Easing into Life on the Road at Organ Pipe Cactus Nat’l Monument

We are gloriously at Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument, an internationally protected biosphere south of Ajo, Arizona, but closer to the town of Sonoyto in Mexico, which we can see at night from the campground. Tracy will be catching up on his hiking and birdwatching here while I continue to recover from Covid (I hope to take a few short hikes though!).

Before I tell you about this gorgeous place, I need to get us here in the narrative. Getting back into the swing of moving after two months in place has been a little like me recovering from being sick: up and down, down and up.

A Seesaw Start

Saying Goodbye

Up: We had a lovely last night at Imperial Dam LTVA saying goodby to our neighbors: we’re all better again, thank goodness.

We talked into the sunset, partly about the fun process we undertake each evening before we hit the road of picking the music for the drive—per what letter we’re on alphabetically in our music game.

Currently we’re on our fourth round at G, so we all laughed at the possibilities (can you imag four hours in the truck listening to nothing but G Love and Special Sauce, or Gloria Gayner, or Godsmack?). In our final stages of group brainstorming we got to the point where we were just blurting out words that don’t even start with G or have anything to do with bands. You know it’s time to pick from what’s on the table at that point.

We left them with a plan to listen to Marvin Gaye, but the next morning I remembered Greensky Bluegrass. Bingo. I’m sure we’ll hit the other bands soon; we’re traveling about once a week for the next nine months, at least.

Adding to My Scars

Down: I smacked myself in the mouth again with the power drill while we were hitching to leave. I cried because that’s such a stupid move (always keep your eyes on the actual power tool while you’re using it), and it hurt. Plus, I have yet another fat lip that looks a bit like herpes. Nothing like getting over one socially stigmatized virus to walk around looking like you have another.

Going Down the Road

Up: Tracy drove us to the park easy peasy as if he’d never had any down time, and we started getting excited as we saw really big saguaro in the distance. We also did what now feels like the best part of a day of travel: pulling off into the desert to have lunch in the trailer. There’s nothing like driving for several hours, getting hungry, then pulling off into a scenic spot and eating your own lunch in your own kitchen with an interesting view, then pulling back on the road.

Parking on a Slant

Down: What an odd thing. While trying to park the trailer in our spot, the digital leveler kept telling me we needed gobs of lift on one side and at the front to make the trailer level. Gobs. So we maneuvered and squabbled and got the trailer parked so my app says it’s level both side to side and front to back.

Step inside, though, and the trailer’s so slanted to one corner that the bathroom door won’t close.

All we can think is that when Tracy recently changed the batteries in the leveler mounted under the sink, it reset, and we were supposed to have recalibrated it. Aw, rats.

Now we have to rehitch in this quiet campground, pull the trailer off the blocks, try to determine the actual level using the long level bar with the little bubbles that, thankfully, Tracy brought with his tools, reprogram the digital level detector, then park the trailer again with fewer (or no) blocks. (Note: Each time you park the trailer takes a day off your marriage. That’s universal.)

Banjo’s Adjustment

Down: For the first time in our two years of travel, Banjo is confused here. As Tracy was setting up our outside gear, she kept sitting in front of her truck door, asking to get in, like, “Where did Mars go? I wanna go back!” Seriously, never has she behaved like this; in a new spot she’s always just plopped down immediately in the sun, happy as a clam.

We’re having to keep her on a short leash while sitting outside so she doesn’t try to sneak away to see where the heck she is and where Mars went. I’m sure soon she’ll remember that we live on the road (right now, for example, she seems okay), but when we first arriveed she was downright anxious about it.

All Worth It

Even just the campground here is gorgeous. These are views from inside the trailer, of segauro and organ pipe cacti, and our own palo verde tree. (I spent some time inside when we first arrived because that travel day and then all the difficulties with leveling did me in.)

On the path around the campground are beavertail, chollo, and barrel cacti plus tons of about-to-bloom ocotillo. I’ve written about these prickly beauts when we were at Joshua Tree, but they’re so lovely here I’m sure I’ll write about them again.

This is the park’s namesake, the organ pipe cactus.

I believe this is a baby barrel cactus, demonstrating why it’s difficult to walk Banjo on the lovely trail around the campground. She learned to avoid cholla at Joshua Tree; she’ll learn to avoid all prickly things here, soon, hopefully not the hard way.

There are temping critters in this green desert; we saw a jackrabbit on my first morning walk with her in twelve whole days. Man I enjoyed it, and Banjo was ready to see wildlife again.

We have six full days here, but with so many hikes through cacti about to bloom and interesting birds for Tracy, I’m wondering if six days will be enough. I’ll post more about the park now that I’ve gotten the travel day in the books—it’s a spectacular place.

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