Winter Sunshine

Winter Sunshine
Winter Sunshine in the Desert

Sunday, February 4, 2024

02-04-2024 Wide Open Spaces on Our Way to Tucson and Time With Friends

Camping on Ogilby Road

Our time at Catalina Spa in Desert Hot Springs always feels like desert time.  Palm Springs, Desert Hot Springs, and the entire Coachella Valley are in the desert.  Our morning walks include fields of desert plants like creosote, brittlebush, desert verbena, and an occasional jumping cholla. 

But it takes getting out in the more remote desert landscapes to begin to fully feel the magic of what the desert is really all about.  As we drove south on a Monday morning along the Salton Sea, I looked westward toward Anza Borrego.  Anza Borrego is a magnificent State Park, with thousands of acres of wild and sometimes desolate desert landscape, punctuated by rough, craggy, faulted, and folded desert mountains.  On this trip south, we simply passed by along the western perimeter of the park on our way to a place that for us is the epitome of the perfect desert boondock.

Many years ago, when blogging was still a "thing", many of our fellow bloggers often wrote about boondocking on Ogilby Road.  Nina Fussing (read her review here) seemed to love the area more than anyone, and I would read about her adventures there with Paul and the paws back in the days when they were still traveling in the United States. 

Once again, as we traveled south, I wanted at least one night on Ogilby Road.  We traveled south and east on the back road through the Imperial Dunes that blogger George Yates wrote about and suggested as an alternative to Interstate 8.  This time there was no construction to slow us down and it seemed we crossed the dunes quickly.

Even though we have stayed there a couple of times, it wasn't in Mo's memory banks and it wasn't until we pulled into our empty space in the desert that she understood why I was so attached to staying here. In the past, we parked a few miles closer to the Mexican border where the phones were terribly confused much of the time because they kept trying to say we were in Mexico.  

This time we pulled into an open area on the west side of the road that was completely empty of other campers and found a wide open, perfectly level spot, and parked the rig just in time for supper and a quiet sunset.

The quiet emptiness of the place is mesmerizing, with long shadows reaching for hundreds of feet on the smooth surface of desert pavement created by constant blowing winds. We got lucky, and this time there was no wind during the evening, throughout the night, or the next morning as we departed for the eastern journey along Interstate 8 toward Tucson.

We took our time leaving the quietness of the desert morning.  At first, when we parked and opened the door for Mattie the prior evening after settling in, she seemed completely confused and a bit intimidated by the wide-open spaces in front of her.  By morning she was fine, and wandered the desert freely, looking for the perfect spot to do her morning business.

Within a few short miles, we intercepted Interstate 8 toward Phoenix and Tucson and were delighted with the butter-smooth pavement throughout most of the miles until we reached the convergence of I-8 with the much busier and less smooth I-10 into Tucson.

Completely serviced "rest stops" were few and far between but we did find a couple of "parking areas" with a shade shelter, picnic tables, and garbage containers.  Still don't understand why there is so much garbage all around the area with the giant containers so conveniently located.

It was after 4 when we pulled into the main gate at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base.  Although as a traveling companion to Mo, who is retired military, I am allowed on base as her guest, I must have a special pass to enter.  The visitor center issued the pass, and after a short wait, we were on our way to the eastern edge of the base where the Family Camp is located.  It was a bit confusing at first because I thought it was Apache Flats (which is farther south at Fort Huachuca) then remembered it was Agave Flats, and was more confused when we found the office for the Boneyard Vista RV Park. The name of the park had been changed. In the end, it all worked out and we found a perfectly level spot on the newly graveled surface in the overflow dry camp portion of the park.  There was a waiting list posted on the office door for anyone wanting to get a full hookup site.

We didn't mind dry camping.  The dump and potable water station are very close by, with excellent restrooms and showers and the best laundry we have found anywhere.  Almost immediately after settling in we loaded up our three weeks' worth of laundry and headed for the laundry room.  As I remembered, the machines were all in good working order, the cost was a buck to wash and a buck to dry, and the doors were never locked.  We had plenty of time to finish and fold the laundry before we went to bed that night.

We originally planned to travel east to visit Janna and Mike east of Sierra Vista for a couple of days but Janna had warned us of an impending snowstorm.  We canceled our visit to them for another time and extended our planned stay at the base for an additional day.

Gayle, Mo, and Wes in their Tucson kitchen

With the adjustment in plans, we had plenty of time to spend two full days with our friends Wes and Gayle James and still have an entire day to simply relax, regroup, and prepare for the long journey back west and north toward home in Oregon.

Wes and Galye have been good friends since we were neighbors in Rocky Point, Oregon, where Mo and I lived for many years and Wes and Gayle lived until they moved permanently to Tucson.

It is always a treat to spend time with them, and we both look forward to the amazing meals that Gayle prepares for us.  Gayle loves to entertain, and ever since we have known her we have marveled at her meal-specific dishware, her yummy and interesting meals, and always some amazing dessert to top it off.

We arrived at their home by 10 am and enjoyed snacks and conversation in the shade of the lovely ramada that was new to us and walked around Wes's beautiful gardens of desert plants.  

It was after 1 by the time we got in their comfy car and traveled south to the touristy town of Tubac.

We have visited Tubac twice before, the first time when we were in Tucson in 2011, visiting Mo's friend Joan, and then again in 2018 during a Tucson visit with Wes and Gayle.  Mo and I had a specific reason for visiting Tubac, where there is a plethora of artsy outdoor art mostly from Mexico.  Mo and I purchased two outdoor pieces for our newly built home in 2018 and Mo discovered a spot that needed one additional piece.  We were pretty sure we would find something in Tubac.

Sure enough, at the first shop we visited, we found a beautiful sun and moon sculpture that was exactly the right size for the spot where Mo envisioned it.  Photos will come after we get back home and it is up on the outside wall.

I also found a truly lovely piece of original art which will be photographed and shared once it is in place back at home.

We returned from Tubac in time to relax a bit before dinner.  This time our meal was perfectly prepared lamb chops, which I discovered that I liked after all, fresh asparagus, and roasted potatoes with a delightful poached pear with ice cream for dessert.

It was after 8 when we left their home to return to the base.  Tucson is a 'dark sky city' and it took a bit of getting used to as we attempted to travel the highways and byways back to the base in the dark.

The next day we waited until afternoon to visit and on our way south along Highway 19 saw a large white edifice in the distance that looked like some kind of church.  It was the brilliant white towers of the San Xavier Mission that we saw.  Once at Wes and Gayle's, when we mentioned the place, they were delighted to take us there for a visit.  

Just a few miles north of their home, the mission is historically significant with a fascinating history.  We read on the website that animals were always welcome in the mission so were delighted that Mattie could participate in the outing and not have to wait in a car.  Wes offered to keep her company if there was any part of the mission that she couldn't visit.

As we entered the courtyard, there was a young playful female pup that wanted to play.  We thought she belonged to the couple ahead of us but discovered she was simply a stray dog that was hanging around greeting guests.

The mission was fascinating, but even more so as we entered the chapel.  The incredibly complex painted wooden carvings rivaled anything we had seen in any mission previously

San Xavier Del Bac Mission was founded as a Catholic Mission by Father Eusebio Kino in 1692. Construction of the church began in 1783 and it was completed in 1797. The oldest intact European structure in Arizona, the church's interior is filled with marvelous original statuary and mural paintings.

Constructed of low-fire clay brick, stone, and lime mortar, the entire structure is roofed with masonry vaults, making it unique among Spanish Colonial buildings within the U.S. borders.  The architect, Ignacio Gaona, is credited with building another church in Sonora, Mexico.

Little is known about the people who decorated the interior.  The artwork was most likely created by artists from Queretaro in New Spain (now Mexico). The sculpture was created in guild workshops and carried by donkey through the Pimeria Alta to its destination at the mission.  Craftsmen created gessoed clothing once the sculpture was in place.

Inside the church, in the glass case in the west transept, is what appears to be a mummy of some kind.  It is not a mummy as some locals believe but a statue of the crucified Christ, originally located at Tumacacori Mission.  When that mission was abandoned in 1849 due to Apache raiding, the people moved to San Xavier, bringing their saints with them.  Along the way, the statue of Christ lost its legs.  By the 1890's it was displayed in the west transept as the entombed Christ. Later, around the time of World War I, the statue was redefined as a reclining St. Francis Xavier and placed in a glass case where it remains today, an object of considerable devotion.

After our lovely afternoon exploring the mission, we returned to Wes and Gayle's beautiful home to relax a bit before Gayle presented us with another delightful supper.  This time we were treated to Korean Bulgogi Beef served with rice and a delicious Asian slaw and sliced cucumbers and radishes.  I must say, Gayle really knows how to put a meal together.

Dessert was an incredibly yummy bread pudding with a bourbon sauce that was literally the topping on the cake.  Yum!!

Gayles wine poached pear!

We had a perfectly lovely and relaxing time visiting our friends in Tucson and look forward to their visit to Grants Pass in August when Gayle requested a visit to the great wineries in our local Applegate Valley.

The trip back home to the base was much easier this time since we had some practice from last night and this afternoon getting back and forth to their place.  We settled into a quiet time at home, sleeping to the sounds of a beautiful rain on the roof of the MoHo, which thankfully waited until we were back home to begin.

We spent our last day at the base quietly at home, except for a quick trip to the commissary for provisions, the Express for fuel, and preparing for our departure back west on Saturday morning.


  1. My goodness your meals were the quality of an elegant five-star restaurant. Gayle must really love to cook. Your pictures of the beautiful mission are exquisite Sue. I'm so glad you went there. I loved seeing it. I'm also really glad to hear that Tucson is a dark sky City. I wish more cities would do that but apparently we are so afraid of each other that we have to have lights on 24/7.

  2. What a fine adventure after leaving Catalina Spa and RV Resort! Boondocking in the "barren" desert and a lovely visit with long-time friends. Nothing better. Great pics of the mission. Next time Jimmy and I are down Tubac way, we'll have to see about all that cool Mexican art. As I sit in my home early Wednesday afternoon, I'm watching big heavy white snowflakes falling. Wish I was back at the pool in Catalina! Safe travels to you on your way home!

  3. The mission reminds me of a church visited in Tasco Mexico. Need to stop at more of those. You were well feed.


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