Farewell 2021 from Tucson, AZ

Geez… I’ve haven’t posted since December 20. A lot to catch up on before the start of the new year (sorry, not happening today). Hmm — Sounds like there’s a New Year’s Resolution in the making… “Keep Skunky and Fester’s Blog Updated.”

Starting this morning, and working backwards, I will bring you up to speed since my last post (basically just a brief update on dates and locations). Trust me, I’ve started many blog entries each day; however, I’m easily distracted and there you have it. Fortunately, these unfinished blogs and photos memories will help me fill in details and adventures as time permits. Sadly, knowing me and my tendency to procrastinate, it may never happen. Fester teases me because I’m always saying “Starting on Monday….” While this usually refers to dieting or exercise, in my case, you can pretty much fill in the blanks with just about anything.

Friday, December 31: Happy New Year’s Eve! Having arrived last Thursday, December 23, we’re still at The RV Park at Pima County Fairgrounds in Tucson, Arizona. We had planned to be here by December 27th for the Tucson New Year’s Hangout event, our first Escapee’s gathering. However, we decided to arrive early so we’d have a place to call home for Christmas and an opportunity to explore Tucson (about 20 minutes away) while most folks are on holiday and downtown isn’t so busy. Based on the Escapee’s Hangout Agenda, we knew we would be busy most days once the event started, so early arrival gave us a chance to catch up on chores and do our own thing for a few days.

The fairgrounds (and Tucson) are surrounded by mountains and/or mountain ranges. Regardless of how near or far (or how large or small), these surrounding mountains create a beautiful backdrop to our daily lives, especially when it comes to sunrises and sunsets.

This morning the Escapees had planned a scenic drive up Mount Lemmon, with shopping and/or dining at the quaint little village on the way up. But, we recently learned that the event was cancelled due to rain and the chance of Icey roads because of Mt. Lemmon’s high elevation (9,000+ feet). BTW, the weather guessers are predicting 10 – 12″ of snow on Mt. Lemmon overnight. Yikes! Instead of the Mt. Lemmon trip, the group is holding an informal discussion on “Best RV Trick or Tip. This will be perfect for us newbies! It is always best to learn from others’ mistakes and/or lessons learned.

Tonight, the Escapees will gather to celebrate New Year’s Eve with a BBQ buffet, adult beverages, a DJ, karaoke and dancing. Champagne will be served at midnight as we toast in 2022. Sadly, Fester and I will probably not make it for the toast. Anyone who knows us understands that we’re the “early to bed, early to rise” kind of people. Cheers!

A quick rundown on the last 10 days or so….

Thursday, December 30: Our morning Escapee’s Event was a visit to Kartchner Caverns State Park to tour the Rotunda and Throne Caverns. I will definitely provide more details later, as this was a memorable tour. Our late afternoon/ early evening event was a Rig Tour with appetizers. It was pretty cool to see member’s homes on wheels(think Open House).

Wednesday, December 29: The Escapee’s morning event was a trip to Tombstone – OK Corral, lunch and the Queen Mine Tour in Bisbee (a quaint little town near Mexican border). Because we didn’t want to leave Sadie all day, we regrettably passed on this activity and instead enjoyed a delicious lunch at the “Legendary” El Charro Restaurant(we didn’t stay for the group on Tuesday because the wait was too long.

Tuesday, December 28: The Escapee’s morning event was the “Tucson Urban Adventure Quest” interactive team game which was a blast and gave us a chance to get to know Tucson and our team members, Connie and Marc. They are recently married (they actually got married at another Escapees event). They live in their 45-foot RV and are the 2nd RV down the row from us and we’re discovering they are a fun couple and we have a lot in common. The Escapee’s evening activity was a group game of “Guesspionage” an irreverent, interactive trivia game that is played on your smartphone. Fester and I agreed it would be a fun game to play with his brothers and their wives, and nieces and nephews the next time we’re all together… they are a pretty competitive bunch!

Monday, December 27: Today was arrival day for the Escapees RV Club. We weren’t sure we would want to get together with a group of people (30 rigs), but the Escapees are demonstrating good COVID protocols and every attendee had to present their vaccination records or negative COVID test results as you checked in. The club also provided KN94 masks for everyone and requested we where them when indoors together. That evening we met in the “Green Room” for introductions, agendas and instructions on how to play Tuesday’s Adventure Quest game.

Sunday, December 26: We explored Tucson’s downtown area as well as local neighborhoods around Tucson.

Saturday, December 25: After a yummy Christmas lunch, the three of us spent a fun day driving up Mt. Lemmon. We can see this 9,000 foot+ mountain from the fairgrounds, but it’s about an hour’s drive from Tucson. There’s a ski slope on the mountain with a cute little town with shops and restaurants. We were surprised to see some private neighborhoods on the mountain and of course we had to check them out.

Friday, December 24: We checked out the large fairgrounds and RV park, as well as the surrounding area. After shopping for groceries for our Christmas meal, we ended up taking a walk along the fairground’s fitness/exercise trail (about 1.5 miles) and botanical garden.

Thursday, December 23: Arrived at The RV Park at Pima County Fairgrounds in Tucson, Arizona. This will be our destination for the Escapee’s Tucson New Year’s Hangout which begins Monday, December 27 thru Sunday, January 2.

Wednesday, December 22 & Tuesday, December 21: Roper Lake State Park in Arizona – which brings us back to my last post from Monday, December 20.


Monday, December 20: Sadly, we didn’t get to witness the anticipated star-filled sky last night and early this morning. Last night’s full moon brightened the sky too much to see many stars. It would have been a stunning setting for star gazing amongst the boulders, but it wasn’t meant to be. After Sadie and I finished a final morning walk among the boulders, we broke camp and set out for our next destination, about a 3-4 hour drive west on I-10, leaving New Mexico driving into Arizona!

We’ve set a few milestones today: 7+ weeks/54 nights on the road; 3,110 miles; 3 time zones (Easter, Central & Mountain); 7 states (Ohio, Illinois, Missouri, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico & Arizona); and 16 RV Parks/State Parks/Campgrounds. We will be in Arizona for the remainder of December and most of January.

We arrived at Roper State Park in Safford, AZ, around 3pm and could already feel the warmer temperatures. We’re on a paved site, which is nice after our last sand/gravel site (a lot less dust). We’re right across from Roper Lake and a mountain view. There are ruddy ducks and grebes along the lake’s shores. Behind us, we have a stunning view of Mount Graham (elevation 10,724 feet). After setting up our site, we took Sadie for a walk around the campground, taking the Mariah Mesa Trail around the park. We were interested in an area across the lake that looked like a great place of Sadie to run off leash (trust me, she needed to get her “ya-ya’s” out). During the walk, we startled a covey of Gambel’s quail, which quickly scattered for the brush, but not before Sadie made a play at them.

After our walk and a quick dinner, we took a drive into the town of Safford to check out the lay of the land. It was nice to see homes decorated for Christmas and the town square and City Hall were beautifully decorated. It reminded me that we won’t be home for Christmas.

We had hoped to see a sky full of stars tonight since this campground is fairly dark. Instead, we got to enjoy a full, orange/yellow moon, rising over the lake. A peaceful way to end the evening.

City of Rocks, NM

This blog was reposted to include photos. Due to lack of WIFI and cellular, I wasn’t able to download any pictures while at City of Rocks.

Sunday, December 19 – We woke to a beautiful morning and enjoyed a leisurely breakfast while watching the sun rise. On our way to the Visitor’s Center, we stopped to chat with Brad, sleeping in a van, and his friend Bart (and his wife), traveling in their RV, from Wisconsin.  They have been coming to City of Rocks for many years and never tire of it.  They gave us some good advice on where to hike and also some tips on other parks and campgrounds to visit in Arizona and California during our winter travels.

We enjoyed a full day of exploring City of Rocks State Park.  The more we saw, the more amazed we were with the creative way the park incorporated the unique rock formations into private campsites. As we were checking out other campsites, we made mental notes of which ones we would request the next time we ventured this way (and we definitely want to return). The day was sunny with no clouds to speak of, and a cool 53 degrees and minimal wind. We climbed in an around boulders most of the day, enjoying the paths along the formations, leading from one rock cropping to the next. Sometimes it felt like we were on another planet. We would definitely return to this park, as we have only touched the surface – there are many more places to hike (and bike).  We hope to see an amazing night sky tonight, if we can stay awake long enough.

Saturday, December 18 – We had nice, scenic drive from Caballo State Park to City of Rocks State Park.  We passed several “wind farms” with wind turbines lined up in rows, like soldiers. This reminded us of hiking the PCT and passing thru Tehachapi, California where we walked under the turbines, with the “whop, whop” noise almost deafening. We also passed some “solar farms” with giant size solar panels lined up to face the sun. It is no wonder the resources are being used to harness the power of the sun – there is plenty of it. Driving through the quaint town of Hatch, we couldn’t believe the abundance of bags (some quite large) of dry red pepper chile for sale…at every store, shop and corner. We would have stopped to buy some if we weren’t in Zephyr, towing the Jeep (trying to park on the narrow streets would have been nuts).

We were awe struck as we made our way down the to the City of Rock’s Visitor’s Center, admiring the incredible rock structures which were formed of volcanic ash 30 million years ago and sculpted by wind and water into rows of monolithic blocks.  Our campsite (#14 Gemini) was awesome, set in front of two magnificent boulders with two small boulders wedged in between them and a young tree determined to thrive in the alter-like space. This is our first real “boondocking” experience, in that we are without electric, water or sewer hook-ups.  With the overcast sky, we may not be able to rely on our solar panels for electricity. This will give us a nice taste of things to come, as we plan to do a lot of boondocking in the Arizona desert to take advantage of free Bureau of Land Management (BLM) camping space. Sadly, it was cloudy and overcast today, and windy to boot.  It would have made an excellent star gazing opportunity due to the darkness, except for the clouds.

Friday, December 17 – We left the coach at 9am, headed for Geronimo Trail National Scenic Byway and didn’t return until after dark. The trail took us through Gila National Forest with curvy roads climbing up to elevations of 8,000 feet. The views of the ever-changing landscape were breathtaking. We were looking for Forest Road 150, which was an off-road route thru the forest.  When we arrived at the start of 150, Fester turned to me and said, “okay – you drive”.  Mind you, this was a gravel, sometimes dirt road with many hair-pin turns that dropped off into steep valleys.

Almost as soon as we started climbing, we saw a single roadrunner dart across the road in front of us. It turns out that the roadrunner is New Mexico’s state bird. From the driver’s seat window, I heard some “gobbles” and then we saw a flock of wild turkeys foraging along the hillside. According the the state’s wildlife management group, this was the Merriam’s turkey, which is predominantly a mountain and coniferous forest species, with the widest distribution and is the most numerous turkey subspecies in the state. We also saw, what we initially thought were three young feral hogs (boar). Upon further investigation, I discovered they were javelina, which are only distantly related to pigs and much smaller that boar. This is the most wildlife we’ve seen since we started our trip… all in a matter of hours.

The road was very narrow in spots, with many washboards that had us bouncing and skidding across the road. It was a blast at the wheel, and I could feel my confidence grow the further we drove.  Fortunately, we didn’t meet any oncoming traffic or it would have been a difficult situation because there was only room for one vehicle. This off-road adventure took us three hours and by the end, I was exhausted from concentrating so much and Fester was tired of holding on (LOL).   Thursday, December 16 was covered in the last blog.

Wednesday, December 15 – We took a ride to visit the Caballo State Park campground, which is just down the road from us.  The campground seemed smaller than ours, but there were a few RVs and campers parked at sites close to the lake.  While we liked the idea of being close to the lake, we are happy to be at our campground because there are more places to walk and/or ride our bikes.  As we were leaving that campground, we slowed down for a cat that ran across the road.  Fester called out to the woman walking down the road, asking if it were her cat.  With a big grin on her face, she replied “she sure is, my cat likes to bring me her treasures (mice)”.  The woman, named Susan, is the first real “nomad” we’ve met so far. In her mid-70’s, her face aged by years in the sun, Susan wasn’t wearing her dentures, but that didn’t stop her from giving us an endearing, toothless smile as she told us about herself.  She’s originally from the area and now lives in her camper van with her cat, travelling among local state parks.  She’s indeed a happy camper and very proud that she purchased an annual state park membership, so even if she doesn’t overnight at a campground (costs $), she still has access to all the facilities at these parks, including restrooms, and showers.  Susan was happy to give us advise on campgrounds and sites in the area that we should look into.  Her advice led us to make reservations at the nearby City of Rocks State Park campground, which is known for its incredible volcanic rock formations and sculptured rock columns. Susan even threw in some trivia.  She told us the origins of the name of the nearby town, “Truth or Consequences” which was originally named Hot Spring.  The change of name is credited to Ralph Edwards who hosted a radio quiz program on NBC Radio named “Truth or Consequences.” In March 1950, Ralph promised to air this show from a town that would change its name to match the name of the program.  There you have it.  

New Mexico!

It’s been eight days since my last blog on December 8th from Pecan Valley RV Park, Junction, TX. We can’t believe how much we’ve packed into the last eight days; it’s no wonder I’ve fallen behind on the blog. There’s a lot of catching up to do, so here’s a quick update starting with our current location. I plan to expand on the below destinations, if time permits.

Tuesday, December 14 – Rio Grande Riverside Campground at Caballo Lake State Park, Caballo, New Mexico (4 nights); departing Saturday, December 18; Sunday, December 12 – Hacienda RV Resort, Las Cruces, NM (2 nights). Historic Old Mesilla Village and Las Cruces; Saturday, December 11 – Tumble In RV Park, Marfa, TX (1 nights):  Marfa Lights & Sites; Wednesday, December 8 – RoadRunner Travelers RV Park, Terlingua, TX (3 nights):  Visited both Big Bend National and Big Bend State Parks: Tuesday, December 7 – Lost Alaskan RV Park in Alpine, TX (1 night): On our way to Big Bend National and State Parks.

Present Day: Thursday, December 16 – Rio Grande Riverview Campground: This will be our third night at this campground, and we’re really enjoying ourselves. It’s nice to be out of the city and back to nature again.  We have a nice view of the Rio Grande from our picnic table and can walk a short distance to the riverbank.  While we have a stunning mountain view from our dining area, Zephyr is facing the wrong direction, so we have a boring view from the front windows… except at night and early morning – the night sky is breathtaking.

Right now, I’m sitting at the picnic table watching Fester fly his drone. I’m impressed with his skills, as it’s pretty windy today and I’m surprised he decided to fly.  Sadie’s laying on the patio, soaking up the sun and I’m working on the blog in-between distractions.  I’m cooking a batch of Instant Pot baked beans on the picnic table where I’m working, and they smell delicious.  Once I release the steam/pressure, I can focus on other things…like the blog. We try to do as much cooking as possible outdoors, to avoid lingering aromas in the coach.  And who’s complaining?  Except for the wind, it is an absolutely gorgeous day, in the low 60’s.  I think every day has been clear and sunny since we left Livingston, TX.

One of the most enjoyable aspects of our trip has been the people we’ve met along the way, especially the memorable characters who validate this way of life.  We were soon to meet another gem.  After setting up camp, we took Sadie for a walk around the park, with the specific intention of figuring out what was making all the noise at the far end of the park.  We could hear a guttural, gurgling noise, that sounded like birds, but maybe the wind? While standing near the road, up rolls a guy on an electric motorcycle. As he drove by, he yelled vroom, vroom (since the bike made no noise).  Ha! Once he caught our attention (which it certainly did), he introduced himself as Bill and explained he’s in the RV next to us.  Bill’s been here a few days and camped here on previous occasions, so he was familiar with the birds, which turn out to be Sand Cranes on their yearly migration. They are not merely a flock, but hundreds of birds, feeding on a recently plowed cornfield.  I had recently read an article about them, so I was familiar, but this was a wonderful surprise and I couldn’t wait to tell my brother, Steve, who is an avid birder.   

After viewing the cornfield, I did a bit of research and learned that sandhill cranes are among the oldest bird species on Earth.  Typically gray, sandhill cranes have heavy bodies and long necks and legs and can weigh up to 16 pounds.  The greater sandhill crane stands up to 3.9 feet with a wing span of 6.6 feet. Apparently the birds are wintering nearby and make daily commutes to this park, where they spend the night.

I digress… back to Bill. After filling us in on the sandhill cranes, Fester and Bill start chatting about Bill’s electric motorcycle, which is manufactured by Zero. After learning that both Fester and I have our own bikes, Bill insisted that Fester take the bike for a spin around the campground (which he did and he loved).  When he returned, Bill insisted that I go next.  After a bit of hesitation (I’ve never ridden a motorcycle without a clutch), I climbed aboard and took the bike for ride down the road.  Although I was a little nervous, being on someone’s bike, it was a blast.  I was gone so long that the guys started down the road looking for me.  Tell me, who lets complete strangers ride their new, expensive, electric motorcycle?  Bill just enjoys spending time with people and sharing stories and information about the places he’s been. It turns out that Bill plans to return to this campground in January to spend the winter months. 

Geez… I’ve been rambling on and on. While I still have so much to write, I have to sign off for now. Tomorrow morning is a road trip to Geronimo Trail National Scenic Byway.  According to the brochure, it passes through many scenic locales and offers sweeping panoramas.  We’ll visit the Gila National Forest with 3 million acres of wild nature and drive through several “living” ghost towns.  Fester is excited because there are some opportunities to take the Jeep off road (of course we just washed off the sand and dirt from our Big Bend adventures).

At the farm

I forgot to mention that while in Austin, we shopped at Whole Foods Market’s Flagship store – the original store founded in 1980. We also browsed a local outdoor market in the city and were delighted to see all the fresh produce grown in Austin and harvested in December. The tender lettuce was amazing! It makes us miss the folks at Willoughby’s Outdoor Market. I should point out that the entire time we were in Austin, the temperatures were in the mid to high 70’s… I think we were in shorts every day. Nice! –

We left Austin yesterday morning (Monday). As we drove toward our next campground in Junction, Texas, we lost track of the number of wineries along Route 290. We had explored this hilly region west of Austin 10 years ago and were amazed at how many new wineries and distilleries there are.

Our ultimate destination is Big Bend National Park on Wednesday. Tonight we’re staying at a Pecan Farm, complete with chickens and goats. Our hosts greeted us with a sample of candied pecans. The chickens are free range and everywhere. Sadie was afraid of then at first, but is now a farm dog (sort of). Sadie did not like the rooster’s crow. After checking out the farm, which includes goats, we enjoyed a relaxing walk down to the river.

The farm is decorated for Christmas, complete with lights and whimsical displays. After Austin, this was a nice reprieve and a chance to chill (and catch up on my blog). When we took Sadie out for her evening walk, imagine our surprise when we stepped out and saw a herd of about 8 deer almost at our door. They scattered a bit when they saw us, but basically went about grazing (or whatever deer do in the dark). The temperature had already fallen to 47 degrees and is expected to hit a low of 33 tonight – yikes!

We were thrilled to see so many stars in the the dark, dark sky (we are out in the middle of nowhere). We know this is just a taste of what we’ll experience in the Arizona desert. When we backpacked the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) in 2006, we hiked through a lot of California high deserts and one of our best experiences was “cowboy camping” where we slept in our sleeping bags under the stars – no tent. What a wonderful way to fall asleep, watching the stars, comets and satellites.

We arrived in Alpine Tuesday afternoon, early enough to visit most of the Big Bend Museum located at the Sul Ross State University campus. Unfortunately, they close at 4pm, so we missed an entire floor of exhibits. After dinner, at the recommendation of our camp hosts, we took Sadie for a ride with the goal of ice cream from Scoops Creamery. We weren’t disappointed and enjoyed our three scoop indulgence (yes – this is considered a “medium” serving – watch out crazy calories), while sitting in the small park-like area. BTW, I did take two of my scoops home. Although not as dark as last night (due to city lights), I enjoyed star gazing during Sadie’s evening walk. The town is under a burn watch, so no campfires tonight. While trying to fall asleep last night, I heard an owl calling out “hooty hoot, hoot who,” another wonderful memory of our times on the AT and PCT. I’m loving this adventure!

Good Wednesday morning! Fester went back to bed after our coffee chat, and after yoga, I started on the blog. It was still dark and I heard last night’s owl again… a pleasant way to start the day. We’re heading to a campground in Terlingua, a “ghost town” located near the western entrance to Big Bend National Park. We’re looking forward to exploring Terlingua and spending the next three days at Big Bend National and State Parks.

Adios Austin

Austin was a blast. I honestly can’t recall what we did to fill up our days, but they seemed to fly by. As mentioned in my last blog, the Pecan Grove RV Park was in a great, walkable area of South Austin – we were just steps away from restaurants, parks and walking paths. Our first morning we slept in and had a lazy start. As we were taking Sadie for a morning walk, we met a friendly, interesting couple from Michigan who have lived at the park for 11-years. Both he and his wife work from home – mostly in the back of their trailer (weather permitting). The RV park has quite a few long-time residents who have formed an eclectic community that was fun to enjoy during our stay. With no real destination in mind, we walked down Barton Springs Road and found the Biscuits and Groovy food truck that our waiter told us about the night before. Fester ordered the “Aretha” which included buttermilk biscuits, gravy, sausage, bacon, Colby cheese, pepper, chives and jalapenos. I enjoyed a biscuit with their homemade bourbon peach jam, and ended up helping Fester finish his meal because there was so much food. Fester bought a jar of their carrot cake jam. I have a feeling we’re going to eat our way thru Austin.

Right next door to Biscuits and Groovy is the Great Outdogs Store, which was like an REI for pets. We enjoyed walking around the store, looking at all the stuff you could spend money on. We had been talking about getting Sadie some boots for the desert – to protect her feet from the hot sand, as well as burs and cactus. She’s slowly getting used to boots on her front feet – but seems a bit embarrassed by the whole ordeal.

From behind our campground, we have access to the Ann and Roy Butler Hike-and-Bike trail, via a park and dog park (Austin loves their dogs). This 10-mile, all purpose trail runs along Lady Bird Lake and circles Austin. Even in December there are a number of people on the lake kayaking or paddle boarding. The trail is well used and a lot of fun seeing people out enjoying life. While we never walked the entire 10-miles, we have gotten on and off the trail at various locations throughout Austin.

We enjoyed watching early morning lap swimmers at Barton Springs Pool , part of the 358 acres that are Zilker Park. The pool is amazing and measures about three acres in size and is fed from underground springs. With the average temperature of 68-70 degrees, brave souls can swim all year round.

Austin is known for its music and sadly, we never took the opportunity to enjoy a live performance (probably because we go to bed before the action starts). We have parked and walked throughout downtown Austin, admiring street art and contemporary architecture (buildings are going up all over the place). We enjoyed the funky shops on Rainey Street and the action on Congress Street, and we admired the homes on the Bremond Block Historic District, which is a collection of eleven historic homes in downtown Austin, constructed from the 1850s to 1910. We enjoyed our Austin visit and may come back this way this winter.


Before leaving Livingston, Fester installed a new back-up camera on the back of the RV, which will come in handy when he has to back into a site. It’s also useful to keep an eye on the Jeep and bikes when we’re on the road. We left Livingston around 10 this morning, after we had Zephyr weighed at the campground’s official weigh station. Fester had to prepare documentation about our coach, tires, etc., and watch a few videos on the process and how important it is to know the proper weight of the RV. According to the requirements, we had to make sure our fuel and fresh-water tanks were both full for the weigh in. Knowing our coach’s true weight will provide us with useful information, especially around safe tire inflation and what loads are on each axel, so we can make adjustments if necessary. For example, we learned our rear axels are carrying a bit too much weight, so we need to address this in the near future.

We arrived in Austin after an approximate 4-hour uneventful drive (the best kind). Location, location, location…. We found it at the Pecan Grove RV Park, one of the few remaining urban campgrounds in the country. This funky, little tree-lined RV community is located in a very walkable area in South Austin, a block from the river and two blocks from Barton Springs. About 10 years ago we visited my brother Scott and his wife, Lisa, when they lived in Austin. We really enjoyed the city and green spaces, and we were excited that we were able to reserve five nights at Pecan Grove. For anyone familiar with Austin, we’re about 1.5 miles from the Capital Building and we can walk downtown and to South Congress Street in 1o minutes, Cool!

We were forewarned that Pecan Grove is almost next door to Juliet’s Italian Kitchen. As we were setting up camp, we could smell garlic and decided that would be our first destination. So, without further ado, we took Sadie with us and walked to Juliet’s where we had a memorable Italian meal on Juliet’s patio. After feasting, we walked down Barton Spring Road and found several other restaurants and bars nearby. We found a really great park that runs along the river/spring. I’ll look up the name tomorrow. I should mention it was 79 degrees and sunny when we sat down to eat – Now this is why we’re glad to be snowbirds!