Monday, December 13, 2021

Snowbird RV Adventure: Patagonia Lake to Fort Huachuca

Days 21-23

December 4-6: We left Patagonia Lake State Park and headed north, then east, then south again to U.S. Army Fort Huachuca. We originally wanted to spend three nights at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, but they don't take reservations. Searching for an alternative, we discovered Apache Flats RV Resort at Fort Huachuca near Sierra Vista.

Wayne is retired military so we can stay at RV parks on bases. They are always a good choice for location, quality and reasonable cost.

It was only 55 miles away so we were there in about an hour. We'd hoped to have lunch at The Steak Out restaurant in Sonoita, but they changed their hours. Maybe another trip!

First we went to the Commissary to stock up on food for the next week of travel. Then we walked over to the Exchange for a few items.

We were assigned #25 of the 56 sites. They are nice sized with full hookups and mesquite trees for shade. We didn't use the restrooms or showers, but did use the laundry.

The park is surrounded by desert. It's quiet except for a distant bugle playing reveille at 6:00 a.m.

There are walking trails from the park. We especially enjoyed the Heritage Park trail with plant identification signs. There were other signs of importance and we made sure not to stray off the designated trails!

We missed the summer blooms that come with the monsoon season, but there were still lots of beautiful desert plants to enjoy. We've been good about walking for exercise each evening before dinner.

Fort Huachuca has a long history. It was set up as a cavalry camp in 1877 to protect settlers and travelers. In 1882 it was made a permanent Army fort to protect the border region. From 1913 to 1933, the 10th Cavalry of African-American "Buffalo Soldiers" became the garrison regiment.

After World War II the base was briefly closed, but reopened in 1950 as a national defense asset. Today the focus is on technology, communications and intelligence.

A warm November evening at Fort Huachuca.

Now that we know about Apache Flats RV Resort at Fort Huachuca we will be returning. If you are active duty or retired military or Department of Defense you can make a reservation at this popular destination up to 90 days in advance. -- Wayne and Margy

Are you eligible to stay in RV parks and Family Camps on military bases? If so, what are some of your favourite ones? 

Our list includes Whidbey Island's Cliffside RV Park, Joint Base Lewis-McChord's Holiday Park FamCamp, and Port Hueneme's Fairways RV Resort. Now we will add Fort Huachuca's Apache Flat's RV Resort to that illustrious list.
-- Margy

Saturday, December 11, 2021

Snowbird RV Adventure: Lazydays to Patagonia Lake

Days 12-20

Another private patio grass site at Lazydays.
November 24-28: After hanging out reading in the sunshine at the Ironwood Picnic Area, we checked back into the Tucson Lazydays KOA for the Thanksgiving holiday. Our RV oven is so small cooking even a turkey leg wasn't possible. We opted to grill steak on our BBQ with baked potatoes and all the trimmings, then eat outside at our picnic table.

Being together is what's important. Wayne and I are so thankful to be able to enjoy life together.

November 29 - December 3: The week after Thanksgiving we drove 75 miles south to Patagonia Lake State Park. This is our favourite Arizona State Park, so we come here more than once during each annual Snowbird Adventure. 

There are several ways to get here from Tucson. We like Interstate 19 to the Ruby Road exit and across to Highway 82. We've gone through Nogales, but traffic can be challenging.

Patagonia Lake is popular for boating, birding and camping. Sites fill up fast, especially on weekends from October to June. There are 105 campsites with picnic tables, fire rings or grills, electric and water hookups, and a free dump station. There are also 12 boat-in only spots. You can make reservations online a year in advance.

We like the east campground best. This time we were in Site #17. It's two-tiered with parking on the upper level and the table and fire ring below near the lake shore.

Site #17 with our Sunseeker above and a large area below.

Patagonia Lake attracts a wide variety of birds. There are two major bird watching areas. The easiest to reach is the bird watching trail at the east end of the campground. There's even a viewing area with seating and feeders to attract birds. The other is the Sonoita Creek State Natural Area at the entrance to the park. 

Bird viewing area, Great-tailed Grackle and doves.

The highlight of Patagonia is the lake itself. It attracts birds, wildlife and humans alike.

In an arid locale, Patagonia Lake is an oasis.

With a large body of water, Patagonia lake attracts boaters. The west side allows some high speed operations, but the east side is limited to protect bird nesting areas.

Reflections at the Patagonia Marina.

The park has a boat launch, marina and store to serve boaters and campers. You can rent pontoon boats by the hour or day to enjoy some of the boat-in only areas and campsites.

Now you can see why Patagonia Lake State Park is our favourite Southern Arizona RV camping destination. Do you have any favourites to share? -- Wayne and Margy

Tuesday, November 30, 2021

Hanging Out in Ironwood Picnic Area in Tucson Mountain Park

Day 11

November 24: Checkout time from Gilbert Ray Campground is 11:00 am. We needed to wait until 2:00 pm to check back into the Lazydays KOA only 30 minutes away. 

We decided to wait at the Ironwood Picnic Area before we left Tucson Mountain Park.

We turned right on Hal Gras Road to enter the picnic area. We stopped at the second turnout with a private ramada covered picnic table. 

The area was immaculate and inviting with it's natural desert terrain and plants. With a grill, trash can and a restroom down the road it was a great spot for a family picnic.

A private site at Ironwood Picnic Area in Tucson Mountain Park.

We didn't have a picnic, but we enjoyed sitting in the sunshine to read and absorb the quiet atmosphere. Like Gilbert Ray, a Cactus Wren came by to check us out.

A Cactus Wren visits us at Ironwood Picnic Area.

While Wayne read, I took a short trail into the desert. It was a nice way to see nature up close and enjoy our wait-time in a pleasant way. An added bonus, if you are an astronomy buff the Tucson Amateur Astronomy Association sponsors free dark sky star parties here. -- Margy

Friday, November 26, 2021

Snowbird RV Adventure: Lazydays to Gilbert Ray Campground

Days 7-10

November 20-23: After six days relaxing at Lazydays, we moved to nearby Gilbert Ray Campground in Tucson Mountain Park. It's a Pima County Park only 16 miles from Lazydays, but worlds away in atmosphere.

Gilbert Ray has four loops with 130 sites. Most have power for $20 a night and a few tent only sites are $10. There are online reservations a year in advance for three loops. H Loop is first-come, first-serve.

Heading west on Irvington we were caught for an hour and a half waiting for the Tour de Tucson bike race to pass in front of us. That made us late for the USC vs UCLA football game, so Wayne pulled into a turnout after we entered Tucson Mountain Park and we watched the first half with a cellular hot spot and displayed on our RV TV. As USC fans, the results were disappointing.

We stopped at registration (only manned from January to March) but with a reservation there was already an tag at our site. I reserved early, so we got a private spot, #42 in Loop A. In addition to park personnel, there are camp hosts to provide assistance if needed.

Site #42 in A Loop has an unobstructed mountain view.

All RV sites have a 30 amp hookup and picnic table. No wood fires are allowed, but you can use a charcoal or gas grill. The sites are packed dirt and gravel. We haven't been here in the rain, but they are fine in the dry season. Water and restrooms are easily accessible.

Enjoying the privacy of our site, lots of Chain Fruit Chollas.

Reading quietly we saw some wildlife: hummingbirds, Cactus Wrens, two kinds of butterflies (one on my toe), a Harris ground squirrel and evening coyote howls.

A pair of Cactus Wrens visited us in camp.

Partly cloudy skies ended each of our four nights with gorgeous, colourful Arizona sunsets framed by tall saguaro cactus, spiky ocotillo and wispy green mesquite trees.

What better way to end the day than sitting outdoors enjoying the last evening warmth with a spectacular view. -- Wayne and Margy

On the way we stopped at Fry's to shop for groceries. In Arizona it's our market of choice.

I applied for a Fry's customer loyalty reward card years ago. I bring it with me each trip to save on my grocery bills. I have several other cards I can use if there isn't a Fry's nearby. You can get loyalty cards at the register or customer service desk. Register them online for extra benefits, or just use them to get the discount prices. Why pay the shelf price when you can get a lower one. -- Margy

Monday, November 22, 2021

Snowbird RV Adventure: Bellingham to Tuscon, Arizona

Days 1-6

If you've followed our Snowbird RV Adventures from the last two years you know we follow the same type of schedule. Breaking the trip into three segments works well for us. We are in the sunbelt for three of the cold northern months and back home to take care of business and return to our float cabin home in between.

November 14-19: We left Bellingham on Allegiant Airlines the morning the atmospheric river arrived. We outran it to Arizona leaving British Columbia and Washington State in the path of a 100-year storm that would bring devastating flooding and landslides.

We landed in Mesa and got our Enterprise rental car. Before COVID, Allegiant flew to Tucson. Now we drive two hours down I-10 to our first destination, Lazydays KOA RV Resort. We start and finish our trips here because we store the Sunseeker here.

Allegiant Airlines offers direct flights to many destinations.

The Tucson Lazydays KOA offers a resort style atmosphere. They have two pools, a nature center, activities for kids and adults, and the BBQ Rush restaurant onsite. If you want to stay a month or more, they have lower long-term rates

Tucson Lazydays KOA has a resort atmosphere.

We like the pull-through full-hookup patio grass sites the best. There are hedges on three sides and either a citrus (you can pick the fruit in season) or olive tree for shade. They have a wide variety of site styles including tent, cabin, regular and deluxe RV spots.

For the first three days we had a rental car.

We kept the rental car for several days to make our first Fry's grocery store run and eat out. One of our favourite Mexican restaurant is Aqui Con El Nene. Wayne gets the carne asada plate and I love the bean and cheese burrito.

With a rental car we could go to favourite Arizona restaurants.

We had a relaxing six days to read in the warm sunshine, take evening walks and watch a Netfix and HBOMax movies in the evenings. It's a great way to wind down and make sure all of our RV systems are in working order. -- Margy

We splurged and got an RV wash right in our Lazydays site. The owner and a crew of four from Tucson RV Wax got our Sunseeker spic 'n' span in only thirty minutes.

We opted for an onsite wash with Tucson RV Wax's service.

In April during our last leg we'll get a wash, wax and roof treatment to prepare our RV for storage over a long, very hot summer.

Monday, November 8, 2021

Book Review: "Indian Horse" by Richard Wagamese

The last book I reviewed, A Perfect Storm by Mike Martin, led me to this month's book. The main character in the Sgt. Windflower Mystery series is a Cree RCMP officer. He maintains traditional practices, and reads Embers: One Ojibway's Meditations by Richard Wagamese for solace and inspiration. After reviewing books by Wagamese, I selected Indian Horse to be my first.

Indian Horse is a novel about Saul Indian Horse, an Ojibway from Northern Ontario. He was raised by his grandmother in traditional ways, but at age eight he was forced to live at an Indian residential school.

Residential schools were funded by the Department of Indian Affairs and administered by churches. Their purpose was to expunge Indigenous ways and inculcate Canadian culture. Attendance for school age children was compulsory from 1894 until an unconscionable 1996 when the last closed. 

Not only were Indigenous children ripped from their families during formative years, they were subjected to physical, emotional and sexual abuses, and too many died from harsh conditions and torture. The result is generations of First Nation peoples alienated from their culture and language, lacking education, and experiencing post-traumatic syndrome and racism.

Indian Horse takes us through this dark period through the eyes of Saul. The book opens with him telling the reader that he has been told he needs to tell the stories to understand where he is from and where he is going. As his story unfolds, we can feel his joy and sadness, his success and failure, his anguish and emergence from a blocked out horrific experience. 

Canadians are going through a reconciliation process to "redress the legacy of residential schools." In 2008, then Prime Minister Harper issued an apology on behalf of the Canadian government. That same year the Truth and Reconciliation Commission was established to hear testimony.  Their "Call to Action" was finally released in 2015.

A community traditional canoe carving reconciliation project.

Towns like Powell River across Canada brought Settlers (non-Indigenous Canadians) and First Nation members together to have hard conversations and to develop a better understanding of the ramifications of racial prejudice and subjugation. As a Settler in my native U.S.A. and my Canadian home I personally have a lot of work to do to reconcile my life of white privilege with systemic racism.

Indian Horse was the "People's Choice" Award of Canada Reads and First Nations Community Reads winner in 2012.  It's not an easy read, but the message is important especially now. I highly recommend Indian Horse and am looking forward to my next Richard Wagamese book.

Here's another book related to truth and reconciliation. Powell River is located on traditional land of the Tla'amin First Nation, a Coast Salish tribe. Written As I Remember It by elder Elsie Paul tells about this same period of time from a local perspective. 

Raised by her grandparents and hidden from authorities during fall sweeps, she was forced to attend the Sechelt Residential School at age ten. He memoir includes Tla'amin Nation history from oral traditions to the present as her people move away from Indian Act control to a self-governing nation. 

 Both books are available online including Amazon. -- Margy

Sunday, January 3, 2021

Wayne and Margy's 2020-2021 Snowbird RV Adventure

Lazydays electric RV storage.
Wayne and I want to thank all of our readers who came along with us on our 2019-2020 Snowbird RV Adventure. It abruptly ended with the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic last spring. 

At the end of February, we left our Sunseeker RV in powered storage at the Tucson Lazydays KOA Resort fully intending to return at the end of March to complete our trip. That never happened.
Then summer came with 100+ degree temperatures. We decided it was best to wait. We had reservations in place for this November. We debated long and hard about the safety of traveling at this time.
We decided RV travel was a form of self-isolation. We only need to shop for groceries once a week and won't interact with others in an unsafe manner. We are vaccinated, wear our masks, social distance, use sanitizer and wash our hands just like at home.

Our 25-foot Forest River Sunseeker, small but perfect for us.

We invite you to join us to safely explore Arizona. We've again planned our Snowbird RV Adventure in three parts.

Wayne at the wheel.
Part 1 - We left Bellingham on November 15. We flew Allegiant Airlines direct to Mesa, Arizona. The Tucson direct flight was no longer available. We rented a car and drove to our first destination, the Lazydays KOA Resort to pick up our RV waiting there for us in storage. For 36 days we explored and camp our way around southern Arizona. In mid-December, we put the RV back into storage and flew north to Bellingham for a Christmas winter break. The following posts tell the story of each of our destinations.

Part 2 - The second leg of our trip started on January 17. We flew south again to pick up our RV from Lazydays. We spent 39 days camping in the foothills east of Phoenix. We usually attend women's college softball at Arizona State University, but that wasn't possible this year. In late February we put our RV back into storage once more and flew to Bellingham for a second break. On this leg of the trip, I did not write individual posts due to concerns back home about people traveling during Covid times.

Tucson Lazydays KOA Resort

Part 3 - The last segment of our adventure started on March 30. After a short stay at Lazydays we spent 29 days between the Phoenix and Tucson regions. In late April, we put our RV in storage at Lazydays one last time and flew to Bellingham for the last time. Our Sunseeker spent the summer for a second time waiting for our return in November 2021. For this leg of the trip, I again did not write individual posts due to concerns back home about people traveling during Covid times.

An Unexpected Trip to Arizona - We got a phone call from Lazydays that we needed to move our RV out of powered storage because they were expanding new sites into that area. One side effect of Covid has been a surge in RV purchases. We thought about asking Ryan, the owner of Countrywide RV Services, to move it for us. In the end, we decided to fly down for a mini-vacation in the hot June Arizona sun and drive the Sunseeker to her new spot in dry storage ourselves. To keep cooler that week, we selected one of Lazydays' covered sites.

Rows of solar panels provide shade for some RV sites.

We hope the 2021-22 will bring better Covid pandemic conditions. We will evaluate the situation before we make our final decision about the 2021-22 Snowbird RV Adventure.  -- Wayne and Margy

Saturday, January 2, 2021

2020-21 Snowbird RV Adventure: Bellingham to Tucson, Arizona

Days 1-5

Well, after much debate, we decided to come to Arizona as planned for a Snowbird RV Adventure. With COVID numbers rising everywhere, we will take the same precautions here in Arizona as we did at home.

The Bellingham Airport wasn't crowded.

November 15: We took our first taxi in nine months. It wasn’t as scary as I feared. There was a divider between us and the driver, and we were his first ride of the day. The Bellingham airport had room to physically distance.

We flew Allegiant direct to Mesa, Arizona. We rented a car and drove 150 miles south to the Lazydays KOA RV Resort in Tucson. Wayne has former Mt. SAC students who are pilots for Allegiant, but we don’t know if they are flying with current furloughs.

We drove straight to the RV to check it out. The outside walk around was good. Four fully inflated tires and it wasn’t as dirty as expected. Wayne unlocked the door and I went in first. It was warm, but not overly hot. I bet it was during the summer 100+ degree temps though.

The patio grass sites with privacy hedges are our favourite.

I worried about the toilet drying out. It did, but the seal was tight and we had gaven it good water flush out before we left. We tried the bedroom slide-out before we moved to make sure it worked. No problem there either. With all systems a go, we registered and moved the RV to a full hookup site with a grass patio. 

We kept the rental car extra days for shopping and dining.

We set up and tested more systems. The stove burners started right up after Wayne turned on the propane.  The refrigerator started in electric mode and began cooling. We’ll test the dual propane switchover before we leave. To have cool drinks, I went to the office to buy ice until the fridge gets going. It’s only in the 80s but feels hot after our cool northern weather.

November 16-19: I took inventory of the pantry and put together a grocery list. We kept the rental car until Thursday to make our initial stock-up easier. And we enjoyed it for a McDonald's breakfast and dinner out at the Claim Jumper one night.

We spent the first five days of our trip enjoying the warm sunshine outside. While I was writing in my journal at the picnic table, I had unexpected company, a road runner. 

Our Road Runner guest.

You know you're in the dessert when you see one. He had a long iridescent blue tail and didn't fly. True to his name, he ran from site to site. Meep meep! I wonder, where is Wile E Coyote?  -- Margy

Here’s our Lazydays storage parking spot in Tucson, Arizona. There were two choices, one was dry storage and the other powered. Both are secure. The powered storage has electricity, water and a paved area so it could be used in an overflow situation. Selecting the powered spot kept our batteries charged, especially after an unexpected eight and a half month absence. It will also be to run our heated dehumidifiers this winter.

Friday, January 1, 2021

Snowbird RV Adventure: Lazydays to Catalina State Park

Days 6-7

Site #A-19 at Catalina State Park.

November 20-21: After a nice stay and RV shakedown at the Lazydays KOA Resort, we headed 25 miles north to Catalina State Park. This popular park is at the base of the Santa Catalina Mountains. It's northeast of downtown Tucson and near the trendy area of Oro Valley.

On the way we stopped at Wildflower, a wonderful cafe with an outdoor patio. Wayne and I aren't ready to eat indoors yet with COVID conditions. It's comforting that virtually everyone here is wearing masks and distancing.

There are two campgrounds at Catalina State Park, A and B, with a total of 120 sites with power and water. Tents and RVs of all sizes are welcome. I picked Site #A-19.

A trail from the back of our site lead to the hills in the distance.

Our site had an unobstructed view of the Catalina Mountains, and at sunset it made the granite spires glow. 

This is the view front our RV's bedroom window. The Tuscon region has several desert parks with campgrounds to enjoy nature while isolating from others and socially distancing. -- Margy

Six months ago we made reservations for our Snowbird RV Adventure destinations in Arizona. That way we could get the best spots for camping.

When you are going to popular seasonal locations, reservations are highly recommended. This is especially true of warm southern destinations in the winter, and cooler northern camping spots in the summer.

Here's how I make my choices when I am going to a new park. 

First I use the online reservation system to review sites that are open. Then I look at the amenities listed. To finalize my choice, I look at the park using Google Maps in satellite view. That way I can see what the surroundings look like and if the site has the privacy I want. Here are copies of the maps I used to select site #A-19 at Catalina State Park. -- Margy