The first day of a trip is exciting – and in this case very tiring. You see, we’d stayed up the night before until all hours cleaning out the last remnants of our life from our apartment so that we could turn in the keys first thing in the morning. I only lasted until 1am – which was ok with Kathy as I was driving. Kathy stayed up until 4! getting everything finished, and I owe her big time for that.

rich-trekkieTo say that our Element is crammed full is a bit of an understatement. While bringing stuff to goodwill and storage I’ve been amazed time and time again at the quantity of stuff we can fit in our little SUV, but to look at our stuff all over the apartment and garage I figured that this time there was simply no way that everything could fit. Our little boxy Honda proved me wrong yet again, and we managed to get EVERYTHING inside. I think some downsizing is in order as we go forward, but for now we really are prepared for just about anything!

While it would have been nice to get on the road early, we had a couple of errands to run first. We had a dinner date with Kathy’s Aunt, Cousin, and her Cousin’s husband at 6pm in Phoenix, so we weren’t in that big a rush as the drive from Irvine to Phoenix is only 6 hours, but still we were excited to get going! We got on the road at 11am, and made great time arriving in Phoenix at 5:30.

If I could describe Phoenix with one word, it would be HOT. We had been planning on camping right outside Phoenix in White Tank Mountain Regional Park, but as it was still well over 90 degrees we decided to make some time and hope that it would cool down a bit as we drove. I found Picacho Peak State Park on my droid phone, saw that they had a decent campground (free showers!) and we made that our target.

TarantulaWe arrived in Picacho at about 9:30pm, and were greeted by the largest tarantula either of us had seen sitting on the outside wall of the bathroom. Kathy wanted to leave the campground immediately, and we both got the heeby jeebies from the way the large spider ran around the wall and the ground. To make matters worse most of the picnic tables were home to Black Widow Spiders, and the campground was very dark making navigation a bit tricky.

Of course we were much too tired to leave at this point, so we took a quick shower, setup the tent, and crashed. One huge benefit of the dark was that we could see the most incredible display of stars I’ve seen in some time. You don’t see many stars when living close to Los Angeles, and you almost forget that the sky can hold that many stars! It felt great to fall asleep with the stars peaking through the netting of our tent.

Speaking of which, I absolutely love to camp. If you follow this blog much you’ll find that we camp a lot. Sure there’s a bit more work involved than simply checking into a motel, but the benefits far outweigh the detriments in most cases. Benefits as I see them:

  • You get to experience a place – all motels are the same, but campgrounds are completely different from place to place.
  • You get to support your State and National Parks
  • Lots of fresh air, stars, and nature all around
  • Campfires never get old
  • Food tastes better outdoors
  • You can step outside your tent in the morning and go for a hike
  • Camping is $15-$20 a night – big bonus!

Now a few caveats. I’ve found that camping in State and National parks is far superior to the average RV park or privately run campground. Somehow in spite of the lack of funding most of our State and National park campgrounds are excellent! Of course most RV parks focus on RVs so the spaces are close together and mostly pavement, and you miss out on lots of the nature stuff that I love.

Also, We’ve had plenty of unpleasant campground experiences involving loud music until 4am, or having a train go through the middle of our campsite at 2am (always fun), but for every one of those experiences I’ve had 20 that were great! Also, we definitely will hit the periodic motel, as every now and again it’s nice to have a private bathroom, a bed that you don’t have to make in the morning, and a TV so you can watch a couple movies. Still, I’ve camped since I was a kid and it’s still my preferred way of moving about the country.

Which Way From Here?

As it stands right now we’re only 40 minutes outside of Tucson – where we’re planning to have lunch with a friend of mine. It’s hot already at 8am, and Kathy and I are going to try to take a quick hike before it gets even warmer.

That’s it for now – watch out for spiders!


Hi, I'm Rich - Perpetual traveler, photographer, writer, and web designer. Thanks for reading, and happy trekking!