A (busy) extra week in Tucson: March 1-8, 2012

Reminders: 1. Posts are in chronological order with most recent on top. 2. Pictures can be enlarged by clicking on them and then using the back button (not close) to return to the text.

As we charted our course out of Tucson, we realized that we were likely to arrive at choice spots before the weather had a chance to break. The land north of us isn’t that warm, especially at destinations like Grand Canyon, Bryce, Zion and Monument Valley. So we talked Christine into an extra week (not hard; she and Doc really like us) and planned our exploration of those national treasures in April instead of March. You’ll actually find us heading southeast in the next chapter.

We also finalized decisions about this – and future — years. We will definitely be home on October 1 and will re-occupy our house. Our tenant signed off on an extension of her lease until then. What that means, essentially, is that we’ll bring all our stuff back out of storage, refurnish the house, and limit the length of future trips – OR – we’ll sell the house. For now, the former is the only thing on our mind. We are not at all tired of being roadies, nor are we cramped in our living space. But there are things we miss, like the grandchildren, the yard and doggy door for our pack, my workshop and theater involvement, and long-term friendships. Frankly, we’re already wondering if we’ll be bored being off-road. This has been such an exciting life!

We took advantage of our Tucson bonus week to continue sightseeing. First stop was the Rodeo Parade Museum. La Fiesta de los Vaqueroshas been an annual celebration since 1925. It includes about ten days of contests in its own stadium, and the ultimate highlight – the longest non-motorized parade in the world – falls right in the middle and attracts as many as 100,000 lining the route. Many of the vehicles that make up the line of march are housed in three barns directly adjacent to the stadium, so we decided to get up close and personal. Here’s a few highlights. Santa’s sled, picture #1 below, manages to disappear from the building each December 24th and suddenly reappear on the 26th. The huge wagon next to it with its frilly parade decorations is a true Conestoga Wagon. Extensive copy points out that the Conestoga, originally from the Mennonite communities of Pennsylvania, is not synonymous with covered wagon (next pic). Unlike the prairie schooner, which transported thousands of families from east to west, the Conestoga is a heavy duty freight carrier. The prairie schooner, on the other hand, was often a farm wagon with a cover and a ride so rough that most people other than small children and the infirmed walked beside it. Duncan Renaldo’s personal horse trailer was there – remember the Cisco Kid and his sidekick Pancho (Leo Carillo)?

The pièce de résistance, however, was the restored inauguration carriage that belonged to the Emperor Maximillian. The coach was built in Paris and exported to Mexico for him. The second son of Archduke Franz Karl of Austria, Maximillian had a distinguished navy career followed by appointment as Viceroy of Lombardy. His liberal beliefs, however, led his brother, Franz Joseph, to dismiss him. Several years later, at the urging of Napoleon III, he accepted the position of Emperor of Mexico and traveled there in 1864. Caught between the liberal and conservative politics rampant at the time, he was overthrown and executed three years later. His carriage was spared; it was later used by subsequent presidents of the country and the Governor of Sonora. It now leads the Rodeo Parade each year with the governors of Sonora and Arizona seated side by side, expressing the unity and friendship between the bordering states.

Other wagons included an Amish carriage, wicker carriage, buckboard, jail wagon and child’s funeral coach. A loose replica of Tuscon’s main drag showed shops, houses, commercial establishments and long johns. And a wall of horse collars contained an auction purchase of the tack used by the Buffalo Soldiers.

I know . . . we’re heavily into transportation. But we couldn’t resist going to the T.H. Hubbard/H.H. Franklin Museum, because it’s a fascinating story. Tom Hubbard (1925-1993) was born in New York but sent to live with relatives in Tucson because of respiratory problems, and eventually his family followed. He fondly remembered making many trips in the family Franklins. He graduated from the U. of Arizona and became a successful mining engineer.

He never forgot his fascination with Franklins, and over the years he acquired 16 of them. But even that wasn’t enough; in 1966 he created the Franklin Service Company, devoted to the restoration of only that make of car. In addition to himself, one of Tom largest customers was Bill Harrah of casino fame, whose collection of 23 Franklins were all restored by Tom. They shared Bill’s estate – and later his Reno museum – with several hundred other classics.

H.H. Franklin (1866-1956), built almost 150,000 of the luxury motorcar in Syracuse, New York between 1902 and 1934 – employing 3,100 at his peak. Franklin had an innovative die-casting business, and in 1901, he was introduced to John Wilkinson, a bicycle racer and graduate engineer who had already prototyped two automobiles. Franklin gave him $1,100 to build a third with an air-cooled engine. Incorporating The Franklin Automobile Company as a sub corporation, he ran the business while Wilkinson did the engineering. Sadly, it died with the onset of the depression. He was the largest automotive user of aluminum in his day and he could cast a bearing in one piece, making the inner half, polishing it, and casting the sleeve around it in a larger mold. All Franklins were air-cooled; engines ran from 4 to 12 cylinders, and body styles ran from luxury limousines to a boat-tailed roadster. He took excellent care of his employees; part of his legacy was a huge family of devotees. Franklins are the most famous luxury car of the automobile’s first generation.

About the three cars below: at left is Franklin’s personal limo. After his death and its sale, it wound up totally decaying in Florida. But it’s been rescued and lovingly restored. An interesting feature of the center car is the internal windshield for the rear seat passengers. And the model at right was the last 12 cylinder model and the last designed by LeBaron, who was ushering in the era of streamlining.

When Tom died, he bequeathed his historical adobe estate in Tucson, along with all of his cars and a sizeable endowment to create and run the Museum on his property. Along with his Franklins are his classic 1907 Reo – the red car shown at left – and a vintage Porsche. We were doubly blessed to have as our tour guide a man who worked for Tom Hubbard for 25 years. He lived in New Hampshire and owned a ’31 Franklin when he met Tom at a show and struck up a lasting friendship; and he willingly gave up New England for southern Arizona.

And finally . . . we visited the Arizona History Museum (not to be confused with the Arizona State Museum covered in the last chapter!). I don’t think I mentioned this earlier, but Arizona was the last of the lower 48 to be admitted to the Union – on February 14, 1912. Why February 14? Well, February 12 was the Sabbath, and February 13 would have been bad luck. So what happened last month? The state’s centennial! Among the other celebrations, it gave rise to the Great Arizona Quilt Contest. Quilters themed the state in more ways than you can imagine, and the 100 best of those – including the official centennial quilt — are currently on display in the AHM. The themes were wonderfully creative, and the overall winner is pictured at left.

The museum layout was quite unique; one could go around in a loop or straight across a courtyard. We opted for the latter to view the 1870’s exhibit first. We were confronted, in addition to quilts, with a chronology of transportation. The area to our left was dominated with celebratory quilts. To the right and up the stairs were elements indicative of a first-class museum. One 100 foot long exhibit, behind glass, displayed the artifacts of a developing nation. Both wide angle and specific views of favorite pieces are shown below.

The next exhibit viewed was the life and demise of Geronimo. The scourge of the area for many years, his exploits, surrender and subsequent history are well documented. A few high spots. There were actually no Apaches. Apache, which means “enemy,” was appended to about 5,000 Indians from four tribes living in 2500 square miles that today are Arizona, New Mexico and Sonora. They were the Chiracahua, Warm Springs, Sierra Madre and Bidawku (an aggregation of Mimbres, Gila and Mogollon).

This century of interface between Native Americans and the interlopers – both Spanish and European-American – was considered to be the last impediment to manifest destiny. Preceded by Cochise, Geronimo, though not a chief, led a band of rebels, primarily Chiracahua, into alternate escapes and raids. He and Chief Naiche negotiated a final surrender – his fifth — in the fall of 1886. The cabinet in the right picture above contains the final firearm he surrendered. He had previously negotiated with General Crook, a tireless Indian fighter, but the final negotiations were under the management of General Nelson Miles, a proven Indian-pacifier. He had defeated the Kiowa, Comanche and Cheyenne, captured Chief Joseph, revenged the Little Big Horn and was at least indirectly responsible for Wounded Knee. Geronimo, Naiche and all of their followers wound up with their captured tribes in St. Augustine, Florida; eventually, he settled in Ft. Sill, OK. Geronimo’s celebrity was increased by marching at the head of Teddy Roosevelt’s inaugural parade and appearing at the St. Louis World’s Fair in 1904 where he sold autographs for fun and profit. He died of pneumonia at 80.

Next stop was a chronology of the development of the territory. This was displayed through three sets of 1870 eyes: those of a Mexican-American ranching family, a Jewish-American merchant family, and a Tohono-O’odham (Papago) family living near the San Xavier Mission. Their stories of each were told in words and dimensional displays.

Geology was the next exhibit. The land was extensively mine for its riches, which included dominance of silver and copper, plus adequate supplies of other minerals, including manganese, gold, lead, zinc and . . . uranium. In the museum you actually had an opportunity to not only view massive processing equipment but walk through a reproduced mine itself. (More about mining in the next chapter.)

The museum also gave major coverage to a city revival called Rio Viejo/Rio Nuevo. It is a project designed not only to unearth more of Tucson’s origins but to give rebirth to Tucson’s core city by recovering and modernizing some of its earlier features. It includes a new downtown trolley system, with construction beginning this April.

Just before we left, an unexpected surprise reared its ugly head. To assure that our running gear was prepared for the trip home and beyond, I ordered new tires for both the truck and trailer, along with brake service for the truck and bearing service for the trailer. The truck went smoothly. When we took the trailer in, however, it required total brake replacement that set us back $1,300. There was a sliver of a silver lining, however. We discovered only the trailer tire that I kept checking needed replacing. So we only had to get one instead of four, and the cause of its premature wear was corrected. At least we know that we’re running on safe gear.

Finally, we’re about to charge away from the land of the saguaro and, to some extent, the land of the round-cornered adobe house. We’ll still be down in the desert – or actually up at a higher level. Stay tuned!

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