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Road Trip Adventures, Roadside Attractions, Crazy DIY Projects, Texas Fishing, Rock Hounding and more......

Past Adventures

The Tucson Rock, Gem, Mineral and Fossil Show 2003

The sights include : Just lots of rock, mineral and fossil venders with really low, low prices!  And, adventures in flying Post 911.

Prelude :    (As always, click on the picture for for a larger image and click on the links for surprises.)

It has been about 25 years since I have been to Tucson and much has changed since then.    About two years ago, I began to start back up my rock, mineral and fossil collection.  I also tried to find ways to combine my rock hound activities with my other projects.  

 Last year, every so often, I would meet my sister and her family for lunch at “Nature’s Gallery”, a rock and mineral store in Carrollton’s town square.  While my sister,  Deborah helped Rachel, my niece pick out tumbled/polished stones for her collection, I would talk rock talk with Donald Slater, the owner of the shop.  He told me he was preparing for the big rock and mineral show in Tucson in February.    I just had to check this out!!!!   I did not want to go solo on this new adventure.  Since my mother was trying to get into beading as a new hobby, I asked if she and dad would like to meet me in Tucson for the shows.  They loved the idea and plans were made.

 Star Date : 2/13/2003 - Thursday

             My plane did not take off until 8:33 AM so I got to sleep in a little.  Though I took off in time, due to the national security alert raised to a level orange, my car was searched before I even made it to the parking toll both.  To make things worse, I did not know my gate number and choose the cheapest long term parking at gate area “C” for those who know the DFW airport.  Then once I checked in, I found out I departed from the “A” gate area clear on the other side.  Wow, what a walk.  Every time I tried to board a train, it was going the opposite way.

             I finally got to my gate area and went through security.  Unfortunately, I left my house keys in my pocket and set off the alarms in the walk through scanner.  I was made to sit aside, have my hiking boots taken off and my body scanned with a metal detector probe.  I finally passed inspection and allowed to proceed.  But could I now make it a board on time?  Barely, as I ran as fast as I could without drawing any suspicion and boarded the plane just in time.

             It was a good flight with just a little turbulence after passing over El Paso.  I finally arrived at the Tucson International airport in about 2 ˝ hours later.  I grab my suitcase, picked up my rental car and finally arrived at the Vagabond Plaza motel.  It was about 1:30 PM and I could not check in until 3:00 PM.

             I was getting hungry, so I walked a few blocks away to the Ye Ole’ Tavern.  I highly recommend it.  On the way back to the motel, I stopped by the wholesale Rock and Fossil Co-op for some window-shopping.  Lots of cool stuff there.  Then, I went to a tent vender who set up in the courtyard of the Vagabond.  It was here where I met the first bunch of Australians selling their treasures.

             After meeting with the Australians, it was finally time to check in.  I settle in and went back to see the Australians.  I bought (3) types of Selenite crystal clusters.  One gray, one tan and the other a rusty orange.  These Selenite crystals are form of natural crystal gypsum which were more spiked like quartz crystals as opposed to their American counterparts which are shaped like a rose flowers.

             I also bought a cluster of green halite crystals.  In America, these crystals are cubic in shape and are usually either white or pink.  Keep in mind that halite is natural crystallized rock salt.

             I also bought some zebra rock which is only native to North Western Australia and is no longer mined due to a construction project.   The pieces I acquired were not shiny, however, I was told to put a clear coat of lacquer on it to make it look polished.

             On a trip to Canton, TX last Spring, Evelyn bought a piece of polished stone called Mookite.  This too, is only native to Australia.  Well as luck would have it, they had some so I just had to add it to my new acquisitions.  I was later told it was a form of Jasper.  It is also used as beading material.

             The Australians also had some pyritized ammonite molds and castings.  However, they noted that these specimens came from Germany.  (I just like honest dealers.)

             I also bought a slab of polished Tiger Iron, which looks like a deep red Jasper with iron streaks in it.  This piece will display quite nicely on an easel stand.  At the same time, they had some tumbled/polished Tiger Iron, so I bought a handful of it to wire sculpture with. 

             The Australians also had some rather large tumbled/polished Aventerine.  So I bought a box of about 30 pieces in it.  They would make great worry stones.  

               Lastly, with the Australians, they had another unique native slab of petrified wood only native to Australia, which they call Peanut Wood.  The background is a dark brown with tan peanut shape patterns in the foreground.  Yes, I had to acquire this piece also for my personal collection.    I also procured (4) pieces of petrified wood.  Though from looking at it, I think they came from Madagascar. (Petrified Wood # 1, Petrified Wood # 2, Petrified Wood # 3, Petrified Wood # 4.)  Unfortunately, Petrified Wood # 2 broke exactly in half.  Thanks to UPS!!!  Well now that I have my slab saw,  I will make two pairs of bookends out of it.

             I brought my loot back to my room and it was still early, so I walked a few blocks to another set of tents.  I met up with some folks from Madagascar who had a local interpreter.  There, I bought  a huge chunk of Celestite with some awesome blue crystals.  They carefully packed it in a box for me and I barely made it back to my room due to the weight.  My poor back!!!  I'm sure my body is going to pay for it in the morning.  

             Yes, I made it to the show.   I honestly felt like a kid in a candy store.  The people here are really cool!

             Well it was getting late so I ate a burger on the way to the airport and  picked up mom and dad.   I finally found them, mom said the flight went well, so we headed back to the motel.  I showed them my new acquisitions and then we all retired for the night.

 Star Date : 2/14/2003 - Friday

             I woke up early and got ready for the day.   There's no way they are going to let me on the plane with all this stuff.  So, while mom and dad were head down for breakfast, I went to the local Office Depot and bought shipping boxes, other shipping supplies and checked out their UPS service they offered.  When I got back, we all window shopped at the wholesale vendors around the motel and took notes on what we might want to buy.  Then we ate Mexican food at a restaurant a few blocks away. 

             After lunch, dad rested at the motel while mom and I set off to the convention center.  The prices at the convention center were much higher for the same items than at the wholesale tent areas.  Mom bought some beading material and I bought some tumbled stones to wire sculpture with.  I obtained some Sodalite, Lapis, Mahogany Obsidian, Malachite and some Iron Pyrite Crystals I also found some amber with insects in it and some Opalized Ammonites.  Though it had just stopped raining, I tried to take a picture of the mountains outside of the convention center.

             We then drove off to the Best Western Executive Inn and met venders from Germany, Czechoslovakia, Russia, Pakistan, Afghanistan, India, Mexico and Australia again.  I bought some Pyritized Ammonites from the Russians to wire sculpture with.  I bought a nice cluster of Cactus Amethyst (Purple Amethyst crystals with smaller purple crystals on the main spikes) and a nice cluster of Citrine crystals.  Citrine is actually Amethyst which has turned to a golden yellow-brown color due to the natural heat of the earth or heated by an oven.  In the future, I hope to obtain a Citrine cathedral.

             By then, we were exhausted and met dad back at the motel and relaxed for the evening.  We made plans to go back to the tent vendors the next morning.  Mom wanted to go back to the India tent for beading material and I wanted to get some polished serpentine halves or pairs, a slab of Malachite and some polished Texas petrified palm wood for wire sculpturing.  Time for bed.  My feet, legs and arms are sore!!!!

 Star Date : 2/15/03 - Saturday

             Since we knew the trading would not start until 10:00 AM, we all slept in.  After breakfast, we headed back to the Mineral and Fossil Co-op next door to the motel.   We separated and used  walkie-talkies  to keep in touch with one another.   With 22 channels, we could hear a lot of other rock and fossil deals go down by other people.  Mom bought an Onyx owl for my aunt.  Dad bought a carved dolphin made out of Picture Jasper for his desk.  Dad also bought a few worry stones carved out of Onyx.  Finally, mom bought more bead material consisting of Fluorite and Travertine. 

             I headed to the Mexican area and obtained my Texas Petrified Palm wood to wire sculpture with.  I then went to a Utah dealer and bought a big Septarian (A Balsamic material with crystals inside, like a Geode.) It was an egg shape nodule and two smaller ones to be displayed as a pair.  On the way out, a sandstone dealer gave us some body stones. (Basically, sandstone shaped like bars of soap for exfoliating one’s skin.)  

            The Mineral and Fossil Co-op had a lot of great rock and fossil collectables.  Just click here for what's inside!

             We then headed back to the motel and unloaded our loot.  Then we went back to the tent venders.  Most of the dealers were packing up, so the deals were good.  Mom and dad went back to the India tent to acquire more beading material and I went back to the Madagascar tent to buy a Celestite egg that I saw the night before.  They had more eggs out this time with drastically reduced prices.  I decided on two big eggs of the same size, which had a better display of the blue crystals than the original one I wanted.  Again, we maintained contact via the walkie-talkies.    The other buyers must have thought we were big time dealers.  I then set off to the African Congo tent and bought a nice big piece of polished Malachite, which I plan to display on an easel stand.  It was tough dealing with the foreigners due to their broken English but I was able to make some great deals.    

           I later caught up with mom and dad at the India tent.  Mom got some terrific deals on some beading material.  We then went back to our rooms to check out each other’s loot. 

             I packed up (3) boxes of rocks and fossils and dad helped me take it to the UPS station at the local Office Depot to be shipped home.  Again, I tried to take a few pictures of the mountains (Pic. # 1, Pic. # 2Mom went back to the tent areas and made more bead material deals.  We later hooked up and ate lunch at the San Francisco Bar and Grill which was a few miles down the road from our motel. 

             On the way back to the motel, we stopped back by at the co-op again and I bought 10.2 pounds of Tiger Eye in the rough.  After I tumble/polish it, they should come out like this.  I mainly bought some because South Africa will no longer export this material, thus it's value will increase.  We then wanted to see some of the other tourist attractions around the Tucson that we read about from the literature we picked up from the airport and the motel.  Unfortunately, it was too late so we relaxed a while and then I went back out!!!

             There was another tent dealer site that was rained out the day before but it had re-opened.  I first went to another Madagascar dealer and bought some Ammonite wire sculpture earrings so I could backwards engineer it to learn how it was made.  I also bought two small polished pairs of ammonites to practice wire sculpture on.  I then met some French dealers and bought a mix of (25) natural and dyed agate slabs to make candle scones and night lights out of.  I came back to show off my loot and mom gave me some beading hardware to help in the wire sculpture of the ammonites.  We then relaxed for the rest of the evening by catching up on the war news and watching the poor Chinese trying to pack up their truck.

 Star Date : 2/16/03 - Sunday

             We all got up around the same time and ate breakfast at the motel.  After breakfast, we packed up and headed back to the airport.  I turned in the rental car and was lucky to obtain an earlier flight departing around 12:39 PM.  Unfortunately, I was unable to eat lunch and say good-bye to mom and dad due to separate security entrances between American and Southwest airlines.  I also had to pay an extra $ 25.00 due to my luggage being over-weighted from the rocks and fossils. 

             I finally boarded the plane and we able to take off early and arrive back at DFW airport early.  Unfortunately, we landed at the “C” terminal area and I was parked around the “A” terminal area.  Once I got to the “A” terminal side, I could not find my car.  I finally found a nice lady flight attendant to help me out thinking she must know the area well due to her job.  She must have felt sorry for me because she drove me around in the long term parking area until we found my car.  I thanked her and finally drove home, unpacked.  I called mom and dad around 10:00 PM to see if they made it home safely.  Now I have to wait on UPS for the rest of my loot!!!

 In Retrospect :

             Would I do this again?  Hell yea!!!  I am already planning for next year's trip.   Although it rained a few times, it created a buyer's market due to a lower turnout.

            I really count this as a scouting trip.  I learned a lot about the business, met dealers from all over America and the world and made some great business contacts.  Also, learned the layout of the area and how the shows worked. 

             The following are a few tips.  Do your research ahead of time and plan well in advance.  Deal with the foreign dealers at the tent sites.  Their prices of the same items were far lower than their American counterparts and at the convention center.  I would spend the first day scouting around with a digital camera and take notes on what you want to acquire.    Then review your pictures and your notes to more efficiently plan your purchases.  Lastly, stay at the Vagabond Plaza.  They have really nice facilitiesIt is in the center of all the action and they do provide shuttle service to the show areas that are too far to walk to

            I got to meet the Coleman’s from Arkansas who had the best quartz crystal clusters I have ever seen.  For $ 10.00/day, they will let give you a digging permit to find quartz crystals and quartz crystal clusters on their land.  This is something I hope to plan for on an extended Labor Day weekend.

             Next time I would turn it into a longer vacation to visit some of the other tourist attractions around Tucson and do some hiking in some of the surrounding state parks.  I would probably take the truck and make it a (2) day drive so as not to pay for shipping my acquisitions back home.  I would come late to the show when the prices are at their lowest.  (The dealers really do not want to pay for shipping their non-sold items back to their warehouses or back to their country.  Then, I would head on home and visit some of the tourist sites back to Dallas.  Finally, watch out E-bay!!!  Here I come!!!

          So, until next time, take care and I'll  See you... on the road, or in the workshop, (which is really just my garage) !!!!

                                                     Francis                        

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