Dead Horse Ranch State Park, Cottonwood, Arizona: December 18-23, 2021


Season’s greetings! 

The Adventure Begins


Unidentified Flying Object?

So, we’re on the US 95 driving through the Yuma Proving Ground on our way to Quartzsite for an overnight stay. We spot this object far away and really high in the sky. It seems to be stationary. If we were anywhere else I would think it was a UFO, but extraterrestrials are too smart to be hovering above this massive US Army installation. Miles later it was directly above us. I’m hanging out the window, being careful not to drop my iPhone, and trying to take pictures of it as Amelia is driving. She says, “Did you see that? It was a sign about the thing in the air.” I was all wrapped up trying to document the sighting and completely missed it. Once you blow by something towing the Airstream, then that’s it, there’s no flipping a U-turn.

But rest assured, the good ol’ internets solved the mystery.

Screen Shot 2021-12-26 at 10.24.02 AM

Tethered Aerostat Radar System

There’s only eleven Tethered Aerostat Radar Systems. They are 208 feet long helium filled blimps and hover anywhere between 10,000-15,000 feet in the sky. US Customs and Border Patrol use them to spot low-flying aircraft that drug smugglers use to bring their drugs into the United States. It can detect activity in distances up to 230 miles. Crazy huh?

The First Stop: Quartzsite, AZ

No judgement here, but Quartzsite is something else. During the winter it’s full of snowbirds, folks living on the edges of society, people just existing, and even nudists. I think it would probably be safe to say a multi-day stay here wouldn’t be our cup of tea, but it’s totally fine for a free one night boondock spot!


Our one night spot in Quartzsite. The crowds are in the Long Term Visitor Areas (LTVA).


Quartzsite boondocking


We caught the full moon rising while in Quartzsite and I was such a good boy this year that Santa came early and gave me a Chumba Stella Titanium Singlespeed.

The Next Four Nights

Dead Horse Ranch State Park is a terrific campground. We highly recommend it, especially if you can get into the Red-tailed Hawk or Cooper’s Hawk loop. The sites are spacious, have water and electric, no sewer, but free showers. In the dead of winter electricity is a must, even more so this trip since we saw nighttime lows of 24 and 25 degrees 🥶. The Airstream furnace keeps the inside nice and toasty. Another plus, the Verizon signal was super strong! So strong we were streaming shows in the evenings.

Sedona is a scenic thirty minute drive away. There’s no denying Sedona is jaw dropping gorgeous, and the mountain biking is world class, but the crowds! Geez, sometimes it’s a little too much for us, so staying in Cottonwood was perfect. We biked two days in Sedona and twice at Dead Horse. The biking is quite good at Dead Horse, but nowhere near as beautiful as Sedona.


There’s our Airstream in site 63 of the Red-tailed Hawk loop.


 The view outside our door

Maybe I’m just old and feeling a bit nostalgic, but I loved this gas station in Cottonwood. Who cares if it costs a nickel more per gallon. A two pump full service island and a two pump self serve island. We opted for the self service. No card swiping at the pump. Just lift the handle and start pumping gas. Then you walk into the office that’s a total mess with deer and elk antlers all over the walls, and pay the man. Our first visit there, I walked into the office and told the old man, “Pump 2.” With a cigarette dangling, he told me, “Great, how much?” “Uh…shit, I don’t know, hold on a sec.” I ran outside and got the dollar figure, came back into his office and told him.

I was really hoping he had an old school credit card imprinter that takes a carbon copy impression of the credit card and requires a signature. But no, he had one of those modern machines that you put your pin in and hit the green button.

Two days later we stopped in again to top off the tank before leaving. I walk into the office, feeling like a local, told the old man, “$35.45.” He definitely recognized me from before and nodded, then grinned. He even chatted me up about how happy he was that the days are finally getting longer.

We had blue skies every day, except of course on the winter solstice. That morning we went to Red Rock State Park for a nice hike. The next five pics are from there.


Oak Creek



My Ansel Adams winter solstice picture



Arizona Sycamore bark



Do you see the deer?



The best wildlife crossing sign…so far.


And finally, some mountain biking pictures of beautiful Sedona.


Red dirt


I got in a little over my head on the Mezcal Trail that we’ve biked multiple times. And I have no idea how it happened. Amelia was on the correct line, oblivious to the fact that I was way above her. A couple of Red Bull type riders were also up there. They looked at me, a 61 year old on a singlespeed and said, “Dude, you should turn around.” That was great advice!


Happy girl!

Instead of spending the night in Quartzsite again on our way home, we decided to drive straight through to San Diego for fear of getting swept away by the pineapple express that was bearing down on California. 461 miles and eight and a half hours.  We got home just in the nick of time. Two hours after unloading the Airstream, the deluge began.

R.I.P. Joan Didion

15 thoughts on “Dead Horse Ranch State Park, Cottonwood, Arizona: December 18-23, 2021

  1. Sounds like you guys had a nice trip. Though I’m pretty sure you guys might just fit in at Quartsite. 😜😉 You guys being snow birds and all. 😉
    Oh, and I’ll be making up part of the crowd in Sedona in the not too distant future.
    Great pics.

  2. What fun adventures! We stayed and biked at Dead Horse Ranch State Park before moving to Sedona. Nice memories. Next time you’re in the vicinity, let me know. Mark and/or I will come to your campsite. We’re back to riding, but the days are so short and now it’s cold. Snow predicted tomorrow morning. It will be beautiful on the red rocks. Wishing you both more fun-filled adventures in the new year.

  3. Sounds like a fun trip. Mark and I stayed and biked at Dead Horse Ranch State Park before moving to Sedona. And on another trip, we stayed at Quartzsite where we planned our wedding in Maui at a McDonalds because they had great internet. Great memories. Next time you’re in our neck of the woods, please let me know and I’ll come visit you at your campsite. The forecast is for snow tomorrow starting at 5am. It will be beautiful against the red rocks. Wishing you continued joy-filled adventures in the new year!

    • Hey Karen! We talked about contacting you two but one thing lead to another and we never got around to it. Next time, I promise. If you ever get back to SD let us know. I’m glad you’re back on your backs.

  4. 1. Yes to the RIP Joan Didion.
    2. Totally had to zoom in to find the DEER!!!
    3. Such a beautiful group of pictures!
    4. You and Amy are STUDS!!

    Love you both,
    Mama Jean

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