After traveling 20,000 miles through Oregon, California, Idaho, Wyoming and Utah we landed in Tucson Arizona. We reserved a spot in a RV Park outside of town, unhooked our truck from the trailer, lowered the trailer’s landing gear, and became stationary for the first time all year.
We arrived at Desert Trails RV Park in the saguaro cactus desert west of Tucson on November 15th. After months of boondocking far out in the mountains and deserts it was a shock to be packed into a tiny slot next to dozens of other trailers and motorhomes. But, we had chosen well and found that Desert Trails lived up to its reputation as an old, funky, fun place to winter in Arizona. And, at $540/month for full hookup sites, the price was right.
Located on the boundary of Pima County’s sprawling Desert Mountain Park, we had mountain biking trails right out of the RV park with Saguaro National Park not far beyond that. We soon met many of the residents of the RV park which is an adult park for people 40 years and older. But, most of them were much older; in their sixties, seventies and eighties. They were experienced, active and adventurous, many having traveled and lived in their RVs for years on end. Within days we fit right in, made new friends, and were joining in on the festivities in the park (live music, happy hours, hiking and biking).
Then it was down to business; doing some long overdue maintenance on the truck and trailer and exploring southern Arizona. Riding my mountain bike through the saguaro and cholla cactus desert became a regular event for me. Some of the neighbors were bluegrass musicians, so I unpacked my banjo and guitar and played with them; the first time I’d done that in years. Every night was a happy hour at our neighbors’ trailers and Sonia started a Spanish happy hour every Thursday evening where we spoke only Spanish (turns out a number of the residents spoke Spanish).
Sonia and I spent a couple days hiking into Saguaro National Park outside of Tucson. The Sonoran desert is surprisingly lush with a huge variety of plants and animals. Humming birds zoomed past us as we climbed through remote canyons. But the star, of course, is the saguaro cactus. Growing over 35 feet tall we never tired of seeing these strange cylindrical plants with their outreaching arms. We found a number of the unusual “cristate” saguaros where the arms had grown into themselves instead of outward to form huge knots of folded cactus in fascinating patterns.
We took an overnight trip to the touristy, old-west towns of Tombstone (think Wyatt Earp, Boothill, and the OK Corral) and Bisbee (an old mining town in the Mule Mountains near the Mexican border). We stayed in an Air BnB apartment in Bisbee and had a good time watching the corny re-enactment of the gunfight at the OK Corral and sipping a beer in the Crystal Palace Saloon in Tombstone.
Back in Tucson, we spent a day at the Pima Air & Space Museum, home to acres and acres of vintage aircraft and some space vehicles. Being an airplane buff, this was a special treat for me and they even had an elegant Lockheed Constellation on the lot with its iconic whale humped back and triple tails. This was the first airplane I remember flying in almost sixty years ago.
We toured the University of Arizona’s Biosphere 2 north of Tucson where entire environments are enclosed in a series of buildings. This unique facility was built in support of space travel to evaluate how humans could live in a self-sustaining environment for long periods of time; growing their own food and living inside an enclosed, controlled area. Now the facility houses a miniature rain forest, ocean and desert where long-term experiments continue on the effects of climate change. It was fascinating.
We spent another day touring through the Arizona Sonoran Desert Museum, which is actually an outdoor wild animal park. This well-done park should be on anyone’s must-see list when visiting Tucson. Mountain lions, ocelots, javelina, and, my favorite, coyotes roaming in their natural habitat, albeit fenced into large areas. The highlight was the raptor show where trainers brought out owls and hawks that flew freely around the park, coming within inches of us as they passed overhead.
As Christmas approached some of our new-found, Spanish-speaking friends asked Sonia if she would lead a traditional Mexican Christmas celebration. So, we led a “posada”, a Mexican tradition of singing and celebration of the arrival of Joseph and Mary in Bethlehem and looking for a place to stay with baby Jesus (posada means inn in Spanish). Everyone had fun smashing the piñatas, but the tequila took a toll on some (including me).
We spent Christmas in the RV park enjoying a potluck dinner with all the other travelers and New Year’s Eve at a dance in the park’s recreation hall. By then winter had finally arrived in southern Arizona with cool sunny days and cold nights.
We’ll stay at Desert Trails until January 15th. Then we’ll put our truck and trailer in storage in the RV park and start our travels for 2018. We’ll fly on to El Paso Texas and bus it south to Chihuahua Mexico. In mid-February we’ll fly to San Jose del Cabo at the southern tip of the Baja Peninsula and drive a rental car north to the wilderness of Vizcaino National Park to kayak with the whales and hike into the mountains there. In mid-March we’ll return to Tucson, pick up the truck and trailer, and slowly migrate northward through Utah, Idaho and the remote deserts of southeastern Oregon to summer along the coast of Puget Sound in Washington State. At least that’s the plan for now, so stay tuned as we report our travels in 2018.