We'll skip over our New Mexico experience after escaping Texas (for the moment) and come back to it when we leave Arizona, as we'll be hitting some New Mexico destinations on our way back East.
Arizona was our next state to visit, because family was involved. Our first stop in Arizona was EXACTLY one of the reasons why we decided to RV in order to see this great country. Just about 50 miles into Arizona at Exit 322 is something that had been advertised for the past couple of hours on billboards along I-10. Literally dozens of billboards reminding us to stop in to see what “The THING” really is. It's one of those weird, wacky roadside attractions you can't really bypass in good conscience. So we pulled off at Exit 322 to discover just what was so darned strange about “The Thing”. Come to find out, it's a very entertaining 20-30 minute stroll through a museum that a very inventive mind has put together, suggesting that aliens from outer space came down to Earth millions of years ago and tamed the dinosaurs. They then stayed around in two warring factions; one bad and one good, who aligned themselves with the forces of good and evil on Earth. It ends with a display case inhabited by something that looks like an alien (apparently unearthed in a cave about 50 miles from the museum), but it could just as easily be a large, creatively carved piece of cottonwood.
My brother Doug has lived in the Phoenix suburb of Gilbert for more than 15 years now, so we camped out at Blue Star at Lost Dutchman RV Park in Apache Junction, AZ, just about a 25 minute drive to Doug's house. It's an interesting park; it's been here a while so the amenities are a bit dated, and the spots are configured differently than what we're used to. There's a narrow, 4-foot strip of concrete pad in the middle of the site, then you back in your motor home to the right of the pad on gravel, while your toad is parked on the left side of the pad. The pad is used for your chairs, grill and various and sundry other things you might have brought with you. Our 37.5' 36LA BARELY fit in site #62 assigned to us. The site is about 38.5' long, so we have a 6” clearance for the back and front of our unit. There are longer sites, but they're in the middle area usually reserved for snowbirds, or other sites on the right hand side that could take a 45' motor home.
The other strange thing is that their office closes at 5 pm. Not so unusual there, but what IS unusual is that they don't have an after hours board to direct you to your site if you show up at 5:30. Fortunately, the after hours emergency line got us in touch with their maintenance guy, who helped us find AND back into our site.
Met one other Tiffin owner here, and by coincidence he has a 36LA , too!
Our visit with my brother Doug was great. He and his wife Tracey have a beautiful home nestled in a nice subdivision. Grass areas in the front and back yards are well-manicured by their long-time landscaper, Carmelo, and Doug has created a wonderful place in the back yard to chill out with a fire pit and Tiki bar to go along with the usual pool necessary in Arizona. It had been a couple of years since I had last seen Doug, back when we were helping our Dad move out of his apartment to his senior living facility.
Doug and his sister-in-law Tam returned the favor and visited us the next day so they could see what RV living was all about. Doug had earlier expressed his reservations about our decision to retire early and do the RV thing, but he seemed suitably impressed with our 36LA.
Following the visits, we had a couple of days to goof off, so we decided to try a bit of hiking, something we had been unable to do based on our health problems early on in the trip out West. So, a late morning visit to Camelback Mountain was in the cards. We knew we weren't in shape to make one of the summits, but we made the effort to climb as high as we could safely do. I was able to make it a bit higher than Barbara did (she wanted me to go farther up), but was only able to get to the highest point between the two peaks. Still, it was a great hike, and the views were just awesome.
While we were coming down, we were held by park rangers and fire personnel to allow a helicopter to land, for the purposes of dropping off men and equipment in order to effect a rescue of an 11 year-old boy who had fallen and injured himself. Apparently, this happens all too often on the mountain. After a 20 minute wait, we were allowed to finish our descent.
On our way back to the RV park, we decided to see what all the fuss was about regarding In and Out Burgers. We had never tried them, as they are not in the Georgia area as yet, but many folks who have tried them had raved about them to us, including my brother, Doug. There was an In and Out on the route back, and we were hungry from the hike, so it seemed like a good idea to give it a go.
It was – disappointing.
Look, we come from an area where Five Guys burger places are plentiful, and had one right down the street from the apartment in which we lived. You can't beat their fries, especially when reheated the next day because they give you so damned many in that bag of theirs. In addition, their patties are bigger, juicier and they really know how to cook their bacon crispy. In and Out was nothing like Five Guys. Not impressed at all.
Moving day brought us halfway between Phoenix and Tucson, to a beautiful place called Picacho Peak RV Resort. It is situated right next door to the state park by the same name (we tried to get in but it was booked solid) and was right at the base of Picacho Peak, a 3,400 foot peak all by itself in the middle of nowhere. Absolutely stunning sunsets and wake up views as you look at this mountain each day.
It's also right next door to the Rooster Cogburn Ostrich Ranch, a nice little tourist trap that allows you to feed deer, goats, chickens, rabbits, ducks, lorikeets, and even stingrays. If you've got kids, this is a great stopover for a couple of hours. Barbara was able to become one with the lorikeets while feeding them nectar in a small cup.
Another day was spent in Tombstone, about 90 minutes south of Picacho Peak. The show that was put on recreating the Gunfight at the OK Corral was over-acted and campy, but pure fun to watch, especially with the audience participating in loud choruses of boos for the bad guys and cheers for the good guys. One of the things you have to plan for in Arizona is the change in elevation. Tombstone was a few thousand feet higher than our spot in Picacho Peak, and it was a good thing we checked the weather and temperature there before heading out. It was a full 15 degrees cooler in Tombstone, and would have been uncomfortable without the heavier jackets we brought.
Before leaving Arizona, a very nice Sunday afternoon and evening back in Tempe presented itself in a meet and greet scheduled by our favorite RV couple, Marc and Julie Bennett, also known as RV Love. They had been very helpful in answering some questions we had before deciding on full-time RVing, and we always wanted to camp with them at some time once we hit the road. While we didn't have the time to share a campground, we were able to spend some quality time with them and some of their other friends who attended. They are every bit as warm and personable as they seem in their videos and over email. We vowed to meet up at a later date.
Unfortunately, our Arizona adventure came to an end without any golf being played, but it was time to start heading back East. But first, New Mexico beckons . . .
We're Dave and Barbara Richard, and we're living the ultimate retirement experience - traveling the U.S. and Canada in style in a Tiffin Open Road 36LA Class A motor home, playing golf and stopping at every weird and wacky roadside attraction we can find.