Wow! It’s Chapter 4 already of our On the Road 2022 series with Beatrix the Toyota Highlander and her faithful companion, Marion, the Trillium Trailer, our home away from home. The past week was devoted to family reunions. Our home base for the past five days was Cave Creek Regional Campground. Photos by Bill and Kate Poss
We camped at Catalina State Park in Tucson April 26 in site 39, something geared for the big rigs 30+ feet long. Arriving at night, we couldn’t see the campsite numbers, which were placed near the back of the paved trailer sites. I exited Beatrix and walked up to a woman carrying a cat, telling her we couldn’t find the campsite numbers. She and her neighbors walked down our loop and found our site. We could have fit 3 Marions in the asphalt strip.
Nearby was the most beautiful campground bathroom I’ve ever seen. The shiny tiled walls and sinks, high knotty pine ceilings, with impeccably clean floors, toilets and showers, get an A+ rating. The view of the Catalina Mountains rising out from the valley the next morning was spectacular and close by. Many of our paloverde, mesquite and acacia trees were in full bloom with yellow flowers. All the trees are members of the pea family.
Leaving Tucson, which we loved in many ways for its people, murals, restaurants, landscape and saguaro, we drove north on Hwy 79. The traffic heading out was fairly heavy with trucks. We were saddened to see a semi hit a gray dove, which exploded in feathers.
We arrived In Tempe, a Phoenix suburb, and stopped in at Dash Designs, to have a carpet-like cover attached to our dashboard to protect it from the desert sun. Bill had ordered it a week earlier. A young woman used hook and loop strips to expertly and cheerfully attach the dash ‘rug.’ We find people in Arizona to be friendly in nearly every encounter. We theorize it’s because they see regular sun and wear less clothes than those in cooler climates.
While waiting for our dash cover installation, another woman behind the counter gave us a free steering wheel cover, a fleecy thing, which feels good to the hand. We thanked her for her generosity.
We ate lunch at a nearby Chipotle to cool off and find pull-through parking for Bertie and Marion. It was 96° in Tempe this Wednesday afternoon and traffic here was heavy. While we had attempted to eat at the local spots near Arizona State University, we could not find any parking.
After lunch we drove to a strip mall to buy a swim suit. My previous swimsuit, a cute blue gingham one-piece, had given out and its bottom sagged. In Tempe I found a well-made new vintage print suit at What Women Want Swimwear (The store’s answer: a bathing suit she feels good in).
Arriving at our campsite at Cave Creek Regional Park Campground, we found it to be blazing in the unmerciful sun. We were cranky and overheated while we stabilized Marion, undid her hitch, and plugged in. I soaked my bandana under the nearby faucet and tied it around my neck. Ah, natural air conditioning! Bill set our beach chairs up in the shadow Marion created at her back side. We enjoyed cold coffee, a real luxury after suffering from heat exhaustion.
I thanked the angels of Google for leading us to Jewel of the Creek Preserve, a Desert Foothills Land Trust, with one of the few year-round creeks in the Sonoran Desert. We felt renewed among the forest of saguaro, the beautiful old cottonwood trees, variety of stones and the flowing creek. Two ravens croaked their greetings high above on a tree. We left them a gift of seed cake.
That evening we shopped at the Sprouts Farmers Market for groceries. We returned to camp at 8:04 pm, just as the park gate started swinging shut! In our heated delirium we had neglected to see our camp receipt with the evening gate code that our hosts had posted on our electric box at the camp.
Thursday we swam in Scottsdale at its aquatic center, ate healthy lunch at Pita Jungle, and gawked at the crowd of folks, women, many quite large, in bikinis, net covers, and eyelashes; men in tattooed biceps, emerging from a limo bus. They looked like drag queens enroute to Las Vegas. No, they were life insurance employees out for an employee appreciation day at Lake Pleasant.
We camped in Cave Creek so we would be close to a wedding venue the following Saturday. Bill’s nephew Eric was getting married. All of Bill’s siblings had arrived from California and Washington. We met the Thursday before at his eldest brother John’s place, where he and his lovely wife Gail have lived for thirty-plus years in Scottsdale. They talked of how the places are selling quickly and being up-bid in price, just like on Whidbey. The Phoenix-Scottsdale areas are booming.
Friday we visited with friends of Whidbey friends. Helga and Jürgen, in their later 70s are vibrant and positive. They have a lovely casita in the ranch country of Cave Creek. Later we visited the town of Cave Creek, a new age, motorcycle, artsy town of character.
The Rare Earth Gallery caught our eye with its boulders of raw copper and petrified wood outside. Inside the store we felt buzzed up from the display of beautiful gems and minerals. A joyous salesman told us that some people get so high from the stone energy, staff give them pieces of jasper to calm them while they sit on a couch. Outside the store Bill and I goggled at a $59,000 bathtub carved from a luminous layered stone. Later, I read a Tony Hillerman novel at the town’s impressive Desert Foothills Library, housed in multicolored adobe, perched on a hill with an adjoining saguaro forest. While I enjoyed diving into Hillerman’s Navajo country, Bill typed up the meeting minutes from his Saratoga Water District meeting he virtually attended in Tucson the week before.
Believe it or not, we could not find any laundromats nearby. We had to drive 13 miles to Phoenix, to Papa’s Laundry. Thank goodness for friendly Ruthie, an employee there, who tutored us on how to best load the machines—halfway for maximum cleaning— and where to place our laundry soap pods—at the back of the machine. We were grateful for her good cheer and her love of her work folding laundry at $1.50 a pound.
Cave Creek Road, where the laundry was located, is part of the Sonoran Desert Scenic Drive. Heading back to camp that evening, we were impressed by the desert, the evening silhouette of the cactus and the range of mountains against the twilight.
Friday evening we sat behind Marion eating dinner and marveling that we could be eating outside on an April evening with the warm desert breeze, looking up at the starlit night sky.
We woke up at 5 a.m. Saturday morning to see the rise of Venus and Jupiter in the eastern sky. We were up early as we had an appointment to have Beatrix detailed in Mesa at 6:30 a.m.
As we drove out on Carefree Highway, we noticed colorful balloons sailing into the sky.
At his Mesa home, Manfredo Robles took care of Beatrix for the next four hours. My niece Renaya picked us up at 6:30 in the morning! We returned to her home nearby, picked up her teenage sons Reid and Quinn. We treated the family to breakfast at Sassy’s, the boys ordering French toast. Fun place. Returning to Renaya’s, we played a Star Wars card game, kind of like poker, until Manfredo texted that Beatrix was ready. When we arrived, we couldn’t believe that Beatrix’s formerly pitted paint had been restored to its former smooth surface. Manfredo performed magic. During our visit to Bishop CA, Beatrix had been sandblasted in a windstorm with 60 mph winds. Every surface was covered in pinpricks of grit you could feel.
We left Mesa and drove to downtown Phoenix were we met our former neighbors Shirley and Matthew Brencick. Shirley made us a delicious chilled cucumber soup, topped with salmon and veggies, along with a tasty kale salad. We learned that Shirley serves on her condo association board, managing 280 condominiums. Not easy, and yet she is calm about her role. She also volunteers and enjoys immensely her work at the Heard Museum, which celebrates Native American culture, located across the street.
While Bill and I swam in the couple’s condo pool, Shirley graciously ironed our wedding clothes, which had become wrinkled in the four weeks we’ve been on the road. How lucky are we to have a friend like Shirley?
As we left downtown Phoenix, the temperatures climbed to 95° as we drove north on Hwy 17 to Peoria and the Blackstone Country Club.
The wedding was a girl’s dream in all the best ways. Bill’s nephew Eric and his wife Jessica were in love and they radiated happiness. The setting resembled an Italian villa, the food was delicious and we enjoyed visiting with family and dancing under the outdoor lights strung in the trees. A truly felt magic night. The wedding took place on a solar eclipse. There was a forgetting of our differences and a genuine coming together at the wedding, something I haven’t seen for a long time. Bill and I have been together since 1973, so there is a lot of history with our families. It was wonderful to dive into our true connection with one another and come out the other side feeling so in love with life and the world.
Especially moving was the mother-daughter dance with Jessica, dancing with her mom Donna, Donna leaning her head on her daughter’s shoulder. Eric and his mom Stephanie dancing. Jessica’s dad Jorge Perez, sharing his recipe for successful marriage, “try to reconcile.” He was so sincere and bursting with pride for his daughter, we felt the love as he stood inches from us telling us his story.
Bill and I drove back to camp that night renewed by the family connections, the elegant gracious space we had been in, and were grateful for the kindness of his brother Mike, his wife Stephanie, and Jessica’s family for hosting such a generous and beautiful event.
At Cave Creek Campground Sunday morning we sat in Marion after breakfast listening to Fire on the Mountain, by Edward Abbey, narrated by Danny Campbell. Abbey wrote the story in 1962 and it resonates still. It takes place in eastern New Mexico and involves an old timer who won’t leave his property, even though the Air Force at nearby White Sands had condemned the old man’s land, so it could launch missiles for a defense emergency to protect us from Soviet invasion. The tale is told by the old-timer’s 12-year-old grandson Billy.
So well-told the story is, it had us feeling the desert’s searing heat, hearing the crackle of cottonwood leaves, and feeling the pain of the man who loved his land and refused to leave it. We learned the Air Force now intends to expand its fly zone over recreation and indigenous lands in southern Arizona and southwestern New Mexico, including the Gila Wilderness where we will soon camp.
While listening to Edward Abbey’s story, I looked out the window at the lone saguaro on the hillside, its arms bending up to the horizon. Another window was framed by fragrant yellow paloverde flowers buzzing with honeybees.
The Google angels suggested we have breakfast at the picturesque The Grotto Café in Cave Creek. I love love love the feel of this place: the stones embedded on the walls, the big tarp triangle artfully placed, and red umbrellas that kept us shaded, the orange and yellow lantana bushes.
The food was excellent, I ordered a simple bowl of fresh eggs, potatoes and sausage with fruit. Bill ate a breakfast burrito. While we ate breakfast, we experienced that rare kind of feeling where we’re completely in the flow of life.
A Willie Nelson looking guy came by with his lady Elizabeth and we fell into natural conversation. She mentioned the healing that people experience in Arizona and how the earth is bringing out disease for us to release our traumas and get back to loving the planet.
A graceful paloverde tree framed a nearby thornless cactus. Our server Michelle has worked here just seven weeks. She told us, “You can’t have bad days here.”
We sat watching the local characters. A woman walked by and Bill said he loves the jeans and cowboy boots look.
The Grotto Cafe owners have posted rock and roll posters inside. We enjoyed walking around the various rooms admiring the wall art. Back at our outdoor table, listening to Carole King sing Up on the Roof, I noticed a soft breeze caressing my arms and legs. I experienced an exquisite rare moment of satori.
Some places we go and we’re invisible. With others, like The Grotto Cafe, it’s nice to be seen. When I exited the cafe holding a pair of big glasses of ice water, I walked around the tables looking for Bill. A man came by and said, “Oh, he’s over there on the other side. He had seen us together earlier.. That is the kind of cool synchronicity Bill and I really like.
Michelle our server told us there’d be some awesome music later in the afternoon. We told her we’d return. Bill and I left The Grotto Cafe and drove around the back streets of Cave Creek, admiring the adobe architecture and ranch settings framed by the Chiricahua Mountain range.
Returning in the afternoon, I stood in line to order some nachos. I met Leslie, the wife of Ron Gordon, who played guitar and sang with Rhonda Street. Wowsa! Talk about excellent entertainment, these two sang classic rock and country tunes for three hours.
My cousins Rose Koerber, her sister Karen Allan and her daughter Jayden joined us under our red umbrella. They live in the Glendale suburb of Phoenix. Rose is a rehab counsellor. One of her former clients came by and hugged her. He told us, “She’s badass on the outside, but pudding on the inside.” We are proud of Rose and the hard work she does to get people back to their lives.
Monday May 2 we left our campsite. I bowed a Namaste for the shelter and love our campground gave us.
While we were supposed to camp at Essence of Tranquility Hot Springs in shadeless Safford AZ, it was closed. We peered around for a way in. No one replied to our phone call and email until we left town 90 minutes later in the 97° heat. The library there looked like a prison. The town was depressed, and we felt like we were in Stephen King’s novel, The Stand, after the apocalypse.
Instead we set our sites for Silver City, NM, where I am now sitting in its awesome library typing this story. The main street is full of cool galleries, eateries and friendly people. We will camp at Gila Hot Springs for the next few days. Silver City is our kind of place. Creative and friendly.