Heat, sand and planes

The day we started our road trip, gave us the feeling, that now the vacation was acually beginning in ernest. The road trip started with a rather long stage from LA to Tucson, including a detour to Yuma. All in all we drove 538 miles this first day on the road. Longer trips were ahead of us but we didn't know that when we left LA. Our original plan had been to drive to Yuma and spend the night there, and then continue to Tucson the next day, but we changed our mind, and decided to drive through, and then spend an extra day in Tucson, to have a bit more time to visit the Pima Air and Space Museum.

Before leaving our hotel in LA I visited the reception desk once more, and finally I got my lost suitcase. It had arrived at 3.40 am, almost 30 hours after us. When we were ready and everything was packed in the car, including the recovered bag, we left the hotel in downtown LA, and headed for I-10. We got through the morning traffic with surprising ease, and after a few miles on I-10, we made a stop at a Walmart to buy the usual: cool box, ice and bottled water, and then we continued east. After around 200 miles of freeway driving, we left the interstate near Indigo and turned south on California Route 86. Except for a short stop for some coffee and a change of drivers, we continued south past the saline lake, The Salton Sea until we reached I-8. Underway we took a few pictures of the lake, but the road doesn't get really close, and as we wanted to get to Tucscon in the afternoon, we didn't drive closer to the lake. On I-8 we passed through the Imperial Sand Dunes, an area that we didn't know existed. Here we made another stop to look at the impressive and almost 300 feet high dunes.

The next stop was in Yuma, where we visited Yuma Territorial Prison, today a museum. We spend around 75 minutes walking around the premises, looking at the exhibitions, looking into the cells and so on, before continuing. The was a little after noon, and the temperature reached what would be the highest on the whole vacation. 113 degrees in the shade, if there had been any shade to be found, so we walked back to the car and the air-conditioned climate. The visit at the former prison was rather interesting, and I learned quite a lot, that I didn't already knew. One of the prisoners, that I previously wasn't familiar with, was ome of the 29 female prisoners, who were incarcerated during the existence of the prison, namely the female stage coach robber Pearl Hart. I got so interested in her, that I have written an article about her on my Danish pages, and maybe it will be translated one day.

After out visit we returned to I-8 and continued east, or rather northeast as I-8 goes in that direction and intersects with I-10 between Phoenix and Tucson. Before we reached I-10 we began to spot the first saguaros. At I-10 we turned south once more, and headed for Tucson. We drove through town on the interstate to the southern outskirts, close to the air and space museum. Here we found a hotel, next to the one, we used in 2010. As we got further and further east, the temeperature dropped a bit, and when we arrived at our hotel at 5.30 pm, it was down to 106! Before we were accommodated, it was 7 pm, and after almost 12 hours out, we didn't bother to look for a place to eat, but just crossed the street to a Denny's. Even if we didn't plan it that way, this was the start of several meals at Denny's.

Along the way from LA we had whiled away the time with a pastime, that we have used every time I have been in USA with Tim. Namely counting trucks from certain trucking companies. This pastime originated way back in 2002, when Dorte and I were on our second road trip. On that trip we met a lot of trucks from J. B. Hunt Transport Services. We joked about it being the same truck, following us all the way from DC to New Orleans and back. J. B. Hunt is still one of the comapnies who's trucks we "count". While in USA with Tim, we have expanded the count, so when we started this years trip, five trucking companies were on our "list". Companies like FedEx and UPS are not on the list, even if Tim has been working for UPS Denmark for the last seven years. The companies on the list was as mentioned J. B. Hunt, Swift, Werner, Schneider and Knight. When we left I-10 in the morning, J. B. Hunt was in the lead, but later Swift took over with a large margen. Later that night in our hotel, we used the intenret to discover that Swift are Phoenix bases which explained the large number of trucks from that company we had observed in southern Arizona. Knight is also Phoenix based but is a much smaller company, which accounts for seeing more Swift trucks. We continued with this pastime for the rest of our vacation and later added another trucking company, as we met with quite a few of their trucks, Salt Lake City based C. R. England.

The most beautiful plane and blooming cacti

The next day we were up early to get to the museum at opening time. Actually we were up far to early, and therefore decided to have breakfast at a restaurantvfor once. Normally breakfast is ony a sandwich at a gas station or something similar. Once more we decided for Denny's. After we had eaten, we admired the saguaros outside the restaurant, and some birds, running around pecking the earth. I later identified them as Gambel's Quails.

When it was time we left and headed for the museum, which was only a 10 minutes drive away, and we got there right when they opened. Before entering though, we had a short chat with some volunteers outside the museum. We the first to get there, and we were almost alone most of the time, which meant that the volunteer docents had a lot of time to talk to us, and we were told a lot about the exhibition as such as well as some of the single planes. Especially interesting were the WW II bombers of types like B-17 Flying Fortress, B-26 Superfortress from Boeing and the Consolidated B-24 Liberator. At all these planes were very knowledgeable docents, who told us about planes and cres.

Right inside the first hangar, is the plane that was the main attraction to us, as both of us find, that it is the most beautiful plane ever built, namely the Lockheed SR71 Blackbird. We spent quite some time looking at this strategic reconnaissance aircraft as it is called. A plane of this type has flewn from LA to London in 3 hours, 47 minutes, compared to the 11 hours 30 minutes for the Airbus 380, that we arrived on! Everybody should have one of those.When we were finally able to tear ourselves away, we looked at the other planes in the hangar, before continuing to the next. We visited all the hangars, but only looked at the planes exhibited outdoors on our way between the hangars.  Our finaly visit was at the space exhibition, where space capsules from Mercury and Apollo space programs are exhibited as well as an X-15, the fastest planer ever built with a top speed of Mach 6.7 - and fuel for 47 seconds of flight! At this time much more people had arrived, and after watching a movie about the X-15, we decided to call it a day at the museum.

We decided to revisit the western part of Saguaro National Park next. When we visited in 2010, we arrived so late, that the visitor center had closed, and we wanted to rectify that. At the park we started our tour at the Visitor Center to buy tickets. As this was the only national park, that we had planned to visit this year, we didn't want to buy an annual pass. The Park Ranger told us, that some of the sauguaros were still blooming, which apparently is unsual in late June. We took a tour along the park loop, and of course saw a lot of saguaros, including some blooming ones, besides a lot of other cacti and other plants. Birds in plenty, including the ever present turkey vultures. When we had seen enough prickly pears, saguaros and so on, we decided to visit a book store. Our faithful gps could tell us where we could find one, and that meant, that we were leaving the park heading north, in the opposite direction that we had arrived from, and the same way, that we had left four years earlier. The road lead through areas with only a few houses, and for some reason, I got to the conclusion, that it must be interesting living in a place, where saguaros and other succulents grow wild in your garden - maybw mostly because I don't live there§. And the negative about it is thata  lot of irrigation is needed in order to grow a green lawn.

We found the bookstore and spend a couple of hours there before heanding back to the hotel. This should prove to be the only bookstore visit on this whole trip. Normally we visit two or three bookstores along the way. Next to the bookstore was a Walmart, that we visited. One of the bags, I had brought from home, annoyed me as it had no wheels, so I had to carry it. So I decied to get another one, and then dump the first one at the hotel, and so I did. We returned to the hotel after quite a long day, so once more we just crossed the road to eat at Denny's, and we decided that the next day, we would eat somewhere else, but that was not going to happen. It had been a "cool" day, at no time had the temperature passed 111. This sounds hot, and it is, but it didn't feel that bad, as the air was extremely dry. Even so we were tired and went to bed early.

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