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  • Writer's pictureRobert Gidley

Metal dinosaurs and cartel smugglers

Mar 12, 2023 (Sun)

Time change? What time change?

The West Coast has finally caught up with Arizona and we’re now all on the same time zone. Arizona has plenty of sunshine and the last thing it needs is to save it up. Consequently, they say, “Bah!” on this whole moving the clock around.

Plus, there’s a lot of old people here and that would just confuse and irritate us, and we’d be writing letters to the newspaper demanding that the lost hour be returned to us.

11:00 pm Gunsight Wash BLM campsite

Well, it was picturesque, but 50% of our party thought it was too noisy (we were maybe a quarter mile from the highway), so we’ll be seeking another dock to place our boons in.

Gini stows some gear in preparation for casting off

One of our readers commented that traveling on an RV is a lot like living on a sailboat. Yup, it sure is (other than we don’t have to worry about drowning in our sleep—unless the water pump springs a leak). Everything has to be stowed and secure before we leave, lest it become a projectile. And there’s no dang space, and it seems like anything you want is behind two other things.

12:00 pm Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument

We decide to do at least one touristy thing while we are here, especially since it’s just 18 miles down the road.

First, Organ Pipe Cactus: These are cactuses that look like organ pipes, if you’ve ingested enough tequila. The only place they occur naturally in the United States is here in this park in Arizona. They also occur in Mexico, but that’s a foreign country and so it doesn’t really count.

An organ pipe cactus and Gini (joke deleted to avoid sleeping on the couch)

Since this is a National Park, there are lots of Park Rangers (“Hey, Hey, Boo Boo, there’s Ranger Smith!”) and lots of informative displays. Here’s what we learned:

  • We’ve been rambling around the Sonoran Desert (“Makes sense,” says Robert, “I’ve been snoring every night!”). This is one of the greenest and most diverse deserts in the world. And, yes, there’s a bunch of stuff growing here.

  • The natives (Tohono O’odham) divided the year into five seasons. There are two summers of three months each, and Fall lasts for one month. The first summer is the easy (“gentle”) summer. The second summer is the brutal summer.

  • When we camped at the Buenos Aires etc. park, there were a lot of holes in the ground—about two inches across. Gini was pretty convinced that they were snake holes, but that seemed like a lot of snakes in one area. Turns out she was wrong: they’re mice and rat holes! “And some burrows will have multiple entrances,” said Ranger Somebody.

  • The Tohono O’odham don’t have a word for “art.” That’s just part of life, and you seek ways to blend beauty and usefulness. “Some call it art…most basket weavers simply call it life.”

We spend some time in the gift shop, finding gifts (but we don’t get the cactus jelly, because it’s probably too prickly).

3:45 pm Gila Bend, AZ

At first glance, you might think Gila Bend is a town in Arizona. It certainly looks like a town in Arizona on the map. In actuality, Gila Bend is an extended truck stop with eight gas stations, five restaurants, and two dollar stores. No grocery store.

But there’s a bunch of metal sculptures of dinosaurs. We stop and get a picture of Robert and a metal T-Rex (although a bit undersized). We hunted for butter, but alas our quest was butter-less.

Robert and his new pal in Gila Bend

4:30 pm Freeman, AZ

Turns out these BLM campsites are pretty scattered, but we decide on one that’s about halfway to Phoenix (our next stop), which means about two hours of driving. We were using Google for most of the drive, as Siri thought our best move would be to go back to Tucson and then turn around and come back.

We’re not clear on why Robert decided to switch to Siri for the last part, but he did. As a result, as we are barreling down the Freeway at 75 mph, Siri exclaims “Turn right now! Now! Now!” and Robert slams the brakes and slides sideways into a dirt road. (Gini, who had been lounging in the back, was suddenly levitated and then de-levitated as the magnetic paper towel rack took flight.)

The dirt road ends about 20 feet in with a fence, so Robert got to “test” Harvey’s brakes some more. And then get back onto the freeway (crossing two lanes of traffic on a blind curve while trying to say the entire rosary in one breath).

Robert in his natural environment

We take the next exit and Siri then politely guides us to (maybe) where we’re going and partway there suggests we “get out and walk to your destination.” Always a joker, that Siri!

5:00 pm Lost Horse Tank?

Funny thing. Our camping app has two BLM camping areas next to each other. One of them has the description:

“We list this area for awareness but it might be best to avoid. This is a major smuggling route wash area. It is dangerous with the Mexican drug cartel and there have been shootings.”

Since we went farther than Siri wanted us to, we might have gone to the next campsite and we could be camping on the Cartel Freeway.

Robert’s trying to figure this out by searching on his phone when he notices the signal strength. “Holy Hertz! Look at that signal strength! Four bars and more—there must be a cell tower right—Oh, there it is.”

We’re parked about a quarter mile from a cell tower

Robert decides the cartel can just smuggle around us. We ain’t giving up this sweet spot.


How we got here

Gini & Robert

Harvey Staff

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