After leaving Joshua Tree National Park, we continued our eastward journey. We spent a total of 3 weeks in Arizona and enjoyed the sunshine, Tempe Town Lake, and a campsite in Coronado Forest. Our first stop in Arizona was the Phoenix metro area (where we spent 2 of the 3 weeks); we did a weekend in Sedona and after changing our plans this way and that enjoyed our second week in Phoenix and one week outside Tombstone (in Coronado National Forest).
The first week we spent in Phoenix started with a few days in the Glendale/Peoria area west of Phoenix. There we took some time to clean up the van, run errands and get in some good work time. It was pretty mellow and we spent a lot of time in parking lots outside of Target and Trader Joe’s as well as in Starbucks. On Wednesday morning, we went closer into town to check out the Uptown farmers market. It was a cute little market with a great organic veggie farm, some coffee stands, and other booths all in a large church parking lot. After the market (it was a morning market so we just stayed in the parking lot and worked until it closed), we went to the gym and continued to work. Our week was really quite laid back and almost boring.
Where We Stayed:
Cracker Barrel parking lots in Peoria
Bass Pro Shop in Mesa (though the second time we tried to stay there they said we couldn’t)
After a week in Phoenix, we planned to go up to Sedona for a week. We were really excited because we had heard cool things about the Sedona area from friends, family, and other van lifers. However, we did not stay for the whole week. We actually only stayed for two nights. The cold front making its way through the states found its path right through Sedona and Flagstaff and two days after we left, the place was covered in snow. We are not equipped for the snow or cold weather in general as we don’t have a heater. (I know, we really should get one but they are soooo expensive!) So we stayed the weekend and went back to Phoenix for warmer weather (and at least no snow).
We had a lot of fun in Sedona even in our short time. Upon arriving at the campsite where we stayed the two night, there were three other groups who had just arrived and were chatting outside (an older couple in an RV, a guy in a tent, and couple our age in an Airstream). We joined their conversation and got to know the people we were living near, which was really nice. We clicked with the couple in the Airstream, and after dinner, they invited us over. So we brought sake and Spot It and got to know them even more over drinks and card games.
Side note: Spot It is a great game to play with new friends. It doesn’t take much learning at all, can smooth over language barriers, and allows for conversation between rounds.
On our first full day, Saturday, we mostly had a lazy day in bed enjoying the views. We originally planned on a hike but it was so cold, that we didn’t want to go anywhere. After a while we decided to brave the cold though and do a short walk around the BLM land, up the road. On our walk, we saw amazing views and had the perfect light for some pretty photos. We left early Sunday morning to head back to Phoenix before the snow, but we wished we could have stayed longer and definitely plan on going back sometime when it’s a little warmer.
Where We Stayed:
BLM land, definitely don’t stop at the first places, go farther in. It’s worth it! (here)
In our second week in Phoenix, we got into a nice little routine of working in Starbucks in the morning, going to the gym in the afternoon, and parking in the same neighborhood each night. In a living situation that is ever changing, it was nice to have a little routine going and know what to expect of the next day. We made some delicious carrot ginger soup in the Instant Pot on Monday, hit up the Uptown farmers market again on Wednesday, and spent the afternoons at Tempe Town Lake on Thursday and Friday.
Where We Stayed:
Mostly stealth camping in the north side of Phoenix (around the Camelback East Village neighborhood)
By Friday of our second week, we were looking for a change of scenery and decided to check out Tucson and the Saguaro National Park. Saturday, we drove around the east part of Saguaro National Park doing the driving loop. We had planned to spend more time in the park but it was very busy (apparently everyone wanted to see cacti covered in snow) and we didn’t feel comfortable in any of the parking spots (plus it had been raining and snowing the night before so we were worried about getting through the west park easily). So instead we went back into town and spent the afternoon in Reid Park where we met a friendly couple who were also waiting out the rain and snow before going out to BLM land in their Sprinter.
Sunday, we didn’t have too many plans so we ran a few errands then went back to Reid Park for the day. It was a beautiful sunny day, so after hanging out in the van for a while, we all went on post-lunch runs (I ran by myself but Ben took Arrow with him so the whole family got some exercise). Monday was our last day in Tucson and we mostly just worked in Starbucks and ran errands to get groceries before driving out to Coronado National Forest outside Tombstone.
Where We Stayed:
Street parking; we would have stayed on BLM land outside of town but it had just been raining heavily and we were worried about mud and large puddles
Coronado National Forest: Outside Tombstone
The drive out to our camp spot was long and bumpy; the road from Tombstone out to the National Forest is about 12 miles and not the smoothest of dirt roads. But we made it to our camp spot just as the sun was setting. We had planned to just take the first spot we found then move to a better spot in the morning but decided that our spot was pretty great (we walked down to the others) and while we had more traffic passing by us, we didn’t have any close neighbors.
While we were out on National Forest land, we didn’t move the van at all. We spent the days working, going on walks, and admiring the views and sunsets. It was incredibly relaxing and it was nice not to have to move the van from one place to another as we usually do in cities.
One really exciting thing about being on such remote land is that we had the opportunity to let Arrow off leash for some of his walks. Let me start by explaining that Arrow has been dog reactive the entire time he’s been with us (almost 5 years), which means that he will bark and lunge at other dogs. It’s not out of anger but more from over-excitement. So we have never let him off leash outside, not even in dog parks. But because he was so calm and there were no other distractions or dogs around, we spent a lot of time taking him out on off-leash training walks where he got to explore more, expend more energy running around, and use his brain to earn treats by coming back to us or waiting for us. It was so much easier than leashed walks and it’s probably the most fun we’ve ever had walking Arrow.
On Saturday, we decided to move on from our campsite into New Mexico (making our way toward Albuquerque) mostly because we were running low on water but also to refresh on our food supplies and a few other odds and ends (we needed more puppy treats!).
Where We Stayed:
The first camp spot in the National Forest; we liked this spot because it was all on its own and removed from the other spots (here)
After three weeks in Arizona, we are working our way through parts of New Mexico and into Texas shortly. We plan to have some fun checking out Earthships, meeting up with friends, and exploring national parks in the coming weeks, so check back to hear all about our adventures!
Also, if you have any questions about the places we’ve visited or recommendations on where to stay or what to do, please feel free to reach out! We love helping out fellow travelers.