Exploring Southern Arizona

To say weather is fickle is probably an understatement considering the unusual and extreme weather the United States has experienced this winter.  Last winter Arizona encountered some record low temperatures.  Tucson even endured a rare February snowstorm which Al and I were fortunate to have experienced in 2013.  Yes, fortunate because it was extremely beautiful, but we were also very happy when 24 hours later there were no signs left of the unique storm.

snow in Tucson
Gilbert Ray Campground, Tucson, Arizona – February 2013

Last year’s Arizona record low temps had us rearranging our plans numerous times.  The plan to explore southern Arizona was scrapped due to the inclement weather.  Benson, Tombstone, and Bisbee will just have to wait.

This winter found us experiencing record low temperatures in southern Texas while Arizona was enjoying unusual warmth.  Hum…..my only response to that is, ‘Don’t follow us as those record-breaking lows seem to tag along with Al and Ingrid”.  That said the original plan to drift around Texas for the month of February was quickly changed when the use of the term “Polar Vortex” kept making its way into the Texas weather report.

After a quick weather Google, we were off for a week to Benson, Arizona, to explore parts of southern Arizona that we bypassed last year.  Southern Arizona is somewhat mountainous and elevations can range from 2,000 feet to over 7,000 feet.  We know it’s all about elevation when it comes to weather and temperatures and this season appears to be very agreeable around these here parts.

We settle into a really nice RV site at the Escapees SKP Saguaro RV Co-op in Benson and set about making plans for our explorations around southern Arizona.Holy Trinity MonasteryOur first stop is just 4 miles down the road in the town of St. David.  This quaint little desert town of less than 2,000 residents is rich in Mormon history as Mormon settlers founded this community in the 1800’s.  During the 1900’s non-Mormon’s from Oklahoma and Texas moved to the area along with the discovery of gas production.Holy Trinity MonasteryIn the 1970’s the Holy Trinity Monastery was established.  Al and I were quick to tour the grounds and even checked out the on-site RV Park.  We felt the sites were extremely close together, but for those seeking spiritual enlightenment it might be interesting to spend a night or two.

St. David
Meditation Garden at Holy Trinity Monastery in St, David, Arizona

The meditation garden was pretty and peaceful.  The church architecture was beautiful as is the humongous cross.  We noticed a couple of gorgeous free roaming peacocks.Holy Trinity Monastery

Holy Trinity Monastery


Strolling the grounds was a very peaceful experience and I’m glad we stopped.  For more information you can visit the monastery website.

Continuing down the road, we stop in Tombstone……..

Arizona sunset
Another beautiful Arizona sunset viewed from our campsite

The Monastery of the Heart: An Invitation to a Meaningful Life

Arizona Road and Recreation Atlas

Our Education Continues…

Oh, what shall we do today?  The Group (Escapees – Boomers) have a few different things planned for today.  Some folks will be hiking, some geocaching, and some attending a little class.  We decide we can never have enough information on Solar panels and batteries, and thus attend the get together and discussion on solar.  The couple leading the discussion have been full-timers for fourteen years and are a wealth of information.  We had an immediate connection with this couple from day one and know we’ll stay in touch and rendezvous with them back in Arizona in the fall.

The class/discussion on batteries, inverters, and solar panels continues for two plus hours.  I take notes, plenty of notes.  Some of the information is a repeat of info we’ve heard before but confirms our knowledge, basic knowledge that is.  We’re getting smarter and feel more confident of what and how to set up our Rig for future  trips.  Our biggest problem and thus our first purchase will be batteries.  I’m glad we didn’t make any changes to the Rig prior to this trip.  We most likely would have ended up needing to redo any changes.

We are learning so much and appreciate all the help and information from all the seasoned RVer’s we’ve met.  In a few months we will hopefully get’er all set up and properly outfitted for boondocking.  Speaking of “boondocking”.  After lunch, we had another little get together to discuss boondocking.  Topics included; how to conserve water, finding boondocking sites, dealing with gray water and black water, and an exchange of personal ideas and tips.

In the evening, I choose to have a little solitude and cuddle up with Bear while enjoying a glass of wine and reading a couple of magazines.  Al, the social butterfly, joins the group around the campfire.  All is well !  Tomorrow we’ll be heading out.  We have a reservation at a RV Park in Goodyear.  Thursday we plan to attend the Good Sam Rally and start heading home on Friday.

Beautiful Day…

It’s going to be a beautiful day.  Bear and I are on our morning walk, and yes it’s about 6:30 a.m.  Same time every morning.  That boys internal clock never fails.  The sun is still behind the Superstition Mountain.  There’s a lovely coating of snow near the “Flat Iron”.  Bear and I enjoy a nice, leisurely walk this morning.  Yesterdays walks were way to short leaving Bear well rested and full of energy.

"Flat Iron" - Superstition Mtn

Over coffee, Al and I decide whether or not to join the group on a hike.  We decide to opt out.  Early on in our trip, at different times, Al and I both incurred minor injuries.  Thus, curtailing our hiking abilities.  Not wanting to embarrass ourselves or hold the group back, we make our own plans for the day.  I’m super excited to take some photos of the rare coating of snow in the distance.  Al and I decide to take a quick drive to Canyon Lake and have lunch in Tortilla Flat.

We head out for our drive shortly after breakfast and find some scenic stops along the way….stops we did not make on our previous trip to Canyon Lake.  It’s a gorgeous day…amazing blue sky, light breeze, upper 60’s…can’t get much better!  We take our time and enjoy the scenery and the day.

Canyon Lake

There’s definitely more traffic today than there was a week ago when we took this same drive.  We assume it’s because the weather was so nasty over the weekend.

Dollar bills decorate the walls

We get to the little town of Tortilla Flat, population 6, just in time for lunch.  This “little” town resembles a long ago western town.  The restaurant is already bustling with activity.  We’re seated at a table to the rear.  The walls are plastered with dollar bills.  The bar stools are saddles.  It’s a fun little place and the burgers are very tasty.  They’re grilled over an open flame outside.  Service was quick.  Al enjoys a light Beer on tap brewed specifically for this restaurant at a local brewery in Phoenix.  I visit the restroom before leaving…..darn, wish I had my camera in here….way too funny.  Amusing paint job on the stall doors.  You’ll just have to visit and see for yourself!

Tortilla Flat

After lunch, we step into the gift shop and look around.  We head over to the ice cream shop.  We had heard they have fantastic ice cream.  I try to avoid dairy and opt to try the fudge while Al enjoys the ice cream.  Yes indeed, Al attests the ice cream is very good.  As for my fudge…yum…Mackinac Island, you have some serious competition.  We walk around a bit more and allow the sun to warm us and our food to digest before heading home.

Gitty up...

If you’re in the Phoenix area, I highly recommend a visit to Tortilla Flat for a relaxing and scenic day. The most enjoyable part is the drive getting there…very pretty.  If the weather were warmer, we might even consider renting a watercraft of some sort on Canyon Lake.  The Marina offers a variety of boats to rent including wave runners. 🙂  We return to our Rig and take Bear on a nice long walk around the campground.  Lost Dutchman State Park is one of my favorite places and not just on this trip.  We look forward to returning.

Lost Dutchman State Park

The group has returned from their morning hike and interested individuals are invited to try out WII Fit at one of the couples RV’s.  Fun… Al and I decide we MUST get one.  Entertaining and good for us.  So after we all play around, the group heads out to the Organ Stop Pizza.  Al and I have been there a couple of times before and are still immensely entertained.  The food is pretty good too.  I highly recommend this place, even if you’re not a big pizza eater.  In addition to pizza, they offer a salad bar and some Italian dishes.  This is home to the largest Wurlitzer Organ in the world and even if you’re not a fan of the Organ (that would include me) you need to see this place at least once and experience it for yourself.  It can’t really be described.  The Organ Stop Pizza is located in Mesa just off US-60        OrganStopPizza.com         A must see when your in the Phoenix area !

Gloomy skies…

It’s Sunday and we’ve said our good-byes to the “Superstition Square Wheelers”.  What great folks!  It’s cold, at least for Phoenix.  In the 50’s.  It’s raining and the Superstition Mountain is taking on yet another look.  We sit by ourselves in the Group Camp Area at Lost Dutchman State Park waiting for our group to arrive.

Lost Dutchman State Park

It’s actually starting to snow at the higher elevation on Superstition Mountain.  According to the locals, this is a treat to behold and many are extremely excited.  Snow?  Snow?  Really, people?  I left Colorado to get away from the snow.  However, I must admit the transition that occurred through-out the course of the day was breathtaking.  We sat in the RV with the most spectacular view out our back window.

View out of our rear window -

The rain, hail, and snow continues most of the day.  I call my dad, who lives in the Chicago suburbs, and let him know where we’re camped and tell him about the weather.  My dad can barely contain his laughter as he briefs me on the sunny blue sky and 80 degree temperature he is enjoying.  Wait, how can that be.  It’s mid March.  I’m sitting in the Phoenix area bundled up and he’s in the Chicago area in shorts.  We have a good chuckle and I promise to email some photos.

Bears’ walks are quick today.  He misses being able to lay outside.  We stay inside most of the day reading and catching up with paperwork.  Watching the weather and the mountain change has also been entertaining.  Shortly after noon, the first of our group starts to arrive.  This is our first event we’ve attended with any Escapees group.  We brave the elements with each RV arrival to introduce ourselves.  We keep it short and sweet and rapidly return to the dry and warmth of our Rig.

By late afternoon, our formerly empty Group Camping Area is nearly full.  In the evening we have get togethers in a few of the RV’s to get to know one another.  The plans for the up coming days are discussed and posted.  Should be a fun few days!

We have neighbors!

Friends Old and New…

Our site here at Lake Pleasant is turning out to be one of my favorites on our adventure thus far.  You can’t get much closer to the lake without being on the lake.  Yesterday was a perfect day.  We settled into this new location by enjoying the warm sun and the light lake breezes.  The evening was spent around a campfire and stargazing while enjoying a glass of red wine.There’s only three other RV’s parked near us and we make friends with the folks in the two other 5th wheels.The folks in the 5th wheel to the right are snowbirders from Washington State.  They start their three-month escape from the northwest in January at Quartzsite.  We found this couple very entertaining, warm, and engaging.  We had an immediate connection when we realized we were all involved in the aviation industry at some point in our former careers.  We spent an evening exchanging stories over a roaring campfire.

The couple in the 5th wheel on the far left have been full-timers for fourteen years and are formally from areas in Wisconsin and Minnesota that Al and I would vacation near.  Once again, we find a common thread and the conversations are so very enjoyable.During our conversation around the campfire with the folks from Washington, we get on the subject of solar power, batteries, and propane heaters.  We embarked on this trip with factory equipment in the RV and our Honda 2000 generator.  We knew from the start one battery would be a challenge but somehow we’d manage.  These new friends invite us over to their rig the next morning.  With notebook in hand, Al and I spend over two hours getting educated on solar, batteries, etc.  How very gracious of these folks and very enlightening.

We also learned a bit more about these new friends.  Not only are they world travelers, they also enjoy frequenting clothing optional locations.  I admire their confidence, adventuress, self-assured, and warm nature.  We hope to meet up with these folks again, perhaps in Quartzsite next January….. with our clothes on, of course  🙂

The couple from the midwest was equally as helpful and warm.  They also shared information on Escapees and informed us on an upcoming get together at Lost Dutchman State Park in Apache Junction, AZ.  Our last evening at Lake Pleasant is spent laughing around a campfire.  We usually avoid discussing politics or religion, especially with folks we just met.  However, our views on these matters appeared to be similar and very little was held back….very logical and opinionated exchange.  This was so much fun, stimulating, and thought producing.  Hope to run into these folks again and continue the discussion where we left off.

Mid week, we had long time friends join us for dinner and drinks around the campfire.  We’ve know this couple for close to thirty years (boy, when I

Long time friends

say that, it makes me feel old).  They’ve lived in the Phoenix area fifteen plus years, and we always make it a point to arrange at least one get together with them on our travels around Phoenix.  We try to schedule a hike at Usery Park with them, but run into conflicting schedules.

Our son also joined us twice during our stay.  We always cherish the time spent with him.

Al, Ingrid & Son

The original plan was to stay at Lake Pleasant for a couple, three nights at the most, but in the end…. turned into a nine-day wonderful stay.  Lake front property at it’s best!  Who could resist?