Thursday, April 5, 2012

Farewell to Tucson, our Winter Home


Millie and I left Roper Lake and got back to Tucson with only 10 minutes to spare before her follow-up visit with the vet.  After getting a good “look over” from her oncologist, and getting about a dozen goodies from the treat jar from various assistants who came in to give Millie a pat, the verdict was that Millie was doing so well that she wouldn’t need another follow-up visit for a month—so we were now free to head on home!

As we left the vet’s office for the last time, I surprised at my emotions.  After feeling so “stuck in Tucson” the past 6 weeks and consumed by Millie’s treatment regimen, I now was a bit sad to leave all the surroundings that had become so comfortable and familiar.  While there were certainly some difficult days in these past few months, there were far more really wonderful ones.and certainly more rich an experience than sitting at home in Chicago.

We ended up staying at only 4 different places during the past 3 months—a hotel, the state park, the county park, and at the fairgrounds.  It would have been great to find an RV resort to stay at the whole time but most of them here in Tucson were all 55+ parks and/or didn’t allow dogs over 20 lbs.  The ones that did all seemed to be located smack dab in the middle of the big I-10 construction zone, so we bounced around the public parks instead.

The Hotel:
Our first month in Tucson was spend during the week at the Best Western Tucson Foothills hotel as the client project I was working on covered business travel expenses during the week.  I normally would have stayed at a Hampton or Courtyard like most other business travelers, but since I had Millie and the View, I needed to find a hotel that could accommodate both—so Best Western it was!  The hotel was actually quite comfortable and a great value.  Millie loved the big beds (much better than the View’s jackknife sofa!)--

I liked the perfectly-heated Jacuzzi spa--

and the View had a nice spot to park and rest in between the weekend adventures--

Catalina State Park:
After the project ended, we spent the months of February and March in the RV full-time.  We spent 3 of those weeks (3 separate stays) at Catalina State Park on the far north end of town in Oro Valley. IMG_9128

It’s a clean and pretty park right up against the Catalina mountains, yet very close to dozens of shops and restaurants along Oracle Road.

While there were many warm and sunny days, there were also a couple downright cold and nasty ones due to the slightly higher elevation.  One day in February during a rain storm, the temps suddenly dipped down for a couple hours to produce big fat snowflakes!  Nothing stuck to the grass in the campground, but it sure did cover the mountains in a blanket of white!

It was also the perfect day to try out my new Crock Pot Ratatouille recipe, and it sure was yummy with a couple of slices of French bread and glass of red wine!

When we returned to Catalina in March, it was warmer most of the week, except for the first day, when again, a freak rain storm came through and dusted a bit of snow up on the mountains:

Just so you don’t get the impression that it always snows at Catalina, here are a few other pics when it was sunny and nice out!


I wished I could have hiked some of the trails in the park (which are supposedly spectacular), but between work and caring for Millie, I just never found the time.  Something to look forward to during our next visit!

Pima County Fairgrounds:
I wanted to explore the east side of town, so booked a 2 week stay at the Pima County Fairgrounds RV Park in March.  At only $100/week for a full hookup site, it was quite a bargain, and a nice, quiet, low-key place to work and rest.

It was also a great place for sunsets!

While my mom was still in town, we went to a Mexican restaurant in South Tucson a couple of times that my boss had recommended for authentic Sonoran Mexican food-- Crossroads.  The place was nothing fancy, but food was perfectly spiced, margaritas were only a buck, and the flan was to die for!

My friends, Evelyn and Steve, and their View “Tulip” stopped on their way to Mexico to be my neighbor for a few nights and to take me out to yet another dinner at Crossroads (what nice neighbors!).  It was great seeing them, and I hope to cross paths with them again next winter…hopefully in Mexico!

The only downside to the Fairgrounds was having to drive across a large gravel parking lot to get back to the RV park.  One day, they were putting up chain link fencing in the lot for an upcoming event and the workmen apparently dropped some screws in the gravel roadway.  Guess who managed to get one of those screws lodged into one of her tires on the Tracker?  Thankfully, I discovered it while in town and was able to get to a nice Firestone tire shop without the tire blowing out first.  The tire was not repairable, so I ended up going ahead and replacing all 4 tires as they were almost ready anyway.  The guys also found another potential disaster in the making—a split starting in my main radiator hose (and here I thought the car ahead of me on the highway had been spraying a few droplets of anti-freeze on my windshield—duh)! 

Thankfully, they were able to get everything taken care of within an hour, and Millie was absolutely thrilled to be able to nap on a nice strip of lush cool green grass out behind the garage!

Gilbert Ray Campground (Tucson Mountain Park):
While Catalina and the Fairgrounds were nice, my favorite park in Tucson remained Gilbert Ray, the place I had fell in love with during last year’s visit.

Situated on the West side of Tucson next to Saguaro National Park, the density and variety of desert plants here is just phenomenal—just about every campsite has their own Saguaro! The only “downside” here is having to drive over Gates Pass to get back into the city itself, but wow what a trip to the grocery store it is!

I spent a couple of days exploring Saguaro National Park and scenery was fantastic as always:

All in all, I really enjoyed Tucson and could easily see myself spending some future winters here again someday.  The city is big enough to offer all the conveniences and culture of any large metro area, yet still small enough to avoid the excessive sprawl of Phoenix or one of the California cities.   The people were very friendly and easy-going, and except for a couple of cold days at Catalina, the weather was almost always perfect—warm and sunny!.

Now that I’ve completed my second season as a “snowbird”, I’m solidly hooked on this lifestyle.  I hope to never spend another winter in Chicago again!



  1. Nice review of your time in Tucson, and I really like that last shot!

  2. Love the composition of your photos. I'm learning a lot from you! So glad you enjoyed your winter in Arizona, and happy to see Millie is doing well.

  3. Stunning pictures Lynne. Hopefully we will see each other in Mexico this winter and you can show me some photo editing techniques. I bought Photoshop Elements this week per your recommendation and now I need help!

  4. Great pictures, they really enhance the whole story. This post really makes me want to visit Tucson. I'm glad that Millie is finally better. She's such a good dog. Have a safe trip home!


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  5. I didn't keep up with your blog and now I see you spent all this time here.
    I live ten minutes from Gilbert Ray and I camp there as often as I can. I love the place.

    If you return next winter maybe we can visit.
    Glad the pup is OK.

  6. OMG!!!

    We have been on the road pretty much since your post end of March re Millie....thanks for sharing, you are one tough lady to keep all that inside these past few months. So glad she is doing better. Tears of love in my eyes for you both.

  7. As always, your photos are just beautiful!


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