Bill and Kit’s 2018 Excellent Adventure, Journal #9


“This Year Marks Our 10th Winter RV Trip”

Education is important, but camping is importanter!


Thursday, February 15, 2018: Up, broke camp and underway shortly after the noon hour. Pointed the rig south from Usery Mountain Regional Park and threaded our way through Mesa, Arizona while enjoying sunny skies and temperatures in the mid 60’s.

At 1220 hours, Kit and I pulled into Lost Dutchman State Park for an overnight stay.

So, for those of you keeping score, that’s a total travel time of nineteen minutes to cover the 13 miles. And why did we bother to move such a short distance? Well, since you asked, Kit and I like to seek out and explore places we’ve never been…and this beautiful Arizona State Park is one of those places.

So, why did we only stay one night? Boy, you folks have a lot of questions this morning! Well, we had wanted to stay longer but this being a holiday weekend, the campground was booked solid…we literally scored the only site available in the park, and that was due to a cancellation. And that site was extremely tight to maneuver into!

Of course, due to the “Law of RV Parking Observation”, if there had been fellow campers about to watch…I would have likely put on a demonstration of “Parking by Braille”. But with no one around, and with Kit’s excellent hand gestures…some of which would be rated as PG-13…I was able to slip that 45-foot by 8 ½-foot rig into the short and narrow site on the first try! And all during a pop-up rain squall! You can congratulate us later.

Lost Dutchman State Park is located in the Central Arizona community of Apache Junction. The 320-acre park is named after the Lost Dutchman Mine. As the legend goes, a German (Dutch) immigrant discovered a very productive gold vein in the rugged Superstition Mountains.

Being worried that other miners might jump his claim, the Dutchman never legally filed papers on the find or drew any maps as to its location. The only hint of “gold in them thar hills” was when his body was found in 1891 with his gold-filled saddlebags nearby. Since the gold wasn’t taken, speculation was that he had been done in by Apache Indians led by Geronimo. You see, the Apache people worshiped the mountain and did not like folks walking in and carrying part of it as the Dutchman had done. Treasure hunters have been searching for the Dutchman’s lost goldmine ever since.

After settling in, Kit and I walked the roads of the campground before returning to the trailer for the evening meal. As the sun set across the western plains…

… it bathed the Superstition Mountains in golden light…

…so, I guess there really is gold in them thar hills after all!


Friday, February 16, 2018: As Kit caught up on her beauty sleep, I grabbed a mug of hot coffee and took a stroll about the campground. The morning was frosty as the eastern sky was beginning to awaken for another day.

Back at the campsite, Kit and I enjoyed a leisurely breakfast, then broke camp before pulling out of Lost Dutchman State Park at 1015 hours…the skies where partly cloudy and the temperature 61 degrees.

Clearing the Phoenix metropolitan area, we headed south then west on a variety of back roads toward the tiny Arizona town of Gila Bend.

The morning gloom had burned off and the temperatures were rising into the upper 70’s, which is within my personal temperature range of 65 to 85 degrees. Having missed out on the hardening one develops by wintering over in Maine, I’ve become a real weather wimp! Anything lower than 65 feels chilly, but anything above 85 seems too hot!?!?

Our actual destination is just south of Gila Bend where the USAF Auxiliary Field lies in the middle of nowhere!

A perfect spot to uncouple from humanity and layover for a few days…isolated, inexpensive, and rarely full, this campground has become our “go to” spot to veg out, dump holding tanks, fill fresh water, take care of periodic trailer maintenance and get the piles of dirty clothes attended to at their free laundry facility.


Saturday, February 17 and Sunday, February 18, 2018-Gila Bend Air Force Auxiliary Field: This remote USAF facility, a divert field and high-risk aircraft training base, is managed by Luke Air Force Base in Phoenix. In addition to a handful of government contractors, it is also populated by a gaggle of hardy military retirees who reside for the winter in the dusty campground.

If one is a military retiree hermit, this would be the place for them! The base is so remote that there isn’t even a public water supply…so, each campsite features a reverse osmosis water treatment system.

And barbeques are fabricated from found items lying about.

I bet the first fire in that pit was interesting!

As a snowbird haven it is ridiculously inexpensive, even by military standards! The regulars are very friendly and reach out to newcomers, even though most are just passing through as we were.

On the campground premises is a small but clean laundry/lounge area and a really neat walking/biking trail that winds through the barren desert.

One just has to be aware of their surroundings and heed any caution signs.

Unless you want to contribute to the training of an Air Force bomber crew…

… as Old Man Winter apparently did!

The dry desert air is the perfect environment to house military relics, such as
retirees and battle tanks…is that redundant?

If these things could talk, oh what a story they might have to tell!

Dozens of these implements of destruction were lined up in the open with no barrier of any kind around them.

Many had their armored doors ajar and looked as if they could be started and taken for a joy ride! Tempting, but probably not wise, I guess.

After a hearty meal, Kit and I discussed which direction to head in the morning while enjoying a plastic cup of fine boxed wine…and observed the sun plunging to the western horizon bordering this oasis in the vast desert.



Monday, February 19, 2018: False alarm…not leaving today after all! The wind whipped up overnight and travel in a high-profile vehicle would be crazy!

So, spent the day just goofing off, and hanging out…for the most part inside the camper which was being buffeted by wind gusts of 50 MPH! As a special trailer bound treat, Kit constructed one of her awesome signature salads…a nutritious and complete meal in a bowl!

Life is good!


Tuesday, February 20, 2018: Up and over breakfast, Kit and I finalized our travel plans between now and Friday…when we plan to descend on brother Danny, Dewey, and sister in law Bea. We discussed visiting Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument again, or poking around Quartzite, or staying at Kartchner Caverns State Park, or heading down to the border and hanging out at Fort Huachuca. However, in the end, we decided to head to Davis Monthan Air Force Base (DMAFB).

This USAF base south of Tucson is one of the top ranked RV Parks in the military system. Since Dewey and Bea live so close, we seldom have an opportunity to spend time here, and it’s a great spot to resupply…so, by unanimous decision, we pack up and head to DMAFB, 125 miles to the south.

The base campground, known as Agave Gulch, has a large overflow area and a no-turn-away policy which allows everyone an opportunity to score a spot. And, their very fair rotation system results in moving to a full-hook-up spot in a day or two. However, with the destruction of some military campgrounds from hurricanes in the southeast and Florida, this year Agave Gulch has more campers than normal so the wait to move from overflow to a full-hook-up site is more than a week. Since we were to only be on base for a few days, Kit and I decided to find a nice spot in overflow and stay off the rotation list.

As you can see, the sun was setting so it’s time to say goodnight once again.


Wednesday, February 21 and Thursday, February 22, 2018: Agave Gulch RV Park, Davis-Monthan Air Force Base: Woke to a beautiful Tucson morning following a very restful sleep!

Kit and I do not mind camping without hook-ups. Our current unit is purpose built for off grid camping…with large capacity holding tanks, dual batteries, two 40# propane tanks, and supplemental power in the form of a Honda 2000-watt generator, dry camping is no longer an issue for us…in fact, there have been situations where we prefer to be in a nicer spot away from the main campground! Case in point, the site we chose in the overflow section of Agave Gulch bordered a nicely landscaped community area that received little use.

The bulk of our stay on DMAFB was spent cleaning up the truck and trailer, shopping at the Post Exchange and Commissary, topping off the fuel tank, and getting a depleted propane tank filled. However, one afternoon a local RV dealership sponsored a barbeque for the folks at Agave Gulch.

Billed as a “thank you for your service” event, the RV dealer, a military retiree himself, brought some of his newest models to showcase…such as this 43-foot motorhome.

A very nice rig, nicer than our home…however, with an MSRP of $435,000.00, way too rich for our blood.

As has been profiled in previous years journals, DMAFB is home to the famed “Boneyard”.

As in Gila Bend, this portion of the Sonoran Desert is the perfect environment to store old military hardware that may, at some point, have some useful life remaining. And apparently, old military “software” as well, since the campground is right across the street from the boneyard. Coincidence? I think not!

During these trips, I enjoy seeking out interesting characters and hearing their stories…such as these two veterans.

The gentleman on the right is a WWII-Korea-Vietnam vet…a rare commodity these days. At 93 years young, he still gets around quite well and enjoys RV’ing to the American Southwest. Enlisting in 1943 as a Navy Seaman, and serving on diesel submarines in the south pacific, he retired 30 years later as an Executive Officer on a Navy Destroyer.

The fellow to the left is Richard, a USAF retiree from Wales, Maine, another rare commodity in that most Mainers hibernate in place or head for Florida…quite rare to see another one this far west of the Mississippi River! Kit and I enjoyed visiting with Richard and his wife Diane. They also introduced us to another expat couple who migrated out here from Topsham, Maine! Didn’t get a photo of Larry and Cindy but we all agreed to reconnect this summer…looking forward to it!

Kit and I also reconnected with another interesting couple who plan on touring New England this summer.

Ben and Diane are from Idaho Falls, and met in Vietnam. He being a helicopter pilot and her a Red Cross Donut Dolly! They had some interesting stories to tell and we invited them to dooryard surf at our home for a few days during their New England adventure.

Ever since we purchased our fifth wheel camper three years ago, I’ve been whining about the inability to safely carry a kayak…so when I spotted this rack hung on the back of a trailer identical to ours, I took note.

Custom made by a certified welder from the owner’s design, the rack connects to the standard tow receiver and carries two kayaks and two bicycles! A lot of weight so far to the rear could be a problem, but the owner reports it hasn’t been an issue so far. This might be a viable solution to my predicament, so I snapped a dozen detailed photos just in case.

Another interesting camper we noticed in the park was this custom-made toy-hauler.

According to the owner, there are only two of these in the world as the manufacturer went out of business after a very short production run. The rear cavity features a hydraulic ramp that lowers to allow a small car, in this case a Mazda Miata, to be loaded…then the ramp is raised to about 20 degrees above horizontal for travel. Pretty nifty!

Back at our campsite, nighttime fell while storm clouds gathered, so Kit and I decided to turn in early.

Tomorrow is a big day as we relocate to the DewBea RV Resort for what promises to be an exciting and fun filled two weeks stay…stay tuned!


Friday, February 23, 2018: Up, breakfast, and on the road at 1006 hours. We pulled the rig into the large Post Exchange parking lot, so Kit could grab a few additional items of necessity as I spent the hour working on photo editing.

Back underway we left the base and headed toward CasasAdobes. The GPS we use to navigate unfamiliar terrain is programed to take us on a route that is most expeditious…even if that route requires dragging a trailer through downtown city streets.

Actually, we anticipated this as it’s the route we’ve used many times to travel from DMAFB to Interstate 10. As most GPS systems allow, I could have entered avoidance criteria to bypass congested areas, but in this case that would have sent us south quite a ways, when we actually want to head north. Besides it was fun seeing the stares of the downtown denizens as we crept down the street.

Within 45 minutes we were pulling into the DewBea RV Resort for a two week stay.

This premier full-hook-up spot is a very exclusive, private, and amenity rich camping opportunity…one we have enjoyed many times in the past! Looking forward to “Fun in the Sun” and “Rage in the Sage” with two fun loving people…stay tuned!

Kit’s Bit’s: This has been a leisurely and restful week. We thoroughly enjoyed Usery Park and Lost Dutchman Park. We had heard of these parks from other people over the years and were finally able to check them out. Having a couple of “down days” at Gila Bend was nice, as well. However, upon entering DM Park, we met so many people from Maine, and even a few from Vermont! A very unusual event for us! Then, just a day before leaving, we ran into Ben and Diane from Idaho Falls! We have met them before but none of us can remember where or when. It was nice to see them again. On to Casas Adobes to visit with Dewey, Bea and Dan!


Bill and Kit’s 2018 Excellent Adventure, Special Edition

“This Year Marks Our 10th Winter RV Trip”

We need the tonic of wildness.  At the same time that we are earnest to explore and learn all things, we require that all things be mysterious and unexplorable, that land and sea be indefinitely wild, un-surveyed, and unfathomed by us. We can never have enough of nature.

Henry David Thoreau


First a confession, I have become a slacker when it comes to writing our journal which has prompted this Special Edition…however, there is good reason!  Kit and I have been camped out on family property and have been enjoying a lot of family time.  So, to avoid the risk of being “one of those people” that chronicle their every daily ‘movement’ on social media, I’ve decided instead to release a special issue of our photos.  Never fear, in issue #9 I will pick right up from the previous edition highlighting some of the events and attractions we have enjoyed during our two weeks stay with brother Dewey and sister in law, Bea.

So, without further ado, here is:

Color in The Desert!

Many folks who have not experienced the beauty in the deserts of the American Southwest believe it is devoid of any color.  So, to graphically correct this misconception, Kit and I put together this short pictorial featuring photographs captured over the past ten years in this gorgeous and vibrant area of our country.  It is often said that “one picture is worth a thousand words”…so please enjoy this 20,000-word essay on the beauty in our deserts.

And the most beautiful of them all was right in Dewey and Bea’s backyard!

After ten years, exploring 48 states, Kit and I still enjoy winter life in the colorful desert southwest!

Kit’s Bit’s: Indeed, we do love the “color in the desert”!  One of the most important things I learned from Miriam, Bill’s mom, is to see beauty in almost everything.  Years ago (too many to count) I didn’t care for the desert at all.  I’ve learned to slow down and look at all the plants and the local terrain and yes, there are many beautiful flowers, animals and mountains here in the southwest!  And, we do enjoy the weather here.  PS I still miss a good snowstorm, though, especially since I’m originally from Minnesota!    😊

Bill and Kit’s 2018 Excellent Adventure, Journal #8

“This Year Marks Our 10th Winter RV Trip”

We are all travelers in the wilderness of this world, and the best we can find in our travels is an honest friend.
Robert Louis Stevenson


Wednesday, February 7, 2018: Leaving the Coachella Valley community of La Quinta after an enjoyable stay at lake Cahuilla Regional Recreation Area.

Kit and I made our way through a variety of towns until intersecting Interstate 10 and continued toward the East.

At 1323 hours we entered the state of Arizona after crossing over the Colorado River…an hour later found us in the town of Surprise, and our ultimate destination of Sunflower RV Resort.

This is an adult, full featured, destination facility of 1,203 sites…many of which contain 400 square foot, park model style trailers.

Sunflower a huge common area containing pools, hot tubs, a tiki bar and dozens of fully equipped shops for woodworking, jewelry making, pottery, sewing, stained glass, etc.

Most folks stay here for the winter season, however there is a small section for overnighters off in the corner of the sprawling facility.

And that was where we stayed…for $78.00 a night!

The town of Surprise is primarily a retirement community to the west of Sun City…the rock star of retirement enclaves in the Southwest. The city was founded in 1938 by Flora Mae Statler who named it Surprise as she exclaimed at the time: “I’ll be surprised if anyone else lives in this god forsaken spot”. Well, the surprise was that Surprise grew to a city of 132,677 folks…and most of that growth occurred within the past ten years! The largest non-municipal employer in the city is Walmart and Surprise is the spring training home of the Kansas City Royals and The Texas Rangers…surprise!

Kit and I make it a point to stop by the Phoenix metropolitan area every year or so to visit dear friends Tommy and Marti.

However, this visit has sad undertones as Tommy passed away last September. A retired Television and movie actor, Tommy had a personality that far exceeded his stature, and was very entertaining to be around. His zest for life and devotion to Martha, was an inspiration to all who knew him. A few years ago, we hosted Tommy and Marti at our home in Maine.

And it was one of the most enjoyable visits we have had! You will be missed old friend, but your spirit lives on!

However, Kit and I were pleasantly surprised to find Marti’s brother, and my best friend from high school, in town! We had a great time reminiscing about old times in the old neighborhood as all four of us, Kit, Marti, Rod and I grew up a few blocks from each other in the Sierra Mesa portion of San Diego, California.

The first day we enjoyed take-out from a local gourmet burger place, and on the second day Marti and Rod treated us to a backyard barbeque with grilled pork chops and all the fixings. Marti’s home backs up on a golf course, and her yard contains two mature orange trees.

She handed me a bag and said; “take what you want” …so I harvested about a dozen ripe juicy Navel Oranges!

Kit and I had a great time visiting with Marti and Rod. We plan on seeing Rod and his wife Gloria again soon when we make it to San Diego in a few weeks.

While in Surprise, our truck was due for an oil change, so off I want to Sands Chevrolet. Nowadays, most dealerships have a nice customer waiting room with internet, snacks and drinks, but Sands has an added attraction…part of the owner’s classic car collection displayed in the showroom!

Which mainly consisted of Vintage Corvettes!

The white 1957 model has factory fuel injection, producing 283 HP from its 283 CID engine…a very rare, and very valuable, automobile!

In talking to the receptionist, she shared that the owner has many more vehicles in his private collection and rotates them through his dealership showroom to keep things fresh. Many of these were acquired at the Barrett-Jackson auction which is held annually in nearby Scottsdale, Arizona.

Kit and I spent one day just hanging around the RV Resort, walking about the vast park, and getting our laundry caught up. Everyone we encountered was very friendly and the staff was accommodating as well. As one might imagine in a retirement community, a number of fully outfitted, landscaped, and completely furnished, units become “available” …and they are, for the most part, very reasonably priced. If we wanted to settle down near a large city (which we don’t) and live in a retirement community (which we don’t) this would be a great place to winter over!

On the final day of our stay I caught wind of a classic car show a few miles away, so leaving Kit to enjoy some peace and quiet, I headed to Sun Valley West…about ten minutes away.

There were a few hundred collector cars in attendance such as Hot Rods…

…street rods…

…land yachts from the 1950’s…

…classic muscle cars, like my buddy Jeff’s…

…Rat Rods…

…drag cars, like this very nice Gasser…

…unrestored survivors…

…and cars modified with crate motors.

In the example above, the owner hinged the crate back so one could get a glimpse of the massive 94 horsepower engine.

Of personal interest to me was this 1968 Mercury Cougar.

Which, except for the shade of green, is the car Kit and I drove until 1972 when three toddlers could no longer be squeezed into the back seat.

It was a nice show, and being in Sun City, most all the cars were owned by old retired guys!

On the way back to the RV resort, I noticed this uniquely named business.

I guess it’s my weird sense of humor, but if I was running this place, during a memorial service I would very faintly play the melody “Pop Goes the Weasel” while watching everyone stare at the casket in horror.

Say goodnight, Bill.


Sunday, February 11. 2018: Departed Sunflower RV Resort at 1100 hours under sunny skies and a temperature of 82 degrees. Kit and I then headed northeast toward the town of Mesa, Arizona….

…and, a few minutes later, stopped at a conveniently located shopping mall where Kit noticed a Kohl’s store.

While she enjoyed an hour of Retail Therapy, I spent time working on this journal and walking laps about the vast parking lot. Now normally, an extended stop on a travel day, for most any reason, would drive me nuts…however, our destination is only 58 miles to the east, and check-in time isn’t for another two hours, so this is as good a place as any to hunker down.

Back on the road, we soon left the Phoenix megalopolis and passed through the bedroom community of Mesa before turning north toward the Tonto National Forest.

And within minutes, arrived at Usery Mountain Regional Park located in the Salt River Valley.

This very popular park, close to a major metropolitan area, is normally booked solid…. however, due to someone’s late cancellation, we were able to get in for a few days. The stipulation was that we had to move sites. So, the first night we stayed on the north rim of the park with a great view of Scarface Cliff.

And enjoyed the sunset across the desert landscape as the waning light illuminated the hillsides.

And, with that, we bid you a pleasant good evening!


Monday, February 12 through Wednesday, February 14: Usery Mountain Regional Park, Arizona: Woke to partly sunny skies with temperatures in the 60’s as we relocated our camper to our second site, which we will occupy for the duration of our stay.

This site is located on the South rim of the campground and is surrounded by desert vegetation, such as this beautiful Palo Verde tree.

You may have noticed the two orange colored objects on the barrel cactus to the left of the tree in the photo above. Those are my offerings to the many songbirds that greet us each morning.

Where back home, folks put out bird feeders, here in the desert it is common for folks to place sliced citrus fruit on spines of cactus! The birds were too quick for me to get a good photo, however both halves of the arrange were gutted in a few hours! And yes, those are from Marti’s backyard citrus trees. The birds only enjoyed the one, as the Navel Oranges were so juicy and delicious we ate the others in short order.

This area is on the border of a National Forest; however, it doesn’t resemble most folk’s idea of a forest at all.

Landscapes of the United States come in different forms and they all exhibit their own beauty.

On one morning during our stay it dawned dark and gloomy…

…with badly needed rain in the forecast.

So, since we were close to the city of Scottsdale, Kit and I decided to pop over for a visit…and what did we find?   A new Airstream dealer!

This place was unique in that every model of this iconic travel trailer was inside a massive, climate controlled, showroom. Additionally, they sold properly equipped tow vehicles as well, mainly Range Rovers, and Escalades! So, for a mere $200,000.00 one could drive off on their own camping adventure. Oh, and the orange Porsche 911 shown in the above photo, that’s the owners personal car driven on the Vintage Sports Car Racing Circuit.

Leaving the dealership with the knowledge that a new Airstream trailer is a bit out of our budget, we came across a nice little family restaurant called Habanero’s Mexican Grill, so pulled in for lunch.

Where Kit and I enjoyed the special of the day…Carne Asada Quesadillas.

Then, while walking out of the restaurant with full bellies, Kit spotted a Goodwill store…this is shaping up to be a great day!

While Kit ran amok in the housewares department…I headed straight for menswear and started mining Hawaiian Shirt Gold!

The above is a representative sample of my bounty, and each shirt was in great shape and priced at only $4.50…with the old folk’s discount!

The best US location to find tropical vacation castoffs has historically been in the Southwestern portion of the US. Many of my finds, I’m sure, were donated by cowboys returning from an island vacation and too embarrassed to wear their impulse purchase at the rodeo. As of today, I have surpassed the point of owning over 50 Hawaiian shirts’…all of which were amassed over our 10 years of adventure travel! Perhaps I should start an eBay business in gently used, authentic Leisure Wear!?!?

Returning to the campground, I spotted this camouflaged and masked automobile up ahead.

Many auto manufacturers operate proving grounds in the area to assess their future models on hidden test-tracks. When testing requires driving on city streets, the car exteriors are obscured by body wraps and covers to disguise the shape of the yet to be released vehicle. This subterfuge is supposed to help minimize industrial espionage, or the unauthorized release of future car images. The irony is that in this era of automobile monotony, and year after year model consistency, these “new models” sporting such obvious camouflage, and affixed with Michigan manufacture license plates, draw more attention than if they just drove the thing around naked…perhaps, that’s the real reason America’s big three, Ford, GM, and Fiat go to all the trouble!?!?

Motoring down the access road back towards Usery Mountain Regional Park we noticed this unusual image.

The 1,063-foot-long directional sign was created by a Boy Scout Troop back in 1950 as a navigational aid by the suggestion of their scoutmaster, a general aviation pilot. Constructed of painted rocks, each letter is 100 feet high by 12 feet wide and took 430 gallons of white paint to cover. Constructed as a Boy Scout Service Project to assist trans-continental pilots in the location of the Phoenix Regional Airport, the massive sign remains as a piece of 1950’s graffiti.

Back at the camp, the rain had subsided, and the fragrant smell of damp mesquite trees permeated the air.

A great opportunity to take a walk down one of the many hiking trails to experience the rare sensory opportunity of a rain-soaked desert.

As Kit and I prepared for the mornings departure, and enjoyed an evening glass of wine, the sun set below the overcast on another great day!


Kit’s Bit’s: As always, I thoroughly enjoyed our time in the Phoenix area. Best of all, was seeing Martha and Rodney. We spent a good bit of time talking about the crazy things we did as kids and remembering lots of kids and crazy pranks from the neighborhood. Next best thing was touring the Airstream trailers! They are so sleek and beautiful! Every single time we see one on the road, we’re like kids as we blurt out “Airstream” and point to it! So, we probably should have popped for one at the beginning of this retirement adventure. We actually looked at them but talked ourselves out of it since our plan was to be “half timers” rather than “full timers”. The other issue was, I was all for finding an old one to modify and Bill wanted a brand new one. It’s still fun to look at them from time to time.