I am a Crested Cliche’

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:

The somewhat rare "crested saguaro."

The somewhat rare “crested saguaro.”

Some say it is caused by a lightening strike, others say by frost, but truthfully, they don't know for sure.

Some say it is caused by a lightening strike, others say by frost, but truthfully, they don’t know for sure.

So now, here I am, just another Saguaro Cactus Blogger, making jokes like “Which way did he go, George?”

IMG_1619As 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!”

"My analyst told me..."

“My analyst told me…”

Why am I suddenly so sleepy?

Why am I suddenly so sleepy?

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.IMG_1759


Beautiful Ocotillo flowers look like flame tips in the late afternoon sun.

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!

Fun to drive in the Tracker!   The Winnie?  Not so much...

Fun to drive in the Tracker! The Winnie? Not so much…

Gates Pass Road in the Tracker

Gates Pass Road in the Tracker

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.


Chained Cholla, also known as “jumping Cholla” for its propensity to reach out and touch someone…

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.

Stunningly beautiful San Xavier Mission

Stunningly beautiful San Xavier Mission

Side chapel through beautiful cactus garden

Side chapel through beautiful cactus garden

This would make a gorgeous watercolor.  Too bad I can't paint.  Or know someone who can...

This would make a glorious watercolor. Too bad I can’t paint. Or know someone who can…

As I approach the parking lot, I can see it is full, at 8:00am. I look again, and notice they are all carrying palm fronds. A quick mental calendar check, and I realize it is Palm Sunday!

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.

Locals making Indian Fry-bread

Locals making Indian Fry-bread

Confetti eggs...

Confetti eggs…

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!IMG_1648IMG_1776

9 thoughts on “I am a Crested Cliche’

  1. Hooray for Tucson! I’m so glad you are smitten. Be sure you go to the Desert Museum and spend some time in the hummingbird enclosure. Have fun!

  2. Oh you are making me so “homesick” for my favorite Arizona campground! Your photos are incredible! You got all of those just within a couple days?? You’re killing me!!! What serendipity to arrive at the Mission on Palm Sunday too– that must have been quite inspiring! Enjoy the rest of your stay there!

  3. From one Winnie View owner to another, I just wanted to chime in here about the voice navigation in the AllStays app. Neither Apple or Google Maps allow me to start voice directions automatically (since you might be doing something else with audio on the device and I am supporting all platform versions that I can with one app). So there are extra steps in each one. Both of them involve starting the routing, stopping it, making an adjustment and then starting it again and the turn by turn voice is there. It’s a bit annoying at first but it should be easier after doing it a couple times. I have a topic on this with step by step instructions under the help section in the app under “Using Voice Navigation” but it is kind of buried. The direct link to the mobile help page is here but I understand if you don’t want to include all this info here. I hope it is helpful for at least yourself. http://www.allstays.com/apps/crv/h/voice-navigation.htm

    • Adam, this is EXCELLENT news, and I am grateful for your comment! I will experiment with the instructions on my next leg. I am “making this up as I go along,” and I simply don’t know how I would do it without Allstays! But as a solo traveler who can’t take eyes off the road, that is my only frustration, that the app won’t “talk to me.” haha! Thanks for stopping by and leaving the comment!


  4. Wow Suzanne what a great stop. It may have been difficult to find but the campground looks well worth it. Can’t wait to follow in your tracks. Wonderful pictures!

  5. HAHaaaaaa …. love the cacti … they were quite amazing … there was a very nice hill/mountain there… interesting place for sure.

    Love that purple afterglow.. the sunsets and rises are the best part, to me, of being in the desert… just spectacular… gorgeous gorgeous photography, Suzanne… my pictures weren’t quite so .. uh stellar… lol

    See? the magic comes around … and you never know when it will happen. That’s … the wonder of nature and our wondering wandering brains…. I can absolutely be right there in these pictures… the wonderful fresh air… and silence. ahhh

    • Donald — You just say that because you were my “photography instructor.” 😉

      Lynne — Thanks to you and BC Mark for recommending Gilbert Ray, otherwise I would have probably bypassed Tucson altogether and missed out on what turned out to be one of my most favorite camping spots ever!

      Tina — Thanks for the tip on the Hummingbird enclosure! It was my FAVORITE part of the museum!

      Sherry — Nice to hear from you! I am behind on my blog reading due to the dreaded Tax Man, but “dreams” is next on my list!

      Carolyn — I thought of you when I “felt the magic.” I think I hear you admitting that there was a little tiny part of you that likes the desert, right?? 😉

  6. Yes there is a part … Sedona and Flagstaff. I enjoy those gorgeous sunsets and sunrises… It’s only after days and weeks of traveling through West Texas and New Mexico and Arizona … I HAVE to find a tree…. just gotta… I like all of nature.

    All of it. I prefer the green… rushing rivers and mountains … wait until you hit Oregon and Washington State .. the rain forests… well? some get claustrophobic.. I just feel all wrapped up and safe ~ secure. I don’t know…

    Others feel that way about the desert. I don’t like a steady diet of even the ocean which I absolutely MUST have at least once a year… just not a sand type kid.

    I like it alllllll! 😉 If I had money? I’d have a home in each place… Sedona or Sante Fe …. one of the East Coast …. one on the West Coaset and one in probably Asheville, NC…

    nature is where it’s at…. just like my taste in music… it’s all over the place. Only thing I can’t listen to for any length of time is the heavy metal, rap, hip hip … but I have and will listen to some … have you listened to the lyrics of some of these popular songs today?

    HAhaaa… sound like my parents.. oh, noooooooo

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