2009.01.01 Smog and a Race to see the Cactus


The departure time of 8:00 came and went, and we pulled out of the La Mesa Travelodge at 8:45. It seems that everybody is dragging a bit after 7 days on the road, and nobody was moving quite as fast as we think we can.

This day was primarily spent driving. Stephanie and Erin drove us nearly all the way across California. We did make a 30 minute pit stop in El Centro, California, for a Starbucks fix. It took a little longer than anticipated because Erin’s iPhone gave us some bum directions. Look for a dip in Apple stock if people find out! The only good news was that the wrong turn gave us an opportunity to see a llama and a few chickens.

The one thing that stood out on today’s drive was that all the way from San Diego to Tucson we saw varying degrees of smog. In some places, it was quite heavy, particularly when we started getting within about 100 miles of Phoenix on Interstate 8.


The girls were getting bored at one point, so Mallory decided to teach Marissa to read.


At one point in Eastern California, all traffic on the Interstate was stopped, as we drove through a Border Patrol checkpoint. The nice gentleman just gave our van a cursory look before we got the signal to drive on. Thankfully, traffic was very light on New Years Day, and it didn’t slow us down at all.


Passing through a Border Patrol checkpoint on Interstate 8.


Right before we got to the Arizona border, we passed the Imperial Sand Dune Recreation Area. Sand dunes as far as the eye can see. Additionally, just right off the interstate, we could see literally hundreds of the big-time RVs that cost in the six-figure range, along with all their ATVs. There was a lot of money out there enjoying their pastime. As Scott pointed out, you probably won’t see anything in the media about all of these people driving their RVs to the desert, and dumping gasoline into their ATVs so they can ride around on the sand dunes for pure recreation.


ATV enthusiasts at the Imperial Sand Dune Recreation Area near the California / Arizona border.


We stopped for lunch in Yuma, Arizona, at the In-N-Out Burger. We couldn’t help but indulge ourselves one more time with the #2 combo. This particular In-N-Out Burger will always hold a warm spot in my heart, as I appear to have left my sunglasses there. I hope that somebody in Yuma will enjoy my polarized, made-in-China, eBay specials.

The most excitement we endured today was when PK fell down outside the Git-N-Scram in Gila Bend, Arizona. She was looking around for the pickup, when she stepped off the curb. At the time, everything seemed okay…

About an hour later, we arrived in Tucson. Our plan was to visit the Saguaro National Park, which is outside Tucson. The Saguaro cactus is the supreme symbol of the American Southwest and is the largest cacti in the United States. A Saguaro cactus can live to over 150 years old, and can grow as high as 50 feet, weighing 8 tons! That is a LOT of cactus.


A closeup of the Cactus. The skin is an accordian shape so that it can expand and contract, depending on how much water it is holding.


The Saguaro (pronounced “sah*WAH*row”) National Park’s Visitors Center was open until 5:00 and unfortunately, we did not arrive there until about 5:30. The 8 mile driving trail was open until sunset, but unfortunately (again), sunset was in full force when we arrived. As a matter of fact, they had the “No Entry” gate pulled out across the entrance, but we drove around it. Dangit, we drove 400 miles to see some cactus and we’re not going to let darkness stop us. We managed to see a few great cactus specimen near the Visitors Center, and take a few pictures, before we were engulfed in total darkness.


The kids in front of a massive Sagauro cactus.


About this same time, we heard from Scott that PK was in some serious pain. The fall from earlier was now being felt in full force. They decided to take her to the ER, but once they arrived and saw the line of uninsured illegal aliens waiting for assistance, she started feeling much better.

We drove on to Tombstone, AZ, where we are staying tonight. We have reservations at the Larian Motel. It has very good reviews on TripAdvisor, and this website hasn’t failed us yet. I am glad that we had reservations, because even though you might think that New Years Day would be their “slow” season, the motel was sold out. As it just so happened, while I was unloading the bags off the top of our van, I also fell. Scott & Erin are now the only two adults who have not fallen on the trip. They had better watch themselves the next several days, because they may get an “accidental” push in the back.

We decided to just eat dinner in our room (Room #5 – the Bat Masterson room), instead of going out. There were not many options in Tombstone at 8:00 on New Years Day.

The rest of the gang decided to eat at a restaurant along the way. They didn’t check in to the motel until 9:00 or so. Upon arrival, the clerk fixed them up with all of the information we will need for tomorrow, to make the most of our Tombstone experience. At the conclusion, he told them, “Give me a call if you need anything. I’m going to be up for at least 20 more minutes. I’m tired!”. Such is life at the small town motel.

We vegged out in the room, watching some football bowl games, reading books, playing leapsters, and writing blogs. Once the rest of the gang checked in, they stopped by our room and we mapped out our plan for tomorrow.

We’re looking forward to getting to do some sightseeing tomorrow, since we struck out today.

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