Thursday, March 31, 2016

Tales from the Road

We had an uneventful first day on the road on Wednesday. Unless, of course, you count hydroplaning through driving rain and dodging a tornado warning through Tulsa. We managed to slip by before a tornado ripped the roof off a gun club, thank heaven. Amarillo, Texas was our stopping place for the night. 653 miles traveled.

We felt every one of them.

Amarillo Sunrise
Then after a restful night, we headed into New Mexico at about 6:30 in the morning, hoping to make it to Phoenix for a 700 mile day. Since Amarillo's elevation is about 3600 ft, the dawn greeted us with a brisk 28 degrees. (If you want to know more about why the elevation matters to me, check out my Second Wind blog!)

I'd sort of forgotten that the Southwest is high desert, which means cold at night, hot by day. (Note to self: Pack a light jacket next time!)

I haven't traveled along the western I-40 corridor since I was a kid. Back then it was with my family--my parents, 2 of my sisters (my baby sister wasn't with us yet) and my grandparents--all piled into a station wagon pulling a camper. My dad always said we had 4-60 air conditioning, which meant we rolled down all the windows and went 60 miles an hour.

Our van is much more comfortable and I have the best chauffeur in the world!

New Mexico is much more picturesque than I remembered. Rocks break through the surface of the earth like an ancient dragon spine. Check out this unique formation.

Is it just me, or don't those reddish stones sort of look like a giant armadillo?

And how about this roadside sphinx?

I'd love to know how these things were formed, wouldn't you? (Take that Sheldon Cooper. Geology is too a real science!)

The road was climbing most of the day, heading toward Flagstaff, Arizona, which tops out at over 7000 ft.

I'm not sure when we first became aware of Mt. Humphrey (over 12000 ft.) looming ahead of us, because at first the snow-capped peak blended in with the gathering clouds, but we could see it for miles. When we finally reached Flagstaff, it was towering above us.

I was totally surprised by the number of trees in Arizona. Guess I always thought of it as a desert state. Then we dropped down out of the high country as we headed toward Phoenix. The landscape changed for a brief time to what I like to call Sound of Music mountains, with green meadows ringed by peaks. But that didn't last long as we dropped in elevation and entered the Sonoran Desert.

As deserts go, it's a lively one. Lots of vegetation compared to say, the Sahara. Saguaro cacti seem plentiful, but they are a protected native plant. Destroying one can result in a hefty fine. Stealing one from public land is a Class 4 felony!

At around 4 pm, we breathed a sigh of relief as we came into Phoenix, even though the city was bustling with more traffic than we'd seen since we moved from Boston two years ago. Unlike our first night, we didn't have a hotel reservation, since we weren't sure we'd make it all the way to Phoenix, even though we gained two hours and were now on Pacific Time.

So we started stopping at likely hotels.

No vacancy. We left I-17 and turned our faces west to LA on I-10. Still no rooms at the inns.

As it turned out, there was a trifecta of an air show, the last day of spring training for baseball and a Nascar event in town. We couldn't rent a pup tent in Phoenix.

Yuma was 160 miles away. So we filled the gas tank, got a couple bottles of water a piece and headed south into the desert, looking for someplace to stay. Granted, the seats in the van do recline, but I so didn't want to try them out.

The sun was setting as we pulled into that little place in the southwest corner of the state. Fortunately, the first hotel we tried had ONE ROOM LEFT!

(Note to self: Always have a reservation, no matter whether you think you'll make it there or not!)

And now,  few more pictures from the road...

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