Mission San Xavier del Bac
Melanie and I were taken out to Mission San Xavier del Bac by friends of the Episcopal Peace Fellowship while we were in Tucson, Arizona.
Day trip out to Walnut Canyon National Monument.
Good morning from Homolovi State Park just outside of Winslow, Arizona. We arrived here last evening in time to set up, have a surreptitious beer and glass of wine and guacamole (thanks Wade A. for the easy recipe) before a beautiful sunset unfolded. Nothing like right place, right time.
Homolovi is located about a mile and a half from Interstate 44 and is high desert (4,900 feet above sea level). After Grand Canyon, being back in an environment with long-distance views is a nice change. We'll be here for at least another evening before heading in the general direction of Albuquerque, New Mexico. This is either our second or third Arizona state park. Kudos to Arizona for their very well thought-out parks.
I'm admitting right here I'm over Spring Breaks. Really. I was complaining about this to a friend a few days back as Melanie and I were relaxing having a beer and glass of wine at the El Tovar Hotel on the South Rim at Grand Canyon. His response was, "Yeah, like, damn those kids." We laughed at my over reaction and his sarcasm. But still.
It's been a bit of a downer for us full-time traveling newbies (great name for a college band?) trying to find a place to stay (without reservations, lesson possibly learned) and a quiet place to hike or ride our bikes. Since our boys now do Spring Break on their own for the past few years, my recollection apparently has gotten dim or I'm just dim, but regardless, my Spring Break experience this year is sucking, especially since my memory of Sedona, among other locations, was of this sleepy, but kitschy, and extremely beautiful place in northern Arizona (25 years ago).
So, Sedona was a parking lot full of people who were there, I assume (those Pink Jeep tours though), to have some fun in the few days they had during their respective Spring Breaks. Don't get me wrong, it's still beautiful in Sedona, amazing views everywhere you look, but with many more businesses and many, many more houses, all tastefully done, of course. Regardless, as another friend opined, it's definitely the Gatlinburg of the Southwest. Melanie just rolled her eyes at my complaints as she was extremely pleased with her experience.
The photo above is the only one you get. I'm not here to mislead you with selectively photographed, cropped and edited images. If you do find yourself in Sedona, your experience may vary depending on your inclination toward magic crystals and vortexes. 😎
Jerome and Flagstaff, Arizona
We left Sedona, Arizona and headed to Jerome, another place I'd been to on one other occasion some twenty-five years ago. My recollection was of a small arts community with a history of copper mining set on the side of a mountain looking east towards Sedona. It's pretty much the same place I recall with a few more renovations and stores and restaurants.
If shopping is your thing and you like great vistas, Jerome is not to be missed. We had a good lunch there and moved along to Flagstaff, Arizona.
We pretty much enjoyed our stay in the college town of Flagstaff. We stayed in a KOA campground (America's Campground) just outside of Flagstaff historic downtown. The weather was a little too cool to do much bike riding, so our few days there were mostly spend around camp. We did, however, venture out on two evenings and found a cool wine bar at which we drank and had dinner.
We will visit Flagstaff again when the weather is more conducive to riding around the great historic downtown on our bikes or, when I have my ski gear, so I can take advantage of Arizona Snowbowl. Either way, Flagstaff has a good feel.
Grand Canyon National Park
I'd tried for days to get a reservation at one of the campgrounds within GCNP, but, as mentioned above, it was f'ing Spring Break and everyone and their children had made a plan. So, after searching my various resources online, I made the determination that we'd go to the park and the worst thing that might happen is we'd park Miranda on National Forest land just outside the park and drive in to visit.
We got up early on Monday morning, made coffee and drank it on the way there. Arriving at the park around 8:45 a.m., we easily made our way in (no charge 'cause I have that Senior Pass 😎). My first stop was to Mather Campground. The nice ranger person told me they were full, but if I'd come back by around noon, there may be cancellations by then. He also suggested trying next door at Trailer Village.
We made our way over to the Village. I told the person there I had no reservation, I understood it was (sigh) Spring Break all over 'Merica, but was it possible he had a space for Miranda so that my wife, who'd never in her entire whole life seen this wonder of the world, could now take a peek and be truly amazed.
How many days do you need, he asked me? Well, most gracious and kind sir, one or two, would be very nice. Give me a sec, he said. Sure, I can give you and your wife two days. Miracle of miracles. I thanked him profusely as we left for our spot at about 9:15 a.m. (check in time normally is 1:00 p.m.) Maybe that crystal I'd touched in Sedona...
If you've never seen the canyon, it's a must see kinda thing. Photos never do it justice. One must stand on the rim of the canyon and take in the grandness, the constantly changing light playing on the walls below.
We rode our bikes along great bike paths and one morning got up early, made coffee, packed that and a couple of protein bars in the panniers, along with my camera, and watched the sun come up along a couple of places on the South rim. We'll definitely be back at some point, the North Rim was closed for the winter.
Photos taken in two different locations along Desert View Drive
Our lunch spot in a pull-out overlook as we left Grand Canyon on Desert View Drive
Desert View Overlook
A few shots from Trailer Village Campground
Phoenix and Prescot, Arizona
Good morning from Sedona, Arizona and Rancho Sedona RV Park.
It's spring break and people and the traffic they bring are in full bloom here in Sedona. Never have I been more appreciative of our choice to have our two electric assist bicycles in lieu of towing a car than here in Sedona. On a good day, the bikes are just great fun to ride, here we can travel from our location to various places (thanks, Sedona, for the well-marked bike lanes and signs) around town with ease, avoiding the long lines of cars snail pacing their way through town.
Leaving Tucson last week, we traveled to Phoenix where we made a stop at the local Bass Pro Shop parking lot overnight before I dropped Melanie off at Phoenix Sky Harbor airport so she could attend a board meeting in Chicago. We took the circuitous route into Phoenix, traveling through the Tonto National Forest in search of a Super Bloom located in the San Carlos Apache Reservation. We didn't find the bloom (thanks for the heads up anyway, Beth), but the trip was beautiful and a bit exciting as we got to experience a bit of semi serious winter weather (high winds and blowing snow and sleet) coming through a pass in the forest.
After dropping Melanie off at Sky Harbor, I continued on the Prescott, Arizona north of Phoenix about a hundred miles or so. The last and only time I was in Prescott was in 1995. My recollection, colored by the passage of time, was of a sleepy tourist town with a history of copper mining. The tub in my hotel room was a copper claw foot tub I remember as being pretty cool.
The drive up to Prescott is scenic as you ascend into the mountains. It was chilly and windy on Thursday morning and a few of the surrounding peaks still had substantial snow on them from a recent event a few days before I came through. Despite the cooler weather, the desert is beginning to bloom and greater than average rainfall has left the desert greener than normal for this time of year.
Approaching the Prescott Valley prior to getting into Prescott proper, I was very surprised by the exponential growth the area has experienced. The area is now a busy retirement community with several colleges too. Remembering that Spring Breaks were happening all over, it's still a very busy place. They bill themselves as "Everybody's Home Town." Indeed.
I choose my location, Point of Rocks RV Park, for it's proximity to Watson Lake and the Granite Dells. There's also the Peavine rails to trails bike and walking path that runs through the Granite Dells. I was about 8 miles from downtown Prescott and Prescott is also very bicycle conscious with many of the roads having clearly marked bike paths. I was given a nice map of the area upon arrival which, among other points of interest, had clearly marked bicycle routes on it.
Watson Lake and the Granite Dells Hiking
Peavine National Recreation Trail
On Saturday I took the Red Ranger out for a spin on the Peavine Trail. Another great ride on another great rails to trails pathway.
We've been in Tucson, AZ since Friday afternoon last. Melanie has been busy making contacts related to her EPF work, but we've also had down time to take in some of what Tucson has to offer, weather being one of those things.
This morning marked the first time since January 25th this year we've had any rain fall on us. Notwithstanding the winds, sometimes high winds, we've had generally pleasant weather, if sometimes cooler than we might have chosen. Today is breezy as the front moves through and there's a slight chance for more rain (it just started again), but the temps are pleasant enough.
It's no wonder that most of the people staying here are longer-term residents who winter in Tucson from all over the United States and Canada. I met a Canadian couple while cycling on Sunday who have been coming to Tucson for a month each year for 8 consecutive years. Nice folks who wondered aloud what had become of US politics. What, indeed.
As I was making our plans on where to stay in Tucson, I did what I often do when we are to be in a relatively major city, I checked to see what kind of bike trails might be available. After checking, I made sure we were located near one of the many bike trails located here. We're a mere 50 yards away from a trail that goes for many, many miles around Tucson and basically connects many parts of the city.
We are scheduled to be in Phoenix on Thursday morning to allow Melanie to board a plane for Chicago for a EPF board meeting. I'll be in Prescott, AZ for a few days while she's gone, but if I'd realized just how great the biking trail system is here, I may very well have put myself right back here. Kudos to Tucson for the forward thinking attitude toward cycling and making it easy and safe to get around.
In my position as logistics person for our operation, I'm sometimes faced with what to do when the mileage between cities is too great for a single day trip. Leaving El Paso, I knew we were headed to Tucson because the other options we considered, Santa Fe and Albuquerque, NM, were not viable options as the weather was still too cold for Miranda (and us).
Tucson was a bit too far for one day's travel plus we needed to stay in El Paso one more night (without reservations) to get mail being forwarded to us. The answer in those situations has been Harvest Hosts. They provide places that are farms, wineries, breweries, etc. to park Miranda (for free) for up to three days at a time. The only prerequisite (aside from membership) is that your motor home must be completely self-contained. That is, you must have your own shower, toilet, water, etc.
There's generally no purchase necessary, but since Melanie and I both drink, wine and beer are sometimes purchased. We stayed at Sombra Antigua Vineyard and Winery and Golden Rule Winery on our way to Tucson which made our trip much easier and more fun than figuring out another RV park.
On our way to Tucson, we made a quick diversion to Sierra Vista, Arizona for a visit with someone Melanie worked with at Cabaniss in Birmingham. We had lunch with Melissa Mitchell and her husband, Greg, who treated us to a great lunch in Sierra Vista. It was great to meet them, spend time and great for Melanie to catch up with Melissa. Sierra Vista is considered high desert at about 4,500 feet above sea level and, as you can see, some of the surrounding mountains still had snow three weeks after a recent weather snowfall. The climate and military base make it a great retirement area too.
Saguaro National Park
This Saturday past, we made a trip to Saguaro National Park (West). The National Park is divided into two areas near Tucson both containing the Saguaro (suh-wah-roe) Cactus.
We took Miranda on a driving tour around the park that wasn't recommended for an RV, but we drove slowly and it worked fine. The landscape is surreal and other worldly. When in Tucson, make your way to the park(s).
White Sands National Monument
Photos from our day trip to White Sands National Monument
The Big Bend and Beyond
It's late morning here in El Paso, Texas. Melanie and I are preparing to eat an early lunch. We're located near downtown El Paso in the parking lot of the Memorial Park Senior Citizen Center. We had errands in El Paso today and I chose this location because it's situated near El Paso Municipal Rose Garden. I figured there would be parking for us. There is and it is working fine for me to get this post done and for Melanie to take a call and work some too.
Life on the road.
So, it's been a minute since I've posted. After leaving Marfa (more on Marfa later), Texas, we made our way to Big Bend National Park and stayed in the park for 5 days, four days in the eastern side and one day on the western side of the park. I became ill the last day of our stay after a really wonderful hike into Santa Elena Canyon and was not well for about 3 days afterwards. Nothing serious, I'm much better now, thank you.
During my illness, I was telling a friend back in Birmingham about it and he expressed that being sick while traveling sucked. I'm hardly ever sick, I'm not a good person when I"m sick, but I was home, so it was mostly okay. Melanie was a great caregiver and patient with me beyond what I deserved.
We've now been in Texas almost two months. We are staying in a park just outside of El Paso and just inside of New Mexico, but most of what we've done here has been in Texas. We've had invitations to visit Albuquerque and Santa Fe, but it's cold up that way, so we stay south for now.
We approach our second month anniversary on the road. There's really not much new to say about the mechanics of this life. There aren't any new insights really (try to make sure you don't camp near a dairy ranch because you aren't always downwind). Melanie and I both still get excited on moving days because everything about life becomes new again.
Anyway, more later in the week, but in the interim, here are a few images from the last little bit of life on the road.
Big Bend National Park
We arrived early afternoon to Big Bend. I stopped by a visitor center just inside the park and was told there may yet be a few first come first served, campsites in the Rio Grande Village Campground, so we made our way there. To give you some scale of the place, this was another 45 minute drive for us. The speed limit is 45 miles an hour.
After driving up and down a few roads inside the campground and finding nothing available, we came upon a nice park service volunteer who initially gave us a one night site and subsequently came by and gave us what proved to be the absolute best campsite in Rio Grande Village. Site # 18 at the very back of the campground was perfect and very private. I would not have chosen it because it was in the generator section, but turns out generator use was minimal by everyone making it very quiet indeed.
Melanie and I hiked and rode our bikes most days. The roads are not very busy and vehicles there were respectful of us and kept a good distance when passing. The rides were truly spectacular. We even rode over to the Boquillas border crossing one morning, locked up the bikes at the Border Patrol station, took a row boat across to Mexico and had a good lunch and checked out the town of Boquillas too.
An added bonus for us was an above-average rainfall the region has gotten this year which meant the desert was beginning to bloom. The wild flowers were really nice.
Melanie, Miranda and I took a day trip to the Chisos Mountains while we were still located in the Rio Grande Village Campground. The Chisos are located more centrally in the park. We got there in time to have lunch at the Chisos lodge, take the Window Trail hike and get back in time for a nice dinner before driving back to Rio Grande.
Traveling to Cottonwood Campground and hiking in Santa Elena Canyon Trail
The photos below were taken along the Ross Maxwell Scenic Drive on the western side of Big Bend and on a hike into the Santa Elena Canyon Trail. The last photo of the Vermillion Flycatcher was taken in Cottonwood Campground.
Steven and Melanie