One night I was pondering all the campgrounds we’ve been to since we started this adventure and realized that when we got to Tucson it would our 50th campground. I started thinking wouldn’t it be cool to throw together a slideshow of all our campsites? Followed by, “dangit, I should have paid more attention and taken pictures of our campsites.”
However after searching through our photos I found my habit of randomly taking pictures of everything paid off and I was able to find a campsite picture for almost every campground we stayed at. I also found out that Tucson wasn’t our 50th, but 54th. Whoops.
Most of the state park campgrounds were pretty nice. RV Parks were hit or miss, some were nice and some were just parking lots with everybody crammed in like sardines. Gulf State Park in Alabama was our favorite, and Florida takes honors for both the best and worst campgrounds.
Anyway here’s a slideshow of our 54 campsites since July of 2017. Enjoy!
After heading south from near the Canadian border in Montana we now found ourselves near the Mexican border in the southwest corner Arizona.
Welcome to Yuma.
Yuma’s got a quaint historic downtown with a couple restaurants and shops. Of course we had to go to Prison Hill Brewery where they have Han Solo encased in carbonite behind the bar for some reason.
We also made a stop at Red’s Bird Cage Saloon, an old school Western dive bar. Hello 1974!
We had dinner at one of Yuma’s higher rated restaurants, Lute’s Casino. Which isn’t actually a casino, but an old bar decorated with all kinds of random stuff scavenged from the streets of Yuma. Tasty onion rings though.
There’s a weekly farmers market downtown, more arts and crafts than produce but we did get to try some medjool dates which are grown in the area. We wound up going to a date farm and buying a couple pounds later.
Yuma is about 90 miles from the Salton Sea in California, so we made a day trip there to check out Salvation Mountain and Slab City.
Coming to live off the grid in the middle of the desert is pretty cool, but I gotta say a lot of Slab City looks like an episode of Hoarders.
From Slab City it was about a 15 mile drive to Bombay Beach, a resort town in the 50’s and 60’s which was first flooded in the 70’s and then abandoned by the shrinking Salton Sea leaving behind a salt-encrusted mess. Surprisingly quite a few people still live there and art installations made from debris are scattered around the town.
Yuma is home to the Yuma Territorial Prison, popularized in the movie “3:10 to Yuma.” Now a historic state park, you can wander around and enjoy the miserable conditions.
Jim decided he wanted to try his hand at gold prospecting but first we needed a shovel. Funny story here… we get to the checkout at the local Walmart to purchase said shovel and apparently Arizona doesn’t just sell shovels to anyone! An associate had to verify that Jim was of age (the ripe old age of 16) before selling us this lethal digging device.
Other things to do in Yuma were a trip to a date farm
Everyone always talks about taking their RV to Quartzsite for the winter, so after our week-long bash with XScapers we had to go there and see what all the fuss is about. Oh, and to go to the Desert Bar that we saw on some Travel Channel show a few years ago.
We paid a visit to the last camp of Hi Jolly.
The “Naked Guy Bookstore” or so they say, we were turned away the first time and the only guys on site the second time were authors of various western themed books we tried so hard to show interest in yet not be guilted into a pity purchase. FYI they weren’t naked either!
The RV show was going on while we where there, set up in the Big Tent, filled with vendors selling everything from sunshades to sugar gliders,
and nearby vendors where you could add to your collection of skulls and antlers,
and finally a stop at Beer Bellys to visit Lou and Nancy!
Casa Grande is apparently best known for having the ruins of a failed computer factory built as a series of domes.
A day trip to find this cool Tiki Bar in Tucson was a MUST! This place was great, the decor, the drinks, and the people felt like a mini escape from the desert.
A couple of breweries to check out…
The Perch Brewery Chandler has a somewhat tropical setting complete with live rescued birds.
We made a couple trips into Chandler which has a lively downtown area.
Unfortunately the polar vortex reached all the way down to Arizona and there were quite a few cold days, but at least it wasn’t 30 below.
Compared to Chandler, Casa Grande’s downtown was more like a ghost town but they did have an electric lights Christmas parade with around 100 floats. Back in Michigan I never would have survived the cold long enough to see more than a quarter of that.
One of the sad things about Arizona is so many people think it’s acceptable to dump garbage out in the desert. Anywhere you go in the desert you’ll find furniture, appliances and piles of trash.
But if you overlook all the trash you’ll see colorful sunsets that are always different.
We made a visit to Casa Grande National Monument, ruins of a pueblo dating back to the 13th century.
We did some 4-wheeling around the Silver Reef Mountains, checking out old mine sites.
One day we learned about another thing in Arizona that can kill you besides the rattlesnakes and scorpions: Bee swarms. They attacked our hummingbird feeder for a few minutes then suddenly left.
Not too far away from our campground was Villago Park, a man-made oasis in the desert. While it was a nice place to go for a walk, it pretty much finalized our decision of where to go for next winter: back to Florida.
Coming down from the mountains of Flagstaff we stopped for a week in Camp Verde, Arizona. At an altitude of nearly 4000 feet lower us flatlanders could finally breathe a little easier.
We stayed at Zane Grey RV Park which turned out to be quite nice. Although the sites weren’t much bigger than most rv parks creative use of fencing and trees made each site seem much more private.
Next door to the park a trail winds it’s way through a field of volcanic rubble and a Cottonwood forest to West Clear Creek. Imagine, that, flowing water in Arizona that’s not the Colorado River!
We took a couple day trips around the area, including Montezuma Castle, Sedona, and the mining town of Jerome.
Jerome is one of those towns that took the route of boom town to ghost town and finally to tourist trap. The streets are narrow and buildings are awkwardly built helter skelter on the side of a mountain. There’s a pretty good mix of abandoned buildings, restaurants, tourist shops, and art. It’s great.
And of course we had to check out a couple nearby breweries in the area, first to THAT Brewery (yes that’s the name) in Cottonwood.
THAT Brewery, Cottonwood
Alas, the promised food truck didn’t show up so after a flight of samples we headed back to Camp Verde and stopped at Verde Brewing Company for some more samples and tasty sandwiches. The breweries are located in sparsely decorated warehouses in industrial parks, reminding me of the early days of craft beer in Michigan. At Verde Brewing we sat a few feet away from bubbling fermenters and it felt like we were just hanging out at some home brewer’s garage which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Especially when the beer is good.
We’ve been here before, this well known city on Route 66 in the middle of Northern Arizona. Only this time we’re not heading east to west but north to south. And with some trepidation, as Flagstaff sits at 6900 feet and gets cold and quite a bit of snow and here we are at the tail end of October trying to avoid those very things. Fortunately the Arizona sun held out for the entirety of our 4 night stay keeping things warm in spite of some frosty mornings. We stayed at the KOA which provided a background of mountains and pine trees for taking moonrise shots.
Flagstaff has something we haven’t seen in a while, a historic and vibrant downtown, with shops, restaurants, music, and breweries.
Finally we had a chance to resume our Friday night brewery tradition at the Mother Road Brewing Company. Good beer and good pizza from the next door pizza shop, Pizzicletta.
We must have been suffering from brewery deprivation so after leaving Mother Road we wandered around the corner only to find ourselves at Beaver Street Brewery for another round. Flagstaff is a great place to visit, at least for us when it’s warm and not snowing.
After spending nearly 6 weeks in Utah it was time to head further south. I’ll say this about Utah, the landscapes are incredible and I could spend years there just exploring the wilderness. On the flip side, the national parks are very crowded and outside of that, well, it’s pretty boring. I can’t quite explain it but it felt like living in Utah was a very isolating experience, even in the cities. There just wasn’t a sense of vibrancy, of being something more than just existing to provide a place to live. I’ve come to the conclusion that the cities of Utah are merely there to provide support to the National Parks. And Mormons.
Anyway, on to Arizona. On our way to the Phoenix area we stayed a few nights in Page, home of several famous locations like Antelope Canyon, Horseshoe Bend, Lake Powell, and the ginormous Glen Canyon Dam.
Upon our arrival we were greeted by a double rainbow over the lake to welcome our triumphant return to civilization.
Although Page is a small town, it still felt alive and a world away from the sleepy hamlets of Utah. Ok, I admit it, being able to buy reasonably priced and non-watered down craft beer helped. We were only there for 3 nights so we didn’t have too much time for exploring and we probably spent too much time in the hot tub soaking and rinsing away the red Utah dust that got everywhere. We did make it out to visit the dam and take some photos of the lake.
We did not go to Antelope Canyon as I really have no interest in paying 200 dollars to go in a narrow canyon with a bunch of other people all taking pictures of the same thing. We did make an early morning visit to Horseshoe bend for the sunrise and although the sun failed to make an appearance it was still a nice experience. Partly for the view and partly from the tension of wondering if anybody perched up on the rocks at the very edge would fall off. Yes, it happens, a man had fallen off earlier this year in May, then after we had left a girl fell in December. Kind of hard to show anybody your pictures after that.
Living with me as long as she has, Kendra has acquired a bit of skepticism when it comes to my hiking plans. Can’t say I blame her, as most of my “easy” hikes usually turn into things like an endless slog through sandy deserts,Coral Pink Sand Dunes, Utah
or up the side of a “small” mountain,Grand Teton Mountain, Grand Teton National Park
or alongside a cliff with 1000 foot drop-offs,Canyon Overlook Trail, Zion National Park
or up 700 vertical feet of switchbacks,Bryce Canyon National Park
and usually in places where things like snakes live. You get the idea. Copperhead, Kentucky
She tends to prefer a more relaxing nature hike, taking in the scenery and looking for interesting plants and non-venomous animals. Whereas I tend to be like “Hey, what’s that over there?” and go tromping off to places unknown, places that were probably last visited by the Donner Party.
Fortunately there’s Zion National Park, which offers plenty for both types of hiking. Our first foray into the park was down the Riverside Walk, a trail on the floor of the canyon. The trail is paved and can get busy but there are plenty of spots to go off trail and explore or just sit and relax alongside the Virgin River.
Although there is wildlife in the park, the only animals you’ll probably see in the heavily trafficked parts are the squirrels. Since feeding the wildlife is prohibited I can only assume that the squirrels are so fat because they eat the remains of people who have fallen off Angel’s Landing.
The canyon is full of things that fascinate us landscape photographers, things like walls with plants growing out of them.
Trees. Big rocks. Rivers. And rivers with big rocks in them.
The Riverside Walk trail leads up to the Narrows, where the canyon walls close in and most of the hiking is in the river itself. We didn’t venture that far as we didn’t have the necessary equipment and I hate wet feet. Besides, I knew our next visit would be one of my “easy” hikes, the aforementioned cliff side hike up to the canyon overlook.
I should add that my so-called easy hikes usually have a well-earned reward in the end. In my wanderings I seem to have an uncanny ability to find a nearby brewery.
Even better, a brewery that didn’t have the typical watered-down Utah beer. And good food too, a rarity in Utah. This was the first brewery we’ve been to since leaving Montana way back in August.