Sunday, June 6, 2010

When we hit the road...

… things happen! Today was an awesome, funny, windy/scary, random, Are you kidding? And let's just get there. With a little bit of scary at the end.
First – Awesome! Our first stop in the morning was Saguaro National Park (Rincon Mtns – East).

What a neat little park. We stopped at the Visitor Center (as one always should when first visiting a NP) and talked to the rangers. We made friends with the rangers and they asked if we were on a road trip. When we replied yes, they asked where to, San Antonio. The person behind us whipped around and said, that's where we are coming from. So we had a nice conversation with another member of the National Park system who works at the missions in San Antonio. We swapped travel suggestions and stops with them and found that their end destination was Grand Canyon for a 2 week trip. How great and random a run in! We then sat and watched their intro video where we learned that not only is there the cactus forest but a mountain area with pines, jaguars and good backpacking. We then took the 8 mile loop drive around the cactus forest.

We were very delighted to see a huge environment with lots of giant saguaros growing right next to Tucson. We only did one short hike as our thermometer read 99 at 10:30am. But we stopped and took lots of pictures. After that we busted out of Tucson and on the road toward Carlsbad.
Second – Funny! On our way we followed the signs to “The Thing?” in Dragoon, AZ.

It made for a nice lunch stop with the Dairy Queen next to it. We then paid $1 to see “The Thing?” We wandered through 3 sheds with random art, supposedly historic artifacts and vehicles, and past a Chinese mummy.

And then exited the exhibit with out ever seeing The Thing. Which was hilarious because we realize that there is no Thing. Thus the question mark.
Third – Windy/Scary! We started passing signs that said “Zero Visibility Possible”

“Dust Storms Possible for the Next 15 Miles” “Drive with Caution” There was a gathering storm in the distant sky that we kept getting closer to. We found out what those signs meant very shortly. The wind picked up and soon we could see huge dust devils on the outskirts of town. And then we were in the middle of it.

Traffic slowed to a crawl as the wind and dust whipped around us. It looked like fog and which Fresno has trained us well for.
Fourth – Random! Upon entering Texas we found ourselves in the heart of El Paso. Tijuana 2 was on the right of the freeway going all the way to Mexico as far as we could tell while a normal town continued to the left of us. We had to turn off into El Paso to get on to US180/62 to head north to Carlsbad, NM. Texas was not kind to us today. The highway started us through a rough part of town, then we came upon a huge traffic jam. We saw that the railway crossing was down and started to laugh because a train was about the only thing that hadn't delayed us yet. Then we realized that the traffic was still moving, just slowly. As we got closer we saw that people were going around the railway crossing. There seemed to be a malfunction as there wasn't really a train. By the time we got up the crossing guard it had started to raise, but not all the way. We rolled down a window and listened for a train before we crossed the tracks. That is when we realized that there was a man lifting the cross guard for the cars to pass through. Callie's first questions was “Does this guy work for the railway?” then “Or is he just a good Samaritan?” Either way, we got through and sped on our way. This highway was a little different, it had a lot of stop lights for a long time and El Paso seemed to go on for 10s of miles.
Fifth – Are you kidding? Not far out of El Paso, just as we started to get up to the speed limit there was a check point that every car had to stop at. As we pulled in we saw that it was a Border Control stop. They were stopping every car and checking for any “hitchhikers” (or however you say that in Spanish). They asked if we were traveling and made us roll down our back windows to check the back seat. After that way station we were truly on our way... or so we thought.
Sixth – Let's just get there! The storm that had been was hovering above us finally wreaked havoc us in the hills of the Outback of Texas. It stormed the worst I think we have ever seen. Huge flashes of lightning with 6 arms were in the sky while on the ground we were being pelted by rain and hail. Callie, the determined driver, went as fast as safely possible because by that time we were both just ready to be done with this crazy day of driving. The end of the storm was in sight finally as we came up to a courageous motorcyclist braving the storm.
Last – And a little bit of scary! We passed the beautiful and majestic Guadalupe Mountains

and came up to Carlsbad Caverns. As we were counting down the miles to our final resting place Callie suddenly swerved. Just missing a huge skunk by mere inches. That-was-it. Callie drove with caution but speed looking for the nearest signs that Carlsbad was not a desert mirage. We did actually make it to our hotel and climbed out of the car with a lot of relief. And got a whiff of the small aftermath of the skunk-crossing. When we arrived we checked in and headed to the restaurant as we had not had dinner yet. But as our luck of the day continued, the restaurant was closed so we went to our room and bed because that was all that was left.
Now on to bigger and better things tomorrow. And here is hoping that Texas is kinder to us.

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