Travel dates :: March 18 – April 11
We spent a solid THREE weeks in Mesa, Arizona – one of the LONGEST times we’ve spent anywhere since we started this journey. I thought we might get bored, but honestly it went by too fast. We left Tucson and pulled into Mesa around March 18 with reservations at Monte Vista RV Resort, I told you all about that here (we loved it)!
After Monte Vista we moved over to Usery Regional Park with a 2-week reservation! Just a short 20 minutes from my Grandma’s house in Mesa we had actually been to Usery for a hike on a past vacation in 2013 (see how young my kids are and a little bit about our hike there)! Based on our previous visit we knew we would love camping here.
Our spot was HUGE and gorgeous. Sweeping views of the mountain behind us and lots of room for the kids to run around and play. We have a set of rubber baseball bases and the kids set up a baseball field as soon as we got situated. Our spot was a bit far from the bathrooms – which was tricky since we didn’t have sewer hook-ups, but we managed to only have to dump ONE time in those 2 weeks – YAY! Cost for this campground is $30/night.
Kids taking a Desert Survival Course
Usery Regional Park has some fantastic volunteer-led educational programs. Our kids did two classes during our stay – a Desert Survival course that covered how to safely hike in the desert and a What Lives in the Holes? course that shared about all the little critters that live underground in the dessert.
Me and my grandma. She’s an incredible woman!
After getting settled we immediately had my grandma over for a steak dinner. She had never seen our Airstream. We picked her up, made a delicious dinner, played cards and gave her a ride home. She got a sneak peek into our life on the road. Even though she’s from a generation when something like this would have been pretty crazy – she supports us and loves that we’re making travel and family a priority. She’s one of our biggest fans.
Playing in the pool with Grandma and Grandpa from Alaska.
About a week after arrived in Mesa my parents flew into town! They live in Fairbanks, Alaska (where I grew up) and we hadn’t seen them since our going away party in Washington last summer. It had been too long! The kids were thrilled to have time with Grandma and Grandpa. One night the kids stayed over with my parents so Jeremy and I could get a RARE date night – what a treat this was!
The next day we went to a Cubs Spring Training game with my parents and grandma. The Cubs are my grandma’s FAVORITE team – so she was especially excited to go. I think she really enjoyed the game.
Although we’ve visited Arizona many times in the spring, this was our very first spring training game – and the Cubs won! They have a beautiful stadium and I recommend going to a game if you are there in the spring.
Easter landed on the first weekend my parents were in town. We decorated eggs with the kids at our campsite.
What a treat it was to decorate eggs OUTSIDE in the sunshine – we’ve always had to do it inside in rainy Washington. I love simple moments like this – celebrating holidays or doing “regular” things as a family on the road. Special memories being made for sure.
On Easter morning we got all dressed up. . . .
. . . and went to my Aunt’s house up near Scottsdale. She hid eggs in the backyard for the kids (and second cousins) and we had a big family feast.
The kids with Great Grandma!
It was such a special time with family. I’ve said it so many times before but being with family is our FAVORITE thing about traveling. More time together with our kids – but also seeing family near and far all over the country.
And speaking of family, the Wednesday after Easter, my little sister and my nephew flew into Phoenix! My sister is my BEST friend and I miss her so much (she also lives in Alaska). It had been 15 months since I had seen her (and her adorable son) in person. . .way too long.
My nephew, my dad and Liam playing at the park
We played at the local park, made a trip to IKEA and spent a lot of time in the pool at my Grandma’s retirement community. The kids have so much fun playing with each other.
My cousins who live in the area (and one who drove from California) joined us with their kiddos and we spent an entire day at the Phoenix Zoo.
It was a fun-filled day feeding giraffes, riding camels, going for a train ride and so much more.
The last weekend together we had one more BIG family dinner at my Aunt’s house. We tried to get a photo with grandma and all her great grandchildren. With great grandkids living in Alaska, California, Arizona and in an Airstream – it was the first time they were all together with her. This was the best photo we could get – it was madness. . . 🙂
The kids would much rather be running around the backyard having a big water fight. So that’s what they spent the day doing. Phoenix weather is awesome this way. The kids had a blast playing with cousins and second cousins.
After my sister and parents left, we moved campsites to Lost Dutchman State Park where we spent the following week.
We took a couple days to decompress and slow down (it was a whirlwind of a week with family). We caught up on school and sleep.
Lost Dutchman was a beautiful campground. I think I almost prefer it to Usery (although they are both fantastic).
We went on a volunteer-led hike about the geological history of the area. Lost Dutchman has a long history of GOLD being found in the surrounding hills – so we learned a lot about people in history who sought fortune and treasure in the hills (almost always to their demise).
A 3-hour hike there were some fantastic views from the top! The views seem like the real treasure in the area.
During the hike we found a tarantula wasp on the trail – taking down a tarantula! You have to read about the tarantula wasp – they are creepy creatures, yet so fascinating. Volunteers on the hike who have lived (and hiked) in the area for years said they’d never seen anything like this. The kids LOVED seeing this in action – because they had learned all about the tarantula wasp in the What Lives in the Holes? program that they took at Usery! Liam was telling all the adults on the hike what was going on. This is homeschool in action!
Another tarantula that we saw on our hike. They are much slower than I expected and were not aggressive at all. Although I wouldn’t want to get too close (this is with a zoom lens) I didn’t feel fearful seeing them along the trail. We never did see any snakes and only small lizards.
One day we drove about an hour south to visit the Casa Grande National Monument – we had never seen anything like this before – amazing!
We watched the video in the Visitor’s Center and took the 1-hour narrated tour to learn about the history of this monument. The kids also completed the Junior Ranger Badge program!
During the three weeks in Phoenix I was so grateful to spent so much quality time with my grandma. There is something different about visiting family when you have your own home (RV) that you can go home to every night. You aren’t staying at a hotel or staying in their home – it’s a much more relaxed visit. Because living in an RV is so much more affordable than a hotel – you can usually stay longer – which I love.
We really like the Phoenix area – especially outside the city limits near Mesa. The weather is gorgeous in the winter – we love all the sunshine. I would say it’s on our top 5 places that we’ll possibly move to after we are done traveling. We could spend the school year there and then travel during the summer when it’s HOT and unbearable. But we aren’t really sure. . . we still have a lot more of the country to explore and more things to consider before making a decision on where we will settle down after our travel. As long as my grandma is there, we’ll be visiting often.
Have you been to the Mesa or Phoenix area? What are some of your favorite things to do in the area?!
From here we head North toward Cottonwood, Sedona and Jerome. Stay tuned for an update!