We rolled out of Ajo, Arizona on a high note. After the tremendous company we’d been lucky enough to have, we got back to real life and spent an afternoon in town getting our pre-departure chores done – laundry, propane, gas, and water. We soaked up some wifi at the public library to catch up with the world, update the blog, and install some laptop updates. While I finished that, Kris stopped in at the art gallery to retrieve his art from the show. Just as I paused to think that he’d been gone longer than I expected, he walked in with bright eyes and a big grin. One of his pieces was sold! The day after the opening, someone with very good taste snapped up his painting of cactus done on metal reclaimed from the desert. In fact, as of the day we left town, his was the only painting sold from the show! Completely awesome. (And no one we know bought it – none of our friends were around at that point!)
We’d been boondocking at our second Ajo camp location for 17 days and had pushed our tanks to the limits (36 fresh/38 gray/38 black). In fact, we tied our previous record for longest time without emptying them. Although we had a few gallons of water left in the fresh tank (we’d been using the refillable jug for drinking water, giving us more leeway), it was time to go. So we packed up, gave one of the local RV dump stations our business, and headed east.
Since this fall, we’ve settled on planning for about three hours of driving time each day when we map out our route. Add on time beforehand to break camp, hitch up, and batten down the hatches, and time after to park, get level and unpack everything that had been secured for travel, and it adds up to a long enough day. Everything takes a bit longer when you’re pulling a trailer anyway, and we always want to arrive before dark. (If you have to back up a trailer in the dark out in the boonies, you may as well just close your eyes and hope. Or so it seemed when I’ve tried to use a flashlight and direct Kris.). We can’t always stick to three hours, and some days have been much longer, but it’s been a good planning guide for us.
Three hours from Ajo put us on a little slice of BLM land just outside of Tucson and known for RV boondocking. It wasn’t much compared to the spectacular scenery we’d just left, but it was perfectly fine for a stopover in civilization. There was a big rocky hill to climb, rabbits for Juniper to hope for, and enough space that we didn’t feel crowded by the other RVers (some of whom turned out to be quite nice!). We took advantage of the location to find a place for the month’s worth of recycling we were carrying around. Recycling on our trip has been surprisingly difficult in many areas (except Oregon!) and it was a relief to unload our stash. Other errands led to many hours in the truck in stop and go traffic, which was exhausting – we are clearly spoiled by life out in the boonies.
We did make time for one or two fun stops amid all the traffic lights. The best was to see Mission San Xavier del Bac, an historic church built by Spanish missionaries and still used today. Construction began in 1783 and it took about 15 years to create the grand structure. The inside is a riot of color and carving — there is so much to see it’s hard to know where to look. I especially liked the carved metal door handles shaped liked serpents and the beautiful domed ceilings.
The plaza in front of the mission has some Native American crafts and food vendors. The very high winds that day made it feel about 35 degrees and hard to be outside for long, but we investigated along with Juniper. We broke our “rule” of not eating out, and split a feast of Indian taco for lunch – basically a piece of fried bread dough (made as you watch) topped with lettuce, tomato, beans, cheese and chili. Yum. We were fortified enough to get our grocery shopping done and make the drive back to camp.
We also managed a quick stop at Saguaro National Park, and added a new stamp to our fabulous National Parks book. We didn’t stay long enough to truly appreciate all the park has to offer, but we did learn more about how the huge variety of birds, rodents, snakes, rabbits, bats and more that thrive in the harsh environment. Apparently, roadrunners will tease snakes into striking multiple times, with the wily roadrunner escaping each strike, until the snake is tired and easy pickings for the bird’s dinner. And I sincerely hope we never, ever, ever stumble into one of the caves that large groups of rattlesnakes hibernate in during the winter. Yikes.