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Day 1: Phoenix to Parker Canyon Lake

Mom & Dad had never been south of Phoenix and wanted to see Kartchner Caverns, so what better way to give the van its maiden road trip/camping voyage?  With reservations on a Sunday, we packed up the van and headed south a few days ahead.  Mom wanted to go to Patagonia Lake (State Park), but seeing that it was right off a main highway and near the border, I thought it'd be a bit busy and suggested that our first stop be Parker Canyon Lake (National Forest) since the web site said it was "off the beaten path".  The web site didn't lie; it was definitely off the beaten path (lots of potholes!), but a very quiet, peaceful, pretty place.  When approaching the top of the hill to the campground we looked to the right to see another Vanagon Westy (shamelessly failed to get a picture)!


I followed the advice given over at TheSamba.com and Vanagon.com to pre-chill the fridge on AC power; when we left Phoenix it had gotten down to the high 40s.  On the road, the fridge was flipped over to DC.  The campground at Parker Canyon Lake had no hookups so the fridge was switched over to propane.  I followed the directions, but heard no <click> as I pumped.  I checked the green light on the panel and didn't see it lit.  Great.  Tried the process again, still no <click> heard.  Was about to give up, but put my hand up over the indicator panel and happened to see a faintly lit light!  Woohoo!  It got down to the high  30s/low 40s that night; opened the fridge the next morning to see the thermometer reading 28.9°!   Confirmed: fridge works on propane!



Day 2:  Parker Canyon Lake to Tombstone to Bisbee

Drove down to the lake: small lake, ideal for fishing or canoeing, with a nifty perimeter trail for walking or biking.  After buying some ice for the cooler, we headed out for the main road.  Quite a bit of traffic headed in, including a Eurovan camper.  We waved to them as we passed.  There was a Prius right behind the EVC and as we approached each other, the folks in the Prius waved profusely!  Of course, we smiled and waved back.  After all the rain Arizona received over the past few months, there was still lots of water around, including several spots on the road into/out of Parker Canyon Lake.


Next stop was Tombstone.  It's a neat little Old West town, but it was packed with people (we were lucky to find a parking spot!), even on a weekday.  We walked around a bit, toured the courthouse and headed down the road.  Next stop was another old famous mining town: Bisbee.  As you drive into town there is a mine up on a hill that can be toured.  We parked down in town, walked up to the mine only to discover that the last tour left just 30 minutes before we walked in.  There were no campgrounds nearby, but there happened to be a small RV park right next to the mine, on the hill!  After making a reservation for a mine tour for the following day, we took a chance by walking up there to see if they had any spots and it appeared they did, which was confirmed with the hostess.  She asked what type of RV we had and which spot we wanted and told her "15 or 16".  "Well, I'd prefer you take 16 because that's a small space; I can't fit one of these bigger rigs in there."  "No problem!"  We then walked around town to look at all the neat old original buildings and had dinner.  It was dark when we pulled into the RV spot and an Airstream had pulled into #15.  Funny thing: After visiting the restroom, Mom got a tad lost on the way back because she couldn't see the van!



Day 3: Bisbee to Dragoon

After touring the Queen Mine (very cool, highly recommended!), we drove through the more residential section of Bisbee.  En route, we passed a VW repair shop that had a mural painted on one of its garage doors: an old blue/white VW bus!  Our next destination was a place near the town of Dragoon.  Rather than double-back and see what we saw the day before, we headed out of Bisbee towards Douglas.  Not a whole to tell about Douglas other than there are a lot of businesses no longer in business.  After having a late lunch at KFC/Taco Bell, we headed north.  Southeastern section of Arizona is quite scenic.  Thanks to all the rain this past winter there were lots of wildflowers and the desert was quite green.  Mountains still had snow on their peaks.  At dusk we arrived at the campground/RV park near Dragoon, recommended to us by the Airstreamers in Bisbee.  Very cool place!  It's an old ranch nestled amongst giant boulders; in fact, the saloon was built around one of these giant boulders!  As we were setting up, a car stopped.  A couple approached and wanted a tour of the 'ole RV.  "We've seen these things on the road over the years and always wondered what they were like inside."  


  



Day 4: Dragoon to Kartchner Caverns State Park

A short drive down the highway led us to Kartchner Caverns State Park.  We were advised to get a camp site early because the place tends to fill up in the afternoon.  So, while Mom got the tour tickets Dad and I picked out a camp spot, which there were plenty of.  We toured the caverns (very much worth the trip down there; gives Carlsbad a run for its money!), which took several hours, and headed back to camp.  The van attracted a bit of attention: "Old Blue?  Doesn't look that old to me!"  And the nice lady camped across from us (traveling alone for a few months) wanted to take a picture of the family in front of their little RV.


  


Day 5: Kartchner Caverns to Tucson to Picacho Peak State Park

En route back up to Phoenix, we made a stop at the Pima Air & Space Museum in Tucson.  Truly amazing to see all the planes (and then some!) you see in documentaries and war film footage and great record-holders.  The photos show only a fraction of what's there!


After spending a few hours at the museum we headed up the highway to Picacho Peak State Park (Colorado should take note: camping fee includes the entrance fee!).  Everything was green and wildflowers were blooming!  Being right off I-10, it wasn't exactly a quiet, secluded place: planes, trains, cars and trucks could be heard throughout the night, but neat recreation area.  It was overcast when we arrived and early the next morning it rained (good test for the tent; no leaks and it dried relatively quick).



Great, fun trip; can't wait for more!  The van performed beautifully!


Total miles: 633

Avg. MPG: 16.87


Adventure 2: Southern Arizona Tour                                                                                        March 2010