Palm Creek aka Pickleball Camp

Chuck read a blog by a couple who are are full-timing while looking for a RV casita to use as a winter base. One of the places they checked out was Palm Creek Golf and RV Resort in Casa Grande, just south of Phoenix. After reading their blog Chuck was itching to try it out and since we were feeling road weary we decided to book a whole month at Palm Creek. While it’s a more expensive option than we normally pick, we figured we wouldn’t be driving so our fuel savings would offset the more expensive camping fee, not that you can call this place camping. One night as a golf cart parade passed by our site we waved and the lady laughed and yelled out, “Our kids think we’re camping!” Yeah, there is no camping here.

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The best way to describe Palm Creek is a big summer camp for active retirees (albeit in the winter). Here you find folks happily engaging in every kind of activity you can imagine. There is golf, swimming, tennis, water volleyball, shuffleboard, lawn bowling and pickleball. Then there are the indoor activities like quilting, pottery, lapidary, silversmithing, stained glass, woodworking and more. Plus yoga, water aerobics, line dancing, cards, and a bunch of social clubs. They have dances and concerts and community parties in the park, like a car show and a hot air balloon glow.

 

 

Unlike other retiree parks we’ve stayed at, this one felt vibrant, even for us folks a bit under the average age. 🙂 Plus we got hooked on pickleball.

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Pickleball, what is that you say? Well, it in no way involves pickles. It’s kinda a mash-up of ping pong and tennis using a solid paddle, a plastic ball with holes (like a whiffle ball) and a smaller version of a tennis court. We arrived on Tuesday, took a beginner’s lesson on Thursday, started playing in organized round robins nearly every day and after two weeks we were down in the office extending our stay for an additional month. Seems that happens a lot around here.

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Our days pretty much looked like: get up, eat breakfast, lather up with sunscreen, go play pickleball, come back, eat lunch, shower, drink lots of water, and try to recoup before making dinner or joining friends for cocktails. People would ask “Have you been to see any of the sights?” and I’d respond “We’ve been to the grocery store.” Pretty much all we did was play, eat, sleep, and do laundry. But it was a nice change from our usual sightseeing and hiking and moving all the time. Who knew when we set out on this journey we would take up a new sport, the only one we’ve ever played together in our nearly 20 years, and have so much fun with it.

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After playing pickleball for only a month we played in the club’s members only tournament. My women’s partner was Mona, a 70 year young Canadian who is an inspiration to stay active. She and her husband, Bob, had more energy than either of us! We enjoyed getting to know them and hanging out together. They’re both a hoot and she races dragon boats!

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One other great thing about Palm Creek is that they have forged a connection with the local elementary school. This meant that I could, after waiting several weeks for my background check to clear, volunteer. Soon I was enjoying 2 days a week helping 6 year olds learn their ABCs (right up my alley since I taught K and 1st). It was exciting to be in a classroom again using my skills, but also eye opening. I realized how lucky I had been to teach in a highly regarded and supportive district and what a great job I’d done in my classroom even though I always felt like I should be doing more. Teaching is my calling but all the time and effort required definitely takes it’s toll and I don’t miss that. I was glad that I could enjoy the fun parts, like working with the kids, without all the other responsibilities of managing a classroom.

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In the end we stayed at Palm Creek for a full 3 months, January – March. This is by far the longest we’ve been in one spot since we left and it’s allowed us to make some deep social connections. Being introverts we aren’t great at socializing, but here it’s been easy. Part of that is because we’ve met people through a common activity, pickleball. It’s built in that you will see them several times a week if not daily and soon they invite you over for cocktails and then you’re inviting them over, and then they’re teaching you a new card game (try out Wizard if you haven’t). My daughter joked that my social life was busier than hers! All too soon we found it was the end of March and our friends were starting to head home and we were going to miss them. So guess what? We signed up to come back next year for more pickleball camp and fun times with friends!

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Hopping Around Arizona

I can’t believe it’s been almost 3 months since I’ve posted. I knew I was behind, but I didn’t realize it was that bad. A little while back a fellow RV blogger (watsonswander.com) posted about her struggles to keep updated on her blog and I could totally relate. I just haven’t felt like writing. Maybe it’s because we haven’t been to a lot of new places, or I’ve been kinda road weary from our busy fall, or maybe because a lot of times I feel like I send these blogs out into the online universe and don’t really know if anyone is reading them. Well, that’s not totally true. I know my mom is reading 🙂 and I like having a record of our travels, so here comes some catching up.

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Nice large site at Gilbert Ray

After our mid-October stay at Lost Dutchman State Park just north of Phoenix, we returned to the SKP Coop in Benson AZ. We were headed to an Airstream Rally in New Mexico, but realized we were both worn out and just needed to find a spot to lay low for a bit. With one of our favorite parks only an hour away we headed back to Tucson and spent a few days among the saguaros at Gilbert Ray Campground. Its so peaceful among the saguaros and it was just what we needed.

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The sunsets are always amazing!

We lucked into a few nights at Dead Horse Ranch State Park just outside Sedona. While the park itself was nothing spectacular, the surrounding area is amazing.

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Our site at Dead Horse Ranch

We took a long drive down dirt roads scoping out some of the boondocking in the area and enjoying the views.

We walked through downtown reading about the history of the area…

enjoyed tamales at a cute little spot…

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Our lunch at Tamaliza was delicious!

and played the giant xylophone.

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Everywhere you turned there were great views of the red rocks. This is an area that definitely requires a return visit. There is so much to explore and we didn’t even get to experience any of the great hiking.

Next up was a stay at a park many folks have recommended, Catalina State Park, just north of Tucson. While we enjoyed the views and the proximity to amenities, our campsite was not so appealing with it’s setting among the sandy scrub.

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If you stood out on the road you could see the beautiful view and not see the major ant highway crossing our site. 🙂

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Hiking in Catalina State Park

I guess we can’t complain too much when we’re enjoying so much sunny weather.

After Catalina we were headed east (more on that next time) so ended up at the Benson SKP park again to catch up on laundry. After all, it had been two weeks. With four different stops in that time I don’t think we did anything to help our road weariness, but we’re planning for some down time soon.

More New Mexico Adventures

Traveling further south we stopped for a few nights at City of Rocks State Park. It’s kinda strange because you are driving through grasslands and fields and then these rocks just pop up out of nowhere.

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There are lots of cool rock formations to climb on and around.

 

You can camp right up among the rocks, but we chose the hook-up sites and had this great view of the rocks from our site.

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There were both cottontails and jackrabbits all over the campground.

One afternoon I took my bike on the trail that loops the campground.

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The trail was longer and hillier than it looked and I had forgotten we were still at a high elevation and it was nearly 90 degrees so I very nearly didn’t make it back. Boy that dry desert air really takes it out of you! Took me a couple of days to recoup.

We made a visit to Silver City which was supposed to have lots of cool artist shops, but most were closed on Tuesday. The few we did find had interesting stuff.

We had more great evening views.

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Sadly we had to leave New Mexico and head toward Phoenix so I could fly to Boise for my nephew’s wedding. On the way we stopped in Benson AZ at an Escapees Park. We love the Escapees parks for their friendly folks, reasonable rates, and especially their clean, cheap laundry facilities! This one had great desert views and we enjoyed the sunny weather.

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There were a couple of folks who had train displays. 

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On our way to Phoenix we needed a place to stop for lunch. Luckily we happened upon the Casa Grande National Monument. It was a great stop for lunch and a little exploration.

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Outside Phoenix we stayed at Lost Dutchmen State Park. We had heard so many good things about this park that we were disappointed when our spot turned out to be in a crowded loop. Riding through the campground we found other nicer spots but none were open for the 9 days we were staying. Luckily during the week it was quieter and less crowded.

Still the views of the Superstition Mountains as they changed in the evening light were great. While Chuck enjoyed those and some 90 degree days, I flew to Boise for highs in the 50s and a great visit with family.

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The happy couple cutting the cake that my niece baked for them. 
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I got to hang out with our beautiful daughters.
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A family photo at the wedding.

So after Chuck’s week of projects around the trailer and my busy week with family, it’s time to make some decisions about where we head next. There are so many possibilities that sometimes it can be daunting. We’ve had such a busy month that I think we need a few days to relax before we decide.

KOFA and Quartzite

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After our relaxing time in sunny Yuma we travelled about an hour north to Quartzite. Every year thousands of RVers converge on this spot in January for the big RV show and many spend their entire winters here because of the cheap camping. In the Long Term Visitor Areas you can stake your spot in the desert for only $140 all season. They even have a dump station, water and trash. We opted for a more remote area with no services but lots of beauty about 15 miles south of town. The KOFA National Wildlife Refuge has camping for 14 days free of charge. Even though we only ended up staying 3 nights you can see we got lots of scenic photos. By the way, KOFA stands for King of Arizona and was the name of a mining operation.

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We arrived on Thursday to scope out a spot. Heading in the gravel road we were worried we wouldn’t be able to turn around if we went too far so we picked a big level spot still a ways from the mountains. After unhitching we decided to drive up the road and found an even better spot with amazing views of the rock cliffs. We put out some chairs to claim it, drove a couple of miles back, hitched up again, and towed the trailer to the base of the mountain. It took quite a bit of maneuvering to get our trailer level while facing the right direction for the solar panels, but once we got it all set we enjoyed the stunning views.

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You’ll notice from the photos that KOFA wasn’t as sunny as Yuma. While it made for great photos, it made for chilly camping. We spent the whole day Friday inside as the wind and rain whipped around us. We were glad our trailer is aerodynamic because some of the gusts were quite strong.

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We even had a few rainbows.

We took advantage of the nice weather on Saturday to visit the RV show. We had been looking forward to this show since we left Seattle. I don’t know what we were expecting, perhaps something like the RV show back home only bigger, but boy were we disappointed. The “Big Tent” as they call the main area of the show was filled with vendors like those you find at the fair selling mops and pans and such, and not a lot of RV specific products. In fact we found nothing we were looking for on our list and only bought a Mac Attack BBQ pork sandwich (it had mac and cheese on it) and we didn’t even manage to take any photos. We walked through some of the swap meet area in town but soon grew bored of tent after tent of the same stuff. After less than 2 hours in Quartzite, we were done. We opted not to check out the small town (perhaps another time when the show isn’t on).

Insider tip: If you ever visit the show you can park for free during the day at the LTVA just south of the show. It’s much better than the crazy show parking where people circle endlessly and we saw 3 different vehicles stuck in the sand, plus it’s just as close.

Instead, we headed back to KOFA to take advantage of the sunny afternoon by hiking the Palm Canyon trail. It wasn’t too hard to get to the spot where you could see the palm trees, but we decided to scramble up the side of the mountain to get closer.

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The way up.

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These crazy palm tress grow here naturally. The microclimate on this hillside supports the only grove of native palms in Arizona.

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That’s the trail back down.
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Making my way carefully.
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View from half way down.

Looking ahead the forecast called for more cloudy, cold weather. While we can use our propane to heat up the place, it’s just not as comfy when it’s really cold and with the clouds our solar power was dwindling. It was a pretty easy decision to head back to Yuma for more winter sunshine. Amazing what a difference 50 miles can make!

Yuma

We came to Yuma because it’s supposed to have the most sunny days of anywhere in the US and things were getting chilly. Turns out they do get lots of sun. Even on the days we wake up and it looks cloudy, the clouds are replaced by sun later in the day. But it’s also pretty windy here and with all the fields and sandy soil that means it is dusty. I guess I shouldn’t complain though when we’re getting temps in the 60s and 70s in January and I’m back to wearing flip flops every day!

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We were greeted by this amazing sunset.

Yuma is full of snowbirds. In fact the population doubles in winter. Driving in on I-8 we saw RV park after RV park lining the freeway and they were packed. Luckily the KOFA Escapees park where we stayed is about 8 miles south of town among the citrus groves. At first it seemed liked an inconvenient spot, but we soon realized it was peaceful and the 20 minute drive to town was not bad.

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We had to spend 2 nights in the dry camping area before getting a spot.

This place reminded us of the park Chuck’s parents used to winter at in Florida, only smaller. About half the spaces in the park have “park models” on them, basically a tiny 10 x 40 mobile home, but the rest are large, gravel sites with full hook-ups that owner’s rent out when they’re not here. They are some of the nicest sites we’ve found in an RV park.

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The spacious spots have concrete patios and are separated by low brick walls.

The park has an active community of retirees. They feature daily activities in the clubhouse like line dancing, crafts, bingo and billiards. They also have an outdoor pool, hot tub, shuffle board and horseshoes. Plus there are groups that go bike riding and walking and of course a bunch of potlucks sprinkled in. For the most part we were reluctant to join in (perhaps we felt a little too young), but everyone was super nice and friendly. Mostly it’s just really peaceful and laid back here and we both seemed to have slowed way down.

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Maybe this roadrunner is on his way to join the line dancing.

I think this might be a good thing since there is not much to do in Yuma. We skipped visiting the big attractions, the Yuma Territorial Prison and the Quartermaster Depot from the late 1800s. Instead we walked the historic downtown which had some interesting buildings. Sadly only a handful of shops have managed to survive although the restaurants were busy. With most major stores here we did some shopping, stocked up our fridge, and visited the farmer’s market. You would think we could get really good produce since Yuma claims to be the winter vegetable capital growing 90% of the lettuce, cauliflower and other veggies for the US this time of year and we are surrounded by citrus groves, but only one of the ten booths was a local farmer and they didn’t have much. I did like the booth selling Girl Scout cookies though!

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I love that the cell tower by the park looks like a huge palm tree.

Our big reason for hanging out here in Yuma for a week was to wait for the big RV show in Quartzite and with all the sunshine it turned out to be a great place to chill before heading that way.