Tuesday, April 12, 2022

Snowbird RV Adventure: Tucson to Ft. Huachuca to Rockhound State Park

Days 9-13

Apache Flats
Ft. Huachuca
Army Base

April 4-7: Do you have favourite places to visit? We do traveling by RV in Arizona. We usually return to a favourite spot at least once a travel season. Great parks like Apache Flats at Ft. Huachuca Army Base near Sierra Vista is one of ours. So much so, we were here in December, January and now in Part 3.

It's an easy hour and fifteen minute drive from the Tucson Lazydays KOA using I-10 and Highway 90. Highways help keep us from holding up traffic.

We requested an end site to use our telescope for night sky viewing. Read more about that in the previous post.

You can read more about Apache Flats from previous visits by clicking here.

Rockhound State Park
New Mexico

April 8: Our trip plans next led us across the New Mexico border. Unlike our easy drive to Ft. Huachuca, our drive to Rockhound State Park near Deming was much longer. The first part through the Arizona foothills on I-10 was pretty. Passing through Texas Canyon we saw massive tilting rocks of quartz monzonite.  Volcanically formed below the earth's surface, they uplifted and weathered into fanciful formations.

Tilting and precarious rocks in Texas Canyon, AZ.

After a two and a half hour drive we stopped at Lordsburg, New Mexico, for gas at a Pilot truck stop and lunched on Arby's roast beef sandwiches. Our next stop, Rockhound State Park, was only another hour and a half drive away.

The white dot is our RV's private site at the base of the mountain.

Rockhound is a unique destination. There are 29 campsites, 23 with power and water, nestled at the base of the Little Florida Mountains near Deming. Like the name says, the area is know for rockhounding specimens such as thunder eggs, geodes, perlite, rhyolite, quartz and jasper. Even more unique, you are allowed to collect and keep samples.

Each level site came with a picnic table, ramada cover, fire ring, water, power and ample space. A dump station is available for campers' use.

We were able to have the first campfire of our trip. We enjoyed its warmth and stayed outdoors to watch the stars come out, but the bright moon kept the Milky Way in hiding. What a wonderful way to end a long day of driving.

When you travel, how many hours do you prefer to spend on the road. Our ideal is two hours, but sometimes that isn't possible between destinations. -- Margy

I'm sharing with Through My Lens by Mersad.

Also stop by Sharon's Souvenirs for some travel trips and suggestions, a Wednesday linkup for My Corner of the World at Photographing New Zealand and Tuesdays with a Twist at Stone Cottage Adventures.

Thursday, April 7, 2022

Night Sky Watch

My last post included a teaser about getting a telescope to use on our RV travels. Here's the rest of the story.

Tucson has two telescope stores, Starizona and Stellar Vision. Wednesday morning we went to nearby Stellar Vision.

When we drove up to the industrial building with a garage door and metal bars we didn't know what to expect. Inside we found an astronomer's paradise.

There were telescopes of every type and size, so many it was impossible to count.

A few of the telescopes available at Stellar Vision.

At the back of the store we found the owner, Frank Lopez. He was busy refurbishing a smaller telescope. Wayne described what he was looking for, a new 6" Celestron. Wayne knew it would be difficult. Telescopes are in high demand and short supply due to Covid. People are interested in activities they can do at home and there's a shortage in the supply chain.

Wayne reviewing a refurbish 5" Celestron Nexstar.

Frank was working on a used 5" Celestron Nexstar. He explained what he inspected and repaired, if needed, before placing a used telescope on the floor for sale. After Frank's explanation we were comfortable looking at something used.

Wayne setting up his telescope to safely view sunspots with a filter.

There was another 5" Celestron Nexstar on the floor ready for sale. It had computerized celestial tracking, a tripod, spotting scope, star diagonal, low power eyepiece, power supply and padded carry case. You could tell the previous owner took good care of his scope and even kept the manual.

Wayne observing deep sky objects at Ft. Huachuca.

Wayne added a solar filter to look at the sunspots (there are a lot of big ones right now). He also got a high power eyepiece. We tried to do some night sky viewing at Lazydays, but the city lights made it difficult.

At Apache Flats RV Resort in Ft. Huachuca we set up our scope and had better luck. There were more lights than we expected and the moon was getting bright, but for two nights we had fun learning how to use our new scope and seeing favourite night sky objects.

Do you like to watch the night sky? Do you use anything for magnification? Do you like taking night sky pictures? If so, what kind of camera do you use? -- Margy

Posting to Sky Watch Friday. Go to the Sky Watch Friday website and you'll see sky photos from all over the world!

Tuesday, April 5, 2022

Part 3 of Wayne and Margy's Snowbird RV Adventure Begins

Days 1-8

March 27: The start to our Snowbird RV Adventures has been pleasantly easy and the same for two years. We take a direct Allegiant flight from Bellingham International Airport near our condo in town.

We land in Mesa, Arizona, and take an Enterprise rental car to meet back up with our Sunseeker Class C RV in storage at the Tucson Lazydays KOA Resort.

Tucson Lazydays KOA RV Resort

March 27-29: We had a perfect spring day for both air and land travel. Our early flight made us miss breakfast so we stopped at In-n-Out Burger in Tucson. When we lived in the Los Angeles area it was a staple, but there are none where we now live.

We tested the RV's major systems while still in storage. Fortunately, no dead batteries like last trip. We now disconnect them on departure. It's easy enough to do.

We had a Patio Grass site with privacy hedges reserved for the first week of our trip. Of Lazydays' many choices, it's our favourite.

We kept the rental car for the week so we could explore town and go out to eat. While we travel we do all of our cooking in the RV.

March 30-31: It is tradition for us to do RV maintenance at the beginning of Part 3 of our annual adventures. I made appointments for our mobile RV technician and a wash and wax on Tuesday, but Mother Nature had different ideas. Looks like we brought rain south with us, but Arizona isn't complaining.

A rainy day at Lazydays.

Ryan from Countrywide RV Services rescheduled us for Wednesday to fix our toilet's flush mechanism and replace the shower skylight that was cracking after three summers in the hot Arizona sun.

Ryan from Countrywide RV Services fixing our skylight.

Wayne is an avid amateur astronomer and has two telescopes in Powell River. We've talked about bringing one with us. I suggested we buy one here to leave in the RV. We went to Tucson's Stellar Vision, but that's a story for another day.

April 1-3: When we were at Stellar Vision, we discovered it was under final approach for Runway 12 at Davis Monthan Air Force Base. We returned twice to watch planes land right over our heads. The first time there were C-130 cargo planes like Wayne maintained in the Air National Guard. The next day we saw lots of Warthog A-10 jets coming home from training.

Tucson RV Wax rescheduled us for Friday. They came with a crew to wash, wax and apply a roof treatment right at our site. The wax and roof treatment helps the paint last longer. We feel the cost is worth the convenience and to maintain our RV.

Tucson RV Wax has a self-contained vehicle for on-site cleaning.

On the weekend we went to the University of Arizona to watch women's softball at Hillenbrand Stadium. We took an Uber and enjoyed getting dropped off and picked up in front of the venue on a very hot day.

University of Arizona vs. University of Washington.

Our first week of vacation were busy and relaxing at the same time, We sat in the sun (and shade) to read outdoors in pleasant weather while back home it was rainy and windy. That is what a Snowbird RV Adventure is all about. -- Margy

I'm sharing with Through My Lens by Mersad.

I'm also posting on Travel Tuesdays at Intelliblog, Sharon's Souvenirs for some travel trips and suggestions and My Corner of the World at Photographing New Zealand.

Monday, March 28, 2022

Wayne and Margy's 2021-22 Snowbird RV Adventure

Lazydays RV storage.
Wayne and I've left our Powell Lake float cabin home to get some winter sun and warmth in Arizona and New Mexico.

Canada and the United States have fewer Covid restrictions. Even so, we are taking things carefully. RV travel can be a form social distancing. We shop for groceries once a week and don't interact with others in an unsafe manner. We are vaccinated and boosted, still wear masks in crowded spaces, and use sanitizer and wash our hands just like at home. For now, our Sunseeker RV is our home on wheels.

Wayne at the wheel.
Part 1 - We left Bellingham on November 14 and flew Allegiant Airlines to Mesa, Arizona. From there we used an Enterprise rental car to drive to the Tucson Lazydays KOA Resort to pick up our RV waiting in storage. We learned a hard lesson. Five months in dry storage depleted batteries. After a AAA visit we were ready for 36 days of exploration around southern Arizona. On December 19 we put the RV back in storage and flew to Bellingham for a Christmas break.

Tucson Lazydays KOA Resort

Part 2 - Because Canadian border restricitons made a trip home impossible, the second leg of our trip started early on January 2. Again flew south to pick up our RV at Lazydays then spent 46 days camping south of Tucson and in the foothills north and east of Phoenix. For the first time in three years we attended women's outdoor softball games at Arizona State and the University of Arizona. On February 23, the RV went back into storage (with batteries disconnected) and we flew to Bellingham for a second break.

Part 3 - Success, with relaxed Canadian border crossing restrictions we were able to return to our float cabin home. We left Powell River on March 18 for Bellingham and a March 27 flight to Mesa, Arizona. This route has become routine including a rental car to make the two hour drive the Lazydays. Before Covid they flew direct to Tucson, but we don't mind the drive. This time the batteries were still charged. For 35 days we'll explore and camp our way from southern Arizona to New Mexico and back. New Mexico is new for us, so that'll be an adventure in itself. On May 1 we'll put the RV in our reserved storage spot one last time then fly to Bellingham and a summer at our float cabin home in the cooler north. Our Sunseeker will spend the long hot summer for the third time waiting for our return in November 2022.

We hope you will follow along as our adventure unfolds. -- Wayne and Margy

Thursday, February 10, 2022

Snowbird RV Adventure: Benson to Patagonia Lake and Kartchner Caverns

Days 16-21

January 17-19: Before we left Butterfield RV Resort in Benson we filled our onboard propane tank. Days have been warm, but nights get quite cool this time of year. We need propane as the heat source and electricity (AC or DC) to run the fan to pump the hot air.

The first stop on our way to Patagonia Lake State Park was the small town of Patagonia. We've been through it many times, but this was our first time to stop.

Google maps on our iPhone or iPad help us plan our routes and stops. 

First we went to the Wagon Wheel Saloon for a takeout burger lunch. Then we walked to Gathering Grounds for bakery breakfast and dessert treats to take with us to the campground. Patagonia has excellent parallel street parking with lots of space for cars and RVs.

This portion of our Snowbird RV Adventure had three destinations with a total of 138 driving miles.

Patagonia Lake State Park

Patagonia Lake State Park is one of our favourite southern Arizona destinations. The lake is a huge attraction for boaters. It's also a huge attraction for birds and bird watchers.

Site #19 in Patagonia Lake's East Campground.

Each trip in southern Arizona we try to fit in a three night stop here. We prefer the east campground with lakeside options and less congestion. 

A bird feeding and watching station on the trail.

You can read more about our previous visits to the park by clicking the links below:

Kartchner Caverns State Park

January 20-22: We made a detour on our way from Patagonia Lake to grocery shop again on base at Ft. Huachuca. It was 12 miles out of our way but we wanted to shop where masks are required in buildings and vaccinations are required for military personnel.

From there it was only 21 miles north on Highway 90 to our camping destination at Kartchner Caverns State Park.

Site #32 at Kartchner Caverns with mountain views.

Like most Arizona State parks, campsites have both electric and water hookups. Sewer services are provided at dump stations.

Kartchner Caverns Visitor Center cave display.

In addition to being a desert camping destination, Kartchner has a series of underground caverns that can be visited on tours. With my fear of heights and our desire to stay socially distanced we didn't take a tour, but we did visit the extensive exhibits at the visitor's center.

The park has hiking trails with varying degrees of difficulty for visitors to explore the desert floor and nearby hills.

We stayed for three nights and thoroughly enjoyed the park. So much so, we will return next year in November and February. 

Reservations can be made a year in advance for Arizona State Parks. If you're like us and prefer knowing where you will stay, AZ State Parks are an excellent choice.

Campgrounds in many Arizona State Parks were improved during the Covid years including repaving. When we pulled into our site at Kartchner Caverns it looked flat, but a test with our leveling device showed we were significantly nose down.

RV systems are somewhat tolerant of being slightly out of level, but extreme conditions can cause strain on slideouts and running refrigerators, especially in propane mode. 

We have a set of Stackers blocks. They are easy to store in our small RV. We found we needed more so bought a second set of 10 for future conditions that call for a higher correction.

How do you handle RV leveling? -- Wayne and Margy

Thanks for visiting part of my world this week. For more great posts from Our World Tuesday, click here.

Also blog shares called Through My Lens by Mersad.

I'm also posting on Travel Tuesdays at Intelliblog, Sharon's Souvenirs for travel trips and My Corner of the World at Photographing New Zealand

Monday, January 31, 2022

Book Review: "American Dirt" by Jeanine Cummins

I'm currently in Arizona and just finished reading American Dirt by Jeanine Cummins (Flatiron Books, 2020). In fact, I finished reading this compelling novel in Tucson, Arizona, the destination for Lydia and her eight young old son Luca after they escaped tragedy in their home town of Acapulco, Mexico.

There are mixed feelings in the United States about undocumented immigrants. Those feelings are more evident here in Arizona. There are few people that hold the middle ground. Many want to continue building the wall and deter border crossings at all costs. Others have sympathy for undocumented immigrants and provide them with empathy and support.

I grew up and in California. As a teen, I spent summers with my grandparents near Modesto, a major agricultural area. Much of the labour was provided by undocumented immigrants. I saw how whole families and single men were forced to live in squalid conditions without recourse. Later, when I became a teacher, then a principal, I saw how the fear of discovery weighed heavily on daily life, and how the power of street gangs took the place of cartels.

Jeanine Cummins has first hand knowledge of immigrant issues. She also spent years in research and sought personal experiences for her so novel it would tell a true to life story.

The Review: Lydia Quixano PĂ©rez befriends an unassuming man who visits her book store not knowing he's a cartel lord. Her husband is a journalist who writes an expose about this same man. Lydia is conflicted because she feels she knows the gentle side of Javier. It turns out she is wrong, almost dead wrong. After her family of sixteen was gunned down at a party at her parent's home, she knew she had to flee. With the far reaching arms of the cartel leader, she knew it had to be fast and far, all the way to el norte.

Lydia and Luca follow the same trail as many other immigrants searching for safety and economic improvement. After a harrowing bus ride and help from a friend, they reach Mexico City. From there they meet other migrants heading north. Even though Lydia has money, unlike most of the rest, her fear is discovery by Javier through members of his Los Jardineros cartel. Of the options available, she settles on walking and riding on top of La Bestia, trains with connections to U.S. border cities. Along the way she experiences many of the same trials and tragedies as thousands of other Mexicans and Central Americans hoping for a better life in el norte.

I did not read reviews before reading American Dirt. It was recommended by Wayne and that was enough for me. Reading reviews now, the book has been criticized because Jeanine is estadounidense (American). Some reviewers felt this story should have be told by someone of Mexican or Central American heritage. That reminded me of the time I was working on my bilingual teacher certification. At the end there was an oral examination. One of the questions was, "What gives you the right to teach our children." At the time I felt it was a harsh thing to say. Now that I look back on it, it was profound. I only knew of their life experience from the outside. I'm don't remember what I answered, spoken in Spanish, but I hope it conveyed that I was an ally and would do everything in my power to teach their children in an unbiased manner with heart and caring. After 31 years in the profession I feel that I was able accomplish that goal.

American Dirt was a #1 New York Times best seller and became an Oprah's Book Club selection. I read mine on my new Kindle Paperwhite. That's a perfect way to stay stocked in books while traveling across Arizona in our RV. -- Margy

Visit the monthly Book Review Club for teen/young adult and adult fiction over at Barrie Summy's blog.

Also shared with Your the Star at Stone Cottage Adventures.

 And also posted at Book Date