Category Archives: Places to Go

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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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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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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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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Wild Arizona- Bearizona and Grand Canyon Deer Farm

One of the perks of working for KOA campgrounds is that often we are given free tickets to check out local attractions.  This helps us to better recommend these attractions to our campers.  That being said, we decided to take advantage of this perk and visited two animal parks within a few miles of the campground.

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Bearizona Drive-Thru Wildlife Park

Bearizona was our first stop.  Located in the town of Williams, approximately three miles from the campground, It is a must see for children and animal lovers alike.

Bearizona does not want to be known strictly as a zoo.  It is a drive-through wildlife park where visitors can get up close and personal with some amazingly beautiful and wild animals.

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Yep, up close and personal with wild bears!

For a $20 admission for adults and $10 for children, you can actually drive your own vehicle along a three mile gravel road to see bears, wolves, buffalo, deer, elk and other wild animals right up next to your car!

The question we get asked the most is do you really see lots of bears there?  Up close and in your face?

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Um…yes.

There are many, many bears there.  In fact, the park asks that as you drive through the bear exhibit, you do not stop your car.

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You see, the bears love to climb and have been known to not only climb on top of vehicles, but take their own little souvenirs too.  Like maybe your license plate, side mirror or bumper.

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Fortunately for those of us that kinda like our cars, they also offer a free shuttle into the drive through area.  You can drive through in your own car, take the shuttle, or even do both!

The nice thing about the shuttle is that you have a very informed driver who talks about the animals, gives you their names as she sees them and tells you background stories on them.

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Along with the drive through section is Fort Bearizona, where bear cubs, river otters, foxes, pigs, goats, and other animals are on display in man-made habitats.

Fort Bearizona has a great set-up where the animals are easily seen, but we aren’t a bother to them.  They are happy to bask in the sun nearby and allow beautiful photos.

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If the premise of Bearizona sounds familiar, it is because it is owned and run by the sons of the owners of Bear Country in the Black Hills of North Dakota.

Click here for more…

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Two Guns; A Ghost Town with a haunted past…

We decided to drive out to see the Petrified Forest and the town of Winslow.  Because we felt the need to get a photo on the corner, right?

But just west of Winslow, we took a detour when we noticed some amazing looking ruins along side of the interstate.  And I’m so glad we did.  We stumbled upon the ghost town of Two Guns; a town with a sad and terrible past.

We were not aware of the history behind this place as we were exploring, but I managed to do some research and found out some very interesting things!

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The Death Cave

The area that became Two Guns was originally Navajo and Apache territory.  In the late 1800’s, a total of forty-two Apaches lost their lives in a show down with the Navajos.  The Apaches were burned to death in a cave in the canyon located on this property.

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After this terrible incident, the Apaches and the Navajos never returned to this area.  To this day, the Navajo believe the Two Guns area is possessed by Chindiis, their term for “ghosts of the dead”.

And the history of the area after the massacre is curiously dark.  Enough so that I was glad we did not stumble upon the Death cave or go anywhere near it.

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Two Guns and Route 66

In the early 1900’s, taking advantage of the traffic along the newly named Route 66, a local resident named Henry Miller created the town of Two Guns.

He added a gas station, over night accommodations, a cafe, souvenir shop and even a zoo.

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The zoo housed mountain lions, panthers, bobcats, gila monsters and more.

Click here for more!

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Taking a ski lift up into the clouds…

We work five days a week with two days off right now.  So on those two days, we like to become tourists and visit something fun in the area.

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I mean, who wants to stay in the RV all day?

Fortunately, there is so much to choose from around here that I doubt we will have a single weekend without some place new to see.

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This photo was taken in May, shortly after we got here.  We were very surprised to see snow capped mountains right in our back yard. This mountain range is called The San Francisco Peaks.

The tallest mountain in the range, Humphreys Peak, is the highest point in the state of Arizona at 12,633 feet in elevation.

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We took a ride out to the Arizona Snowbowl, a ski resort located on the San Francisco Peaks.   Opened in 1938, the Arizona Snowbowl is one of the longest running resorts in the West having been open for 75 years.

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You see, we heard that they will take you up on the ski lift for a nominal fee.

And we totally couldn’t pass that up!
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The chair lift officially opened for the summer right after Memorial Day.  We were very excited to check it out.

Dave and I were skiers in our younger days.  We choose not to break any bones at this stage in our lives, so we have to settle for a summer ski lift.  But I have to tell you, that it brought back great memories!

Click here for more!

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