Gila Bend was not a destination, it was a strategic overnight stay behind the Shell station, well-known for its cheap price and full hookups. There is nothing glamorous about the place, and even though it was 103 degrees when we arrived, it was exactly what we needed to prepare for two weeks without sewer hookups.
We had never gone this long without full hookups, so we had no idea if we could conserve enough to go the distance, or if we'd have to pack up and drive to the dump station. That is certainly doable, but it's a pain in the butt. So, before heading out, I made sure every stitch of laundry was done while Steven emptied our tanks.
Our destination was Usery Mountain Park in Mesa, AZ. To be honest with you, I wasn't all that keen about such a long stay because, lack of hookups aside, two weeks seemed like an eternity for a couple of newbie fulltimers with an urge to dash from place to place. And let's not even mention the fact that the temps were way above my comfort zone. (Don't get me started with that "dry heat" thing, I don't even care.) I agreed to the length of time not because of the location, but because of the people. Our time in Mesa was all about the people, starting with our neighbors at Usery, Fred & Jo Wishnie.
We met Fred & Jo a few years ago through their blog. Then, in 2011 we met in person when they, Laurie and Odel (still traveling in Scoopy at the time!) and Margaret Wright all came to Seattle for a week to hang out with us. We were still living on Pine Lake at the time, and we all had a blast together. (Read blogs about the experience here - Fred and Jo and here - Laurie and Odel)
We knew somewhere down the road we'd meet up and hang out again and now that Steven and I were on the road, it was time to get the band back together. Since Margaret lives in Phoenix, all we needed were Laurie and Odel. We tried, but they weren't any more excited about Phoenix than I was. I can't really blame them.
In any case, we hung out often with the Wishnies, mostly at their campsite because they have a killer birding set-up. Each morning, Jo would send us a text letting us know they were up and Steven and I would mosey down to their place, coffee in hand to sit on our butts and watch the birds. Jo put together a list of all we saw during our stay, and there were 16 species, 7 of which were new to us. My hands down favorites were the Rosy-faced Lovebirds, or Peachies, as I like to call them.
In the evenings when we were all in the campground, we would again make our way to the Wishnie compound, this time for happy hour. Fred makes the most divine Manhattans. I'm pretty sure we put a serious dent in their liquor supply.
Margaret joined us for a couple of happy hours, and Jo and I made our way into Phoenix one night for a girl's only sleepover at Margaret's beautiful downtown loft. We wore our special Airstream and Flamingo PJs for the occasion, so we were pretty stylin' if I do say so myself.
In addition to our RVing friends, I also met up with my BFF since forever, Cindy Pender Guell. We've know each other since we were kids growing up in Tripoli, Libya. We went to boarding school together in Switzerland, worked in Libya together as young adults until we got evacuated when our government thought we were no longer safe. We made a party out of that situation and traveled around a while before landing in Alaska. We left there after 18 months or so and drove the Al-Can to Texas and went back to school. We both got married and each had our kids around the same time. Then she moved to Phoenix and I moved to Seattle. Sometimes I think back on the experiences we've shared and I feel so lucky.
Inside the Church of the Holy Cross
It was wonderful to spend time with Cindy and her family and to see a few other Tripoli and TASIS peeps. (Hi, James! Hi, Carol! Hi, Kate!) I guess my hard and fast rule to never go to Phoenix is cracking, because I'm looking forward to a return visit. I can't even believe I said that.
Turns out, we managed to go the entire two weeks without having to pack up and dump. When departure day came, we were sad to say goodbye to our friends, but at the same time, ready to hit the road. Destination: Williams, AZ, Gateway to the Grand Canyon.