Southern Arizona
April 15-29 2016

WHY

I like camping. I like it a lot, especially in the American Southwest. In 2015 I spent ten days camping in Utah and mostly had a great time. That same year I took a train from LA to Austin TX in April, and as we crossed Southern AZ, there were cacti everywhere and the ocotillo had red flags at the end and I thought, Hm. That's pretty. I've never been further south than Flagstaff...and the idea for this trip was born.

WHEN

The first person I talked about this with was my old friend Jo Nell. She was interested, but she said, Not in July, the heat would kill me. We negotiated for a week or so, and agreed that the end of April might work. So I said, why don't I drive down and we leave from your house (in Southern CA) and drive east across Arizona, and you can fly home from Tucson? then I'll bring the truck back with any camping stuff you can't take on the plane. She agreed, and it was set. We would leave from her house on Saturday April 16.

WHO

Then I put a call out to all my travel and camping buddies, offering the option of some cars being camping cars and others being drive/motel cars, and meeting and splitting up as the mood and our plans might take us.

The final count was:

  • Me (and my truck Boudika, without whom I don't go camping)
  • Jo Nell (her husband opted not to go)
  • My camping/hiking buddy Jim, whose spouse does not camp
  • My sister Diana, who was the driving/motel half of this trip
  • Our adopted Chinese sister Kitty, who lives in Connecticut but loves the desert, and would drive and motel with Diana.

And speaking of the people who came on this trip...there are lots of pictures on these pages. About 90% of them are mine, taken with my amazing Panasonic Lumix ZS50 camera. The other 10 percent were taken by Jim with his digital video/still camera, Jo Nell who has the same camera I do, and Kitty with her smart phone. I don't always say on the page who took what, but the names of the pictures will tell you- they're all named az and a three digit number. If Jo Nell took the pic, there is a b after the number, an r for Jim and a k for Kitty. I usually only use first initials, but my truck had Jim, Jo Nell and Jo Ann, so they get last initials.

WHERE

So then there was much discussion of where we'd all go and when and how. Jim, Jo Nell and I talked by email, and decided on seven 'must see' things, and that we'd play it by ear other than that.

Kitty and Diana actually took their trip starting and ending a couple of days before ours; Diana met Kitty on Thursday April 14 in Las Vegas, and took her back the following Thursday. So here's the list we campers came up with, in no particular order:

  • Tombstone
  • Sedona
  • Arcosanti
  • Saguaro NP
  • Organ Pipe Cactus NM
  • Meteor Crater
  • The Pima Air and Space Museum (this was Jim's)

We decided to meet up with Diana and Kitty at Lake Havasu on Saturday April 16 for lunch at 2 pm, which would get us out of California, and that night would be our shake-down camping night, with plenty of time to get set up and work it all out. And we all wanted to see Sedona, so we agreed that we would all meet up and spend Wednesday there shopping and eating and sauntering.

Jim and Jo Nell were flying home from Tucson on Sunday the 24, and I said, if you guys have to be at the airport that morning, it would make it WAY easier to reserve a motel the night before. So we did that, although it got changed (for the better).

And that was our plan. You'll see how it turned out...but I will say here, we did all of those things and more!

HOW

Ah, logistics. This was kind of a complicated trip in one way (two cars and five people) and simple in another (we didn't have a lot of hard-and-fast plans.)

We did have road maps, a Garmin named Scruffy, and my Lonely Planet guide to Arizona, which became our bible and was a HUGE help.

Jim, Jo Nell and I talked ahead of time and made a few decisions: firstly, that we would plan everything we wanted to do to go from the west to the east, so that we didn't backtrack a lot...we were mostly successful at this. We also made reservations ahead of time to tour Kartchner Caverns on the way from Tucson to Tombstone, since we didn't know if they would have tickets available on the day itself...and sure enough, two weeks ahead all the tickets between 10 am and noon were gone, so I got a tour at 9:20 am. All good. Otherwise, we didn't have a lot of plans. We were going to decide every day or two as we went, and my comfort level at showing up without reservations at a campsite or KOA was high, having done it the previous summer with no problem.

My truck is set up with a shell and carpet kit, so I can sleep in the back and all the camping stuff is packed in crates under the platform; my clothes are in panniers on the sides, and there's room for a two burner Coleman stove and some folding chairs. I've never traveled this long with three people in the cab, so I did make some arrangements; I brought a smaller ice chest, that could fit between the jump seats and the driver's seat, and bought some cheap pillows at IKEA for whoever ended up in the back of the cab.

Jim and Jo Nell had their stuff for a week, plus tents and all that...I had insisted that they get tickets home through Southwest (which lets you check two bags for free), and do their best to pack so that they could check their tents and sleeping bags and I wouldn't have to take them back with me, and they did a great job of editing and packing their camping stuff. And I have enough pots, pans, plates and utensils for several people, so we just shared all the stuff.

Jim and I did the grocery shopping the day before we left, and that was it, we were ready to go!