We left the Fountain of Youth at the end of March, heading northeast through the expansive Glamis Dunes (blowing across the highway in spots) as we made our way to the Phoenix, Arizona area for a visit with friends. Rick and Sally are snowbirds that spend the winters in Sun City West (SCW) and we were excited to visit with them for several days and see why they like SCW so much.
Lake Pleasant and Sun City West
The Phoenix metro area is roughly circled by an impressive network of public parks with campgrounds and we settled into a hilltop view site at Lake Pleasant Regional Park. The park has several hiking trails and one morning we hiked the Roadrunner Trail along a couple of miles of the shoreline. We also visited the excellent visitor center and enjoyed watching their captive desert tortoise eat grasses growing in his enclosure (it was ignoring the veggies placed nearby by park staff).
One afternoon Rick and Sally showed us around SCW and, in particular, the main recreation center (one of four for SCW). The center is huge and is incredibly modern, clean, and well-maintained and features a huge pool (with water walking lanes and swimming lanes), tennis, pickle ball, bocce ball, miniature golf, well-appointed workout rooms, dog parks, lawn bowling, and many different crafts rooms, theaters, meeting rooms, etc. For a person, like me, that likes to stay active, these facilities were very impressive and I could see the attraction of wintering in a sunny and warm location with those kinds of amenities.
After a great time with Rick and Sally (thanks for your wonderful hospitality, guys) we left Lake Pleasant – on the way having a mishap with our towed Honda – and headed northwest a short distance to the Escapees North Ranch RV Park so we could visit Wickenburg, Arizona, an historic town that has worked to preserve its western and cowboy heritage.
Towing Mishap – Lessons Learned
By this time we’d been on the road for over two months and we were feeling pretty comfortable with our travel-day routines including, in particular, our departure processes. Our routine has been to split up the various tasks needed get underway. So, as an example, while I’m outside putting away chairs, stowing awnings, and dumping our grey and black tanks and filling our fresh water tank, Kathy is inside stowing belongings, locking cabinets and doors, and basically getting everything inside ready for travel. Then we head outside and hookup our Honda to our tow bar that is mounted on the rear of our motorhome. I typically do the physical hookups between the two vehicles while Kathy is inside the Honda preparing it for towing. Then, I double-check what Kathy has done inside the car while she double-checks what I’ve done outside. Sounds like a good system, right?
Well, this time we were too quick and we overlooked a critical element, and it ended up being quite a problem. So, let me set the scene: We hook-up the Honda and we drive to the campground’s black/grey dump spot half a mile or so away. We do our business there, focused on our motorhome’s wet bay where all of the various dump and fill valves are, and we don’t really look at the Honda, although we notice it’s still back there, attached to our motorhome. Then we blissfully drive another mile or so toward the park exit. Just as we approach an intersection near that exit, two things happen simultaneously: (1) our tire pressure monitoring system alarms loudly, indicating that one of our Honda tires has suddenly gone flat, and (2) another car roars up alongside us, with the female passenger frantically yelling that our tire is smoking.
You may have guessed by now that we left the Honda’s parking brake applied when we hooked it up to our motorhome, not noticing that critical element despite our routines and double-checks. We were too cavalier about thoroughly double-checking everything. So, we ended up dragging our Honda for up to two miles, leaving an interesting tire slick all along our path (that we didn’t notice until we looked back along our route as we stood outside our rig at the intersection), and wearing a flat-spot hole in one of the rear tires that had been rendered non-rollable by our set parking brake.
At that point, partially blocking the intersection in the hot Arizona sun, I quickly replaced the destroyed tire with the spare while Kathy directed traffic around us. The Honda able to roll behind our motorhome again, and feeling quite abashed, we drove to Wickenburg as we’d planned, found a Big O Tires store, and ordered a replacement set of tires that came in and were installed on our Honda the next morning. A big thank you to Wickenburg Big O Tires for speedy, helpful service.
Lessons learned: Don’t let our routines become so “routine” that we don’t pay attention to the details. No matter how many times we’ve done it, take the time to check each step carefully. Don’t get overly comfortable or confident with any process.
Wickenburg and North Ranch RV Park
The town of Wickenburg has preserved its historic downtown area, with a focus on its western and cowboy past. It has a terrific walking tour, following a map provided by the Chamber of Commerce, that circles around the town, showing off the old train depot and a restored train, many restored old buildings, and statues of historical figures from Wickenburg’s past. Of course, there are also many shops and restaurants along the tour, including several that sell locally made western hats, saddles, boots, and other western clothing and equipment. We enjoyed doing the walking tour and learning about Wickenburg’s colorful and enterprising past. I loved the smell of leather that permeated many of the western shops in town!
Wickenburg also has an outstanding western art and history museum that Kathy and I thoroughly enjoyed touring for a couple of hours: the Desert Caballeros Western Museum. When we were there the new art exhibit was “Cowgirl Up! Art from the Other Half of the West,” showcasing a large gallery of wonderful western art from female artists. Professional judging had taken place and it was interesting to see which art pieces had won the various honors being awarded. We attendees were also allowed to place votes for our favorites.
North Ranch RV Park was just a few miles north of Wickenburg. Run by the Escapees RV Club, their pricing is very reasonable for members like us. Unlike most RV parks, they allow people staying there to wash their rigs, so I took advantage of that one afternoon and washed and waxed our motorhome and the Honda. I figured it would be good to get some pictures of our motorhome when it was nice and clean (see the first two pictures on Our RV. North Ranch also offers four corner weighing for a reasonable fee of $45, so we took advantage of that opportunity. We had previously weighed our rig on a CAT truck scale, but while that tells you the weight that is on each axle, it doesn’t tell you what your side-to-side weights are. We were pleased to find out that we were not near our permitted maximum weight and that our weight on each tire was reasonably close to the weight on the opposing tire on the other side. We may be able to move a few belongings around in our storage compartments to get those weights more even, but this weighing showed we’re in good shape now.
Next: Exploring and hiking in the Sedona area.