I have been reading RV Blogs for about three years now. This has been my main source of information for finding RV-friendly destinations, as well as adding hiking and biking trails and scenic wonders to my own wish list. But any RV blog worth its “states visited” puzzle will eventually come to this:
So now, here I am, just another Saguaro Cactus Blogger, making jokes like “Which way did he go, George?”
As long as I was traveling through the northeast, it was easy to blog about places and not feel like I was plagiarizing, since there don’t seem to be that many RV bloggers on the east coast. But now? Talk about “predictable!”
I broke one of my cardinal rules getting here. I didn’t “sense check” my GPS. When looking for the Gilbert Ray Campground, I typed in “McKinney” instead of “Kinney.” I knew something was wrong when I got off the freeway way too soon, but it took me driving through the Air Force Base to finally trust my gut and stop for directions.
Neither my GPS nor Siri could find Gilbert Ray. I found it on my Allstays app, but I still haven’t figured out how to make that app give me audible turn-by-turn directions. I stopped at the QuickTrip and asked three different people, one who was a police officer. None of the three had ever heard of Gilbert Ray Campground. This was looking good!! At least if they don’t take reservations, I won’t have to worry about the locals filling up the campground. No one has ever heard of it before!
It had been another “white knuckle wind” drive across southern New Mexico, complete with flashing roadside lights warning of sudden gusts and zero-visibility dust storms. Then, a very frustrating commute through downtown Tucson followed by Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride of a road over continuous dips and curves. I finally arrived at the Gilbert Ray Campground in the afternoon heat. I was tired, hot, weary, and resigned to the conclusion that maybe the desert just wasn’t my thing…
And then….the sun begins to drop low in the sky. The wicked wind settles down to a nice cool, gentle breeze. Hundreds of giant saguaro cactus all around me rival any sculpture garden as they begin to cast long shadows across my campsite at the far end of the A loop. I can’t see another rig in site. The temperature drops ten degrees. The mountains turn a fiery orange in the sunset glow, then deepen to a cool, majestic purple afterglow as the stars begin to make their shimmering appearance one by one in the cobalt blue sky. And all at once, I am smitten…
I love this little Gilbert Ray Campground. The cool night breeze blowing through my window has me sleeping like I am under a spell, as the enchanted giant saguaros stand guard in the moonlight. I can hear absolutely nothing except the occasional high-pitched yip and howl of a coyote in the distance, until I am awakened each morning by a cacophony of birdsong. I would be good here for at least another ten degrees.
Now on Arizona Standard Time, I wake as the sun is coming up. I decide to take a side trip to visit the stunningly beautiful San Xavier del Bac Mission, located on the Tohono O’odham San Xavier Indian Reservation just a 20 minute drive from the campground. I get an early start to take advantage of the early morning light. I am quite surprised as I get closer to see all the people walking along the road, seemingly headed for the mission as if on a pilgrimage.
The place is PACKED with one Mass right after another. It is standing room only! Bad news for photography, great news for people-watching, as families stand outside the door waiting for Mass to end so they can get a front row seat. Mothers are teaching their children how to weave a cross from palm fronds, and worshipers queue up single file to place their hand under the wooden head of the Saint Francis Xavier statue and lift, the belief being that if you are able lift him up, you are in good stead with the Saint.
The parking lot takes on a festive atmosphere, as locals offer up “Indian Fry-Bread” with a plethora of toppings. I choose honey and cinnamon, which seeps into the soft, puffy fried dough, hot out of the bubbling oil. It is the perfect breakfast on a perfect Sunday morning on a perfect Arizona blue sky day. It’s great to be a cliché!