So long Tuscon. Strapping into a half day drive it's off to Deming NM. Somewhere out amongst the stark hills is a small national park that has boondocking for $10 a night. I know what you're thinking. Sounds a little steep to be camping without any amenities. As cheap as we are we've started to grasp the reality that where we spend our money will change what we take away from this trip. Sleeping at Wal-Mart sucks. It's loud and unlevel. You can't set up your chairs or even go outside to enjoy nature. Sleeping at truck stops is way worse. Locked into a row between semis means the slide has to stay in. The cramped confines make everyone miserable. Then stack the hum of diesel motors and the constant traffic noise which make for an absolute miserable night. Free BLM boondocking is great but is hard to find outside of the southwest. Short of paying for an RV park, this is the next best thing.
This tiny park only has about 30 campsites and every single one of them is full. I stop in to chat with the campground host and he gives me the rundown. "We've got a couple of spots we can make work. Hop in the gator and I'll show you around". Mr. Host and I set off for the top of the campground where the spot is very cramped and slopes downhill. "You got anything else?" I inquire. He smiles back at me and says, "Yeah I got something that can work". Back down the road and to the side of the park we head into the day use only area. He points to the handicap parking spot next to a picnic bench. "Will that work?" I pause... "I'm not handicap and that says day use only" is my humble reply. He glances at his watch and looks back up at me. "Parks about to close for the night. We do it all the time". A smile crosses my face as I realize this guy is just trying to help folks out. "I'll take it".
Settled into our level spot we gaze out at the hill in front of us. Most of the park is just this big lump of rock. Out in the stone are gems locked beneath the earths crust. I'd give you a list, but I didn't really care. Apparently people come from all around to come out here and dig up geodes and opal. It's one of only two national parks in the system that actually encourages visitors to take a piece home with them.
We don our Camelbacks and hit the trails. It's a short 1.3 mile hike about halfway up the slope and then back down. My bum knee has kept us from longer hikes for nearly a month now. It's frustrating that we can't explore the way we really want to. What's worse is knowing that my shortcomings are holding up Katie from being able to take in all the things this trip has to offer.
Settled in for the night I set up camp and Katie preps dinner. There's 13 channels available off the antenna thanks to a few towers on top of the hill. The backdrop is absolutely stunning. I've never seen Shirley look so good.
Prickly shit and dangerous reptiles. Here the saguaro cacti grow over 50 ft high and live for 250 years if they can reach the end of their life-cycle. The saguaro is a slow growing thing. It takes 10 years for it to be a few inches high, and another 10 to reach a foot. Then at an adolescence age of 50, it can start growing arms. Until that time it's merely a green stump with prickers on it.
This random ass space set aside for cactus is split into two divisions. There are an east and west section divided by the great city of Tuscon. The park on the east side is the smallest section and the visitor center was closed when we arrived. No big deal. Just download the map from NPS and head on your way. We picked out an easy hike that was only a mile long. No reason for us to sweat to death in the 90° Arizona sun. The road turned from pavement to gravel. An unexpected twist we didn't anticipate. We've been on dirt roads in national parks quite a bit, but not one that is considered the main route to the parks attractions.
A mile of graded gravel brought us up to the first hike of the day. Weaving in and out of cactus we marched forward towards the top of a vista point. On the way our eyes were peeled for rattlesnakes, scorpions, and Gila monsters. It's bad enough the desert is constantly trying to dehydrate and stab you. Then it throws poisonous critters in for good measure.
Moving on to the next spot is a hike to the petroglyphs. The park has no idea who made these or when. It's hypothesized that native americans made these images somewhere between 300-3000 years ago. Not the most accurate guess if you ask me. So it's up to us to hike up there and see what all the huff is about. It's an easy climb with little elevation change. The path is well marked and clear of any potential stabby things. Upon our arrival we can see the petroglyphs on the rocks. Theres just a sign stating please don't climb on the stones and ruin our crap. That's easy enough to follow for most people. For some reason there are always the douchebags who think the rules don't apply to them. Some of the rocks have graffitti and are scratched over with names. Do me a favor. If you ever see some piece of trash doing this just push them into a cactus.
The hike back to Shirly gives us something else to stare out. This dry rotting cactus carcus completes the tutorial of the day. Inside is the tubular water delivery system and the guts that go with it.
Driving home we can't help but snap a picture of a road sign in kilometers. Highway 19 in Tuscon is the only city in the country to have this. Some sort of short lived experiment that failed.
Enough for today. It's finally time to kick back and relax in the Casino parking lot. One of my favorite shows is on PBS and I couldn't be happier. TV can be hard to come by for us. On this episode of Antiques Roadshow more people bring worthless crap to be told it's worth way more than they will ever sell it for. Priceless.
Phoenix traffic isn't so bad. Hauling ass east we hit this tunnel that was about a 1/2 mile long. Now I don't know about you, but when I drive a vehicle in a tunnel I have to floor it for a few seconds. Roo is no different. The acoustical echo of the turbo spooling up and the nearly straight piped exhaust sounds great bouncing off all that concrete. Katie gives me her obligatory eye roll of disapproval. At least by now she knows it's going to happen.
After only 2 hours on the road we end up in Tuscon. Casino Del Sol is the only spot in or near town that we could find a place to park for free. Turns out this joint is well known to the RV crowd. Scanning across the parking lot there were 20 or so others who came here to park as well. We have had relatively good luck at casinos and have become our go to spot if we need to do some blacktop boondocking. They usually have plenty of space, fairly quiet, and security cruising the lot. This one even had a dumpster in the parking lot for all of us to toss our trash into. Classy touch. This will become home base for the next two days as we explore the area. Today it's off for a little sightseeing.
Mission San Xavier church on the south side of town is one of the oldest structures around. Originally built in 1797, this magnificent piece of architecture still holds services today. We happened to be there right after Church had let out.
On the outskirts of the property were some food stands and a couple of landmarks to walk to. What really caught our eye on the way in was the cemetery. It was completely fenced off and had signs telling the casual observer that this place was meant for the congregation, and not for tourists.
From here we turned North and headed towards downtown. The shopping district with flair that is known as 4th Avenue. It's a few blocks long and has a real punk vibe to it. Half of the people walking the streets were covered in tats with pieces of hardware hanging off their face. It felt safe and there were definitely other tourists walking along.
Goodwill was done up with a unique flair. It's not very often you are able to find corporate businesses that stray from the traditional form.
We went in and out of some vintage stores looking for a denim jacket. Don't even get me started... I can't explain. Anywho, one of the cool things we found was a small pinball arcade. This is a good place to burn some time and revert back to having fun like a child.
With a couple bucks spent we were back on our way. A few blocks off the side streets was Crooked tooth brewery. A small local pub with the suds made on sight. We stopped in for a beer to give it a try. It was good, and would definitely recommend if you're ever in the area.
With the afternoon weening away it was time to head home. Walking down the other side of the street back to Shirley yielded the final surprise of the day. A lonesome street piano asking to be played. Now typically Katie wouldn't just sit down and play the piano in the middle of the sidewalk. She's not one who likes to have attention drawn to her. But you must realize, she just drank a 9.5% beer on an empty stomach and here judgement is a little loose. PLAY ON!
Real short post today. All we did was laze around the RV park until mid-morning. Then it was off to the west side of Phoenix to see some of Katie's family. It's been 10 years since she's seen them and it was the first time for me. The whole event turned out just fine. We sat around and talked BS for a couple of hours and had lunch. Then by mid-afternoon it was time for us to depart and head home. Overall a good time, and some cool people. I didn't even think to snap a pic of all us for the blog. So in lieu of that I give you an evening shot of our home for the night. Enjoy.
Do you ever wake up and just have one of those days? You know what I'm talking about. When you reach up to grab a coffee cup but then you end up dropping not one, but two of them on the floor.
Katie swings out of the bathroom to see what the noise was. She snickers at me and teases me about not being able to pull a coffee cup out of the cupboard without screwing it up. A couple of minutes later she attempts to open a bag of frosted flakes and it explodes into two pieces. You know what I'm talking about. Those big cheap ass store brand bags that has plastic so brittle you thought it would of been better packed in a grocery bag. Yep. Karma's a bitch.
Forget breakfast. The much anticipated day of reckoning has come. My ugly ass long mullet and frazzly beard are completely out of control. I can see it in Katies eye's.... I look like I live in an RV. I've been waiting to get it cut so my hair is long enough I can start a new hairstyle. Oh yes. Time to live on the edge. I scour through google reviews and find a barber that I think will do a decent job. We pop into the place and it's packed. I immediately turn around and tell the wife, "Nope. Not waiting an hour for a haircut." She tells me to suck it up and wait because I won't be happy with a half ass cut from great clips. Touche my dear. Touche.
With that checked off the list we can get back to the RV and head to the park. Leaf Verde proves itself to be a well run joint and check in was a breeze. Roo gets parked in her space and the hookup process begins. The hose is leaking. Why is the dam hose leaking? Oh I know why, because it's gonna be one of those days. Time to head to Wal-Mart and buy a new hose and a sewer support while I'm at it. Stupid things aside it's time to get out and see Phoenix. Traffic isn't bad so it's straight to downtown for a little walk in the streets.
It's the same old story that we've seen on the west coast. Homeless people on the streets and in the parks. We're hassled for change within the first few minutes of walking. The greater metro Phoenix is considered to be one of the most dangerous places in Arizona. To be fair, the population of Phoenix is just over 4.5 million people. Arizona as a whole state rings in a 6.9 million. After 45 minutes our time at the meter is running out. Off to the state capitol building.
State capitol buildings tend to offer us what we are looking for. A free place to walk around for 10 minutes and kill some time. This place was different. We arrived after 4pm and the building was already locked up. What we didn't expect was the vast amount of attractions on the grounds. Phoenix has done a spectacular job with honoring the nations veterans and more specifically those who were from Arizona.
With the daylight fading I turned my attention across the street. Some outdoor mining equipment was on display to commemorate Arizona's involvement in digging for copper. That'll be the last thing for the day. We've been busy and I'm excited to get home and watch TV. It's been a few days....
Another day in the desert. What used to be a novelty is starting to wear on us. One more 4 mile sprint with the unleashed black menace blazing trail. So far the old chap has done well with the unfamiliar surroundings. He hasn't brought home any cactus prickers in his ass or rattlesnake bites on his face.
With our Quartzsite experience accomplished it's time to move on. There's nothing left here for us to see and there ain't much to do. So we round up our stuff and start packing away our things once more. Everything that isn't bolted down needs to be put away into it's spot. With Shirley hooked up we hit the road and haul ass across southern Arizona on our way into Phoenix. Arizona has been gripped in a heat wave and we want to get the miles in before it gets too hot. Unfortunately our timing didn't matter because the oppressive heat set in. It was early in the afternoon when we finally rolled into our spot for the night and the temp had hit a paltry 90°. Roo's fat ass broke a sweat and warmed up on the temp gauge, but never got to the point of worry.
Ten miles south of Buckeye, AZ yielded us with a place to boondock for the night. We ended up setting up just for the night and tried to look for a TV signal. Nothing. Crap. We decided to get the bikes out and go for a star lit ride through the desert. It was a really cool feeling to be wrapped in the darkness. I tried to get a picture, really I did. However that kind of dark shot is out of grasp for my Samsung S7. The best part of the night was laying down for bed and falling asleep, only to be awoken by the sound of singing coyotes in the hills.
We're out and about at a bright and early 9 am. Some folks are already back from there morning walk. Never mind that, it's our turn and the desert is still a cool 70° degrees outside. Katie is finally back to full speed as she totes her camelback through the brush. Sidekick black dog is with us and trodding along at full speed through the brush. We push on for a total of four miles before finally returning back to the RV.
I've been wanting to see town and today we get that chance. Although it's not the bustling metropolis that occurs during the peak snowbird season, there are still a few things going on. We drop into the post office to mail off our earnest money for the new house. I can say this is the first time that two ATV's have parked next to me at the post office.
Just across the street was a flea market selling all sorts of random junk. After rifling through the junk we meandered over to the grocery tent to look around. Oh yeah, tent groceries for sale.
Just look at all of that well organized non-expired goods that are displayed under the hanging lights. What's not to love?
Then there is the largest industry in Quartzsite. Rocks. People come here to buy rocks. Technically they are called "gems" and you can buy them by the pound. We passed no fewer than a half a dozen permanent rock stands and found that every flea market stand also had a rock section. To be honest it was actually quite impressive. We browsed the aisles and looked at rocks from all over the world brought here to be sold. I can only assume when the massive influx of RV'ers show up they buy rocks. Then they take the rocks and sit in the desert to make crafts. You see these crafts at a flea market near you, being sold out of an RV. The perfect circle.
We left the rock garden and avoided botulism from the tent grocery store. Shirley steered towards the northeast corner of town and started to weave through the side streets. It turns out there was an entire neighborhood dedicated to houses that had garages for RV's.
A final stop at Hi Jolly's tomb on the way out of the town would seal the day. This guy apparently came over with a herd of camels that the US Army bought to run supplies through the desert. It was supposed to be an effort to help develop a supply chain through the arid land. Locals adore him and camels are prominently displayed around town.
When our traveling the southwest it is almost obligatory to swing into Arizona to do the "Quartzsite thing". This place is legendary for allowing RV'ers to take over the land and settle down for an extraordinary amount of time. You can either opt for the free 14 day camping area or pay $180 and stay from August to April on public land. With a paltry population of just over 3,000, Quartzsite isn't a place one would typically be overly excited about. However come winter the snowbirds flock in. This place swells to over 250,000 people living in the surrounding desert and can see as many as 1.2 million visitors during the winter season. It's suppose to be a garage sale haven for those who like to barter for deals.
Right now this place is still dead for the most part. The season won't pick up until after Christmas. We had no problem finding our home for the next few days and claiming our own little piece of desert. Theres no tv signal and not much here to do. Looks like we'll be spending the next two days trying to entertain ourselves and going for some long walks with the dog. Katie is finally just about back to normal. So it's to the dog cabinet for a leash and we hit the desert for a quick two mile jaunt. Time to see some cacti in it's natural environment.
That's weird. With the key on before starting the engine there's a little red light on. The little red light illuminates the "CHECK TRANS" idiot light. Well... that can't be good. I crank the motor over and the light goes off. Ok, that's a good sign. I've been staring at this dash for 12,000 miles and I've never seen the check trans light stay on for more than a second when everything else lights up. So it's to the internet to pull up the trouble shooting info from the Allison Transmission website.
I follow the manufacturers instructions and check for fault codes and oil level. Everything checks out ok per Roo's ECM. " Lower your expectations and you'll never be dissapointed"- Mike Finnegan. Gotta love roadkill. If anyone out there is reading this and you like anything about cars just type in ROADKILL on youtube. Enjoy the goodness that is awesome project cars.
So time to get back on track. Katie is still feeling under the weather and I need to make another quiet day for her. Remember back when I said I couldn't wait to detail the RV? I'd hope so because that was yesterday.
I've had an affliction for clean cars since I had my first one. My bro Stick can vouch for my attention to my S10. Cowboy Tony will tell you that I kept my RX-7 spotless. Whitey will tell you that my corvette was the cleanest FRC that roamed the streets. Even Mark and Mario have seen me wash and wax my deleted Cummins work truck. There's no reason to neglect Roo and not show her some love.
I'm always up for learning new tricks and the RV taught me another one. This dirtball cheap cleaner from the Dollar Tree is hands down the best cleaner I've ever used to remove water stains and black streaks off of fiberglass. That means I'll be spending the next 3 hours hand wiping down the side of Roo with this, then going back and giving her another loving rub with some quick detailer. A final coat of vinyl protectant over the graphics should just about cover it. Oh and dont' worry, I spent another 45 minutes hand polishing the wheels. I'll do the other side tomorrow.
Today was worse than yesterday. Katie hasn't really eaten in 48 hours and can barely keep water down. Her fever has gotten worse and she just wants to sleep.
I spend the morning performing my butler chores on keeping up the life. It's normal stuff that we usually split, but I'm going nuts from boredom so it's ok for me. After the RV is cleaned and the dishes are done I go about making myself breakfast. Then it's check on the wife and get out of the RV for a while to give her some quiet space. My trusty sidekick is always up for anything. We hitch Eli's collar up to a leash and hit the road for a walk. Ironically I've also been suffering some sort of ailment. For the last 2-3 weeks my knee has been bothering me. It's fine to walk on but hurts to climb stairs or even walk up a steep hill. At first I thought it was nothing, but it hasn't gone away or gotten any better. I'd compare it to getting punched in the back of the knee a few hours ago and having that overall sore lingering feeling that just doesn't go away. Katie being on the sidelines has given me a chance to rest to and it's starting to help.
I get back to the RV around lunch and check on my bride. She's in the same state and things are looking grim. We're going on day 5 of boondocking and we have to go to town today. There's no more water and our waste tanks are full. I get put everything away and get Shirley hooked up to travel. Katie is forced to sum up enough energy to sit in the passenger seat for the next hour and a half while we drive. This is the way we say good bye to California. It's been a good 6 weeks, but we're glad to see it go.
Quartzsite AZ is our destination. After arriving at the park I get us checked in and find out the RV park has a FREE wash station. You read that right. FREE. Roo has taken on a nice sheen of dirt and I'm way to cheap to pay a truck wash $60 to clean it for me. Katie is already curled up in bed and passed out again. I'm sure she won't mind if I pressure wash Roo while she takes a nap.
The hot pressure wash and soap-down lays the foundation for what I've got planned tomorrow. An hour and a half is what it takes to wash 40' of fiberglass wrapped house. After a night's worth of drying I'll be able to spend the day wiping down the sides and giving this thing the full detail it deserves. Can't wait.
I'm just a guy, with a wife, a dog, and three cats. Watch us travel the country.
Months of travel
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