Arizona ~ Maiden Voyage with Ellie Mae and a few mishaps, Butterfly Wonderland

Friday the 13th ~ Somewhere in Arizona…

Close up of butterfly taken at Butterfly Wonderland, Scottsdale, AZ

Close up of butterfly taken at Butterfly Wonderland, Scottsdale, AZ

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.

Tim, Nancy (Tim's step-mom) and Joanne

Tim, Nancy (Tim’s step-mom) and Joanne at Butterfly Wonderland

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.

Nancy with one on each shoulder

Nancy with one on each shoulder

This guy rode on Tim's back for an hour.

This guy rode on Tim’s back for an hour.

And here are a few of the snaps Tim and I took inside the Conservatory.

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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.

"Petting Zoo" inside the Aquarium

“Petting Zoo” inside the Aquarium

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.


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”.

Route #3 - From Lonely Planet "Southwest USA Best Trips"

Route #3 – From Lonely Planet “Southwest USA Best Trips”

It starts in Tucson and the stated highlights include:

  • Gates Pass Scenic Overlook
  • Fairbanks Historic Site
  • Tombstone
  • Bisbee
  • 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”.

Itinerary #7 - Also from Lonely Planet

Itinerary #7 – from Lonely Planet

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.

This is a typical view at Picacho Peak State Park

This is a typical view at Picacho Peak State Park

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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.

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About Tim and Joanne Joseph

Hi and welcome! We are Tim and Joanne Joseph and we have just embarked on our latest adventure. We hope you will join us!
This entry was posted in Arizona, RV Life, United States and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

68 Responses to Arizona ~ Maiden Voyage with Ellie Mae and a few mishaps, Butterfly Wonderland

  1. Terry says:

    Sounds like a fun and exciting trip and a few more shake down runs you should get the hang of it. OH you will have a while in figuring out the best way to do things in the RV. Ditch the magnets and get a latch that will solidly shut, baby locks get old to use all the time we discovered. Learned this after several trips on dirt roads in the Mojave, pots, pans and dishes all over the place. As for the dumping I always emptied the black water first and used the grey water to kind of clean out the line, just my thing. Also with our frige and freezer, we had to be pretty level for them to work correctly with temperature.


    • Terry, I sure appreciate your words of wisdom and experience. At least we did do the black water then gray in the right sequence. Just about to cook dinner. Hoping I don’t set the place on fire 😳 So glad that we can still laugh at ourselves as we take on this latest adventure.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. My daughter would love Butterfly Wonderland and the Aquarium. I need to take her there. Thank you for the tour!! Best of luck with the rest of the journey.


  3. randyjw says:

    You are brave and adventuresome! Thanks for detailing your trip!


  4. LIsa Speissegger says:

    Hey guys! It’s Lisa Speissegger from the Gate One India Trip! You’re in my home state, so contact me if I can be helpfully ( If you can while you’re in Southern AZ, trip an get into Kartchner Caverns (it’s a state park). Definitely worth seeing. BIsbee’s a great weird town to visit, and the Chirachuas are beautiful! Enjoy !


    • Hi Lisa! How nice to hear from you. Thanks so much for sharing your local insight. I’ll look up Kartchner Caverns to see if it is someplace we can add on to our itinerary. Hoping to overnight in or near Bisbee as Tim’s family have also highly recommended it. Now if we can just get the weather to cooperate and send some warm sunshine our way.


    • Lisa, just a belated FYI, we made it to Kartchner Caverns and loved them! It is so fabulous seeing a cave that has been preserved and not ransacked. Thanks again for your recommendation. ❤


  5. Widdershins says:

    Never had any trouble with emptying the grey/black water tanks … never hope to. 😀


  6. Keng says:

    Oh no. Sorry to hear about the mishap with the dumping. Thankfully, no major spillage problem.


  7. cindy knoke says:

    How wonderful (there are always a few glitches!) Enjoy! I know you will~


  8. Colin Spain says:

    Great to hear you have joined the ‘Grey Nomads’ and checking out the great country you live in in fine detail.
    Can I request you do a post, with photos, of your rig (RV)? Would be entertaining for us who are with you in spirit if not in person. Thanks. Colin & Lyn.


  9. Moira Murray says:

    Tim and Joanne, we have been following your blog since Portugal. We also love to travel and will follow your new adventures with the RV . My parents, who retired in New Mexico near Albuquerque , loved to take trips throughout the South West in their Fifth Wheeler.
    Moira Murray


  10. tippysmom2 says:

    What were you thinking? Taking your first trip on Friday the 13th!!?? Just kidding. Sounds like you are getting the hang of the RV world. I loved your photos! They were fantastic. Your trip sounds wonderful land I look forward to riding along with you. Oh, I did know that Corelle ware shatters and doesn’t break. I have had the “pleasure” of that happening to me, but only one item, not an entire set of dishes. That must have been a real mess to clean up and you’ll probably find reminders of this (your first trip) for years! LOL


  11. I am laughing, Joanne. Sorry, but you have just described the type of experience that every new RVer goes through, especially dealing with the black and grey water and things crashing down. You will start to feel like old vets after your maiden voyage. Also, I like you itinerary. Many fun things to see and do down in that neck of the woods. –Curt


  12. What an adventure you’re having! The good and the bad! The butterfly place sounds so wonderful. We went to one something like that in Australia a few years ago.


  13. Maxxtrails says:

    Sounds like an entertaining trip with a few learning curves … but at least you are still smiling 🙂 Just an FYI, I have had a few Corel dishes break and, after contacting the company, they were replaced free of charge … it’s worth a phone call or email. Safe travels!


  14. sheilsm says:

    Tim and Joanne, I have been following your posts for at least a year, and so admire the pictures you post and your use of the written word. Six years ago, I retired from the Education field and my husband and I bought a 22 foot lightweight travel trailer. We love it! We love going just about anywhere and staying at different places and enjoying nature! If you have never been to the Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta, you need to check that out. We have gone there for four years and have camped at their basic site for about $30.00 a night. Our BEST trip been from Chicago to Alaska via the Alaska Highway. Our trip in 2016 was for seven weeks! We enjoyed each and every minute of our travels. (This is our second time with our trailer, we went once with just our truck and our tent, and we flew there once, and rented a truck).

    I am looking forward to following your adventures!



    • Hello Mary! Just read your comment to Tim and we both want to say “thank you”. It means a lot to get feedback from friendly people who have taken the time to follow us for such a long time. We have had the Albuquerque Balloon Festival on our wish list for many years. I’m betting we will get there in the next year or two. We have very good friends who have driven that route up to Alaska and raved about it. Appreciate your input!


      • Mary Sheils says:

        Thanks for the response! Just read your Biosphere report and have to say, you remind me of me! When we are on the road, I always want to take side trips here and there. My husband, on the other hand, is a destination guy, so we do not always go to the places that I would like to wander to! Can’t wait to see what you guys do next! Keep on enjoying life!
        I also have another question. On you recent trip to Galapagos and other places, when Tim became ill, and you had to cut your trip short, did you happen to have travel insurance and was it helpful? My sister and I are taking an Australia/New Zealand trip in November. I purchased insurance because the trip was over a year away when we booked it. Since you are world travelers who actually experienced a need to end a trip short, I was just curious!


      • Mary, no, we did not have trip insurance. Over the years, as much as we have traveled, we would have put out far more in insurance money than it cost us to fly home. HOWEVER, I have friends who swear by it and won’t travel without it. We will probably consider getting it on certain trips in the future.


  15. Ingrid says:

    We’ve been using those child safety latches after our first outing and having my beloved blender shatter. Always something new to learn. We’ll be back in Phx in March and Butterfly Wonderland is going on my list.
    BTW… an easy 30 minute drive past Tombstone is a place called Whitewater Draw. This is the roosting grounds for over 20,000 sandhill cranes. You can even overnight there free if you’re ready for boondocking. I did a post on Whitewater Draw that provides more info.


    • Ingrid, I think you will enjoy seeing Butterfly Wonderland. And thank you very much for the recommendation to see Whitewater Draw. We are staying near Tombstone tonight but it is POURING at the moment so we may just hunker down tomorrow. That will give me time to look it up and see if we can fit it in.

      Liked by 1 person

  16. mike alesko says:

    I’ve long wanted the explore the Southwest as you’re doing now, Tim and Joanne. Now your pix, narratives and maps hsve transported me there. Kudos.


  17. Paul Finnell says:

    Well, sounds like you’re off to an auspicious start! What a wonderful itinerary. A few years back I had the great experience of touring the Titan missile site which I saw on your map. By all means make sure you stop and take this tour. It’s a fascinating look back into the Cold War, and the older technology is amazing to see along with the huge blast doors and the insights that the volunteer tour guides gave. As I recall, a couple of them had actually worked there back in the day. Being there brought me back to the fears I remember experiencing during the Cuban missile crisis. Anyway, as a techie geek, I found it totally fascinating.
    Good luck with that black/gray water thing :-).


    • Thanks Paul for your insights. Our weather is not behaving at the moment and I’m getting concerned that this may be a more ambitious itinerary than we will be able to complete in the allotted two weeks. Under normal circumstances, we would simply add on extra days, but we have a couple commitments on the 25th that require us to be back in LA. So, we’ll just have to see what all we get to.


  18. Happy to hear you’re in my state! If you haven’t added Kartchners Caverns to your list, I highly recommend it. It’s about 50 miles south of Tucson and it’s amazing. Happy Travels!


  19. It’s nice that you find the humour in your maiden voyage glitches. Your upcoming road trip itineraries look great. I love this part of the US and have so much more to explore. Thanks for adding the maps !


  20. Carrie Miller says:

    good to see Nancy again; glad you boys are treating her good….she’s a keeper!!!


  21. reocochran says:

    Beautiful large butterfly on Tim’s back was such a pleasant surprise! His staying there for an hour was nice to hear about. I liked the aquarium photo, pink jellyfish which reminded me of a sea anemone. Beautiful of you to share!


    • Seeing the butterfly farm and then the aquarium back to back certainly gave us great variety. Since we have the fabulous Long Beach aquarium practically in our back yard at home, that did not hold quite as much interest for me. The butterflies on the other hand were pure magic.

      Liked by 1 person

  22. mpardi2013 says:

    Great write up. When I moved to Orange County the first thing I did was put those child latches on all the cupboards. Had a few small shakes, but nothing really threatening. I enjoyed Arizona, but would not want to live in that heat. Marco


  23. Did you not make it down to Bisbee? Do! It is a fun and frivolous town! I live south of there, in Naco, a few blocks from the Mexican border.


  24. frankhubeny says:

    I didn’t know about wearing white or bright colored clothing to attack butterflies. I was hoping some would land near me at a botanic garden recently, but they kept moving away. Perhaps my clothing was too dark.


  25. Wow! What an incredible adventure – and photos that are amazing. Thanks for sharing!


  26. Thanks for sharing your travels with us… lovely photos too! Appreciate your visit and glad you enjoy poetry. Best wishes and happy travelling… 🙂


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