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2019 Tucson Trip

Tucson Gem and Mineral show of 2019 was supposed to be a clone of the 2018 show for Paul Harris and myself. But the weather was to take that plan and turn it upside down. We headed out on Thursday morning for the drive to Blythe, California where we would have a nice dinner and stay in a hotel. It works out good doing that. We can leave home at a decent time later in the morning and miss all the rush hour traffic down in the Riverside area on our way out. And it gives us a nice rest rather than driving straight through for 10-11 hours to Tucson arriving too late to even have dinner with friends. We starting out early in the morning from Blythe on the second leg of the drive losing an hour immediately in two miles from the hotel as we crossed the California/Arizona border. We arrived in Tucson early morning just as the showrooms were opening.

Friday morning found us at the 22nd Street Show to see Geoff Notkin and Beth Carrillo because I had some stuff to bring to them and drop off. We had a great chat with them until they got busy and we let them get back to work. We had arranged to meet up with Al Lang in the next tent down at 22nd Street. Which we did and found a few great meteorites for the business. I found a batch of small and slightly larger Brenham stones that I bought for fun for my collection. I had just two things on my list that I wanted to get for sure at the gem show. One was Yooperlites.


Erik Rintamaki the finder/discoverer of these wonderful fluorescent stones was set up at one of the 22nd Street tents. I introduced myself and we talked for a moment. I bought four nice stones. The UV flashlight that I brought to the show worked pretty well on them but he had a great display with many flashlights for customers to use making the proper wavelength of 365 nm. He was speaking on one of the nights as part of the educational lecture series that Suzanne Morrison was doing. We talked a moment about that and he said he would come and see me speak to get an idea of how it was going to go to get better prepared himself. More about the lecture later. Paul and I got lunch at one of the food trucks then headed off to our next stop for the day. It would be a brief hello kind of stop at the Tucson City Center Hotel until it was time to go to a business meeting and check into our own hotel. Saturday morning was to start the show for real for us. I was happy to be free of the big cumbersome package I had been carrying around.


As we were driving and being busy at the gem show on February 1st, the cosmos was busy too. A huge fireball event was occurring over Florida and Cuba. With a great trail of smokey dust and blinding flash and pounding detonation, a great fall of meteorites occurred over the village of Viñales, Cuba. It was unclear for a few days if any of the stones would make it out of the country. But, just about the time we arrived home from the show, five days after the fall, beautiful black stones began appearing at the gem show and were being cut into slices. It has a similar appearance to Chelyabinsk. It is apparently a breccia, with bands of melt and shock veins. It has a nice scattering of FeNi grains and an abundance of small bits of troilite. Chondrules are common and fairly distinct. I do not make guesses as to type leaving that to be exactly determined by scientists. Congratulations to those who were still at the gem show and got to see stones in person.

For months it had been planned that we would go Saffordite hunting with friends on Sunday but the weather was going to be terrible on Sunday and even though I could drive into the location without problems with my 4×4 the other car coming along could not. And sitting in the car waiting for breaks in the rain to hunt for a while was not going to be fun. So we had moved up the hunt to Saturday and pushed back the gem show until Sunday. We met up with Rob Wesel, Logan Wesel (Rob’s son his first Tucson gem show), Jason Phillips, and Mitch Noda at their hotel just after 6 am and headed toward Safford, Arizona. The plan was to stop somewhere at a McDonald’s for breakfast before heading out into the desert. As it turned out we did not stop until the McDonald’s in Wilcox. We had breakfast and drove the short distance until we got off the interstate and made it to the road to the Saffordite area. We found the great paved road of last year had turned into a pothole nightmare. Some of the potholes were nearly two feet deep. I slalomed my way down the road weaving around the missing pavement with Mitch following doing the same dance around the cavernous holes in the roadbed. But we made it with no car damage. I gave the new guys a brief training session in Saffordite hunting. I said, “Let me go find one so you can see what they look like on the ground.” I was taking a little chance that I would not hunt too long. I found one in about a half minute and called them over to see it in place. I stayed with some of them until they had found a couple on their own. Then I was off to find myself some. I was so far from the car by the time I was finished training the last friend that I just kept hunting and finding them without thinking that I had not put on sunblock or a hat or gotten any more supplies then just water and snacks. Later after hours in the sun, I would regret not going back to the car early. Everyone did very well at hunting. By the end of the day, they all had baggies with many Saffordites in them. Paul had done very well and I had done better than last year and was guessing I found over 500. Paul and I met up at my car about 3:30 in the afternoon and we waited for the other guys to reappear one by one. I wanted to get out of the area and back to good road before dark. I did not want to maneuver my way through the potholes in bad light. We took a group picture and were on the road by just after four in the afternoon heading to the pizza restaurant Paul had googled up for him and I the year before. We had a great fun meal and finally said goodnight.

Pictured left to right at Mitch Noda, Logan Wesel, Paul Harris, Jason Phillips, Rob Wesel.

Sunday was now the first real full day of walking around the show. Its the day which always begins with a visit to the hotel where Mike Miller and Blaine Reed show off their goodies. We had a nice long visit with Mike. His room sparkling as always with beautiful slices of iron and pallasite meteorites. It was raining and miserable out. We were really happy we changed the hunt to the day before we would not have tried hunting at all. Oh, by the way, we counted the Saffordites at the hotel and Paul had found almost twice what he did the year before and I had found 597. They would have to be cleaned to see how many were gemmy and how many were banded or opaque. Still, that was a lot of bending and picking up and I was feeling it the next morning. I stopped holding them up to the sun to inspect their clarity because it ruined my vision for looking at the ground for a couple minutes every time. I just put all the Saffordites in the bag and would do the sorting at home after cleaning them in the ultrasonic cleaner.

I bought a couple items from Blaine and we headed over to the Riverpark which is called something else this year I think, the names change so fast I can not keep up. It was still raining cats and dogs. We had to park in the last parking lot as always. In fact, it had a sign saying “Lot Full” but the attendant waved me in and we actually got a spot very near the entrance. Paul had as always been forward planning and brought an umbrella. I had a hood rolled up and concealed in my coat collar which I pulled out for the first time in a decade. We visited Erich and Silvia and chatted with Dana and then headed just across the hall to Dustin’s room. We chatted with him and then he began a long business discussion with Paul about stuff I am less involved in. So I headed back to the car with Paul’s umbrella to retrieve a batch of my books that Dustin wanted. Last year I was doing a lot of book deliveries. This year I only took about twenty to the show. I was glad for the umbrella as it rained quite strongly while I made the hike to and back from the car.

I always go on down from the Pueblo Inn, (Riverpark) hotel to the Day Inn which is also called something else now. To see my friend with the tables of NWA unclassified meteorites. I usually find some to buy. This year only one named meteorite was on my want list so I got more of these mystery meteorites then usual. One was a larger 826.3 gram stone with slickensides on one portion and great regmaglypts on much of the rest of the surface. Two images of this meteorite are shown below.

I also got about ten other unclassified meteorites from him. We ran into Melinda Hutson and Dick Pugh from Cascadia Meteorite Lab at the same booth and chatted for a while about the state of meteorite classifying today. Dick found a few specimens that must have called out to him. I left with a much heavier bag than I came with. Over a kilo of stones from the one stop. But they will be hours of fun for me with my camera and at the saw and lap.

We had not spent more than an hour or so at the Inn Suites (old name) so with the hope that we could find a parking space we headed that way. The rain so far over the last days had not seemed to discourage the crowd. There were many people at the hotels. We got a spot to park very near ET’s room so that was our first room to visit. Edwin Thompson is a fellow writer and all around great meteorite guy and friend. He shared some stories of the real success he has experienced with his book “Earthunder”, I am so proud of him. I have done no promotion of my book with home selling and home buying and moving all last year. But might try harder this year to promote it. It was never going to have a huge readership with its very narrow focus on one year at Meteor Crater. I got a couple more pieces of the Sericho pallasite from ET. He had very little Sericho in his room compared to last year. It is always amazing to me how our community small as it really is can absorb in just a year or so even huge meteorite finds. I had gotten many pieces of Sericho in 2018 and had great fun grinding and polishing windows on them. Some I etched some I left polished. I put them into a sealed glass jar with concealed silica gel. They looked beautiful when I was done and remain so still. But I wanted a couple more to try cutting into halves or slices.

I have never really done slicing on pallasites or irons. I have cut hundreds of stone meteorites over more than 50 years of lapidary work. So it is time I learned something about doing the other meteorite types. Ultimately, ET got very busy and we waved goodbye across the sea of humans pressing into his room and headed out to get a late lunch. There is nothing like a lukewarm hotdog on a rainy day at the gem show with a bag of chips and a soda. Yuck! Every year we end up doing it. We at least stay away from the undercooked hamburgers now. I wish the food in the tent at the Tucson City Center Hotel (correct name) was better because now that there is no parking it is not so easy to leave and get something nice at a restaurant and later return again. If you have a great parking spot there is a strong desire to stay and not give it up. We had seen Pani once and waved again at him as we went for lunch. After eating our delicious meal we headed to Global Treasures and our friends Pieter and Debra. It has been a year since we finished the collaboration on my book “Drilling For Meteorites” which would never have happened without them. We chatted with them until they also got busy. We moved upstairs to see Anne Black at Impactika. I had wanted an individual of Saint Aubin it was the only meteorite on my list this year. I had a great slice that I got from Alain Carion years ago. There had been the enormous recovery of many tons of Saint Aubin during the year and I hoped to get a small individual. But nothing like that has become available yet apparently. I am sure that there will be hunting in the area and that many smaller and tiny masses will be found. My last name is derived from Saint Aubin. As people moved from country to country during and after the time of the Normans and Saxons the pronunciation changed. Finally, it became what it is in Ireland.

We made our way around the Inns Suites seeing everyone else that was there. We spent a while chatting with Mike Farmer. We visited with Serge and Dima and I got a Sikhote Alin print of the P. I. Medvedev painting that they had. It will look great when framed in my office once it is cleared of boxes. Four months after we moved and my office is still not completely ready to work in. But the workshop is getting there, it is about half set up, so some progress. It would not be until a couple more days that we finally made it to La Memoire de la Terre; Bruno and Carine’s room. We spent some time with them and got something nice to resell.

There is almost nothing that we enjoy as much as getting to have a meal with friends while we are in Tucson. We had a wonderful meal with Ruben and Cynthia Garcia and Bob Cucchiara, Larry whose last name I have never known, and Mike Miller, at Mimi’s Cafe. Another night we had a nice dinner with our friends from Canada Peter Hayashida, Mike Hayashi and Dave Hayashida at a cool, kind of trendy restaurant in downtown Tucson. There was nothing but fun that night and great stories. After several tries to work out a schedule we had breakfast with Geoff Notkin at BBC (Benson Breakfast Club). When we can sit and have a visit with Geoff it is always a high point for us during our Tucson trip. He is fantastically busy and it is very special that he takes some time to spend with us. He has a new book that will be reviewed in a separate article but I will just take a sentence or two here to say that it is not really a redo of the previous version, but almost a completely new and much-expanded work on meteorite hunting. It is a beautiful book with wonderful photography. It is entitled “How To Find Treasure From Space” and is a must-read for all meteorite enthusiasts. We always hear the best stories when we have a meal with Geoff and this year was no exception. But ultimately he has to go to the 22nd Street Show and we have to move along too. Monday was to be our last day at the show, but the weather kept throwing things at us all the time we were in Tucson. There was going to be a snowstorm at home in Tehachapi which could close the 58 freeway. We would perhaps have to turn around and get a hotel room in Mojave until the road was reopened. So we extended our stay with our hotel and decided to go home early Wednesday instead of Tuesday.

Monday night I was to give a talk on “The History of Meteor Crater” as the first of the series of speakers in Suzanne Morrison’s new education lecture program. I was to speak for 30 minutes and then take questions for an additional 15 minutes, the second speaker of the evening would present after a short break. The lecture was video recorded with a high-quality camera. I wore a wireless microphone. It was live streamed from Suzanne’s phone to a Facebook page. There was a little problem with the live feed because the bandwidth was not big enough with the account the school gave her access to. That was fixed for the following nights. But the professional video was fine and will be archived for the future along with all the other lectures in years to come. I condensed the 50,000 years of Meteor Crater’s history and stories of the major activities at the crater into 30 minutes and then came the part I really like. I enjoy the Q&A after much more than giving a lecture. There were great questions from the room and also the internet. But not enough time I could have gone on and on with the Q&A. Paul and I had gotten an early dinner before my lecture so by the time all the evening’s festivities were done it was time to get something for dessert. We pulled into the parking lot of the Denny’s next to our hotel and had chocolate shakes. You know the kind that comes to the table with the extra in the metal mixing container so that you really get much more than just a single glass of shake. It was just the thing to have before heading to the room for the night.

Tuesday was now an extra day for us and we spent it mostly at the Inns Suites. We finally got some time with Pani and nearly cleaned him out of Libyan Desert Glass. I found several NWA stones he had that I really needed, (wish I could insert a smiley emoji there). Spent a lot of the day with ET and I finally got a hat. After more than 20 years of going to Tucson, I had never asked him for one or bought one of his hats. But I did ask for one this year and it will be treasured. Toward the afternoon we headed out to say goodbye to everyone and go for dinner. This would be one of the only meals we had alone. Even breakfasts had mostly been with friends this year. We picked The Outback for a carnivore meal. I got the ribs and chicken and Paul had a steak. As the Coneheads say “We Enjoyed It!” We had nothing to eat for breakfast on the drive home and we take the Phoenix bypass of Highway 8/85. There was not going to be anywhere along the way to stop in the morning. So we headed to Walgreens and got something to eat in the car while driving. The Bloomin’ Onion from dinner bothered me while I was trying to sleep and I finally woke Paul by accident so we just got up and left at about 4 in the morning. It was raining buckets again and it continued raining for about an hour and a half of the trip home. Finally, the rain stopped and the sun came up and driving got a lot more relaxed for me. Big tractor-trailer rigs were passed me at over 75 miles an hour in pounding rain and it was frankly a little unnerving. Hometown Tehachapi was covered in snow when we got there but our streets were clear to drive on and so came the end of a wonderful 2019 Tucson gem show.

We have cleaned the Saffordites and sorted them. I had many that were gemmy clear and so did Paul and we have put those together into a batch we are offering for sale. Next year we will likely return to find more. It is great fun and maybe friends will want to go along.

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