My mom called the other night asking about her Disney VHS (Vertical Helical Scan or Video Home System) tapes – a pre-90s relic. I reminded her that she had offered them to me almost three years ago, so she reminded me about all my books and other memorabilia she still had. I debated going and then one of my best friends had a baby and Caleb suggested I go see her too. I planned a road trip with 21 stops along the route – mostly hiking, a town in a song, family, friends, and kolaches – and would see a third of them.
Caleb had to work on Labor Day. I did dishes, laundry, and packed. I left around 1:00 pm with a list of things to see, but not which exit to take – and I forgot it was a holiday. I arrived at a closed Ranger Station for the Cleveland National Forest, but a kind employee at the gas station down the street told me to take Sunrise Hwy. I will next time as it runs north and south and has plenty of stops along its 24 mile route. On to Desert View Tower. For a few dollars you can climb some old stairs and stare into the desert and then wonder on and around some big rocks and look at some carved wooden animals.
There is plenty to see inside the tower as well – turtles, rocks, wind chimes, a player piano, and other instruments, signs, books, and bumper stickers. I had a look around, but what I found more interesting was the home and business of Coyote’s Flying Saucer Retrievals and Repair Service located less than a mile from the entrance. On first approach I thought it was just some abandoned RVs and ATVs, but upon further inspection noticed a newer looking motorcycle, some solar panels, and then heard a radio or TV from inside one of the RVs. I left before any trespassing accusations could be made.
There is a long list of things to do in Yuma, AZ if you have the time – even on a holiday. I drove on a one-lane bridge behind the prison and was able to see it from a different view. There were families at the park so I drove on to empty memorials, parking lots, fountains, and eventually found an open book store – all photo opportunities. There are multiple rooms of books stacked floor to ceiling and piled in boxes. I decided to resist the urge of filling the car as I was headed to Texas to fill it with books – I shall return.
My first sunset finds me passing Dateland – Land of the Famous Date Shake. I drove on until falling asleep in the middle of the Sonoran Desert. I’m woken up sometime after 1:00 am by border patrol. I was coherent enough to understand “drugs, bad, here, broken down.” I didn’t want to be any of those things so I drove into Casa Grande where I was able to sleep until sunrise. Three hours later I will begin the ascent to Mt Lemmon. Plenty of things caught my eye so that I missed the turn to the trailhead the first time, but was awarded with another beautiful hike – and bubblegum, dog poo, and carved aspen trees.
As I made my way up the last 1,000 feet of elevation the mountain became more shrouded in fog, yet I saw birds, bees, flowers, and trees. I watched a deer eat and could see Tucson in the distance. There are still plenty of burnt trees from the 2003 fire; but purples, blues, oranges, yellows, greens, and whites galore to satisfy the curious mind. On my return trip I found two couples just as interested in the life and beauty found here and just as sweaty too. Somewhere we had heard that it can be 30 degrees cooler up here than down in the desert. Well a cool 90 down there left us in 60, but we weren’t complaining.
I was able to get a hold of Caleb as I passed the sign for Saguaro National Park – he tells me to stop and see and enjoy for both of us as he has to go back to work. I saw javelinas, lizards, a Harris Antelope squirrel, over-sized insects, and bees diving into the pollen of the orange blooms on the fishhook barrel cactus. I enjoyed the prickly pear cactus and ocotillo shrub. My second sunset would find me leaving not one, but two closed ghost towns. Steins is under new management that closed it permanently and Shakespeare is available for tours on a limited schedule.
That night I attempted to make it to Organ Mountain Rec Area managed by the BLM. I didn’t know the best way there and our Garmin is a garbage GPS device – I preferred our TomTom with directional know how and phone numbers, so I called Caleb and he had me take some small roads around the city. I made it about 20 miles away and three miles (hearing distance) from the Playdough concert that was entertaining a large crowd of Las Cruces(ians). After the crowds went home I woke up and drove to Guadalupe National Park arriving at 6:00 am. I would’ve started hiking but forgot my headlamp at home.
I started the 3,000 foot vertical climb at 8:30 am with plenty of water, a Clif Bar, and my camera in 77 degree weather. The first hour was a hot huff-n-puff hike. The second hour was shaded with a nice breeze. The last 40 minutes were a constant tease as each turn looked like it could be the peak. The climb goes up, around, by a campsite, over a bridge, and looks down at El Capitan – the eighth highest peak in Texas, before reaching the top. Excited for my success, overwhelmed by the landscape, and saddened that I didn’t give myself more time to explore this trail and others.
Down the mountain – 1.5 hours. To Fort Stockton to see World’s Largest Road Runner – 3 hours. Trying to take picture of sun lighting my hair while driving – 3 hours later. My third sunset would find me pulled over for possible collision with deer for going too fast on a Texas back road – $212. There’s no way the officer could’ve known that I got my driver’s license on these roads with my Montana plates, Florida license, and Georgia t-shirt on. He was hasty and a bit rude, but I stayed respectful. Tickets like this remind me to do the speed limit no matter what state or road I’m on – and to think this is my first in Texas.
Caleb was flabbergasted that 1) I hadn’t kept cruise control on and 2) that I hadn’t managed to talk my way out of it. This would set me for an 11:00 pm arrival to my mom’s house where I was greeted by her dogs, Louie and Sugar, that decided to wake her as soon as I laid down so that we could talk for an hour about my shoes that glow in the dark and other mother-daughter topics. I would sleep in, eat some Kings Hawaiian bread, and drink a liter of water while spending four hours looking through boxes of books, dishes, blankets, and baby toys to find what was mine or something I might want.
I loaded five boxes of books, a box of stuffed animals, a suitcase of Barbies, a sewing machine, a duffel bag of VHS tapes, and two boxes containing random items – yearbooks, a domino set, cassette tapes, pictures, stencils, and mom memorabilia. I found my mom’s collections of cake pans, Barbies, Chevron cars, clothes, encyclopedias, framed pictures, blankets, and dishes – some still wrapped from the 90s, but left them for another visit. I picked my mom up after work and we drove out to my girlfriend’s house to see her baby, but only her dad was home, so we talked to him for three hours.
Went by my sister Tiffany’s house at 6:00 pm and hung out with my nephews Bentley and Shawn, a first grader and kindergartener, and their kitty Toothbrush. We left before 7:00 pm so she could go to the store and we could head home for my fourth sunset and my mom could make me her vegetarian spaghetti with spinach noodles. After dinner we went to my brother Eric’s house to meet my nephew Otis, now 10 months old. Eric was busy watching Obama on TV, but Amie, his wife, offered some sopapilla cheesecake for dessert while I played with Otis and we talked. My younger brother, Jay, is busy working in New Jersey so I was able to borrow his bed for another night.
Mom woke me on her way out the door at 6:00 am. I debated going back to sleep until other people were awake, but home was calling. I decided to skip some hiking, food, and friends along the way. I stopped at the Presidio de San Saba Historic Site near the town of Menard, TX for the castlesque ruins and stayed for the butterflies and large grasshopper. I drove through Fort Stockton at 1:30 pm, El Paso at 3:18 pm, entered New Mexico at 4:08 pm, was seven miles from the Arizona border at 5:16 pm, near Benson for my fifth sunset and arrived at my dad’s house to spend the night at 9:30 pm.
We went to sleep sometime after 1:30 am after discussing my trip thus far, watching videos of the new technology that will impact the world, eating some raspberries, and other such matters that pertained to the situation and timing. In the morning there were pancakes, some software gifting, and goodbyes – I had a husband and dogs to get home to. I would arrive home at 6:30 pm after a short stop in Dateland for a date shake and then after getting lost and heading northeast in San Diego. I prefer to get lost in the country with cows watching, not in the city with cars and lights in the way.
This trip equaled 2,920 miles on the car. That mileage equaled $351.73 in gas, some paid for by Dad – thanks! I was gone 124.5 hours and got a $212 ticket in 15 minutes. I survived mostly on Kings Hawaiian bread, chocolate, and lots of water – and sunshine! I averaged five hours of sleep a night and a cup (16 oz) of coffee a day. I learned that it’s easier to climb a mountain than to gracefully fall from one – trekking poles can be your friend. I also learned that homesickness isn’t missing the dwelling itself, but wanting the beings inside it to be with you wherever you go – Caleb, Sparky, and Piggy!