Sunday, March 12, 2017

The call - the irrepressible lure - of the open road

A few weeks ago I visited a friend who's a ranger at a canyon north of Tucson. I hadn't seen her in a while and was looking very much forward to our day together. I knew I'd enjoy the drive, but what I didn't expect were the feelings that rushed over and through me on the way up.

It was an exquisite day. Coolish, clouds on the horizon, and that blue, blue Arizona sky. As I exited the development of Tucson and saw the sky open before me, all I wanted to do was keep driving. It's been a long time since HH and I were on the road. We've traveled to many fine places since we settled here, but there's nothing like rolling the tires on the car over miles and miles. I have really missed it.

Last spring I sold my truck and trailer. The trailer was paid for but the truck cost an arm and a leg and at best got 17 miles to the gallon. There wasn't much point in keeping the trailer if the truck was gone, so both of them went. My new car, almost a year old now, sits at 36.8 mpg, which makes me feel less guilty every time I go somewhere. But, still... I often wish I still had that ability to back the truck onto the trailer hitch and take off. Everything's a trade off, isn't it?

This wasn't the road I was actually driving. I turned off the highway onto this road to take this picture.

And this is the road my friend lives on, several miles off Highway 77, the road that goes from Tucson through the Salt River Canyon, which I've written about before.

Saguaros, the iconic cacti of the Sonoran desert, always let me know I'm in home country. They grow only up to 4000 feet elevation, so when I made a few trips between Tucson and northern Arizona, they'd disappear as I drove to Petrified Forest, which is at 5400 feet, and then let me know I was closing in on Tucson again when they began to reappear on hillsides.

My friend and I went on a short hike to one of her favorite spots. This is the wash we headed through, entranced with the shadow play on the mountains. We spotted critter tracks and I kept hoping for a glimpse of bighorn sheep on the slopes near to us, but I was disappointed.

The hills rose around us.

I've been fascinated with Arizona clouds since Petrified Forest. Maybe I never looked at the sky the way I did my first summer there, but they reeled me in and I'm still on the hook.

This is my favorite picture of the day. The sunlight on the hill of saguaros, small and almost fragile-looking before the monolithic hulk of the mountains, the improbably blue sky, the wide open beckoning of space and possibilities, made me almost weep with the beauty before me. I have missed this. I love my home and community, but I miss this beyond my imagining.

The first of the wildflowers, physaria purpurea, was blooming.

A forest of cacti. I know all trees are unique, but they usually look so much alike they might as well be identical. Saguaros are so distinctly unique, however, that you would never mistake one for another.

Another of the earliest wildflowers here, commonly called a fairy duster.

The ranger lady at one of her favorite spots. The rocks make a natural seat from which to ponder your good luck and the glory before you.

The Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum says this about saguaros' growth: "[They] are very slow growing cactus. A 10 year old plant might only be 1.5 inches tall. Saguaro can grow to be between 40-60 feet tall (12-18m). When rain is plentiful and the saguaro is fully hydrated it can weigh between 3200-4800 pounds."

I had my time on the rock and then we had to leave this peaceful place. The ranger lady had work to do and I needed to get back on the road, back to home.

The fire that was lit with this day trip will be tamped down a bit when HH and I hit the road again this week. I'm finally going to a language school so we're headed to Oaxaca. It'll be our first driving foray into Mexico. We have the maps. We have the books. We have the insurance. We have the wanderlust. So off we go.

Thought of the day:

wanderlust consumed her;
foreign hearts
and exotic minds
compelled her.
she had a gypsy soul
and a vibrant hope
for the unknown.
~ d. marie