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Archive for the ‘USA – Arizona’ Category

Wednesday, 20 February 2008 – Tucson to Yuma

It’s with mixed feelings that we approach San Diego – we’re now only some 200 miles away and plan to do the last stretch tomorrow via the Anza Borrego Desert State Park.

Today we left Tucson in good time for the longish (197 mile) drive to the Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument. The Motel was one without breakfast facilities, but we were sure that we could pick up breakfast along the way. Our friend, Michael Newberry, had suggested that we take the old Ajo Way (AZ 89) to a village called Why (so we had to play the silly Have / Havant game that Angie & I fall into every time we drive past it). I wanted to take a picture of me and the town sign but forgot. Why? etc….

Only problem that this old road has: no eating facilities along its full length. Never mind, we said, we’ll combine breakfast with lunch at the Park. Wrong! No eating facilities at the Park!

Never mind, we did the 21 mile Ajo loop, took some terrific pictures of cacti – the light has been very kind to us of late. The Echinocerei (E. engelmannii and E. nicholii) were in bud and Mam. grahamii in flower, so if the kind weather continues, things should be great for March.

The Desert Golden Poppy (Eschscholzia glyptosperma) – or it could be the Mexican Golden Poppy (E. californica ssp. mexicana) were in full flower, providing some shots to complement my Chilean Desert in Flower pictures – the spring flowers have been a real treat after heavier than usual rains up to 3 days before we arrived on 1 Feb.

The loop should only have taken an hour, but with all the photo stops took 3, so that we had another long drive, reaching Yuma at 5:30 as the sun was getting low. We had still not had breakfast or lunch – just a few oatmeal biscuits. Must do better.

Ian & Cliff: I suggest we keep our options open for a US leg to the March Baja trip. Do bring some maps of California and Arizona so that we can plan as we get back towards the border and decide what it is you want to see and haven’t seen already. By the time you arrive, I should also have some experience of the nurseries in California.

The list of cactus species seen this trip is looking quite impressive and is still being worked on.

Two phrases between Alain and I seem to dominate this trip. In Mexico, after one of us tried our best in Spanish, it was ‘I didn’t know you were fluent!’ ‘Oh, I’m fluent alright, but not in Spanish!’

The other is ‘Where are the car keys?’ This because although we have two keys – meant as one for each of us – they are both on a thick metal wire that so far we have not been able to break apart. So who ever misplaces his key does so for ALL the keys.

Today, as we were very tired after our long drive without food, when we eventually left the diner after the only meal of the day, and found the keys, we cursed the remote opening function – only to find that we were trying to get into the wrong car – ours was parked around the corner!Never mind.

Back at the Motel, Alain went to get some bottles of water for tomorrow and left the shop accidentally by the emergency fire exit, setting off all the alarms. ‘Never mind’ the lady said ‘the full eclipse of the moon will soon be over.’ There was indeed an impressive eclipse in progress, which we blame for anything that happens for the rest of the day.

Perhaps we should call this the ‘Never Mind’ Tour.

Must look at today’s 210 pictures (each). Some more impressive clouds, Chris!

Tuesday, 19 February 2008 – Tucson, AZ

Since 2002, Alain and I have been members of an internet cactus forum called Cactus_Study. Its moderator at the time was Michael Newberry from Tucson. However, last Christmas he was due to move to Flagstaff where his wife had found a great job. Yesterday we sent him an email intended to make him jealous that we were playing in his old back yard. To our surprise, we immediately received an email back from him, saying that he was still in Tucson and suggesting we’d meet up. So the coffee bar at the Arizona Sonora Desert Museum was selected for a meeting. It was great to actually meet someone with whom we have had email correspondence (more receiving than sending in my case) for such a long time. Because of the ‘no notice’ nature of our visit, he could only stay for a few hours but invited us over to his place out in the desert where we arrived shortly after 5 and stayed until 11p.m. I had volunteered to be the non drinking driver. We had a great evening of chat, taking pictures of cacti in his garden and collection and looking at cactus pictures.

It also confirmed that a red spined population of F. cylandraceus that we had found on our Baja travels deserves further investigation as it may be something that has not been reported before. It was a fairly short stop of a group of some 30 plants and it would be good to establish the extent of this population and how it interacts with the traditional yellow spined form of the species.

After Michael had left we spent the rest of the day walking around the Desert Museum, took lots of pictures, especially as here there were labelled specimens, so that we could have a better chance of IDing the plants we had seen in nature earlier on in the trip. The labelling was excellent with simple distribution maps and a picture of the plant in flower. Also took pictures of a wide range of exotic looking birds and other animals from the desert in a kind of zoo section. Anton & Chris will no doubt remember the wolves (now only 1 left) and mountain lions that we saw in 1997.

All in all, it was probably the farthest we had walked since 1 Feb, from 10 in the morning until 4 in the afternoon, with a short break for lunch.

Tomorrow we intend to take the back road to the Organ Pipe (Cactus) National Monument. It seems that the Organ Pipe Cactus (Stenocereus thurberi) has a variety litoralis, which stays much smaller and prevails in Baja. We actually saw both var. thurberi and var. litoralis, but can’t remember where they changed and if it was gradually or sudden. Something to look out for in March.

We will probably spend tomorrow night again in Yuma, but will look for a motel with wifii. Then the next day we will drive to San Diego.

Monday, 18 February 2008 – Yuma to Tucson

We are still on yesterday’s revised plan. We made excellent progress on I-10 to Tucson, possibly because there was little opportunity to get off the road, until we got to one of the few ‘Resting Area – No Facilities’ lay by and fortunately found the barbed wire down. And so, Alain was able to take pictures of his first American cacti.

In fact, our progress was so good that we arrived in Tucson around noon, when I finally persuaded Alain to have a Burger King meal. It was GIGANTIC with a 1 litre bucket of Cola and free refills. When I took a look at the map, I realised we were actually opposite the Motel where Anton
& Chris spent an afternoon eating ice creams and watching TV while I went to visit Miles Anderson at Miles 2 Go. With memories of our 1997 trip rushing back, I persuaded Alain to take a look at Boothill Cemetery, at Tombstone, some 50 miles farther  along.

I could see that Alain was not impressed – they had spread loads of grit along the paths, covering many off the cacti that I found there in ’97 – and there weren’t that many then! Rather than bore him with more non-cactus trivia in Tombstone, we headed back to Tucson for the third and final
cactus stop off the day.

In 1997 I remember driving from Tombstone to Tucson on I-10 and suddenly seeing my first Saguaro. We took the next exit, at Vail and drove along Colossal Cave Road until the crossing with Old Spanish Trail and then drove through the Desert Museum East Section. As we drove through Vail, I suddenly remembered that we stopped at a sign that warned us not to drive into a dip when the road was flooded. I remember how unlikely this advice seemed at the time and took a picture of it. Sure enough, the sign was there and we stopped again so I now have digital images of the same plants that previously I took on slides. But in those days it was 36 pictures (1 roll of film) per day – today I took a total of  198 pictures!

We’re staying in a Lazy * Motel off I-10 in Tucson and have just returned from the Silver Sadle Steak House next door where the 10 oz tenderloin
steak (medium rare) and the chips were done to perfection. They even served my favourite Mexican beer and I suspect that our waitress was born  in Mexico and appreciated our positive comments about her country. With my first chapter of Mexico closed for now, I have to say that the image I have now is far more positive than I had dared to hope before leaving England. Apart from the military check points it really is a very friendly and relaxed country. Just to remind us, there was a border patrol check point set up on I8, some 100 km out of Yuma – we made the officer laugh by nervously starting our conversation in Spanish! Alain & I keep telling each other that we are fluent, but in ‘bullshit’, and in Dutch but certainly not Spanish. And yet, we have managed very well and my teacher at Salisbury College in England would have been proud of the way that I declined the offer of tortillas and asked for toasted bread instead.

Tomorrow we plan to spend the day at the Desert Museum here, where all the plants that we saw today will be present, but this time should have  labels.