Back in February, 2016, we were traveling the desert southwest. Tucson was of course a required stop! One evening we took a drive to the Tucson Mountain District of the Saguaro National Park. It was a visual delight to watch the desert turn from the bright sunlight of the day into the subdued lighting of dusk followed by yet another night.
When Roadtirement meets Indiana’s shutdown order
Sher and I have been in a stay at home situation since we got back a month or so early from our usual stint as Winter Texans. Since our return to Indiana on February 25th we have been really in a stay at home mode courtesy of the COVID-19 pandemic. With our ages and my “underlying health issues” we have to be careful. So we thought we’d share some of what makes up Roadtirement’s self-isolation environment. What do we have, how do we live day to day, and what’s some of the stuff we’re doing when we can’t go to the casinos, live theater or set up and sell at festivals and flea markets.
Pictured is a very nice and vintage hiking trails map from Tucson. The topographic map is dated 1967 and was published by the Southern Arizona Hiking Club. The map centers around Mt. Lemmon, north east of Tucson, in the Santa Catalina Range. Mt. Lemmon is a very popular recreation area with miles of trails in the rugged terrain of the mountains.
We got this map when we were visiting Tucson a few years ago. I spotted it in a listing for an estate sale and was the lucky bidder. I did my graduate work at the University of Arizona in the early 70s and made many of the 2 hour trips from Tucson to the top. That sparked my interest in the map that now lives on our living room wall.
Do you have anything in your house or RV that reminds you of experiences from decades ago?
Tombstone: Too tough to die but hard to visit in an RV
Sher and I had planned on a visit to the ‘historic’ town of Tombstone since we were in Tucson. We decided to drive there on our way back east.
Well, we were disappointed. There was literally no parking available anywhere close to the main street. Signage directed us to an RV and trailer parking lot that was at the bottom of a very steep hill. This was too steep of a climb. The main street was blocked off to traffic so we could not get a chance to even drive by ‘the sights’.
All of the sites either charged admission or were simply a place to spend your money, either food, drinks, or merchandise. The famed OK Corral was actually walled in with bleachers for the audience. Again admission charged. The town we felt has morphed into a tourist trap.
We did find some street parking (free) across from an antique store a few blocks away from the main street area. It had some interesting things that were priced pretty high, as you would expect.
Perhaps on an off day you can find parking. However with any RV or trailer combo of any length parking will be a problem unless you park in the lower level at the bottom of the hill. Tombstone may be fun for some, but for us the lack of close parking and the commercialism just turned us off.
Sunset over the Sonoran desert
We took a drive to the Tucson Mountain District of the Saguaro National Park one evening. It was a visual delight to watch the desert turn from the bright sunlight of the day into the subdued lighting of dusk followed by yet another night.
Discovering the Coronado National Forest
Sher and I were driving in our motorhome on the far east side of Tucson, following Tanque Verde Road, one of the main east-west routes. As we approached the foothills of the Rincon Montains the road became Reddington Road. We kept on driving enjoying looking at the houses, horse ranches and the scenery.
The road narrowed but I kept on, and soon there was a sign for curves, one of which was a 5MPH curve warning. This curve led to a steep, steep climb. At this point turning around was not an option.
The next thing we saw was a sign for the Coronado National Forest and the change from paved road to dirt/gravel road. No way to turn around, and no idea what was ahead. When a small truck came down the road towards us I flagged the vehicle down. The lady inside informed me that less than a mile up the road was a parking area where we could trun around. Whew!
We got turned around and stopped to get out and admire the view. Hundreds of Saguaro cacti covered the landscape. What an impressive sight they were! We were in but a small portion of the 1.78 million acres of the Coronado National Forest which covers portions of Arizona and New Mexico.
Oh, and by the way, I won’t head out on a road leading into the mountains again without doing some research!
Fort Lowell Park showcases 19th century military history of Tucson
Fort Lowell Park is now a large city park northeast of downtown Tucson. It is home to several ballparks and soccer fields. The ground is also the site of a former frontier Army fort. The original military post was opened in 1860 on the outskirts of the then tiny town of Tucson. This location was abandoned several years later and moved to the Fort Lowell site, seven miles northeast of downtown Tucson. The fort remained until it was decommissioned and abandoned in 1891.
The Fort was used as a staring point for several Army expeditions chasing down “renegade” Apache bands. Perhaps the most famous event that began at Fort Lowell was General Crook’s expedition that led to the “surrender” of Geronimo.
Today little remains of the original buildings. The old hospital building remains are the largest reminder of the original fort. The mud brick walls are now protected from the weather by a large shed roof. A fence now surrounds these ruins to keep them safe from vandalism.
The Commanding Officer’s quarters has been faithfully reconstructed and houses a small museum. The museum houses fascinating displays covering the life and times of life on a frontier military post. Military uniforms, saddles and weaponry are there for up close examination. Civilian history is also told.
Take time to visit Fort Lowell. As you walk the old parade grounds you can imagine the cavalry troopers in formation as the infantry marches into place for the sounding of the evening gun. Look at the large statue of a mounted bugler: let your mind travel back to Tucson in the 1880’s.
Once a year the old fort is the location of the Fort Lowell Day Celebration. Normally the second Saturday in February, this event is packed with activities including Cavalry drills, period bands, walking tours and of course lots of food vendors. Visit the Arizona Historical Society website for details.
Whispering Palms RV Park is a gem in Tucson
Every once in while Sher and I find what we consider an exceptional RV park. We have found one such park here in Tucson. We normally stay at most for two or three nights, however we are enjoying Tucson and the weather! We have decided to spend a month at the Whispering Palms RV Park on the north side of town. The park is minutes from downtown and close to I-10 for easy access in either direction.
Whispering Palms has 81 spaces deep enough for big rigs. All of the spaces are back ins, however they are a full 20′ wide for easy placement of your rig. Pull through may be an option depending on occupancy of adjacent sites. The sites are all level on gravel. Of course there are full hook ups at each site. Long term stays may have cable TV and internet service from a local cable company. The electric service panels have been updated with 20/30/50 plugs at each spot.
This park has been under new ownership for a couple of years. The new owners have spent a lot on upgrades including newly remodeled restrooms with showers and several large commercial washers and dryers in the laundry room. In addition there is a new swimming pool and covered picnic area.
The onsite manager is most enjoyable to interact with. Anna was here when the new owners took over and has been insturmental in making this one of the nicest parks you will ever find. The grounds are immaculate and the landscaping is just enough to add to the south west feel of the area.
This has become one of the most sought after RV parks in the Tucson area. Tucson has many special events like the Gem and Mineral Shows with thousands of people coming to town. Make sure you call ahead or go to the park website and make reservations as soon as you as you know your travel plans. Whispering Palms is a member park of Passport America, Good Sam and Enjoy America. Be sure to mention these when you call to check the availablity of these potential discounts.
If you are looking for a resort style place with a big clubhouse, shuffleboard tournaments or bingo then this is not the RV Park for you. But, if you want a clean, safe, friendy and affordable place to stop for a night, week or long term in Tucson then Whispering Palms is the place for you.
Old Tucson movie locations and Old West fun
Old Tucson is a fascinating attraction west of the city of Tucson, Arizona. The property was first developed in 1939 when Hollywood movie studio Columbia Pictures wanted a suitable location for a western feature film. Over the years over 300 film and television shows have been filmed there. John Wayne filmed four times there including “Rio Lobo”. Several well known western themed TV series were produced at Old Tucson.
While there are still films made there as well as TV ads and music videos the primary use is a neat and fun tourist attraction. The buildings look like they came right out of the movies. Fancy that. Once you get in the grounds there are activities shows and events every half-hour. See a rousing musical show featuring real dance hall girls. The highlight for us was the live actor short shows including a demonstration of stunts used in the movies. The actors were terrific, had a great sense of humor and interacted with the crowd to the delight of all.
We spent about four hours at the Old Tucson movie studio. The weather was rather chilly and the crowds were not at all large. A great day to visit, althogh another 10 degrees or so would have made the day perfect.
Go see Old Tucson movie sets and theme park when you travel through Tucson. Tickets are a little pricey but they do offer senior discounts with ID shown. Here is the Old Tucson website.