Saturday, February 28, 2009

Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument

Sunday we drove 160 miles from Gilbert Ray Campground at Tucson to Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument. What a wonderful place! The campground has no hookups, but the sites are level concrete pads. It is so quiet and at night it is dark, except for the lights in the restrooms and the glow of the Lukeville/Sonoyta border crossing five miles to the south.

I think of a desert as dry and barren, but right now it is green here and anything but barren. We drove the 21-mile Ajo Mountain Loop road and were amazed at the carpet of green plants on the ground, larger concentrations of Saguaro cactus than we saw at Saguaro National Park, large numbers of Organ Pipe cactus, as well as Teddy Bear Cholla and Hanging Fruit (or Jumping) Cholla. All of these are growing on the slopes of volcanic hills (or mountains). It is beautiful.

Since I can't figure out how to put a slideshow in this blog, you can see some of the Ajo Mountain Drive by clicking on this link.

Since we are over the age of 62, we have National Park passes for seniors. That gives us free admission to the parks and monuments and half-price camping there and on National Forest and BLM land. That means we pay only $6 a night here. That is great. The campground has 208 spaces but it hasn't been near full any night so far. This is a place we can relax and it is warm enough we can be outside all day and into the evening. That is why we are in Arizona in February.

Twice a day we can run our generators for two hours—8 to 10 am and 4 to 6 pm—to charge our batteries. The majority of trailers (like us) have Honda 2000 watt generators, which are very quiet. So, though we can hear them, it is not annoying. And everyone seems to really honor the generator hours. The generator does not give us the power to use our air conditioning or microwave, but it does charge the batteries, as well as our computers and cell phones, and we can use fans during the afternoon charging time. We also have lights and heat overnight.

At Gilbert Ray, we spent five nights with electric but no water hookup. Here we have neither. We are getting really good at conserving water. We think we will be able to go eight days on our 66 gallon fresh water tank. We use the water in the tank only for showers and dishwashing—anything we need hot water for. We fill jugs of water to flush the toilet and fill the coffee pot, wash our hands, etc. At times I feel like an old-time farm woman, going to the well for water. But it really works well. And we don't have to pull in the slides and drive to the fresh water hook-up to refill the tank. We are becoming good boondockers.

Friday, February 20, 2009

A Great Way to Live!

Since Tuesday we have been parked in the Gilbert Ray Campground in the Tucson Mountain Park. We are just outside of the western section of Saguaro National Park. We are living right in the desert. Most of the cactus has not been cleared off. Everywhere we look we see saguaro, prickley pear, ocotillo, palo verde and creosote bush. And we see and hear birds from morning to night--black chinned hummingbirds, road runners, gila woodpeckers, curved billed thrashers. For the first time a saw a verdin--a very small bird with a yellow head. It is about the size of a hummingbird. Today we saw a coyote crossing the road as we drove through the campground.

This is the kind of campground we most enjoy, so I don't know why it took us three weeks to move here. It is quiet, even tonight, Friday, on the edge of Tucson. Most of the people are about our age, snowbirds, a good number of them full-timers. This campground is obviously a favorite with Canadians. Many of the campers are from British Columbia. One neighbor is from Manitoba and others from Alberta and Ontario. The majority have a hummingbird feeder out, like we do.

Spring is coming to the desert here. Some creosote bushes are sprouting yellow flowers. The Ocotillo are developing leaves and some have small red flowers at their tips. It has warmed up and we are able to wear shorts. Yesterday was the first day since we arrived in Arizona that is was warm enough and the wind calm enough we could be comfortable sitting outside.

Wednesday we biked to the Arizona Sonoran Desert Museum, just up the road. It is a wonderful facility with marvelous exhibits about the beginning of the world, animals of the desert, plants of the grasslands and mountains of the desert, butterflies, hummingbirds, and on and on. We could easily have spent all day there, except that is just too much to absorb all at once. If we lived here, we would return many times. We even saw one of their herd of javelinas. In the hummingbird exhibit, we watched one of the tiny birds sitting on a nest!

When we are somewhere with a better internet signal, I will add photos to this post.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Saguaro National Park

Saguaro National Park covers 91,327 acres on the east and west sides of Tucson.We have taken two great hikes in the park this week.
First we hiked four and one-half miles round trip on the King Canyon trail in the western part of the park. We left our car in the parking lot of the Arizona Sonora Desert Museum, located in the Tucson Mountain County Park, just outside of Saguaro. It was a pretty hike with some uphill sections. We got a good work out on our first hike of the season. We were on the trail by 9 am and by 10 there were many hikers out. The landscape is open desert with only some cacti.

Yesterday we hiked three miles on the Loma VerdePink Hill-Squeeze Pen trail through the Cactus Forest in the eastern section of Saguaro. We truly felt we were in a forest--though not like any we have been in before. Saguaro, Prickly Pear and Cholla cactus plants were everywhere. The trees and shrubs are beginning to turn green, but the cactus and other wildflowers have not begun to bloom. We are so glad we are here at this time of year to see spring come.

I tried to take pictures of the biggest Saguaro with the most arms.
I finally decided showing lots of them would be better.

We realized that the skeleton of the Saguaro is made up of thin ribs. Here is a dead cactus that looks like it is wearing a shawl--really it is some of the covering that has not rotted away yet. The dead ones kind of reminded us of Kansas scarecrows without clothes.

This photos gives you an idea of what the forest looks like.

The ability to come live in places like this for a while, places that are so different from where we have lived for years, is one of the real benefits of our life style.

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Monday, February 09, 2009

Snowbird Sights in Tucson

Why do snowbirds come to southern Arizona or go to Florida or south Texas? We left barren trees and brown ground or extreme cold and snow drifts and headed where we can see green trees, grass turning green, and palm trees.

As we drive around during the first week in February, we marvel at these sights. As we walk around our RV park, we mainly see folks from Wisconsin, Michigan, Minnesota, Oregon, Washington, Colorado and Kansas. In all of these places it is still cold, barren and often snowy. After years of enjoying (or tolerating) such weather, we now enjoy the mild southern winters, then flee north when the 100 degree days of summer arrive.

As we made our way around Tucson Friday we saw acres and acres of really old airplanes. The map describes the area as an airplane bone yard. In this dry climate, aging planes can be stored. They don't deteriorate, so in the future they could be put back in service or raided for parts to repair other airplanes. They look a little like blind animals or machines with band aides over their boo-boos.

Saturday we made our first visit to Trader Joes. We have read about the grocery chain in RV blog and saw one in California last fall, but we had never shopped there. Were we impressed. We have been eating a yummy crusty whole wheat loaf of pain au levain (I wish I knew what that means). I bought an individual frozen quiche for Sunday breakfast, which I enjoyed, and we will definitely return for some great meat and frozen entrees for a good Sunday meal. If you live in the center of the country, you may not have heard of Trader Joes. But they have stores on both sides of the continent and we will visit them whenever we can.

Today we visited the Mission of San Francisco Xavier del Bac. We are staying at the Mission View RV Park, near this church. We have toured many old Spanish churches. This is perhaps the most impressive. Franciscan priest Fr. Kino established the San Xavier Mission in 1692. The church building was occupied in 1798 and has been in use since then. In the 20 years beginning in 1978, intense restoration of the structure and its many paintings, bultos and statues was carried out.

The exterior is now repaired with mortar made from a mixture of lime, sand and cactus mucilage after they discovered that modern cement actually hastens the deterioration.

Inside, the building is quite ornate.

A side chapel is beautiful and the many candles send up the prayers of faithful pilgrims who come and go all day long. We were amazed at how busy the church was.

Thursday, February 05, 2009

We're in Arizona

After four days of driving--with overnight stops at Lathrop State Park in Walsenburg, CO, Isleta Lakes RV near Albuquerque, and Dream Catcher RV in Deming, NM, we reached Mission View RV in Tucson today. We will stay for a least a week. Two years ago in the fall we spent a few days here. We love the extra-wide sites and the friendly people.

Would you believe, after waking up to 26 degrees this morning, the high today in Tucson was 84? There are storms coming in with some rain, so it will cool down. But not like we have experienced in the last few nights. We won't have to disconnect the hose to keep it from freezing. Our weather while packing, moving and driving has been great--no snow or rain. But we have been looking forward to warm weather. We put on our shorts as soon as we arrived in Tucson.

This is a shot of tonight's sunset from our RV park. At the house we just moved out of, it was difficult to see a morning sunrise. And, since we spent most of our time in the family room on the east side of the house, we almost never saw sunsets. Our patio home didn't have many windows or good views--in part to provide privacy on our small lot. One of the things we enjoy in our house on wheels is the number of windows and the good views of outside.
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Sunday, February 01, 2009


Since mid-December, we have focused on packing, sorting, deciding what to sell, pricing for a garage sale, arranging the garage sale, holding the garage sale, finding a mover who could store our stuff, packing boxes, selling items to antique dealers, etc., etc., etc.
This is the garage sale before anyone arrived.

This is the same room after the movers took everything to storage.

Finally, we have moved into our Montana 5th wheel trailer. This is the sunrise we saw this morning.
This is our trailer at Chatfield State Park southwest of Denver, where we are spending four nights as we get organized for our new life--full-time on the road.
The past month and a half have been exhausting. Every single day we have worked toward this new life. We have delivered 14 boxes of books to the library and churches, we have given massive amounts of stuff to ARC and Goodwill, we have sold more stuff--some of it good antiques, some of it used junk--to antiques dealers, folks who saw our ads on Craigslist, consignment shops and garage sale addicts. We also have left maybe 30 sacks of trash for the trash trucks and taken many bags and boxes to recycle and to a shredder. What we couldn't part with, we have packed for storage. And the things we can't part with that we think we might want to use in the next few years, we have stored in a unit we can access whenever we want.

It has been very hard work--more than we imagined. And that is because we owned more stuff than we knew we had and we had to decide--item by item--whether it was important or not, and if it wasn't important what we would do with it. "Build it and they will come." No, for us it was build the space and we will fill it with stuff.

By last fall we decided we wanted a different life. So in December, as soon as we finished decorating and shopping for Christmas, we worked to clear the decks and get ready to be full-time RVers. Just look at the sunrise above, as well as where we are parked and you can appreciate the life we want to live year-round. We are so glad the work is done and now we can enjoy our new life.

So, we are off to Arizona for three months!
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