Travelling with friends

Two years ago, when we were travelling around Canada and the USA, we RV’d on our own. This winter when we hightailed it out of BC because of wet, cold, and uncomfortable weather, our friends decided to come too. We all had our ideas of what we wanted to do and see but mostly we loved travel, sight-seeing, good food and conviviality.

Leaving Anza Borrego this year, we set out for Sedona AZ and the red buttes, mesas and plateaus that make up the deserts of Arizona, Utah, Colorado, and New Mexico. The area where the four corners of these states converge is ingeniously called The Four Corners. We frequently see some of the most incredible, majestic desert Insta-photos on our feed posted from this zone. So, the motivation was there, (post haste). 

We spent a day in El Centro (about two hours from Agua Caliente) to get some maintenance done on the trailer. Our furnace wasn’t working, the pilot on the oven was a bit wonky and the hot water heater was glitchy. These propane appliances have worked so well over the past 3 years of full time RVing, that we neglected to schedule for regular maintenance. OOPS! Google recommended an RV Service business for El Centro and the comments were favourable, so off we went. No appointment necessary but “get here early so they can get on it right away”. We got up with the sun and were there just as el jefe (the boss) was arriving. He was quiet and confident, “no problem, regular service, we can fix this, come back at around 2 pm”. Off we went.  We filled the propane at the farm store, fueled and provisioned at the Costco, drove around to see the town a bit and the phone rang at noon. The trailer was done. Wow, fantastic, two hours earlier than promised! Suitably impressed, we hurried to pick it up. We were so happy that the bill was only $114. Like good trusting (naïve) Canadians, we didn’t even check that everything worked. At our destination that night, three hours of driving later, we regretted our lack of diligence in checking the quality of service. It became apparent that quality was not part of the delivered bill of goods. Word to the wise – ask for a walk through of the repairs before setting out to a destination so far away that you won’t get the quality implied as part of the bargain! We found a fantastic and affordable Mexican restaurant called Los Ce-B-Ches featuring Mexican sushi. We had crispy Octopus Taco, Aguachiles Alboroto (fresh prawns tossed in a dark acidic marinade) and Ceviche de Pescado Tostadas. We didn’t want to leave. 

Los Ce-B-Ches and the octopus ceiling. I copied this photo off their Facebook page.

Proud of our productivity and restaurant choice we set out for the destination goal of the day – Quartzsite, Arizona. The drive took us north of Interstate 8 along highway 78 which is more of what we might call a road rather than a highway.

Two lanes, mines on the left and dunes on the right. Quartzsite is a destination for many snowbirds. The population of about 4K swells to over 1M in January with the RV shows, rocks and gems show and the world’s largest tent. It is an ATV mecca. Surrounded by ragged dirt/ sand roads, trails, old mines, native heritage sites, washes and like-minded folks piloting all manner of vehicles. We had to have a look. While driving through the main road in town, we caught site of intriguing metal sculpture camels, remnants of what were cars, jeeps and dune buggies, creatively named bars, shops and innumerable gem outlets. It had a vibe.

Unfortunately browsing the local business attractions wasn’t part of our agenda for the day but we definitely filed it under Places for Future Reference. We cruised directly to an easy to find camping area for a one night stay. Well, it was basically a rough sand parking lot in March. Probably the biggest empty parking lot you will ever come across. Once parked at the BLM land we had time for a sunset beer before it got cold. Next day, in 30 degree heat, we got the bikes out and explored the area where we were camped, Plomosa Road. Two points of interest were the Alignment and Intaglio. The 100 foot alignment was built by General Patton’s army air force to point practicing pilots back to Quartzsite airstrip if magnetic interference from all the mineral rich landscape caused problems with navigation. It has the word QUARTZSITE spelled with a compass direction and distance to go. About a mile up the road from this was the Native American Intaglio or geoglyph of a fisherman with spear and fish. Historian archeologists say this geoglyph represented God sending his spear to form the Colorado River. It was very faint to see but we did manage to make out some of the shapes. Very difficult to capture with our cameras at ground level. 

We packed up and headed for Parker Dam and the River Island Arizona State Park campground. Two years ago, we stayed here for about 4 days and paddled on the Colorado. We had just two nights this time. Our friends’ winter at a big park on the California side and it is a mere 10 minute drive over the Parker dam to visit them. Fun fact – the Parker Dam is the deepest dam in the USA. We got our bikes out and attempted a ride but there are lots of steeps that have been put in the blender by all the ATVs and Razers spinning tires. My experience turned to bruises and blood, so we ended that with frustration and headed back to camp. Riverside with a cold beverage is not a terrible thing and apparently relieves some of the throbbing from a battered elbow. 

Once we left Parker Dam, we were hitting new territory for us. Our friends Luba and Bill were on the hunt in Arizona for some dispersed camping areas between Sedona and Cottonwood. Dispersed camping is free on some federal and state lands. BLM is Bureau of Land Management. Being that Sedona and Cottonwood are in the Coconino National Forest we found out that national forest land also has plenty of dispersed camping. They found a spot along the Highway 89A corridor between Sedona and Cottonwood.

We parked our trailers so that our doors faced into a makeshift courtyard, facing the red Sedona mountains and the regular appearance of colourful air balloons that launched at dawn. The area has several quaint communities, a wealth of hiking, mountain biking, vineyards, spring fed waterways along with creeks and rivers that are good for swimming. Cottonwood has plenty of affordable shopping.   Sedona is a bit like Whistler and Banff with hordes of people imbibing in the sounds of Pan Flute music from indiscernible sources, crystal healing and exploration of mysterious earth vortexes surrounding various geological viewpoints, all this while working hard at looking fancy on a mountain bike. Although tempting, we passed on the supernatural self-indulgent experiences. The scenery was jaw dropping. And the balloons were an added bonus aesthetically!!

The day after we lined up our trailers, Lori and Mike were enroute from Calgary. Along the way, people would say to them, “usually Canadians are heading home at this time”. When they arrived, they completed our little courtyard as our wagons were once again “circled” with our friends. 

We stayed 10 days making daily excursions to various sites of interest. Some of the activities included…

  • Mountain biked, with the grazing bulls, from our camp to the overlook above Cottonwood on the 3rdand 4th segments of the Lime Kiln Trail. 
  • Hiked to the Devils Bridge – Sedona 
  • Hiked the Boynton Canyon trail – Sedona
  • Visited the fascinating Tuzigoot National Historic Site – Clarkdale
  • Visited the Page Springs Vineyard for a tasting and crazy good truffle chips….too many chips… and no photo of the wine either…oops
  • Visited Jerome and the Jerome State Historic Park, a mining museum in a mansion of a late mine owner overlooking the Verde Valley.
  • Drove to Whisky Row in Prescott (pronounce Press-kit) with a crazy curvy highway canyon climb into the Prescott National Forest and Prescott Valley. No trailers!!
  • Hiked the Dead Horse trail – Sedona – fortunately no dead horses
  • Hiked and dipped in the Sycamore Canyon Wilderness (a unique desert riparian zone) – Cottonwood and Clarkdale
  • Drove up the Oak Creek Canyon towards Flagstaff and Williams to scope out our next camping area near the Grand Canyon.  The rest stop overlook on this canyon is above 4 switchbacks. We returned via highway 17 with its straight shot down a 16-mile 6% hill. The chosen route for dragging our rolling homes. 

As we continue along, Lori and Mike will be with us until they head back to Calgary, and we may continue into Coeur D’Alene. But lots to do and see before then. 

We are heading to the Grand Canyon, Santa Fe and Moab…. Stay tuned

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