While we would have gladly stayed longer, we wanted to change campgrounds in order to be closer to Mesa where Sandy and Bruce's RV is parked for the winter. And so we packed up early and headed for Usery Mountain Regional Park where we camped last year. I gave them a call on the way to ensure they had sites available and was told that not only there weren't any, but 5 vehicles were already in the overflow campsite! Yikes! We felt we didn't have much choice to join the queue, but first I wanted to check my emails and pick up some groceries, so we drove into the city.
And The Van Saga Continues...
After making a couple of stops we were ready to head over to Usery Mountain Park except that the van didn't want to cooperate. (I know, I'm starting to sound like a broken record!) This was like the 6th time that it was happening since the beginning of our trip. *sigh* I was seriously getting frustrated with the whole situation; we had the van worked on and the problem supposedly fixed so many times!
Although in such moments it can feel like The Mystery has abandoned us, in spite of the difficult situation you could still sense Its hand... We were towed to an auto repair shop where we were told the mechanic was a very talented diagnostician. They were super busy but he still looked at the van almost right away and quickly gave his prognostic: defective wire connector to the neutral safety swift. Thanks to negation (I mean, we'd changed virtually everything else!), Don already suspected that the latter was the culprit so it felt right to him. The mechanic turned out to be a really good and honest guy; while he could have easily charged us big bucks for replacing the whole wiring, instead he suggested to give it a simple cleaning. He also took care of a bunch of other little booboos that we had going on and we were outta there merely 3 hours later. Wow, that was fast!
Being late afternoon there was no point in our even going to the campground, as by then there were a dozen people ahead of us. We decided to take advantage of our CAA Premier coverage and get a motel room for the night. So interesting how things always work out in the end, eh? I mean, we were way better off staying there than jammed between RVs in a small parking lot with no power! As a bonus Sandy and Bruce lived only a few miles away from the motel, so they picked us up. We went out for dinner at an Ethiopian restaurant, The Blue Nile, that serves a lot of vegan dishes. It was unlike any food we'd tried before; several vegetable and lentil entrees served with injera, a traditional steamed bread (that looked more like a pancake) made with teff and wheat flours. I was soooo full when I walked out of there, but also glad I didn't have to worry about making dinner (our van ordeal had completely wiped me out!)
Off to Usery
The next morning Sandy came up with a brilliant idea! Since there was little doubt that we'd have to wait in the overflow parking at Usery before we got a spot, she figured that they could drive their RV over there and we could all hang out in it. 'Luxury' in our eyes! ;-) We followed them to the park, but not before I picked some lovely fresh oranges and grapefruits from the trees on their lot!
That night, as the RV is a little tight, Don, Puss and I slept on the couch while Kyky stayed in the van. Early the next morning Don went to get him as he likes to hang out with us on the bed for a while before starting off the day. When she got up, Sandy thought we were so cute that she just HAD to snap a photo. hehe
The weather was absolutely gorgeous so we went for a lovely hike on some of the several trails around Usery.
Along Blevins Trail
It just hit me how this cloud looks like a running rabbit, don't you agree?
Don and Sandy spent lots of time discussing the current economic situation, something they are both passionate about.
The skeleton of a saguaro
When we came back we found Puss in a familiar favorite spot of hers: the driver's seat! lol
Alright, time to hit the kitchie!
In the morning we'd put some Irish moss to soak, so we blended it with water into a paste, then got to work on that evening's dessert. Actually Don filmed as I walked Sandy through the various steps of preparing the moss and you can watch the video here.
We also made some kind of yummy raw soup (sorry, my memory is failing!), Edamame Hummus and my Chia House Dressing. We then got comfy next to the RV, munching on our raw feast and taking in the last of the sunshine.
Ahhh, the good life, eh?
Dessert was Caramel Pecan Cake (sans the frosting) that I'd made a few days earlier, topped with Almond Cream from my Delightfully Raw book (a mixture of young coconut, cashews, Irish moss and sweetener) and berries tossed in coconut nectar. Heavenly!
Sandy and Bruce had to head back to town later that evening, therefore Don and I proceeded to empty the back of the van so that we could sleep in it. We put our stuff on the ground and covered it with a tarp. (Gotta do what you gotta do!)
We'd been told that we might not have a site for another day but thankfully we did manage to get in the next morning! Woo Hoo! And a good thing too as a spell of nasty weather was brewing. The spot was nowhere as nice as the one at McDowell but at least we had a roof over our heads and access to power. Once settled in we took it real easy; what an event-full last few days! Phfew! *wiping the sweat off her brow*
The boys chillin' on the bed.
A moment snapped from our camping life... Puss snacking while Kylo anxiously awaits a piece of banana that Don is sharing with him.
I spent most of the afternoon working, as I was beginning to fall behind with my blogging. Don and Sandy even took over food prep so that I could focus on my computer stuff. (Yay!) Dinner that night was Curried Corn Chowder, mixed green salad and Marinated Veggies on Brown Rice Noodles with my Satay Sauce. Mmmmm.... What a treat! I swear it tastes better when someone else makes the food! lol
Before burying myself in my work I did take the time to whip up dessert: a strawberry pudding made with Irish moss. It was basically Sweet Gratitude's Strawberry Brilliance Pie filling sans the crust. I love love that recipe!
And while on the topic of food...
In Our Sunny Raw Outdoor Kitchen
It occurred to us that it had been months since Don and I had prepped food just for ourselves! Since we've been in other people's space pretty much since, well, last time we were at Usery Mountain Park, we usually like to make dinner for them too since it's really not that much extra work. It felt a bit strange to just be the two of us after all that time!
One day I played around with a new curry powder that we'd bought at Penzey's Spices in Portland. The resulting Curry Sauce was very good although it will need a wee bit of tweaking before I can share the recipe. We enjoyed it with marinated veggies on a bed of kelp and daikon noodles.
On a particularly hot afternoon I decided to do an experiment and dehydrate Jalapeno Burgers in the sun. It worked! Woo Hoo! I shaped the patties onto the cutting board and covered them with cheesecloth to protect them from unwanted little visitors.
Flipping burgers in the middle of the desert. ;-)
I also rolled up my sleeves and assembled the Caramel Pecan Cake from Matthew Kenney's new Everyday Raw Desserts, which I hadn't had a chance to browse through in earnest yet. This was super delicious and a fab way to use up almond and pecan pulps I had lying around the cooler.
Walking in Beauty
After a couple of rainy days (we weren't complaining though, as we just knew how much all the desert plants were soaking it up!) the sun returned as if nothing happened. Sandy and Bruce joined us for our last day in Arizona. We went for yet another nice long walk among sand, cacti and brush.
I never get tired of pausing to admire saguaros.
A rather strange looking dude.
This guy was absolutely huge! It had the thickest trunk that I've come upon. Reminded me of the 'old growth' we see in the rain forest of the Pacific northwest.
All this walking was making Kyky mighty thirsty and hot.
Once back at our site we didn't have a great deal of time before the sunset, so we just prepped a simple dinner of Spinach Almond Soup, mixed green salad with the rest of the Chia House Dressing and Herbed Avocado Spread on various crackers.
And this pretty much wraps up the last of our adventures in Arizona. Coming up soon: our raw feasting at The Blue Nile and our travels through sunny California!
P.S. If you'd like to learn more about where we'll be headed next have a look at our itinerary here!