Arizona Observations

Dry Heat. This expression uses the word “dry” as an adjective. It’s also a gerund, as in “drying heat.” I don’t consider myself a vain woman, but I’ve become quite concerned about the effect of this dry heat on my appearance. I slather on expensive facial moisturizer every morning, but am convinced I entered the state with the face of a 64-year-old and will leave with the face of a 74-year-old. Deep cuts spontaneously appear in my fingertips, requiring first-aid cream and band-aids; and my cuticles and heels are cracked and dry. I’m thinking of offering up my feet for a “before” photo for a miracle cream. They’ll need another set of feet for the “after.”

Weather. I do believe the concept of “layering” began in Arizona, where temperatures varied from the low 70s during the day to the low 30s during the night. In a single 24-hour period. I had to retrieve my shorts and T-shirts during the day while still using a down comforter at night. Mornings often were 33-degrees F. I’ve actually become accustomed to climbing down from my nice warm bed to turn on the generator/heater, make my coffee, and go through the fairly complicated procedure of lighting the catalytic propane heater I had installed. Once all that is complete, I take the down comforter from the bed and wrap it around me, stretch out on the sofa, and drink my coffee while reading the New York Times on my iPhone. That I feel sorry for the poor freezing tent campers is further proof of circumstances being relative.

Helmet Law.  There is none. I gasped the first time I saw a motorcyclist riding without a helmet. Then I remembered I was in Arizona, not California. “Future Organ Donors” is what a Cousin #3 and I called the reckless riders – who WERE wearing helmets — we saw in California. I met a neurosurgeon this summer who said her medical community refers to them as, “Future Patients on Whom Interns Can Practice.” Makes me wonder how many neurosurgeons practice in states with helmet laws compared to those states where motorcyclists ride free.


Sunset in the Arizona desert. Note the presence of a saguaro cactus.

Saguaro Cactus.  To state that this iconic cactus is ubiquitous doesn’t even begin to cover it. It’s everywhere you look in the southern part of the state.

Rabbits and Coyotes. The first time I saw a rabbit in Arizona, I figured it was a cotton tail because it looked exactly as if it had a ball of cotton placed on its rump. I’ve also seen large, well-fed coyote sauntering across back roads. Surely it’s no coincidence that I’ve not seen rabbits in areas where I’ve spotted coyotes.

Roadrunners. I had no idea that the creature pursued by Wile E. Coyote existed in nature. Imagine my surprise when someone identified an actual roadrunner. I’m fairly confident, though, that the cartoons exaggerated the roadrunner’s speed and Wile’s ability to remain suspended in air until he looks down and sees the abyss. Well, pretty sure.

Rattlesnakes. Rattlesnake avoidance training classes for dogs are offered in Arizona. I looked into enrolling Missy until I found out they use actual rattlesnakes. Makes perfect sense. The dogs need to recognize the sight, sound and smell of a rattlesnake. Since my rattlesnake, or any snake, avoidance is already high (I’m so frightened of snakes that if they were slithering past me to get out of a fire zone I would choose death by flames over mingling with them), I’m opting for a rattlesnake vaccination shot for Missy. Should she tangle with a snake, she’s on her own. The only time I’d intervene with a snake is if my son was involved. And even then I can’t promise I’d do anything more than scream.

Grand Canyon. Yes, it actually IS possible to be on the rim and not see the Grand Canyon. For years I’d maintained that I missed it and, indeed, I did. I was 15-years-old when my family’s summer vacation was a road trip from Chicago to the Grand Canyon. My mother, always an effusive woman, would exclaim (frequently), “Oh look over there, isn’t that beautiful.” Being 15, I’d look the other way. I showed her.


Grand Canyon. I’m in the lower right.

The Grand Canyon was far more impressive than I expected. I imagined it was red rock that turned different colors during the day, depending on the sunlight. Since the red-rock image is the one most promoted, I was surprised to see different, dark and dull colors and layers of rocks. After reading about its formation and attending a program tailored to “Young Rangers,” I actually started to understand how the Grand Canyon was formed and why it’s studied by geologists the world over.

No, I did not hike down. Remember my age, please, and the condition of my replaced right knee, which I am loathe to replace again.

Dry Camping (aka Boondocking). There’s dry camping in places such as Quartzsite (no garbage disposal; no water sources; no dump sites) and then there’s boondocking in campsites in National Parks, such as the Grand Canyon, where there are places to dispose of garbage, access water, and get rid of black and grey water. Big difference. Actually, a HUGE difference to people like me, who are accustomed to car camping. Quartzsite may be free, but I’ll gladly pay the $9 per night fee (senior rate) at the Grand Canyon.


My campsite at the Grand Canyon. I’m exceeding proud of the campfire I started without kindling. The tent-like structure covers the picnic table.

Roundabouts. If ever there was a place that didn’t need roundabouts, it’s Arizona. According to Wikipedia, “The single greatest benefit of roundabouts is that they eliminate perpendicular/T-bone crashes. The modern form was standardized in the United Kingdom.” What the Wiki writer is overlooking is the single greatest detriment of roundabouts: Here in America, few of us have a clue as to how to use them, thereby effectively increasing the probability of other types of crashes. Particularly when driving an RV and towing a car.

Route 66.  It seems to me that every time I left the freeway I was on Route 66. Sentiment and songs aside, I found the road to be in poor condition and often running through parts of towns that were boarded up. On my more pessimistic days, I think Route 66 may possibly represent the future of the U.S. Interstate system.

Winslow. I achieved a long-time ambition (OK, so maybe I do set my sights a bit low) of visiting a “corner in Winslow, Arizona,” as sung by The Eagles in “Take It Easy.” The song came at a seminal time of my life, soon after graduating from Berkeley. I also remember hearing one of my roommates, Laura, inspired by the song, using the expression “lighten up” for the first time.


10 thoughts on “Arizona Observations

  1. Seems you missed beautiful Prescott, AZ on this trip! I didn’t know you were doing northern AZ after Quartzsite. Sedona and Cottonwood have tons of roundabouts; remember, those in the circle have the right of way, those entering the circle must yield.

    I’m assuming, and that’s a dangerous thing to do…you were at the South Rim? Next year try the North Rim of the Canyon, so much more beautiful without all the crazy tourists. Just a bunch of RVers and tree huggers.

    You got me giggling with the “newbie” RVer answer about your tire covers . LOL, what about the sun when you’re driving? As always, love to read your blog, Happy Trails, and on your next AZ trip, don’t miss Prescott! :0)

  2. That’s part of Arizona! Today we are going to Flagstaff and the high temperature are in the 50’s! We are going to be cold!

  3. Wonderful post and recap on AZ…..even an oven is a ‘dry heat’. It’s spring in Phoenix and the rattlers and Gila monsters are slizzering about. Almost time for us to pack up and head north 🙂

  4. A good read! But, I have TWO questions: Why put the tent OVER the table (surely you’re not sleeping on it, right?) which looks like all the smoke from the fire is being captured inside there! Second question: why do you go to the trouble of covering your tires? I really can’t figure that out. Glad you’re starting to “expand your horizons”.

  5. Roundabouts are all over the east coast from Washingto DC to New England. They are horrible and more dangerous than 4 way intersections. The only thing good about them is they provide entertainment when a tourist is caught in one and is terrified because they don’t know how to escape. Cape Cod is covered with them and in Washington DC they have them on the busiest intersections.

  6. Don’t forget the Ocean nasal spray — whenever I am in Arizona, my nasal passages shrivel and bleed…. Great observations. After my many trips, I can say that there really is much beauty in the state as well. (Good argument for the neutron bomb!)

    On Wed, Mar 19, 2014 at 12:12 PM, Driven Crazy

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