We made it! A week and 2,400 miles after leaving our cold Ontario home, we are in sunny (actually, hot) Arizona. I’m almost embarrassed to admit we drove the Interstates all the way. We can’t call ourselves shunpikers this week!
But we have a valid excuse. Aside from being chased by the cold, we were on a schedule to reach the Pima County Fairgrounds east of Tucson, Arizona in time for the 57th Escapade RV rally.
Why are we here and what makes it worth giving up our shunpiking ways?
I’ll explain (with photos and great detail) in my next post. But before this 5 days of fun begins, I just want to give you a quick glimpse of the past 7 days on the road.
We left home Friday, Mar 10 and despite a lot of boring, Interstate driving, we had some interesting experiences.
In 18 years of crossing the the border into the States, this was the first time we have ever been asked to pull over. The border agent ordered us to exit the Roadtrek and go into the building, leaving everything except cash behind. In a full waiting room, we watched as a dozen or so people were questioned in abrupt, never-show-an-ounce-of-personality-border-patrol style. Some were being fingerprinted. We’d heard a lot about extra border security on the Canadian news lately. I guess it was all true.
We were prepared to hand over all our mobile devices and provide the passwords to our Facebook and email accounts since we’d heard the border authorities are suddenly interested in seeing photos of our grandkids (if only we’d known, we carry enlarged prints to proudly hand out) and any other things we may “like” or comment on when we’re online.
After a half hour, we heard our names. A man who was not one of the front-line counter personnel called us over to a separate area. Oh-oh – is this bad? He asked us few very routine questions (where you goin’, how long you stayin’, how much cash do you have, and what do you do for a living?) Then he returened our passports and released us. It seemed they had not gone through the RV at all! If so, they had been very careful to cover their trail; putting everything back in its exact position, including some of our more finicky latches.
We camped with Boondockers Welcome hosts on the first 3 nights.
It was a cold night. Thank goodness we had arranged a stop with an electric plug-in at an Ohio host location. They are fairly new to Boondockers Welcome but LOVE hosting fellow campers so much that they’ve created a small campground setting on their spacious country property.
We didn’t get to meet the “Mrs.” part of the host team and were sorry to miss her were thrilled to be invited along to meet up with our host’s friends at a local pub in nearby Grand Rapids. Great food. Amazing prices and we felt like the guests of honor!
This historic village on the Maumee River made us wish we weren’t on a schedule. We promised to come back some day to hike the trails in Mary Jane Thurston State Park and enjoy a mule-drawn canal boat ride on the Miami and Erie Canals.
About 500 miles later, we stopped for the night in Missouri with another Boondockers Welcome host. Still a cold night so, once again, we took advantage of the generous offer of electricity. Our hostess also graciously invited us to come join her inside where she’d built a fire to welcome us. We shared a big bowl of popcorn, a glass of wine, and lively conversation.
On our third Boondockers Welcome night we camped with a couple in Oklahoma. We had stayed here two years ago and met a bunch of their friends. They gather every morning for breakfast at a local restaurant. Of course, we couldn’t resist the invitation to join our hosts in the morning and meet up with this fun group again. We’ll have to time all future trips now to make sure we can be here for the regular 8 am meeting.
Ute Lake State Park, New Mexico
By the forth afternoon we reached New Mexico. Here we opted for a paid campsite at Ute Lake State Park. We knew that New Mexico’s state park campgrounds are consistently, reasonably priced ($10 for dry camping or $14 for a site with electric and water) and that we’d be in warmer temperatures and able to take advantage of all the included facilities. We dumped and flushed the RV antifreeze from our tanks, filled our fresh water, and took advantage of the hot showers before moving on.
It also happened to be Randy’s birthday. Our first barbecue of the trip was his meal choice: steak.
First “real” boondocking of the trip
By the fifth night we were ready for some real boondocking. We were also gaining on Tucson so knew we could slow down the driving pace. We enjoyed a peaceful evening watching all kinds of water fowl at our first “real” boondocking stop: at Holloman Lake just outside White Sands National Monument.
Finally, we reached Arizona and our destination was now within easy reach. We were able to relax.
Finally: Arizona! On day six, we we didn’t drive anywhere!
We spent the next two nights boondocking, hiking, and just saying, “Ahhhhh, this is what its supposed to be like”. We were camped in one of our favorite southern Arizona free boondocking spots; Coronado National Forest in the Dragoon Mountains, just outside of Cochise Stronghold Recreation area.
It has been very hot in this part of Arizona all week. 90 degrees in the sun! But we know this spot well. I t has mature shade trees. We were happy to see our favorite campsite was available.
With all the times that we turned our clocks back and forth this week, our internal clocks were all messed up. It seemed easy to get up at dawn and do a three-hour hike on a new trail. Over 5 days, we had crossed two time zones, moved to daylight savings, and turned the clock back again when we hit Arizona. For some reason, Arizona chooses not choose to “save” daylight any time of year.
We had an amazing hike on an unmarked trail into a side canyon. We had seen people here a few years ago and vowed to find the trailhead. Although we lost the trail for a bit but were able to find it again and eventually reached a great pour-off view before turning back. The trail continues but, we’re out of hiking shape! Three hours with lots of elevation gain was plenty for us, especially on a hot day.
The hike’s destination for us was this pour-off
Our life on the road is full of surprises and gifts.
Looking back on our week, we know it’s not our “usual” mode of travel but we’ve enjoyed it none the less. We made new friends, reconnected with others, and, although as guests, we always leave a token thank you gift, sometimes our Boondockers Welcome hosts, press departing gifts into our hands.
We left our Oklahoma location with a dozen farm fresh eggs from their own chickens. When I opened the carton – another surprise! It was like Easter without the dye. Are these not the prettiest eggs you’ve ever seen?
We left our Missouri host’s home with a book she had read and wanted to pass on to someone who she thought would enjoy it: The Longest Road, by Phillip Caputo.
It’s based on the author’s trip pulling a small Airstream trailer from Key West, Florida to the Arctic Ocean in Alaska while on a quest to figure out what bonds Americans and what’s tearing the country apart. I’m just a few chapters in and I’m already loving it.
The author’s words on page 22 really hit home. As he’s about to start his journey he writes:
I had only one hard-and-fast rule: avoid interstates. They are predictable and boring, and their uniformity somehow erases changes in landscape; you can drive six hundred miles, from forests into desert, and feel that you haven’t gone anywhere. In a sense, you haven’t. You have no idea about the lives of the people in the towns and cities you’ve bypassed at seventy miles an hour.
Although we took the shortest possible route from home to Arizona, it actually felt like it could well have been the longest. Interstate highways will do that! If not for the people we made an effort to connect with, that trip would leave us with nothing memorable. We thank Boondockers Welcome for that.
I’m also thrilled to report that, when we leave Escapade and for the next four months, we’ll be traveling “our way”. Philip Caputo’s way. Shunpiking all around California. Can’t wait!