Chasing The Sun and WINning!

February 19 dawned with flannel-grey clouds pulled over the rising sun like your grandmother’s nightgown.  My time at Roosevelt Lake CG was up and I was more than ready to find some sun!

At the suggestion of some new-found friends, I set my sights on Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument.  Heading south on SR 188, I trotted through Miami (AZ) and zig-zagged my way west and south, almost to the Mexican border.

IMG_3836By early evening I was nestled in a spacious site and getting ready to go to one of the evening ranger talks.  I always learn something when I attend one of these sessions, and although it was chilly I  decided it was worth spending 45 minutes to find out more about this unique desert environment.

IMG_3833Organ Pipe Cactus NM showcases 28 different species of cacti but is best known for preserving the bulk of this cactus (above) which mostly resides in Mexico.   In 1976 the United Nations designated the region as an International Biosphere Reserve because of the complex, and mostly untouched, biodiversity.  It shares that designation with an adjoining area in Mexico known as El Pinacate Y Gran Desierto de Altar Biosphere Reserve.


Above is Quitobaquito Springs.  This rare sight was a waypoint for many a thirsty traveler.  

Although the climate is harsh now, eons ago it was more hospitable and supported plants and animals for the indigenous peoples, the Hohokam.  As heat and lack of moisture changed the environment, the desert dwellers (plants included) either adapted or left.

IMG_3861I enjoyed the ranger talks and loved seeing the cactus wren, gilded woodpecker, quail and curved-bill thrashers.  But the real gem for me was meeting more campers.


One couple from Salt Lake invited me to look at their beloved Westfalia (picture from Google) that had been a part of their family for over 30 years.  They were excited about the week they spent in Mexico and encouraged me to check it out.

duramax rev

Another camper showed me his Duramax Rev motorhome and raved about the quality and floor plan.  (And yes, I’m still trying to decide if it is time to trade for something larger.)

make up my mind

On day three (I thought I was only going to be there for two days!) I met a camper from Lakewood, CO who was planning a trip to Rocky Point, MX.  He and some experienced travelers from Oregon were heading south the next morning – and I was invited!  I said yes, then the little naysayer on my shoulder tried to talk me out of it. (It could be dangerous, right? What if you get lost? Do you know these people?  Your Spanish is pretty rusty…on and on).


Of course, I went!  By noon the next day, our three vehicles were at the gates of Concha Del Mar campground, where Javier the gatekeeper and Edgar the manager checked us in (all in English, of course) and invited us to find places to park among all the other American touristas.

I found an open spot with a sliver-of-the-water view and was on my way to the office to pay my bill ($12/night) when I ran into a couple of friendly folks enjoying the afternoon sun.  We exchanged pleasantries and during the course of the conversation, they discovered I was single and traveling solo.  That really seemed to get them excited ~ and during the next half hour,  I found out why.  They are both members of a group called the Wandering Individuals Network or WIN for short.


These two energetic vagabonds told me about all the activities this group does together and how punctual and well-organized the events are.  Without a doubt, this group is active and fun-loving (no bingo players here!).  The more I heard, the more intrigued I became.

Following is a brief synopsis of what I took in during that brief encounter (these “rules” are not complete or in any particular order, it’s just the way I remember them):

  1. The organization plans travel circuits in various parts of the country, different times of the year.  A member can travel with the group full-time as many do, or come and go as your schedule, or desire, permits.
  2. Each campsite on a circuit has a volunteer host (and possibly a co-host) who is familiar with the site.  They organize activities, seek the best and least expensive campsites, find propane vendors and welcome each member to their area.
  3. The hosts have two meetings daily.  The Hugs & Mugs (coffee) meeting is at 9:00 am.  This gathering is designed to coordinate the activities for the day and make sure that everyone who wants to attend a function  (although it is by no means mandatory) has a ride.  My favorite part of “Hugs and Mugs” is that it gives you an opportunity to hug or be hugged by more folks than most of us see in a week!  Everyone has a name tag on so it is easy to identify and start to remember your new-found peeps.  At 5:00 pm campers and their chairs reunite to talk about the day.  Lots of useful information gets exchanged during this evening wind-down, including a report on the day’s activities, previews of the next day’s events, new vendors or amusements spotted, and plans for the evening (if any).
  4. As a guest, you are welcome to attend two circuits before committing to join.  The annual dues ($84/yr) helps pay for the website, all the legal-beagle stuff for the group, name tags, vehicle tags and more.

Hearing all this firsthand was the BEST introduction, but if you are interested in the group, Click Here and let them know Shari Nova, member #4042 sent you!


When my new friends, Larry and Mary, invited me to go to the 5:00 pm meeting I was all over it like sand on wet feet!

Have you ever walked into a gathering of 30 or so complete strangers and felt right at home?  That’s what happened to me!  I’m not sure if it was because many of the folks I met that night looked like other friends I have, or maybe it has to do with the common “camping” element.  Whatever the case, I was drawn in with open arms.  People offered me a chair, one of the volunteers made me a guest badge, and everyone went out of their way to introduce themselves and include me in the upcoming activities.  Wow!

I was pretty tired that night so I a passed on the karaoke and giant Jenga game at a nearby bar, but I was feeling spunky and ready to go to the “free” breakfast the next morning after Hugs.


It’s not exactly free…you pay $5.00 for a beverage then get three eggs cooked to your specifications, bacon, sausage, potatoes and a fresh tortilla for “free”.  The food and Bloody Mary was great, but going to breakfast with a group of like-minded people was the BEST!

Over the next few days, I was escorted to the Malecon and Rodeo Drive (AKA: Shacks Fifth Ave.) where local vendors pedal colorful trinkets, t-shirts, seafood, and margaritas.  

We were camping mere steps away from the Sea of Cortez, so there were ample opportunities to walk along the public beach as far as your legs could carry you.    

In my wildest dreams, I couldn’t have imagined a more perfect experience!  Well…with one tiny exception…


I was on a walk with one of the WIN members when I stopped to take a picture of this Freida Kahlo mural.  As I turned around, my toe caught an uplifted part of the sidewalk and BOOM! down I went.  Before I could even think to tuck-and-roll, my right hand went out to break the fall.  It hurt, but I scrambled to my feet somewhat embarrassed, wiggled my fingers and prayed that I hadn’t done a lot of damage.


Long story short.  I scampered back to Tucson the next day and within a few hours, the X-ray doctor at the Urgent Care facility confirmed that two bones were broken and urged me to have emergency surgery immediately. Fortunately, the Tucson Orthopedic Institute was booked that afternoon but could get me in the next day.  There, the hand specialist told me that she didn’t recommend surgery.  They put a cast on, made a follow-up appointment for the next week and sent me on my way.


I was so relieved to find out I didn’t have to have surgery that I almost kissed the doctor!

In the next post, I’ll tell you about the fun I had in Tucson with my WIN family, and later meeting my Colorado camping buddy back at Roosevelt Lake.

que seraHow do you like my new tattoo?  (JUST KIDDING).  It does kind of sum up LIFE – what will be will be.  Happy Trails!

4 Comments on “Chasing The Sun and WINning!

  1. So glad you didn’t have to have surgery. Love the color of your cast (my choice too!). Glad you’ve found your tribe!


  2. Omg I had to hold my breath twice while read your post.
    Please be careful


  3. You are a wonderful writer Sheri! Loved reading your blogs in the background too.

    Looking forward to seeing you on the road.



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