Buckle your seatbelts! I’m going to take you on a journey to the Southwest. Not all of it will be fun, but it will certainly be an adventure worth remembering.
We chose Phoenix as our first big trip because we’re familiar with the drive. My parents have lived there for six years, and we visit at least twice a year. Although it’s an 1100-mile trek, we felt more comfortable taking a route we’ve been down before rather than trying something new.
The Way Down
While we have experience driving trailers, we don’t have experience driving anything quite this big, so we called on my dad, who also doesn’t have experience with anything quite this big. So…three amateurs equals one professional…right?
We’re currently living on my uncle’s property, so my dad flew into town a few days early so he could hang out with his brother.
A very grainy picture of my dad and said brother because I was trying to be sneaky.
We also decided we’d take four days to get to Phoenix, so the most we had to drive in a day was six hours. Typically, when we all six make the trip in our minivan, we can do 12 hours a day. We’ve even driven straight through before.
It’s an 18-hour drive without stops, so that’s quite the feat.
We weren’t willing to risk driving a big rig at night or while we were tired, so we wanted to take our time.
We stayed in one really nice campground on the first night, but on the second and third nights, we wouldn’t rate our experience quite so high.
We felt like we really hadn’t left home yet when we got to Hutchinson. We stayed at Lighthouse Landing RV Park, which must have been relatively new because their website said they were still making improvements.
The parking spots were spacious, it was easy to get in and out, and there was a great playground area for the kids, which is where we were when we weren’t sleeping.
However, what was really nice was that even though they had sewer hookups, they also had a really nice bathhouse, which allowed us to save our tanks and eliminated the need to hook up to anything except water and electricity.
We were nervous because this was going to be our first experience parking at a campground, but they made it easy, they were really friendly, and the accommodations were so lovely that it really felt like home.
The first thing my mom utters when she hears me mention Dalhart is a breathy, “Pee-yew!” She’s not wrong…
After folding down our front patio for a fun picnic lunch in the Walmart parking lot, we rolled into the Corral RV Park and were welcomed with a locked office (which I expected), and a bit of a stink (which, unfortunately, I also expected). There were a lot of flies, thanks to the livestock nearby, and the spaces were very small. Our big rig barely fit.
We checked into the office after we set up, and they were quite abrupt. Not rude, but not particularly welcoming either. They were definitely trying to cram as many RVs as they could into the tiny spaces and maximize their profit.
The one good thing I can say about this RV park is that the playground was fantastic, which was, once again, where we were when we weren’t sleeping.
Cedar Crest, NM
We were thankful to put Dalhart in the rearview, and we were looking forward to our next stop because that’s where the drive really gets beautiful.
We had just started to hit the mountains when we arrived at the Turquoise Trail Campground and RV Park. Nestled in a valley between two ranges is this wonderful little gem. The “park” wasn’t much to sneeze at with just a couple of swings, but boy was there a view.
We got up early to watch the sunrise over the ridge, and we don’t regret losing that sleep for a second. The only downside is that our rig is so big it was tough to get in and out of these narrow gravel roads.
Oh, and whenever we pass through, we never forget to stop at Laguna Burger for the best green chili burgers on the planet. There are three locations, and we can officially say that we’ve now been to all of them!
Apache Junction, AZ
Finally, after a long few days, we had arrived at our final destination. Almost.
We got about 13 miles from The Lost Dutchman State Park and we blew a tire on the freeway. After a rather stressful drive through the mountains for the first time in something so big (not to mention the home we live in), we were welcomed to Phoenix with a loud pop and a quick jolt.
We hobbled off the freeway and into a church parking lot to call AAA. As I was on hold, I crawled into the RV to find the owner’s manual (maybe I could change the tire myself??) and found that the refrigerator had swung open and all of our food was on the floor.
At this point, we’re not happy campers.
Let’s just say that after 30 minutes on the phone with AAA, we determined they probably weren’t coming to help, and we’ve since switched our roadside plan to Good Sam.
After further examination I determined we probably didn’t have the tools to change the tire ourselves, so we called The Wright Roadside Service. They were there in a jiffy, jacked it up, put on the spare, and sent us on our way.
They were friendly, affordable, and made a very stressful situation a little bit easier to handle.
By this time, it was too late to check in to our campground and too dark for us to want to anyway. We opted instead to go back to my parents’ house and spend the night, which meant parking our massive RV out front. We got some interesting looks.
Upon waking up the next morning, I promptly called Firestone and got a same-day appointment for a brand new set of six tires. It set us back, but nothing compares to the reassurance that you have quality tires on your home.
The Lost Dutchman State Park
The tire installation took most of the day. Can you imagine how long it takes to put six tires on something that big? Glad I didn’t have to do it.
So, once that was done, off we went to our campground. It was once again too late to check-in, but not quite dark yet, so we were able to get set up in the nick of time, although it took some work.
We’ve made it a point so far to book pull-through spots. Our RV isn’t hard to back up, but we just really didn’t want to mess with it. However, the pull-through spots at The Lost Dutchman are in the shape of a U, and that U is, well, too tight for our RV to make the turn.
We ended up having to back in any way. By now, as I’m sure you can imagine, we’re all ‘adventured out.’
Thankfully, the view was pretty epic.
Canyon Lake and Tortilla Flat
We spent one morning driving north through Canyon Lake to Tortilla Flat. It was really beautiful. We also found a campground along the shore, nestled in the switchbacks, and I quickly said, “No, thanks.” No way I’m driving our RV way up in there.
One afternoon was dedicated to the Butterfly Wonderland exhibit at the OdySea Aquarium. The kids had a blast watching the butterflies, and we enjoyed watching their eyes light up. We also had high hopes that a butterfly would land on our arms, but no such luck, although one did land on Justin’s hat.
After such a beautiful drive up to Canyon Lake, we thought we’d go even further up to Roosevelt Lake, where there’s also a campground and a marina. Unfortunately, it wasn’t nearly as pretty and everything was closed, including the cliff dwellings we were really looking forward to seeing.
We went up at just the right time though, because a few days later, lightning caused a forest fire, and the road was closed.
Grandma and Grandpa’s House
We spent most of our time enjoying the company. As you might expect, we were at Grandma and Grandpa’s house every day, because we were only there for a couple of weeks. We wanted to make sure the kids had plenty of time to play and their own fair share of sleepovers.
Work suffered, but you can’t replace that quality time with family.
The Way Back
We were all ready to get back home, although everyone was sad to leave. The drive home wasn’t quite as stressful or eventful, and we were able to make it three days.
First, we had a very important stop to make. We went north out of Phoenix to Winslow, AZ so we could stand on the corner.
We stayed at Enchanted Trails outside of Albuquerque, NM (and ate Laguna Burger again), and Western Star RV Park in Liberal, KS.
Once we crossed over that Oklahoma/Kansas border, we felt home. We have plenty of other adventures ahead of us, but this one was for the books. We learned a lot and we’re all hoping that this trip was packed with all of the bad things so that our subsequent trips will be smooth sailing.
Keep checking back for updates, and we’ll see you on the road!