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Buckskin Mountain State Park

The Orchestra Pit

Vroom! Screech… Vroom! Screech… Honk! Clunk. The stoplight orchestra has begun its soundcheck in Kingman, Arizona. We timed ourselves to leave slightly before 10:00 am, and I admit I had vain hopes of avoiding the drama, but no such luck. I resign myself to the idea that no hour is correct to avoid traffic, and unfortunately, we cannot bypass the madness.

Bearing to the right, we continue on the I-95, passing between two boarded-up gas stations that are having their tanks replaced and a fast food restaurant that has forever sworn us to pack our food for road trips of any length of time. It still baffles me how one meal can change your life permanently, but three urgent care visits and five years of doctors scratching their heads will do that to you. I digress.

Secondary crisis averted; we forge ahead. Exiting the junction in Kingman is a part of Arizona that I love – large red and orange rock formations with majestic names appear on either side like the gates of a fortress, which creates a moment of quiet excitement. To some, the road ahead is a daily commute; the landscape becomes a bland routine on the way to their cubicle desk chair and water cooler conventions. I could not leave that life behind quickly enough. It makes the drive immemorable and listless. Today, this is not that drive. Yes, there are large expanses, but it’s an adventure, and I’m losing the shackles of endless emails, text messages, and phone calls in real-time as we drive deeper into the desert terrain. It is a freedom unlike any other.

As beautiful as my surroundings are, I still let my mind wander. We’ll be on the road for a full three hours: past the turns for Cattail Cove and through a beach-like town I’ve only ever experienced in the southwest. This is Arizona, and its landscape takes surprising turns.

Heading toward Buckskin Mountain State Park, we pass a variety of homes. Ranging from vast estates to tract homes large enough to swap out your jeans for swim trunks and slap on some sunscreen, this evolution of abodes saddle up against boat shacks only to be hidden again by another curved mound and more rolling hills. Our fellow travelers on the road are towing travel trailers, boats, or toys to add entertainment to their journey. I do not doubt that one or two of them will arrive at Buckskin Mountain.

Clunk, clunk. Clunk, clunk. The tires hit every line of uneven pavement on the road. When we slow for the stoplight, Benny and Vito pop up their heads in the backseat and run around, trying to figure out why we could possibly be slowing down, and who nearby is on their way to harm us.

"Quiet. We are safe." I coo at them. They're not always listening, but this time, it resonates and they settle back down. They are silent lambs when the truck is in motion; however, stoplights and traffic signals befuddle them.

"Just wait. It isn't like this where we are staying."

Entering the park there is a beautiful lake to the left. Across the water is another beach with rows of RVs, tents, and teens. The music is blaring as are the boat motors and my eyes begin to widen. Not quite the peaceful getaway I had envisioned. Jamie continues driving along and gives me a thoughtful glance. “Just wait,” he says, “it isn’t like this where we are staying.” We continue around the signage to the right toward our campsite and the sound of the partiers dissipates. Thank goodness he is right. Heading right down a well-paved road we creep deeper into the grounds where we land upon our gravel palace, complete with a fire ring and backing up to a mound, which deadens the noise of the sound horrors.

When I was younger, the other banks would have been the ideal getaway. Interacting with lots of new people near my age (or slightly older), hanging out in shorts and spaghetti string tank tops deemed “illegal” in high school, and getting far too much sun with far too little sunscreen. A teenage social butterfly’s fantasy. With my sage wisdom about me, I have a different outlook. The last couple of years wore down my tolerance for excessive noise and relentless chatter. Now I crave what is right in front of me: long road trips and longer walks in the wilderness with my chosen family of Jamie, Benny, and Vito.

Backing in the rig, Jamie calls to me and asks me to tell him when he’s lined up with the utilities on the left side of the site. He’s been here before with our friend Dennis who has camped with us many times before, so the load-in is easy. Mostly level and resting with contentment that we are only parked for one night, it’s time to set up camp. Jamie continues attaching the hoses and turning on the power, while I set about inside to a routine I can now complete in under ten minutes.

An Early Evening Walk

Heading down the road through the camp is peaceful and it is exactly what I would hope for: families are preparing dinner with their soggy children who’ve returned from boating and swimming with clear signs that sunscreen was an afterthought. Like most campgrounds, couples are sitting in lawn chairs watching the passersby and a variety of outdoor grills and propane ranges. The temperature is about 90 degrees with a touch of humidity visiting from the lake. Wandering around we take Benny and Vito through the grass toward a little bench under a tree. From there, we have a great view of the water, the late afternoon fishers and boaters coming in, and the calm end to a busy day.

Past the camp store with come-by-chance hours is perhaps my favorite part: a cactus garden with a resident tortoise. It’s clear this tortoise is revered and the area is well taken care of. A welcome surprise and something so far we’ve not seen yet at RV parks.

The time is nearing 5:00 pm, so it’s time to collect ourselves and head back to the Airstream. We are using our little Smokey Joe for our outdoor dinner tonight. It’s easy to store and clean; perfect for two people. Jamie sits outside tending to the charcoals while I prepare a simple dinner of hamburgers and beans.

The moon is pitched overhead so that it is visible while the sun is still out, peeking over the mountain behind the rig. Our neighbor has a firepit going and her young dog has a raised bed set up next to their RV for an evening of relaxation and peace. She's reading and the mood is perfectly set for the calmness I am seeking. We are so fortunate for this experience.

We have many miles ahead of us tomorrow, so tonight we will shut our eyes early and dream about the road before us.

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