Don't get me wrong, the views were absolutely breathtaking and everyone should experience it. We have almost 200 pictures of the day and will share some here. The reason for soo many is that as the sun moves, it lights everything up a bit differently, so around every corner, over every mountain was another beautiful view.
This was also our first encounter up close with desert flora and it was all very unique and pretty. We cannot wait to see the desert in bloom, which locals say should be a good show this year because of the higher levels of rain they have received.
The drive took us just over 5 hours to complete the 120 miles round trip with the true Apache Trail, partly one lane, being 42 miles, and just over half being unpaved. The drive wound us around the Superstition Mountains, Goldfield Mountains, Lost Dutchman State Park and past Canyon Lake, Apache Lake, Roosevelt Lake and Roosevelt Dam through the Tonto National Forest. Prior to modern civilization ending, I mean the paved road ending, you come across Tortilla Flats, which is an old 1904 stagecoach stop that has food, quirky gifts and just about everything prickly pear, including Prickly Pear Gelato. It was busy the day we drove through and really no place for us to park the dually, so we took a picture and kept driving.
From there it was pretty much you and nature, the occasional overlook and the oncoming thrill seeker. At those times, it was trying to figure out who was pulling over to let the other pass. Almost always, it was us because the oncoming vehicle was barreling toward us looking for a thrill around the next curve. Here's what those curves looked like.
There was also several one lane bridges over wash areas or creeks were a quick rain could lead to quick flash flooding.
But really, this was spectacular viewing the entire way. Probably our favourite part was Fish Creek. This is where you hit the plateau of the high Sonoran Desert. You can get out at the overlook and see down into the canyon where the cars look like little specs as they traverse the one lane dirt road with white-knuckling hairpin turns, lots of washboard areas that make you wonder if you will bounce right off the edge. The descent is a 1,500 ft drop in 3 miles and some folks seriously take this as a challenge and treat it like an all out, no holds barred hill climb! Even a newer Ferrari!!! The views are as beautiful as they are terrifying as you hug the side of the cliff.
We started right around 1pm, which is probably the latest I would have wanted to start, now knowing how long it took, because I would not want to be on the dirt, one lane roads after dark. The ever changing lighting really did lend to some amazing views and as always, pictures just cannot do it justice.
“The Apache Trail combines the grandeur of the Alps, the glory of the Rockies, the magnificence of the Grand Canyon and then adds an indefinable something that none of the others have, to me, it is most awe-inspiring and most sublimely beautiful panorama nature has ever created.” -Theodore Roosevelt
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We arrived in sunny Mesa, AZ on January 28th, to join all the other snowbirds flooding the area in soaking up the sun. It was in the 70's, blue skies and sunny. Picture perfect! We checked into Val Vista Villages, which is one of the 7 Cal-Am RV resorts in Mesa.
Since we are workampers, we don't get the prime RV sites, but being such a large RV park, I hoped we were at least close to the bar & grill where we would be working and we are just down the main blvd from the grill. It is the main entrance blvd but before our site, people can turn left or right and that seems to alleviate what comes straight down the blvd. We do have some noise from the main road outside the park but are slowly getting used to that. We lucked out in having 2 good neighbors, one of them having a lemon tree that we can pick from whenever we want. The gentleman on the other side also served with the Blackhorse like Rick, except in Vietnam and was actually on the helicopter when General (then Colonel) Patton was shot down.
The sites are not as bad as I thought they might be. We have a gravel parking area for the RV and then a paved patio and parking area next to the rig. Nowhere near having awnings touching. We do have full hookups, ability to get cable if we want to pay for it (plenty of over the air channels) and trash and recycling pick up right at the curb.
Folks here are very friendly and active. There is alot of walking around the park, biking and do these folks know how to throw back the alcohol! More about that later. There is soo much to do here and you can find anything from quilting, woodworking, workouts at the gym, cards, tennis, line dancing to murder mystery dinners, concerts, 3 pools and spas with water exercises and soo much more.
The resort is made up of 3 sections with numerous park models of all ages throughout the park. Some have been here for quite some time and some are brand new, but all are kept up nicely. Throughout the park there are palm trees, various fruit trees and all varieties of cactus. Definitely pride in ownership here.
We had done a good bit of research on the workamping opportunities here and decided to go with positions in food service. This resort has a bar and grill that serves food and drink from 11-7 or 9, depending on what day it is. There is a bar, a large patio with 65 tables, a dance floor and a stage for bands. There is a band everyday at 3pm for Happy Hour and on Mon, Wed, Fri and every other Sat there is another band at 7pm.
Rick works in the kitchen as a cook and I work as a food and drink runner and just recently I trained on the register POS system so that I can take orders too. Since the food window is behind a section of the bar, people come up to that area to either sit and listen to the band or order To Go food. Having the food runner in that area that is trained on the register to take the orders is very helpful to the 2-4 servers managing the tables because at Happy Hour it gets insane! As I mentioned earlier, these people know how to drink and like to do it in the 1 1/2 hours they get discounted drinks...EVERY DAY! Food orders seem to be a smaller portion of the sales which lends then to the kitchen staff just hanging around waiting for an order and thus me hanging around waiting for a food order to deliver to a table. We are hoping that it gets a little busier because just standing around, waiting, for a full day of 7-8 hours is rough! I am also going to help with some of the dinner events like Murder Mystery Dinners and the once a week Steak Fry or Ribs dinners that residents can buy tickets for. Hopefully those will be a bit more active and make the time go faster.
There have been mixed reviews that we have read about working in a corporate workamper environment and we decided to just go ahead, jump in and give it a try and see what our own experience yields. So far we have learned that they changed the policy this year and all workampers are employees and will be paid and receive a W-2, were as in previous years, you traded work for pay and your site charge was taken off your pay. Sites were also given some sort of discount. Since that is not the case this year, some of the folks we work with have decided to stay at a different park nearby that is cheaper since there is no connection between your site and your pay. It sounds enticing since they are saving money BUT, might be a hassle factor if we tried it since we only have one vehicle and there may be times we do not work the exact same shift. Right now we have a quick 3 minute walk right down the boulevard. We also have full access to everything in the park and all of the activities. I have already signed up for a Taquata class, which is some sort of aqua exercise class. Wish me luck!
Schedules are posted by Thur for the following week and we can see them online on an app. Communication from corporate to local leadership to each location and then to employees is a bit sporadic. As far as the food, it is basic bar foods with daily specials and some things make RIck cringe a little and it sounds like the food inspectors are pretty lax. Otherwise, the food is pretty decent and glad to see they have a Friday fish fry special...although, no bitters to make a Brandy Old Fashioned to go with it! What???
We may be working 2-3 days, with Rick most likely working a couple more hours than me since standing on concrete all day for me is not very friendly to my hip and back. We will have to see how that goes. We get half price food while we work and 20% off at other times.
The work environment so far is fine. Your run of the mill food service atmosphere and most of the folks have been really nice and helpful. Most of the residents are fun and very forgiving you are new but you better not ring in their drinks after happy hour, cuz they want their cheap alcohol! LOL It has certainly been entertaining to work during these times because the people watching is stellar! Being that it is a 55+ community, there are folks of all older ages and they all shake their groove thing on the dance floor! Love it! They also don't care what they wear either. Ummm, oh my! Almost makes ya blush for them at some of the choices. Bless their hearts!!
Did I mention we have mountains all around us that we can see from the resort? More to come on our first day trip to the mountains.
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