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  • Writer's pictureRobert Gidley

Taking refuge in the refuge

Mar 8, 2023 (Wed)

11:00 am Tucson, AZ

Most of the RV parks we stay at, when they say “checkout is 11:00,” they really mean “11-ish” (and sometimes “noonish”). Here in RV City, home of 667 RV spots (why 667? for a place called Thousand Trails, you’d think they’d expand), we notice the security guys cruising around in their golf carts and decide that since they have our credit card numbers, we better not push it.

11:30 Pilot Gas Station, Tucson, AZ

After being deeply disappointed in trying to obtain propane from Lyin’ Chevron yesterday, we get a tip that Pilot is the way to go (this is a gas station chain with no links in our neck of the woods).

“Go whichever way you want, you’ll find a Pilot station,” said the cheery young lady at the Two-Thirds of a Thousand Trails check-in desk. “They all have propane!”

Sure enough—not only is there propane, but the guy comes out relatively quickly (we’ve waited 15 or 20 minutes at other places), is quick and efficient and even turned our propane back on for us! (There are two rules when you get propane: 1) nobody can be inside; 2) you have to turn the propane off in case you left the stove on, so that way it’ll explode once you’re on the road and not in their legal liability area.)

Pilot is the way to go!

1:00 pm Nowhere, Southern Arizona

We’re cruising south on some highway or another when we start seeing signs telling us to slow down to 45, then 35, then 25, then 15. We’re thinking it’s construction.

Turns out it’s a bunch of Border Patrol guys standing around looking at cars. They don’t stop us, they don’t look inside (they can’t, really, Harvey has silvered side windows to keep the sun out and the privacy in). In fact, they look like we woke them from a nap. We are about 15 miles from the Mexican border, but they could at least ask us if we’re smuggling anything.

Our tax dollars at work! Well, at least it’s better than buying a bomb.

2:00 pm Buenos Aires National Wildlife Refuge, AZ

We end this wildlife refuge, which isn’t BLM land, this is Federal land, and the rules are a bit different. Still no fee for camping, but you can’t just park your rig anywhere. It has to be at a campsite.

Robert found a map at the information kiosk and we’re trying to navigate our way to one of those campsites. Since you can’t reserve a campsite, we have no idea how crowded it will be. The map had no scale (the part that lets you say, “Oh, that little bitty stretch there is really 10 miles!”) and there are no street signs, so we’re doing a certain amount of stumbling about.

We turn onto what we are sure is a road that’s chock-a-block full of campsites. We’ve never seen one of these campsites, so we’re not sure what they look like. We see some wide areas off the road and wonder if those are campsites, but we keep going.

Suddenly—look a fire ring! A sign that says “58”—and according to the map, Holy Cow, we are nowhere close to where we thought we were! But, hey, it’s empty, it looks good, we pull in!

The terrain is full of scraggly trees with no leaves about 20 feet high. For a moment, we think they are maybe mesquite, but the mesquite trees we’ve seen have leaves at this point. There’s red clay and grassy brush underneath—everything looks like it’s waiting for a spark to turn into a wildfire, but it’s deserted!

What a difference from yesterday! Or any of our campsites, actually. We thought having people 100 yards away was private. We can’t see (or hear) another campsite from here. Ah, isolation!icture]

Sunset over Harvey

8:00 pm Wildlife refuge

We decide to step outside for a bit of star-gazing, since we’re well away from civilization. We hear some coyotes off in the distance (or raucous teenagers, hard to tell the difference actually).

Over to the side is a glow on the horizon.

“What’s that glow?” asks Gini.

“Oh, that’s Tucson,” declares Robert confidently.

A little later.

“Why is it getting brighter?” asks Gini.

“Oh, you know, Wednesday night is a real popular night for Church groups, so they turn on all the lights,” says Robert.

Later still.

“It’s getting even brighter!” declares Gini.

“Well, perhaps Tucson has been nuked—oh wait. That’s the moon rising!” says Robert, at last getting it correct.

The moon is just past full and washes out a lot of the stars, but we did have a fun time watching Tucson rise in the east…

Tucson rising

Mar 9, 2023 (Thu)

We’re still at the Buenos Aires National Wildlife Refuge today. For the first (!) time, we’re going to try boondocking two days in a row. The limiting factor seems to be water (we have a 32 gallon tank, which seems like a lot until you start washing dishes and flushing the toilet…), but we’ll see how it goes.

9:30 am

We see a car drive by!

This is the first time that we have seen another vehicle since we’ve been here.

Harvey nestled in his spot

Later on, Robert goes for a walk and finds a rock (“It’s a pretty rock!”). Gini goes out walking and sees animal tracks and some scat (the poopy kind, not the jazz kind).

Life in the fast lane!

Mountains are still weird shapes here

Gini enjoys our propane campfire


How we got here

Gini & Robert

Harvey Staff

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