Mesa to Saskatoon – Spring Trip 2016

April 6-8

Just about 8 am; vehicle near loaded; 25 degrees this April morning which is about 80 Fahrenheit and going to 97 today. Decide on a route as we drive away. Wondering if we have sunglasses; did we bring the power ball tickets? I grit my teeth as we pass a cyclist in the bike lane to the left.

Wind is blowing. Dry dust in the air. Gas has gone up; is it the winter visitors leaving? Similar to Canada on a long weekend? We are leaving with dry coughs, runny noses and a superb farewell steak supper with incredible friends.

A road being constructed through the desert; people are golfing; I say good-bye to the Superstition mountains, canal system, palm trees, trailer parks. Traffic is down to a minimum by the time we are through Gold Canyon. A church hymn in my head. A Gloria. Sign says road work will start four days from now.

We pass the Queen Valley turn off where I won $55.00 US in a golf tournament with my 88. We are now into some rugged mountains. Saguaros running out, mesquite, prickly pear and cholla as we move into Tonto National Park and go by the Boyce Thompson Arboretum. Yellow flowering tree shrubs, rocky scenic trails at the base of a mountain, ocotillo and barrel cacti. Constructing a two lane highway to take us through Superior; a mining town founded in 1882. Amazes me the roads and bridges through these extreme mountain ranges. The Queen Creek Tunnel built in 1952 has construction happening. Rocks just like hanging there, looking like stalagmites in a cave but they are all around us as we emerge from the tunnel. We are climbing, scenery changes and now among giant boulders with oak and cedar trees. No more saguaros but agave gone to seed dot the red, rocky landscape.

A few shiny poplars take us by surprise. Then another oak canyon full of coppery fall colours confuse cause it’s spring? Now sandstone coloured boulders the size of a mini car are piled one on top of the other. There is an open pit mine of some kind; and as we move into and through a town, there are orange poppies covering the hillsides and blooming in every crevice of the streets. Purple iris speak to spring being here. A huge white flower, new to me blooming along side purple sow thistle along the highway. Same height.

No rain here for more than 60 days; so sign, “Before you light it; be prepared to fight it,” makes sense. We need to watch for falling rocks as hitting one of those that are sitting on the side of the road could spoil your day. Bob sees the critter scurrying up the side of the ditch; I’m watching the vehicle in front of us to see if it is dodging a rock. Entering San Carlos Apache Reservation. Big rocks have fallen here. Burnt out trailers, outhouses, houses with no windows; and this amazing drive through the Salt River Canyon; views like the Grand Canyon; river at the bottom. Wonder if same Salt River that goes through Mesa and Phoenix?

Runaway truck ramps. I am just about having trouble looking out the vehicle. Hairpin turns, matchbook motor homes below us. A rest stop. We use. We are just about dizzy. Our ears are popping from the altitude. Now entering White Mountain Apache Reservation. Vast beautiful land. Looks like cathedrals over and over and not sure why I’d say that.

My sweetheart stops to take a picture. I can’t look; in case he goes too close to the edge. We go on about 50 miles of this; sometimes it’s cedar dotted or cedar covered landscape; and then we move into another type, and I say, “this could be northern Saskatchewan.” See a “Deer sign, next 10 miles.” A 20 degree, sunny day. Names like Elk Ridge and Sierra Pines. Gas fill up; $21.00 at $1.99 a gallon. Feels like we are on top of the world; a flat mesa or something; Elevation 5600. Saw a sign that tells you how fast you are going and if you’re exceeding the speed limit, a red light flashes as well. Singing love songs to my honey, “Roses are red my love, Violets are blue” and “Love Me Tender”.

We are now entering the trucking corridor. Highway #40 between Los Angeles and Miami. It says we are in New Mexico Navajo Country with signs for Indian jewelry, ruins, rocks, blankets, Fort Courage and pottery. Coal cars by the hundreds travelling west to head for China. That is where I saw people struggling to breathe. Here in America they worry about Ft. McMurray oil. We drive by a casino full of cars at 1:30 pm in the afternoon. Unbelievably beautiful landscape. Carved rocks from water on sandstone through millennia. Then landscape becomes a reddish orange; could be a cave dweller’s paradise. We go on Route 66 for a ways. “Fry Bread, this exit”, sign says.

Three casinos in last 3 hours. All busy. All seem to be in middle of nowhere. Sand dunes outside Albuquerque. 380,000 population. Fill up at $1.79 a gallon. Landscape looks like gravel piles. Another casino. Then we’re going by Santa Fe with about 55,000 population. They have a 5 car light rail system that has the rails in between the two lane highways. There are flat boxed Mexican style adobe houses; light pink sand, rose, brown. Complimenting them are green, cedar type bushes and one lone purple tree.

We are overnighting in Las Vegas, New Mexico. Yes, there is a casino here but we are in the Comfort Inn with hot breakfast included for $75.00. Electric car Tesla Stations here at motel. No one plugged in to them.

Thursday, April 7, 2016: Am mixed up in my directions which happens rarely. West seems East. Didn’t even have a Margarita. Did have Mexican food. Each of us slept about 9 hours. Had an energy zinging sound like when you’re under power lines, inside my head when we went into the motel room and the Native woman was leaving as she just finished cleaning. My head as if at a different frequency; maybe from all the ups and down altitude of the travelling. Lasted about an hour.

Morning: It is one degree so my flip flops seem out of place. The sun is shining and no cloud in the sky as we head north at 7:30 am.

We pass a sign for the town of Watrous; different trees, different farmland; quite fancy brick entrance gates to some farmyards. Mountains in the distance. No snow to be seen except one peak miles away. Lots of antelope grazing the golden range land; dead grass pastureland. A rest stop on each side of the highway. Twenty miles and it’s up to 12 degrees. My feet are warming up but I put socks on too. The further north we go, whiter the mountaintops.

Solar fields on this prairie landscape at home with cattle and antelope grazing together. More rest areas; very deluxe and lit up at night. Getting closer to the Colorado border and into the foothills of a mountain range. No snow. 14 degrees. Elaborate memorial crosses and flowers where someone’s lost their life on this highway.

Raton, New Mexico; population about 7500. One church steeple I could see. McDonalds, gas and motels have higher signs. The highway is called the Santa Fe Trail, the Highway of Legends and the John F. Kennedy Memorial highway. Scenic Views. Feels like a hairpin raceway. Up and down through a mountain pass. Hope no wildlife around the next bend. Seem to be flying.

I missed the Colorado welcome sign. Back on the straight and wide; these highways with overpasses every few miles. Antelope still graze. Delapitated farms, abandoned farms, more highway memorials. We discuss changes we will make this summer having a granddaughter visiting. The roadwork going on here does not slow us down. Stop for gas. A thrift shop next door nets me a new pair of Asics runners for $1.00; no wear on the grip; similar to what I just paid $ 60.00 U.S. less than a month ago.

We see our first Saskatchewan license plates as we drive through Pueblo; where it’s warmer and greener. 17 degrees. Found out about Sam’s club; that it is related to Walmart. Who knew? Colorado Springs has a Garden of the Gods Road; have to look up how it got that name. (was worth looking up). Reading aloud about the Toronto Blue Jays Batista being called out on second base slide thanks to instant replay. Also reading about the Panama Paper leak, Merle Haggard dying and as usual, little mention of Canada in the USA today.

In Denver for the lunch hour where edge of the city has light rail. New construction happening; lots of universities and sports centres. Sports Authority is closing; I’m thinking what dense housing downtown; whoops; not even near downtown. Takes awhile to get through; but fantastic roads. Past the mile high NFL stadium. As we are leaving Denver; see first oil derricks; most not pumping. Farmland. 20 degrees. No snow except on distant mountain tops. Upscale homes and yards. Big Budweiser plant.

The first tall, tall hill in Wyoming has a sleek buffalo looking down on all passing by. Moving into high country. 9 miles from Cheyenne a sign says, if road closed, take exit and return way you came. Today; a good day. It’s open. We are in the badlands or ranch lands of Wyoming. Some farming. Crash closes highway so go about 2 miles off and travel a secondary farm road; see three long coal trains in 10 minutes. My honey says no one is picketing. We are passing a wind farm, a very high two smoke stack power plant, antelope, farming communities, dinosaur museum, deer creek with cattle beside it.

Never get through Wyoming without thinking of the Mathew Sheppard killing. Go by Caspar; a refinery city of some type; landscape reminds us of Alberta foothills. Overnight in Sheridan, Wyoming. A free room due to past stays. Awake to blue skies. Eight am we’re on road and through Montana port of entry. Commercial vehicles need to stop; we don’t. Pass another barrier; arms that would come down to close the road if weather was rough. Snow markers at least 5 feet high along the road to help out snowplows if they need it. No snow to be seen by us except on far off mountain tops.

Some green on the rolling lowlands so there’s been some spring rains. Hardly saw any birds the whole trip; then see 3 ducks. More antelope grazing; a field of fall seeding is up; fresh shoots of green; wheat probably. Seems weird that the further north we’ve come, the greener it is getting. A wild turkey on one side of fence line and cattle on the other. Passing through the Bighorn Mountains, Custer’s Last Stand, Sitting Bull’s home ground. Sad dilapidated homes, falling down buildings, plastic bags on fence lines, rusted out automobiles; miles and miles of broken down fences; three homes to a yard; hard to look at but also see the land; alkaline fields; stinky land like gas fields nearby. Crow Country signs and ones about upcoming powwows.

Looks like spring grass and calves jumping all over. We have a Montana Gas up and could buy camouflage outfits if we want. Billings; beer is $18.99 for 30 cans; to buy or not to buy. Head off on a secondary road towards Saskatchewan. Looks like parkland cottage country. Horses grazing, rural mailboxes; some picture taking moments; 3 cemeteries in a row on both sides of the road. Then we’re into a lot of nothing for miles and miles and my sweetie says “A good place to get in touch with yourself.”

One boat on the Missouri River as we cross. We are listening to the radio of why Trump wants to lessen amount of money US gives to NATO as US population is 22 % of other nation’s countries and they are giving a bigger percentage of the money. Then we have a TRANS chorus; discussion about how the transgender person goes through the process of lifetime transitioning; finding their voice as their singing voice changes; the TRANS chorus seen as a whole new instrument. Sounded pretty good . We have listened to the radio about 10 minutes in last 2 1/2 days.

Thinking of crocuses and pussy willows. Haven’t seen any. Just more antelope, cattle and calves on this grassland pastureland that goes on for as far as we can see. Hardly any vehicles. At the border. Paid our duty. Saved about $70. future dollars. Watched 4 border guards going through bags of things in the back of a van. We are okay to go; and it isn’t long; we are on such bouncing roads that we can not read a map; and someone in the vehicle is swearing about what the potholes are doing to the vehicle.

Driving in Canada, we are looking at fields and farmyards; caragana and maple trees lining these fields, with maybe the odd evergreen by the house, machine shed, granaries, a sprayer in the field. Swift Current has new acreage developments; Rosetown, the gas clerks have their toques on. Wind had been beside us and it’s cold out. White snow geese covering the fields. Three deer beside 11th Street inside Saskatoon.

Next morning start doing dishes forgetting we have a dishwasher; and there seems to be lots of room in the kitchen for both of us!


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