It has been an interesting week. The weather here in Phoenix, Arizona, has been a bit of a roller coaster. One day it’s nearly perfect and the next day it’s anything but. Along with the ups and downs of the temperature, the wind has been relentless causing dust and dirt to permeate every square inch of my RV.
With that said, the RV needs a good spring cleaning. As our departure date nears, I like to go through every cabinet and closet. I usually start with the pantry. When was the last time you checked the expiration date on your spices? Eek! At least three of mine ended up in the trash. I’m pretty sure the Rosemary with the expiration year of 2017 has lost its flavor by now. 🥴
And although I feel really good about the cleaning progress I’m making, all that dust and dirt has caused a ‘dry eye’ flare-up. It’s brutal when this happens and I struggle for relief. This means as part of my dry eye relief protocol, I have to limit my computer screen time. Endless hours looking at the screen on my laptop just adds to the eye irritation.
So, in this week’s post, I got nothing. Nothing to write about other than letting ya know I’ve been busy with RV cleaning and doing my best to stay away from my laptop. No hiking. No photography. No travel tales. Gosh, I’m even using photos from Pexels today. Can you believe I’m not using my own images? I think that’s a first!
But come on … who doesn’t like cute doggie pics? Plus, these particular photos seem to fit my current mood.
On that note, please excuse my absence for the next … week or two? I’ll miss reading your tales and seeing your lovely images, but right now, my vision is a little blurry and my eyes are irritated, thus forcing a blogging break upon me. Sigh!
Have a great Sunday and a great week and we’ll talk soon!
It’s a cold and gloomy Sunday. We said our good-byes to our new friends that morning and are now sitting in the warmth of our dry comfy RV parked in our little corner campsite all by ourselves. The abundance of windows in our tiny home allows us to watch the nasty weather roll in. It turns into an entertaining sight, and I’m incredibly thankful I’m camped in an RV and not a tent.
Al and I are shocked when we see snowflakes fall. It’s March 2012 near Phoenix, Arizona. We’re camped at the Lost Dutchman State Park, and I’m seeing snow accumulate on the Superstition Mountains. Really? The rain, hail, and snow continued most of the day. Bear’s walks were quick, much to his displeasure. I call my dad, who lives in the Chicago suburbs, and tell him where we’re camped and all about the weather. My dad can barely contain his laughter as he briefs me on the sunny blue sky and 80 degrees F weather he is enjoying.
It’s mid-March and I’m sitting in the Phoenix valley bundled up in winter attire while dad is in the Chicago area wearing shorts and a golf shirt. What’s wrong with this picture? We enjoyed a good chuckle and I promised to send him lots of photos.
RV Group Camping
Shortly after noon, the first of our Escapees Boomer Club starts arriving. This is our very first ever RV group event and first with the Escapees organization as well. We brave the elements with each RV arrival to introduce ourselves. Wanting to return to the dry warmth of our RV as soon as possible, we kept the introductions short. By late afternoon, our formerly empty group camping area was nearly full.
The next day, the only sign of the inclement weather from the day before was the dusting of snow left behind on the Superstition Mountains. From what we gathered, snow is a rare treat to behold around here which caused photographic excitement amongst locals and non-locals alike. Al and I changed our opinion from disgruntled to fortunate. After all, we did leave Colorado to escape the cold and snow, and here we were in Arizona experiencing the very weather we were trying to avoid. But back home, that weather is the norm while here it is a rarity, and we were able to witness this rare sight. So, we considered ourselves fortunate even though we weren’t necessarily happy about pulling out the winter coats.
With fair weather upon us once again and a group of around twelve RVs gathered, the organizers posted a list of activities for the upcoming three days. We had a choice of activities in which to engage. While the days were filled with hikes, seminars, and outings, the evenings centered around various get-togethers either at the pavilion or inside someone’s RV, activities determined by the weather.
One of the daytime outings with a couple of our new neighbors included a visit to Tortilla Flat for lunch. A few days earlier, Al and I had driven through this entertaining town and vowed to return. So, here was our opportunity. The restaurant walls are plastered with dollar bills covering every square inch of wall space and the bar stools are made from saddles. It’s a fun and busy place plus the burgers are tasty.
I believe this was the first time I ever snapped a photo in a lady’s restroom. The stall doors were each painted with a different dance hall gal dress design. So once you stepped up to the door, your head finished off the design. Too cute! After lunch, we stepped into the gift shop for a look around and then over to the ice cream shop. We had heard that the ice cream is delicious and shouldn’t be passed up. Feeling compelled to confirm that tidbit of info, Al and our friends confirm that the ice cream was definitely worth the indulgence. Nice job team! Unable to tolerate the dairy, I looked on longingly … sigh!
One evening, a large group of us car-pooled over to the Organ Stop Pizza for a meal and entertainment. This was our second visit to this one-of-a-kind establishment. Organ Stop Pizza is home to the world’s largest Wurlitzer Organ and even if you’re not a fan of Organ music, it’s an experience I highly recommend at least once. We enjoyed the food as well as the entertainment, but others in our group shared a different culinary opinion. Regardless, we all had a fabulous time!
RVing education seminars
Our days whizzed by as our RVing education with the Escapees Club continued. We learned about solar panels, batteries, inverters, holding tanks, boondocking, and more. We learned so much from these seasoned RVers and appreciated their time and friendship. We were sad for this way too short of a gathering to end. Alas, it was time for us to move on with more education to be had at the Good Sam Rally being held in the town of Goodyear, AZ.
Our stay at Lost Dutchman State Park and the Superstition Mountains left an indelible impression upon us. It’s a magical place … a spiritual place … a place we feel compelled to revisit time and again. There’s a unique draw to explore this wilderness area, a longing to experience its ever-changing personality with the weather, and a pull to uncover its hidden secrets. We left with the solace of knowing we’ll return … I must return!
Good Sam Rally
Our drive from Apache Junction to Goodyear took less than an hour. We set up camp at the Destiny RV Resort which was an easy 15-minute drive to the Good Sam Rally location. Thus, we could spend all day at the event with a quick return to the RV for lunch and a dog walk if necessary. Thursday morning we headed off to the Rally. We looked at dozens of RVs and visited the majority of vendor booths set up in a huge event tent. We looked at the seminar schedule and attended a partial seminar with a lackluster interest.
I think we were on RV information overload at this point especially after the previous days camped with the Escapees. By late afternoon, we had accomplished our goal and decided we wouldn’t return to the Rally the next day. We also knew our six-week road trip was nearing its end, and we’d need to start the 800-mile journey home soon.
As we pulled into the driveway, Al and I looked at each other. Home? We felt detached. We weren’t happy to be “home”. Why? Even the dog didn’t jump out of the truck immediately. We were tempted to turn around and head back out. Where too? Didn’t matter. We just knew we didn’t want to be here. Ah, life! Obligations and responsibilities still bound us to the house and this location in Colorado. We were tied down, yet longed for the freedom of the open road. We were given a taste, and we wanted more.
Is this the end of our RVing journey or is it just the beginning?
We left Lake Pleasant a bit reluctantly but were excited to be heading to a new location. We wanted to check out more of the Maricopa County Regional Parks. If the other parks were even half as nice as Lake Pleasant, we’d be happy campers. We knew we were running a risk traveling without reservations, but Al and I were still in flitting mode with no real destination in mind. Well actually, we did have a destination in mind but that wouldn’t be for several more days down the road. So for right now, we had a few days to fill up before that rendezvous with the Escapees group.
March 17, 2012 – When we arrived at Usery Mountain Regional Park, we were told the campground was full, but we could boondock in their overflow lot until a campsite came available, which might be in the next day or two. We opted to stay in the overflow lot for the night which was nothing more than a paved parking lot located right next to the park entrance. It wasn’t ideal, but we figured for one night we’d make it work while we discussed how we wanted to spend the next several days.
It was still morning when we unhitched the RV in the Usery Mountain Regional Park overflow lot. It was a lovely day and the sky was a beautiful bright blue. The sun was warm and the breeze light. We absolutely must take advantage of this gorgeous day! Al and I packed a light lunch, drinks, loaded the dog in the truck, and headed up the road a piece. This funny expression was one of Al’s mom’s little phrases that always brought chuckles. Today’s destination; Saguaro Lake.
Wow! Al and I were awed by the beauty of Saguaro Lake. It’s a much more picturesque setting than Lake Pleasant. We found a quiet covered picnic table and enjoyed our lunch while admiring the view.
After lunch, we spent a little time driving around exploring. The marina rents various watercraft, and we were tempted to rent something the following day, but we wanted to see if we could get into a campsite at Usery Park first.
It’s 6:30 in the morning when I awake to Bear’s restlessness. That dog’s internal clock is spot on. He’s ready for his walk at the same time every morning. Even though we were camped in a parking lot, we slept ok. I throw on some clothes, hook up Bear’s leash, and slip the camera in my pocket before exiting the RV. The cactus are blooming at this time of year, and I was hoping to capture a few photos of one particular pink bloom.
It’s a brisk calm morning. Bear and I stroll up the road that leads to an Archery range. I take in the amazing array of cactus and vegetation while watching bunny’s dart across the road. Since the sun isn’t fully up just yet, he and I are totally alone enjoying the landscape and fresh air. I’m in my own little world and daydreaming. Suddenly, I’m startled by some screaming girls in the distance. I realize it was spring break, but screaming girls at 6:30 in the morning just didn’t seem right.
I listen again and that’s when reality hit me … coyotes! And they didn’t sound all that far away, plus we were walking toward the commotion. Bear and I swiftly turn around making our way back to the RV. Photos of the flowering cactus will just have to wait. I have no intention of running into a pack of coyotes this morning.
Back at the RV, we eat breakfast and after a couple of cups of coffee, Al and I decide to move over to Lost Dutchman State Park. Our plans would be taking us there in a few days anyway to join the Escapees. So, we figured, why not show up early. However, before hooking up, Al calls the state park to verify that they indeed have room for us in their overflow area.
Al talks to the head ranger who informs him that no group is booked in the group campground prior to our Escapees group, and thus, gives us the okay to set up early in the group area that’s reserved for our Boomer’s Escapee rendezvous; our very first Escapees anything.
Thirty minutes later, we pulled up to the fee station at Lost Dutchman State Park to check-in. Oops! The ranger had made a mistake, and yes, there was a private group booked that would be arriving the next day. We were allowed to camp in the group campground for the night, after that, we weren’t sure where we’d go. The ranger would leave the decision up to the incoming group whether we were allowed to stay or would need to go. The group campgrounds were the only overflow areas available at that time and overflow camping was only available when the group loops weren’t reserved.
We set up camp in a corner of the lot and knew we could stay in this spot for at least the night. The next day the ‘Superstition Square Wheelers’ would show up and determine our fate. The Superstition Square Wheelers is a local group of square dancers that share non-dancing outings a couple of times a year.
Not only did they allow us to remain in our camp spot, they graciously embraced us and included us in activities. Talk about turning lemons into lemonade. What an incredibly warm and generous group of people. We had a wonderful time, and by Sunday morning, we were exchanging contact information and hugs good-bye. But before we bid our new friends farewell, we embarked on an adventure that the group recommended.
On the far southeast side of the greater Phoenix valley lies Arizona’s oldest highway. This former stagecoach trail which runs through the Superstition Mountains was originally used by the Apache Indians thus aptly named The Apache Trail.
The Apache Trail is officially known as State Route 88 and links the town of Apache Junction with Theodore Roosevelt Lake. The trail was developed into more of a road in the 1930s to support the development of dams along the Salt River creating some beautiful lakes in the process. There are a bunch of interesting sights and views along the way which necessitate lots of stopping. Photo-op anyone? Thus, the Apache Trail Circle Loop requires an entire day for the excursion. It’s also not for the faint of heart due to the condition and topography of the road.
From the state park, we headed north on State Road 88, aka The Apache Trail. As we entered the Tonto National Forest, the road starts to climb, twist, and bend. The scenery becomes more rugged and stunning with each mile. March is particularly beautiful as the road is lined on both sides with yellow blooms from the brittlebush and desert marigolds.
Twenty miles north of the town of Apache Junction, we round a bend and are graced with the sight of an oasis in the desert. Canyon Lake with its deep blue waters surrounded by rugged cliffs and rocky terrain is a pleasant and unexpected surprise. A few more miles up the road is the cute little town of Tortilla Flat; population 6. In the future, we’ll need to stop here for lunch. We hear they serve up a great burger.
Beyond Tortilla Flat, the paved road turns into gravel. The gravel road is wide and in pretty good condition up to the scenic view parking lot. We loved the vista view and for those less adventurous this would be a good spot to turn around and retrace the journey home. But for us? We’re off on an adventure plus Al and I are used to driving unpaved mountain back roads with steep cliff drop-offs. In other words, we already knew this stretch of road between Tortilla Flat and the Roosevelt Dam would be somewhat challenging.
As we continued beyond the scenic overlook, the road narrows and winds. This two-way traffic road narrows down to about a one to one and a half lane wide road. Those going downhill supposedly have the right of way and it’s not uncommon for the need for someone to back up to a wider spot in the road so vehicles can pass by each other. Fish Creek Hill/Pass is the worst part of the journey with sheer drop-offs, very narrow road, lots of turns, and a steep elevation transition. Expect white knuckles!
One-lane bridges and a washboard gravel road add to the overall adventure. Once we reach Apache Lake, another beauty, the road becomes a little easier to traverse. Due to the washboard condition of the road and our extra-long wheel base on the F-250, it’s slow going. Two and a half hours after leaving Tortilla Flat we finally arrived at the Theodore Roosevelt Damn and Lake.
Now it was time to complete the circle and return home to the Lost Dutchman State Park. The majestic scenery continues from Roosevelt Lake to the active mining towns of Miami and Superior and passed the Boyce Thompson Arboretum. The Arboretum looks worthy of a visit, but by this point in the journey, I’m photoed out, tired, and just ready to get home. This one-day excursion was not long enough to see everything, and we made mental notes for things to see and do in the future.
Whether one is looking for solitude or a host of activities, this part of Arizona seems to offer it all. I remain awed by its raw beauty and fascinated by the plants and animals that survive in this harsh land. I find myself smitten with the landscape and left with a desire to explore more.
The sun is still tucked behind the mountains when Bear nudges me. He’s ready for his morning walk. I had a rough night, a very restless night. So, I’m moving rather slowly this morning. A weather front had rolled in and the high winds kept rocking the RV all night long. Perhaps, one day I’ll get used to living in the RV and won’t be so worried about every sound, smell, and movement felt in this tiny home on wheels.
March 16, 2012 – Upon exiting the RV, I noticed the water level had risen even more. Soon our firepit will be underwater. Each night as more water is released from the dam, the water level continues to swallow up more shoreline and encroaching closer to our RV and campsite.
A few days earlier, the rangers came around notifying RVers that we’d have a few more days before we’d have to move. Some RVs, those that were camped closer to the boat ramp, had already moved on considering their slice of land was already covered with an inch of water. Since Lake Pleasant is a reservoir, water levels are closely managed and levels fluctuate a lot. During the fall, lake levels are allowed to go down and in the spring, the lake is allowed to fill. Soon our beautiful lakefront property will be underwater.
Walking the dog and reflecting on life.
While walking Bear, I glance up and down the shoreline. There’s only a handful of RVs scattered about. I take in my tranquil surroundings and admire the colorful sky as the sun begins to rise. As I leisurely stroll, I reflect on the past month of life on the road and ask myself, “Am I ready to head home or am I home”? I don’t have the answer just yet, but I do have a much better understanding as to why my mother encouraged me to start RVing while young and healthy. It’s a fantastic way to travel, and I feel a sense of contentment that I hadn’t felt in a long time.
I find so much joy and peace being near the water, camping in nature, and enjoying the wildlife. Perhaps it’s due to fond childhood memories spent camping near lakes in northern Wisconsin. My mind wanders …
My parents are originally from Germany and had traveled all over Europe on their motorcycle before emigrating to the United States. As two very adventurous souls, they sold most of their belongings, packed two steamer trunks and a suitcase, boarded a ship near Amsterdam, and a week later mom, dad, and their two-year-old son (my brother) arrived in New York City. They then took a train from New York City to Chicago, Illinois, where their sponsor would help them get settled into their new life in the United States.
My father did not speak any English with the exception of some very inappropriate phrases taught to him by American soldiers during the war. My father spent his eighteenth year in an American-French prison camp. He had been a German soldier during World War II and had been captured by the Americans. So you can imagine the type of English he was taught. My mother was a bit more adept at picking up languages and knew enough English words (proper words) to get by.
What guts and fortitude they had to leave their home, their family, and move to a foreign country … a country that had previously bombed and destroyed their homes and towns and imprisoned my father. Their intent was to explore the United States for two years then move to Argentina for two years and then eventually return home to Germany.
Life did not go exactly as planned or expected. I showed up a bit more than a year after their arrival to America. I guess the doctor was wrong, much to mom’s delight. Thus, with two kids and all the responsibilities associated with a growing family, the travel that they intended to do was slightly out of reach.
But they weren’t content to just stay housebound. Summer weekends were spent at Chicago’s Lake Shore with the additional car and tent camping trips to Wisconsin and Michigan. During these explorations, my father developed a passion for fishing. Summer vacations were soon spent camping throughout the state of Wisconsin at various lakes. My brother and I loved these trips. We would spend hours swimming, making new friends, catching frogs, fish, grasshoppers, and lighting bugs. Television was never missed.
When my sister came along (doctors were wrong again), a pop-up trailer replaced the tent. My dad also added a boat, which was pulled by his fishing buddy and co-worker. The guys would fish early in the morning and again late in the day. I guess that’s when “the fish are biting”. During the heat of the day, my brother and I learned how to water ski. Oh, how fun these summer vacations were, and I thank my parents for such fond childhood memories.
Fast forward … three grown kids, empty nesters, and retired. It was finally time to see the United States of America, the whole reason for coming to this country all those years ago. For over fifteen years and a few RVs later, mom and dad explored the United States making friends from around the country. These adventures turned into the best years of their lives. My mom’s face would always light up just talking about their RV travels and the friends they had made.
Would history repeat itself? Would I too embrace this RV lifestyle with the same passion as my parents? Questions to ponder! Hmm, it might even be fun for Al and me to retrace some of my folk’s travels.
Our ten days camped at the spillway near the 10 lane boat ramp at Lake Pleasant were enjoyable and educational, but we had new territory to explore and new people to meet. It was time for us to move over to the east side of the Phoenix valley for some new adventures which would include group camping with the Escapees.
As much as we loved our campsite along the Colorado River at the Davis Park, the winds in Bullhead City were relentless. Thus, it was time for us to move on and head back over to Phoenix. After a little internet research, I discovered the Maricopa Regional Park system, particularly Lake Pleasant Regional Park. Ah yes, more water and hopefully less wind.
Lake Pleasant Regional Park – March 6, 2012
With more than 23,000 acres of water and surrounded by the beautiful Sonoran desert, Lake Pleasant Regional Park is a popular recreation area located in the town of Peoria on the far northwest side of the Phoenix Arizona Valley. This desert oasis was exactly what we were looking for. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to secure a campsite reservation online so we decided to just show up and see what camping options were available. One can hope for a campsite cancellation.
After our three-plus-hour drive from Bullhead City to Lake Pleasant, we pulled up to the Lake Pleasant fee station and confirmed that the campgrounds were indeed booked. Sigh, no cancellations! We asked the ranger for camping options. She precedes to tell us and show us on the map all the boondocking areas, but her favorite and her recommendation would be the 10 lane boat ramp. A boat ramp? Did we just hear that right?
I’ll admit, after driving all morning, Al and I were a little on the tired side and didn’t fully comprehend all that she said, “There are lots of places to park at the spillway which is just past the 10 lane boat ramp … there are two ways to get there, but I only recommend one yadda … yadda … yadda.” I think we were more confused by her information and directions than enlightened. We paid our daily admittance fee along with two nights of shoreline boondocking and headed off in search of this place to camp that she recommended.
Before we even hit the road, Al and I had made a promise to each other that when it came time to search out boondocking spots, we would first explore without the RV in tow. We’d call it a scouting mission and this mission would help us avoid getting ourselves into a pickle. Great plan … when implemented.
Boondocking is a term used by RVers to describe RV camping without being connected to services – no water, no electric, no sewer. Unlike dry camping, boondocking is dispersed camping that is not located in a designated campground.Popular boondocking locations are in National Forests or even approved parking lots like a Walmart.
We were off in search of a campsite. After the first correct turn, Al and I asked each other where we were supposed to turn next. We were both confused. It was either fatigue or information overload that found us turning onto Sunset Ridge Road, and just as the name implies, it’s a road on a ridge. The paved road quickly turns into a dirt road that eventually winds its way down to the shoreline. Not exactly an RV-friendly road. We soon realized our mistake and stopped before venturing further down the dirt road and further into a situation that we couldn’t safely get out of.
It was at that moment that we had our aha moment and realized, after the fact, that this was the route that the ranger didn’t recommend. Eek! Time to make a quick decision. Al and I jumped out of the truck (fortunately, we were all alone … no witnesses, thank goodness) and assess the situation. Al was pretty sure the tight turning radius capability with a 5th wheel would allow him to turn around. If he’s wrong? … well, guess he’ll go tumbling off the side of the hill. Hmm, did I pay that life insurance bill? Snicker! In all seriousness, we were both pretty stressed and concerned. We preceded with extreme caution. I serve as a spotter while Al makes the tight and precarious turnaround. This turn was so tight that it would not have possible with a travel trailer, and we are so grateful we have a 5th wheel. The next day, we confirmed that we made a wise decision and that it definitely would not have been a good idea to continue any further on this road. Oh, we probably could’ve made it, but not without some possible RV undercarriage damage.
With the turnaround successful and a mishap avoided, we gathered our composure and eventually found the correct turn and the spillway. Ah yes, this will work nicely! We settle in for a couple of nights and end up extending our stay several times for a total of ten days camped along the shores of Lake Pleasant.
Meeting interesting people!
During the weekdays, we practically had our perfect waterfront campsite to ourselves. The weekends were a whole different story … jam-packed might adequately describe it. On warm sunny days, every square inch of shoreline is occupied with people as locals flock to Lake Pleasant in droves for weekend water recreation. This is when Lake Pleasant isn’t so pleasant.
More than once, we witnessed ignorant and rude behavior, even a verbal fight that almost turned into a fistfight. Case in point – ignorant behavior; It was a beautiful Friday in March and there was a steady stream of weekend warriors rolling in all day in all kinds of RVs. By late afternoon, the shoreline was packed with RVs and new arrivals started setting up camp in the rest of the paved lot. Earlier that day, neighbor Tom had parked his truck on the other side of his RV so he wouldn’t accidentally get blocked in by a new arrival as well as be neighborly, and we did the same.
Late Saturday afternoon as I was returning to our RV after walking the dog, I watched a large motorhome squeeze, and I mean squeeze, in between Tom and Kay’s RV and another RV to their right. I’m not exaggerating when I say the side of that motorhome was maybe three feet away from the front nose of Tom and Kay’s 5th wheel and maybe less to the neighboring RV. To top it off, the motorhome pulled all the way up to the water’s edge then immediately started the generator which caused the exhaust to blow straight at Tom and Kay who were sitting outside trying to enjoy a quiet evening with plans to watch the sunset. Oh, and because the generator was so loud, the motorhome folks had to play their music even louder.
By 10:00 a.m. the next morning, the motorhome home had pulled out along with other RVers, and by late Sunday afternoon, the majority of RVs around us had departed returning Lake Pleasant to pleasant once again. When we noticed Kay and Tom sitting outside, we walked over to discuss the audacity of that motorhome the evening before. These folks were in their 12th year of full-time RV living and Al and I were in awe. We had so many questions. They took the motorhome event in stride and shared more RV bad behavior stories that they’d witness over the years. We learned a lot from these two and were sad to see them leave the next day.
It didn’t take long before we had new neighbors. These friendly RV folks were quick to come over and introduce themselves. Once again, the conversation flowed smoothly, and we discovered not only did we have similar 5th wheels, but we shared a similar background in aviation. However, there was one subject where we were definitely not on the same page.
Turns out, this delightful couple had just spent six weeks camped in Quartzsite … at the magic circle. Say what? Oh my, another clothing-optional couple! Al and I began to wonder if we were some kind of magnet or if we had a sort of look. Thankfully, they weren’t into spouse swapping like the Lake Havasu neighbor, but they did share plenty of photos of their clothing-optional vacations from around the world; their favorite being in the south of France. TMI folks!
Aside from these seasoned RVers sharing a little too much of their too little clothing lifestyle, they enlightened these RV newbies on solar panels, batteries, and making RV modifications; information Al and I gladly soaked up. We appreciated their time and knowledge.
Enjoying lake life!
Although we relished engaging with fellow RVers, we enjoyed plenty of quiet time as well … time to sit, relax, and reflect on life. I think Al and I needed that downtime … time to watch the clouds pass overhead and the ducks paddle by.
I’m sitting at the kitchen table gazing out the window and beyond the deck. In the far distance Pikes Peak is covered in a low shroud of gray cloud cover. The chill in the air serves as another reminder that more snow is on the way. I’m feeling down! Even the dog seems depressed.
November 2011 – “Okay, time to snap out of it, Ingrid”, I mutter to myself. I allow my fingers to quickly move over the keyboard on my laptop. I Google everything I can think of with those two letters; R V. I come across some interesting articles and dive a little deeper. Blogs? Hmm, I think I heard that word once before on one of Paula Deen’s cooking shows on the Food Network. She had a guest on her show who wrote a very popular cooking blog called the Pioneer Woman. Prior to that, I’m not sure I’d ever heard the term before, and I still wasn’t sure exactly what it was.
For years I was so busy working, being a wife, mother, and business owner that I rarely had enough time for myself let alone have the ability to just linger on the internet. But that all changed with the Great Recession, a poor housing economy, and an empty nest. I now found myself with more time on my hands than ever before. Time to daydream about RV travels. I gobbled up as much information as I could find and began reading RVing blogs, blogs all about RV travel.
I was green with envy as I read travel tale after travel tale accompanied by beautiful photographs. I wanted in. I wanted to be a part of the RV lifestyle. My poor RV had been sitting on the side of our house neglected for almost a year. It’s as if I could feel my mom’s presence as she stood over me saying, “What are you waiting for? If that’s what you want, go for it”.
There were many times in my life where I wished I had listened to my mom more often, and now that she was no longer physically here, I thought it would be a great idea to at least listen to her spirit or those voices in my head. Before long, I was studying Google Maps. I had to keep winter weather and winter driving conditions in mind while planning a trip.
The makings of a plan
Where to go? I knew I wanted to go west and include a visit with our son in Phoenix. As I scour the map, two words jump out at me like a red beacon; Death Valley. Oh my gosh! I have wanted to visit Death Valley National Park for as long as I can remember. It sounds so foreboding, so mysterious, and fits my current gloomy mood.
I run the RV trip idea past Al. In September, just two months earlier, Al found himself flying back to Illinois to attend his mother’s funeral. He wasn’t in any better of a mood than I was and was rather indifferent to a getaway. Basically, his response was, “Go ahead and plan a trip and just let me know what direction I need to point the RV and when. AND don’t get us into a pickle, a situation that may damage the RV”.
Alrighty then! Let the planning commence. Oh, and I think I’ll start my own blog in the process. The blog will serve as my personal journal documenting this trip.
It was now January 2012. With holiday decorations packed away after enjoying a very low key Christmas holiday with both children joining us in our new house in Pueblo West, it was finally time to set a timeline for that RV getaway. We were in the thick of winter weather in Colorado, and we’d have to plan our drive strategically to avoid icy roads. The previous winter, we had spun out in my little red Toyota Tacoma on some black ice near Trinidad, Colorado, and we certainly didn’t want to experience anything similar with the RV in tow.
After a few false starts due to snowstorms, we finally had a big enough break in the weather and were on the road in mid-February 2012. Two days later we arrived in Phoenix, and once again, we stayed at the Desert’s Edge RV Park on the north side of the valley for a couple of nights so we could get in a quick visit with our son.
Next stop, Lake Havasu City
We were traveling in footloose and fancy-free fashion with no reservations, no real timeline, or a definite destination in mind other than Death Valley. We meandered along our route taking in the new sights and pulling over whenever we felt like it. Eventually, we arrived in Lake Havasu City and drove around looking for a camping option. The state park was full. The first private RV park we pulled into was also full. After a little more driving around, we pulled into the Crazy Horse Campground which was also booked up, but they had a large parcel of land outside of the RV Park where they allowed RVers to boondock for a fee which included the use of the restrooms/bath house located within the RV park.
We were fortunate the campground was booked. The RV spots in the campground were tight and RVs were packed in like sardines. There was hardly enough elbow room between units. This was not what this newbie RVer had in mind when we set out on this journey. It’s all about being in nature for me and having a view out my window.
I loved our view and distance away from other RVers on this dirt parcel of land. This overflow lot overlooks the lake and there’s plenty of room for everyone. We even had a fire ring for real campfires of which we took full advantage.
We loved staying at the overflow lot at the Crazy Horse Campground. It is located on an island, thus requiring us to cross the London Bridge for access. It is within walking distance of the bridge, shops, restaurants, and lakeshore. The shoreline offers a lovely park setting with walking trails, a dog park, a marina, beaches, playgrounds, and picnic areas. We took full advantage of this location and explored via foot every day.
Unbeknownst to us, we happened to pick the busiest and most popular weekend out of the year to visit Lake Havasu. The annual Winterfest is held every President’s Day Weekend in February. It’s a weekend filled with festivals, a car show, Rockabilly Concert, and Winter Blast. Winter Blast is a fireworks extravaganza. Spectacular fireworks are displayed by firework professionals who are testing the latest advances in the industry, culminating in a huge pyrotechnic show in the evenings.
Lake Havasu City was developed by Robert McCulloch in 1963 on the eastern shore of Lake Havasu. He later purchased the London Bridge, which was dismantled brick by brick and numbered and then shipped to Lake Havasu City from England. It was reassembled and completed in 1971 and connects the island to the mainland and serves as a popular tourist attraction.
Interesting tidbit: After Robert McCulloch developed Lake Havasu City, he went on to develop Fountain Hills (1970), just east of Phoenix, as well as Pueblo West, Colorado (1969) – our home town from 2000-2013. All three communities were designed in a similar fashion and share many of the same street names.
Lake Havasu City is a playground mecca for adults. The large lake offers visitors a host of water activities, and the land offers an endless amount of trails for off-roading and hiking. If you don’t have your own toys, there are dozens of places to rent the toy of choice; boats, wave runners, kayaks, ATVs, and more.
One unique and rather popular hobby around here is power gliding. At our campsite, we were buzzed regularly by what I liked to call flying lawnmowers. Al was totally infatuated by the sight and ready to return to the skies. My initial thoughts were I don’t think so! Although Al does not miss his commercial aviation days, he does occasionally miss those daring Naval aviation missions overseas. I left Al to his thoughts while he builds us another campfire and contemplates going up in a power glider.
Al and I did our best to explore as much as possible during our five-day stay in Lake Havasu City. We also befriended fellow campers/neighbors who had been visiting the area regularly over the years. These seasoned RVers were a wealth of information, and we gobbled up as much info as they were willing to share.
Funny campfire story!
One evening, our group of befriended neighbors were away attending the pyrotechnics show at Sara Park. They had invited us to join them, but we opted to avoid the big crowds by staying home and enjoying a quiet evening around the campfire. As we were doing just that, we noticed a man walking around in the dark, sometimes in circles. He seemed lost in his thoughts. We invited him over to our campfire.
We asked him if he was okay? “Not really”, he responded. As he continued to sip on his beer, he hesitantly began telling us his situation. His girlfriend was back at the RV having a heated phone conversation with his wife who was currently living with the girlfriend’s husband. Say what? I guess these two couples met years ago while boondocking at the magic circle in Quartzsite. The magic circle is just a small section of land in an otherwise massively large parcel of property managed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM – Federal Government) located in Quartzsite, Arizona, and is a clothing-optional area.
Every winter, Quartzsite is inundated with thousands of RVers boondocking in this large sparsely vegetated desert. Many folks return year after year rendezvousing with friends and other like-minded RVers. Such was the case with these two couples, and as their friendship grew, they began swapping spouses. Once it was time to move on, each normally left with their legal spouses, but not after this most recent Quartzsite visit. The couples agreed to leave with the others’ spouses and reunite a few weeks later. But when a few weeks later rolled around, both women wanted to stay with the same guy, leaving our campfire friend feeling at a loss. He wanted his wife back, but she wasn’t sure she wanted to return. Thus, his conundrum.
The next day, our campfire acquaintance and his girlfriend packed up and pulled out of camp leaving Al and me wondering what the outcome would be. Would they return to the magic circle and reunite with their fellow nudists? Would any of them remain married? We are left to our own imaginations.
A couple of days later, it was our turn to leave. We had new territory to explore. We left Lake Havasu a little wiser and definitely more enlightened. There were a lot of facets to this new RV life that we never imagined.
We were off to an early start. It was the Saturday after Thanksgiving, and I was on a mission. I was in desperate need of blog material and photogenic subjects. I needed some inspiration and knew Scottsdale, Arizona, was just the place to visit.
I enlisted the company of my daughter and husband. Although I’ll admit, neither were particularly eager to join me on my photographic outing. I remember there being some eye rolls and me being the subject of their amusement, but when I bribed them with mouth-watering treats found at the Scottsdale farmers market, they quickly jumped on board …. and they didn’t even complain when I told them I wanted an early start to the day …. much to my surprise, I might add. (This walk was taken 11/2018 when life was normal ).
(To enlarge photos in a gallery, simple click on any image. To return to the post, click on the x found at the top right corner)
After we were fueled with coffee and filled with sustenance purchased from local vendors at the farmers market, I consulted my little map of downtown Scottsdale. We would be going on a walking tour visiting seven of Scottsdale’s most beloved public art sculptures.
Sculptures in Historic Old Town Scottsdale
It’s impossible to visit Old Town Scottsdale and not walk by our first sculpture on the tour; The Yearlings by George-Ann Tognoni. This is a monument to wild horses and depicts three bronze yearlings galloping in full stride.
This sculpture serves as a backdrop to family photo shoots and is especially popular during the holiday season when the sleigh and Christmas tree are set up.
Another popular photo shoot spot is at the LOVE sculpture. LOVE by Robert Indiana was conceived when the United States was involved with the Vietnam War and became a symbol for peace. This famous sculpture is one of the most celebrated works within the pop art movement.
Robert Indiana created the first version of LOVE with stacked capital letters for a personal Christmas card designed for friends in 1964. In 1965, the Museum of Modern Art selected Indiana’s LOVE design for its official Christmas card.
The original sculptural rendition of LOVE was fabricated from Cor-ten steel in 1970. It can be seen at the Indianapolis Museum of Art. Dozens of other LOVE sculptures are now on display around the world.
Our walk takes us into Scottsdale’s Art District
With two sculptures checked off the list, we continued our walking tour which found us venturing into Scottsdale’s Art District. The Jack Knife sculpture serves as the center of attention for the art district and sits in the middle of the road.
Jack Knife by Ed Mell is a giant bronze sculpture of a cowboy on a bucking bronco giving a nod to Scottsdale’s Western heritage and the city’s official seal.
On to the Fifth Avenue Shopping District
Who knew Scottsdale had a “Fifth Avenue” shopping district! Now for those of us that have actually shopped at the real 5th Avenue …. as in New York City’s Fifth Avenue, this Fifth Avenue is quite a bit different, but still fun. It’s kitschy, small, and is a long-time favorite with tourists boasting dozens of unique shops, award-winning restaurants, and the famous Bronze Horse Fountain.
The Bronze Horse Fountain was created by Bob Parks, who owned an art gallery in town. This piece showcases the beauty of five Arabian horses as they play in the fountain. I love how they were decorated for the holiday season with wreaths.
The Scottsdale Water District
We continued our trek. Not far from the Bronze Horse Fountain, we rounded a corner and walked up some stairs. We found ourselves along the Arizona Canal and noticed the bronze sculpture on the other side of a bridge.
Colorado Artist Herb Mignery is a noted western artist and sculptor. He gained early recognition for his classic and humorous western cartoons and rose to fame when he started sculpting scenes from his early Nebraska farm and ranch days.
In Passing the Legacy, a vintage 1860s horse and rider represent the original Pony Express. The lead rider reaches back to grasp the passing legacy, ready to plunge forward into a new era. It took twelve months for the artist and fabricators to refine and create the life-and-a-quarter size bronze monument, which is 20’ long.
As we continued our walking tour along the canal and amongst a beautiful park setting, we took great pleasure in the wonderful winter weather that Phoenix is known for.
Water is a precious commodity in a desert and controlling flood water is crucial, especially in a high density urban environment. Phoenix and her surrounding suburbs do a great job in beautifying these man-made waterways. More efforts are ongoing toward waterside recreation and beautification along these canals.
This Scottsdale section of the Arizona Canal is particularly attractive and popular with cyclists and pedestrians alike. Lighted art over and in the water are changed up regularly and the picturesque park setting serves as a great spot for festivals.
TheSoleri Bridge & Plaza was designed by the late Italian architect Paolo Soleri. The bridge was designed to demonstrate the importance of solar movement.
The bridge is anchored by two 64-foot pylons and is twenty-seven feet wide on the south side narrowing to eighteen feet on the north. Situated at a true north axis, the bridge is intended to mark solar events produced by the sun’s shadow. The six-inch gap between both sets of pylons allows the sun to create a shaft of light as the earth moves.
Most Entertaining Sculpture
The Doors by Donald Lipski is an interesting and entertaining work of art. The structure consists of three 28 foot tall doors that lean against one another on an angle. They are made of Brazilian hardwood, mirror polished stainless steel, and thousands of hand forged steel rivets and strapping.
When we stepped in between the doors, we were met with a kaleidoscope effect that shines from sunlight during the day and LED lights at night. We were entertained by multiple reflections of ourselves. The experience is enhanced with sound … various sounds of bells, chimes, swooshing, and flute can be heard in and around the sculpture.
I’d have to say, we found this sculpture rather entertaining and found ourselves lingering in and around it. I’d love to go back at night to see what it looks like all lit up from the LED lights.
End of our walking Tour of Scottsdale
Our Scottsdale walking tour visiting the most popular art sculptures in the area took us less than 2 hours full-circle and accounts for all the photo-op stopping and playing around that we did. The sculptures gave us purpose to meander down streets that we had never ventured down before. What a fun and special excuse to explore this entertaining desert southwest city!
This leisurely city walk allowed us the opportunity to see interesting sights and take note of eating establishments for future visits. There’s no shortage of fantastic eateries in Scottsdale. The biggest problem is deciding where to eat when given so many choices.
Okay … time to plan our next adventure!
Additional Scottsdale Information
For more information and downloadable maps – click here.
Although I’m still dreaming about vibrant fall colors, Al and I have been back in the Valley of the Sun (Phoenix, Arizona) for a little over a month now. I can’t figure out where the time has gone. Well actually, I do know … our days have been filled with predominantly obligations sprinkled in with a little fun here and there. I wish it were the other way around. You know, more fun and fewer obligations. Ah, such is life!
Both trucks have been in the shop for routine maintenance and then some. My little red Toyota Tacoma was in storage all summer. So basically, all she needed was an oil change and tire rotation along with a good cleaning. The Ford, on the other hand, needed a little more attention, especially after a 6,000-mile workout. (1,900 miles each direction and then all my exploring in Wisconsin and Minnesota.)
We are so grateful and lucky that our F-250 held up on our 1,900-mile journey back to Phoenix, Arizona. After a wonderful summer and fall spent in northern Wisconsin, we made it all the way to Arizona before encountering a problem. Once in Arizona, during the ever-changing terrain on Interstate 17 between Flagstaff and Phoenix, the truck came very close to overheating and not making it at the steepest grade just south of Camp Verde. According to our Mountain Directory (a must-have), the grade is about 6%, but anyone who drives this stretch of road regularly will tell you it feels much greater.
Turns out, the F-250 water pump was leaking and probably had this slow leak all summer long. Thus, the engine had trouble cooling, especially pulling the hills with the RV. Considering we were in mostly flat country all summer long with moderate temperatures and not pulling the RV regularly, we never noticed a problem with the truck until we hit Arizona and the ever-changing elevation. Whew! We dodged a close call of getting stuck on the side of the road.
All he needs now is a little exterior TLC, aka wash, wax, and vacuum. The Ford is almost ready for his next trip and is running like a champ and easily passed the Maricopa County (Phoenix) emission test … keeping the air clean – our truck is registered here since this is our legal domicile.
Along with tending to vehicle appointments, there have been Doctor, Dentist, and Vision appointments. Drilling, poking, prodding, x-rays, tests, scans, and follow-up visits have ensued. Al’s mouth and body are good to go for another year and I’m getting closer. Geez … this getting old stuff ain’t for sissies.🤣
Oh and I can’t forget to add in the water leak and a few other attention grabbing tidbits on the RV. So much for me and my remodeling ideas. That will be taking a backseat for a while, much to Al’s delight and my disappointment.
At least we’ve been able to add in a few fun family visits on a small scale. A Thanksgiving get together this Thursday is still up in the air. The eight of us are all trying to be Covid cautious. Thus, we’ll all check with one another at the last minute, and then if we do get together, we’ll probably eat outside. Fortunately, the weather in Phoenix, Arizona has been beautiful. Perhaps even a tad too warm with record highs being broken. It has been a hot year around here, and I’m glad Al and I were in northern Wisconsin for the worst of the heat.
Along with getting together with family back here in Arizona, we’re enjoying reconnecting with our RV Park friends (on a limited and socially distanced scenario, of course). We’ve chosen not to engage in any of the park’s social functions even though they are trying to do their best with Covid guidelines. I’ve dealt with my fair share of illnesses the past several years (including flu, Valley Fever, and mononucleosis), so I’d really prefer to avoid this nasty virus.
My to-do list seems to be growing instead of dwindling. I won’t bore you with all the details, but suffice it to say, I’d really prefer being less busy. I guess you could say, I’ve been a little too busy lately and am looking forward to life slowing down soon. Ah, but with the holiday season in full swing, I don’t think that’ll happen anytime soon. On that note, excuse me if I’m a little less active here in the blogosphere. Life!
What a change from my relaxing summer. Calgon, take me away!
As I was putting this post together, I couldn’t help but think about the differences between our summer home and winter home and it’s not just the drastic contrast between the two landscapes. It’s about our mindset. When we visit family property in northern Wisconsin, we’re more in vacation mode and tend to think less of life’s responsibilities, unless we’re talking about an RV tank leak, then it’s all business, in more ways than one 🤣
When we return to AZ, it’s like returning home after being on vacation. It’s time to think about responsibilities and get back to being an adult. Phoenix is our home base where we have an annual RV site. It’s our place of residence and the place we spend the most amount of time. So I guess it’s safe to say, Phoenix, Arizona is our main home, and Hayward, Wisconsin is our second home.
I’m so incredibly thankful to still be able to travel via our RV and enjoy two such beautiful worlds while spending time with people we love in both places. With that said, enjoy a few images showcasing how different our two homes are.
On the road again
I just can’t wait to get on the road again
The life I love is makin’ music with my friends
And I can’t wait to get on the road again
As I type this post, I’m currently sitting in Tucumcari, New Mexico. Yesterday (Saturday) was a very long day on the road. We left Phoenix, Arizona at 5:45 in the morning and arrived in Tucumcari about 12 hours later … 615 miles (990 km). Whew! That was a very long day.
Fortunately, Al and I took several breaks and switched drivers a few times. What also helped was my focus on fueling us properly. Al thinks about the truck and I think about our bodies. The day before departure, I did some serious meal prep knowing we intended to put in some long driving days.
Yesterday, we started off our day with a rare treat … while driving, we had our coffee accompanied by coffee cake. Ok, a sugary breakfast is not necessarily the best fuel, but it’s always a fun (and rare) splurge to start our travels in a festive mood.
Lunch consisted of Turkey club sandwiches on fresh sourdough bread with a side of crisp red grapes. For dinner, we enjoyed salmon patties (that I had prepped the day before) accompanied by homemade potato salad (also made the day before) – dinner prepared and eaten while parked at a rest area. One of the things that was super important to me when we purchased our RV was the functionality of it while the slides are pulled in. I was able to fry the patties and serve dinner and dine at our dinette all while the slides were left in.
Oh, and did I mention the homemade brownies we had for dessert? Yeah, I’d say I fueled us up just fine for the 12 hour travel day. And then the day ended with one of my famous margaritas and a good night’s sleep.
I love RV travel. Because we were able to enjoy meals at our own table, meals I had made, and use our own restroom whenever the urge struck, it enabled us to arrive at our destination with energy to spare … not much energy, but we weren’t exhausted. Staying hydrated, being well-fed, and making regular stops allowed us to crank out some serious mileage.
Today, we plan on putting in another long day of driving, but not as long as yesterday. We’ll be on two-lane roads most of the day today (Sunday) as we angle up toward Kansas City from New Mexico into corners of Oklahoma and Texas and then into the state of Kansas. Unfortunately, we expect to encounter more wind today. Yeah, yesterday as we headed in an easterly direction, we encountered winds from the south ranging from 15-25 mph. Fun times trying to stay in our lane along with the semis swaying from the gusts.
It’s 110 (bleeping) degrees Fahrenheit outside today without a cloud in the sky. It’s hot! Who would’ve thought Al and I would still be sitting in Phoenix, Arizona during the first week in June? Certainly not I. Thank goodness we have a flexible mindset and were able to readjust our plans after this most recent delay.
But it’s fricken hot 🥵 No sugar coating it by saying it’s a dry heat. Even an oven is a dry heat. Oh well, this ain’t our first rodeo experiencing extreme desert heat. We lived in Las Vegas, Nevada in the nineties. You learn to adjust.
Our initial plan was to depart Phoenix in mid-May and point the RV toward Wisconsin, but a few things happened that derailed those plans. First and foremost is that nasty virus that shut the country down … shut the world down. We wanted to wait for some level of normalcy to return (even just a glimmer) before we hit the road.
In reality, we didn’t mind changing our departure date until after Memorial Day Weekend because one of Al’s sister’s recently (April) moved to Phoenix. We were enjoying visits with her and her husband and assisting any way we could as they settled into their new home. So a couple of extra weeks in the valley spent with family would actually be fun.
Extending our stay turned out to be a good thing, a very good thing, as I encountered a potential little hiccup in my health. A couple of medical tests later followed by a teleconference with my doctor and we were once again good to go and set a new departure date. (I’m fine BTW)
The truck was ready. The RV was ready. Al and I were ready, and after one final gathering with the family to say our goodbyes, we’d be hitting the road a couple of days later, or so we thought. The day prior to rolling, Al lost a crown while eating a relatively light lunch. No peanut brittle involved. Well, he didn’t exactly lose it, it ended up in his hand instead of being securely attached to the tooth in his mouth.
Poor Al! However, after three uncomfortable hours in the dental chair enduring some major work, he’s doing great and currently waiting on the permanent crown to be ready for installation. Turns out, that old crown and root canal were most likely older than the dentist. Now that’ll make ya feel old! 😆 So obviously, that tooth was something that needed to be taken care of before traveling and we’re glad we were still in the valley when the crown fell out.
As soon as Al gets his new crown installed, my crowned king and I will be hitting the road. Fingers crossed 🤞 we won’t encounter any more faux pas. We’ve already encountered one too many for my taste!