Twentynine Palms to Scottsdale

The town of Joshua Tree (the official jumping off point for the National Park of the same name) isn’t a particularly exciting or friendly place. It seems to exist for no other reason than to exploit the three million or so visitors that pass through here every year.

Joshua Tree Lake RV Park, on the other hand, is a nice little oasis set away from the throngs of cars and people just down the road. It’s quirky, it’s artsy, and right now at least, it’s been quiet and peaceful.

In October, they host the Joshua Tree Music Festival. It also seems to have a devoted following of snowbirds that park themselves here in the winter months. During those times, I imagine things are very different around here.

This RV Park is also notable for two other reasons: It’s the first place we’ve stayed for multiple nights so far, and it has the distinction of being the site of our first grey and black water dump.

The dump valves on our rig aren’t labeled super clearly, so it took some serious discussion and logic games for Lori and I to conclude beyond a reasonable doubt which valve is the black water and which is the grey.

You want to start with black and finish off with grey. The logic goes that rinsing the plumbing and sewage hose with dish water is better than poop water at the end. We were intent to make sure we did just that.

You’ll be happy to know that we ultimately chose right, nothing exploded, and no one got covered in a week’s worth of doo doo. It’s a surprisingly simple task that can go very wrong very quickly, or so we’ve been told.

We were happy to hit the road feeling 50 gallons lighter. Next stop: Gas, just over the border in Arizona where it’s over a buck cheaper than anywhere in California. That’s a $55 savings for a 55 gallon fuel tank like ours.

My kind of driving.

The double yellow line is a bit on the extreme side, if you ask me.

The driving was downright blissful for the first couple of hours. At a place called Desert Center we joined up with I-10 and all of that changed instantly.

I had high hopes for the interstate (imagining our experience driving I-5 through California’s Central Valley), but I-10 was a whole other beast.

The road was an absolute abomination, easily the worst surface we’ve driven on in the RV so far (counting the unholy ring road connecting Isleton with the outside world).

The slow lane is something akin to Swiss cheese, there’s massive construction every dozen miles or so (an attempt to address the Swiss cheese issue, I hope), and cars AND 18 wheelers seem intent on driving 90 miles an hour uphill.

By the time we crossed into Arizona, I was over it. But first, gas.

State #3 of our trip.

Passing through the famous boondocker paradise of Quartzsite, I asked Lori to look at the route again and give me anything else. I didn’t care if it added an hour, just get me off I-10.

She did her magic, and sure enough came up with an alternate route into Scottsdale, our pitstop for the night. A few miles later, I took the freeway exit and ended up in RV driving paradise: Route 60.

Heading to Scottsdale via Wickenburg added about 30 minutes, but it was like driving in a parallel universe. A quiet two-lane highway connecting a handful of small farming communities and not a lot of traffic to speak of. And the pavement was smooth as butter.

Taking this route had the added benefit of taking us around the north side of the Phoenix Metro area into Scottsdale, which I was pretty happy about as well.

All of this, of course, meant that we’d get in after dark…again.

Getting in after sunset tonight shouldn’t have been a big deal. We were basically parking in a parking lot for the night with no connections, so no setup needed.

But getting there required us to get onto yet another unholy stretch of blacktop (the 101 Ring Road) that made me wonder if the entire expressway system in Arizona is under construction. It felt as if someone dumped our 6 ton RV onto a racetrack with not even a hint of a shoulder (due to the construction)…at night. Fun times.

But the fun didn’t end there. We’ve determined Riley’s carseat is just not going to cut it for our purposes (it doesn’t fit quite right in the dinette and is way too heavy for having to take it in and out every time we move to a new destination). The easiest plan seemed to be to swing by Target a mile down the road from our pitstop, and maybe grab some dinner in the area.

But it was Saturday night and of course tonight of all nights they were having a huge drag racing rally of some sort. To get to Target, we had to drive the RV through a sea of suped up cars, deafening choppers, and a half dozen squad cars who were actively subduing a situation.

We snatched up the least expensive carseat that would work for us, Lori grabbed some burritos while I made sure it fit, and we headed back to the main road, watching the seas part as we inched our way back through the mayhem.

A couple of minutes later, we arrived at fabulous Talking Stick Resort & Casino.

Our view for the night. A fitting end to a weird afternoon/evening. And another first off our list: Dry camping in a casino parking lot.

With the exception of the various announcements from a loudspeaker piped into the resort parking lot, it was a surprisingly restful night. If a chilly one. Since leaving Roseburg, we’ve been hooked up to power every night, allowing us to run our rooftop heat pump. But not last night.

I’ve been trying to get the furnace to light, but to no avail. It worked when we bought it, but don’t think I’m priming it right. Last night was a reminder that I’ll need to pull the manuals at some point and figure it out. Or just try and wait it out. It’s mid-March and we’re headed to Mexico, after all.

There were easily half a dozen other RVs in the parking lot along with ours, which was weird but not a surprise. Apparently, the casino has set aside this part of the parking lot for RVs and campers, charging a fee of $25 for the privilege of parking here.

Unless you’re over 55, there aren’t a whole lot of RV parks in and around Phoenix. News to us, given that in our minds, Phoenix is the epicenter of seasonal RVing in the U.S. But I guess that’s more the case for retirees than young whippersnappers like us.

The one big benefit of staying at Talking Stick is that it put us a short drive from Lori’s cousin’s family, who we haven’t seen in ages.

They’ve got two boys a bit older than our boys, but they happened to be having grandparent time this weekend. The boys were bummed until they learned about the trampoline and other kid things to play with in the backyard.

It was great to visit and catch up. But before we knew it, we were back on the road headed to Tucson where all-ages RV parks and 30 Amp power hookups await.

After a quick Walmart provisioning stop.

So long, Phoenix. Hello, Tucson!

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