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Thursday, December 24, 2020

Another Eviscerating Rant Regarding Maricopa County Regional Park's Asinine "Musical Chairs" Campground Policy


Bureaucracy is the death of any achievement. Albert Einstein 

Warning: This post is rated R for deliberate use of offensive language due to bungled, top-heavy, bureaucracies that lube the gears of efficiency with sand instead of oil.  

Ever take notice that the road to Heaven sometimes gets routed through Hell? It's true! For instance, who among us has not lost the better part of a day trying to renew our driver's license or resolve a "Tech Support" problem with someone in India that you can't understand or get a billing snafu untangled? 

Why is it that bureaucracies designed to perform public business soon mutates into some autonomous creature that comes to regard we the public as its enemy? 

Rather than being cooped up in the Rv all day, I decided to use a rainy day to move on to my next destination after my stay at Saddleback Mountain. I headed for McDowell Mountain County Park, one of our favorite non-boondocking camp spots. As national, state, and county parks go, McDowell is a step above...clean, well-groomed (they actually rake the pea-gravel in each site), and miles beyond the fray of the urban blight and smog of Phoenix. 

The campsites are well spaced at McDowell, which allows for more privacy and peace. It's setting is hard to beat if you enjoy waking up to chirping birds, lush Sonoran Desert and mountain views. Well, maybe not this time. It's been a year of severe drought, in Arizona. Additionally, the park has reasonably warm spic and span showers. The real kicker, though, is all the miles and miles of some of the best mountain biking/hiking trails we've ever found. More miles than you have energy, for sure. 

One of my least favorite things about Rv life is sitting out "weather," especially wind and rain. Thus, I was up and out before dawn on a damp, aromatic morning (creosote), hoping to beat rush hour traffic.

As mentioned, it's been a bitch of a dry summer in most of the southwest. In addition to the pandemic, summer monsoons were retagged "non-soons," as they skipped over Arid-zona in favor of New Mexico. It was the driest monsoon season on record. 

Couple that dry-stat with a record for the most 110 and 115 degree days this past summer and you've got a desiccating super-drought, complete with wildfires that blackened hundreds of square mile of prime Sonoran flora and fauna. While I adore spending winters in Southern Arizona and reliving the good ole days of childhood, I wouldn't stand a chance of surviving May through October any more. Talk about being trapped indoors.

In steady rain, I took the 303 to I-17 to Cave Creek Road. After making a quick, pre-ordered grocery "pick-up" at Wally World, I hung a right on Scottsdale Road, then a left on Dynamite...which becomes Rio Verde...and voila, three hours later I was rolling into McDowell Mountain Park. I was excited to climb on the bike and spend a few days putting in some serious miles on its rolling and smooth granite trails. Unfortunately, The Universe wasted no time in ripping the grin off my face. 

Ok, I've mentioned "the policy insanity" before in a previous post, but it bears repeating. I'll try to keep it brief:

In their infinite, asinine and bureaucratic Govie wisdom, Maricopa County Parks have adopted well-intentioned "regs" that will leave you scratching your head till it bleeds and raise your blood pressure to near lethal levels. Read and weep...

When camped in a $22 "overflow" site (no power/water), one is required to "check in" with the office every morning at 9 AM. Why? one might ask. It's in case a power/water site ($32) comes available, which, if one then does, overflow campers are required to move into it. If and however that happens, be it due to cancellation or a short gap between departing and arriving guests with reservations, one must break camp and take said site...even if it's only available for one night. Should a different water/power site come available the next night, one must  (insert "musical chairs music here) move to that one...even if it's only for one night. And so on and so on. In other words, only if all power/water sites are taken, can one move back into "overflow," where they must stand ready to re-subject themselves to being uprooted again and again and again. If a power/water site comes open, even for one night, one must move into it. Normally (pre-pandemic), power/water sites are booked many months in advance for the entire "season" by "snowbirds" and, though still irritating, it was less problematic. We learned to kinda drag our feet getting to the office on time, which seemed to better our chances of not having to move from overflow.  

You can see the problems and irritation this kind of policy creates, to be subjected to wasting precious morning time by sitting around till 9 AM in case you are the chosen one to break camp and move to a vacant power/water site, even if it's only for a single night, which will have you breaking camp again the very next morning. I could be half way to Granite Mountain on my bike by 9 AM, or taking a nice morning walk on trails. But no, you gotta sit around and check in with gestapo-like rule enforcers that could care less if you have to move. It's both frustrating and unnecessary.

I assume the "reasoning" (I use the word lightly) is that the County Parks want to maximize their income by assuring they sell out their $32 power/water sites during prime season. 

Why can't bureaucrats "think out of the box?" It's because they get so deep in their well-worn "groove" they see nothing but walls. Here's an easy solution, one that puts an end to the frustration-anger-loonacy of playing the game of Rv musical chairs once and for all. 

Why not, why not, for Christ's sake, charge the same price for "overflow" and power/water sites? Who wouldn't gladly pay an additional ten bucks a night to rid themselves from the agitation of checking in with the "gestapo" every morning in order to see if they must break camp and move...a move that further agitates because power/water sites are not available till noon, so some work-camper can rake the gravel first. And all this, knowing you might only be staying there for one freaking night. Then it's back to the merry-go-round. 

To the bureaucrats at Maricopa County Parks and Rec: Just charge the same price for overflow and power/water sites and be done with the musical fucking chairs so we can get outdoors and recreate instead of sitting around waiting, waiting, waiting...moving, moving, moving.

The above is representative of our past experience with McDowell Mountain Park. We try to overlook the insanity because we otherwise love biking and hiking their wonderful trails while soaking in the mountainous surround, the flora, the fauna, the climate. 

Understandably, I was a tad apprehensive as I pulled into McDowell Mountain Park. Would it be the S.O.S? Would I have to play the Rv musical chairs game again this year?

I walk into the office, trying to hide my growing cynicism. At least I was incognito, what with a mask covering most of my face...you know, in case I said something I'd regret. 

Hello, I'd like to see about getting a spot for a few days, maybe a week. I have solar for power and plenty of onboard water so I don't need...

Well let's see here, looks like we have a vacancy...um...but it's just for one night, though, then reserved after that.


Oh, but here's another opening for the next night. You'd could move to that one.   

Here we go...

How long can I stay at that site?

Just one night. It's reserved after that...then we're full through the weekend, unless some one cancels.

I really don't want to be moving that much if possible. Can't you just put me in "overflow?" I'd pay the same rate as the power/water sites.

No, I can't do that cause we have a "group" staying in overflow. They come every year...had it reserved for quite a while. 

Oh, I didn't realize you let "groups" displace campers in overflow. Is that new?


How about if I take the one open site for the first night, then the other site for the second night, then can I go to overflow by then?

No, the group will still be there.

What if I'm willing to move again for the third night?

It looks like we're all booked up after that...unless someone cancels.

You know, it's getting so hard to stay here...I don't think it's worth it anymore. There's got to be a better way.

I don't make the rules...

I fully intend to send a link to this post to every managerial desk jockey at Maricopa County Parks and Rec. In fact, feel free to do so too. Maybe they can climb out of their groove far enough to see a new direction...maybe even a solution to their archaic rule-set.

I left discouraged and deflated. I love McDowell Mountain Park...when I can get in. 

As clouds began to part and rain gave way to sprinkles, I went on a two hour in-vain search for a nearby boondock. Finally I headed toward Usery, another Maricopa County Park and had a near carbon copy of the conversation at McDowell. They had a site for one night, after that they were full. The overflow at Usery was a small sloped patch of asphalt. We'd be nuts to butts by dark, listening to the peaceful sound of generators. 

It'd been a over five years, but I suddenly remembered staying at Usery in a spacious granite overflow spot on the far south side. Maybe it was a group site that wasn't reserved. Then again, my "lightbulb" moments get dimmer with time.

Mad, with an unhealthy dose of frustration, I wondered about the future. With everybody snapping up Rvs nowadays, this problem can only get worse. I don't see any states building new camps, or expanding old ones for that matter. What would it hurt to carve a little desert out of a few sections within each County Park for overflow guests? Then go ahead and charge everyone the same rate, whether it's a power/water site or overflow, and do away with the musical-chairs shit. I'm betting that campers wouldn't turn that down because of an extra ten-spot, and the Parks bottom line would soar. Anyway, sometimes when I least expect it, the Universe has something better in mind. 

Like below. How about a FREE Superstition Mountain-side boondock with views to die for and hiking trails by the dozen only a short walk from camp? Oh, and unlimited backroad mountain biking right out the door. Who needs McDowell's musical chairs.

Peace out!
Mark... going solo without hiker-babe Bobbie till sometime after New Years. Enjoy playing in the snow, Peppermint Pattie :)
Can't wait till you get back down here.


  1. We haven't been expecting any out of this world good news this season so thanks for making it a 100% disastrous year, season, holiday to boot :) Hate to think of you spending this holiday alone, but that was of your choosing so we won't give it a second thought. However we were looking forward to some Bunny Hill action with Caleb & Kelly in Lovely Ouray, they have some great snow you know, (dam cold though), hell Im wearing my old skiing thermals around home and it's just 40 degrees most days....Id never last in Ouray, not at this age .
    Next year we can all really celebrate this holiday in Grand Style of your choosing.
    Stay Thirsty my Friend
    D & A

  2. When I got to the wonderful photos, oohing and aahing about how other-worldly it all looked, I had completely forgotten about your campground saga. So if you don't show up at 9 AM, or don't show at all, do they tow you out of the campground? I'd put a sign on my windshield "Gone hiking, be back soon".

    1. They might...some of the people that work there are authoritarian types :( I was overdue for a "rant," anyway.
      Merry Christmas!

  3. Government will always be the enemy of the people. Even at McDowell National Park. Grinding it’s gears to make things slower, more expensive, and more difficult... somehow justifying it’s existence on the backs of others. A parasite consuming it’s host. Ah. like my dad I digress. Glad you found a better spot. Merry Christmas Big Guy! Love you!

  4. We feel your frustration and could not agree with you more. Been there, done it, got the t-shirt! Grrrr.....

  5. I work for the government and I kind of cringe when I read these responses. What happens is that someone from up high makes crazy rules and us low level peons must enforce them and get screamed at for it. Why do I do it, you ask? For those shining moments when I can actually help people.

  6. Hey Mark and Bobbie..Happy Holidays...and thanks for the clues that I will not spend any of my $$$ down there..
    I'll just stay up here in the more friendly states of Wa.-Id.-Mt.-Wy.and parts of Oregon....Not without some of the bullshit that's out there....We need fences-fences I tell you....Nevada is cool too.....
    Keep masked up so they don't know Ya.....(:+).....Meow.....

  7. That's a good looking Lazy Daze in the first photo. Looks like you changed positions, hopefully to a more level spot ;-)

    1. Hey, is it still under warranty? I think the wax job is wearing out :)

  8. Wow! Gorgeous photos! Thanks for the trip!


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