Friday, January 13, 2012

On the Road Again

My traveling companion, Sly

"On the Road Again"...Willie Nelson comes to mind, but so do John Denver, Canned Heat, and a lot of other musicians who had their own road songs. Anyhow, I'm traveling for a few days with my son Sly, who is visiting from Seattle while his dad is on vacation.

Painting a tiny muskrat skull

I haven't blogged much in the past few months, in large part because of how tenuous Sly's health has been. It's been difficult to cheerfully talk about my winter in the Arizona desert when my kid is battling for his life...or sometimes not battling for it, which is even more disturbing. Ever since he was little, he's always had mild to middling mental health issues, but the past few months have been very scary. Sly's at the age where people with depression sometimes graduate to schizophrenia, and that may be what's happening. We don't know yet, for sure. But what we do know is that Sly, at age 19, needs to be with one or the other of his parents or with mental health caretakers rather than on his own. He can't manage his own meds and he can only use sharp objects when closely supervised.

A completed cow lower jawbone, now on display in our driveway at Why

Despite these challenges, we've been having a good time, overall. For the first few days of Sly's visit, we stayed close to home in Why, Arizona, visiting the nearby town of Ajo and Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument. We had a really nice picnic one day out on Darby Road, a beautiful stretch of BLM land just outside Ajo. We golfed at the "Why Country Club," which is a little 18-hole putting course at Coyote Howls Campground. Steve gave Sly free rein to paint some animal skulls, which Sly has enjoyed immensely. A neighbor, seeing the results, commissioned Sly to paint some antlers, too.

"Why Country Club"

Now Sly and I are on a multi-day camping trip in the Guppy. I've never traveled with another person in my little Toyota Dolphin, and it is cramped, but comfortable. There's room for both of us to sit at the dinette, and, since I had a nice big work counter custom made in my rig, we can each have some sort of project going at the same time. At night, we roll out a single futon down the aisle between the built-in furniture for Sly, and so far I've managed not to step on him if I needed to get up during the night.

Our first day out, we stayed overnight at Cochise Terrace, a commercial RV park near Benson. I thought it was half-price due to my Passport America membership, but I guess I forgot to read the fine print. It's only half-price in the summer when it's too hot to want to be in Benson, Arizona. Anyhow, it was a nice place and it was great to have warm showers and electric hookups so we could run my little electric heater. (We've had some warmer temps since my last post about the desert being surprisingly cool this winter, but it got cold again as soon as Sly and I left on our trip!)

Sly enjoying the warm weather before we started our camping trip

The next day, we went to Kartchner Caverns, about 10 miles south of Benson. This is a State Park that has several different tours of an amazing cavern that is still "alive"--which means it's still dripping wet in some places, so stalactites, stalagmites, and other cave formations continue to grow. The tours are expensive--over $20 apiece--but well worth it. Ever since we went on the tour, Sly has been busy writing a story about "The Creature of Kartchner Caverns," told in the first person and with creepy-cool illustrations.

Texas Canyon Rest Stop

Beautiful rock formations surround the rest stop

To save some money after our expensive night at Cochise Terrace, I looked for someplace we could camp free last night, and we ended up staying at a rest stop that's at the top of Texas Canyon, on I-10 between Benson and Willcox. It was a beautiful place, and we were well-situated for our visit this morning to the Amerind Foundation in Dragoon, but, boy, was it cold up there! We used a little Coleman propane catalytic heater (I believe these are known in some circles as "hippy killers"), but it ran out of fuel before we woke up.

Before heading to the museum, we had to go see "The Thing," which is advertised on billboards throughout this part of the Southwest. It's your basic gift shop/tourist trap with a gimmick. Be strong; resist it.

The Amerind Foundation is a museum that has a lot of nice artifacts in a beautiful building designed in the 1930s specifically as a museum. It does, however, have very live acoustics, so you can hear every comment made by every other visitor, which is a bit annoying. Sly and I are both soft-spoken and easily overwhelmed by loud sounds, and we were ready to get out of there sooner than we might've been if 22 RVers caravaning together hadn't shown up just before us.

Sly at Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument, before our camping trip

Today we backtracked to Benson where Sly got a piercing between his brows--haven't taken a picture of that one yet, but stay tuned! Then we headed north of Tucson, and we're spending the night at Catalina State Park. It's a beautiful flat stretch next to the Catalina Mountains, barely outside the city, and surprisingly quiet for how much use it gets. Almost every site is full tonight (it's a holiday weekend), but I have heard almost nothing but natural sounds here. Tomorrow morning we will head off to Biosphere 2, just a few miles further north.

Sonja stayed home with Steve. She prefers her cozy hideaways in the larger RV that stays in Why year-round.
Yay! Mom bought shoes!

You don't really need a linen closet in the bathroom, do you? How about a cat closet instead?

I'll write another blog post about the remainder of our trip and Sly's visit soon.


  1. Sue, Sly's illness sounds really hard for all of you. When he has someone with him, is he willing to take his meds?

    We are in search of some warm weather ourselves, having had just about enough butt-cheek-chilling here on the southern Texas coast.

  2. Oh my, Sue... sorry to read this. Your attitude is, as I've said many many times... so freakin cool ;)

    glad to see you post and what an adventure you're on now!

    Hahaa Sonja ... bags and boxes

  3. I am sure that Sly is a mixed blessing. So many children with challenges provide us with blessings that we would never have otherwise. But they also bring concern and heartache. It sounds like you are a great mom and handling it well. My best to all of you.

  4. Roxanne, Sly is willing to take his medication. We have to monitor it and give him his doses when they're needed, because if he had the whole bottle, he might take it all at once, because he's often suicidal. Or he has sometimes taken more than the prescribed dose in order to get high.

    Carolyn, I was counting on you to tell me I'm freakin cool! Thank you!

    Nan, you are right, Sly has always provided me with many blessings. As a young child, he could not function in public school, and I quit my legal career to home school him. We have had many wonderful experiences and adventures together over the years that we wouldn't have had if he'd been just going off to school every day.

  5. I lost my son at age 28 over 15 years ago and not a day goes by that i don't miss him.He had problems also but because they didn't appear until he was over 21 i couldn't help him.Keep your son as close to you as you can time goes by so fast. Enjoy yourself and much happiness.

  6. Hi Sue,

    Both a delightful and yet sad post, yet I cannot think of a better situation for Sly to be in now than out adventuring with you, a sort of parent-driven Outward Bound experience. I'm back on the east coast now in North Carolina where today as it has been for much of the winter it is sunny and 60. Go figure.

    Cheers of all colors, sizes and persuasions,


  7. I can FINALLY comment on your blog! For a long time, blogger would not recognize my google account, so I was blocked on some blogs for commenting. I do hope Sly can get healthy. Mental anguish is really hard to deal with. I hope the best for ya'll.
    I've been to the Texas Canyon Rest stop a few times. It is really neat there. And there were always mountain goats roaming around on those rocks. Enjoy your time with Sly! Sonjy looks like she's creating her own little vacation ;-)