Friday, June 20, 2008

Welcome to Bagdad - Our First Visitors Arrive

In February, not long after the Gem Show was over, we had our first visitors since moving to the US. Our dear friends Craig and Rachel came to stay with us for a few days all the way from beautiful New Zealand. We hadn't seen them in about 5 years so we had a lot of catching up to do. We enjoyed comparing our experiences of the US (they had been here for a couple of weeks before coming to stay with us) and just spending some time together which was wonderful. One weekend we went on the Verde Canyon Railroad (see the link in What's Happening Around Here?), which is a scenic train journey that runs from Clarkdale (near Jerome) to Perkinsville and back again. Unlike the Grand Canyon Railroad, where all the dramatic scenery is at the end of the journey, the Verde Canyon Railroad has scenery all along the way to its destination. Mostly the scenery is red rock formations and rivers, but as the day goes on the colours change and there is always something interesting to look at. At one point you can see where bald eagles make their nests although at the time we were passing they must have just stepped out to get the milk and their weekend newspaper as their nest was empty. It was a nice, relaxing way to spend an afternoon, watching the natural world go by as you sit and nibble the complimentary snacks on the train. On the way to Clarkdale we had a brief visit to Prescott so that our visitors could check out "The Mile High City".

A Gem of a Show in Tucson

In mid-February we realised a long-held dream of mine and went to the annual Gem and Mineral Show in Tucson. This is a world-famous show (I guess it's especially world-famous if you are a geologist) that I have wanted to see since I first heard about it in the 1990's so I was really happy to finally have the chance to experience it for myself. The show runs for about 4 days and is one of the world's biggest gem shows, being held not only in one venue but spread out through hotels, carparks and convention centres all over Tucson. We only had one day in which to visit (the last day) so we didn't have time to visit more than one venue, so we chose the convention centre which is the main exhibition building for the Show. I have to tell you that it definitely did not disappoint. There were spectacular mineral specimens on display from all corners of the world, many of which were for sale if you happen to have a few spare tens of thousands of US dollars to buy them - a lot of them were from private collections and are seldom seen in public. The central theme of the exhibition was minerals of America, and there were lots of museum-quality specimens from all parts of America that really were truly stunning. Rhodocrosite from the Sweet Home mine in Utah and absolutely magnificent watermelon tourmaline about a foot long were just a couple of the many highlights. It's truly incredible to see the different minerals that are out there in nature, so many of which looking truly bizarre and coloured so brightly that they just couldn't possibly be real (but they are!). Anyway, enough gushing about minerals, I will definitely be heading back to Tucson next February for the Show, which has the theme "Mineral Oddities" (February 12-15 2009, for those of you playing at home). Even our junior geologist enjoyed choosing rocks for his very own collection from the children's activities section - he is definitely showing an interest in all things geological which I am happy to encourage. When he starts experimenting with how to get different minerals out of the rocks, then I'll get worried!
(see link in What's Happening Around Here? for more information on the Gem Show)

Amusing Questions We Have Been Asked - Part 5 in an Occasional Series

"Does New Zealand have a rugby (union) team?"
[There just isn't an answer to this one. Good grief.]

"Do they have pizza in New Zealand?"
(Hell, yes)