Gary Gardner (grgardner) wrote,
Gary Gardner

Homeward Bound

I forgot how it gets dark in Arizona earlier than elsewhere this time of year.  This state does not observe Daylight Savings Time, so it’s on Mountain Standard Time now, which is the same as Pacific Daylight Time – so while I moved east and south today, the time zone stayed the same, so consequently it was dark by the time I got to Nogales, AZ about 730pm.  The ride here was hot – I feel baked -- like I’d been riding in a convection oven for a day.  It was also boring with a Capital “B”.  Straight up Interstate 8 from San Diego, and down I-10 into Tucson and down I-19 into Nogales.  487 miles – all of it on the freeway.  That stops tomorrow -- from now on as little freeway as possible.

This is the turnaround point of this trip.  Now I’m headed home, albeit via a meandering wandering route.  I’m going to start at the border and take what’s left of US-89 as far as I can north.  Unfortunately, Arizona has decommissioned the old road, and there is very little of it left between Nogales and Tucson, and from Tucson to about Prescott, it’s not even numbered as US-89 but AZ-89 as US-89 now technically starts at Flagstaff.  However, when I lived here it was still US-89, and since this is a journey into my past, I’m going to start it here in Nogales, just like the road used to.
Knowing how hot it would be across the desert, I got up early in San Diego – it was somewhat foggy and cool, so I had a long sleeve t-shirt and a hoodie on when I left.  I hit the freeway on ramp and headed east.  San Diego is a pretty city – I spent some time exploring it yesterday.  I love the hills, and the freeway climbs rapidly out of the coast area and tops out about 4000 feet before dropping down into El Centro.  It started to get hot here, so when I gassed up I changed into just a short sleeve shirt and remembered to spray on lots of sun screen.

East from El Centro it just kept getting more boring, mile after mile after mile with no turns and desert heat with nothing to look at but the road and scraggly trees.  I crossed into Arizona at Yuma – what’s left of the Colorado River after California and Arizona suck all the water out is the state line here.  I paused for a rest at the Yuma Harley Dealership and cooled off for a bit before hitting the freeway again.
The next two hours were more of the same – except I had some entertainment watching an endless parade of trains on the old Southern Pacific Sunset Route.  I actually lost count of the number of westbound trains that just kept coming one after another between Yuma and Gila Bend.  I bailed off at Gila Bend for gas and lunch and to cool off.  I decided I needed ice cream so I pulled into a Dairy Queen.  I was sorely tempted to jump into the “Blizzard” machine to cool off and I texted Tony to let him know where I was and what I was thinking and he replied “ROFLMAOPMP!! You should take a picture for your LJ post”.  For those of you who don’t speak text, that translates to:  “Rolling On Floor Laughing My Ass Off Peeing My Pants.”  I tried to take a picture but there were so many people lined up for ice cream in the 105 degree heat and the very large girl running the show kept blocking the machine. 

A group of bikers roared in as I was eating, and we started talking the road.  They were headed the opposite way I was – going west from Florida, Texas and Arkansas, and going up to Joshua Tree National Park outside of Palm Springs, then up the California Coast.  I told them how I’d come down and we compared roads.  They said it was “hot” where I was going.  Thanks for the help.

After an hour I and three bottles of water I was hydrated and cooled off enough to set off again, and roared out of Gila Bend and back onto the freeway aimed for Tucson.  Another hour of the same desert nothingness until I-8 merged with I-10.  Now I was back on familiar roads – having spent 8 years in Phoenix and going to Tucson and Nogales on a number of occasions.  However, that was more than 20 years ago, and things have changed.  Pacacho Peak was always a landmark – about half-way between Phoenix and Tucson.  I remember a Stucky’s and a gas station with an old army Jeep on a pole – both of which are gone now.  Tucson itself starts shortly after Pacacho now too, and that’s where I found the brand new location of Tucson Harley-Davidson.

They have a gorgeous new building – apparently they moved into it not too long ago.  However they LIED!  It’s not a Harley-Davidson dealer – it’s a Harley-Davidson/VESPA Scooter dealer.  This is just plain wrong.  Wrong wrong wrong.  I mean the Harley experience revolves around a huge V-twin engine made in America with a sound that can induce orgasms.  A Vespa is nothing more than a blender on wheels.
South of Tucson, just after I-19 merges on from Nogales, is the old Spanish Mission San Xavier Del Bac.  Sunset in the desert makes the colors jump, so I took a quick detour off of I-19 to the mission for a few pictures.  The first one on this post is from there.  The building glows in the sunset – and it’s not on the road I’ll be taking back up tomorrow, so I wanted to see it tonite, and I think the pictures paid off.
Interstate 19 was completed during the Carter administration – back when I was in Elementary School and the country was flirting with the Metric system.   Fortunately we didn’t adopt it, but I remember I-19 was signed in metric back when I was in college, and it still is.  So at KM post 99, I got back on the freeway and headed south.  Why in the ensuing 35 years the state or federal government hasn’t resigned the road is beyond me.  It makes no sense to have it in metric, not to mention confusing.   

I was dismayed to see that very little of the old road remained as well.  There will not be much of it I can take – there were lots of dead-ends I could see from the freeway, as I-19 was pretty much built on the old US-89 alignment, but 20 years ago there was a lot more of the old road as I remember driving it back then.  But I’ll take as much as I can.  Another change is the huge number of warehouses and trucks along this road that weren’t there pre NAFTA.  Free trade brought in all those trucks and warehouses – which in my book is a very good thing.

So tonite, I’ll ponder a local map some, my antique map a lot, and plot a course north.  I won’t make nearly the time or miles – and I’m not disappointed.  I’m a bit apprehensive about the heat, but that should only last through tomorrow – and maybe part of Sunday before I get up into Utah where it should be cooler.   I’ve been on the road exactly a week – and now it’s time to start heading home – both in a literal sense, and metaphorically, as I explore some of my past and my family’s past on the old road.


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