I'm going to cover a sensitive topic today, and I'm doing so because of an experience we had two weeks ago. This experience made me really think about a very real American issue: Border security.
As you may know, we were in San Diego a couple of weeks ago, and one of our days there was spent visiting Monument Mesa. Monument Mesa is the most southwestern part of the United States, and is one of the parts of the US/Mexico border that has a wall. We had to hike to the wall, and Nate was starting to tire, so my mom stayed back with him. My dad and I approached the wall. We hiked up a hill where we could see across into suburban Tijuana. Stopping here, we enjoyed the view of Mexico, the U.S., and the Pacific Ocean. During this time, I witnessed three Border Patrol officers who were leading four people into BP cars. It appeared to me that these people had probably attempted to illegally cross the border, but had been apprehended.
These happenings left me pondering an extremely complicated issue. Should we, as Americans, allow non U.S. citizens, to enter our country without being background checked? Who knows what (drugs, illegal weapons) or who (criminals) might come in to the U.S.? Also, by illegally coming in, they'll be skipping the line which is full of many people legally going through the immigration process may have been waiting for a decade or more.
But I haven't told you everything that we saw. 3 out of the 4 people that we had seen being led into the cars were in the same family: A mom and two kids. (I know this because I overheard a Border Patrol officer). It made me really wonder how desperate you'd have to be if you attempt to cross one of the most (if not the most) well protected borders in the world to get to a better lifestyle. Ninety-five percent or more of these people are merely trying to escape a difficult life from their home country. It's very difficult not to have your heart touched by these kinds of people and their situation.
So we are stuck with the decision: Should we allow refugees to illegally cross the border, should we build a wall, or should we change the immigration process so more immigrants can come in quickly and legally?
Welcome to Warm Weather and Restful Relaxation! When I left off on our travels 2 posts ago, we'd just departed New Mexico to go into Arizona. Arizona is an amazing (and warm!) state.
After leaving New Mexico, our next destination was Tucson, Arizona. It had the warmest weather we'd seen in months, and we were thankful for it. One of the reasons that we stopped in Tucson was to see the Saguaro cacti. A Saguaro cactus is the "trademark" cactus with the tall body and 2-3 L shaped-arms, and is the cactus that's featured in all the Western movies. We visited Saguaro National Park, and learned that they can live to be up to 200 years old! Some of the scenes and views that we saw in the park were pretty extraordinary, and you can see some of them in the pictures below.
Something else that we enjoyed about Tucson was the campground itself. The KOA (Kampgrounds Of America) that we stayed at was certainly the largest campground we've stayed at yet. They had many activities to do there, including putt putt golf, a scavenger hunt, bingo night, and a root beer social. We also experienced a really amazing good deed while we were there. An elderly lady with Alzheimer's had left her friend's RV to go to hers, but had forgotten where it was and wandered off. As news of this occurrence spread around the campground, no fewer than 40 civilians (our family included) began scouring the RV park even before the police arrived, to try and find her. There were people in trucks and cars who patrolled the streets in the neighboring area, people on bikes and golf cart, even on foot, searching the campground for about 3-4 hours, before news reached us that the lady had been found in a hospital. This experience will stay with me for years, and I am still in awe as to how many people took action in a time of need.
While in, Tucson we needed to get our RV fixed. Our dryer wasn't venting moisture, so we dropped the RV off at a dealer, and headed to...the Grand Canyon!
To get to the canyon, we drove the truck from Tucson to Williams, Arizona, where we spent the night at a train station hotel. The following morning, we boarded the train which took us on a scenic route to the Grand Canyon. The canyon is an amazing sight, and I know I won't forget it anytime soon. While we were there, we hiked a couple hundred feet into the canyon and back. This hike was definitely the scariest hike I've ever done! There was a 1,000+ foot drop on one side of us (without a guardrail!), the trail was 5 feet wide, and it had snowed heavily the previous week, making the trail slippery. I say that this was the scariest hike of my life, but it was also the coolest.
On our way back on the train, we were "held up" by some actors who were portraying train robbers. We were "stripped" of all tips, and we had quite an amusing time.
Our last stop in Arizona was Gila Bend. This stop was a week long stay, and we didn't do anything notable outside of biking, playing corn hole, and playing at the playground. We were truly "in the middle of nowhere". The nearest grocery store was 40 minutes away! I rest my case. So we enjoyed some restful relaxation while staying in Gila Bend.
When all was said and done, our time in Arizona was great. We checked out cool cacti, basked in warm weather, hiked into a canyon, and helped some people in need. I am definitely happy that we stayed in this (sunny) state!
This question may of may not have entered your mind: "How different can RV-ing be?" I've covered our indoor life in the RV and how it's different from living in a house, but I haven't covered many differences of out-of-the-RV activities.
We have definitely had to adapt on a lot of things and one of them is social life. As you know, we are physically disconnected from family and friends other than by social media and the occasional dinner out or meet-up with someone. This has drawn us as a family closer together, and it also forced us to approach people with greater assertiveness. Through this, I think we've all grown less socially awkward. I don't believe we ever were considered such, but we've certainly grown more assertive. For example, Nate has become very confident in approaching kids at playgrounds to ask if they want to play, while a year ago he was pretty shy in doing such things.
Another adaptation for us has been eating out. When we eat out, which is about 5 times a week, we have limited choices of familiar restaurants since we're in an unfamiliar part of the country. Some of our familiar places are Chick-Fil-A, Chili's, and Cracker Barrel. (Whoa! They all start with C! It's a sign!) Because of this, we've had to try many new restaurants. I mentioned this 2 posts ago, so I won't linger on it, but I will say that 85% of all restaurants we've visited have earned an "A" in the Merchant Restaurant Ratings book.
Something that I personally have found difficult in recent months is getting in and/or around groups of trees. I have grown up where trees are everywhere. You can drive down the highway and see hundreds of trees on the sides. You can see trees in the parks, in the city, in the country. But out west... We've traveled through a lot of barren lands and desert terrain, and I've missed my trees!
I'd also like to note that we've had some destinations that are experiencing (to quote the locals) "unusually cold winters" ever since November, and we've had to find forms of entertainment different than going outside. For example, we may play a board game, watch a movie or merely sit by ourselves and play/read. Have you got any fun "rainy/cold day" activities?
A unique adaptation for us involves our truck. As some of you may know, it's a "dually", which means it has 2 wheels in front, and 4 wheels in back. This makes for an interesting time for my dad when he's driving, and especially when we're parking. My dad has accurately named the truck the "Beast". We've spent a lot of time finding a parking space large enough for us, and more often than not we'll end up taking 2-3 spaces anyways.
Lastly, we have adapted to our ever changing outdoor scenery. We can't really ever set up a long term outdoor patio, so we've bought an outdoor rug, and some outdoor chairs. This makes set-up and tear-down easy. Sometimes we have no space whatsoever (like the campground that we're about to leave.), and we must make do with the park's common areas. A park like the one we left last is an inverse example of this. We had a ton of room in our campsite, and we enjoyed hanging out right outside the RV.
As you can see, we've adjusted to RV life in a lot of ways, and it's been a real adventure in and of itself. The one thing that we haven't adjusted very well in is the "rainy/cold day" activities. So tell us, do you have any good ideas for us?
Is Texas part of the Southwest? What do you think? You can put your answer in the comments below. Personally, I think it can be counted as part of the Midwest.
After traveling through Texas, we arrived in Carlsbad, New Mexico. Our campground was 18 miles away from any "major" civilization, so we had to travel a ways to get anywhere. This made for some really great views and a lot of visible stars at night. The main purpose of our stop in Carlsbad was to visit Carlsbad Caverns National Park. Now recall, if you will, what was closed in January. The government. And if the government's closed, then the National Parks are closed. So, sadly, we were unable to visit the caverns. One thing in Carlsbad that we did get to enjoy was the Living Desert State Park. This museum/zoo was a neat facility on a mountain overlooking Carlsbad. We saw a variety of creatures such as a bobcat and a javelina (think of a boar) who, unlike most animals in zoos we've been to, moved around, which made it very neat. Other than the Living Desert State Park, we were able to stay at our campground while in Carlsbad.
After Carlsbad, we moved to Alamogordo, New Mexico. This is near White Sands National Monument, which was also technically closed due to the government shutdown. I say "technically" because there was an area that you could enter the monument without going through the main gates. White Sands, if you haven't seen the Stories Behind the Pictures post, is a National Park full of sand dunes made from gypsum. We borrowed some orange disc sleds from our campground office to sled down the dunes. There were some dunes that were about 30 feet high!
Across from our campground was a huge pistachio farm. We took a tour of it, and learned that it had 12,000 pistachio trees! Another neat fact about the farm was that in their front parking lot was the world's largest pistachio! Granted, it wasn't edible, but it's still neat to see a 35 foot high concrete pistachio!
We visited a great state, and enjoyed our time there. So back to my question: Is Texas a part of the West?
And back to my question... Is Texas in the west?
Will is 14, and enjoys running track, writing,