Monday, February 3, 2014

Rocks, barrels and teddy bears

Green Valley, AZ – This small community, just south of Tucson, is a mecca for snowbirds, judging by all the different licence plates we observed in the shopping mall parking lot this afternoon.  Our RV park is a resort for long-term visitors who settle right in, building stairs, laying patios, and planting flowers in pots around their RVs or park models.  Even though we are just passing through, we have a nice concrete pad next to our site for our patio furniture.

Putting out lawn chairs wasn’t top of mind today, however. It was sunny when we pulled in, but cool in the shade, and now there is the patter of raindrops on the roof as gusts of wind rock us in our home on wheels.  We are beginning to wonder if we haven’t been unleashing a swath of cold weather at every spot we visit!

Our trip from Lordsburg today took us through a great variety of southwestern terrain.  In the final miles of New Mexico the land was flat for miles, with distant purple mountain ranges dividing the desert from the sky. The vegetation was mostly low, spiky shrubs and yellow grass.

Arizona’s star flag greeted us at the state line, and not long after we passed it, new vegetation came into view.  This is the only state where the saguaro cactus grows – those are the ones that you see in cartoons with a sombrero on top and curved arms sticking out on either side – and sure enough, there they were just a few miles in to the state!  We also spotted barrel cacti, shaped like, well, like a small barrel – and some were starting to produce yellow flowers on top.  The cholla plant, sometimes called a teddy bear plant, stands up to three feet tall with lots of chubby, fuzzy branches.

Just before we got to Willcox we came through a stretch of highway that I remembered well from our last time through.  Enormous rocks surge up from the flat ground, looking like huge rounded building blocks that a giant toddler would have piled up. The mountains in this area are called the Dragoons.  For about five miles there are all kinds of fantastic formations, and then they’re behind you.  I’m sure a geologist would have a great explanation for this, but I don’t!

Interstate 10 brings travelers to Tucson, but since we are aiming to enter California via Yuma at Arizona’s western state line, we turned off the interstate and took a couple of minor highways to Green Valley.  It gave us a closer look at the desert landscape, since we were on a two-lane road.  I had hoped to see a javelina or an antelope or even a rattlesnake, but we didn’t even come across the cattle we were warned about on yellow diamond-shaped signs by the road.  We had to cross several cattle gates – rows of pipes on the roadbed that keeps animals into defined areas – but we didn’t see any wildlife.

Today for the first time we’ve had to pay for our internet service.  Other connections have been flaky or weak, but at least we got them for free.  It makes us appreciate a strong signal when we get it.

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