Generation Z. Cruising in an RV.: Exploring the Southwest, Part 2

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Exploring the Southwest, Part 2

We were supposed to proceed to Nogales in Arizona for our Mexican extravaganza (and a scheduled family reunion in Mazatlan) but we decided to first visit the only living sibling of my late mother in San Diego. On the way we found GEMS: a desert recreational area in Ocotillo Wells, the apple town of Julian, and Ramona Canyon RV Resort in California and the Casa Grande Ruins, the Saguaro National Park, and Tombstone in Arizona on the way back east.  Then we decided to join Thousand Trails. 
 First we chanced upon a huge ATV rally with ‘toys for the big boys’ jam packed in a desert made colorful by the event. The Ocotillo Wells State Vehicular Recreation Area is more than 80,000 acres of magnificent desert open for off-highway exploration and recreation.  The northwestern boundary connects with the half-million acre Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, open to highway-legal vehicles. Asking Bill if this is one thing he would like to do, he said, ‘No, that’s not my sort of thing.’
Then we happily stumbled upon Julian, an unincorporated community east of San Diego, population: 1,621. Although Julian's picturesque setting attracts tourists, recreationalists and antique lovers, the town is most famous for its apple crop. The variety grown locally is considered less sweet than most traditional types, but pies and cider made from the fruit have garnered great popularity for nearly 100 years. And we were there at the heart of the Apple Festival! So, we lined up for some great apple pie!
Local shops can keep you for hours (my fave sweater I got there for only $8!). But what we cannot forget is the Old Julian Cemetery where we found the only parking space left.  As we were about to leave, Bill accidentally hooked the rear bumper onto the arch post at the gate.  But along came Daniel Lewis, secretary for the cemetery’s association. He literally and single-handedly extricated Star (and us) from the dilemma.  His book, Last Known Address, about the cemetery’s history, is now a prized possession.
At nightfall we arrived at the Ramona Canyon RV Resort.  And In the chilly October night, we treated ourselves to an outdoor steaming spa.  The next morning, after a horseshoe battle fought and won by Bill, we went to the karaoke event at the Clubhouse and, of course, I poured my heart out in several songs! The next day, as we were about to leave, several of us got together for a farewell potluck and our hook into the RV cruising lifestyle was forever sealed!
We never did go around San Diego. We visited Tia Juana, the only living sibling of my mother, almost 90, her devoted son Polly, Ate Tesing, her daughter, and Kuya Ute, her husband. It is always nice to visit family but we had to go to Menifee where we were to sign up for a 3-year Thousand Trails membership. It was like graduating from the daily search for the best deal in campgrounds.  Now we can plan better ahead, have more choices, and be finally at Phase 2 of the RV Cruising Lifestyle! 
Back to the journey to Nogales, our first stop was Casa Grande Ruins in Coolidge, Arizona. The national monument was constructed by the ancient people of the Hohokam period, who farmed the Gila Valley in the early 13th century. "Casa Grande" is Spanish for "big house" referring to the remains of a four story structure that has managed to survive the extreme weather conditions for about seven centuries. It now has a distinctive modern, thereby controversial, roof covering built in 1932 for protection.
On the way to our campground in St. David, Arizona, we drove through the Saguaro National Park. The two sections of the park conserve fine tracts of the Sonoran Desert where the saguaro cactus thrives.  The St. David RV Resort is beautiful with its own lake and pool and there was a crafts sale and other activities.  But what we liked the most was the short trip to Tombstone, a former silver-mining boomtown most remembered for being the site of the Gunfight at the O.K. Corral.
The most famous graveyard of the Old West is Boot Hill where various victims of violence and disease in Tombstone's early years, including those from the O.K. Corral gunfight were buried. Saloon ladies on Allen Street in which the gunfight occurred in 1881 is also preserved. Bill found his sexy lady (with my permission!). However, since much of this street fight occurred in Tombstone's Fremont Street, daily reenactments are also viewable! So I also found my Wyatt Earp!
According to Guinness, the world's largest rosebush was planted in Tombstone in 1885 and still flourishes today. This Lady Banksia rose now covers 8,000 sq ft of the roof on an inn, and has a 12 ft circumference trunk. Unfortunately, the rose bush was not in bloom when we were there. No wonder Tombstone receives approximately 450,000 tourist visitors each year and is a National Heritage Site.  Gems abound wherever we go but our 2009 Thanksgiving Holiday beckons!
 So off we headed for Nogales, what we believe is the better point of entry to sunny Mexico!