"Around Arizona in Four Days"
Day Four - Thursday - Tuscon to Home, via many things...
Morning: I'm feeling better, in spite of the block 'O' concrete mattress (with a spring sticking through to boot!) and we're up and about, ready to begin our last day's touristing.
First stop is the whole reason I initially chose Tucson
as a destination: The Old Pueblo Trolley Company.
They restore and run a bunch of trolleys in the "old town" area of Tucson...
...or do on weekends - they proved to closed weekdays. Poo!
Well, that was okay. Dee Dee and I had spent some of the previous night (as we ate our Taco Bell) pouring over the tourist advert flyers that the motel did
have, and had come up with a couple of sights we wanted to see in the area.
(Actually, we came up with a bunch more than we could have seen in just one day - especially one day with a four-hundred and fifty mile drive at the end of it - but maybe next time)
First stop was Colossal Caves
, about twenty miles east of Tucson. We got there about eleven and toured the giftshop while waiting for the next cave
tour to begin.
is more of a real cave than last year's "Grand Canyon Caverns." In spite of being another dry cave (well, due to all the rain this year, there was some
water leaking in - the first they've had in decades), this one has the classic stalactites and stalagmites and flow stone and all the features one normally expects in a cave. It's also much bigger than Grand Canyon Caverns (bigger, in fact, than G.C.C. claims
to be - which is far larger than it actually is). The tour took a little less than an hour, and was well worth the seven bucks.
Back on the road, back halfway to Tucson, and we're at the "Saguaro National Park, East."
The park was filled with saguaro cactus' (the cactus everyone thinks of when they think "cactus"), of course, but also yet more flowers from the rain. We were running a little behind, so we didn't do the loop drive through the park (just the walking tour around the Visitor's Center), but if you've seen one
saguaro cactus, you've seen most of them - and we saw many more than one...
Back to Tucson proper, back on the 10, and soon we're pulling off to see "Rooster Cogburn's Ostrich Ranch."
We pull up to the tent set out in front of the ranch's fence and all you could see against the fence was ostriches...hundreds and hundreds of ostriches!
For $1.50, you could buy a small bucket of corn to hand-feed the ostriches. Walking up to the fence, they all come up to you because they know
you've got the food. They have got to be the silliest looking things I've seen in a long time. They just give this stare that says "Gosh, I am puzzled by the world" - while trying to get the corn you have, of course.
When you feed them, they bite the occasional finger, but not hard, and quickly let it go when they realized its non-corn-ness. As we walked up and down the fence, so too did our own personal crowd of ostriches (many, though, stayed off out in the field - I surmise they were full...). We
considered buying an egg to take home (only $15 - $10 if you wanted an empty) - it makes a vast omelet - but I decided against it, worried about the problems of keeping a four or five pound egg fresh while crossing the desert.
Another twenty odd miles north, and we're at Casa Grande Ruins National Monument
, an ancient Hohokam complex, with the main building - the odd Casa Grande - now preserved beneath a large gazebo like affair.
(It's "odd" because the Hohokam built nothing else like it. It seems to, at least partially, have some astronomical significance).
I've seen pictures of this place for years and all of the shots I've seen give the impression that there's just this one large, lone building, the Casa Grande, sitting out far away from where you are. In fact, the Casa Grande is just one part (admittedly, the biggest and best preserved) of a complex which itself is just one of several in the area. And you can walk through this complex and right up to the Casa Grande itself (though not inside). The whole thing is fascinating.
(One interesting tidbit: Most of the modern canals from the Gila River follow the old Hohokam canals from five centuries ago. Hydraulics is a harsh mistress...)
Back on the road, and we've decided to make another deviation from the original plan, coming back along the 8 rather than the 10. Interstate 8 runs just
north of the Mexican border from where we were, to San Diego. Miles and miles of empty, broken up by the occasional military base or alfalfa field. We have a brief dinner at a handy rest stop, then it's off - due west - for home. The sun sets below the horizon in front of us, and the endless empty miles grow dark.
We hit Yuma
at 9 p.m. and cross over the border back into California and descend into the Imperial Valley...and descend some more. Soon, we're below sea-level as we skirt the southern edge of the Salton Sea. The interstate begins to climb again and it's up & over & down to San Diego (going from below 0 to 4,200 to 0 feet in about fifty miles) - where we promptly hit a traffic jam (construction caused - it's about midnight by now).
Hang a right at the coast, and up the 5 we go, heading for home, by now very tired. Just before 2 a.m., we pull into the driveway and make a beeline for the oh-so-not-
And another Road Trip is ended...
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All Non-Linked Pictures Copyright 1998 - David William Johnson