Friday the 13th ~ Somewhere in Arizona…
Tim and I are pretty much fair weather travelers. We love the sunshine, warm to hot weather and brilliant blue skies with the occasional white puffy cloud to perk up a picture.
Our very parched state, has finally gotten some much-needed rain, and even a few good doses of snow. It was hard to begrudge the downpours, as it was long overdue. Still, that did not make it any easier to be sitting on the sidelines with our brand new RV, anxious and excited to get out and explore, and last-minute deciding to postpone a few times getting on the road.
But on Wednesday, even with the rain and the roads a mess, we headed out of the San Fernando Valley for a two-week MAIDEN VOYAGE in Ellie Mae.
We had a bit of a game plan, but nothing in stone other than to drive East, spend a couple of nights in or near Phoenix to visit Tim’s mom, brother and his family, and then wind around Southern Arizona for the remainder of our allotted time.
The drive to Phoenix from Los Angeles was uneventful, and we arrived in time to have Shane and Nancy join us for dinner at a local rib restaurant.
Yesterday was an awesome day, filled with fun, sharing and joy. With both Shane and Melissa at work, and Skylar in school, that left Tim, Nancy and I to take off to see Butterfly Wonderland and right next door, the brand new OdySea Aquarium.
I loved both of them, but Butterfly Wonderland was my favorite. Billed as the largest butterfly conservatory in America, it was truly thrilling to be able to interact with so many colorful and varied species.
Your tour starts off with a fun 3D movie to get you up to speed on just how far these miniature flying machines can migrate. Over the year and taking three generations, the Monarch can travel from Canada, through the USA, and winter in Mexico, before returning to Canada the following spring. Pretty amazing!
Next up was the Butterfly Emergence Gallery where you could witness the different stages from cocoon to freshly emerged butterfly. A knowledgable staff member was on hand to talk further about the different stages and answered numerous questions.
But the area I was most excited about and where I spent a good two hours was the Conservatory. Inside this large room, which was very warm and humid, you are literally surrounded by over 3000 butterflies. They flit, they fly, they might land on a nearby flower right in front of you, or if you are lucky, on your shoulder or head.
I found out that wearing white or a bright color was especially fun as the butterfly are drawn to either one and you will have a higher chance of one or more landing on you.
And here are a few of the snaps Tim and I took inside the Conservatory.
The OdySea Aquarium has only been open a couple of months. It is brand new, impressive and sadly underutilized. There were very few people there and we often felt like we were having a private showing. It was a weekday, but still shocking to this gal who is used to the Southern California crowds.
My favorite exhibits included watching the otters get fed (they are very playful), watching tiny penguins, (they have a penguin interaction program and a behind the scenes tour that can be arranged in advance), the living sea carousel and the 3D theater. I was hoping to see more jelly fish as they are my favorites, but the two tanks were simply not enough for me.
The price may deter some from visiting at it is rather pricey. We got a combo ticket that included both Butterfly Wonderland and the Aquarium and it ran $49.90 for an adult and $45.90 for a senior.
Boy was I in for a rude awakening as we were sailing along the freeway on our way back toward Shane’s home. All of a sudden there was a huge CRASH of dishes from the back of the RV. Well, in case you wanted to know Corelle does not just break, it shatters when falling out of kitchen cupboards at 65 MPH.
My brand new set of dishes that I had not even had a chance to use yet, came crashing out of the cupboard. I had shards of white glass EVERYWHERE. So much for the magnetic locks being enough…
Next stop all of a sudden was to Wal-Mart to pick up a small hand broom, dust pan, a hand-held vacuum, and a child safety latch to try to keep the cupboard secure. 🙂
Well, our RV challenges were not quite done for the day. When we were almost back to meet Shane and Melissa for dinner, we started hearing a strange and quite loud clanging/banging. By the time we arrived, it was louder and upon getting out, we could smell the rig. It was HOT. Tim said the exhaust was overheating.
Thankfully by the next morning everything was back to normal, and we think the problem was that the hand emergency brake had not been fully released.
SO, WHAT’S NEXT…
I found a great Lonely Planet book entitled “Southwest USA’s Best Trips – 32 Amazing Road Trips”. It retails for $24.95, but at AAA, I was able to pick it up for $19.95.
We are planning on taking two of the recommended routes, both of them in Southern Arizona. The first one is noted at route #3 and called “A taste of the Old West”.
It starts in Tucson and the stated highlights include:
- Gates Pass Scenic Overlook
- Fairbanks Historic Site
- Queen Mine Tour
- and a detour to Chiricahua National Monument
From there we will take Highway 186 back up north to connect to Interstate 10 back to Tucson.
The next part of our loop will be route #7 (also found in this same Lonely Planet book) which is labeled “Southern Desert Wanderings”.
Again beginning in Tucson, the mentioned highlights would be:
- Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum
- Saguaro National Park (West)
- Patagonia-Sonoita Creek Preserve
- Titan Missile Museum
This part of our trip will end at Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument. From there we will continue west and wind our way back to the Los Angeles area.
This morning, after saying goodbye to Tim’s family, we headed south toward Tucson. Just a short distance before arriving, Tim spotted a sign for Picacho Peak State Park and we decided to check it out. We have SOOOO MUCH to learn about the RV life, and just one of the mysteries is finding the best places to stay.
The park was simple, in the middle of a cactus patch, has a large rocky cliff behind us, a couple of hiking trails, clean restrooms with several nearly spotless showers, and the necessities we needed this time around – mainly a dump site, clean water to fill-up our tanks, and an electric hookup.
I had been dreading this moment – emptying the black and gray water tanks! Well, Tim was ready. He had packed up a big baggie worth of disposable rubber gloves and had also watched several YouTube videos. He felt as prepared as he could be.
Finding the dump site in the park was a breeze. He hopped out of the cab, snapped his gloves in place and in no time had the long black tube hooked up to the appropriate outlet on the side of Ellie Mae, and the other end stuck precariously into the ground and held in place with a large rock.
Hook-up complete – check.
Pull open valve #1 – check
He yells at me to pull open valve #2 (on the other side of the coach) – IT FALL OUT IN MY HAND!!!!
I promise I am not that strong and that it simply came out of the sleeve as if it had never been attached to anything.
This is not good. Without this valve open, it will not empty the black water. Ever the boy scout, and one heck of a GREAT mechanic, he fidgets with it, tries to rethread the pull stick, etc, etc, etc.
Finally, we unhook everything and go to our assigned site, where he proceeds (after a few more valiant efforts to fix it) to get ahold of the guy who had delivered our unit to us last month. Jerry offered up a work around that would allow us to “get the job done”, so back we went to the dump site, and this time we were successful with getting both black and gray water drained and then the fresh water tanks refilled.
I am now sitting peacefully inside and enjoying my second glass of a very good white wine…
GRATITUDE MOMENT: Today I am grateful for the wonderful visit we had with Nancy, Shane, Melissa and Skylar. Thank goodness we have a sense of humor still (almost) in tact, and can roll with the little challenges that come with learning something new. I’m also thankful that our cell phone works even in the middle of nowhere and that we were able to get the help we needed to resolve the dumping issue.