Our cross-country odyssey: the final chapter- Days 32-34 – Sedona, AZ home (July 28- 30)

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Day 32: Sedona, AZ to Phoenix, AZ

After I spent a semi-quiet morning in a cafe in Sedona while James looked at art galleries, we had a yummy Indian buffet and headed south to phoenix. The cafe was only semi-quiet because they were filming a movie there called “The Sedona Girl” (turned out to be a local high school production) and every so often someone would yell, “Rolling!” and we were all supposed to be quiet. The blenders, refrigerators and fans didn’t seem to hear, though, so it was a little mystifying as to what they hoped to accomplish. James saw some interesting art in Sedona and a lot of “tourist schlock.”

The road to Phoenix was fairly uneventful, except for the appearance of Saguaro cacti, the state tree (the quintessential cactus you’ve seen in every western with the “arms” sticking out that they hang hats on in cartoons). The temperature went up and up as we headed down in elevation. It was 109 as we entered town. We stopped at a Whole Foods for gluten- free stuff for me and the pavement was so hot that Gwen was actuallly prancing to keep from burning her feet. The thunderstorms were, of course, with us and the heat was oppressive.

We found James’s friend Tim’s house in Mesa and struggled to bring everything in with the temperature so high. They have a pool, but it was pretty much the temperature of bathwater and all we wanted to do was sit inside in the cool air and drink ice water. Tim is an old friend from high school that James hadn’t seen in 30 years, so they had a lot to catch up on. I had a nice chat with Jenny, his wife, and we supervised Gwen meeting their two dogs. Gwen really enjoyed swimming in their pool, retrieving tennis ball after tennis ball. Oddly, their dog Chloe will drop balls in the pool and then just stare at them. So Gwen would jump in and swim over to bring them back while Chloe barked.

We had a great Chinese buffet dinner with Tim and Jenny and some after-dark pool time. THIS TIME it rained while we were inside eating, so we completely missed the downpour (YAY!) The down side was that the humidity actually went up after the storm. We stayed up too late chatting (no surprise) and slept in a little, too.

Day 33: Phoenix to Bakersfield, CA

We crossed the 10,000 mile mark sometime after leaving Phoenix, heading towards California. We headed west and then up AZ 95 to follow the Colorado River. Guess what we saw? Thunderstorms! What a surprise! The rocks along the river are very cool and hard to describe- big hulking sculpted dark rocks, with no vegetation on them at all. It’s an almost lunar landscape along there. We passed Parker Dam and continued on up to Lake Havasu City, where we saw London Bridge. This crazy guy bought the bridge from the city of London in 1968 when they were ready to build a new bridge. They took the bridge apart, numbering each stone as it was removed and keeping track of where each one went. Then they transported it across the ocean and the US and put it back together in the Arizona desert. It was sort of interesting to see…. We also got coffee, so it was a win-win. Since it was over 100 degrees, of course, we got iced mochas this time.

We saw a lot more of nothing as we headed into California towards Barstow. We finished our third book this trip. WE started our trip with Memoirs of a Geisha, read The LIghtning Thief in the middle and finished up with Cheaper by the Dozen. We only read three books since when the scenery was good, we didn’t read. Well, we really listened to the audio version, but when you are visually-impaired, you use the verb “read,” not “listen.” I also finally finished knitting up all the yarn I had brought. I knitted 2 baby sweaters, 3 hats and 3 booties on this trip. I left a “santa suit” red with white trimming sweater and a set of hat and booties with Margaret in Wichita for grandbabies and have the rest with me. Now I need a use for a single bootie….

We searched a little in Barstow until we found the Sizzler for dinner and had a break. It was late, so we just pushed on as far as Bakersfield and stopped at a Quality Inn. Smelled fire in the air on the way in… Welcome to California.

Today was “our” day. We saw the Tank Mountains in western Arizona (off I-10), Joyce’s Crafts Supplies in Quartzsite, AZ and Discoteca Jessenia (my goddaughter’s name) in Barstow, CA. We also noticed that we had seen Dairy Queens pretty much EVERYWHERE we went. I never realized what great market penetration DQ has. There were more DQ’s even than McDonalds. We also came across a series of gas stations in western Arizona called “Terrible’s Gas.” Hm. And speaking of gas, we had gotten used to paying under $3 a gallon and are now back in California. Hah. that’s history now. We are back to $3.50 a gallon.

Day 34: Bakersfield, CA to Home

After an unimpressive breakfast at the Quality Inn, we headed to Paso Robles and caught up with my mother’s cousin Richard and his wife, Teri. It was cool crossing California’s central valley. It felt homey to see the miles and miles of orchards, flowers, vineyards, and generally different crops than in the centre of the country, where it was basically corn and soybeans, wwith occasional fields of hay. We had tasty shrimp and fish tacos in Paso Robles and passed on family photos to Richard and caught up. WE then headed to the coast and came up Highway 1 towards home. It was really nice to be on the coastal highway again- felt homey and familiar while being gorgeous, if slightly foggy in places. We stopped in Carmel Valley for gas and coffee and then hit traffic. Ugh. We had dinner in Castroville (sushi, since our favorite BBQ place was closed for refurbishing) and are now heading up 101 towards Mountain View.

We are sad to be ending our trip. We joke that we should pull off and look for a campsite, but the truth is that we need to get home. Bills need to be paid, mail needs to get read, a website needs to be finished for a dance weekend in November, and lots more really boring things are calling us home. We decided to have a “WE’re back and unpacked” party next Saturday. That will push us to actually BE unpacked and to get our photos organized. It also gives us something way more interesting to look forward to.

Interesting signs today:
Jolly Kone in Wasco, CA (ice cream)
Casa de Fruta has become “Casa de something for everyone.” – east of Gilroy, CA

This is the longest vacation either of us has ever taken. It has been a challenge. We really got along well for the first four weeks, but have been bickering a little this past few days. It has not been too bad, though. We have seen a heck of a lot of the country and found out some interesting things about this continent. I learne that James really isn’t into scenery that is “arid” and that he really likes layers of stone mixed with greenery or different colors. I learned that I really like camping (even in the rain) and really like being flexible. I love just heading out without a plan, even though sometimes it means that we have to backtrack or scramble to get a place to sleep. I also learned that we cannot get moving in the morning in less than 2 hours, no matter how hard we try. WE can occasionally shave it down to 1 3/4, but that is as good as it gets. I met a lot of great people and saw a lot of different ways to live. There were a lot of places where we said, “I could live here” and a lot of places where we said, “Thank God we don’t live here!” I feel like I ought to say something banal like, “This is a beautiful country filled with wonderful people,” but that would sort of sound dumb. I guess what I want to say is that everyone should take the time to drive it and see it and I hope to get a chance to do more. We completely skipped the northeast and the southeast. We want to spend some time in New England some day and want to do a trip to the south in the winter or spring (NOT the summer). We also missed the middle states of Michigan and that area, since we went up over the lakes into Canada. That was a high point of our trip, though….

Do the driving when you can or just fly a lot. Go see it. And blog, baby, blog!

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