When dreaming of full-time travel, one can’t help but think of warm winters in Arizona, surrounded by cacti, wandering the crystal booths in Quartzsite, and soaking in sunsets that I believe are God’s personal favorites.
So you could only imagine how absolutely giddy I was to have our first week of official full-time travel land us right there, right in the dream. Everyone who was anyone in the full-time social world was in Quartzsite, and I was one of them …
We call a place a home for just under than a week, so we tend to cram a lot into a short amount of time, but then again that’s kind of our thing isn’t it?! We show people you REALLY can see a lot in a limited schedule.
So here’s our favorite gems of Southern Arizona.
To the non-traveler, Quartzsite may just be that one place you stop for gas in between Palm Springs and Phoenix. But to RVers, it’s a winter oasis. A normal quiet town turns into a sea of motorhomes, fifth-wheels, and van lifers. And we were right there on Day 2 of RV life. I remember pulling onto Plomosa Rd. and it hit me, holy crap we’re actually here, we’re actually doing this.
Why do full-timers like Quartzsite so much? 4 words: FREE 14 DAY LIMIT.
Yep, good ol’ BLM land. Find a spot you love and it’s yours for as long as 2 weeks … for FREE.
We landed in Quartzsite on the last day of the Quartzsite RV Show which also coincides with the Gem and Mineral Show, so yah, we got the FULL Quartzsite experience.
We only were in Quartzsite for the night, so we dropped the trailer and headed straight into town. For being a small city, this place has EVERYTHING an RVer could ever need: repair shops, dump stations, propane filling stations, supplies, and more.
Due to COVID we decided to skip the busy RV show and we focused our attention on the gem and mineral show. As an entry-level crystal lover I was excited to see the variety of crystals in one spot and to get them at a great price!
Ok, so I had to REALLY keep my shopping in check! One, we had just started traveling so I tried not to blow my fun money budget on the first day. Two, we’re in a 17ft trailer so space is very limited. So as much as I wanted that marble charcuterie board shaped like a slice of cheese (ugh, so cute) did I really have the room for it? But … what if I bought something for our upcoming wedding? That’s responsible right?!
We couldn’t resist these beauties to be used as our “toasting glasses” come the big day.
While shopping in Quartzsite, you may see a lot of souvenirs with camels and wonder why the heck is there so much camel stuff here? When you tell another full-timer you’ve been to Quartzsite they’re going to ask you if you’ve been to the Hi Jolly Monument … this will answer the camel question.
The Hi Jolly monument is a memorial to Hadji Ali who was a camel driver as part of a U.S. Cavalry experiment in the 1850′s and later became a prospector, scout and a courier for what was called the Jackass Mail. It’s a must-see when in Quartzsite!
After a successful afternoon of wandering booths and stuffing our face with cinnamon rolls, we made our way back to our little personal slice of desert heaven just in time for the sunset.
And wow … it was a good one.
We vowed to soak in every sunset of this journey. We’d stop whatever we were doing and sit our butts down in our rocking camping chairs and enjoy the show.
White Tanks Provincial Park
We searched for the perfect campground to call home for the work week, and we found that at White Tank Provincial Park. I’m talking water and 30 amp electrical hook-ups with dump station on site for only $32 a night.
I pictured warm and sunny days and going for hikes every afternoon after Zoom calls with clients, but instead we were met with mostly rain and cold! So believe you me, when the sun finally did come out we were outside!
I mean, the whole family was like a bunch of lizards soaking in the warm desert sun.
We scored Site #19 which is right across from the Ironwood Trailhead, and we took full advantage of every break in the weather to walk Butters along this dog-friendly trail.
I’m a sucker for a cactus. I think it’s the California girl in me. Succulents are the only plant I don’t kill (by the way mom, don’t forget to water those for me). So being able to look outside my window and see my own personal Saguaro cactus a few feet away was a dream come true.
White Tank has a cute little nature center at the park entrance that has a lot of information about the park and the animals that call it home.
Luckily, this was the closest we got to a rattlesnake this week.
When you start full-time traveling, nobody tells you how attached to some campgrounds you can get. Maybe it’s because this was our first place we stayed for a week, maybe we were still on the adrenaline rush of the new of it all.
Maybe White Tank Regional Park is just that great. It’s small enough to keep crowd noise to a minimum. The spaces aren’t “pass the salt” close. The views are amazing. Maybe it was the cacti.
Located about 45 minutes from Downtown Phoenix, it’s close enough to the city for date nights and amenities, but far enough to see the stars and enjoy the quiet desert nights.
Where to Eat in Phoenix:
Speaking of date night …
We don’t eat out much while on the road to save money, but there’s always a couple must-have places in an area.
My sister in law went to school in Arizona, and every time I’ve been there to visit she keeps telling me to go check out Postino. We like wine. We like bread. We LOVE Postino!
We split a Bruschetta board and a Prosciutto with Brie panini and they were both lifechanging good. The wine was good, the staff was fantastic, and the patio was dog-friendly. It was the perfect date night in the city.
Indian Fry Bread
Every state has their staple food. Idaho has potatoes. New Mexico has hatch chilis. California has In N Out (fight me for it, I dare ya). I’ll argue that Arizona’s staple food should be fry bread also known as Navajo tacos.
Ok, word to the wise: You will want to order your own Indian fry bread .. but unless you haven’t eaten in like 36 hours, you will not be able to finish this thing by yourself, so feel free to split one of these bad boys with a buddy like we did. Our favorite place to find these artery clogging things of beauty is The Fry Bread House in Phoenix. A whole in the wall that’s full of locals, with big portions, ya know it’s good.
Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument
Located only a few miles from the Mexico border lies the Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument.
Again, I love cactus, so the fact that there’s a National Monument dedicated to this rare cactus is right up my alley. Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument is the only place in the United States to see large stands of the organ pipe cacti!
We’ve camped here before a couple of times, but we came here to get our stamp in our new National Parks Passport book!
The campground is beautiful with easy pull-through sites that are well spaced. We’ve been here during Tropical Storm Rita, and then returned a few weeks later and the desert CAME TO LIFE with blooms and green everywhere! It was so beautiful!
This was our cat, Tiskies first national monument! So we decided to take her along the nature trail next to the Visitor’s Center. She loved the sights and smells and being pushed around like the queen she is.
Saguaro National Park
Not far from Organ Pipe National Monument is Saguaro National Park. You could technically see them both in a day, trust me we have. But to truly experience the best of both parks I would recommend at least making a cactus filled weekend out of the two.
Saguaro National Park has two districts – East & West – that are separated by the City of Tucson, and I’ve only been to the Tucson Mountain West district. If you’re running on a limited time schedule here, I’d suggest the Scenic Bajada Loop Drive. This unpaved, combination one- and two-way graded dirt road offers scenic pullouts, picnic areas, and hiking trailheads in a 6 mile loop!
Saguaro National Park is a must-visit place to take a hike and get up close and personal with the cactus that is the unofficial symbol of Arizona!
Casa Grande National Monument
Big house, small National Monument. It’s easy to miss Casa Grande National Monument. Located in the small town of Coolidge, AZ which lies along the I-10 between Phoenix and Tucson, this monument preserves a group of Hohokam structures dating to the Classic Period!
The Casa Grande ruins may be big in size, but is a small member of the National Park system compared to its impressive neighbors. But with smaller National Monuments comes the benefit of less crowds! We’ve been here a couple times and have had the place practically to ourselves both times!
One thing we appreciate in particular about Casa Grande National Monument is they’re extremely dog-friendly. Leashed pets are welcome to get up close and personal with the ruins!
Chiricahua National Monument
Ok, this one is a to be continued for Gems of the Road because we had such a short amount of time to spend at this National Monument, we didn’t even BEGIN to scratch the surface!
But located in the Southeastern corner of Arizona lies the Chiricahua National Monument. Keyed as the “Wonderland of Rocks”, within minutes of entering the park, you can easily see why!
There over 15 miles of hiking trails in this 12,000+ acre site and an 8-mile scenic drive we’d love to experience that leads to some breathtaking views!
Sadly we were running on a bit of a time crunch when we stumbled upon this hidden gem, so we opted for a quick nature trail hike to see the rocks at a closer vantage point.
The trail across from the Visitor’s Center is pet friendly! We even brought Tiskies along for the ride, but wouldn’t recommend taking a stroller on this nature path. It made for some laughs and a bit of a bumpy ride for the kitty.
Arizona Wine Country
Ok, ok, I know what you’re thinking … wine in Arizona? Like the same place with all the cactus, tumbleweeds, and rattlesnakes?
We were just as surprised as you are, and thanks to our first Harvest Hosts stay, we got to call an Arizona winery home for the night.
Our surprise turned into a pleasantly surprised very quickly with just a few sips from a tasting at Pillsbury Wine Co.
Founded by film director turned wine extraordinaire, Sam Pillsbury, this winery does it the old-school Italian way, and after oohing and aahing over their wine tasting flight, it’s easy to see why.
This prize-winning wine is made by people, not machines, using grapes only grown right there in Wilcox, AZ. The passion and pride is felt with every perfectly crisp and fresh sip of some of the best damn wine we’ve ever had.
I mean Chardonnay is what you drink when you really want a white wine with dinner, and that’s all they have right? No, not Pillsbury Wine’s chardonnay, that’s the stuff you save for date night, or heck yourself because it’s just that good. You’re not going to want to give a drop away.
Again, if you want to get an extra diamond on the Gems of the Road rating, be dog-friendly. And wow, Pillsbury Wine was dog-friendly to the extreme. It was cold and the wind was HOWLING on this particular winter’s day, so we thought we’d have to leave Butters in the camper as we tasted inside the tasting room, nope. Our sommelier, Terry, invited Butters to tag along and stay warm with us. Clearly, Butters was very comfortable here, as she fell asleep on Anthony’s lap while his life was forever changed by the wine here at Pillsbury Wine. We walked away with 3 bottles ..
So cheers to you Arizona.
Here’s to you and your familiar favorites and hidden gems. Here’s to cacti, crystals, and chardonnay.
Kerisa, Anthony, Tiskies & Butters
2 thoughts on “Cacti, Crystals, & Chardonnay”
Sounds like a pretty packed start to the journey! It’s been a while since I’ve been out to Arizona, but that looks so much like Joshua Tree with Saguaro cacti exactly replacing the trees. Even the Teddybear Cholla are the same.
Do you know if there’s any good RV camping spots up near Sedona?
It reminds me so much of Joshua Tree NP. I love it! I’ve only been to Sedona once and that was years ago in a hotel. But it’s on my list of places to visit this year in our RV!
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