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When we plan our trips we’ve learned to build in some ‘escape’ options in case we should run into health or car problems that can cause unexpected delays. This includes arriving at your final destination in Cactus Country with a day to spare – just in case. This is when we fit in goals such as botanic gardens and the Desert Botanical Garden proved to be a great was to spend the day. For the first time this trip I managed to fill an 8 GB memory card, with lots of cacti and other desert plants, many in flower – S2558. In 2000, the late Ted Anderson, then recently retired as curator at the DBS, had agreed to be a speaker at the Derek Desborough Memorial Lectures then organised by the Crawley Branch of the British Cactus & Succulent Society. The day after the lecture I took him to the Holly Gate Cactus Nursery, then managed by Terry Hewitt, where we had a great day taking pictures that Ted still needed for The Cactus Family book that he was writing. As I dropped him off at the house he was renting during his stay in the UK, he said that we had to do this again at ‘his place in Phoenix’. Sadly Ted died in 2001, but I felt that he was there as we walked between the plants.

My pictures of Saguaros on earlier visits usually failed to catch them in flower, but this time, a bit later in the year, we had hit the jackpot. I always envied those who had taken pictures of birds feeding on the flowers’ pollen and here they were, doing their thing – I should have some great shots of them. Also of hummingbirds, feeding on Lobivia huascha from north west Argentina, of a ground squirrel that seemed intent on catching our attention by giving us a little performance right along the side of a path in the Gardens and of a Harris’ Antelope Squirrel climbing up Ferocactus to get to the fruits and seeds. Angie did even better by catching them on video.

Walking through the garden in the heat – temperatures went past the 38 degrees C (100 F ) mark and all the water we had brought had gone. By around 15:00 we were reduced to sitting in the shade sipping ice-cold Colas. Time for that other ritual at the end of the trip – the car wash! Compared to other trips, this had been a fairly easy trip for our Ford Escape and it had treated us well, but had picked up some dirt both inside and out, so we treated it to a valet make over, inside and out.

Back in Motel 6 we started to solve the riddle of how to get everything that should come back to the UK inside our luggage. Worn out walking boots and jeans were sacrificed and despite the fact that they were way past their best by date, we still felt a little emotional saying goodbye to these items that had served us well for a number of years. We’re old softies really.

Late tomorrow afternoon we leave for the UK where we arrive on Sunday. By Sunday night I plan to post the final report of the trip.

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