean" area. I’ll leave a link HERE so you can see more from the website. The Biosphere 2 is now owned by the University of Arizona and is purely a research facility. Because of this, it is no longer an air-sealed facility. The two massive "lungs" that were used to keep a stable pressure throughout a typical day are now simulated for exhibit purposes, but everything else is pretty much functional as it was when a group of individuals locked themselves inside to see if they could sustain themselves for an extended period of time. Read more about that story HERE.


If you would like to see the video we made while visiting the Biosphere 2, click HERE or the photo below.


View of the Biosphere from the housing area. Housing units (condos) are provided for groups who are doing research or intensive visits to at the facility.
Outside the rain forest portion of the structure.
View of the labs, and the resident areas.

The Ocean portion of the tour was very interesting. There was some discussion regarding the earth's atmosphere warming and carbon data and how it is affecting the ocean. Some of the research here is studying the effects of the atmosphere and it's influence on marine life including coral. I highly recommend this part of the tour, which is an additional charge, if you plan to visit.

View of the "beach" in the ocean study area.
Just one part of the massive structure that makes up the enormous Biosphere 2.
The ocean study area is currently scheduled to be revamped as most of the mechanics are about 30 years old.

Another view of the ocean study area. Notice the small tank in the lower corner of the photo. The small tank is used to introduce new marine life, in this case new Anemone.
Inside the Biosphere looking skyward in the rain forest area.
Desert region inside the Biosphere.
Getting a look at the mechanics of the Biosphere 2.
This giant structure houses a "Slope Study" area which studies the effects of ground water or the effects of rain on slopped terrain. I have two photos to help give a better perspective as to the angle of the slope.
Second photo of the slope area. Note the angle of the slope. This can be adjusted to some degree. This area even has a it's own adjustable rain function.

A giant rubber bladder weighted by a large metal table helps maintain an even pressure through the biosphere. This is strictly used for demonstration purposes now as the biosphere is no longer a sealed environment.
Our ever so patient guide talking about the bladder and it's function.

A very eye opening visit indeed. Our next stop is a museum in Pima, Az. It should prove to be very interesting...especially for those aviation buffs!

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