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  • Writer's pictureMiranda

Arizona Sunsets & More


The sunsets in Arizona, no matter what part of the state, were consistent hues of oranges with outlines of mountains and plateaus. The picture above was taken atop “The Summit” overlooking Sedona by some random person who saw the opportunity and then offered to “drop” the photo to us. Kind of creepy, but kind of not.


Harvey, our RV, spent the entire month of March in Arizona. So we gazed at sunsets in Benson, Scottsdale, Lost Dutchman State Park in Apache Junction, and Lake Havasu; along with many adventures….



We started in the southeast corner of the State at a KOA in Benson. After setting up camp we visited our 10th National Park, Mallory’s favorite, Saguaro National Park. She loved the variety of cacti, plants and hilly terrain. We also let Mallory drive and Ben take the photos, so they were fully immersed in the short 8-mile loop road of the park. On an ecology hike we identified the plants and animals that live in the desert region, which we had never experienced firsthand before. Back at the RV everyone helped chop ingredients for tacos and settle in for the night.



The next day started with work and school while Chuck made a grocery run. Then, we stepped back in time visiting Tombstone, AZ. We decided to dress the part as well, at least for a few minutes, to have an old west family photo taken. Chuck was The Law, Ben an Outlaw and us girls were the Ladies. Mallory had a hard time holding a serious face and Kate would have loved to keep her lace dress. The afternoon included visiting the shops, a re-enactment of the OK Corral shoot out, and a historama of the town of Tombstone. Back in Benson we played basketball at a park and Mallory got Starbucks. Then, we headed back to the RV to grill steaks for dinner and pack up for our departure the next morning.



We got a jump on the day, as winds were forecast to blow 40 miles per hour, and in AZ that means blinding dust storms. We were headed to Apache Junction, which would be home for the next three weeks. This was the longest stay we have had on our adventure, typically moving every 3-7 days. This took the pressure off of planning our next routes and campgrounds. Chuck did a great job bucking the wind for a few hours, then stopped at a park so I could lead a video meeting, then back on the road arriving by 1:30pm in Apache Junction KOA.


We set-up, unpacked and re-packed in record time as we were leaving Harvey for a few days to stay at a cabin in the mountains with my cousin Cheryl and her husband Phil. They graciously invited us to join them for the weekend. We were all eager to spend time with family. So the guys climbed in their truck with boat in tow and the girls rode in the Explorer two hours north into the Mogollon Mountain Range. The drive was breath taking. As we arrived at their cabin we were greeted by patches of snow, elk and pine forests. The cabin was nestled into the mountain side, quaint and welcoming with a loft for the kids, pool table, and wood burning stove. Cheryl was surprised to have so many helpers in the kitchen preparing dinner. But the Anderson kids love to cook, and it was especially fun to learn a new recipe. Phil and Chuck headed into town to get some refreshments for later in the evening and said they would be “back in 20 minutes”…Some game playing rounded out the evening before calling it a night.



The next morning we woke up to a dreary, cloudy day. A mist was in the air, but that didn’t dampen the mood as the first thing Chuck saw when he looked out the front door in the morning was a cow elk not more than 30 yards away. There was a small herd of cows and yearlings that hung out in the neighborhood most of the day that we saw multiple times as we went for walks and explored. Chuck, Ben and Phil headed to Roosevelt Lake for fishing where they spent the day on the water taking in the scenery but no catching. The Girls; Cheryl, Mallory, Kate and I; went for walks, played games, explored the area, bought handmade empanadas from a small storefront in the neighboring town of Strawberry, and enjoyed time relaxing with a crackling fire burning. The guys returned in time to grill Tri-Tip steaks for dinner. Yum! The evening included cigars on the deck for the Dads, more games and relaxing. The kids were stalling bedtime until midnight, since tomorrow was Ben’s birthday. We compromised at 11pm, since in MN it would have been midnight. His last day as a 13-year-old was a good one!



Ben’s birthday started with peeps for breakfast! At the grocery store the day before we had found birthday cake peeps, so that was served to Ben with a candle in it as we all sang to him. Then a few rounds of his new favorite game, Monopoly card game, that Cheryl had taught us at the cabin. By mid-morning we headed outside on a short walk to the park for pickle ball, shuffle board and basketball. We also had more close encounters with elk as we hiked the neighborhood before packing-up. Back at the RV that night it was wings for dinner, take out from BWW Ben’s favorite, and more Monopoly card games. Birthday success!


Grandma and Grandpa Clauson were arriving today! They had booked a cabin at the KOA to stay with us for the week. The kids affectionately, or sarcastically, refer to the simple cabin as “two-bunk beds and a shelf” from the time we stayed in one a few years ago in the Badlands. After work and school, we hung out at the pool near the entrance waiting. The forecast for the week was sunny and upper 70s, a far cry from the Minnesota weather they left behind. They pulled in around 4pm, we helped them unload and then welcomed them with a steak dinner.



The next morning while the kids and I did work and school, my parents and Chuck visited my great uncle Kenny and his wife Judy who were wintering in a neighboring town. When they got back I had just finished dishes and the kids were splashing in the pool. They had a list of recommendations of things to do, so we headed for the Odyssea Aquarium, after 4:30pm it was half price and well worth the admission. They had many hands-on experiences and saw many new things including fish that crawled. At the clown fish display our family and few others were approached by a guy who asked us to guess how many fish were in the tank. Chuck guessed correctly at 212. Turns out the guy was the Aquarium Manager, he gave us his business card and told us to call him for a return visit to enjoy other attractions for free. A late dinner at Organ Stop Pizza was a unique experience that included a live concert on the world’s largest pipe organ.



The adventures continued all week with G’ma and G’pa visiting the Goldfield Ghost Town for a shootout; a boat ride on Canyon Lake for Grandma and Kate while Grandpa hiked to the top of a mountain with Chuck, Mallory, Ben and I for views of the Superstition Mountain Range; a picnic; ice cream in the tourist town of Tortilla Flats; games; pool time; and dinners with family (Phil & Cheryl and Kenny & Judy) including a golf cart tour of Ken and Judy’s neighborhood and pickle ball.



Before we knew it Saturday was here. The next day we would all leave for Telluride, CO, for a few days of downhill skiing on the majestic mountains. But first we were going to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day in Fountain Hills, AZ. We were only a few miles down the road when we got a call from the KOA asking when my parents would be out of their cabin. I had messed up and booked them one day short and there was no other cabin available. So we returned to the KOA and helped them pack-up. They decided to just leave then for Telluride and get a jump on the 8-hour drive, breaking it into two days instead of one long day. This also meant they got to stay in a much more comfortable hotel. So I guess my mistake worked out. After we said goodbye, for just one night, we continued onto Irish Fest in Fountain Hills where we met Phil and Cheryl. The iconic fountain was dyed green, Irish bands set the mood, and the kids played.



Sunday morning we rose before the sun for the 8-hour drive to Telluride, CO. We met up with Phil and Cheryl a few hours down the road at a donut shop. The kids took turns riding with them, learning lyrics to a song Phil planned to strum on his guitar and entertaining them with stories. The drive had varied landscapes from pine covered mountains, desert plateaus, canyon river bed, and finally towering mountains. Telluride is situated in a box canyon surrounded by mountains in every direction. Within minutes of each other we all arrived: Andersons, Grandma and Grandpa Clauson, and Phil and Cheryl. We unloaded and settled into our condo, sharing our first meal and making plans for the morning runs. Snow was in the forecast overnight.


We awoke to five inches of fresh powder, the sun shining and temperatures in the high 20s…perfect skiing conditions. This was the first mountain skiing for Mallory, Ben and Kate; so Phil had picked an area of the mountain that would be a great acclimation with multiple options for runs as well as “play” area with trails through the trees with jumps and bumps. It didn’t take long for the kids to find their favorite runs and just meet us at the bottom. Grandma had spent the day exploring the town on a free shuttle and learning the history of the area from the friendly driver. After a full-day of skiing and a few gondola rides to get us to the base of the mountains we enjoyed hot cocoa and drinks in Telluride before heading to the condo for dinner.



Each family was making one dinner and one breakfast to share and the home cooked meals were delicious after a full day on the mountain. Phil had brought his guitar and after singing "If I had a Boat" by Lyle Lovett, Kate shared lyrics of a song she had written a few months back while we were on the road. So Phil strummed some chords and sang that too! Here’s the lyrics to Kate’s song “There’s a Song Stuck in My Head”…


There’s a song stuck in my head. All the words just go unsaid. Now I’m here with all my courage, just wondering where I’ll go next. There’s a rope pulling me closer, don’t know what’s on the other side. Whatever it is, I hope it leaves me some room to grow. I want to open up my eyes to see where it leads me.

Cause, there’s a song stuck in my head. All the words just go unsaid. Now I’m here with all my courage, just wondering where I’ll go next.



The next morning the skiers were feeling good, so Phil, Chuck and Ben tackled a more challenging part of the mountain while the girls and Grandpa went back to the same area we were before, with some extra runs on a terrain park. We planned to meet up around noon to ski the ridge line at the top of the mountain together. The run was called “See Forever” and was appropriately named. The trail was gradual as it followed the top rim but it was only about 15 feet wide with sheer cliffs and double black diamond runs dropping off either side. We eventually made our way to a blue/double green run that switch-backed its way down the mountain to an area we skied for the rest of the afternoon. Cheryl and my Mom had made plans too: gondola rides, a massage and shopping. We ventured into town together late afternoon to see the shops and enjoy local libations. Back at the condo chicken noodle soup was on the menu, packing, and games were played into the evening.



After two great days of skiing we were packed up and all headed in different directions by 9am:

  • G’ma and G’pa Clauson headed north and east making their way back to Minnesota

  • Phil and Cheryl headed south back to Arizona

  • Anderson’s headed west into Utah to take in Arches National Park.

Three hours later we rolled into Moab, UT, got to go lunches from a local deli and headed to Arches National Park only to find that the entrance was closed due to the park being full. After tuning into their radio station and visiting their website we learned the Park would likely open up late afternoon. So, we re calibrated…We drove 30 more miles north to Canyonlands National Park north entrance. On the way, I booked a hotel room for the night in Moab. Even though it was overcast and misting the views at Canyonlands were still spectacular! The kids were relieved that we were skipping the hikes due to the weather, but we did stop at nearly all the overlooks.



By the time we finished the park and got back to Arches N.P. the entrance was open. We drove to the end at Devils Garden for our first hike and saw only three arches. I was questioning the Park’s namesake until we made our way back to the Windows Section, which had a dozen or more arches and a great hike for some up close encounters. We took a primitive, meaning not marked or traveled well, trail back to the parking lot led by Junior Ranger Kate trying to track the path and doing a little rock scrambling. We watched the sunset as we drove to our hotel too exhausted to go to dinner. Instead Chuck picked up pizza while we accomplished work and school for the day and watched the MN Wild get a W.



The kids were up bright and early, even though it was going to be a long travel day (7.5 hours) back to Harvey in Apache Junction, AZ. They knew the outcome would be seeing their friends Will and Ellie who were in Scottsdale, AZ, for the week. We took the scenic route through canyons, plateaus and pine covered mountains near Flagstaff. We surprised the kids, by dropping them off to swim in the pool with their friends while we went to the RV to unpack and settle in. The next few days were spent with good friends swimming; learning how to play Cribbage; playing basketball and bocce at local parks; and walking to Olde Town Scottsdale for meals, shops, adult night out dancing, and the biggest farmers market we have been to!



We also cashed in our “free” passes that Chuck had won a few weeks earlier from the Aquarium redeeming them for Mirror Maze and Laser Challenges. We ended our time together with a sunset dinner at Rustler’s Rooste. This unique dining experience includes sawdust on the floor, a slide from the upper level to the lower, live music, and one of the best views of the sunset over Phoenix.


Our final days in the Phoenix area were hot, with a string of 90 degree days. We can’t imagine what the summer months are like 30 degrees warmer. After work and school we spent the afternoons relaxing by the pool and the late afternoons and evenings hiking at the Lost Dutchman State Park as well as playing basketball and pickle balls at local parks.


A few final highlights of the Phoenix area included a return visit to the Old Town Scottsdale Farmers Market with MN friends Kris and Tori, enjoying our last meal with Phil and Cheryl that featured Phil’s award winning Wing and BQ sauce, and then Cheryl, Kate and I attending a local high school production of Cinderella while Chuck, Phil, Mal and Ben played pickle ball and smoked one final cigar (the Dads that is).



Sunday morning was move day, after three weeks in Apache Junction Chuck, Ben and Kate headed north to Camp Verde for the week. Mallory and I flew home for two days to mourn alongside dear friends and the Timberwood Church body. Our hearts were heavy for the loss of two beautiful girls and we knew that is where we needed to be, but it was hard to leave Chuck, Ben and Kate behind.


Their travels were smooth and days were spent at the campground playing pickle ball, mini-golf, shuffle board, ping pong, and swimming in the pool. They even took part in potluck BINGO bringing fudge stripe cookies to the party to share.


Mallory and I connected with family while back in Minnesota, starting by catching a ride north with my sister Belinda’s’s family from the Minneapolis airport. We packed their vehicle with eight people and our luggage for the midnight drive. There were also snuggles with the Twin cousins back at our house and a family dinner.


The memorial services were filled with tears, embraces, peace, and a deep sense of loss.


As we returned back to Arizona, I had an even deeper appreciation for the memories we are making and time spent as a family.


Our Adventure continued with a visit to the hillside ghost town of Jerome, a tour of the Tuzigoot National Monument of ruins, a hike in Red Rock State Park, a natural water slide in Slide Rock State Park that only Ben (9 times) and Kate (once) braved, and of course taking the time to watch the sunset over Sedona.



Our final stop in Arizona was Lake Havasu. Our campsite was right on the channel with beach front just a few steps away that invited us to swim each day as the temperatures climbed into the 90s.


Family once again was able to join our Adventure. Grandma and Grandpa Anderson surprised the kids by showing up at our campsite within hours of our arrival. They joined us for dinner then were tour guides of the area since they had spent a winter here five years prior.



The next morning I got up early and picked up my sister Lesa at the Las Vegas airport. She was spending the week with us in Harvey the RV too! Shortly after settling in we all left on a 45-minute drive to the Desert Bar, a remote location accessible mainly by UTVs and 4-wheel drive vehicles, only open on Saturdays and Sundays that featured a rustic appearance and live music.


A more relaxing pace was planned for the week enjoying our company and soaking up the sun and heat. We cooled off on a Duck Boat tour of Lake Havasu, added our lock to the London Bridge, got our nails done, as well as explored local parks and shooting hoops in the evening once the sun went down. Before our week was over we had discovered an amazing smoothie bar that we visited twice, made body sugar scrubs, and celebrated Chuck’s Dad’s 75th Birthday with a delicious meal and of course a sunset.



Our hearts were full and complexions a little more tan as we said good bye and Harvey headed north to Vegas and G’pa and G’ma Anderson headed north east back to Minnesota.


We crossed into Nevada for a one night stay at Lake Mead. A tour of Vegas was planned before we brought Lesa to the airport. We drove the strip and walked Freemont Street. Then our cousin Bryce, who lives only a few blocks away, joined me to photo and video everyone else as they zip lined the five blocks of Freemont Street from 11 stories above on Slotzilla. We all enjoyed dinner at Pizza Rocks and caught up on life before we needed to bring Lesa to the airport and say goodbye to her too.



The family and friends that we were able to see in Arizona made the beauty of this state even more rich because we created shared memories. Only seven more weeks remain on our Adventure, this is bitter sweet to think about. So instead we'll just enjoy this time we have together on the road...

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2 Comments


brerud
brerud
Apr 27, 2022

I can't believe that you are coming up on the end of this adventure soon..... I hope it has been everything you hoped it would be and more. It has been fun reading all of your stories. We can't wait to see you guys this summer!

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Sharon Konen-Bulinski
Sharon Konen-Bulinski
Apr 20, 2022

What am I going to do when I don't have your very interesting and fun blog to read 🙄any longer 🤣

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