We spent the month of January in the Desert. We started our stay in the desert in Southeast California, the town of Ocotillo, and ended our stay in Southwest Arizona in the town of Benson. We did not fall in love with the desert, we still prefer the coast; but we did meet some great people while traveling through the area. No not like the people in the photo above (Tim was disappointed that we did not actually run into Mad Max) but we did have a blast. Most of the people we met were snowbirds but not all. See below, we snagged some information about the annual snowbird migration from this article.
Warm Arizona winters have always attracted tourists during the coldest months, but some of the winter visitors stick around for a few months rather than days. Every year these “snowbirds” can be expected around the state from as early as October until April. The last study in 2003 done by Arizona State University estimated that more than 300,000 snowbirds migrate to Arizona and put $600 million into the economy.
Our first stop in the desert was in Ocotillo California. We met some people in the San Diego area over Christmas (See our Southern California post) and they invited us to boondock with them on BLM (Bureau of Land Management) land in Ocotillo - Tim says it was his charm that got them to offer the invite. At first we were not sure if this was for us, but we decided to give it a try for a night - why not, I mean after all we are on an adventure. Well, as it turned out we were happy we stopped and ended up staying 3 nights. Jim and his two brothers John & David and their wives Nancy, Nancy and Carin have been camping in their secret spot for 25-30 years. Of course being BLM land, it is free to camp. We really enjoyed hanging out with these guys - talk about food and good times, they know how to do it right.
We left Ocotillo and headed to Yuma. As we drove across the US, lots of full-time RVrs (people who live/travel/work 100% in their RV) told us they winter in Yuma - great weather and low cost. Well its true the weather is usually warm and sunny and things are inexpensive, but its pretty much RV parks filled with snowbirds. So not a lot to do other than enjoy the weather and relax. We did the one touristy thing in town and checked out the Yuma Territorial Prison Museum other than that we bided our time until heading north to Quartszite/Parker area. The prison has an interesting history for sure. The prison is even part of the movie 3:10 To Yuma's storyline.
Ok so we hightailed it out of Yuma and headed to Parker. Renee had found a potential campground for us, I say potential because we had little information on it. It ended up being an absolute gem! Crossroads campground is a little plot of BLM land on the Colorado River. No hookups but only $5/night. We loved it. We met some nice folks. One of our neighbors, Randy, was retired and living in a T&B travel trailer. He is a photographer who has spent about 15 months traveling in the west on mostly BLM land taking pictures of old churches, buildings, tractors...etc - some amazing stuff. Our other neighbors, Herb and Anke, have been full-timing for 12 years. We talked with them one morning and ended up exchanging information, later we would meet again in Benson, about an hour east of Tucson - see more about them toward the end of this post.
We had reserved a week at an RV park in Ehrenburg, AZ; we do not often reserve places far in advance, but we really wanted to go to the Quartszite RV show and the Bluegrass festival in Blythe, CA. We would have stayed at the BLM campground in Parker longer if we did not have the reservation, oh well live and learn. We did meet some fun people in the Arizona Oasis RV Park in Ehrenburg however. We met a couple from Alberta Canada, Mike & Iris, who spend winters traveling in the warm weather of Arizona. We hung out with them a few times and had a good time. Maybe we will visit them in Alberta some day. We also met a couple from upstate New York, Dennis & Debbie, who travel for nine months each year, returning home for the nice summers in upstate NY. We hung out with them a little, they were a lot of fun and happened to be traveling a similar path toward Florida as we were.
We left Ehrenburg at 4am to catch a flight home leaving out of Phoenix. It was a quick trip home to visit family and attend our friend's annual Farm Fest party (see our post on Farm Fest 2016 for details). It was nice seeing family and friends after 9 months on the road. We flew back five days later and headed to Benson, AZ.
The couple we met at the BLM campground in Parker, Herb & Enka, told us about a deal at their 'home base' RV park in Benson. The RV park is part of Escapees, a club that many full-timers belong to. The park, SKP Saguaro Co-Op, is actually a Co-Op. Meaning you can purchase a lot and become part owner of the park. Herb and Anke own an RV lot and a little casita house and that is why they use it as their home base. Anyway, the deal at the park was $50 for full hook-ups for 7 nights - what a deal.
We really enjoyed the park, everyone was very nice. Tim was able to get in some runs and Rene some yoga, there was a large dog park which the girls loved, they even had recently released DVD's which we borrowed for free. There was a ton to do around the area. We visited Saguaro National Park, Tucson, Tombstone and the cool little hippy town of Bisbee. We even found time to eat at a Sweet Tomatoes (Tim's favorite) - man we have not seen one of those in a long time. Herb and Anke mentioned to us that they eat at a place called Sweet Tomatoes...boy were they surprised to see how excited we were to know there was one close by!
Saguaro National Park actually has two separate parks, separated by Tucson. We checked out the West side of park. The park really centers around the history of the Saguaro cactus. Its well worth a visit and a hike or two if you are in the Tucson area.
One day we drove out of Benson and headed south, the plan was to spend a few hours in Tombstone and a few hours in Bisbee. We ended up getting back to Peg after midnight. We loved Bisbee! Everyone has heard of Tombstone, made famous by Doc Holliday and Wyatt Earp back in the wild west days. We had both recently read the book Doc (which was very good btw) and so were familiar with the towns past and its infamous characters. It was fun seeing it in person.
We escaped Tombstone and headed to Bisbee. Bisbee is a little hippy town, lots of artists, antiques, music and very mellow people! We checked out the local brewery and ended up striking up a conversation with the couple next to us. They were from Minnesota, had recently retired and were on a 2-3 month road trip. We enjoyed getting to know them and swapping travel stories. They told us about a band that was playing that night in town and essentially convinced us we had to go see them - remember I said we did not return back to Peg until after midnight...now you know why! So we met them for dinner and then headed to the show. The band, The Blackmarket Trust, is a gypsy-jazz band who are heavily influenced by Django Reinhardt, and influenced by Eddie Van Halen and The Beatles. They were incredible, what a treat. Unfortunately we only got one picture of the band because both our phones ran out battery. Below is the picture we took and below that is a video we found on youtube.
This lifestyle sure works for us. We met so many interesting people in the desert and hope to run into them again some day!
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