A Mission, A Mole & A Man In A Van – Green Valley, AZ
We met a man…a man in a van. He was a mystery of a man, this van-dwelling man with nary a shower or even a can. One day we walked back from our afternoon wander and there he was. A teeny, tiny little wimp of a thing tucked into a corner in the shadow of “the beast”. Even our CRV was unimpressed, despite the arsenal of solar panels atop and the mystery of the person within. And yet…we were all a bit intrigued. Who was this enigma? Was he truly the anti-nomad of all Enormo-RVs? Did he actually have balls the size of baseballs? Did he really live in that thing?
Turns out even iron-clad exteriors have bunny-rabbit fluffy interiors. Oh, yes they do…
This lover of all things simple did not quite faint in horror at the sight of our ample lady (although he may have quivered), nor did we get friendly enough to completely ascertain the size of his gonads (although I’m sure they are as impressive as advertised), but he really did live in that thing and he possessed a relaxed animal magnetism that we had not expected. The usually shy Polly smooched him unabashedly like an old friend while the cats bounded frivolously over for feline loving, all without any prompting whatsoever (the traitors).
A few margarita and wine-glasses later he had settled rather comfortably into “the beast” and we had established that Glen is just a lovely & easy-going soul living a simple life exactly the way he pleases….and therein was our connection. We may roam around in massive beast-li-ness across the country while Glen slips around in stealthy mini-van-ness, but we are both completely content in the un-complication of our lives and our nomadic lifestyle. Two totally different approaches to the path of personal happiness and yet we find ourselves on common ground. Is this not the essence of what life is all about?
But I digress…
Before the van invasion we had moved to a new and undisclosed boondocking spot** near Green Valley, AZ, just 20 miles south of Tuscon. Last year we boondocked on the eastern side of the impressive Santa Rita mountains, but this time around we were looking to spend a few days exploring the western slope and all the secrets it had to offer. So, earlier this week we squeezed into our scenic site for the serious business of sightseeing the valley. This is what we got up to….
This pretty and well-preserved historic site lies only ~15 miles south of Green Valley. Originally established by the Jesuit Father Kino in 1691, it almost crumbled under the 1751 Pima revolt before it was moved and re-built in its current location in 1753. The subsequent Mexican wars, banishment of the priests and later Apache raids meant the mission was never quite completed and 157 years from it’s inception it was abandoned.
Today’s structure retains all the unfinished charm and history of that era, combined with quite a lovely tour around the gardens and church. For only $3/person it’s a super-cool visit and definitely shouldn’t be missed.
Tubac & Mole
Just a few miles north of the mission lies the town where “art and history meet“. Established in 1752 as a fort, Tubac is now a rather kitschy art colony. This is the kind of spot you can roam through manicured streets with colorful art, eclectic galleries and feel rather refined, yet it somehow lacks…soul. I enjoy these places for day-visits, but always find them a tad overdone. However the town does have one gem. An outstanding Mexican restaurant (Elvira’s) offering no less than 6 different kinds of Mole’s. If there’s one thing that can melt my stomach-heart it’s the complex, thick, ridiculously intense concoction of spices that is Mexican Mole. Pair it with a margarita strong enough to blitz the mind and you’ve got a winning combination. It’s not a cheap date, but it’s a fine lunch which is well worth the splurge.
Closer to home is the green corner of Madera Canyon which stretches from the mountain floor to the top of 9,453-foot Mt. Wrightson. It prides itself as the top spot for birding in Arizona with over 250 recorded species of birds that seek the cool confines and streams of the preservation. Given my rather vapid birding talent it was not this, but rather the 100 miles of hiking trails (all dog-friendly!) which criss-cross the mountain and rise to the top that attracted my interest. Cooool! We enjoyed several of the excellent trails over several days, even dragging Glen along for a steep scramble on one of the lesser-used paths. Having not seen pine trees in many months it was almost surreal to breathe in the first forest scents and admire the wide stretch of dry valley below. It’s $5/day to enter, but it’s a worthy spot.
Phew! How did we manage so much in so little? And this despite the influx of Glen, the mystery man in the van? Yet again we’ve connected with a new place and another nomad and I feel incredibly lucky to have experienced both. This life sure isn’t for everyone but for those who resonate with it, it’s pretty darn sweet. The man in the van has moved on, but our journey continues. Tomorrow we meet other friends underground and then move onto the first hookups we’ve seen in 3 months. See ya there, my friends!
**P.S. Our current boondocking spot is a secret of Marianne and thus not mine to give out, but if you’re looking for her gems I highly suggest her excellent set of Frugal Shunpiker’s RV Travel Guides. No affiliation….just a great set of guides for those looking to boondock.