Phoenix’s West Valley

Phoenix’s West Valley

December 17th through 30th, 2023

We have friends and family in Tucson and Green Valley, a town just south of Tucson, so we like to spend time there in the winter. Phoenix is just a couple of hours away from that area, so we decided to spend some time there to check things out. We know a lot of RVers ("snowbirds" who only go to Arizona in the wintertime) like to stay in the suburbs of Phoenix, too. We couldn't find a good campground in the usual areas like Mesa and Apache Junction that would take our big motor home, so we found a good spot in Goodyear in the West Valley suburbs of Phoenix.

We're lucky, because we often have our 43-foot coach and 28-foot enclosed car hauler together in our campsite. It lets us store all of our stuff safely, and we have a "garage" of sorts. It's extra space, and we prefer having it with us. Some campgrounds don't have the space for it or allow it, and the Destiny RV Resort in Goodyear requires your trailer to be in their storage area. It's great that it's on site, but it does mean we have a bit of a production to get there and leave.

Before we got there, we stopped at an empty lot (we traveled on a Sunday when businesses were closed) a couple exits before ours. We took the car out of the trailer, disconnected the trailer from the coach, and moved the coach out of the way. Then, we moved the hitch from the motor home to the Jeep and connected the trailer to the car. Margot drove the coach and Monica drove the car towing the trailer to the campground where we got the coach partially set up.

That's not the end of it, though. We also had to block traffic in the campground for a bit while we unloaded everything we needed (grill, bikes, dog fencing, etc.) from the trailer to our site. Once that was done, we had to coordinate with the office to move our trailer to their storage area, unhook the Jeep, and drive back to our site. It's a bit exhausting, but worth it. We had a great site with orange trees.

Margot set the site and coach up with Christmas lights and decorations, which is always a fun part of staying in campgrounds. Lots of people decorate, and it's cool to drive around and look at everything.

We had an awe-inspiring time at the botanical gardens in Tucson the year before to see their holiday lights, so we were looking forward to checking out the Desert Botanical Gardens in Phoenix for their Luminarias festival. The gardens are a bit of a maze and it's easy to get lost, but that was the case at the other gardens we've been to. We started on one section of the gardens that wasn't very lit up, and it just felt like a walk in the dark. We were getting a bit frustrated with it until we found telescopes and operators in the dark and we were able to look at the moon, Saturn, and the Pleiades. Very cool.

Luckily, we visited another side of the gardens and found a place where cacti were lit up and things were more visible. There were some cool features, but we didn't like it nearly as much as we liked the gardens in Tucson. No regrets, though, as we had a lovely walk in the desert.

We were happy that Robin was going to come visit us for Christmas! She had her family Christmas party the weekend before, so she was free to hop on a flight and come spend a long weekend with us. It was nice being so close to the Phoenix airport, so it was easy to pick her up.

We left the motor home in a dense fog on a day trip to Tonto National Monument. It was a long trip, but very scenic. The fog cleared, and we had great views of the big scenery around us. We especially enjoyed Theodore Roosevelt Lake -- we're hoping we can do some boating there at some point. It's remote, and gorgeous.

We had a nice mid-afternoon lunch near the lake at a mom-and-pop restaurant. The food was good and the people running it were so nice. We even had homemade pie.

The next day was Christmas, and we had a feast planned. We'd picked up a big, boneless prime rib roast just before Robin got there, and Margot slowly roasted it on the grill with our new rotisserie. We also made a brandy gravy with mushrooms and pearl onions, definitely-not-low-fat mashed potatoes, a Brussels sprouts salad, roasted baby carrots, and other fixings. We also made Pan de Elote (corn cake) for dessert with homemade whipped cream. There were so many dirty dishes, and it was worth it! The prime rib turned out perfectly.

We have a tradition of sitting around a campfire (propane or wood) on Christmas, and we did that, too. It was chilly, but just the right amount of chilly for a fire. It was nice to have Robin there with us.

The rest of Robin's stay was fun, including a five-hour Swoop marathon when we stayed up way too late -- again. We can't get enough of that game.

We visited 20 national parks in 2023, even with our big delay and derailment when the previous coach blew over. The last two were on December 30th. We did them both in one day, and it worked out well. First, we went to Montezuma Castle National Monument and did the short stroll out to see the castles. Parking was a little insane when we got there, and there was even a line to get into the visitor center. But then the crowds eased up and it was a nice walk to see the sights. The castles were very impressive.

We went to Montezuma Well, next. Neither site had anything to do with Montezuma, but that's what they were named by the early white settlers. The well (which isn't actually a well) was pretty far from the castle, but it was all a part of the same national park. It also had a nice walk on a hill to see a huge sinkhole that continues to generate a lot of water from an underground system. There were even small settlements built into the alcoves above the water.

We did the walk to the view of the well, but we didn't have time to go down to the water or explore where it empties out into the river. We'll need to go back again and do those spur hikes next time.

We visited Tuzigoot National Monument last, a 40-minute drive from Montezuma Castle. The two parks featured ruins from civilizations long-since gone, but they were pretty different sites. You looked at Montezuma Castle from below, as it was closed to visitors in the 1950s. However, you get to walk through Tuzigoot and get an idea of what it was like to live on a hill of stone rooms with a big community. The walk was nice, and we may have enjoyed that park a bit more.

We got back to our motor home in the dark and retrieved the trailer to start packing things up. The next morning, we headed for southern Arizona for New Year's Eve. It was a great stay.

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