Why We Love Phoenix

Why We Love Phoenix

I love the diversity of our RV lifestyle. We’re able to live in a major city one day and move out into nature the next. And when we come across a city such as Phoenix that offers both environments in relatively close proximity, I say this is an RVers dream … jackpot!

“May you live in interesting times.”

BUT … Life is anything but normal these days and I’d be remiss if I jumped right into the content of this post without mentioning a couple of things.

March is usually the busiest and best month to visit Phoenix, Arizona. Wildflowers are in abundance adding vibrant color to our desert landscape, not to mention the beautiful blue skies and near-perfect temperatures that are enjoyed by all. But not his year! Not only has the weather been schizophrenic leaving us wondering what has happened to our wonderful March weather, but the coronavirus has turned the tourism and stock markets into a volatile frenzy.

bee on purple lupine wildflower

Walmart empty isle, no toilet paper at Walmart
Walmart – Where’s the toilet paper?

The Phoenix valley’s robust tourism industry has been severely impacted by potential visitors canceling reservations left and right. Resorts that are normally booked solid and charging premium rates are now half empty and offering discounts. Baseball spring training has also been canceled and all the stores are out of toilet paper. Out of toilet paper! Really?

Ah, but let’s all revel in the fact that this too shall pass and life will return to normal eventually … soon, I hope. For now, I’ll immerse myself in summer trip planning and images of wildflowers. The wildflowers are a given, but our summer travels could be in question if current conditions were to continue.

I’m sure we can all agree that there’s currently too much uncertainty right now that might affect our travels. However, I’m optimistic and think in another month things will turn around, and therefore, our summer travels will continue as planned.

So, let’s get back to talking fun stuff!

An RV friendly city in Arizona

There are so many things to see and do in a big city; museums, restaurants, stores, sporting events, other events, and the list goes on, but the solitude and beauty of nature are always a strong pull for me. What if we can enjoy both?

It’s a rare treat to find an RV friendly city, and when we do, we like to plan a lengthy stay allowing us plenty of time to immerse ourselves in everything big city life has to offer. Since our children live in Phoenix, Arizona and Phoenix is RV friendly, this city has become our winter home.

Golden yellow poppies with a bee flying

The Phoenix valley is not only super popular with RVers but equally popular with all kinds of other visitors; snowbirds, vacationers, convention traffic, seminars, etc. Peak tourist season is January, February, and March … March is the busiest due to Spring Break, excellent weather, and baseball spring training (Cactus League).

The lodging options throughout the Phoenix valley are abundant and diverse. For those of us with RVs, we can find everything from scenic campgrounds to full-on RV Resorts complete with resort-style pools, pickleball courts, and golf courses. For non-RVers, there’s everything from inexpensive hotels, to vacation rentals, to mega-resorts, and everything in between.

An RV camped at Lost Dutchman State Park with the Superstition mountains in the background
Al and I camped at Lost Dutchman State Park located on the far east side of the Phoenix valley in the town of Apache Junction.

If you plan on visiting the Phoenix area and are looking for an RV spot for less than a 2-week stay, I would highly recommend Lost Dutchman State Park. It’s one of our favorite campgrounds. We love the views, hiking trails, and location. Lost Dutchman State Park offers a feeling of being in the backcountry, and yet, shopping and restaurants in nearby Apache Junction are less than a 15-minute drive away … the best of both worlds.

Coming in second to Lost Dutchman State Park would be one of the campgrounds in the Maricopa County Parks and Recreation system. Our personal preference is either Cave Creek Regional Park or Lake Pleasant Regional Park. Our friends prefer McDowell Mountain or Usery Mountain. McDowell Mountain Regional Park is well known for its biking trails while Lake Pleasant is known for its water recreation. There’s definitely a little something for everyone around here.

And of course, there are plenty of private RV parks throughout the valley. So many, that I couldn’t possibly list them all. Most are 55+ communities but there are a few that aren’t age-restricted.

I can't adult today

Valley Talk … The term “Phoenix valley” refers to the actual city of Phoenix as well as her dozen-plus surrounding suburbs. It makes communication easier. You might hear folks comment, “That’s in the east valley (meaning Scottsdale, Mesa, etc.) or that’s in the west valley (meaning Glendale, Goodyear, etc.). Then there’s the north valley near the town of Anthem where I am currently parked. Most people in the U.S. know where Phoenix, Arizona is located, but not everyone has heard of Mesa, Glendale, or Anthem. Therefore, by using the term ‘Phoenix valley’, people have an easy grasp of where in Arizona one is talking about.

Things we like to do in the Phoenix valley …

There’s a never-ending schedule of art shows, craft shows, sporting events, or other events to attend throughout the year in the Phoenix valley. I always discover some unique event worth checking out. Although hiking and photography top my list of favorite activities, there are so many other great recreational and educational opportunities to explore. Yes, RVing in a major city definitely has its pluses.

Scottsdale farmers market
The Farmers Market in Old Town Scottsdale is a great way to start a Saturday morning. I’ll admit, it usually feels a little strange attending a Farmers Market in the middle of winter, but keep in mind, you won’t find a Farmers Market around here during the summer months when temps sore into the 100 degree plus Fahrenheit range. It takes most northerners a little time to wrap their heads around a Farmers Market in the middle of winter, me included.

Corporate conventions and various educational seminars are held throughout the year in Phoenix or Scottsdale. I always keep an eye out for these special events for us to attend. One of our favorites is attending educational TD Ameritrade seminars. We’ve even had the pleasure of meeting Joe ‘JJ’ Kinahan. If you’re a trader or CNBC watcher, then shaking hands with a “celebrity” like JJ might be a real treat like it was for me. We’ve also had the opportunity to meet some of the various traders/instructors from the Think or Swim trading platform. They are always a wealth of knowledge and inspiration.

Desert Botanical Garden butterfly display
My daughter taking a selfie with a Monarch butterfly at the Desert Botanical Garden
Chili and Chocolate Fest
We enjoyed a cooking demonstration while attending the Chili and Chocolate Festival at the Botanical Garden.
western history
Lots of western history just begging to be explored.

Family and friends Spending time with family is our favorite pastime while visiting Phoenix

Let’s get social

Because Phoenix is such a popular travel destination for RVers and non-RVers alike, we never know who we might bump into. It’s always a pleasure connecting with my social media friends in person. Every winter, we enjoy numerous get-togethers with blog readers, blog writers, or folks from other social media platforms. Over the years, we’ve developed some amazing friendships via social media. Phoenix is the perfect city to physically connect with like-minded people.

Golden yellow poppies with a bee flying

Nature around Phoenix

Although I enjoy most aspects of big city living, I have a need to be close to nature and wildlife. Fortunately, with plenty of parks and open space located throughout Maricopa County, I’m still able to get my nature fix while living in a big city.

There’s some amazing scenery in this part of Arizona. Just outside of the city, in the east valley is one of my favorite scenic drives. Driving the Apache Trail makes for a perfect day trip, but before embarking on this drive, do your homework. The stretch of road between the town of Tortilla Flat and Lake Roosevelt is a gravel road and can be pretty rough in spots. A high clearance vehicle is usually recommended. Always check with the local ranger station for up to date conditions regarding Route 88/Apache Trail.

Have you ever visited Phoenix, Arizona? What’s your favorite city to visit?
And please stay healthy and safe out there!

Golden brittle-bush in the foreground Pinnacle Peak in Scottsdale AZ in the background

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How to Live the Snowbird Life

How to Live the Snowbird Life

Sometimes an inclement weather day is exactly what I need to get caught up on computer work and world happenings. Upon opening my computer, I was quickly drawn to the news articles on the weather happenings to the north. Ah, and to think I was a little grumpy about Phoenix, Arizona’s misting rain and 55 degrees Fahrenheit temp (12 celsius) while our neighbors to the north were experiencing temperatures in the minus reading and snow measured in feet. Oh, how I’m glad we snowbird.

The cool, damp, foggy weather felt more like I was camped along the Texas Gulf Coast instead of the desert southwest. It hadn’t rained in weeks and the moisture was very much needed. The desert always feels alive after a rainstorm, and the rain will hopefully aid in a good showing of spring wildflowers. Those blooms should actually start popping up in February, and I assure you, I have my hiking shoes and camera ready.

Spending winters in the southern region of the United States and summers in the north country is a fantastic way to live. I’m sure many can agree that taking a lesson from migrating birds is a great idea. Sure, winters in the north can be beautiful and fun especially when you’re sitting next to a warm fire, wrapped in your favorite blanket, sipping hot cocoa after an enjoyable day spent playing in the snow.

On the other hand, commuting to work in a snowstorm or digging your vehicle out of four feet of snow while wearing three layers of clothing isn’t much fun at all (IMHO). Al and I are enjoying our eighth snowbird season, and although, there are times I miss our winter excursions to the Colorado Rockies, I do not miss the cold and scary driving conditions … nor the shoveling and windshield scraping.

A lone dock at Sunrise across the Gulf of Mexico in Texas.

So what is a snowbird?

Basically, a snowbird is a person who travels from the colder regions of North America to the warmer southern locales during the winter months. These southern locales usually include the Sun Belt region of the United States, along with Mexico and the Caribbean. It used to be, snowbirds were primarily older retired people with plenty of time on their hands. With location independent jobs and work camping opportunities, there has been an increase in all ages living the snowbird life, particularly in the RVing community.

How to start snowbird living – 5 Tips

1. How to pick the best destination. Picking the perfect snowbird destination depends on one’s interests. You’ll want to choose a place that reflects your lifestyle and your interests. You may not want to make a decision based on past vacations. Let’s say your yearly one-week vacation to the beach to chill and relax was something you always looked forward to. That vacation was a break from regular life and being lazy on the beach was exactly what you needed at that time, but the rest of the year your interests and passions are centered around a more physically active lifestyle. If that’s the case, spending 3 to 5 months on a beach in Florida may not fit your active lifestyle. Remember, this isn’t a vacation but a lifestyle. So, if mountain biking and hiking are more to your liking then perhaps Arizona might be a better fit than a coastal location.

Therefore, figure out what kind of activities most reflect the way YOU like to live. Is dining out something that’s important? Then picking a place with a variety of restaurants should be a consideration. Think about how you want to spend your time? What will a typical day look like? If you’re still working, what are the time demands? Choosing a time zone might be important to think about. Do you prefer a lush landscape or are you drawn to the arid desert southwest?

There are so many things to take into consideration. I actually recommend changing things up your first couple of winters and discover what fits best for you? Al and I spent our first several winters as full-time RVers splitting our snowbird winters between the Texas Gulf Coast and the Arizona desert.

A camera on a beach photography a dock at sunset
I enjoy spending my days behind a camera. It doesn’t matter if it’s the beach, the desert, a city, or wilderness, I embrace it all, but no snow, please!

2. Baby steps. Once you have a few destinations in mind, it’s time to test the snowbird lifestyle. I don’t recommend you go all-in on one location the first year. You really won’t know if you love it until you live it and won’t know if you’ve chosen the right spot until you’ve spent several weeks there. So whether you’re RVing, Airbnb-ing, or hoteling, don’t book the entire winter in one place for your first try at snowbirding.

You may find one or two months is plenty of time away from home during that first winter. We know a lot of people who spend the holidays in the north and then head south for only a month or two, usually January and February. They’ve learned what works for them.

Others, especially RVers, start their southerly trajectory at the beginning of November and don’t return north until sometime in April. For RVers with hitch-itch, you may choose to move every week or two trying out different places in the south. You’ll want a snowbird season or two under your belt to figure out what works best for you.

3. Paying bills. Long before you head off on that snowbird venture, you’ll want to go electronic with all your bills. Years ago, it was difficult to keep up with everyday life when you were away from home. Quite often we’d have to implore the help of a neighbor, family member, or friend. Times have changed and as long as you have internet service, there’s a way to keep up with bills.

IbisSince Al and I live in our RV full-time, we use a UPS Store as our mailing address. Technology has made a mobile lifestyle so much easier, and because of that, you don’t even have to be retired to join this flock of warm weather seekers.

4. Friendships. Leaving familiar territory behind can be scary to many. Fears of loneliness and leaving friends behind are a huge concern.

Fear not! With so many communities in the south catering to snowbirds, lots of folks find themselves with a full social schedule. It’s just a matter of saying hi and introducing yourself to neighbors.

Social engagement is extremely easy in the RVing community. It can be a little more challenging for other types of travel, but in general, the choice is yours to be as social or anti-social as you care to be.

I’ve made so many wonderful friends via this blog … RVers and non-RVers alike, and it’s always fun meeting in person.

5. Slow down. If possible, you’ll want to take your time traveling back and forth between your northern and southern locations. By stretching out the drive, you can see sights along the way. Enjoy the journey and not just the destination.

Last spring, Al and I took almost a month to travel from our snowbird home (RV Park) in Arizona to our summer home in northern Wisconsin (family property). To say we took our time might be an understatement. We had a great time visiting friends and taking in sights along the way.

When we are sure that we are on the right road there is no need to plan our journey too far ahead. No need to burden ourselves with doubts and fears as to the obstacles that may bar our progress. We cannot take more than one step at a time. – Orison Swett Marden

The best thing about RV snowbirding

The best thing about being an RV snowbird is our mobility. We’re able to travel as quickly or slowly as we choose, and if we end up somewhere that we’re not thrilled about, we can easily pack things up and move to a new location.

However … with the increasing popularity in RV travel, without a reservation during those peak winter months, you may find yourself with few to no options to park your RV, especially in highly desirable places. Even in the west, we’ve seen a decrease in boondocking options and RV Parks are at capacity during the months of January, February, and March. So, a little extra planning might be in order.

Although Al and I have settled down for the season in an RV Park in Phoenix, Arizona, we didn’t start off doing so during our early snowbird years. Our first snowbird trip lasted only seven weeks due to work obligations. Wanting to take in as many sights as possible, we moved around the desert southwest exploring.

F250 Truck and a Keystone fifth wheel camped near the shores of Lake Powell, Page, Arizona

We traveled similarly during our second winter, but during our third winter, we had become full-time RVers and changed up our travels. We split up our winter in the south between the Texas Gulf Coast and Arizona desert and continued those winter sojourns for the next three years up until Hurricane Harvey struck and severely damaged several of our favorite Texas locations.

Although Texas has recovered, for the most part, Al and I have found an RV community and developed friendships such that we’re content staying stationary at this RV park in Phoenix for the winter… for now, anyway. With that said, I’m not done traveling to the Gulf Coast. So many choices, so little time!

So, where do you spend your winter?

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