Arizona and Texas - Our First Outing

Arizona

The day we collected our own RV we still had a lot of shopping to do. First off was to buy a water pressure reducing valve at Home Depot and a filling hose! Then off to Harbour Freight to buy our motorbike rack for the back of Footsie and tools for fitting it as well as for general use. Afterwards having securely attached the rack to the back of the RV in a Walmart car park – protected from other vehicles by a ring of trolleys – we headed over  to North Phoenix to pick up our Rowdy SSR which had been fully assembled and registered..

At the end of a long day we arrived at the Thousand Island Resort in Phoenix for which Cruise America had given us tickets for two nights free. As it was 20.00 they reckoned we would disturb their inmates so they made us go to a late arrival place which was basically a roundabout with pull in space and electric hook up. Not impressed! The whole place was a typical of where we did not want to be.

The next day was back to more shopping as we wanted to get everything at the beginning so we could use all the goodies from the start of our adventure.

Having stayed at such a horrible place last night we decided to go out to Usury Park in the desert near Phoenix for the weekend. Great choice – this was our type of campsite. When anyone left, the camp hosts came along, cleaned the fire pit, campsite and raked the stones level 🙂 As  you can see in the picture, we had brought some very comfortable chairs and stools for outside.

These chairs proved we were right in buying exactly what we wanted as they lasted all the years we travelled in the USA and were very comfortable as well as acting as wind breaks with high backs and sides. When buying them at Camping World they were our first experience of the US not having good consumer laws. They only had 3 months warranty and wanted to sell you a lifetime add on .. forget it! It was difficult to grasp the American attitude to consumer protection and realise how good California was when it finally introduced a “lemon law” for new cars.

ur first sunset. The first of many sunset photos we took over the years of the impressive saguaro cactus. It grows very slowly to over 40 feet tall and it is a native plant of the Sonoran Desert where we were camping.

First time that Rowdy, our bike, was to come off the RV and Colleen was going to take it for a test ride. At this time Alan still had never ridden a motorbike whilst Colleen had her advanced motorcycle licence from many years ago.

Look at all those views around us.

As you can see the desert was sunny and nice during the day but we still had to wrap up warm. It was the middle of November and the nights cold.

After the weekend we went back to Cruise America with the only problem we had found. The radio power had gone again, the same as when we collected our RV. This time it was sorted properly and did not occur again.

After yet another day’s shopping we tried out a Harvest Hosts site near Phoenix. It was on a huge cattle farm called Superstition – and intriguing name!. We had joined Harvest Hosts before leaving Spain and they had many host places that you could stay for “free”. Typically they were farms, vineyards etc. You were then expected to repay your hosts by using their farm shops, going on fee paying tours, buying wine etc.

The people there were very nice but as we had been given poor information on the phone about where to park up,  we found ourselves in their shop car park in the morning. The only hook up there was already being used and we had thought maybe it was someone living permanently there behind the old truck etc (see photo).

It was a good spot to stay overnight without going too far but we decided that these type of places were not for us and would end up being more expensive than in the places we hoped to stay as you were expected to buy something from their outlets. We bought some flavoured butters and cheese which came to over $20 …

 

On leaving Superstition Farm on the East side of Phoenix we headed out on the I60  (interstate)  out to the Tonto National Forest and Top of The World. This is a scenic drive and the road is also known as Live Oak Street. We were using the Allstays app to find locations to camp and this was to be our first boondocking experience of free camping. The photo shows the free public lands site Oak Park where we stayed for several days.

A little tricky to get into our spot and already teamwork was needed to avoid reversing into large boulders.

Oak Park site set up with BBQ and chairs. At first it seemed strange to us to have what we would call a table top BBQ but it was space saving in the RV!

At our first boondocking we quickly found the advantage of having solar panels on extended cables so we could move them into the sun as the shade moved. Not far away was a campervan with solar panels on his roof and he had to move his van several times during the day.

The site also had a fire pit and metal bench. The bench soon became Alan’s workbench for some modifications required to the bike rack and ramp after Rowdy had got stuck/caught underneath coming down it the first time. You see all those tools brought in Harbour Freight are needed!

We then drove on to Globe and south on the I77 and in the direction of Tucson. On route we discovered our first Historical Marker, of which there are thousands in the US.  As there was a large pull over space we stopped to see what it was all about and the view was great … so time for coffee 🙂

At 4983 feet El Capitan Pass  was used by many famous wild west guides and trappers. In 1846 Kit Carson guided Kearny’s army through the pass to California and it led around the impassable canyon on the Gila river were Coolidge dam has now been constructed.

We then continued south and stopped at Catalina State Park when Alan was getting tired driving. This unexpected place was nearly full and we went to a group campsite which was fine and the spot we picked better than some of the standard pitches

So off we went on Rowdy to explore, Having parked up we went across a small shallow river 🙂 Alan managed to cross on the small branches but Colleen had some trouble in several places getting wet feet. (No surprise there)

Our next stop was a Patagonia Lake and , as it was Thanksgiving the next week, places were very limited . Hardly any of the sites were level and a massive 5th wheeler coming in next to us kindly let us have some wooden blocks to raise our wheels. When he first arrived, we were taken aback  because as soon as he unhitched, he proceeded to unload his 4×4 flat bed with a huge pile of wood including, yes, a kitchen sink! He was meeting up with friends for a week and was going to build an outside kitchen area. The wood we had from him was used right up until we sold the RV: 2 pieces were used as a flat support for the BBQ legs on bumpy ground – this made it just the right height to cook from our camping chairs! Also for taking the weight off the bike rack when stopped and did not want to take the bike off overnight. We even used the precious wood to raise the bike ramp up at the end by 100mm to make the angle easier to drive the bike up.

As we went along we loved the entrances to the ranches –  there were many like the photo on the right cut out of thin steel.

Kӓrtchner Cavern campsite

The caverns were discovered by 2 men who did not even tell the land owner for a few years as they were afraid they would be vandalised. After the owner was told, he kept it a secret and his children were only told and shown as they came of age. Eventually after much discussion with reliable parties it became  part of the Arizona State Park system and funding was found to create a entrance and sealed doorways to protect it from the Earth’s atmosphere. In guided, small parties you enter through the doorways and follow a dedicated concrete path. You are not even allowed to touch the handrails as you go along fear of contamination. It is a truly magnificent cavern having been preserved away from people!

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