The Deserts of the Southwest

Since we were unable to find an RV Park in Phoenix, we moved on down the road toward Tucson, which is Southeast of Phoenix approximately one hundred miles. We traveled on I-10, which is the Southern most of all the Interstate Highways. Our “trail” meandered back and forth across some of the world’s most “Godforsaken” desert. I was born and raised in Southern Idaho, and thought our “sage brush” wilderness was what the “end of the world” would look like! After traversing the deserts of Arizona, New Mexico and West Texas … Southern Idaho, Nevada and Utah look like the “Garden of Eden”!! I’ll never complain again about the distance between gas stations in our part of the West. We traveled through miles and miles of “cacti-forest” … which neither of us had ever seen before. Not really conducive for camping and hiking … and I’m certain the entire desert was populated with rattle snakes, centipedes, scorpions and a poisonous lizard called a gila monster. We never let the dogs go out into the “woods” to do their “duty” for fear they’d bring back a nasty “friend”!

We were unfamiliar with the variety of flora and fauna in this part of the desert but found this one barrel cactus aptly named “The Pineapple Cactus.”


In spite of what appeared to be a totally inhospitable landscape, the ancient native people had evidently lived and flourished in the Casa Grande area for thousands of years. The Park Service Guide told us that over a thousand people had lived in this community, and that this was but one of many such communities strewn across the countryside … where ever there was a source of water for the irrigation of their farms. They had an extensive trade network, where they bartered their food items for goods not locally available. They have found sea shells from the Gulf of Mexico and the Pacific Ocean. Rock tools and pottery from the Great Lakes and coral items from Florida. We found all of this to be fascinating!

Because of past looting and destruction of artifacts, the authorities have covered most of the sites with dirt, burying some as deep and fifteen feet, which we thought was a clever “act of preservation”!!! With the passing of time and availability of funds, these sites are then uncovered and studied. Again, we found this to be fascinating!! The very large building called “Casa Grande”, meaning “Great House” was built out of a particularly hard clay … that mixed easily with water and dries as hard as a rock … it took several hundred people, months to build this large structure … one basket load of wet clay at a time, stacked and shaped by hand. They had no metal tools and used wooden picks and shovels to dig the clay by hand, carried it in baskets on their backs to a water source and then on to the construction site. All of their buildings were similarly constructed. Through time, the major destructor of these artifacts has been rain water, i.e. rain melts “unfired” water based clay … fortunately it doesn’t rain much in this part of the world!! This explains why the Park Service constructed a “roof” over this major structure.

Coming back home from Casa Grande we came across this tourist attraction, stopped in and had a fun time petting and feeding the animals. Shy Girl had a blast!!! She was like a little kid in a candy store … she really loves animals!!! One of her favorites was the “Bird Cage” … a large, fenced in area where they kept these cute little, colorful birds called Rainbow Lorikeets, from Australia, that would fly over and land on your arm, head, shoulder or any other spot, to eat the food out of your hand. They gave her a little cup with “nectar” in it, with a lid so it wouldn’t spill …. she was told she didn’t have to take the lid off, because the birds were trained to pry off the lid so they could get to the “goodies” … and they were right … the birds could take off the lid faster than a person could!!!!


Although the birds were probably her favorite, she found the goats, burros, deer and rabbits to be irresistible.


Half way between Phoenix and Tucson AZ is a “new” community, built in 2007, that is essentially a ghost town … reminds me of a pretty girl that got all dressed to go to a party, only to have the party called off!! As the “back-story” goes, there were plans to build a huge electric truck manufacturing plant in the area with a promise of thousands of jobs … the word got out and speculators bought up all the land in the area, and convinced “big money” in the big cities of Arizona to develop the town-site and subdivisions … hundreds of millions of dollars were spent on this “model city” … before the “shell game” imploded and the dream of easy money evaporated!!!! Whereas the big Mall and many small shopping strip malls are essentially vacant, the Walmart is doing very well, with it’s parking lot crowded almost 24/7. There are probably ten to fifteen thousand people living in the beautiful subdivisions … homes that would sell for $700 – $900, ooo in California are being offered for $150-$250,000. In time, the word will spread, and people will move here from California to retire … the climate is dry and not too severe, and it is conveniently located between two large cities … country living without the crowds!!


Of course, things do not always go as planned. After an adventure in the “Ghost Town” we came home to find our vent cover on the RV broken. With Siri’s help we found the dealer in town and after much discussion and hand signals (LOL) we purchased the type of vent cover we needed and Roger put it on with very little effort other than getting up on the ladder and getting down off the roof.

It’s amazing how high the top of the RV is … about eleven feet from the ground up … but forty five feet from the top looking down. Whereas climbing up the ladder and climbing off onto the roof wasn’t too bad … I thought I was going to be “trapped” up on the roof of the bus for the rest of my life, as I couldn’t back down as easily as I had gone up … this growing old is getting to be more challenging as the days go by!!!

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