All posts by suzy

Mission San Xavier del Bac

We love the fact that on our days off from work camping, we can take the time to enjoy the beauty around us.  We were told by the locals that Mission San Xavier del Bac was an experience that we really couldn’t miss while we are here in Tucson.

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Mission San Xavier del Bac is the oldest intact European structure in Arizona and is widely considered to be the finest example of Spanish architecture in the United States.  It is located just 9 miles south of downtown Tucson and draws around 200,000 visitors each year.

We decided to take a trip out there to see it this week.

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And we were not disappointed!

Mission San Xavier del Bac is affectionately called the “White Dove of the Desert”.  It sits on the land of the Tohono O’odham Indians who have protected the mission for hundreds of years.

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San Xavier Mission was founded as a Catholic mission by Father Eusebio Kino in 1692.  This particular church was completed in 1797 with the help of the local Tohono O’odham Indians, over 220 years ago!

As we walked inside, we were in awe of the amazing detail in every nook and crevice of this fabulous church.

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Little is known about the people who decorated the interior. It is assumed that much of the artwork was probably created by artists from Queretero in New Spain (now Mexico).

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The sculptures were created elsewhere and then carried by donkey through the desert to their destination at the Mission.

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We were told that what we were seeing today is the result of careful restoration.  Because of it’s age, the structure of the Mission obtained damage over the years.  An earthquake in 1887 caused major damage, and in 1939, lightning struck the West Tower lantern.

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In 1978, a group of community leaders began a five-year program to conserve and restore this national treasure.  An international team of conservators were brought in to clean, remove over-painting and repair the beautiful murals and sculptures within the Mission.

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Exterior preservation is still in process when funds are available.

Walking the grounds, we discovered several beautiful desert gardens and a small museum and gift shop.

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Through the gate, you can walk up to the hill next door that has a large cross on top.  The view is worth the small climb.

And don’t miss the local Tohono O’odham Indians who have set up stands in the parking lot selling lots of freshly made fry bread.

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I just love it when I run across a totally unexpected sign.  Certainly, don’t feed the coyotes.

Apparently they like fry bread too!

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If you are visiting the Tucson area, don’t miss this historic landmark!  It is free to the public and is an awe inspiring look into ancient architecture, amazing art, and religious history!

Do keep in mind that this is still an active church.  Masses are held daily.  All are welcome to attend mass, but be aware that no photos are allowed at that time.

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A Review of 2016 on the Road

We left Atlanta in April of 2015 for a life on the road.  Over the past nearly 2 years, we have enjoyed lots of great sights, met lots of fun people and experienced living in a 400 square foot “tiny home” with 2 dogs and one bathroom.

And this is just the beginning!

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Santa Fe, NM

We get asked a lot if we will ever settle down again in a regular home.  At this point in time, we have no plans for that.  We have absolutely no regrets.  We love our new roaming lifestyle and the fact that as we work-camp across the country, we get to actually experience each area as the locals do.

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Cadillac Ranch, Amarillo, TX

With the year 2017 on the horizon, I wanted to do a review of the past year on the road along with some of the trials and tribulations that went along with it.

Many ask about our financials, so I will go into that a bit, along with a few things we have learned and experienced as we traveled this year.

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Total Mileage this year

We began our year working in St. Petersburg, FL at the St. Petersburg KOA.  Our job ended there near the end of March.  Our next job would begin around May 1 in Williams, AZ, but we needed to make an extended stop in Atlanta due to health issues with our dog, Ralph.

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Our route took us to Orlando, a short pit stop in our favorite campground on Tybee Island, then onto Atlanta for a total of 633 miles.

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We then traveled westward through Mississippi, Texas, Oklahoma, New Mexico, and finally Williams, AZ, right near the Grand Canyon.  This was a total of  1,798 miles.

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Our job in Williams ended on October 31 and our job in Tucson began on November 15.  We took the long way with a detour through Laughlin, NV and Lake Havasu City, AZ, adding another     520 miles.

Grand total miles on the coach for 2016 was 2,951 miles.

Click here for more!

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Only in Arizona- The Tumbleweed Christmas Tree!

Yes, at first glance it looks like a normal Christmas tree in the center of town.  But Chandler, Arizona creates something unique and beautiful each year.  Something that you can find nowhere else in the country…

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This beautiful tree is made up of thousands of tumbleweeds!

Yes, thousands of them!  It takes around 1,000 of these tumbling dead bushes to create the massive 30″ tall tree each year.

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Local tradition holds that Chandler’s Tumbleweed Tree was the brainchild of Earle Barnum.  He came up with the idea for the tumbleweed tree after seeing a tree built with local pine boughs in his hometown in Indiana.

How do they make a Tumbleweed Tree?

Starting in the fall, the tumbleweeds are gathered and then placed around a chicken wire frame.  They are then sprayed with flame retardant white paint, sprinkled with over 65 pounds of glitter, and strung with lights.

This wonderfully unique tradition has been carried on for over 60 years in the town of Chandler.

Of course, once we heard about it, we had to see it!

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There was lots to see and do in the town area surrounding the Tumbleweed Tree including great little shops and restaurants.  Naturally, we had to try out one of the restaurants.

The sacrifices we make for this website.  LOL!

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We decided to check out Crust Restaurant, a local Italian eatery.  From inside, we could watch the tree as darkness began to fall and the lights were lit.

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We had some amazing pasta dishes at Crust.  We enjoyed a fresh board of Tomato, Basil and Parmesan Bruschetta, along with our main course of Grandma’s Pasta- a yummy mix of pasta, meatballs, sausage, ricotta and marinara!

Definitely worth a return visit!

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And as darkness fell, the Tumbleweed Tree grew even more beautiful!

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We really enjoyed the lights in the square.

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After all, it is pretty hard to decorate an RV.   The lights in the streets were amazing.

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This is our second Christmas living full time in our coach.  And one of the things I love about that is that we can experience Christmas just a bit differently each year.

Last year, we were on the beaches of Florida, and this year we are enjoying a Tumbleweed Christmas tree!

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And back at the campground, the doggies are settling in just fine.  Faith and Ralph have decided that the campground was pretty nice about supplying them with an official “doggie sidewalk”.

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We brought a few more of the old traditions back to our coach including whipping up a big batch of Old Fashioned Potato Candy.  (You can find the full recipe on my other website, Suzy’s Sitcom).

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Faith and Ralph (and both of us) wish you all an amazing, happy and healthy holiday season!

Next week, I plan on doing a review of our past year on the road!  Stay tuned!

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A visit to Saguaro National Park

First things first: it’s pronounced “suh-wahr-oh.”  Do you know how many years I have mispronounced this cactus?  Yep, I am ridiculously southern and can’t seem to shake it.

Anyway, we decided to make the short drive out to Saguaro National Park to see what all the fuss was about.

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And there you have it.  Cactus as far as you can see.

Since 1933 this extraordinary giant cactus has been protected within Saguaro National Park. There are two sections of the park, one on the west side of Tucson and one on the east side.  Our visit this week was to the west.

The Sonoran Desert is one of the hottest and driest regions on the continent. In the summer, it is common for the temperatures to climb over 100 degrees and it gets less than 12 inches of rain in a typical year.

With that in mind, it was surprisingly lush and beautiful!

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The plants and animals are able to survive this environment with adaptations specially designed for desert survival.  At first glance, desert life seems rather unfriendly.

Talk about a bunch of defense mechanisms!  It would not be a great thing to trip and fall while hiking around this part of the country!

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But in an extreme environment such as this, I imagine a great defense is necessary.

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Even the local wildlife is extreme.  The Sonoran Desert is home to 18 species of rattlesnakes.  There are also poisonous Gila Monsters,  and Coyotes, and Javelinas.

Not a lot of friendly in this part of the country, that’s for sure.

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The star of the show is the Saguaro Cactus.  It is not only the state symbol of Arizona, but a universally recognized image of the Southwest!

It is the largest and slowest growing of all cacti.  The shorter ones to the left of me in the photo above are about 75 years old.  The one to the right of me could be as old as 200 years.

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These amazing cacti can weigh up to 8 tons, partly because of the large amount of water the stems can hold. Giant saguaro cacti, unique to the Sonoran Desert, sometimes reach a height of 50 feet.

Click here for more!

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Life in Tucson

As full time RVers and work campers, we find ourselves moving with the seasons.  Most campgrounds hire for a six month long season.  You can work longer if you’d like as long as the campground is open all year.  Unfortunately, in the wintertime, most of the campgrounds in the northern section of the United States close due to inclement weather.

Our new home...
Our new home…

And not to mention, our coach has issues with below freezing temperatures.  In the future, we have learned that when buying a coach, you need to get what they call a “Polar Package”.  This includes not only heated floors, but extra insulation and a heated undercarriage.  These were things we didn’t think about at the time, and as usual, we learn the hard way.

With that said, we move to warmer weather just as the snowbirds do.  In fact, I guess that makes us snowbirds too!  LOL!

Our view from our front yard
Our view from our front yard

We find the majority of our work camping jobs on the internet and in May, we ran across an opening at the Lazy Days Tucson KOA for kitchen staff.  After several seasons of working the front desk, reservations and check ins, we decided we would love to have a small break.  So we applied.  I figured we would either love it or hate it, but either way- we only will be there through the winter.

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Sunset on the campground
Sunset on the campground

Why stay in Arizona?  Northern Arizona was absolutely beautiful with its pine forests and high mountains.  We wanted to also experience the desert of Arizona.  Tucson is located in southern Arizona very near the Mexico border.  Here we can experience the local desert, beautiful Saguaro forests, local Indian and Mexican influences, and much more.

Thanksgiving dinner at the KOA
Thanksgiving dinner at the KOA

We arrived here in the middle of November and enjoyed a nice Thanksgiving celebration with everyone on the campground.

Tucson KOA is a huge campground with around 500 sites.  Every site is gravel, with a poured concrete patio and and a small asphalt driveway for your vehicle.  And every single site has at least one fruit tree.

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A little break from the real world at Lake Havasu

Our contract at the Williams Circle Pines KOA ended on Oct 31, and our new job at the KOA in Tucson began on Nov 15.  That gave us about 2 weeks to take a break as we make our way down to Tucson.

Bet you wondered what happened to us.  I’m a bit behind on my posting!

Over the summer, many of our guests had come from southern Nevada, Laughlin and Lake Havasu.  They had come to Williams to get a break from the heat as that area of the country sees triple digits all summer.  We decided that we would check out that area of the country in a round about way to Tucson.

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Our first stop was the Laughlin Avi Casino KOA in Laughlin, Nevada.   Laughlin is located on the southernmost tip of Nevada along the Colorado river where Nevada, California and Arizona meet.   The town is known as a fun casino town.

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It is about a half day drive from Williams.  And all down hill.  We went from over 7000 feet above sea level in Williams to about 500 feet above sea level in Laughlin.

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While we missed the heat of the summer, it was still nice and warm there.  I enjoyed sitting under the palm trees and working on my laptop in my beautiful new back yard.

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On our second day there, we took the London Bridge Jet Boat tour down the Colorado River from Laughlin to the London Bridge in Lake Havasu City.

This is a great way to see the area from the water.  The trip takes about 2 hours to get to Lake Havasu City, you get a 2 hour break there to check out the bridge and grab a lunch, and then take the 2 hour ride back up the river.

And best of all, it was very affordable at about $70 a person.

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We really enjoyed the boat tour and our tour guide was incredibly informative.  Check out the green tint of the water behind Dave.  It was really that green!  Apparently from minerals in the water.

Click here for more!

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Leaving Circle Pines and heading to new Adventures!

We have been on the road now about a year and a half.  And the adventure has just begun.  Selling the house and nearly everything that we owned was difficult.  Leaving our friends and family behind was too.   But I have to tell you that we have absolutely no regrets.

Life on the road is everything we thought it would be.

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We often are asked how we can support ourselves on the road and I have to say that fortunately for us, we are able to handle most of our bills with income from my websites.

However, we do need a buffer.  And that is where KOA has come in.  We are doing seasonal work at various campgrounds in order to supplement our income while we see the country.

Last week we left Circle Pines KOA in Williams, AZ and I have to say that it was a sad farewell.  We not only loved this surprisingly beautiful area of the country, but made a bunch of new friends in the process that we definitely will miss.

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And we absolutely loved working for Bruce and Lori.  They made campground work an adventure.

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Our cool shady spot underneath the tall pines is now just a memory.  I would have loved to stay through the winter, but our coach does not love cold weather.  So it is onto to warmer regions.

We are currently at Lake Havasu for a brief vacation and then moving onto our winter job in Tucson, AZ.

But as I like to do, I’ve created a video of our memories from this beautiful campground on the high plains of Arizona.

Next week as a final chapter, I will be posting the top 10 Things to do in Williams, AZ.

Want more videos?

If you would like to see a bit about the parts of the country that we have visited so far, you can see our other videos here:

Our Season working at the St. Petersburg KOA

A Compilation Video of our Summer at Bar Harbor!

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Autumn in Northern Arizona

We we planned our move to Arizona for the summer, the last thing I was expecting was to see beautiful leaves in the fall!  It’s a desert, right?

Wrong.

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Depending upon the altitude, Northern Arizona is a mix of tall pines and hardwoods such as Aspens.  So with Fall in full bloom, we took advantage of a few days off and checked out the local foliage at the San Francisco Peaks.

A perfect way to say goodbye to this beautiful part of the country.

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You see, we will be heading out of Williams this week and on to our next destination.  Time flies when you are having fun, right?

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And there appears to be bears in the vicinity!  Who knew?

All this time we have been here, the only wildlife that we have come across besides those animals at Bearizona and the petting zoo was the occasional Abert Squirrel!

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Luck was with us and we actually got photo bombed!

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But seriously.  It has been an amazing experience here.

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Lot’s of things are happening at the Circle Pines KOA as we finish out the season.  They erected  a new huge sign for the entranceway.  Pretty impressive, isn’t it?

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We spent this past week telling all of our friends and coworkers goodbye.  Starting a season can be exciting, but finishing one out can be sad. We may run into some of our friends again along the road.  It is a small world after all.

But part of being a seasonal worker is making new friends along the way.

So what have we been doing these past few weeks besides checking out leaves and saying goodbye to our friends?

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Well, there were plumbing issues.  Seems that we should have named our coach “Always Something”.  Fortunately, Dave and Ralph had it handled in no time.

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And speaking of Ralph.  His diabetes has not been under control. About 3 months ago, he suddenly lost his vision.  The local vet recommended a specialist down in Phoenix.  We had to mull it over a bit as the cost was pretty high.

One of Ralph’s favorite past times is sitting in the window watching the squirrels.  When his eyesight deteriorated, not only was he running into things, but his demeanor changed.  He became depressed and not his normal self.

We were told that we had to get the diabetes in check before they could do anything about his eyes.  So, we spent the last few months keeping him on a strict prescription diet and having his glucose levels checked weekly.

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On October 5, we finally were able to get the surgery done.  Ralph had two new lenses put in his eyes.

Yep.  We bit the bullet and spent the money.  Ralph is one of the family after all.

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Recovery from the surgery takes about 6 weeks total.  And for many of those weeks, we had to keep him in the “cone of shame” full time.  This meant that I had to hand feed him.  And he had to learn how to get around with that huge cone on his head.

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A few weeks ago, we finally got to see his big brown eyes again.  I think he is really enjoying the fact that he can see his old nemesis  the Abert Squirrel.

He has a few more weeks of recovery, but he can already see better than I can.

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So that has been our last month in Williams.  Saying goodbye, fixing problems with the coach and helping Ralph recover from surgery. Oh, and I’m putting together a video of our season here.  I should have it ready this week.  So stay tuned.

We will be leaving the area this week and heading onto Laughlin, NV and Lake Havasu City for a short break before we go to our next job in Tucson, AZ.  I have to say that we will both miss the Williams area.

And who knows, maybe we will come back one day!  It totally could happen.

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Historic Williams, Arizona and a visit with family!

We are less than three weeks away from leaving the Williams, Arizona area and heading to our next destination.  It has been a wonderful five months here and we do plan on coming back one day!  I think we are both going to miss this beautiful part of Arizona.visiting the grand canyon

We had a fun surprise this month!  Both of our daughters came to visit us.  Our youngest and her husband flew in from Atlanta, and our oldest and her boyfriend drove in from Oklahoma City.  It was a wonderful family reunion!

They stayed in a beautiful cabin on our KOA campground and we showed them the area while they were here.  The Grand Canyon and Bearizona were favorite destinations.  We also taught the guys the fine art of s’more making over a campfire.

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And…we found out that we are going to be grandparents!

So that changes a whole lot of plans.  You see, we are currently scheduled to work the winter at Tucson KOA, and then work Polson KOA in Montana starting May 1.  With the baby arriving around the beginning of May, we are scrambling to make a few changes to our schedule in order to be in the Atlanta area for the birth.

One of the main advantages to living in a house on wheels is the fact that you can be anywhere you want to be.   Stay tuned for more info as we figure it out!

Williams Arizona

Now that we are beginning our goodbye’s to the area, I wanted to post a little about the historic town of Williams.  Williams is known as the “Gateway to the Grand Canyon”, and is the very last town on Historic Route 66 to be bypassed by Interstate 40 in 1984.

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Unlike many other towns that died a quick death after the interstate, Williams has continued to thrive on tourism.  Based about a 50 minute drive to the south rim of the Grand Canyon, Williams offers fun restaurants, shopping, and a unique look into the past.

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In the beginning, Williams, like so many other towns of the Old West, gained a reputation as a rough and rowdy settlement filled with saloons, brothels, gambling houses and opium dens.

Click here for more history and even a ghost story!

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Local Secrets of Northern Arizona!

Work camping jobs are normally around six months long.  One of the things we love about being able to stay in an area for a while is the fact that eventually, we get to check out some of the things that the locals know about, but the average tourist never gets to experience.

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Here are three of our favorite “local secrets” that we have enjoyed over the past few months…

Bill Williams Mountain

The tiny town of Williams is surrounded by beautiful mountain peaks.  These are part of the San Francisco volcanic field.  Now dormant, these beautiful peaks used to be active volcanos!

Bill Williams Mountain is the tallest of those peaks surrounding Williams and is named after Old Bill Williams, a scout, guide and mountain man who lived in the 1800s.

We heard that there was a dirt road available to get to the top.  At 9,256 feet above sea level at the peak, it was sure to be an amazing view.  So we set out to find it!

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Instructions to get to this local secret are as follows:

Take 4th street out of town toward Dogtown lake.  Go 4.7 miles from downtown and turn at the first dirt road on the right, just after the speed limit drops to 35 miles per hour.

Yep, it isn’t marked very well.  Hence the local secret, right?

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Warning- do not try to take this road in inclement weather, right after a rain, or in a vehicle that sits very low to the ground.

It is a total of 6.9 miles from the main road to the top of the mountain.  The road is in relatively good shape, but is steep and full of many switch backs and hairpin turns.

Oh, and there is no guard rail.

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The view is well worth it.  Our little KIA “I-think-I-canned” the whole way up.  We were glad we traded the VW bug in.  It sat so low to the ground that it never would have made it.

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At the very top of the mountain you will find a large antenna farm.  We were careful to respect any no trespassing signs as we took in the view from the top.

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Here we were at 9,256 feet above sea level and we could literally see for miles!

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Want to go a little higher?  Well, there is a fire tower on the top of the mountain too!

Dave refused to climb it, but I decided to brave it and climbed about half way up.

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From there I had an amazing, unblocked view of all directions.  Down below I was able to make out the campground.

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Fall is in the air this time of year and the journey to the top of Bill Williams Mountain was full of beautiful photo opportunities.

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The ride to the top and back down is full of beautiful scenery and definitely worth the effort.  For those that enjoy a good strenuous hike, there are some great trails that also go to the top of this mountain.  Just be aware of changing weather, and local wildlife.

And true to most local secrets, we didn’t run into a single person the entire trip.  I love these kind of secrets!

Click here for secret #2!

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