On the Coast in So Cal

We moved the Tincan over to South Carlsbad State Beach Campground just north of San Diego. We are perched on a bluff above the beach.

On the inside looking out.

Access to the beach is by way of an impressive set of stairs.

Low tide has been arriving in the early evening and has made walking the beach difficult but not impossible.

Our search for walkable sand beaches lead us to Oceanside, just up the coast highway.

The fishing pier gives you a great perch for watching the surfers.

The pier also lets you get an up close view of the locals.

Western Gull

Snowy Egret

We also made our way to the Leo Carrillo Ranch Historic Park in Carlsbad. Those of you of a certain age will remember that Leo Carrillo was the actor who played Pancho in the 1950’s TV series “The Cisco Kid”.

Leo started restoring this 1868 homestead in 1937.

Bird of Paradise in bloom

And other birds as well

Find the Hummingbird

It’s not always sunny in Southern California. It can be grey and wet in January.

Where is everyone?

This sunset started nicely but progressed quickly to the sublime.

California Here We Come!

We left the Phoenix area and went south to Tucson for a brief New Years stay before heading further West. Our time in Tucson was limited but we did manage a chilly New Years Day hike.

Yes, that IS snow in the Catalina Mountains. In fact, the day we left there was snow in the air. Mind you, not Buffalo snow but snow none the less.

Lake Havasu City on the California border was our next stop.

Lake Havasu City is home to London Bridge. The bridge was built in the 1830’s and once spanned the Thames River in London. The bridge was purchased and reconstructed in Arizona in 1972. It now spans a canal to an island in the Colorado River.

Our “backyard ” offered a great vantage point for watching the sun set on the California side.

The plan was to head over to Joshua Tree National Park. The Trump Tantrum put an end to those plans. (We’ve learned the importance of flexibility when traveling). Instead of staying in Joshua Tree we found a spot at a private RV park in Desert Hot Springs, CA.

The appeal here are the mineral hot spring pools of varying temperature as well as its proximity to Palm Springs and a couple of date farms.

Our favorite farm is the Sam Cobb Farm. They do an internet business if you are interested. Dates must be pollinated by hand and as they ripen are “bagged” on the Palm to keep birds and insects at bay. No pesticides are used here.


Our son alerted us to the Palm Springs Film Festival which was taking place while we were in the area. We saw “Blue Note: Beyond the Notes” by Sophie Huber, it’s a terrific documentary and comes highly recommended.

A macchiato, Palm Springs style

There’s plenty to see as you wander Palm Springs.

While Palm Springs is a picturesque city to wander around, the desert in this area is starkly beautiful. Mostly barren hills are punctuated by oasis of native California palms. One afternoon we took a walk through the Coachella Valley Preserve-Thousand Palms Oasis situated along the San Andres Fault.

The Louisiana Red Crawfish, introduced in the 1950’s is wrecking havoc on the oasis’s biodiversity.

It turns out that two of Shelly’s high school friends live in Desert Hot Springs. We met up for pizza and had a great time catching up with Jim and Suzy.

One last desert sunrise and then on to the Pacific Ocean.

Phoenix- The Usery Mountain Edition

The state and regional parks in Arizona limit your stays to 14 days. Fortunately, Phoenix has a number of outstanding parks. We hooked up the Tincan and moved over to Usery Mountain Regional Park.

The park offers 29 miles of biking and hiking trails. Most are easy to navigate.

We continue to enjoy our prickly environment.

Hedgehog Cactus

Buckhorn Cholla

Saguaro Cactus

Chain Fruit Cholla

A group of Compass Barrel Cactus

There are a number of excellent art galleries in Phoenix. The Heard Museum specializes in showcasing the arts and cultures of the Native people of the Americas. The exhibit that caught our eye was “Yua: Henri Matisse and the Inner Arctic Spirit”. The exhibit featured works by Matisse and the Native Alaskan masks that inspired him. The show included works never exhibited in the US.

The museum’s has a wonderful sculpture garden and a collection of Kachina Dolls once owned by Barry Goldwater.

We abandoned the Tincan in Phoenix for a few days to visit family in Chicago.

Our granddaughter

Shelly’s sister and her husband also live in Chicago and were kind enough to have us stay with them. They live downtown in a high rise with a view.

Back in Phoenix we had the pleasure of meeting up with two couples, full time RVers, who we follow through their wonderful blogs. Amanda and Tim of Watson Wanders http://watsonwanders.com/ and Laurel and Eric of Raven and Chickadee https://ravenandchickadee.com/

Both of these blogs are excellent and over our years of travel we have gotten a wealth of information from them.

Back at camp we enjoyed one last hike and more of those Phoenix sunsets.

Next up Southern California.

Phoenix-The Superstition Edition

We left Tucson and headed north to Lost Dutchmen State Park in the Superstition Mountains.

Our Backyard

Driving to Phoenix on Rt 79 we came upon this Monument to the celluloid cowboy Tom Mix.

Tom met his demise on this spot in 1940 while speeding down the road in his V8 convertible. He came upon a repair crew working on a bridge, slammed on his brakes and was killed by his aluminum suitcase that flew from the back seat and broke his neck. The “suitcase of death” is on display in the Tom Mix Museum.

Our arrival in Phoenix coincided with the Tempe Arts Festival. The last time we came through Phoenix we went to it and found a great rug so we jumped at the chance to return. Plus– It’s easy to get there via the the Valley Metro Rail.

The event reminds us of the Elmwood Festival in Buffalo. Lots of interesting venders and street performers.

We made a couple of purchases in support of local artisans.

Shelly’s mesquite spoon

Pat’s glass earrings

The park is on the east side of Phoenix in Apache Junction. The whole area offers a number of hikes into the mountains as well as a 4 mile mountain bike trail that traverses the base of the mountains.

The 2.2 mile(one way) hike up to Siphon Draw is a strenuous hike offering great views of the east valley of Phoenix.

The Draw

The Flatiron

A few bike trail views

We are avid Jazz fans and always on the lookout for shows to attend. The Nash, in downtown Phoenix, is one of the nicest venues we’ve seen. It just happened that there was a performance by the Geoff Keezer Trio during our stay.

We arrived early

Geoff at work

Part of the fun of travel is meeting people. During our stay at Lost Dutchmen we met a couple from Germany. They are both artists who just retired from their day jobs and are exploring the Southwest.

Mirka and Mark

The sunsets have all been spectacular.

Exploring Tucson and Beyond

We haven’t spent all our time in Tucson holed up at Catalina State Park. There are restaurants, breweries, galleries and plenty of window shopping.

The Hotel Congress was built in 1919 and is one of the oldest buildings in downtown Tucson. In January, 1934 a fire started and the guests evacuated the hotel. One of the guests was John Dillinger who was laying low with his gang after a series of bank robberies. During the evacuation he was recognized and subsequently captured without a shot fired. The hotel celebrates his capture every January with “Dillinger Days”.

Some of the many murals that dot the downtown area.

No trip to Tucson is complete without a visit to one of our favorite Mexican restaurant, the mole is outstanding.

Just outside the park is access to a 131 mile bike trail. The trail loops around the city and is popular with walkers as well as cyclists. We used the trail to access the Oro Valley Farmers Market.

We also found the time to visit a couple of gardens. The Yume Japanese gardens is located off a busy thoroughfare and offers a quiet oasis. The day we visited they where having their Fall Ikebana Floral Festival.

Some of the many arrangements on display.

Last year while traveling in Florida we met fellow Airstreamers, Sandy and Bill. We’ve kept in touch through our blogs and realized our stay in Tucson would overlap.

You can check out their blog at:


We meet up for a visit to the Arizona-Sonoran Desert Museum. We were camping north of the museum and traveled south by way of scenic Gates Pass.

We have visited the Desert Museum in the past and have always been impressed by their unusual cacti displays.

The museum has expanded since our last visit and is definitely worth a visit if your in the area. Don’t forget to get there by way of Gates Pass.

Biosphere 2 is located about twenty miles north of Catalina State Park. We’ve seen the sign for years but have never made it there. The glass enclosed facility is 3.14 acres and recreates ocean, rainforest and desert biomes under the glass structures.

The facility opened in 1986 to research and develop self-sustaining space colonization technology. The facility was a closed system between 1991 and 1994 but insurmountable technical problems forced a reassessment of these grand goals. The University of Arizona took over management of the Biosphere in 2011 and uses it as a earth science research facility.

The “Lung”

Back at camp Bill and Shelly decided to hike to the Romero Pools while Sandy and Pat lounged back at the Tincan.

It’s a strenuous hike up to the pools.

There was even a decent amount of water in the pools.

Morning Light

Our two weeks in Tucson flew by. All too soon it was time to head north to Phoenix.

In the Shadow of the Catalinas

Catalina State Park in the Oro Valley just north of Tucson is one of our favorite layovers. We booked the two weeks around Thanksgiving almost a year ago-and good we did as the park is filled with celebratory families. We are surrounded by beautiful Sonoran desert landscape.

The bike paths throughout the park make it easy to get to trail heads.

The Sonoran is our favorite desert in the Southwest. It is surprisingly green with a variety of flora. This is the only desert where you will find the iconic saguaro cactus.

Saguaro Cactus Skeleton

It can be really green; even without recent rain this grass thrives under the trees along the wash.

We missed peak wildflowers but a few were still hanging on.

Love this morning light on the grasses. This desert has such a variety of foliage- cactus, mesquite, palo verde and all kinds of grasses.

Waking every morning and knowing this landscape is just outside our door is our happy place.

Sky Island Hopping

We left T or C and continued our journey West to Arizona. As you enter the Sulfur Spring Valley near Willcox AZ you find yourself in a vast grassland sea. Within this sea an isolated mountain range rises up, a sky island. These are the Chiricahua’s.

The Chiricahua Apache called these pinnacles “standing up rocks”. The Chiricahua National Monument was established in 1924 and protects these formations.

Twenty seven million years ago Turkey Creek Volcano erupted and spewed hot ash over this area of Arizona. The ash melted together forming layers of grey rock called rhyolite. Cooling and uplift created joints and cracks. Over time weathering and erosion did the rest. Wandering the endless variety of rock formations makes for a great hiking experience.

Continuing west, we set up camp in the foothills of the Whetstone Mts just south of Benson AZ.

Our destination was Karchner Cavern State Park. The park is home to a cave that was discovered in 1974. A great deal of conservation went into maintaining the cave’s pristine condition. The cave remains a living organism. No cameras or phones were allowed in the cave so no photos to entice you –but plan to visit this gem if you are anywhere near.

The San Pedro Valley

The Whetstone Mts. (a “sky island”)

The way up

We made it!

Just north of Sonita, AZ lies the vast Las Cienegas National Conservation Area. Located within is the historic Empire Ranch. The Ranch began its life in 1871 and continued as a privately run cattle ranch until 1988 when the US Bureau of Land Management acquired it. The government leases the land and it continues to be a active cattle ranch.

Hiking, biking, camping, hunting and ATV use is permitted.

Giant Sacaton grass once dominated the flood plains of the Southwest. Today the Cienegas Watershed is home to the region’s largest remaining sacaton stands.

On to Tucson!