Thursday, April 12, 2007

Traveling Arizona's Outback

Rather than take the interstate system from Benson to Southern California, we decided to take the back roads as much as possible. Once we hit Tucson, we headed west on highway 86 and then north on highway 85 through some of the least-populated areas of Arizona. Our trip took us through the towns of Sells, Why, and Ajo (Ah-ho), before we ended up at the Air Force Famcamp at Gila Bend AFS. Just south of the metropolis of Gila Bend, the small installation serves as an emergency landing field for aircraft using the Barry Goldwater bomb range and also provides a location for military aircraft to conduct low approaches for proficiency. There's not much to the base, but the Famcamp provides electric/water/sewer hookups and a free laundry for only $7 a night. We spent two nights here and used it as our base to travel south and visit the Organ Pipe National Monument. Organ Pipe is one of those little-known destinations that surprises you with its beauty when you see it. Although desert, the landscape is lush with ocotillo, Cholla, Sahuaro, and Organ Pipe cactus, Palo Verde, and Mesquite Trees, and Mexican gold poppies. We took the 20 mile drive through the park and on the way stopped for a picnic lunch. The scenery was marvelous, and the day was perfect; 75 degrees and sunny. Along the road we found this rare crested (or crestate) organ pipe; this unusual variation is also found on the giant Sahuaro cactus. We would liked to have spent more time here; the monument has miles and miles of roads through the desert, but we were on a schedule and had to leave for Yuma the next day. The monument has a large volunteer staff and a nice RV villiage; we may consider spending the winter here some day. From Gila Bend we traveled to Yuma to spend a few days before moving on to California. We won't have a posting on Yuma; frankly we didn't find much there that was interesting, although it must be popular with RV'rs during the winter since the population swells from 85,000 in the summer to 170,000 in the winter. We'll be on the beach for the next month; check in and see how we're doing!

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