U.S. Eleven State Trip – Spring 2013

1st DAY

April 1, 2013: The big day is here. We are moving on. Said our good-byes. Good-bye to Mesa friends; asking neighbors re trash and blue container. Did our bank conference call. Make sure $ in place for purchasing our new home.

“Kind of good to be going,” says Bob, “will be even more fun to come back.”

Not even out of town and guy’s tire blows out in front of us. He makes it to the side. Took Arizona Ave. South; heading for Casa Grande and Tuscon. Leaving 26 degree weather at 10 am. Wonder if this is the last saguaros we’ll see; the sentinels of the desert. Spring flowers are yellow shrubs and funny green. Drive by the old plane graveyard. Tuscon has the landscaped overpasses but have added colors like turquoise, blues, purples and green decorations.

Out in the Sonoran desert. Cholla and Barrel Cacti. Driving on the Pearl Harbor Memorial Highway. Entering Cochise County. Foot long yellow desert grasses. Then into sandstone; cream colored mountains of it, similar to the limestone layered cliffs in Australia but this is desert; no ocean to be seen. Crumbly looking. Then entering Texas Canyon; where big boulders; whole mountains of them; look like could fall down anytime and probably have; as rock boulders on both sides of highway like the Frank Slide.

Now we have a grey landscape with aquave and ocotilla cacti blooms sticking up. Pecan, walnuts and wine groves where irrigation in place. They’re all trimmed and just starting to bud. Saw a little whirlwind of twisting sand and five minutes later could not see. The semi beside us is in total sand out; can’t call it a white out. Sign: like railway lights that say “ Limited visibility when flashing”. They’re not. Next one: “Welcome to New Mexico: The Land of Enchantment.”

Miles of nothing desert then as if blue like a blue lake left side of highway. Bob and I can not tell if this is a mirage. Maybe the mountain in the distance has a blue tinge that gives the sand a blue lake look. WEIRD. It is a mirage. No lake on the map. Desert. Dust. Dirt. Reddish pink color. Grey scrub brush. Dust devils every so often.

“Quite the country,” says Bob, “wonder why the U.S. Fought the Mexicans to get it?”

Crossing the continental divide. Hot and dry like Australia. Little adobe rest areas with a picnic table to have your lunch. Very well done. We’re on the Safety Corridor but don’t know what that means. Yesterday, Bob and I golfed our last game; friends had us for a good-bye dinner; and we gave all our remaining food away to our summer caretaker.

Brown Mountains in the distance. Looks like mud. Sign saying, “Ranchland for Sale. Potential owner financing available.” I say to Bob, “What would you do with it? Tumbleweed heaven.”

Every so often something breaks the 50 mile monotony of this grey brown sandy desert. Like a white bowling pin look a like that Bob says might be a missile or another something that I say looks like a northern teepee. Bob says “Maybe it’s someone’s winter home.”

We saw a cattle shed type something but no cattle. Lots of signs for Fireworks, handcrafted silver jewellry and pottery but no people. The gun ranges have lots of vehicles by them. State and federal prison signs say, “Do not pick up hitchhikers.” We end up in miles and miles of new road construction going about 10 mph in a long, long line of cars. We listen to a talk show where the contest was, “what kind of beer would you buy Jesus? ”

Then on a 6 lane (3 each way) safety corridor from La Cruz to a place called Mesquite. Went through 6 – 10 miles of 1000’s – maybe 100,000’s of cattle in feedlot after feedlot right by the highway. 29 degrees. A house, a feedlot, a house, a feedlot. Worker’s houses. Feedlot. GAG CITY. Pretty rank. Cows are lined up one after another as far as I can see.

Into Texas; lots of activity; lots of industry. Stop in El Paso. Find a hotel within walking distance of a Mexican restaurant. Not! We move on to a Travel Lodge. $55. for the nite. First, hot, searing, mouth burning, salsa. Rest of meal A-1.


2nd DAY

7 am our time, leave in the 8am their time, rush hour traffic. Fancy houses on the left; Mexico houses on right. Colorful shanties might be the word. Rail yards for miles. Overpasses over overpasses. SIGN we will see over and over: “You Talk, You Text, You Crash.” El Paso is Big, Big, Big. Can’t figure out how they ever man the border. It goes on for miles and miles; 40 min. for us to drive through. Find out from Map that El Paso has 530,000 population and across the shared border and highway, is Juraz, Mexico that has 1,313,000 people.

We are driving along the Rio Grande. There is a mountain range along the US/Mexico border. Now we are splitting off from the border and heading east across Texas. Speed limit 80 mph which is 140 km/hr. It’s all mountains and desert. I am disappointed. Thought it would be spring like about May in Saskatchewan as it is so hot. Get used to grey/brown; hint of light green every so often. Into the mountains, see a white snow drop type flower.

Just went through a US inspection station. No questions except asked if we were both Canadians. All of Texas has been fenced so far, as in for cattle but haven’t seen any. There are big water troughs like the bottom of a round granary. Saw one hawk in 2 days. This is desolate. If wouldn’t have driven it; wouldn’t have known it.

Very nice rest areas. I ask Bob, “what is the speed limit?” as we pass a patrol car.

“I assume it’s 80,” says Bob. It was. We do about 65-70.

2 hawks and some purple flowers now as we move into higher, different landscape. Only 12 degrees. Cuts have been made through sandstone hills to have a road. 3 rest stops with windmills on each side of road. Does not make sense. They’re not moving. Flat, grey land. Dull sky. Funny sky and we are wondering if storm somewhere. 1st oil well I see ; then tanks; then drilling platforms. Highway workers with blue and yellow lights flashing. Don’t need to slow down for them. We do a bit.

Landscape changing; could be in Southern Saskatchewan. Flat land, crops, irrigation. Research station; 100’s of oil wells pumping; like 100’s every few miles. Whole fields of oil wells. By Pecos. Flames burning off excess gas. Go past West Texas State School and then the Rattlesnake Bomber Base. Through the Monahan Sand Hills like we’re out by Dakota Dunes. Wind gusts moving Fed Ex Semi around. Temperature drops to 9 degrees. Skyline I’d call dreary. Arizona desert prettier than this.

Now into cotton fields. Me dressed in my shorts/bare legs when we stop for gas and it’s 6 degrees. Through Abilene and it rains next 10 miles.

Getting more springier; maybe rain took the dust off. We must have now left the desert. Lush. See our first golf course. Spring trees with the fresh green look. Flowers in the ditches. Like big dense bushes. Still cactus underneath. More character after days of nothing. Every few miles have gate with ranch name. More water around. 3 hawks at once. Bob said, “would not do this again.” 2 days; we’re halfway through Texas it seems.”

It’s now different. Texas longhorns. A truck blew it’s motor opposite side of highway; a smokeout instead of a whiteout. More than a little up scale coming into Fort Worth; population 500,000. We are in rush hour. The Dance of the Cars moving in and out of the 4-5 lanes as we go in and through Dallas’ 1.3 million people. Stay at a Best Western . It’s 21 degrees. Walk for fine dining Italian.


3rd DAY

Wake up to Texas in the Rain but more lushness. Bob said like Houston or San Antonia. I’d say like Saskatchewan in June but different trees. See a statuatory by the highway with every statue being about 12-20 feet high but notice many things are big in Texas.

At breakfast this morning; there was a big pot of white gravy to pour over your sausage and eggs if you wanted. A mid-age black woman was asking if everything was okay, honey? And told me. “You have a blessed day now, honey!”

A flat land now, much more moisture, lots of cedar trees, lush grass meadows, thick, thick bush. Ranch signs; houses must be way back from the highway; don’t know how you’d find your cattle in the bush. Only 6 degrees and rain but first lilacs in bloom. Some of the ranch homes we do see are mansions. Bob says, “Now that’s money!” Pink cherry or apple trees blooming in the yards.

Now we are in like swampy lands and still another hour of Texas cattle country. Muddy brown rivers and swamps and standing water all over; but like driving in forest . Leaving Texas at Texarkana. Reminding me of when you go on vacation in Saskatchewan and there are pine trees and other trees mixed in with it on both sides of the highway. They have lots of signs of new construction and signs about hiring workers. 7 degrees.

We are on four corners of Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas and Louisiana. Grass is just thick and lush. Forests of scotch pine, cedar, and some kind of elder and not poplar but big trees like that; beautiful spring green.

We choose to head for Little Rock, Arkansas. We are beside a Red River that is full to the top of its’ banks. Migrant Farm Labor Centre Sign. Cattle with little, little calves. Now in a scotch pine forest with a yellow vine growing up the trees like choking them. Red birds and purple birds.

Saw one semi nearly touch another semi – in front of us. Lots of huge, pentecostal, baptist churches. Little Rock had it’s share of beautiful greens and yuck, brown swamp. 8 degrees. Headquarters of L’Oreal and Maybelline as well as Remington Sporting Amunition. Lots of Cars at that factory. My goal has been to take a picture of the beautiful purple tree that is about every 1/4 mile . Just saw pure, red bird right after I said to Bob, “funny we’re not seeing birds migrating through from South America.”

Now open fields that are just waterlogged, as in standing water everywhere. Groups of 3-5 granaries standing every mile. It’s a 100 miles to Memphis from here. It is disgusting how some people are living here. The have’s and the have nots. And it is next to the Big 300 door storage barns and stores like Surplus Outlets, Big Lots, $ Stores. Like 3 fancy Brick Houses in a mile and 30 mobiles homes in a line behind them. Still don’t know what they grow in the fields. Winter wheat in some maybe. We are driving about 100 miles along the Mississippi River. Now we have fields of purple. Maybe it’s lavender.

Sign: Country Fried Steak Plate $4.99. Fields north of Memphis drier. Cotton growing. Farmers plowing. We are now in Missouri which I wasn’t aware we’d be doing and I’m the one reading the map. Farming is the happening thing. Red dirt.

Just went over a bayou. Turned on to Interstate 51. Kentucky is across the river. We head over the Mississippi and into Illinois; home to Lincoln. 120 mph; and getting hilly. SIGN: “Hit a Worker: $10,000 fine. 14 years jail time.” Just noticed most vehicles including semi’s do not have lights on!

Farmland and fair amount of trees. Soils been worked up. Oil pumps and dairy farms. We’ve now read more than half of Alice Walker’s book about some of the blacks’ experience living in the southern states, pre-seventies.

BRAIN FREEZE: Marguerita’s at a neat restaurant after booking into a Relax Inn. Real Estate Agent phones that our house is listed and had a positive showing.


4th DAY

Good morning Illinois! 1 degree. Thank goodness no wind. Hog Barn stink from manure spread on the fields. Have songs in my head: “Been thru the west Texas town of El Paso, Amarilla by Morning; Abilene, Abilene Prettiest town that I’ve ever seen.”

At 7 a.m., pass a rest area full of sleeping semi’s. No two farmhouses the same. Some bush being cleared for fields. Bob said, “would have thought that would have happened 100 yrs ago.”

Saw a wild turkey up close. Black with a red beak. Farmhouses new and old have veranda’s with a couple of chairs that look at the cornfields. 6 degrees. Barren yet with no leaves on trees. The whole trip was worth the next 3 hours sitting on the deck at my niece’s house and watching her kids play. Seeing the Indiana state bird, “the red cardinal” after a superb, lasagna lunch.

A little later, experienced Chicago’s toll booths. $1.50 for one, $1.90 another and $2.80 the last one. Into Wisconsin and then got to see the Milwaukee Brewer’s ball park. Didn’t know we were going through Milwaukee and yes, I am still reading the map. Saw first snowbank; but it was 15 degrees; which wasn’t making sense. Also saw the first big, wildlife road kill. A deer. We’ve driven 3500 miles and didn’t see any before this. Cascade Ski Resort has lots of snow and as I say, “Oh no, look at the snow,” see ice on the water. But, it actually looks like brown spring. Before the leaves.

As we drive, we are planning our potential house move and talk of our next year US Spring Tour.

This part of the trip has the Ontario Lake of The Woods feel. Camping, Lakes, Golf courses. I just missed a camera shot! An incredible rock formation that looked just like a castle. Amazing!


5th DAY

Watching TV at 5:30 a.m. Talk show says pumpkin seeds good for migraine, honey for coughs and colds, kiwi for insomnia; ginger for sore muscles; tart cherries for jet lag. We are in Tonah, Wisconsin; Cranberry Capital. Frost on Windows this April 5, 2013 Friday parked in front of a Best Western.

On the road. Lake Country, Resorts, Clear Blue Sky; Minus 5 and snow in the bushes. Evergreens and copper colored poplars in the sun. Must have froze hard last fall as all trees still have leaves on. Some spruce trees similar to Australias’ – leaves pointed up instead of down. Herd of 20 deer same color as the fields on our right. A bunch more lying in the spring sun. A lot of dead deer. Much building going on. Many new subdivisions.

Saw 4 wild birds standing in the snow. Like a crane but as big as an emu or ostrich; looks like a crane with long, long neck; tall as cars. Then saw the biggest eagle; maybe a golden eagle. Was brown but had a white head so maybe not. Big as a man’s coat.

$15.00 a pill for Viagra says the radio. Went over the Mississippi river again crossing the border from Wisconsin to Minnesota. Instead of taking the go-round by-pass, we choose to go downtown St. Paul and then Minneapolis. Saw the Domed Stadium Vikings NFL teams play in and drove through a tunnel and saw the Minnesota Twins New Ball Park.

We’ve decided after 5 days there is nothing we are needing to talk about. Bob said we’ve shared our innermost feelings on most things.

Retired my spring golf jacket and birkenstocks. 2 degrees and more snow in the ditches all the time. We stopped for gas and ate leftover quesadilla’s. YEAH! Commented we could be driving between Wynyard and Watson or hilly areas between Saskatoon and Tisdale.

Blue Heron standing stately by the river. Migrating geese are entertaining us. Fargo, North Dakota. Ominous cloud. Rethink our decision. Snow storm descending; turn around before we leave Fargo. Instead of heading towards Minot and Regina, we head different direction towards Grand Forks and Winnipeg. GOOD DECISION!!!!

Sign: “One N.D teen crashes every 2.5 hours.” Lots of industry on this flat land. One last stop for gas before we cross border and then sign in field. BE KIND. Pass a sugar processing plant I think. A lot more snow. 0 degrees. No issues at the border.

In a few miles and I’m singing: “This is my homeland, The place I was born in.”

Bob says, “Looking at this, we may not get on the golf course by the end of the month.”

We stop at Carmen Motor Hotel; owned by a cousin’s son. We have a phone visit with him and head for Portage La Prairie. Snowing. Decide to stop for nite. No go. Motels full or scary. Broken car windows, horrible smell so heading to Brandon. A little scary as nearly a whiteout some places.


6th DAY

Had our breakfast at our $144.95 Best Western Inn (Double the money and then some compared to our U.S. Hotel rooms. It’s minus 3; snowing and snow covered Trans Canada. Everything is white; think I will see a snowy white owl if I look hard enough.

Virden, Man. Oil pumping happening; and I ask Bob if he’s doing okay. He says, “Good, good!” Roads are treacherous; not so much on our side but on the other side of the highway as we are into fog; then hoarfrost. Salt has been dumped on highway. We pass the sign, “Saskatchewan Naturally.”

Two semis laying on their side in the ditch. Ambulance we meet 10 minutes later. Vans and trailers, trucks upside down. Black ugly dirty snowy streets in Regina. No sign whatsoever and all of a sudden traffic to sudden stop for highway workers. Very poor way of doing things. Actually, very scary way of doing things. Have nearly two accidents due to farm vehicles in Saskatchewan and Manitoba. See antelope by Craik and deer by Davidson. Herds laying content in Dundurn fields. Coyote walking across snow. More snow by Saskatoon. We do a drive by on Clarence to see what potentially might be our new home.

6000 km, we are home and happy to be!


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