We have traveled the 2,200 miles round trip between here and the “Valley of the Sun” five, maybe six times over the years. We go there to visit our good friends Kay and Lynn, Terry and Bob and this year my cousin Connie and Jim. Most go to the Phoenix area to escape the cold and kick back for two to four months. Our trips are two weeks. When I was thinking about how to write about a trip that I’ve covered so many times, I thought I would note how our roadtrips seem to follow a similar pattern in our choices of overnight stops.
We always make our first stop in Monument Colorado. It is always good to see family and enjoy the hospitality. Luckily, we’ve never been snowed out driving the PW this first leg of our trip even though we usually go in the winter. So, there is no better stop on a roadtrip than to “moochdock” in a driveway of family or friends. We have our own bed, bathroom and coffee but enjoy joining our hosts in conversation and catching up without overstaying our welcome.
Just as with driveways, we find National Parks and other nationally owned locations great places to spend the night. There are phone apps and reference books (see below) that list Bureau of Land Management (BLM) land or National Forest Service (NFS) locations. These are sometimes free, always half price if you have a Senior Pass. I don’t usually make reservations when on the road, so when evening approached after leaving Colorado, I was surprised to find the Cibola NFS area outside of Gallup New Mexico. Even though the information said the campground was closed, we took our chances and headed the six miles up into the mountains. We did drive a little too long and it was dark when we pulled into the parking lot for a snowmobile trail head. We stayed toasty under our good sleeping bag even though our thermometer said 7 degrees out and 17 degrees in when this picture was taken early in the morning. We have a furnace but prefer not to use it overnight because it is noisy. Also, note that we had not dewinterized the camper so no fear of freezing water pipes.
State Parks are our next preference. As I have mentioned before, there is a reason States set aside certain locations for state parks. We are seldom disappointed when seeking out a state park. One of the best kept secrets in Apache Junction, a suburb of Phoenix, is Lost Dutchman State Park. The sites are big and few if any directly “look” into another site. There are bike and hiking trails, clean showers and friendly campers. It is hard to get the sites with electricity hookups so we don’t even try. With careful camping, we get along fine with our battery. The picture below is taken from our eight-night site. The fog around Superstition Mountain is a first time sight in this desert climate.
City and county parks are next for a overnight stay. Many small towns, especially those a little off the beaten path, have lovely places for overnight stays. San Jon, New Mexico had just such a place on this trip. Sometimes the RV sites are near city baseball complexes or fair grounds. Often they just have a drop pipe for payment or there is no charge. For example the city of Chanute Kansas has a camp ground with electricity and water for no charge.
I recommend the apps Allstays and Campendium as a help to find these low profile gems. I joined Harvest Hosts for several years. It allows overnight stays at wineries around the country. If we were setting out on a long roadtrip, I would join again because those stays are fun.
Sometimes when all else fails on a roadtrip, we settle for WalMart or a rest stop. If you are lucky enough to hit a state welcome center at the right time, they are usually in a nice location. They are often more off the road than a rest stop and have the benefit of free state maps and information.