Thursday 13 Feb – After checking out that the solar panels were doing what they should do – decided that we would change our plans a little and head for Phoenix and to Cruise America to get all the niggles sorted on the RV before we continued on. Left our Slab city dwelling mid morning and headed east. The land for the next 100 miles or so was through flat irrigated land for mile upon mile with not a lot to see. Did see a few feed lots – which is how they raise their beef in this region. Acres of small pens with coverings to protect them from the sun, just on bare sand and each pen crowded with cattle. The get fed on grain and forage which is just stored out in the open. No life for the beasties and it must get unbearable for them when the summer kicks in. The temps are in the mid 20’s already and it isn’t even spring time.
Our destination for the night was the very nicely set up campground at the Painted Rocks Petroglyph park about an hour’s drive from Phoenix. Interesting spot with a whole lot of very early rock carvings, carved into a particular type of rock which makes them stand out quite dramatically. Interestingly as we made our way to this park, we went by a huge solar collection array for a generating station. The panels must have easily covered a square mile but when I tried to look at them on google maps they are all blurred out – so obviously Uncle Sam thinks they are of strategic value.
There were probably about 15 vans scattered around the campground – this is a popular area for the sand rail vehicles (dune buggies) and many of the RV’s tow these behind their rigs. This is the first campground that we have had to pay for since leaving San Clemente, but only $8 so not too bad.
Friday 14 Feb – Made out way into Phoenix (YUK) – these cities just spread out for miles and miles and it is a real pain trying to get around them. We found the Cruise America depot with the help of Sally our GPS lady and took them in our list of things that were not right. What an amazing service they provided – replaced the coach battery with a new one, repaired sticking doors, fixed main door, replaced broken cover on electrical box and even put in a new steering damper (we had been quite prepared to get that done ourselves so that was a nice surprise).
By mid afternoon we were all systems go and we decided that destination Walmart would be our stop for the night as Bob wanted to see a large motorcycle collection just north of town. When we got to Phoenix however, we found the collection had recently gone up in smoke – 9,000 collectable and historic machines from around the world lost in one night! Instead he decided on the Commemorative Air Force Museum and there were still a few things that we needed for the van. Although you have to contend with floodlights all night, we have been pleasantly surprised by how quiet it is at night in these parks.
Saturday 15 Feb – First stop today was the Air Force Museum for Bob, run by volunteers but with a good displays and Bob was most impressed by the airworthy B17 Flying Fortress they had on display. You could experience a ride in this or the B25 they were demonstrating for a mere $500 for a good seat. After lunch we set out for the desert mountains – which were only 30 miles out of the city but it was one hell of a long 30 miles. The road was incredibly windy and the traffic was really heavy as every one was heading up there for the weekend. We said we wanted to “do” the back roads, but this one was as much of a challenge as we want for this RV. The road was quite narrow in places and American roads don’t have much run off beyond that painted white line on the side of the road. They also didn’t have much in the way of guard rails so there were some quite steep drops. We found our campsite – a nice spot tucked away off the road in among saguaro and prickly pear cacti with nice views of the surrounding mountains. This was Tonto National Forest, and the scenery was right out of the Western movies – we quite expected to see a line of Red Indians amassing on the ridges above us.
Rattlesnakes might not be awake yet, but I got quite a surprise when walking around in my jandals to come across a very big hairy spider – about the size of a saucer – and upon checking it was a desert tarantula and harmless. I wasn’t game enough to get close and take a photo so you can make do with this one.
We were the sole occupants of our site and decided that we would spend a couple of nights here as Bob wanted to install the TVdvd player and the washing was piling up. Great thing about the desert atmosphere as it is so dry and combined with the warm sun – it takes no time at all to get washing dry.
The Saguaro cacti are interesting plants – and you can tell their age by the number of branches – they apparently don’t get their first branch until they are 50 years old and by the time they have four they are at least 150 years old. There were many such examples all around out campsite, but sadly many of them have been used for target practice. Speaking of target practice – all over our campsite there were shell cases and broken clay targets so this part of the park is obviously quite popular to come and play with guns, just such a pity that they can’t resist shooting up the natural flora as well.
Monday 17 Feb – after a suitably relaxing couple of days, we steeled ourselves for the trip back out of the mountains – fortunately there was hardly any traffic so it was a much less stressful drive back. Heading toward Tucson – a trip of around 140 miles much of the landscape was along flat desert plains – the first part through irrigated fields which then changed into areas of small trees, the Saguaro cacti and loads of prickly pears as well. There must be quite a lot of ground water as it looked quite lush for a desert. We stopped off along the way to have a look at some early Indian ruins – the Casa Grande Ruins – a unique area with several walled compounds – the largest with a four storey building in the centre. These date back to 1300’s and the people living here at the time were very inventive. They didn’t have the benefit of the wheel or steel implements but they managed to dig miles and miles of irrigation channels so that they could grow crops. These were not just small channels – they were deep enough for a man to stand in and the longest one came 16 miles from the mountains.
Made for Tucson after this visit – and yet again what a horrible sprawl of a city – it took us an age to get to the other side of the city and our destination for the night – Club del Sol Casino.
Much to Bob’s chagrin – this is where we were to spend our night – Casino’s let RV’s park for nothing and what a popular spot – the parking lot must have around 40 of them. I had read that if you sign up for their club you get a free meal and $10 gaming money, Bob didn’t think this could be possible but we gave it a go. We both signed up for free – got a $19 voucher each for a meal in their buffet restaurant and also $10 to gamble with. Managed to come home with an extra $20 in our pocket and full bellies!! Black top parking isn’t quite our ideal, but when it is free and handy to the city we can make allowances.