Tucson is one of the first places we took the Airstream when we bought it back in 2008. Even before that, our first longish trip with our previous T@B camper was also here in the winter of 2007 when Ava was barely a year old. We love this place in the winter and have been coming back here almost every year since.
We always seem to be here during the Gem Show in town. Or maybe they just have way too many gem shows that it seems like its always going on. Rather than looking for a spot at one of the very crowded campgrounds in town, we opted to head over to Snyder Hill BLM for some free boondocking.
This is our first time camping at Snyder Hill. It is just on the outskirts of Tucson to the west. It is actually in a very convenient location with shopping just minutes away.
We found out as we were driving here that our friends Brian and Leigh of Aluminarium have been here for a couple of days. We saw them just about a week ago in Anza Borrego and it looks like we have the same idea of what the best places to be are this winter.
Snyder Hill is not real big and very popular with boondockers. We are not exactly secluded here but everyone here is very nice.
Marlene and the kids took day trips out to our favorite sights in the area while I worked back at the Mish. This is San Xavier del Bac Mission.
Marlene is a sucker for old churches which means she is trying hard to pass that passion down to the kids.
One of the cool things here at Tucson this time of year is that there are many other Airstreamers flocking here for the amazing winter weather. We got to finally meet Sam and Jess Curren and their three kids of CurrentlyWandering when they stopped by Snyder Hill for a night. They are just a few months into full timing in their Airstream so we gave them some tips about boondocking. The kids didn’t mind have a few playmates around either.
Just like us, they are all about visiting National Parks and collecting Junior Ranger badges. Just a few miles north is Saguaro National Park West and there are a pile of badges waiting for our two families.
Luka is still too little for Junior Ranger so I guess once he is old enough we will have to do this all over again.
Yeah, our girls are the ones touching the prickly cactus. Darwinism at its best.
The Sonoran desert is known for these giant saguaro cacti and many of them are hundreds of years old.
Many of our readers instantly recognize the kids when they meet them in person but are not always quite sure what we look like. That is by design. Why take pictures of ourselves when we have these little ones to model for us? Here is a pretty rare shot of Marlene taken by Ava the photographer.
Ava is pretty into photography these days. If you are wondering, she is caught Instagramming here. This photo can be seen on her Instagram account. Feel free to go over there and follow her. She loves to tell us how many people ‘like’ her photos and how many people are ‘talking’ to her.
While at Saguaro National Park, they took a short hike to see ancient petroglyphs as part of the Junior Ranger program.
5 new badges coming up.
Once the kids were away from the cactus, they were allowed to run around like chickens with no heads to get some of their energy out. These days Luka is always the monster trying to catch the girls.
Back at Snyder Hill, we got our happy hour on with Brian and Leigh as the big hand swings over to the five.
In just a couple of days, there will be an Airstream rally called Alumafiesta taking place in Tucson. That means even more Airstreamers will be swinging by here. Here is Alex and Charon in their vintage trailer. We missed them at Anza Borrego by just a few days and they are known in the Airstream circle as the sword swallowers and fire breathers that perform at many of the rallies.
We were also visited by more full time Airstreaming families. Here is Troy and Stevyn of RV Repairstream. They are also new full timers hailing from Missouri with a boy and a girl.
Just before the start of Alumafiesta, we got a chance to meet up with Rich Luhr for a little quality time to hang out before he got super busy with the event. We ended up at this pizza place in town that actually makes a pretty good pie except the service was a little iffy. Of our three orders, they screwed up two of them.
Back at camp, as we shut down for the night, we got a message in Instagram from one of the people we follow who showed up here at Snyder Hill. Kevin Russ is an incredible traveling photographer on Instagram that we have enjoyed following for nearly a year. Lately, he decided to hitch his wagon to a gang of young train hopper kids to learn the art of train hopping. We told them that we were in Tucson and they ended up camping just up the hill from us.
We invited them all down for coffee and breakfast and really enjoyed meeting and hearing about all of their stories. Some of them are too incredible to believe but I am sure they are all true. I wish I could share it all here but it probably would take an entire blog on its own. I wish I had remembered to take photos of them.
The first weekend came during our two week stay so we decided to drive south to the town of Tubac that we have heard many good things about.
Tubac is an old town that has turned into a sort of artist community. We came across the painter working on a new painting and he gracious let the girls contribute to his piece. They can officially call themselves professional artists.
We visited Tubac Presidio State Park where the Spanish missionaries established a community back in the late 1600s. Many of the original historic sites are no longer standing except for a few visible signs of where the foundation use to be for the Presidio. There is a museum and a school house that was built in 1885.
Both Luka and Brian posed for a dunce hat photo. You will just have to imagine what Brian looks like sitting in the corner with the hat on because Luka’s photo is the only one I got.
Were you wondering why Luka has sent to the corner with the hat? Yeah, he is a boy and he thinks he can do what he wants.
As we left Tubac, we split up with Brian and Leigh as we headed a little further south to check out another mission. We did not realize that just a few miles down the road is the Tumacacori National Monument.
Tumacacori means ‘rocky flat place’ by the Pima indians. Originally the mission was built out of adobe clay in 1691 but that structure has nearly completely weathered away. The current mission was built by Franciscan missionaries in 1828 that you see here.
This nearly 200 year old structure is in quite amazing shape. All of the missions in the area were established by a Franciscan Priest named Eusebio Kino, also known as Father Kino. He traveled throughout northern Mexico, currently Arizona and California, in the late 1600s and early 1700s and taught the native tribes people how to farm and raise livestock.
Of course a big part of his job is to spread his religious beliefs which they did in this church.
Just behind the church is the mortuary chapel. It is believed that hundreds of people who lived and died here are buried beneath the ground.
Of course the most entertaining part of the visit for the girls was spraying themselves in the face with water at the water fountain. As we are actually here during Superbowl Sunday, this place was deserted. Worked out great for us since we don’t really care much about football and can’t really stand dealing with a crowd.
Back at Snyder Hill, we managed to meet up with even more online friends.
This is Lucas & Marybeth of Left ‘N Leaving. They are originally from northern California and are headed east in their super cool and vintage Shasta trailer named ‘Jonathan Trailer Thomas’ 🙂
A visit to Tucson by us is never complete without a visit to Hotel Congress. When we first came here, there were only 4 feet in this picture. It has since grown to 10.
If you are looking for an awesome spot for breakfast in Tucson, you can’t lose with the Cup Cafe at Hotel Congress. It is one of the main reasons why we keep coming back.
Towards the end of our second week in Tucson, Alumafiesta finally started at the KOA camground, formerly Lazy Days. We were told by Rich that it would be ok if we crashed the opening event so we can meet up with a few old friends and also some new ones who drove a long ways from all over the country to attend. We never got a photo of Roger and Roxie of Casa Rodante but they stopped by Snyder Hill the night before the start of the rally.
Our friend Jerry drove all the way from Beaumont, Texas to attend the event. We have been facebook friends for years and finally got to meet him 2 years ago when we drove through his home town.
The Mish kids and the Repairstream kids got along just fine. I don’t really know who’s table they are under but apparently they are not using it.
We wanted to spend some more time with Jerry so we decided to meet up the next day for lunch. We picked a spot at random and it turned out to be a fantastic Mexican restaurant called Lerua’s Fine Mexican Foods. They weren’t lying. It was mighty fine.
If you were wondering, Luka and Jerry did not call each other to coordinate their outfits today. They are just a couple of awesome dudes with awesome sense of fashion.
The next day, we snuck back into Lazy Days as ‘guests’ of Troy and Stevyn for a day of swimming at their pool. This is always the highlight of every trip for the girls. Whenever we talk about going swimming, they can not stop smiling.
Before we leave, we have one of couple we have to see. Michael and Anna Marie of Platinum Airship who live in their 34 footer. We met them when they were living at the RV park just across the bridge from Marlene’s home town of San Pedro. They invited us over for an awesome breakfast of omelets and smoothies when we were in town.
Our two weeks in Tucson was action packed and got us to meet face to face with many other Airstreamers and travelers we have only met online. As the clouds rolled in, we had to finally leave Snyder Hill as the solar panels were not getting enough charge with the overcast skies. Plus two weeks was pretty much the limit of what our black tank could handle as we pulled stakes and headed over to one of our favorite campgrounds in Tucson, Gilbert Ray County Park.
Gilbert Ray is just a few miles away and is a first-come, first-serve campground. Here we will have electric hookups as we splurged by raising the antenna and tuned into some good old fashion television. It also finally has a paved road so the kids can break out their razor scooters to zip around for a couple of days.
Our next stop will be south to Tombstone. Another one of our favorite spots in the southwest.
over and out,