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As we worked our way toward Alamogordo and White Sands National Monument, we stopped at another place we drove past on our first trip. The Valley of Fires Recreation Area, near Carrizzo, New Mexico, has 19 campsites on a ridge that overlooks the Malpais Lava Flow.
Approximately 5,000 years ago, Little Black Peak, a vent about 9 miles north, erupted and lava flowed 44 miles into the Tularosa Basin, filling the basin with molten rock. The resulting lava flow is four to six miles wide, 160 feet thick and covers 125 square miles. This lava flow is one of the youngest in the continental United States.
From Dead Horse Ranch State Park, it was time to start our journey east. We have reservations in Texas in March with the grandkids and we’re looking forward to it. Finding a route through Arizona, however, was a little tougher. There were no available reservations in the state parks for our duration. Well, there were a few one nighters and we could’ve switched sites back and forth, but we’re not willing to do that in the 5th wheel. It would be very doable in the motorhome. And we still wanted to explore new places and sights. So, we opted for I-40 and Route 66. There are still sections of Route 66 left but it is mostly replaced by I-40.
Leaving Sedona and heading onto I-40 east, our first stop was Meteor Crater. The meteor crater was one of many things we drove past but didn’t stop at on our first post-retirement trip. Conveniently, they had an rv park minutes from the crater, Meteor Crater RV Park. The rv park offered full hook-ups and was right off the highway which gave us a good opportunity to get loads of laundry done and check out the area.
While we were in the area around Sedona, we wanted to do something that would give us an opportunity to have vantage points different from what we could get from the roads or short trails. Oma and I enjoy scenic trains (although not a serious railfan, I do have a thing for trains in general), and the Verde Canyon Railroad was nearby. But we’ve never done a serious off-road trail, and while our truck is 4wd, a very long wheelbase, 8′ of width, dually wheels on the rear and road tires make it a lousy vehicle for any serious off-roading. So if we wanted to get places off the main roads, we were going to have to go in someone else’s vehicle.
Sedona seemed like a perfect place to have a serious off-road experience, so we decided to skip the train this time and go for something a little bumpier and hair raising. There were numerous jeep companies in Sedona. We picked Pink Jeep Tours. They are the original Sedona Jeep Tour company (they claim to be the first jeep tour company in the US), and their most popular tour, the Broken Arrow tour, is exclusive to them. We chose the three-hour combination Scenic Rim / Broken Arrow tour to maximize what we’d get to see.
Dead Horse Ranch State Park is a recreational facility with RV accommodations, camping facilities, shared-use trails, fishing lagoons, river access, and an equestrian concession. It is located adjacent to and across the Verde River from the community of Cottonwood.
We chose this location because it was the closest state park to Sedona and it had good reviews. As it turns out, it is a great destination all by itself. There are many trails to hike or bike on, and also for equestrian use. There are two beautiful fishing and/or picnicking lagoons. And there is a nearby river for fishing/ hiking use as well. It was an excellent place to walk our dog and give him lots of variety and smells. And of course, there is lots of scenery nearby as well. If you like shopping and eating, there are nearby towns like Cottonwood and Jerome that are built up and waiting for lots of tourist action.
Last summer (2017) we took a nearly month-long trip to the west coast in the truck camper. We unfortunately had to cut it short due to a family emergency. Between the family issue and other priorities, the blog post and pictures from our trip did not get completed last year. Hopefully better late than never, here is last summer’s trip.
Since our trip to Washington got foiled last summer (last summer being 2016 when Opa unexpectedly needed minor surgery), we thought we’d give it another try this July. We wanted to try out the truck camper and see if it would give us more options for easier travel, smaller campsites and mountain roads. We got the camper all packed up and ready to go on July 4th. Woohoo! We exercised our freedom to wander the US following our whims and fancies hoping to reach the Olympic Peninsula in Washington. No reservations and no real deadlines.
We left on July 4th. The weather was hot and uncomfortable but we were driving in a nice big air conditioned truck. We decided that we would want to stay someplace with electricity for the night so we could run the air conditioner in the camper. We made it to Blue Earth, Minnesota the first night where we found inexpensive camping with electricity at the county fair grounds. There were a few other campers when we pulled in. The sites were grassy and had a picnic table and electricity. There was a beautiful walking path behind our site which we enjoyed. I didn’t see if there were available bathrooms, but I was happy using our own. Great start to our trip. The next morning we were able to get off to a relaxing start and back on the road.
So we find ourselves in southern Arizona with a truck, fifth-wheel and a motorhome. Not the best plan, and not one that I really recommend. But here we are.
We briefly contemplated taking both RVs along for the remaining two months of our trip. But besides having no navigators (we’d both be driving a vehicle), figuring out how to fit a fifth-wheel, truck and motorhome on every campsite (if it was even allowed) seemed a stretch. And several places we’re going have no more campsites available so we can’t reserve a second campsite for the motorhome.
Five days isn’t enough to make definitive assessments about our truck camper replacement, but we definitely did learn and confirm some things. Some are obvious and inherent to the nature of the vehicle. Yes, Oma appreciates being able to use the bathroom without needing to find someplace to stop. And yes, you hear the motorhome and cargo creak and rattle as you drive down the road (especially if the road is bumpy). But I’ll focus on things that were more notable to us.
Besides the noises from inside the motorhome, wind noise is far louder than in the truck. On a positive note, the truck camper occasionally causes a very loud and annoying whistle on our truck. (It’s caused when there is a crosswind at just the right angle to resonate between the truck and camper.) It’s not a huge problem, as it usually doesn’t last too long nor happen that often, but it’s nice to not have that in the motorhome.
Organ Pipe National Monument had been on our list since our last visit to Arizona two years ago. (Last time, I decided to hang out in a Tucson hospital when we had planned to be in Organ Pipe, so it didn’t happen.) The original plan had been to take the fifth-wheel. However, now that we had a brand new motorhome, we needed to do a shakedown trip in it so that we could find out if there were serious issues to be resolved before we drove it to Texas and ultimately home. So we transferred a week of stuff from the fifth-wheel into the motorhome.
So there we were in Tucson, checking out various class C motorhomes on a random dealer’s lot, when we stumbled across Annabelle….
(Annabelle got her name because she is a compromise between Annie (the fifth-wheel) and Belle (the truck camper), with additional characteristics all her own. A friend suggested we name her Goldilocks as being “just right” between Annie and Belle, but Annabelle the motorhome just doesn’t have golden locks (or golden anything).)
We looked at mid-sized gas class C’s, but all manufacturers clearly focused on price over quality. And it wasn’t clear that the floorplans and sizes were an improvement on the smaller class A’s that we’d looked at. We’d looked at nice Mercedes Sprinter-based models that were under 1,000 lbs. of capacity dry (Leisure Vans, Tiffin). These were automatically out because that’s just not enough cargo capacity. But we did find a Winnebago View that we liked.
We had made a reservation at the Silverado RV Resort in Eloy to meet with our friends. We met this couple in 2015 in Eugene, Oregon while we were getting solar panels put on our new fifth-wheel Excel. They came in with hopes to do the same with their brand new Excel. It seemed that both of us had purchased two of the last Excels made by Peterson Industries before they shut their doors. And so we both drove our new Excel’s off the dealer’s lot with no factory warranty. We seem to have had a lot in common at that point. They became full time rv’ers and we’ve kept in touch sharing our adventures via social media ever since. We were able to meet up with them last year in San Antonio for lunch. This winter, they spent a lot of the winter at the Silverado RV Resort in their Excel and explored surrounding areas in a nice little car they bought. It is always fun to catch up with them and share our stories with each other.