Sunday, January 30, 2011

Sleeping with the Sandhills!

When preparing for this trip, I was fortunate to read blog posts from 2 full-time RV bloggers who had just been through Arizona.  One couple, Fred & Jo Wishnie, are avid bird watchers and spent New Year’s Eve boondocking at a wildlife area near McNeal, AZ to see the thousands of sandhill cranes that spend the winter here.  I’d never heard of Whitewater Draw, but did a few internet searches and was able to find my way to the small, dusty parking lot where you’re allowed to camp overnight for free.  Even though it was still very cold (in the 20’s), I wasn’t about to pass up the opportunity to do both dusk and dawn photo shoots of these fabulous birds.  They did not disappoint!
Yes, the last shot were not sandhill cranes, but rather, some Northern Pintail ducks who hung out in the smaller ponds adjacent to the cranes.

The previous day, on the drive down from Tucson, we drove through Tombstone & Bisbee.  Both towns looked like a lot of fun, but the RV park in Bisbee was sold out, so no opportunity to stay there this time around.  Will certainly explore it next time though!

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Week in Tucson

Spectacular Gilbert Ray campground was my home for 7 days in Tucson.  It’s located on the west side of the city on the other side of Gates Pass in Tucson Mountain Regional Park.  Not much on this side of the mountains except acres and acres of large Saguaro cactus trees!

We actually had 2 stays here, separated by a weekend trip down to the Bisbee area to camp with the sandhill cranes (but I’ll cover that in the next post!).  I hadn’t been to Tucson in almost 10 years and was eager to get back to Saguaro National Park.  I’ll try to limit the number of cactus shots posted here, but I do love ‘em!

On my first weekend in town, I went down to visit the wonderful San Xavier Mission.  It’s a definite “must see” if you ever come to Tucson!
Each evening Millie and I would walk around the campground enjoying the wide variety of cactus plants.  While it was beautiful, it unfortunately turned pretty cold with nighttime lows into the teens.  Even though we were in the far southern end of Arizona like Yuma, we were at a higher elevation so it was actually warmer in Phoenix than in Tucson (ah, so that’s why there are so many snowbirders in Phoenix!  Can you tell I’m new at this?!!!)
Still, I enjoyed Gilbert Ray campground, and even got to see an RV from Europe traveling here (it was built on full-sized Ford Transit chassis and might very well be a glimpse of future View-Navion’s to come if Ford begins shipping these to the US).

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Back to Yuma to visit more RV friends

After my week in Quartzsite, I headed back down to Yuma again to re-stock the rig with food and water, find a spot with good AT&T cell coverage, and to visit some old T@B camping friends.  Success on all fronts!

I found a great BLM camping area behind the VFW Hall on Hwy 95 just a couple miles from Yuma.  Free camping for up to 14 days! Yeah!
But the only drawback was a bit of noise at times.  I expected the car traffic, but didn’t realize that a number of freight trains had to go thru that valley daily as well.  Still, the noise wasn’t all that bad until…mid-evening each night, some crop duster planes would buzz over as they worked on the large produce fields to the west of the campground.  So, it was the noise trifecta-- planes, trains, and automobiles!

On my first evening in Yuma, I met up with my T@B camping friends Terry & Gordie (who snowbird in Yuma each winter from Seattle), and Janet & Larry (who sold their T@B last year to become full-time RVers and spend their winters at Imperial Dam).  We had a nice dinner at a local Mexican restaurant and Janet pointed out a great laundromat they use in the same strip mall, so I put that on my to-do list for the week as well.   A few days later, I met up with Terry & Gordie again to eat out and see their RV park (nice peaceful place with lots of activity and friendly folks—no wonder they enjoy it there so much!).  Terry had also hoped to take me into the Mexican border town of Algadones as I’d never been to Mexico before, but I unfortunately forgot to bring my passport.  Something to do next year I guess!

Yuma was a great town.  I toured a few of the farm fields where they were just harvesting lettuce and it looked like quite a production.  Janet said these same fields are used in the fall to grow cotton when it gets too hot for produce.

I also found the Foothills neighborhood to be rather interesting.  It’s a series of lots with short brick wall fences.  Most lots have small casita homes or park models, but some lots are just driveways for RVs (up to 4 RVs can park in each lot, so many owners have set them up with concrete pads and full hook-ups and rent them out in the winter).  I’ll certainly be on the lookout for a deal next winter I’m here.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Quartzsite–the RV Mecca in January

One of the main reasons for coming to the Southwest in January was to make my first pilgrimage to the RVer’s Mecca— Quartzsite!  During the rest of this year, this little dusty town of 4000 people is nothing more than a boring pit stop along I-10 between Phoenix and California.  But late January is a different story entirely!  During this time, there’s an annual RV Show held at the big-top tent surrounded by a few hundred flea market vendors. 

While these events started drawing RV’ers to Quartzsite a number of years ago, the real draw now is the social scene and spectacle of seeing over 10,000 RVs parked out in the desert camping together.  On top of that are the 80-100,000 daytime visitors (no doubt, fellow RVers who have left their rigs at their snowbird parks in Phoenix, Yuma, Palm Springs, etc who come for the day to shop the flea markets and visit with RV friends). So, the crush of people and vehicles on this little 4-stoplight town require everyone to do some careful planning.

My strategy was to fill my tanks at Imperial Dam LTVA, get my groceries in Yuma, and make the 60 mile drive up to Quartzsite.  The La Posa LTVAs in Quartzsite are the closest to the RV show and flea markets, so my plan was to park there and ride my bike into town to avoid traffic and parking problems.  I arrived to a spectacular Arizona sunset--
I spent the first part of the week in one area of La Posa North that was less populated so that I could focus on work.  Fortunately, Quartzsite’s cell signals and even TV signals were excellent, so it was a great place to work from.  There was also a full moon that provided some great photo ops in the morning and evening:
Later in the week, I moved over to the north end of the camp area where the View-Navion rally was to be held.  About 35 fellow rigs met up and I had a great time meeting everyone at the happy hour and pot luck dinner.  Like the V-N rally I attended in Iowa last fall, people attended this one from all corners of the country.  I met folks from Alaska, Maine, Wisconsin, Texas, and California.  We really get around!  Can’t wait for the next rally!
On Saturday, I finally had time to go into town and explore the vendors & RVs.  I walked through a few motorhome models, and toured the very crowded big-top tent (which turned out to be more Infomercial-type vendors than true RVing products).  The flea markets were also not my cup of tea (as one of my RV neighbors called it “Rocks and Socks”, and his description was spot on!).  But it was fun to see the spectacle, and I was sure happy to be on my e-bike rather than in a car!

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Anza-Borrego to Yuma

My boondocking night in Anza-Borrego was so peaceful, I decided to backtrack north to Borrego Springs to do some scouting for the next winter I’m out here.  On my way into town, I spotted this little coyote out looking for it’s breakfast:

The park is massive and offers many areas to boondock for free.  One of the most popular areas is just east of town on Peg Leg Road and at Clark dry lake bed.  These areas offer flat parking with magnificent mountain views, strong Verizon signals, and only a 5 mile drive to town to restock supplies and dump tanks.  Take a look at the small white dot in this photo (click to view it larger)—it sure looks like a pretty sweet future boondocking site for me next year!
Although to be fair, I have heard that the winds whipping off those mountains can be pretty brutal at times, so not 100% paradise, but I think I’d still take the chance!  I hear that the desert wildflowers are pretty spectacular here in Feb/Mar as well.

After Borrego Springs, I took a scenic drive south through the park towards the town of Ocotillo.  Little did I know there was a major bicycle race going on with hundreds of riders, but fortunately, they were all going the opposite direction and traffic was fairly light.
Towards the south end of the park was a section called the Badlands.  Lots of off-road trails in that area that I really wished I had time (and a Jeep or ATV) to explore.  Another “to-do” for my next visit!
After getting down to I-8, I made fast tracks over to Yuma and up to the Imperial Dam LTVA that I planned to spend the week at.  The BLM has a few Long Term Visitor Areas in the southwest that provide water, trash, and dump facilities at some locations to make boondocking a bit easier for RV’ers. 

Some RVing friends I know have been spending their winters at Imperial Dam for the last couple of years, so I decided to come check it out.  My friend had mentioned excellent Verizon coverage there (which was indeed true), but unfortunately, no AT&T coverage, so I would not be able to work from there as I needed both.  But I still enjoyed the rest of the weekend there.  The moon was so bright that it seemed like daylight at night!  Millie and I also had a chance to enjoy the water at Senator Wash Reservoir—Millie did some swimming and I did some kayaking around the lake.  Lovely way to end the weekend!

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