Number Forty One: Arizona

We spent much time traveling more or less east to west twice, west to east twice, and north to south once. No one ever said we planned this carefully. On the north are Flagstaff, the Petrified Forest, and the Grand Canyon; on the south, Tucson and Las Cruces across the river from Mexico and El Paso; in between are Phoenix and Scottsdale. There are also periodic Border Control Stations on I-10 that stop everyone. One of the stations we passed through was in the national news at the time and has become infamous.

The only agent who actually wanted to talk to us wanted to talk about the bicycle and how it did in crosswinds.

I-10 also has many signs advising us not to drive through floods and how to behave in dust storms. We didn’t encounter either.

What can I say about the Grand Canyon: es grande; everyone should see it.

There are bike trails on the south rim that aren’t too close to the edge but they don’t let you bike up and down. You have to do that by foot or mule; we didn’t do either. While the Colorado River is responsible for the depth of the Canyon, the river allegedly has never been wider than it is now, which is barely visible from the rim. (Try to find it in the photos.) The width of the canyon is due to erosion from rain, wind, and ice causing rock slides. (Some of the width must also have come from meanders when rockslides dammed the channel, but the plaque I read didn’t mention those and maybe that’s a piece of the same thing.)

The park was home to a fair amount of wildlife; the elk in particular were indifferent to the usual traffic right-of-way rules.

The Petrified Forest was petrified. The progress requires exactly the right conditions so the wood is preserved until it is gradually replaced by minerals, which preserves the structure and makes them a type of fossil. The process preserves the grain and the rings but the colors are from the specific minerals that happen to be deposited.

According to the Ranger, the most FAQ is, “Who sawed them up and why?” The answer is no one; the breaks are natural. They just happen to be clean breaks perpendicular to the length. Sometimes the ends get polished to enhance their tourist value.

The area was obviously important to several cultures, which left some records of their passing. The petroglyphs are many centuries old; the photograph was shot through a telescope and is also slightly enhanced. The Studebaker is several decades old. It got there on Route 66, which doesn’t explain why it’s still there. It won’t last very many centuries.

Flagstaff is a nice resort town. While we were there in early December, there was about six inches of snow. When we left Minneapolis on Memorial Day, I didn’t think to pack a snow brush.

Most of our biking was in or near Phoenix but we had to visit twice, once east to west and once west to east, to find weather to our liking. In between we took a side trip to San Diego. We also got in a very pleasant day exploring the Desert Botanical Garden with Joe Miyasaka Ryan and Jeanne Ryan Miyasaka, which is one of their favorite haunts when they aren’t in some other corner of the World or Joe isn’t looking for meteorites.

One of the above photos features blown glass. Phoenix, Scottsdale, and Tucson all had significant art and history museums that could be the subjects of longer slide shows.

Tucson is cowboy country; we saw a lot of that country and culture. If one can use cowboy and culture in the same sentence. I grew up with fantasies about cowboys, based on Tex Ritter and Ronald Reagan movies that ran on Saturday morning television. Now it seems they were a bunch of lonely guys riding in the dust behind a bunch of hungry, thirsty cows. The natives by contrast spent their time hunting, fishing, and camping with their families. Until the Europeans decided they wanted all the land for their hungry cows.

(Well, the natives spent a fair amount of time fighting with each other over hunting rights.)

We also biked the Los Cruces River Trail. It was good we did this in December; there wasn’t a lot of shade. I don’t know what the sculpture is trying to tell us trail users past or future.

The Phoenix Metropolitan Area is commonly referred to as “The Valley”, aka, The Valley of the Sun or the Salt River Valley. I don’t remember seeing the Salt River but maybe it had more salt than river and I didn’t recognize it. We did see the sun. Being in a valley implies a couple things for a metropolitan area: the air quality frequently isn’t good and you have to go up hill to get anywhere. Sometimes very big hills.

When heading east away from the setting sun, we encountered our worst driving weather of the entire trip. First, it rained; then the rain changed to fog and back to rain, which changed to sleet, which changed to snow. We were heading for West Texas; it was a long way, took a long time, and didn’t end well.

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