We’re back!

7 Mar

Two blissfully uneventful flights found us at Phoenix airport waiting in a long line to clear immigration. Our new visas had not yet been tested and we hoped there would be no issues. When our turn came we answered the few questions from the Border Officer who stamped our passports and wished us well. On inspection we found our departure date to be six months hence, more than enough time for our intended visit, what joy to have no time constraints on our US stay.

We picked up the hire car and drove across town to Verrado and the lovely US  home of our UK neighbours Helen and Peter to spend the night with them. As usual jet lag woke us early but after a shower and breakfast we were eager to get across to Leaf Verde RV in Buckeye and check on haRVey, open him up and unpack our cases. haRVey really feels like home now and we were ready for our return despite the sadness we always feel on having to leave the family behind.

It was surprising how quickly everything got stashed away and we sat having five minutes and a cup of tea when Helen and Peter called over to visit and be introduced to haRVey. As the evening drew on the jet lag once again took its toll and very early we hit the pillows for some welcome rest.

We drove over to Helen and Peters after lunch and met their friends Jill and Peter, Helen was keen to take us to a local bar to experience a bit of Arizona ‘culture’. The Cowboy bar (it probably has a proper name) looks like a run down shack from the outside but once over the doorstep the interior is absolutely fascinating. Odd artefacts adorn every bit of wall and ceiling space, from a Halloween decoration to large Santa figure, and many adverts for drinks etc. Just inside the door Robert was taken by the life size figure of a Cow Boy but in almost every direction there was a huge television screen. A group of bikers were playing pool in the games area to the rear, we sat around a table and were served our drinks, mine a VERY large Sprite with gallons of ice, Helen had her favourite Chardonnay, the rest had beer, bottled beer is expected to be drunk from the bottle but draft beer is served in glass jars reminiscent of preserve jars, Ladies drinks are always served in jars!

Saturday was Founders Day in Verrado and big celebrations were planned in the town for the evening. A friend of Helen and Peter was having a porch party to which we were invited. Arlene lives in a house overlooking the beautifully landscaped town square where a huge stage had been set up for the swing band, when we arrived around 7pm the square was full of families and couples some with their blankets laid out on the grass, others strolling around greeting friends and a few dancing to music being played by a local taking part in the talent contest presently on stage. Such a lovely atmosphere, the town has only existed for around five years and yet it has a comfortable settled feel and a great sense of community, we were impressed and understand why Peter and Helen like it here. Our little UK community of Bridge Island could be a mini version of this.

The rain which had been forecast kept off until around 10pm allowing the locals to jive in the street to the swing band and most to get home in the dry. Rain pattering on the roof all night does not lead to a very restful sleep, we were up early Sunday when we were due to return the hire car. The day was cool and grey but after dropping off the car Peter collected us and we picked Helen up to drive to the local golf club restaurant for some different Arizona culture.

Verrado town centre has two towers one is on the community centre outside which the previous evenings entertainment had been staged, the other, across the square and through the picturesque shopping court, belongs to the golf club building. Inside a formal restaurant and bar/lounge area allows for comfortable relaxation and on a better day tables and chairs on the exterior patio overlooking the golf course and the nearby mountains are very popular, especially for watching the lovely sunsets which happen often in this area. After some lunch Helen took us for a stroll around the neighbourhood showing us the communal pool and gathering area around a fire pit (gas fuelled!) and the lovely houses. Again we were very taken with this newly built town which has an individuality to be envied.

haRVey was booked in for his 15,000 mile service on Monday morning, the Ford garage was across town so we upped legs and drove over for the 11am appointment. It felt good to be on the road again even if we were only going to the garage, our jet lag was much better and we were beginning to feel the itch to move on. After 3hrs sat in the waiting area we had just about exhausted our reading material when haRVey reappeared, all fit and ready for action. More groceries taken on board on the way back to Leaf Verde readied us further, however, we still needed the generator service completed and to replace two awning clips blown off in high winds before Christmas. These had been on order with a mobile RV guy with whom Robert had been exchanging e-mails for weeks, a phone call reassured us all was in order and the mechanic would be over early Tuesday morning to complete both jobs.

Browsing maps and brochures we had decided to travel south from Buckeye almost to the Mexican border and stay at Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument, it was around 11am before we were ready to roll and another hour before we had LPG and fuel on board and were finally properly on the road. A long straight road at that, but the sun was shining and we were very happy to have started our adventure in 2010.

After recent rains the desert has turned green, vegetation taking advantage of the Spring moisture to produce leaves and soon flowers too. The Organ Pipe Cactus differs from the Saguaro Cactus in that is sends up several ‘arms’ from the ground rather than branching out from higher up, Saquaro had been plentiful all the way along the journey but now in all directions we saw Organ Pipe Cactus of varying sizes interspersed with Cholla and Ocotillo, Pancake cactus and Palo Verde bushes. The campground is very well laid out with flat P1100711concrete pads spaced nicely apart to give each one space around filled with the various cactus. There are no hook ups but we were fortunate to be given a site right next to the tap, so water is not far away! We ate tea and watched the sun set over the hills a pink edge on a small wisp of cloud before complete darkness and total silence took over for the night.

Dawn the next morning was almost as pretty, pale blue, pink and beige hues greeted me when I lifted the blind just before 7am. A trail from the campground through the desert leads to the Visitor Centre so after breakfast we set off for a walk. It was only 10am but I soon took off my thin jacket, the sun was warm, a P1100720 light breeze very pleasant on our faces. Views of the nearby craggy mountains and cactus everywhere kept us occupied until we came to the modern visitor centre. Apart from reading the information on plants and animals of the desert we booked ourselves on a mini bus trip into the mountains for Friday afternoon. The road would not be suitable for us to drive ourselves and our experience of previous Ranger led tours gives us the hope this will be an interesting trip. Back to haRVey for lunch and relaxation in the afternoon heat, we feel like we have been catapulted from Winter to Summer, this time last week we were in Durham and snow!

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