Strip Mall Tourists

We’re the lamest tourists ever when it comes to visiting cities. We’ve traveled nearly all over the country by now, so why haven’t we immersed ourselves (or even just dipped our toes) in urban culture?

Covid Could Still Mess with Us

I’ll be quick about this because I’ve belabored the point many times: If Tracy were sick when we had to move, we’d be stuck, since it takes two people to hitch, plus he’s the master trailer tower. So we’re not doing stuff inside public places.

There’s still tons of stuff we could do to enjoy a city outside, though, right?

It’s Not as Easy as You’d Think

It’s true: several fulltime RV people I follow on social media post photos of themselves laughing it up at outdoor restaurants and music festivals and town squares when they’re near cities. And we’ve done a bit of that, such as the music festival in Missoula and the riverwalk park in Idaho Falls.

The monkey wrench in this agenda is that we spend so much time out in nature, either camped near national parks/monuments of just plain boondocking in nowheresville, that when we do get near a city, we have a long list of errands to get done, and those take up our energy, patience, and diesel budget.

Seriously, some days we have eight errands to do in a day (propane, water, groceries, beer, diesel, hardware store, dog food, amazon pickup, on and on). And these inevitably send us to the edge of town (propane isn’t in the high-rent district).

This weirdness is something we’ve come to expect: driving through poor areas to get to strip malls to maneuver through tight, busy parking lots with the big ol’ truck—decked out with bikes in front, kayaks on top, and hitch on back—which ain’t easy. So, we’ll spend an entire day near a city and see basically one frustrating strip mall parking lot after another.

On errand days our treat for all our frustration with Google Maps and foreign traffic is lunch at an outdoor brewery.

Drinking our way across the U.S. (wait, that sounds not like what I mean) was one of our pre-pandemic goals when we hit the road. I mean: we enjoy exploring cities via their specially brewed beer and the unique culture at different tap houses. Seriously—that’s our brand of sight-seeing.

So, now that omicron seems to be waning, we’re restarting this pleasure at breweries with outside seating, like yesterday at Borderlands Brewing at Tucson. It was Woof Wednesday (or Wagging Wednesday?), so with Banjo at our table we got discounts on our pints, and the taco truck in the parking lot served rich and varied flavors. My God they were all good. I even bought a souvenir beer glass (to replace the one I traveled with for two years before finally breaking it.)

Another way we’ve enjoyed cities is to park the truck near downtown and tour on our bikes through old districts. I find the old neighborhoods are especially interesting, and Tracy, I think, likes old industrial areas. And we have done that some, such as when we were in Missoula.

However …

We’ve Become Recluses

I don’t know what the exact elixir is that’s made us enjoy hiking where we see no one else, and sitting in the tent instead of on a city park bench, and wandering around the dusty desert near the trailer instead of on city streets, but the bottom line is we’d rather be on our own right now.

Maybe it’s Tracy’s years of commuting to and from Washington, D.C. for work. Maybe it’s my years of a crammed schedule, day after day, with a job and a (wonderful) son and other family I was responsible for. Maybe we’ve just gotten used to being in nature so much that traffic and strangers and masks/no masks are all the last things we want to encounter.

So, strip malls are our brand of civilization right now. As we head up the coast of California this spring, that will change, surely, so I’m soaking up the solitude as we can. And the things we find in the desert, like this coyote skull (not even from the same skeleton I posted about last). Lotsa coyotes here.

Banjo and Things That Lurk in the Night

In fact, I was so busy trying to tie the ending of the post with the beginning theme that I almost forgot to tell you about Banjo’s fearsome protecting the campsite last night.

We were all three of us in the tent, with lights on and music playing, when Banjo sprang from her bed growling and deep-throat-scary barking, lounging toward the darkness of the desert. I yelled at her on instinct because I don’t want her hurting herself, forgetting she’s staked to the ground via her harness and a long, strong line. The line stoped her right when Tracy and I leaped up with flashlights and spotted two sets of eyes in the dark: either small coyotes or kit foxes.

A kit fox, from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service via Wikipedia

We’re thinking they would risk coming near us, with lights and music and a dog, in order to drink from Banjo’s water bucket, surely the only water source nearby. I’m hoping, if they came back to drink after we’d gone to bed, that we’re not contributing to them acclimating to people camping out here. The isolation we love does have consequences for the environment we’re invading. Again, though, we’ll be in California state park campgrounds sooner than we’d like, probably, with civilization lurking in the dark instead.

5 thoughts to “Strip Mall Tourists”

  1. Welcome to Tucson! We just moved here. We traveled a few months in a Tiffin after selling the house in McLean. I learned of your travels from mutual friends Dave and Rene. I think you knew them from working at NOAA.
    If you need a ride or something feel free to contact me me.
    John DaCrema

    1. Join, how cool! I knew you’d been traveling but didn’t know you’d settled here. We finally made it to an interesting part of town today and enjoyed it! We leave on Sunday or Monday though and have high winds coming tomorrow (as you know). I wish I’d thought off contacting you sooner. Tucson is lovely!

      1. Well even if it is dog sitting we are willing to help. I am to new to the area to suggest places to visit. I really want to visit the Iron Wood National Forest. There are some lovely YouTube videos on that place. We live at the edge of a nature preserve. I am loving it here. Don’t hesitate to call if ther is something I can do to make your visit easier or more fun. We do dog sitting.

        1. That’s super kind of you! We have a day of planning today, then last-minute errands, then we’re heading out. Can you recommend a good coffee roaster? I think that’s the last mystery item on our to-do list.

          1. Have not found one yet. I have been using just supermarket ground. Can’t tell if it is roasted locally. I got spoiled in Va as Costco sold a local roast that was very good.