Romping through the Southwest Desert: Arizona and Nevada

Have you ever done something and thought, “well, that was a game changer?” That was our trip to Quartzsite (video here!). I told you all about joining Full time families (blog post) before. Quartzsite was where we did it. We were on our way into this giant expanse of desert and saw a sea of campers. We were a week early for the actually RV show and there were still over a thousand campers boondocking just outside of town. Mike and I looked at each other – immediately overwhelmed. Where do we go now? Which one of these campers do we pull up next to? I got on my phone and signed up for FTF. Within 15 minutes we had a pin to where to go and a family coming out to greet us. By the end of the week there were 40 families there and around 100 kids. And that didn’t count the teens who only emerged from the campers at night to sit at the teen-only fire and, I can only imagine, discuss the video games they played all day and talk about what nerds their parents are. We spent two weeks boondocking in the West LVTA area and all during the government shut down. The thousands of RVers in the area pitched in to pay the local waste management company to continue picking up trash even though their contract had expired just after the shut down started. Thankfully they kept the water on and the dumps open. We mastered the balance between our Firman generator and our DOKIO solar panel. the perfect set up for us. AT&T and Verizon were stretched so thin no one had usable service. Us, with T-Mobile, maybe the only ones with it, had awesome internet and didn’t feel bad about it. Sorry, not sorry! Ha!

Quartzsite, AZ January 2019

We left QS with lots of new, like-minded friends, a better understanding of our new lifestyle, and a feeling of renewed energy. It seriously made such a huge difference in our hearts.

As for the RV Show… it was okay. Eh. Maybe a good place to get a deal if you are in the market for a new camper though!

Saddle Mountain BLM in AZ

Saddle Mountain BLM camping was our next stop. There were already fulltime families there so we went to meet up with them. The sunsets and hiking were awesome! AT&T and Verizon were screaming fast but we were eating crow as our T-Mobile failed us. We only stayed there for two days. The internet (the need to work) was calling.

At this point we had been boondocking for nearly three weeks. We were all ready for some hookups and they were in our near future! We headed to Vegas for a work conference and stayed at the Thousand Trails there. Tight (like TIGHT) spots but otherwise it was a great experience. Video! The pool was properly heated and the people were all very nice. We ended up being there for nearly two weeks. When my work was done we headed out for several day trips. The Hoover Dam, Lake Mead, the Carroll Shelby Museum, and the strip were all checked off our list!

We only saw the strip by day except for one time when we stayed until early evening so we could see the Bellagio Fountain show and drive down the strip to see all the lights. Besides all the risquĂ© billboards we didn’t see anything we didn’t see in every major city. During the day we walked through several of the themed casinos. The Flamingo was the kids’ favorite because there were actual flamingos and other birds there. Mike and I liked the Bellagio and have added it to the list (along with Old Faithful in in Yellowstone) as a place we want to stay at without our kids one day! We also went to a dozen places along the strip but the M&M store was everyone’s favorite. Their 3D movie was free and surprisingly good! Video here!

Just off the strip is the Carroll Shelby Automotive Museum. Lots of cool cars! The man was truly a legend in the automotive world!

We drove about 40 minutes to the Hoover Dam and Lake Mead another day. The last time Mike and I were there was 18 years ago – on our honeymoon! A new addition was the bridge they built – the Mike O’Callaghan–Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge – so cars could by-pass the dam itself. The bridge has a sidewalk and it is RIDICULOUSLY high. If I have to go, so do you! Video!

We went to the Lake Mead Visitor Center and the kids did their junior ranger programs. The lake really is gorgeous. I wish we had had time to explore it more. I know that sounds strange, you are probably like, “wait, don’t you travel full time? What’s the rush?” This brings up a good point. When we travel we still have work and obligations. We still have a gaggle of kids who need food and sleep pretty regularly. We still get weary of travel and enjoy lazy, down days and we definitely still have a budget. Fuel and camping costs unfortunately drive a lot of our travel decisions – but what else would we expect? Those are our largest and most controllable expenses so, of course, they have to matter. Sure, we don’t get to do everything we want, but we are still doing so much! I consider traveling a gift, and I don’t look a gift horse in the mouth!

The pre-fireworks fireworks show!

We left Las Vegas and headed to Lake Havasu to meet up with some more friends. We stayed in the Standard Wash BLM area. We were accidentally there during the big fireworks show! We actually thought we were getting there the day after it ended and turned out we got there the day it started! It is a week long fireworks show in desert and it brings out a lot of people so we were certainly not lonely! We connected with four families that we had met at QS the month before and had a blast!

Do what else is in Lake Havasu?! The London Bridge! The crazy genius who established the town paid to bring over the London Bridge and reassemble it in the desert. They then diverted the Colorado River to run under it! isn’t that wild?! What was really surreal was knowing that Mike’s family – his parent’s, aunts, uncles, grandparents – had likely driven or walked on the bridge when it was still in England. Even wilder! Video! There is a little touristy spot with restaurants, shops and a visitor center at the base of the bridge. It was a fun way to spend a couple of hours.

Next – back to California! Read why, here.

From Cali we went back to Arizona. Tucson this time. We stayed on the Tuscson BLM land. The boys loved the area and climbing the small mountain (large hill?) that was there. They kept going up and down – timing themselves each time and trying to go faster and faster. Whatever floats your boat, boys!

While we were in Tucson we bought a minivan. We were all a little done with being crammed, the six of us, in the Ram. After about 18,000 miles we were ready for some space. We also wanted to have something to drive that wasn’t our tow vehicle. We didn’t want to have to always unhook and we also didn’t want to keep putting extra miles on it while we were sight seeing. We found the cheapest van listed on Craigslist that seemed to be in good shape. Now, 7,000 miles later, we are glad we did it!

Our first trip with the van was a day trip to Tombstone, AZ. We saw the re-enactment of the shoot out at the O.K. Corrall! I mean, how cool is that?! Then we walked the streets of Tombstone and went into the Birdcage Theatre – the only original building that survived the multiple fires that plagued the town over the years. It was a bar/brothel and was complete with bullet holes in the walls and the original bar. Maybe not the ideal field trip for the kids but they certainly learned something!

We wrapped up our time in AZ with a week with a week with friends. Mike’s bestie from his pre-teen days! They also have four kids and his kids got along with ours like peas in pods. Honorary cousins! This week was another reason to be grateful for this traveling lifestyle. Here is our Arizona video playlist.

Saguero National Park

Where we stayed: Saddle Mountain BLM, Lake Havasu Standard Wash, Tucson BLM, Pinal County Campground, Thousand Trails Las Vegas, Quartzsite LVTA South BLM

Next Time: Tuzigoot, Painted Desert, Antelope Canyon

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