With this whole interweb thing, recommendations and reviews have become pretty powerful these days and they can often make or break a product, restaurant, hair salon, retail store, etc. Think about it; how many times have you not gone somewhere or bought something because of a poor review? Or on the flip side, bought something because of a great review? Heck, I even found a doctor--and trusted him to slice open my ankle--by reading reviews.
With being on the road, we have come to rely heavily on reviews when we get into random towns, whether they are for things to do, places to get eat or even (gasp) places to get your hair cut!
With limited mobility, we have been seeking out low impact activities and were fortunate enough to meet a new solo RV’er at our park-–George--who shared a recommendation for a restaurant not too far from the park. Steak? Inexpensive? Mesquite smoked? And good?
While the recommendation wasn’t from a random person on Yelp who we've never met, and for some reason typically trust, George did seem pretty reputable when it came to food recommendations as he's run a BBQ festival in New York for many years, so he appeared to know his stuff....so much that we were willing (and anxious) to take a shot on this place.
This place? Well, t’s a multi-purpose business that sells and trades horses, draft horses, wagons, buggies, harness, antique farm implements and many other farm and horse related items…oh, and they have a restaurant, too! I mean, with all these things going for it, it has to be good, right? (the website is fredswagons.com, which highlights four pages of pictures of wagons and the last page, the menu for the steakhouse). Okay, sounds risky, but what the heck!
Well, we set off to see for ourselves and if nothing else, it would make for a good story! So, we drive a few miles, make a couple of turns and head out of town a few miles and then the nav tells us to turn.....down a dirt road? And no signs on this dirt road for any kind of restaurant? Hmmm.....
A long dirt road with no signs of civilization....
Thinking the nav was leading us astray, we of course listened to it, and turned down the dirt road. “Follow the road for one mile,” she (aka nav lady) says…so we followed the dirt road….with a little (okay, a lot of) trepidation. And then....there it was. Fred’s Arena Steakhouse. (Of course, we knew we were close when we started to see some random wagons). So we parked, and went in.
One of the many wagons
The first sign of a sign!!
Exactly what you would picture this place to look like....horse statue and all!!
As we entered the restaurant, we confirmed our suspicions of Fred’s being a locals' place when one of the patrons hanging at the bar for happy hour, walked over and gave us our menus and told us the girls were a little backed up and would be with us soon….and eventually she was. We ordered… 15 bucks for a NY strip steak, baked potato and salad… can’t beat those prices!!
They actually cook the steaks in an open-air mesquite grill in the middle of the restaurant, which another one of the patrons cranked the hand bellows of the grill to stoke the mesquite wood. So you can watch your steak being cooked or fan the fire if you want (built in entertainment)!!
The mesquite grill...complete with customer support!!
Our waitress/bartender and cook taking care of our dinner!
Seriously, she was the only employee there for about half of our dinner.
The result? Well, we both agree, it was a pretty darn good steak with some awesome mesquite flavor. And for the price? It couldn’t be beat!! Our total bill (with a couple of cocktails) was $40 bucks!! Not bad for a decent steak dinner.
Hard to tell with the pic, but it really was a great steak!!
So, the morale of the story....
Take the dirt road…even if you are going to a horse auction to eat steak!!
(Oh, and case you were wondering, Fred's has 4.2 stars on google and 3.5 stars on yelp!!)
Also, on another review related front….. One of the other things we rely on reviews for is campgrounds we stay at. Finding great (or sometimes even good) campgrounds isn’t the easiest, and reading various reviews is a key step in our trip routing process. While we have seen some pretty crazy reviews that you just have to take with a grain of salt (like the person who gave a one star rating to a campground because there was a snake that crossed their campsite, which happened to be next to a creek. Really?), they have ultimately proven to be fairly accurate. (We utilize a few different sites to check reviews: rvparkrviews, campendium, google, rvparky, trip advisor etc.)
So, when we knew we were going to be in one location for an extended period of time, we took to reading all the reviews for parks in Tucson and when we were at Gilbert Ray in early March, we checked out a couple. Because Tucson has many 55+ parks, there were limited options for a month plus stay, so our narrowing down process was fairly simple. While we were not looking forward to being in one place for so long and also dreading being in a traditional RV park with spaces on top of each other, we decided to honker down at Desert Trails. We just liked the vibe...and the reviews.
The park itself is a repurposed defunct water park, so the layout is funky, but one of the main reasons we chose this park is they have lots of activities going on, and again, with limited mobility, thought it might be worth exploring. Prior to staying at Desert Trails, we had been to one campground sponsored activity in all of our travels....so not normally our cup of tea...or at least not something we normally seek out!
So far, we have been pleasantly surprised with the park as there seems to be always something going on….even with it being later in the season. They had a great Easter potluck with prime rib and ham and additionally, they have food trucks and live entertainment a few times a week.
The calendar is packed with all kinds of daily activities--from hiking clubs, bingo, crafts, photography groups, etc. The park owner, Pericles, does a great job of creating a sense of community and it’s obvious why people come back season after season. While we’re not ready to settle somewhere for an entire season, this park would make the list if we were ever to consider it! And on top of that, pretty reasonable at $600 bucks a month, including electricity (and entertainment!).
One of the food trucks...Greg, first in line!
Pericles, the campground owner
at the Monday morning meeting
going over the week's activities.
Grams and Greiger, a blues duo. Really great!!
CS&M - This group was a Crosby Stills & Nash cover band and were fantastic!!
Also, one of the players was from Philly!!
Johnny Bencomo....a Cowboy guitarist
Check out Johnny's guitar--18-strings....
supposedly only one of four made!!
Sounded like there were two guitars playing at times!!
Not sure I have a morale of a story here, but would feel comfortable making a recommendation if you are looking for a campground in the Tucson area!
At a side note, we discovered early on that if you show up for an event on time, you're actually late. Last night we showed up to see Johnny at 6:45.....I think that may be a sign we've been here too long!! (And if we're writing about going to Bingo in our next blog....please come for an intervention!!)
And on a non-review related note, they took the splint off the foot and put a cast on. Four total weeks with that, then the boot. (but technically only three as one week has already passed) Ugh!
Taking off the splint...lots of gauze!
And the incision
(Don't mock the hairy legs!! Wish I would have brought a razor to the cast appointment.)
The peg leg is working pretty good, but feeling like I need a parrot and an eye patch! Aaargh!! Oh, and yes, we did read the reviews on the iWalk before we bought it!! :-)
Well, thanks for following along and stay tuned for more exciting review inspired adventures…. I have a hair appointment scheduled (with a random, 4.5 star) hairdresser and we'll actually have some cool pictures for the next blog as the desert is on the verge of blooming!!