I was motivated by a few things, the first being that I had a feeling in my gut that Colorado’s winter was going to be a doozy. Winter 2017-18 was a mild one where I was in Denver in the trailer, there were only a few days that made me queazy with a dip below 32 degrees, but in all that was a mild winter.
There’s nothing in my mind worse than frozen pipes, and there are certainly more things I could do if needed, but it was my goal to head south for winter, and Arizona was a potential option because of heat and family.
Spring of 2018 I was working at Cherry Creek Colorado State Park and was thinking of a position with Arizona State Parks. My time frame was Jan-April but a lot of AZ parks wanted a commitment for their busy season which spans Oct-April. I popped over to Volunteer.gov to look for options in AZ Parks and there was a listing for Fort Bowie National Historic Site.
Looking at the map, it was 2 hours from Tucson, which was perhaps a tad farther out than planned, but I was game for the adventure which included a RV pad and full hook-ups in exchange for 32 hours in the Visitor Center.
I was hired in July and started the wonderful process of on-boarding with the Federal Government, which took until mid February of this year (yep, after I started) to become 100% official.
My planned start date was January 7th. I devised a plan to get to Tucson from Denver in December with a little sightseeing in Utah and Northern Arizona, along with participating as a vendor in the Historic 4th Avenue Street Fair. I dangled a stop at Monument Valley to my parents, and they decided to come out to Denver for the trip south.
This is the highlight reel of my trip from Denver to Tucson to Delaware and back to Tucson for the start of my first Volunteer-In-The-Parks (VIP) position.
Against my usual MO, I didn’t make any reservations. I was nervous about snow on the passes, and low and behold it was the weekend after Thanksgiving when I was due to leave that the snow came down. Instead of going west over Vail Pass, we headed south to New Mexico causing a wonderfully impromptu visit to Meow Wolf. Had I said anything about what it was, above being “an immersive art installation” I am not sure they would have gone for it. It was such pleasure watching my parents interact in the space. Meow Wolf was freaking awesome. Go.
From Santa Fe we traveled west to Arizona trying to get us somewhat on track. Meow Wolf replaced Arches in UT, but I still wanted to get to Monument Valley and the Grand Canyon. Flagstaff ended up being a home base for the trailer as we day tripped it to those sights. On the way we stopped at a few Route 66 highlights, including The Painted Desert (technically the Petrified Forest National Park which we didn’t get to that section in time before closing), and Lunch in the Park.
The trip out to Monument Valley was our first taste of the desert. Pines of Flagstaff gave way to rolling rock formations cropping out of flat land. Then to more stunning rock formations: after pictures of Monument Valley from the VC (and noting to my dad that his National Parks pass wasn’t good here – it’s not our Nation’s park), we had lunch and then started on the driving loop of the Park. It was not to be as we were directed out with staff saying that the park was on lockdown, with no further explanation. We’ll never know what happened, and this is definitely back on the list to visit.
The next day brought us to the South Rim of the Grand Canyon. First glance at the Canyon was at the Desert View Watchtower and dumb luck timed our visit to the Tusayan Ruins with a Ranger Talk. Another lunch in a park and visit to the South Rim Visitor Center. The sun sets so dang early in the winter, so out time was short.
From Flagstaff, we headed south to Tucson to get in a few days with more sights, family and relaxing before setting up for the 4th Avenue Street Fair. A big highlight was our trip to Saguaro National Park (West).
The Street Fair was good fun. I’ll probably aim to do it every other year, or we’ll see where next winter takes me for volunteering.
From Tucson, we packed up the trailer for storage, and my folks decided to continue on with driving to Delaware, rather than fly back. The fun continued east to Tombstone with lunch and entertainment at Big Nose Kate’s. No, we didn’t watch the gun fight at the O.K. Corral.
While we did pass the town of Bowie, we did not head up to the Fort. It was getting late in the day, and I wanted to push on to New Mexico.
Days blend a bit, we were on I-10, I-20, I-30, I-40 (Texas was long and maybe, perhaps, boring – the Interstate, specifically). My mother loves to tell the story about Border Patrol somewhere near El Paso. The highlight in the middle of the country was Graceland. The home itself was grandly unassuming. Yes, it was a different time, and yes, there was a whole lot of custom touches, and the stained glass and holiday decorations were lovely. But it was first and foremost a family home which made it so endearing to me.
From Memphis we headed up to Bowling Green, for a two-fer: The National Corvette Museum and Mammoth Cave. Despite a time limit with the Vettes, we missed the noon tour to the Cave.
But, seeing the “big hole #1” with my folks and the reclaimed and restored vehicles was awesome. We did poke our head into one of the openings of “big hole #2,” but all attempts thus far to get back to Mammoth have been thwarted.
We arrived safely back in Delaware and celebrated Christmas, and watched with concern as the Government shutdown. My start date as a VIP was put on hold. As things were touch and go, I decided to head back to Arizona to be “in the area” in case the feds opened “tomorrow” or the next day, or the next day.
My trip west was again uneventful, but was able to connect with an old friend Michele in Las Cruces. En route, she told me of a good stop, Three Rivers BLM site which boasts over 21,000 petroglyphs. I stopped just before sunset for a quick walk to take them in. Luckily the site was open, and well maintained by a wonderful volunteer! Of course White Sands was closed, so again, another time. Michele and I did have a grand time catching up; one of those weekends where we picked up right where we left off (8 years ago!).
I waited in Tucson for about three weeks, one staying with family, then finally needing to get back to work in the RV studio, I popped into an RV park then moved myself to Picacho Peak State Park to hang out with some saguaros. On a whim I was in the Visitor Center and I asked if they had any short term Volunteer openings. Low and behold, they did!
I just about committed myself to spending the rest of the season there, and even moved into a volunteer designated camp site when just one hour after unhitching in that site, a resolution was signed re-opening the government.
I was in touch with Ranger Amy at Fort Bowie and made quick plans to arrive the next day to get started with my position.
Currently working on an album is a wild smattering of cell phone pictures from the December Drive back and forth across country.