• Steve

Another Week in Tucson

Updated: May 28

After our stay at Bog Springs, I (Steve) had this great plan to drive East through Tombstone and onto the Chiricahua National Monument to camp there for a couple of nights.

Unfortunately, I had my first fail in trip planning. I thought I had done my research and saw that we would fit there, but as we pulled in, about an hour before dark, we saw the first few open sites were way too small for us. After passing those sites, we had to drive down and up this concrete wash with a stream running through it. The camp host was there and gave us a funny look, all the while eyeing our trailer. I rolled my window down to talk with him, and he asked if we had a reservation. No, no reservations had been made. He told us that he thought we were too big to fit in any sites they had left except maybe #12. According to the camp host, #12 is a tough one to back into, and it's sloped a bit. With nowhere to go, we decided to try it. I backed in fine, but even with the front jack fully extended, we still couldn't get it level. To add to this fail, as I was driving out through the second, apparently, deeper wash, the trailer scraped bottom all the way up it. Luckily, no major damage was done that I could see other than a few scratches.


As we drove away into the darkness, we regrouped, and I remembered there was a campground closer back to Tucson that I thought would be fun. Kartchner Caverns State Park was thankfully only half full when we arrived and had a nice, level, paved spot for us with a small fee of $30/night. We ended up staying there 3 nights, so it lined up with our plans for Tucson, and I was able to get in some maintenance on the trailer. I have been trying to do my best on handling all the maintenance on the trailer while we are on this trip and now it was time for re-packing the wheel bearings. After many youtube videos and a couple of different trips to the store, I successfully re-packed the bearings and adjusted the electric drum brakes. I learned some valuable lessons that I don't feel were in those videos like getting a seal puller. Ugh! All in all, it was a good, but messy experience.



While at Kartchner Caverns, we did a cave tour, and it was well worth it. The cave was discovered in 1974 by two local cave explorers. They felt a gush of warm airflow through a crevice, and over the next 4 years secretly explored the cavern. Eventually, Arizona State Parks purchased the cave from the landowner, and it was developed for tours. Our guide, Judi, was a volunteer, and her passion was very present on the tour. She knew the cave in and out and took pride in its pristine condition. There were no cameras allowed on the cave tour, in fact, nothing except yourself was allowed in. The cave is a constant 71 degrees with 99% humidity. Jen thought it felt amazing! 


We also celebrated Jen’s birthday while at Kartchner. Jen and I got in a nice 3-mile loop hike while Lila hung back and watched a movie in the trailer. About a half-mile from the end of the trail we ran into our first javelina too (a wild pig-like animal), not only did we scare it, but it scared us as well! 

View from the top of Foothills Loop Trail

Our plans from there were to leave and go East, but plans changed. I needed to go back home for a bit, and we needed to get some truck and trailer maintenance done. Tucson was the place to do all of that. Thankfully, Tucson has a direct flight to PDX at just under 2.5 hours. We got Jen and Lila all set up at Gilbert Ray County Park near Saguaro National Park, and I headed out on Monday.


While I was at home, Jen and Lila were having a great time with some new friends. Now it's Jen's turn to write some of the blogs.

Before us leaving on our trip, I (Jen) had reached out to a fellow Instagramer / full-timer that I had been following for a while, @cedarandsilver. In addition to her IG account, she had a beautifully written blog that I enjoyed reading. I sent a message and asked her a few blog questions, and within a day she responded. Over the last several months we've chatted back and forth via IG, and I was hoping we'd be able to meet up on our adventure, at some point, somewhere. What I haven't mentioned is that she has a daughter, and from the beginning, I thought for sure she and Lila would get along great. As it happens, we met up with Karen, Lenny, and Lilya in Tucson at the campground we were staying at and hung out with them the whole time Steve was away. The girls hit it off, as did all of the adults. We met up the night before Steve left for PDX and got to know each other a bit better.


We joined our new friends on Tuesday and went to Biosphere 2, I had never heard of this, but Steve had. After hearing about it, we decided it would be an interesting place to visit. Biosphere 2 was designed and built to be an artificial, closed, ecological system experiment. This happened twice, once from 1991 to 1993, and the second time from March to September 1994. We learned that from 1991 to 1993, a group of 8 people lived in this closed system, and only once for 6 hours did someone leave, she had hurt herself, and the injury required an ER visit.

Biosphere 2
The girls - exploring and learning

Biosphere 2 has seven biomes which include an ocean, savannah grasslands, mangrove wetlands, and a fog desert. We took a tour of the facilities and found it to be very interesting. I had hoped, though, that we would hear more about the 8 people and their two-year stay in the Biosphere. The tour was a huge overview of the place as a whole, and we did get to go through probably 60 - 70% of it, including the underground area where the behind the scenes water system and "lung" are held.

The ocean biome
The Biosphere "Lung" - During the heat of the Arizona day the air would expand within the Biosphere, to offset the expanding air engineers designed 2 lungs and installed them underneath the Biosphere.

Over the week Steve was away, the girls had two sleepovers, crafted a ton, made Christmas cards, and the "mom's" got in a wonderful 5+ mile hike through the Saguaro Cacti.

Brown Mountain Hike - Near Saguaro N.P.

We did work a bit while Steve was away. School happened as did truck maintenance. Originally, we were told the truck would take a full day, if not an overnight stay. I rented a car for Lila and me, and we ran errands and crossed our fingers all would go well, and the truck would be done sooner than later. The truck was finished by 1, we picked it up, finished errands, and went back to the campground. 


We picked Steve up Friday night, and Saturday we put new tires on the trailer. The tires were original to the trailer, and the wear wasn't looking great on them. We decided safe was better than sorry since most blowouts result in major damage to the RV.


On our last night in Tucson, we took Lilya to town with us so she and Lila could have one last hurrah. We ran a few errands, went to dinner at an amazing southern fair restaurant, The Parish, which we highly recommend. If you go, try the Bacon Popcorn, it was a hit with all of us! Shrimp and Grits were amazing too! Steve then surprised us with gelato. What a way to end the night!

@thewanderingleals with @cedarandsilver

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