Friday, November 30, 2012

Arizona - Sonoran Desert

Benson, Arizona is in the Sonoran Desert.  This desert is one of the largest in North America and extends from Mexico and Baja into California and Arizona.

Prior to this road trip when I thought of desert an image of barren, dry sand came to mind.  There are parts that are just that, but the majority of the desert is teeming with life.  (Even Jaguars, apparently)

We didn't see much wildlife during our stay, but we didn't exactly go looking for it either.  We saw a Kangaroo Rat, Roadrunner, and many other birds whose names I don't know.  We saw some lizards, little squirrel/chipmunk critters, and the signs of Javelina in the area.  At night, a group of Coyotes would come through the campground howling and chattering.

What we did see lots of were plants!  So many different trees, cacti, bushes.  There were so many green and living things.  Most of them had a thorn or sharp edge, but also a flower or fruit.

The kids and I found it all very interesting.  We enjoyed walking around and checking it all out.

So much beauty!

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Arizona - Willcox

The kids and I were ready for a day trip so I got online and started looking up places to visit.  I came across a place that advertised a pumpkin patch, apple orchard, corn maze, u pick produce and sunflowers, and grilled burgers with homemade apple pie and ice cream.  Wow, really?  All that in the desert of Arizona?  This we had to see!

I checked the weather, sunny as usual with just a slight breeze.  It promised to be the perfect day, so off we went to Willcox, AZ and Apple Annie's.

The drive started off as anticipated with great weather.  We left Benson and headed east on I-10.  The terrain started to change as we approached the Dragoon Mountains and entered Texas Canyon.  It went from sandy desert with lots of vegetation to big, rounded granite boulders all jumbled this way and that.  It was so pretty we had to stop for a closer look :).

After a little walk around, we continued our drive to the orchard.  Just as we left the canyon behind we noticed a significant change in the weather.  It was very windy and very sandy again.  Not a good combo.  By the time that we got to the orchard, the dust was really blowing.  We couldn't open our mouths without getting them full of grit.  Bummer.

We had no choice but to skip the orchard, so we bought a bag of apples and went to find the lunch :).  No go on that, too.  The seating was all outdoor.  In the middle of a dust storm, that didn't sound fun.  So....we went into the store for some goodies to take home.  Jackpot!  Fresh from the oven, still warm apple pies.  We also got a pumpkin roll and some fresh butter (I had taken along a cooler).

The pumpkin patch was a few miles down the road, but run by the same family.  They gave us a map, and we headed there next.  The dust was blowing there, too.  So, we opted to just purchase some already picked produce.  Their prices were excellent and everything that we bought was delicious.

We left the dust behind and went back into town for a late lunch.  Tyler had spotted a Popeye's Chicken and everyone was happy with plan B.  After we ate, we did a little shopping at Beall's Outlet...we hadn't seen one of those since Florida.  We found a microscope for a good price that the kids needed for school and some flip flops :).

The day didn't turn out anything like we had anticipated, but it was still a great day :).

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Aliens and Jaguars

One evening, the kids and I were walking along the campground road in front of our camper.  A man was out walking his little dog and like magnets the dog and kids were drawn to each other :).  While the kids and dog played, we all chatted for a bit.

He had seen our South Dakota tags and was curious as to how we were enjoying southern Arizona.  I confessed to him my hesitancy to actually go into the desert.  Now, any of you that know me probably can guess why I hesitate.  One word...tarantulas.  **shiver**  I detest any and all spiders.  Just the thought of coming across one of those giant, hairy things gives me the creeps!  Ew...

Anyway, this man we had just barely met had no idea of my reasons and started to talk about walking in the desert.  He said that he regularly walks for miles and miles with no problems.  He said if you come across illegal aliens just pretend like you didn't see them and turn around and go the other way.  Say what?  Totally didn't see that coming :)!  My mind was on spiders and bugs...he starts talking aliens.  Haha!  We were only about an hour from the Mexican border, so I guess it should be given consideration.  He also told me not to leave any big water bottles out at night because the aliens might take them.  Hm... ok.

As if that weren't enough, he then tells me about going into the mountains that you could see all around the area.  He said he has at one time or another hiked or jeeped to the top of each of them.  He told me to tell Dan that he could go with a group of them sometime when they go jeeping.  Sounds fun, right?  Then he tells me about the jaguar that was seen in the mountains the last week.  Seriously?

Jaguars and aliens...I had to check it out online.

Uh...he wasn't kidding.  Freaked me out pretty good, gotta tell ya.

We were fine, though.  No jaguars or giant spiders, either.  And the only aliens we saw were on our beach towel ;)...

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Arizona - Benson

The rv service place was able to get our main air unit fixed and order parts to fix the second unit.  That meant we would need to stay in the general area until the parts could arrive.  This was going to take several weeks, but it worked out just right because we needed to be settled somewhere for that long anyway for Dan to go back to work.

We didn't want to be in the city this time, our last monthly site was in Salt Lake City, Utah.  We were ready for a slower pace for a while.  The place we found was perfect for us.  We spent the next month in Benson, Arizona at Cochise Terrace RV Resort.  We pretty much had the entire place to ourselves, it was a VERY welcome change to the tons of people in SLC.  The people who were there were mostly full time residents and some of the sweetest people I have ever met.

The weather while we were in Benson was gorgeous.  Warm and sunny...we spent every afternoon swimming at the pool.  So nice to be able to do that in October and November :)!  The kids loved it, so that made us happy.  Our mornings were spent doing school work.  It is amazing at how motivated the kids were to get their school finished in time for swimming ;).

Our campground had a Farmer's Market every Friday and Sunday.  I really enjoy going to Farmer's Markets, so this made me very happy :).  The kids and I went each week and really got to know the people who were selling their goods.  (I have to say it again, sweetest people you will ever meet!!!) We bought fresh local veggies, fruits, eggs, dried beans, salsa (so good!), homemade tortilla chips, tamales, breads, prickly pear cactus fruit jelly, and the girls got some fun new beads.  Both purchased and given to them by our new friends at the market.  Oh, and pistachios!  We love to snack on them and bought a bag every week.  I never knew they grow in Arizona.

 The sunsets there were so beautiful...

The perfect place to soak up some sun and rest :).

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Arizona - Saguaro National Park

With our camper in the repair shop, we had a few hours to spend around Tucson.

The first thing we did was go out for a big breakfast.  We rarely eat breakfast away from home, so the kids really enjoyed it.

Then, we headed over to Saguaro National Park.  The city of Tucson actually splits this park into two sections, east and west.  We went to the west side.

There were so many different species of cacti to see...of course the saguaro were the most spectacular.  They really are huge.  The full grown ones are around 50 feet tall and weigh over 6 tons.  It takes many years for them to get that big though, over 100.

I didn't realize that the saguaro have a wooden inside.  For each pleat that you see on the outside, there is a wooden "rib" on the inside.  All of the ribs join together and provide the supporting structure for the cactus.  The native people used to collect these wooden ribs to use as the framework when building the walls of their homes.

We learned a lot in the visitor center.  Both from the Rangers and from the informative displays.  The Ranger that went over the Jr Ranger books with the kids was great.  He led them to an area they have for kids with couches and tables to talk to them about what they had learned and add to it with his own experiences in the park.  Very interesting :).

I just have to show you this picture...

Only in the desert will you find a sunblock dispenser in the restroom!  The girls and I nearly mistook it for the soap!  Haha...that would have been funny :)

We left the visitor center and drove all through the park.  The roads are dirt and in some places a bit rough.  High clearance vehicles are advised...we did just fine in my Expedition.  It is nice to have 4-wheel drive sometimes ;).  (No, we didn't need it, just reassuring to know we had it.)

The hike we chose was the Signal Hill Trail.  We chose this trail because it leads to some great petroglyphs.  The sign at the trail head warns to watch out for Gila monsters.  That was a new one!

If you ever have the opportunity to visit Saguaro National Park, you should go.  It was truly one of the most beautiful places I have ever visited.  So unique :).

Monday, November 19, 2012

Travel day

We try to keep a close eye on the weather forecast so that we can be as prepared as possible with the camper and our traveling.  We had planned to drive to Tucson the next day for a repair appointment for our a/c's and furnace.  When we checked the weather the evening before, we saw that tornadoes, rain, high winds, hail, and then freezing temps were forecast for the next day.  Thankfully, we had planned to leave the area already, we just got up and going extra early to head out before the storms.  We did go through some rain and winds, but God took care of us and it wasn't very bad.

It took pretty much the whole day to travel what should have taken five hours.  We had to go slow the first part of the day because of the weather.  Several places we traveled through the wind had stirred up dust storms.  It was like a hazy, brown fog.  Weird and a little scary with the camper.  We did stay ahead of the worst of it, thankfully.

Along the way, we saw something that took us by surprise...

A Saguaro cactus forest!  The kids were all saying...SO COOL!  These are beautiful to see :), so big.

We made it to Tucson that evening and checked into our spot for the night.  The place where we had our repair appointment scheduled also has a campground, camper dealership, and Camping World store.  It is called Lazydays, and it is really nice.  I meant to take some pictures there, but never did.  *sigh*  At each campsite there is a citrus tree of some, lemon, grapefruit.  And they encourage you to help yourself to all you want.  Nice!  I just have to mention the laundry, too.  You can pay with your debit card and then go online and see how much time is left on your machine until your clothes are done.  Neat :).

We were all tired and went to bed early.  We had to be up early and have our camper over at the service department at 8:00 the next morning.

Our last night without any a/c or heat...Yay!