Monday, April 18, 2022

Arizona Desert Basecamp Overnighter

April full moon at Aztec Hills
As we pulled off US Interstate Highway 8 to our evening camp stop, it was somewhat intimidating because we were in the middle of the desert. The exit road was not signed, so it was just a small, paved frontage road surrounded by the pale sandy beige shades of desert sands. My wife Sandy was driving, so we left the freeway, crossed railroad tracks, and then stopped at a tee intersection. Right across the road was a large confined cattle feedlot. OK, we thought, we're camping next to thousands of confined cattle? We traveled several miles down the old highway, though, leaving the cattle operation behind. 

Then we were directed by our GPS navigator to turn left on an unmarked gravel road. Two lizards ran across the road on tiptoe in the afternoon heat. There was no sign indicating an RV park was anywhere in the area, but we could see a green spot about a half mile away--palm trees and perhaps the flash of some RV bling. We decided to continue on, the gravel being dry and the road wide and obviously in use. After about a half mile of gravel, the navigator indicated another left-hand turn, heading toward the green patch. Again, there was no sign indicating the existence of the campground, but we could now see a number of trailers at the little oasis. Sandy drove on, and we had arrived at Oasis RV Park at Aztec Hills. I had called and made a reservation in advance but payment was on arrival, cash or check. 

Everywhere and nowhere to walk
The wind swept across the desert and through the campground, but the April ninety degree heat was dry and not oppressive. We did turn on our air conditioner in our 16-foot Airstream Basecamp and were happy to find that the unit kept our aluminum "tin" can cool and comfortable. After setting up our minimal overnight camp--pretty much dropping the stabilizer jacks to keep my wife from getting motion sickness--we decided to take a walk and stretch our legs. We walked around the park and then wandered into the desert a ways. If we were staying longer, a desert walk early in the morning would be on the itinerary, assuming the wind was not too oppressive. And I'd bring along a trekking pole to rattle bushes to keep away the rattlesnakes.

Settling into the quiet night
As the sun set and the full moon rose, the temperature dropped so we could open windows and shut down the AC. It was quiet at this little oasis and we slept well in the quiet, moonlit moonscape. We found the park's one bathroom (and commode) and one shower was less than optimal for the number of camping spots, but we managed, even though Sandy had to wait before bathing because a couple decided to "shower" together. There were no shelves in the shower, so soaps and shampoos had to be placed on the floor. Not optimal, but we got by easily. 

This was the campground where I showed Sandy how to empty the black water tank and fill the freshwater tank. I really know how to show a gal a good time! Sandy wanted to learn, though, and she had been a trooper on our 1,800-mile trip to California, driving about half the way. Since this was our fifth night on the road, our routine of setting up the bed was efficient and easy. The Basecamp has been easy to live in. It's also been easy to pull, and our Nissan Pathfinder has done a good job of pulling the trailer, handling the six percent grades, both ascents and descents well. A lot of people mean-mouth the Pathfinder's CVT gearing (and 2022 models have a 9-speed transmission), but we've found it works well. We've used the cruise control a lot. On ascents in the mountains, though, we flick it off and figure our progress by RPMs rather than MPH, usually keeping the RPMs to between 2,000 and 3,000. That worked well. On descents, the transmission (with the "tow" option on) seemed to determine descent grade and the speed we wanted (via braking) so that the down-shifting allowed for minimal braking. 

A last "good-bye" photo
The next morning, we left at about seven o'clock, our path not crossed by coyote, lizard, gila monster, scorpion, or tarantula. We had an open road to ourselves, and I just had to take a photo of our unmarked road access to the park. It was a pleasant stop for the night, and the park was clean and the owners friendly and accommodating. A couple of signs along the entry route would be great, though! In many ways, the two KOAs we stayed at were more convenient, but this park was cleaner, quieter, and had a lot more personality. We will certainly stay here again if our stops match up. It ain't Iowa, but seeing those lizards skitter across the road while we were stopped, trying to figure out if we were on the right road or if our GPS was taking us into the bush--that is a memory we will never forget!

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