Day 7. Feb 23rd.
It's a beautiful morning and we take our time in getting ready and having a walk around the campground, it was very pleasant with some well kept cactus gardens and a nice pool area with mountain views in the background. Lezli sent me to a solitary confinement area. I'm not sure if it was for her benefit or mine though! ;-)
Gila Bend looked like an ordinary 'Crossroads town' but now we were here it was time to find out a little about it. It has some interesting history in being a resting place for weary travellers heading west in the pioneering days and was a timed stop along the Butterfield overland stagecoach route. The Gila station was burned down by Apache before being rebuilt and it was also the area Olive Oatman and her sister were captured by Indians after they had massacred their family. Oatman AZ was apparently named in her honour. It's recent claim to fame is being home to Prince Harry while he was training at the local Gila Bend Air Force Auxilliary Field. Around this small, average looking town is a huge solar power plant, the 2nd largest natural gas plant in the Nation ($1.2 billion dollar installation) and a 50 million dollar Paper mill.
Click here for this RTA Library Map
In town there is the 'Space age' restaurant where we decided to go and have a breakfast. It's pretty quirky and the food was decent enough. The car park wasn't huge so we parked out back by the railway line.
I had read about a 9/11 Memorial park so we strolled down the street to take a look. It was small, but had a BIG impact. A nice little garden with a water feature, a giant cactus, flags and a steel girder recovered from the site of the Twin towers certainly make it a nice spot to reflect and remember. The town hold a service each year as a mark of respect to those lives lost.
We made our way back to the RV and was soon back on the road heading towards Tucson for our dinner date with Buck and Debbie that we were both looking forward to. We could of taken a straight shot along I-8 to 1-10, but those that know me know that's not going to happen. We prefer the Highways and Byways so we headed south on AZ85 through Ajo and headed east at Why on AZ86. We started to see Billboards advertising Mexican insurance and many more Border patrol vehicles along this stretch. The cactus were getting more dense and bigger and with a couple of horses running across the road it gave us a real taste of the 'Wild west'.
We pulled off the road to stretch the legs and take in the views at a historic marker pull out. The sign told us about Quijotoa, a site where deposits of gold and silver were discovered created a development boom, suburbs known as Logan City, New Virginia, Brooklyn and Allen city were built. The site was a complete failure and was left abandoned and now there is no sign of it ever being there as the desert reclaimed the land over time. We were walking along a wire fence (which I presumed was a ranch boundary as we were probably 20 miles from the Mexican border) taking photos and looking at the views for a little while before heading back to the RV and putting the kettle on. Sat down drinking our coffee 5 minutes later and a 4WD Border patrol vehicle was slowly edging through the rough terrain on the other side of the fence. Not sure if this was a coincidence or not, or if we had been detected as suspicious activity in a remote area somehow. There were quite a few check points along the border area, where we stopped and answered a couple of questions and showed our passports before being sent on our way.
We continued on our way enjoying the views of cactus covered hills with snow covered mountains in the background, including Kitt Peak and Observatory.
We rolled into Tucson about 4:30pm and found our RV site, Lazyday's KOA resort. We had looked and enquired at other places, but as it's a popular time for the 'Snowbirds' who usually stay for longer periods of time, they would not take a booking for a single night. Lazyday's is a huge place that also has an RV sales and service centre which is a little confusing as the entrance to the RV park is quite small and in a different road. We got there in the end, only to discover the weather had been playing them havoc and they had suffered a complete loss of power to the site and some huge generators were on there way by road from the Phoenix area. I called Buck to let him know we were in town and he kindly offered to pick us up and drop us back after dinner. Although we communicate occasionally through RTA, we have only had chance to meet once before when Buck visited the UK back in 2015 (I think) so I was looking forward to catching up IRL. It wasn't long before we were picked up and on our way to a lovely Mexican restaurant called 'Mi Nidito's', it's claim to fame being that Bill Clinton had eaten there. It's popularity meant there was a bit of a wait for a table, but it gave us time to catch up and have a chat. The food and atmosphere was great and the company was even better, we had a wonderful evening and the conversation flowed. (Buck and Debby helped us work through the menu, as our knowledge of Mexican food is limited) It was a shame we didn't have more time to spare this trip, but with many great things to see and do around the Tucson area, we hope to be back one day and arrange another get together.
Cheers Buck and Debby.
Todays mileage:185 miles. Total: 1101 miles.