Getting Down Here.
In classic road trip form, our trip down here was a story of the best of times and the worst of times.
Worst of Times Two things stand out in the worst-of-times story category. The first was my getting mugged by five guys in the Flying J parking lot in East St. Louis. My thanks to the lady trucker who came out and yelled at them, giving me the diversion I needed to break away. Even though it darkened the mood a bit, I felt lucky indeed not to have gotten “stomped and stabbed.”
The second story was the wind. In the Ozarks, parts of OK and TX, and especially in NM, it was a steady 35 – 45 mph with gusts to 60 mph. Driving all day in that kind of wind is tiring and makes for longer days and lower gas mileage. In MO, the gusts were so bad that they flipped a Ranger pickup truck like a pancake. The driver and passenger survived, but the truck looked like Godzilla had stepped on it. Parts of I-40 were closed because the dust storm reduced visibility to 10 yards.
In Gallup, NM, one gust was so strong that it ripped off our roof vent cover. We had to leave the van parked into the wind until we fixed it so that a gust would not rip out the roof attachment as well. Then we cobbled together items from Gallup’s Walmart and Home Depot (not the best-equipped for these kinds of emergency repairs). Happily the “jury-rig” held all the way to Phoenix.
Best of Times We stayed with my brother Norman and his wife Marilyn, who spoiled us for two days with royalty treatment (as usual). After that, we headed for Belleville, IL, and the National Shrine of Our Lady of the Snows, who allowed us to park overnight on their beautiful grounds. We attended the Holy Thursday Mass there.
Two days later we were in Hereford, TX (30 miles south of Amarillo), where Pat worked at an outreach mission when she was 18. We attended Easter Mass in town, and Pat met an angel named Gloria Garcia, who knew the mission and personnel well. They delighted in sharing memories of the time, and Gloria gave Pat some historical info on the mission. After leaving Hereford, we found a town called “Vega,” on I-40 west of Amarillo. Naturally we had to stop and take a picture (and sample the Dairy Queen). The trip from Gallup to Phoenix was pleasant, and the scenery was lovely.
While in this category, it would not be fitting to leave out our trusted travel host, Walmart. They allow free overnight parking, and most of them have 24 hour security to boot. On several nights they were indeed our kindly “port in the storm.”
“Here” is Cave Creek, AZ, and specifically the Cave Creek Regional Recreation Area campground. We decided to stay here to give ourselves a day of desert time, in order to recover from eight days of driving, before stepping into the whirlwind of the wedding and family reunion.
Simply put, this is one of the all-time best places we’ve ever docked the RV. It’s quiet and beautiful. On arrival we were greeted by a big lizard, a parade of partridges, and some curious white-tailed jack rabbits. Pat found what I believe are bobcat tracks, but we didn’t have time to follow them to test that conclusion.
Many of the desert plants are in bloom (see fotos), and tomorrow a naturalist will lead a 3 ½ mile plant walk – “medicinal plants of the desert.” Just about sundown, the partridges gave us an evening serenade to go with the beautiful sunset. We are hoping to drift off to sleep to a coyote serenade. Does it get any better?
1. Barrel cactus in bloom at campsite.
2. East edge of camp.
3. Where are the clouds?
4. West side of camp. Good night