Jonesin’ for a Panga


So, I’ve been running around in a couple boats over the last few years down here in Florida but none of them has ever been really perfect for what I have wanted to do, which is a bit of offshore fishing and a bit of inshore fishing. There really is no “perfect” boat but it seems like many of the dual purpose boats are really not great at either.

Enter the Panga Boat. It was designed by Yamaha decades ago to be a very light and agile boat that has a shallow draft yet very capable offshore. There’s a video of a 25 foot boat in 6′ waves. This is driven by a tiller engine (hand control) from the back of the boat. Amazing.

AND, it will float in 6 in of water. Now as you get more equipment and gear on them, they will weigh down but the whole purpose is to keep them light, so you can load them up with massive amounts of fish you catch.

I’d love to get one of these if I can find a reasonable priced Panga for sale with a pair of Yamaha’s on the back so I can start venturing offshore more.

Voyager RV Park in Tucson, Arizona

We stayed at the Voyager RV Park in Tucson, Arizona after our well below freezing stay in Bisbee and accompanying sucky border town experience. We had a couple days left on our week in Bisbee, and had planned to head east afterwards but the winter weather hitting the entire country wasn’t motivating us too much, so we just headed back to Tucson for a couple nights to get some above freezing weather (at least during the day) while we waited for the storm to dissipate.

Voyager RV Park is a city of it’s own. When you pull in, there is a guard shack that you have to either show your pass at or let them know you’re registering and they will direct you where to go. We pulled in next to the office, got registered and then they require that a guard escorts you back to your site. I know some people think this is a perk, but for me it’s more of a nuisance since I can read the simple map they give you when you register, know how to back up my trailer, and don’t want to have to wait for the escort to arrive which almost always takes 5 minutes or more. I was cold, frustrated and grumpy!

The spots are all gravel in a raised ‘bed’ with paved streets, rolling curbs and a concrete patio pad. The rate was like $44 per night including their ‘resort fee’ which I wasn’t too happy with being used to having the 50% Passport America discount or finding a place around $27 per night almost everywhere else but I was just happy to not have to run 4 heaters and be able to walk outside during the day, so we accepted this as the price of luxury.

There are numerous tennis courts, pools, hot tubs, laundry facilites and their own restaurant, store and bar on site. Store prices were actually reasonable, maybe about 10-15% more than at the local grocery. The food at the restaurant was terrible, your typical Chef Gordon Ramsay would cuss out the owner on Kitchen Nightmares frozen then microwaved variety, but we stomached some nacho’s with fake cheese and watched the live music that wasn’t all that bad although they pretty much sang Frank Sinatra type of music. The next night was Karaoke night which was entertaining like any other Karaoke place where you get the bad that know they’re bad, the bad that think they’re good, and the good that think they should have been professional and the rest of us should be super appreciative to hear them sing.

We didn’t take pictures of the amenities, but here are a few of the space we stayed in, plus the restaurant, bar, and the music being set up:

A Quick Border Crossing into Agua Prieta, Mexico

Having crossed into Algodones last year, we decided to give another border town a try during our visit to Bisbee so we crossed into Agua Prieta from Douglas, Arizona. The other option was from Naco, Arizona to Naco, Mexico.

We drove from Bisbee to Douglas first thing in the morning around 8am (who knew I’d be awake at that time, ever?!) which took about a half hour on the normal two-lane roads that are scattered through southern Arizona.

When we got to Douglas, we followed the signs for the border crossing to Agua Prieta, and hoped to find a parking lot similar to the one in Los Algodones. No such luck. First off, there is some construction and traffic re-routing going on, so it was very confusing to find the way to the border crossing. Turns out the road winds around behind the Walmart, on a dirt path that doesn’t really have any signage which I found only by following the string of cars that appeared to be Mexico bound. As we round the corner behind the Walmart it becomes obvious that there is no parking lot for this crossing like there was in Algodones, but at this point we’re between cones and being observed by border patrol in their SUV’s so turning off the path, weaving through cones to cross the dirt strip and hop the curb into the Walmart parking lot might get some unwanted attention for us, so I decide we’ll just stay on the path and find a turnaround at the border crossing. Luckily we were early and there was nearly zero wait.

When you’re driving in to Mexico here, there is a US Border Patrol station that you have to drive through first and they start asking a lot of questions, look under your car with mirrors and generally try to figure out if you’re a fugitive, gun runner or drug smuggler. I decided to go for the pre-emptive stupidity show, by rolling down the window and asking where the walk-in parking lot was, even though I now figured out there wasn’t one. They of course told me there wasn’t one, and asked me why I would want that. I told them we were looking to just walk in and see what the town was like instead of having to hassle with the vehicle, insurance, etc. which seemed to satisfy them that we were just dumb tourists (which we are) that took a wrong turn (which we did). The out of state plates and the bikes on the bicycle rack on top probably helped some too.

They opened up one of the cone-walls and let me turn around at the US-outbound checkpoint, with more than a little snicker on their face. After our almost-to-Mexico u-turn, we parked at the Walmart parking lot, walked in the store to buy a couple items, dropped them off at the truck and walked to the border crossing.

Walking in here is not quite as relaxed as it was in Algodones. I hope by revealing this, I don’t inadvertently draw attention to it too much and find out that Algodones is soon overrun by undesirables looking to get across without much scrutiny. Anyway, back in Douglas, as you walk down the sidewalk from Walmart (or any number of other stores or street parking spots one might be able to use) you walk right by the drive-in inspection station, and 2 of the ICE guys stopped us to question what we were doing. I didn’t see them do that to anyone else, so I think they just wanted to make sure that the only 2 white people crossing this morning were actually doing so on purpose. They were friendly enough, and actually much more so that anyone I have ever dealt with at DMV or customs before, and we were soon on our way.

Once you get across the border, it is really obvious that this isn’t one of those border hang-out towns and probably never was. Combined with the fact that Douglas is not worth a stop, let alone a stay at, and that most people who travel in to Mexico now seem to want to get away from the border as soon as possible, it seems Agua Prieta is a perfect sister city to Douglas. Sure, there were a few pharmacias and a scattered convenience store here and there, but the street peddlers selling cheap imitation watches, sunglasses and other items were nowhere to be found, replaced by shady looking characters roaming the streets, or armed security guards standing by bank doors.

We stopped in a few of the pharmacias looking to score cheap meds for my asthma but the one drug I needed wasn’t something they had, or even had the ability to get reasonably quickly so we walked about 5 blocks on the main street heading south, between dilapidated buildings with bars on their windows until we got near the town square which seemed much safer than the rest of the area. There were a few groups of people standing around or sitting on benches waiting for what seemed like yet another day to pass, and a couple stores across the street.

We didn’t spend much time there because it wasn’t warm out, we were unsuccessful in the medicine hunt, and the place didn’t feel very inviting at all. So we walked back to the border crossing and breezed right through. We also didn’t take more than just a couple pictures because not only was there nothing significant to take pictures of, I didn’t want to stand out.

Now back on the US side there is a “duty free” shop, although it wasn’t terribly obvious that it’s for export-only. We of course went in and bought some stuff and then found out we had to pick them up on the Mexico side. Wups. We’ll, we just had to cancel the purchase because we weren’t about to do the loop again, and I think if you go to Mexico with duty free items and then bring them right back in (in the same bag none the less) they’ll probably charge you duty on your way back. It wasn’t worth finding out.

After our failed duty-free attempt we walked back to Walmart where we got in the truck, had a perscription filled, which took for-evar! All in all it had to be somewhere about 4-5 hours, thanks to my overprotective doctor back home who made a problem out of a prescription he’d already written me! During this time we ate some of the worst food we’d eaten in our lives and the lady got her hair colored while I walked around aimlessly at Walmart, waiting and making the occasional phone call to try and get the prescription-fill-speed up to somewhere less than a half day.

Finally, it was filled, and only cost me about $300 for a month’s supply which is a total joke. It’s no wonder people cross to Mexico and order from Canada for medicine which at worst is 60% of the price and at best around 5%.

My recommendation is skip Douglas and Agua Prieta unless you are planning on just driving through, and while Walmart does allow you to overnight in most of their parking lots, I would really hesitate to do so at this one due to it’s close proximity to the border and the woods that separate the fence from the Walmart lot unless you want to either be roused by a border patrol agent asking you to move, or have some other unexpected visitors looking for a way to stow away after their mad dash across the border.

Queen Mine RV Park in Bisbee, Arizona

Queen Mine RV Park is about the only choice if you want to actually stay in old town Bisbee, Arizona itself. There is a cool looking place called the Shady Dell that used to offer hookup spaces, but now only rents out their own vintage trailers, but they are not within walking distance to anything worth walking to that I saw. There is another park that was more expensive down just outside of Naco, at a golf community but while it looked okay, the location didn’t interest us.

Luckily, the Queen Mine RV Park is a good one. It’s not fancy and there are no amenities to speak of, but the location is the best option besides trying to boondock on one of the side streets which would not be easy even in smaller rigs. One challenge of trying this would be finding a spot that is anywhere close to level so your appliances run efficiently, since nearly every street is sloped. Finding parking during busy season itself would be difficult, let alone something for anything more than a pickup with a camper.

Here are some pictures of the park, all of which are taken from the gravel lot toward town and toward the back of the park overlooking the mine. We also had an Airstream sibling at the park while we were there, and a twin of the truck, sans the canopy.

The Queen Mine RV Park is located just across the main highway from old town Bisbee, above the Queen Mine Tours location and there’s a tunnel for cars with a sidewalk that makes it easy to walk to town without having to dodge traffic. The arrangement of the trailers is basically in a big circle around the edge of the lot, with about 70% of the spots having a view out the back of either the mine (this was our view) or towards town. The lot is all gravel and kind of loose packed, at least in our area, so it has a bit of squish to it as you drive or walk which felt a little funny but didn’t cause us any trouble.

As far as amenities go, there is a laundry room, and bathrooms and that’s it. I think they might have had a book exchange in the office, and a small basket of DVDs you can borrow for free. They also have wifi that you need to get a password for and it was decent although not great, and cable hookup.

The daily rate is $28 per night and they offer weekly and monthly discounts. I believe we paid somewhere around $165 for the week, so it basically is like getting one night free. The monthly rate was $450 which I thought was reasonable. These rates included taxes.

There are a total of 25 spaces, and they fill up very quickly. We had to wait 3-4 days for a spot to open so we could get in. The park is managed by a very nice lady who stays in her own RV on site.

My only complaint about the park was that I had some items shipped to us while we were there, and the manager turned away the FedEx truck because she didn’t recognize the name, so I had to chase them down for about 15 minutes so I could get my stuff before we rolled out.

During our time in Bisbee, it was really, really cold a couple nights around 7 and 4 degrees, and the pipes for just about everything froze at the park and in town. I don’t blame this on the park in any way, the same thing was happening everywhere.

The Queen Mine RV Park’s website doesn’t give too many details about the park itself but there are a couple photos and the rates are on there too, in case they change by the time you’re reading this.

Bisbee, Arizona – Cute but COLD!

It feels so long ago that we were in Bisbee, Arizona, but in reality it has been not much more than a month. I think the fact we covered so much ground after Bisbee and have since then been in the same spot for a few weeks makes it feel much longer, like a distant memory of adventures in the past.

Back when we were in Tombstone, we decided to take a day trip to Bisbee to see if it was worth hauling our Airstream all the way there, or just taking a trip or two from Tombstone since it was only about 25 minutes away. After seeing the town for the first time, we decided that it warranted a stay for a week and booked a spot at the Queen Mine RV Park in Bisbee.

Bisbee is a really cool town of about 6200 people, situated in a little mountain valley at almost 5600 feet in elevation. Most of the residents dont’ live in old town, so it feels even smaller and considering during their mining rush in years past the population was around 35,000 it is referred to by many as a living ghost town.

And by little mountain valley, I mean little! Old town Bisbee is nested basically a crevice between the road that leads down the mountain and the mountain itself on the left side of the road. Here’s a picture looking down the main street, and one at the overlook on the side of the highway.

These winding, hilly and narrow streets add to the charm, giving the town an old world European feel, which one would not expect only a few miles from the Mexico border. The main street is lined with 2, 3 or 4 story buildings who’s walls at the property line touch each other, very much like any other storefront area, and these similar buildings are sprinkled on the adjacent streets leading away to the north for about a block, if you can call it that – the blocks are very, very short in this direction and in some cases only about 3 storefronts long. Above these storefronts, just a stone’s throw back up the mountain are houses that would give you a serial marathon runner’s legs if you walked to and from town on a daily basis. It’s no wonder everyone who looked like a local was thin. This is one place that defy’s America’s obesity epidemic fueled by Walmart since not only do they not have a Walmart, they have an environment that provides a workout when you walk to just about anything (including your mailbox) and the town streets are so narrow and filled with tourists that driving isn’t a very viable option. And then there’s the rest of Bisbee outside of the old town area which is not very exciting, so I’ll just skip it.

While we knew that finding summer was out of the question during our trip to Bisbee, we were expecting temperatures near freezing at night and in the low to mid 60’s during the day similar to Tombstone and a bit colder than Phoenix, Sedona and Tucson. At first this was pretty much what we experienced, but then the weather changed big time! The winter storm that hit the rest of the country reached us as well and one night saw a low of 4 degrees, with the high being near freezing during the day. We had a number of electric heaters on full blast all day and night, and had to go dig through our neglected snow gear in the back of the truck to get warm clothes in order to be able to walk outside. This put a pretty big damper on our time here, although we were able to enjoy a few days sitting on sidewalk cafe’s and on all but the coldest days we walked a few miles each morning down the hill from the RV park which was situated very conveniently right at the south end of old town, up the hill to a coffee shop. The dogs seemed unfazed by the cold, and maybe even rejuvenated by it as they happily tugged on their leashes all the way up and back, day after day of walks.

Having had luck crossing into Algodones, Mexico, we decided to try it again near Bisbee. The choices were between Naco, AZ into Naco, Mexico or Douglas, AZ into Agua Prieta, Mexico. We decided to
go to Douglas for the day and cross into Agua Prieta, Mexico in hopes that a larger town might have better selections at the pharmacia and more things to look at in general. I’ll update with a separate post about Agua Prieta, but I will say Douglas was the worst town we’ve been to yet.

Douglas has all of nothing going on. Neighborhoods are dilapidated and have a lot of deserted looking houses, while the main street had about 4 restaurants to pick from for lunch, none of which looked decent. We ended up picking a Mexican restaurant that looked the least offensive, thinking we’re so close to Mexico so we should at least get half way decent Mexican food. Wrong. The place was terrible, but the server was really nice which was the opposite of the cold personalities we experienced at every place in Bisbee so we didn’t want to complain and finished as much of the less than mediocre food as we could and then headed back to Bisbee after a few errands, such as picking up my perscription from Walmart at a cost of about 100 times more than it would have cost if we would have found it in Mexico, and the lady getting her hair colored to stay looking young.

Here’s a few more pictures of Bisbee:

Enduring the cold in Bisbee much longer than we really wanted to, we decided to leave town a few days early since the weather was forecast to continue being in the single digits at night and near freezing during the day. We headed back to Tucson where it was only freezing at night and low 40’s in the day time so we could let our extremities thaw.

Stampede RV Park in Tombstone, Arizona

In my opinion, Stampede RV Park is the best park in Tombstone. A few of the reviews we read before checking it out made it sound pretty bad with ‘garbage’ all over the place. We first walked by while we were staying down at the Tombstone RV Park down the street to check it out. Yes, they do have stuff piled but it’s mostly in one spot off to the side of the office. Inside the office there’s stuff everywhere too, I would not consider it organized from that point.

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Wells Fargo RV Park in Tombstone, Arizona

We didn’t stay at the Wells Fargo RV Park but I thought I’d grab a few pictures since most of the information we saw online didn’t include any. These are all from the street surrounding the park, which is the closest to downtown Tombstone. It’s literally right there, but Stampede RV Park where we did stay at is only another 2-3 blocks and considering how close the spots are at Wells Fargo, I definitely would consider staying at Stampede instead. These spots are right on top of each other and even without slide-outs you’re going to be looking right at the back of your neighbor’s trailer.

I have no idea what the rates are, and their website is of no help since their ‘rates’ page doesn’t show anything.

They do, however have the only Airstream house addition I have ever seen. It’s actually an Argosy, but still made by Airstream so I figure that counts.

Deserts Edge RV Park in Phoenix

I’ve been struggling about whether I wanted to write anything about Desert’s Edge RV Park where we spent our time in Phoenix. We really liked the park, and thought the rate was quite fair considering the quality of the park. However, I’ve been having somewhat protective feelings since I don’t want the place to get so busy that we can’t find a spot next time.

This park is nice. The spots are a brownish-red gravel but very well compacted and level. Each space has a concrete patio and most have bushes or a tree separating the spot from the neighbor. Overall the spaces were very large, much more so than just about any place we stayed. We also got lucky to not have anyone in the space outside our door for almost the entire month.

They have a pool, a hot tub, pool table, gathering room (where they had breakfasts and other events) laundry and showers/toilets. There are also a number of fruit trees (mostly oranges) which you are free to pick from whenever you feel like. Everything was very clean and in good condition and maintenance folks were always running around doing some kind of cleaning and maintenance to keep the place in top shape. They are also very dog/pet friendly, although they did have quite a few rules that you had to follow. Rules suck, but they also do keep the appearance of the park in top condition so it’s understandable.

Monthly rates range from $549 to $850 and include electricity which is a great deal. You can use your AC or electric heaters as much as you want and not have to worry about paying extra. If you really want you can have electricity billed separately for long term tenants, but that’s a pain for those who don’t plan to stay very long.

Our only complaint was that there was nothing in the area to walk to, and the park is basically next to the freeway in an industrial neighborhood. However, the immediate ‘neighbors’ are empty lots and there is a huge sound retaining wall by the freeway which kept the noise to a minimum, plus I-17 has recently been repaved with rubberized asphalt which kept the sound level way down. We were also at the end of the park furthest from the freeway. Walmart, Best Buy, Lowes, restaurants and a lot of other shops are only about 3 minutes north via car. Theoretically you could walk there, but as with almost everything in Phoenix, its a long distance.

Overall I didn’t notice the freeway noise at all, but the small prop-engine airplanes which flew in and out of the nearby (about 5 blocks) municipal airport were annoying around 4-6pm. I didn’t hear them in the mornings, but in the afternoon and early evening it seemed like some people were choosing to commute by plane instead of car because there were so many of them during this time.

Valley of the Sun / Ramada Hotel RV Park in Phoenix

When we first got to Phoenix we were looking for a place to spend a month and had heard of the Valley of the Sun RV park, aka the Ramada Hotel RV Park on the border of Peoria and Glendale so we decided to check it out.

We didn’t stay here. The area was pretty much industrial / heavy commercial with nothing to walk to, and the area was not that great. The park itself was not very nice either. While they do offer access to all the Ramada Hotel amenities, the park looked like it was in disrepair. There was caution tape around what looked to be the laundry or restroom facilities, the asphalt was very rough with big potholes in patches, and there was no gate or office. I was concerned that it would not be very safe to leave anything out if you weren’t here, such as camp chairs, table, etc.

It seems like it’s an afterthought for the hotel. My guess is that Ramada bought the property with the park already built out and they continue running the RV park because it would be a waste not to, but their focus is far from RVers. I don’t remember the exact rate off hand, but I want to say their daily rate was around $32/night. Their website is of no help at all, and should be a big sign of how low on their priority list the park is.

The place was pretty much completely empty other than maybe 5 or 6 rigs. No one looked like they were set up for staying very long, and there was no grass, tables, trees or anything else besides gravel separating the spaces from each other. While the spots were paved, the paving is very worn and has a lot of holes – it would have been better to have well packed and cared for gravel instead.