Arizona (October 27th - November 10th, 2019)
Boondocking in the Shoppette parking lot in Yuma Proving Grounds was an interesting experience. I was in the Glamper writing the last blog while Ted and Azlan were doing laundry in the building across the lot. I had been in the depths of concentration when suddenly, Ted opens the Glamper door wearing a panicked expression (which is so freaking rare...I’m not sure I’ve ever seen that expression in our 17 years together)
“Is Azlan here?”
I also never thought three little words could freak me out so much! “No!” I jumped up like I was shot out of a Nerf gun and we both took off running, full speed in flip flops, to the building to see if he had reappeared. When we skidded around the corner, we saw him in the window. Thank God! Relief. Also, at that moment I truly regretted running away from home at the age of 7ish, after having pushed a girl because she wanted to play with my toy. Granted I only hid in the front yard but I will never forget my mom’s reaction after they found me. Now I know how she must have felt. The sheer terror of thinking you lost your kid. Apparently Ted had gone into the toilet in the laundry mat and Azlan decided to run around the building while he was in there...like a game (let me see how fast I can run around the building before Dad finishes peeing). Ted said he checked one way and then another and they must have missed each other when Ted ran to the Glamper. Needless to say, he won’t be doing that again after the talk we had with him (I can only hope).
The entire drive from San Diego to Yuma was very windy. The wind stayed with us through the night...and even prompted Ted to get out of bed at midnight to move the Glamper into the protective shelter of the Shoppette side wall. Fortuitously, we rolled out the next morning with an intact Glamper and Azlan safely inside. We give thanks, yet again, for another safe trip - this time into Arizona! The last new State on this part of our trip and we get to put a sticker on our map...only 17 more States to go until we can claim to have been in all 50! #travelgoals
We pulled into the Desert's Edge RV Park in the afternoon. We had a great corner spot, complete with a grill and picnic table (these tend to be at every site on nicer campgrounds. On moving days we usually just chill at our new place and explore the campground facilities, if any. However, on this day our friend came over, we met his son and girlfriend. We ate, drank and laughed at the good old Drill Sergeant stories we reminisced upon. The next morning, October 29th, we took it pretty slow, playing some games around the breakfast table. Not a very eventful day, at least not until that evening when I took a class at Bellydance with Mahin. I have been having fantastic luck getting phenomenal instructors, both in bellydance and Zumba! She broke down the movements really well, explaining the connection with the music at the same time. I will strive to give clear instructions for students to follow, no matter what I end up teaching on the dance floor. After class, I picked up Azlan and Ted from our friend's house. I had made some pork and carrots in the CrockPot that day and we polished it off nicely by the end of the night. The next morning we hiked Coach Whip, Ridgeline, and Sunrise Loop - a 2.1 mile hike looping up a little 423 foot hill. Ted, Azlan and I all had fun looking around at the cacti and desert scenery before we headed to a lunch meet up with one of Ted's buddies that was in Italy with him the first time. We met his lovely wife and had good grub at the Red Devil Italian Restaurant & Pizzeria. Red Devil was the unit motto of the unit Ted and he were in, 1/508 Airborne Battalion Combat Team. The rest of the day was quiet leading to an evening of pumpkin carving and Hocus Pocus in preparation for tomorrow's festivities.
Halloween 2019 was kicked off right with bacon and pancakes for breakfast. The morning and afternoon were easy going and before we knew it, it was trick-or-treat time! We went to our friend's house so we could all go together as a group in his neighborhood. On our way to his house, the Jeep started acting up. Ding Ding Ding, the bell started going off, the check engine light came on, and he sputtered up a little. A few days ago we noticed that there was a leak in the muffler...so this just confirmed we needed to hurry up and get it checked...but not before we hoarded loads of candy for this once-a-year special day. Azlan was a horse, I was a butterfly and Ted was a retired Sergeant America. Our mixed group included everything from a Crazy Latina to Chase from Paw Patrol. As we meandered through the neighborhood, stopping lit house to lit house, I kept telling Azlan to stay off the yard. I wanted to say 'stay off the grass' but there aren't many grass yards here in Phoenix. Being the desert, where water is expensive, only wealthy people have grass yards - and dang they look good too! Regardless, rocks or grass, I still think it's impolite to walk through a stranger's yard instead of using the walk way. Alas, we walked around for a few hours, before the kids split up their candy spoils and we called it a night. Our friend was super kind to follow us to the shop so we could drop off the Jeep for a diagnostic first thing in the morning. He drove us home after that and then dropped the key off at the shop on his way to work the next morning. Originally our plan had been to go to Sedona on Friday, howbeit, due to the unforeseen circumstances with the Jeep, we spent the morning coloring, playing board games and enjoying some quality family time. In the afternoon, we collected the Jeep (the radiator was cracked and the #3 cylinder fuel injector was stuck open) then did some grocery shopping for our party the next afternoon. On Saturday morning, I woke up early (like 7 - and I know that's actually really late to some of you), and hit the elliptical at the RV Park. This is the first place we have stayed in that actually had some workout equipment for us to use so I used it. This little sweat session was just what I needed to get me amped for the party. Around 2pm, our friends with the pizza arrived and we got to spend some time with them before additional guests arrived. We had friends coming and going throughout the afternoon and into the evening. As usual, we ate, drank and laughed a lot. It was so appreciated that people traveled from far to see us that night! Thanks Guys! With plenty of pizza & salad to spare, we cleaned up pretty quick and made it into bed well before midnight. This was a really good thing because on Sunday morning we picked up Vovo and Vovo from the airport (after we cleaned the Glamper)!!!! We devour our lunch at Pork on a Fork - a delicious BBQ place recommended to us before taking an afternoon rest. That night, our friends came over, and all together we enjoyed some mouth-watering Picanha that my parents brought from Miami. We forgot to drink the Tequila our friend's brought but will save it for their visit to us in FL next year.
November 4th, we rolled out to the Grand Canyon...driving through Sedona en-route...but not before our special breakfast that we planned for my mom and dad. Azlan and I drew and colored breakfast menu's for Daddy's Place, since Ted would be doing the cooking. The plan had included a performance by each of us but I wasn't feeling well (Fu*k you Halloween Candy! Shame on me for raiding Azlan's candy bag...between the two of us, Ted and I emptied about three fifths of a gallon Ziplock bag in one night.) and when I voiced that I wasn't feeling too hot, Azlan jumped on the opportunity and said he wasn't either so: At this time you are a GO, preceded by the combat identifier of NO, which at combat speed sounds like NO GO! No show with breakfast this time, sorry. I had already showed off my Zumba skills when they got off the plane anyway and Azlan, well, Azlan will give them many shows over the next few days ;)
The drive was beautiful, and I'm so glad we did it. The towering red rocks against the blue sky took me right back to Zion National Park. We stopped for gas and lunch in Sedona before trying to find a place to park so we could do a hike. Well, in case you didn't know, it's not easy to find a spot to park a 60' rig...parallel parking is a tiny bit difficult as well. Just ask #thedrivingartist. The hike discarded due to parking restrictions, we pressed on to the Trailer Village RV Park for check in. Once the Glamper was connected (Praise Full Hook Ups!), we got my parents checked in to the Yavapai Lodge just down the road. Dinner was at Big E Steakhouse in Tusayan, AZ, the town just outside the Grand Canyon National Park. The food was scrumptious but the best part was the company. We called it a night early since my parents are both getting over a cold and they are feeling the elevation change. Florida is flat...like, a hill is considered a mountain in that State. That elevation gain is no joke on your lungs...I distinctly remember, back in May when we entered Colorado (see Majestic Mountains blog post), when I first felt my lungs working their butts off at a 6000 ft elevation. It's rough! Ted and I spent the night in the hotel with my parents that first night in the park. The temperatures were below freezing, which means that we have to shut off the water in the Glamper and we can't operate the water pump. No running water in the Glamper overnight means flushing and brushing with gallon water jugs. It's not catastrophic but just a pain in the ass...and so is 5 people to one toilet haha.
The next morning we had an overpriced breakfast at the Lodge before checking out Mather Point - where one of the Visitor Centers is. This is the first time Ted, Azlan and I have been able to stay lodged inside a National Park. Previously we've had to drive in each day so this was pretty convenient! Mather Point was our first look into the vast Canyon, more like a minute glimpse in retrospect. It was beautiful but the best was yet to come as we drove out to Westwind Air Service for our flight. Ted jumped at the chance to sit shotgun, we got briefed and then boarded the 9 passenger plane to fly over one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World. Having seen places like Cappadocia, Badlands National Park, and Rio de Janiero from the air, and knowing just how special that real experience can be, I am SUPER EXCITED at this point!!!!!!!!!!! I am pretty sure we all are! So, up we go and WOW, just WOW. First, let's talk scale. The Canyon is freaking HUGE! Gargantuan! No wonder it can be seen from space! Flat land for miles and miles all around and in the middle of all this flat land there is an immense gap in the ground, splintering up and out from a weaving spine with thousands of arms. Second, the colors are an interesting mix. The Little Colorado River was a cool milky emerald green that day. It anchored the surrounding slopes, powerfully growing up from the bottom of the ravine. This magnificent vista was framed from above by a glorious pale blue sky - which we were flying through. I don't like to overplay things because not everyone feels the same or has the same encounters, but for me, this was an experience I will never forget and well worth the cost of the flight. It was certainly the least expensive of all the others we had done to include helicopters and hot air balloons. Considering the understanding you get of scale - just how small we are in comparison to what amounts to a crack in the Earth when viewed from space. The natural beauty you have the privilege to witness from this perspective is well worth the trip - at least in my opinion. As they say though, opinions are like a** holes, everyone has one and they all stink...hahaha (I crack myself up sometimes). So, we touched back down in Tusayan, had lunch at the Glamper and dropped off Vovo, Vovo and Azlan at the lodge for a nap. Ted loves his naps too, so I am grateful that he opted to go exploring with me instead of indulging in afternoon hibernation. We jumped in the Jeep and headed East to Desert View for another vista of the Canyon. There we came upon a tower, which appeared to be ancient but was actually designed by architect Mary Coulter in the earlier part of the 1900's. It provides great information and different framed angles of the Canyon at different levels up the stairs inside. It was from the patio that I chose to sketch. I have no idea how long I was there, maybe an hour? It was so peaceful just studying the crevices of the canyon and observing how each layer joins to the next. After some photos and browsing the store, we headed back to pick up the rest of our pack for dinner which was Taco Tuesday. I know my parents like to eat out, but I have to admit, it's really nice to be able to cook our own meals while traveling. It's so much healthier and cheaper than eating out...but eating out can have it's perks too (like no dishes to wash for example). Ted and I spent the night in the Glamper and made due with the jugs.
Wednesday morning, we picked up my parents at the hotel for a delicious Glamper breakfast followed by a trip to town for gas, compressed air (back in Colorado they had these air canisters you could get at the gas station that helped with the lack-of-air feeling you experience at altitude - no luck), and a trip to the Grand Canyon IMAX Theater. The movie was pretty good, watching the 1869 expedition through the Colorado River triggered the desire to tackle a 17 day rafting trip of our own. Maybe one day. We had an ok lunch at the El Tovar Hotel back in the Park. It took a while which means it took a while for Azlan and Vovo to fall asleep for their nap. This would prove relevant 2 hours later, after Ted and I had already walked the South Rim for about a mile or so and we came back to pick them up to see the Sunset at Mohave Point. They had just fallen asleep per my mom so we left them with a hot chocolate, and my partner in crime and I went on an adventure. We got super lucky and found a parking spot not too far from the Red Shuttle stop. By this point I had to use the bathroom (thanks tiny bladder) so we jumped off at Hopi Point where the bathrooms are located and walked an unpaved mile at the very edge of the Grand Canyon to Mohave Point where we would be able to grab the shuttle going back. The walk was spectacular! Watching the Canyon walls change as the sun sank lower and lower. The colors, shadows, shapes - all of it, just unreal. Pictures even look fake. The trail we took was literally on the edge of a cliff down into the Canyon - one miss step and boom, you be falling a long ass way down...We stayed on our game enough to savor the sunset and hop on the shuttle just in time to grab seats for our ride back to the Jeep. We collected our crew from the hotel, by now well-rested, and had a CrockPot family meal in the Glamper. My parents took the Jeep and Azlan to the hotel as Ted and I were planning on hiking in the morning. It's nice to have some time alone with Ted...you know, when the Glamper is a rockin' don't come a knockin'. A fantastic prelude to our South Kaibab Trial hike out to Ooh Aah Point and Cedar Ridge. We hiked a total of 3.1 miles with an elevation gain of 1,177 feet in about 2.5 hours. The trail down wasn't too bad, the mule poop was stinky, but the view was dazzling. We took breaks along the way and hung out for a while at the edge of Cedar Ridge. Hiking back up sucked but was totally worth it. I was actually impressed that neither of us were as wore out as we thought we would be. Feeling good, we swung by the Visitor's Center to watch the park movie. One interesting thing we learned is that it takes about a year to form a layer of floor sediment as thick as a sheet of paper. A layer of the canyon, just a few feet thick, took over 200,000 years to form. The Grand Canyon is over 6000 feet deep. Think about it. Mind Blown. We linked up with my parents and Azlan at the Glamper for lunch and this time I acquiesced to a nap. Punch chose to stay with us so we took a family nap while my parents went back to the hotel for some rest. That evening, amongst the Elk meandering here and there, we played ball with Azlan until my parents arrived and we hung out, grilled, drank and were merry. The night ended with a match of Parcheesi, reminding us to work on our patience in moving a game along with a 5 year old.
Friday, November 8th, we had a quick breakfast and got ready to roll to the Petrified Forest National Park. At the outset of the plan it had been a boondocking night...but for the comfort of all involved, we opted to find a full hook up site close to the forest instead. The Sun Valley RV Resort had a spot, actually all the spots, open so we pulled on in. It was nice to finally be level in the Glamper after a few days of sleeping tilted with my feet above my head. The boys went into Holbrook, AZ to get some essentials while my mom and I hung out. Ted and I played cards with my mom while Azlan took a nap with his Vovo. That night, my dad was in the mood for a steak so we huddled in the Jeep to find an open place for dinner. As we drove through the town, I saw why Ted called the rusty old tow truck on the corner "Mater"! This town must have inspired Radiator Springs in the movie Cars. There was even a hotel with tee pees, resembling the Cozy Cone. Butterfield Stage Co. Steak House was open (even though it didn't look like it from the outside) and we were pleasantly surprised with the tasty meal we received! Again, from my perspective, it was the company that made dinner superb. We finished the night watching part of The Star, a cute cartoon about the birth of Jesus. Saturday morning, we visited the Petrified Forest via Jeep. Fossils of trees that thrived over 200 million years ago lay scattered on the painted desert floor. Petrification is the process by which organic matter exposed to minerals over a long period is turned into a stony substance. Trees turned to stone, sums it up nicely. The topography of the park was reminiscent of a young Grand Canyon in it's very first stages of formation - only sans river. Overall it was a cool place, but not one I would go out of my way to visit. Especially after having just come from one of the most astounding places I have ever seen in my life. After a quick lunch and strapping the Jeep back on the trailer, we rolled on to Albuquerque, NM. We pulled into the High Desert RV Park just after sunset - with just enough ambient light to get hooked up and get the grill out before full dark. I think this was one of the more special evenings for me. My parents were finally feeling better and adjusting to the altitude a little, we were able to have some cocktails and chat for a few hours before finishing the movie and calling it a night. This morning we said our 'see-you-laters' and left them at the airport for their flight home. It was so wonderful to spend some time with them, even if they weren't feeling too good. We are so thankful to be able to spend time with family and friends after so many years moving around over seas. Thanks for an unforgettable week Vovo and Vovo!
So now, as I wrap this up, our epic friends have been watching Azlan for most of the day while Ted does laundry and I scour my mind for memories and words. Azlan has been playing with two boys his age all day - something I know he is craving, so it's a huge win win! Now off to dinner with our friends and the boys!
Stay tuned as we dive into a cold snap and move across the country back to FL!
Daisa, Ted and Azlan