Weekend Drive to AZ: Kitt Peak and Madera Canyon

Happy Monday! Hope the weekend was great. I have been quite busy with work lately, and haven’t had the time or energy to sit down and compose a decent post here. Well, here I am! I’ve been meaning to share a recent trip to Arizona. I was back in Arizona with my buddies, Tyson and Paul to visit two places that were completely foreign to me: Kitt Peak National Observatory and Madera Canyon. Both were recommended by Tyson and they weren’t a disappointment! This is the first drive with Tyson and Paul since I’ve owned the TL.

The first stop of those two, was Kitt Peak National Observatory (KPNO). This observatory is part of the National Optical Astronomy Observatory (NOAO). It was founded in 1958 and it contains the most diverse collection of astronomical observatories on Earth. Not impressed yet? Well, this also contains the world’s largest solar telescope, McMath-Pierce Solar Telescope. It also acts as the largest sun dial! The telescope stands 100 feet in the air and 200 feet into the ground. Even though the telescope is over 50 years old, the technology within is still perfectly useable. Kitt Peak is located 56 miles southwest of Tucson, AZ, in the Tohono O’odham Nation and has a Visitor Center open daily to the public. Let’s get started on an “Acura-iffic” adventure!

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I took off Friday evening after work and headed to Tucson, AZ. I was on the road for the majority of the time in the dark. Not at all an issue, though. Driving is therapeutic for me and is my way of relaxing. Especially at night.

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A little after 9:00 P.M., I arrived at the hotel where Tyson and Paul were. This is what the weekend drive will consist of:

  • Tyson’s Silver 2013 Acura ILX 6MT
  • Paul’s White 2013 Acura TL SH-AWD AT
  • My Black 2010 Acura TL SH-AWD 6MT

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It was fun to catch up and chat about cars and life in general.

Saturday morning with breakfast in our stomachs and bags packed, we hopped in our Acuras for the adventures that awaited. I got a better idea of what the hotel looked like in the morning light.

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Of course, we had to get some photos before departure:

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Paul was quick to enter the Kitt Peak address into his 2012 TL GPS, and he lead the way while Tyson and I followed.

I’ve never ventured south of Tucson and honestly, didn’t know how much there was. I assumed nothing but flat desert to Nogales. Boy was I wrong! My Navi showed that we were driving in “unverified territory” and that I should drive carefully.

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Here’s the sign at the entrance to Kitt Peak.

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From here, it was only 12 miles to the summit where the observatory was.

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As we ascended the mountain, we were greeted with great panoramic views. Icing on the cake was a road that became playful with many curves and dips.

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Tyson took the lead on the way up.

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The air was crisp, sunshine out, and the roads virtually free of traffic. Were we in heaven?

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As we came closer to the summit, we could begin the see some of Kitt Peak’s telescopes.

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Here’s a photo showcasing Tyson’s Silver Moon Metallic paint complimenting the sleek body style of the ILX.

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Side note: I’ve decided that I’m going to leave the enormous Acura “beak” grille alone. Originally, I wanted to paint it black or replace it with the updated 2012 version. However, I’m now thinking of it as that beneficial flaw…like Eva Mendes’s mole.

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Last pullout before arriving at the summit.

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Here we are!

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The visitor center and gift shop is staffed by members of the Tohono O’odham Indian Nation. There were many informative displays and demos to keep everyone entertained.

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We were scheduled for a 10:00 tour. Here’s Paul and Tyson patiently waiting to be taken to…

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The largest telescope in the world!

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The skin of the telescope is made of copper and painted white to reflect light and keep the inside temperatures at a consistent range.

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The inner workings of the telescope were quite complex (at least to us tourists) and massive!

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I’d like to describe what these photos are showcasing, but I’d be just making up gibberish to compensate for ignorance.

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This is looking upward towards the sky.

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Here’s Paul and Tyson with another telescope in the background.

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Our tour guide, Larry was very knowledgeable and through. Thanks, Larry!

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After the tour, we hopped in the Acuras and headed for lunch in Green Valley, AZ.

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To get to Green Valley, we had to return to Tuscon and then take Interstate 19 south. Interesting thing about this route is you get to see the use of metric units of measurement on the signs. I felt like I was in Canada! Story behind this is the Arizona Deparrment of Transportation (ADOT) created these signs in an attempt to push toward the metric system in the United States. Obviously, we haven’t made the move, but the signs remain. Speed limits are still posted in MPH thankfully.

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Lunch was at Olive’s Bistro. Very tasty and I’m confident you wouldn’t be disappointed. Try them out if you’re ever in the area!

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After lunch, we all set out on Route 83 toward Madera Canyon…our last leg of the trip.

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Madera Canyon lives in the northwest region of the Santa Rita Mountain. It’s not far from Tuscon as it’s only 40 kilometers…I mean, 25 miles. It’s grounds for the outdoor enthusiast with hiking, picnic areas, bird watching and camping. If bird watching is your forte, then you can enjoy as many as 250 different speices here. Tyson, Paul and I wanted to check it out. As we drove nearer the canyon, I was astounded by the amount of greenery that greeted us!

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The road wasn’t quite as windy as the route up to Kitt Peak, but it wasn’t any enjoyable. It was great: opening the windows allowed the joyous fresh air to blow in and even though I was in the back of the pack, I had some of the best views…

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Motion shot with a focus on Paul’s TL.

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The Acuras lined up once again when we reached the recreation area.

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Paul, Tyson and I agreed that we should try out the Josephine Saddle trail worth only 2.2 miles.

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So we set off

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It was quite a steep climb. Tyson took this photo of Paul and I taking a breather.

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Due to time (and honestly fatigue) we opted not to complete the entire loop. So, we backtracked. On our drive back through the canyon, we stopped several times for photos and general exploring. I caught this photo of Paul’s TL gracefully coming down the hill near the gift shop.

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The gift shop was full of little wooden souvenirs.

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There was a dry riverbed next to it which made for some interesting photos.

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Tyson came across this in an abandoned lot. Dare I say this is the official first Chevy HHR?

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Here’s a group photo: Paul, Me, and Tyson.

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Tyson caught a great photo of the TL reflecting the clouds. His GoPro can be seen mounted on my trunk.

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Speaking of the GoPro, here’s Tyson’s little montage of our trip:

That concludes yet another great trip!

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2 thoughts on “Weekend Drive to AZ: Kitt Peak and Madera Canyon

  1. tysonhugie says:

    I enjoyed seeing your version of the Madera pics – there are a couple great ones in here of the ILX & Paul’s TL. Woohoo! Great post. Careful when taking the TL into “unverified” territory. We need to pick our next trip date & location soon.

  2. pawela says:

    Thanks, Tyson. It’s always fun to see our different takes on the journey. Now, let’s see where the next adventure will take us! I’ll find my thinking-cap, and put it on…

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