Our Trip Through Arizona and New Mexico in an RV

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Quartzsite was an interesting place, and definitely a fun way to kick off our travels through Arizona and then New Mexico. If you’ve watched the video tours of the motorhomes we visited and thought, “That’s so small! I could never live in that!” let me give you some perspective…

 

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If you thought those motorhomes were small, meet the teardrop trailer. This one is probably handmade, and looks reasonably well put together. It is also probably at most 40 square feet of living space.

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And if you think that is minimalist, look at these guys! Their trailers are big enough to hold a small waterproof bag. They are traveling, also called touring, on their bikes. People who travel this way typically sleep in a tent or sleeping bag, and sometimes get motel rooms.

Compared to these guys on tour our RV is huge. It’s huge compared to that teardrop trailer too! You could probably tow that trailer with a Prius.

Arizona

After we left Quartzsite we headed down to Yuma for the night. We could have stayed along I-10, but that would have drive through Phoenix. We lived in that area for several years, and happen to know the traffic is terrible. So we opted to cut south and take Highway 8 for a while.



 

Yuma, Arizona

Along the east side of Highway 95 we saw what looked like a large white blimp in the distance. I took a quick picture. There was really nowhere to pull over,  so I took it while we were moving (as many of my shots are) and I had to take it through the screen window on Ryan’s side of the RV. If you want to see better shots, definitely Google it.

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It was close to sunset. Doesn’t the sun look nice on the mountains?

It turns out this was at the Yuma Proving Ground. The blimp is 208 feet long and is now under control of the Department of Homeland Security. It used to belong to the Air Force.

The blimp is part of the border patrol system and is a TARS, or Tethered Aerostat Radar System. One of its functions is to help catch low-flying drug-smuggling planes.

After spending the night in Yuma, we made our way to Tucson over a few days. Nothing much exciting happened. It was cold and rainy, and I was working. Also, we were familiar with the area from when we lived there before.

However, if you are traveling along Highway 8 in Arizona there are a few places I can recommend.

Dateland, Arizona

There isn’t much here, at least not along the highway. We parked in an empty parking lot. There is an RV park (and you check in at the gas station??). But the gift shop is worth a stop to stretch your legs. They sell dates (of course) and have a small restaurant that sells some food including date shakes. There are the normal travel center/gas station items, but also some cute books, flip-flops covered in fake grass, postcards, etc.

We spent the day parked across from this gas station while I worked. Nobody complained and several other RVs and big rigs came through as well. When I finished for the day we moved on to the next spot.

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Our parking spot in Dateland next to a vacant building. That’s Ryan at the back of the rig.

Gila Bend, Arizona

Gila Bend is definitely bigger than Dateland, but still quite small. One thing you can visit is the Space Age Lodge, which includes a restaurant and gift shop. The building out front has a spaceship on top of it. We did not visit, as it was raining and when we arrived (plus we’d seen it before).

Sonoran Desert National Monument

As you travel along Highway 8 you will be traveling through the Sonoran Desert between Gila Bend and Tucson. Here you will see the iconic flatlands and mountains with desert brush and cactus that many people associate with desert. Once again, we did not stop here (I needed to work and needed a good internet signal). But it’s a good place for taking a walk, taking some pictures or hiking. I believe there is also camping available.

Casa Grande, Arizona

As I mentioned in my earlier post, we used to live about 30 minutes from Casa Grande. We stopped in a Walmart well-familiar to us for the day so I could work.

Casa Grande is the last stop along Highway 8 before it connects to I-10 going east.  It’s quite large compared to the other towns along the highway, aside from Yuma.

In nearby Coolidge you can see the Casa Grande Ruins National Monument, built over 500 years ago. Casa Grande itself also has an historic downtown shopping district and several large parks, along with a medical center and the usual stores and shops you would expect to find in a city of over 50,000 people.

Tucson, Arizona

As I mentioned in my  overview post we spent a few days in Tuscon. This allowed us to get some work done on the RV and spend time with some family. I’m fortunate enough to have a cousin whose community allows RVs to park on the street, and her lot was just wide enough for us to park in front of her house.

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The sun peeked out for just a bit one rainy evening.

By the time we reached Tucson it was quite chilly! It got into the 20s overnight, 40s during the day and rained a bit too, so we didn’t get out much. But there is a lot to do in Tucson.

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It’s home to many large recreation areas such as Mt. Lemmon and Saguaro National Park. There’s a botanical garden, dog parks, tons of restaurants and the Pima Air and Space Museum. Tucson is smaller than Phoenix, but still a large city with all the amenities.

We didn’t get to see any of them this time around, but Tahoe had fun playing with his cousin Bear.

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Doggie cousins having fun. Bear was nice enough to share his food and toys with cousin Tahoe.

Meanwhile, Mack spent the day at the repair shop with Ryan and got plenty of attention from customers between naps.

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Mack thinks the driver’s seat belongs to him.

Benson, Arizona

Our last daytime stop in Arizona was in Benson. In Benson you can visit the Kartchner Caverns State Park. Unfortunately, they were booked solid for the next few days so we did not get to do a tour (you might want to call ahead for reservations if you plan to visit).  But the cave tours get good ratings, and there is camping on-site.

New Mexico

We went through New Mexico rather quickly for a few reasons. First of all, it was still freezing cold. Second, we frustratingly were unable to find many places that could fit our RV. Third, the places that might fit our RV were for outdoor activities, like hiking. I just don’t do well in cold weather. Ryan, who is rarely cold, had to buy some more cold-weather clothing!

I-10 is the interstate furthest south before you hit Mexico, so this was about as warm as it was going to get. Oh well. Thank goodness for our furnace.

Deming, New Mexico

I love small towns like this. There was a Walmart to park in overnight, but there was also a cute downtown within walking distance. We braved the biting cold to look take a stroll around. In nicer weather, we would hop on our bikes. Next to the visitor’s center (closed by the time we arrived) there was a vintage train (Southern Pacific 1221) on site, and they allow free tours to visitors. There are also several state parks in the area.

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One of the few times it’s perfectly safe to stand in front of a train!

Las Cruces, New Mexico

Las Cruces is the big city along I-10. At this point, I honestly think I was getting irritated by being so cold. We tried to visit a botanical garden and found it was not as nice as the pictures. There is an historic district but I just wasn’t interested. We moved on. It just wasn’t an easy place to maneuver in our rig, with all the traffic and city streets. However, before we left I snapped a few pictures of the surrounding landscape.

Quartzsite to the New Mexico/Texas border is over 600 miles, and we did it in 5 days. That’s over 1/4 of our trip in a week, so you’d think we’d be on track to get to Augusta in a month. But things don’t always work out as planned. More to come…

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