Sunday, February 10, 2013

On the Road: San Angelo, TX, to Tucson, AZ

Satuday, February 9, 2013

Donna and I rose early this morning. The wind was already blowing hard, and we knew it would only get worse later in the day. About 5:00, I got out and unhooked the trailer, then we moved it to the storage site at our park where we would leave it during our trip. After a quick stop at McDonald's for coffee and something to eat, we were on the road by 6:45 AM. We followed the same route we did in November, 2011. That trip is recorded in "Trip Report: Return to Laughlin, Day #1", and I'll try to avoid repeating myself in today's entry.

San Angelo to Tucson, a fun-filled 730 miles.

From Angelo to Monahans, I noticed quite a bit of increased oil-industry activity. You can really tell that we are in the beginning stages of an oil boom in this area. The farther west we drove, the more the wind blew. By the time we reached Sierra Blanca, Texas, the dust was beginning to blow.

Blowing dust as we approach El Paso

Sierra Blanca is an interesting little community. With a population of just over 500, it is the county seat of Hudspeth County. Today, the little town is a hub of border patrol activity. Just west of town, all east-bound traffic must go through the border patrol checkpoint.

We bypassed El Paso by taking Loop 375 around that sprawling metropolis. I found it interesting that this freeway-style loop actually slices through part of Fort Bliss. Once the highway leaves the military reservation, the freeway-style loop dissolves into a regular highway, then cuts through Franklin Mountains State Park. I chose to bypass this section of the road today, though, because of the high winds I expected we'd encounter at the higher elevations of the park; it was windy enough at the lower elevations. Maybe on our next trip we can take that route.

From El Paso, we moved into New Mexico. On the west side of the interstate were numerous cattle feed lots, and on the east side were the Organ Mountains, where Albert Jennings Fountain and his son disappeared about this time of year in 1896. In 1881, Fountain defended William Bonney aka "Billy the Kid" in Mesilla, where the kid was found guilty of the murder of Sheriff William Brady during the Lincoln County War. Mesilla is just up the road, and today blends into the larger Las Cruces. This whole route across southern New Mexico and southern Arizona reeks of history of the Old West, and there are so many places I'd like to visit.

All along I-10 through New Mexico and Arizona, there are a number of pecan orchards as well as at least one or two grape orchards and wineries. It's an interesting country, with various mountain ranges lining the road. At Deming I see signs inviting tourists up to Silver City, a small thriving town boasting art galleries and historic sites. Keeping with the William Bonney theme, the Kid's mother died in Silver City and is buried there. It was also in Silver City where the Kid served his first time in jail, and from where we executed his first jail break, all at the tender age of 14 or so.

Next is Lordsburg. We stopped there today for gas, but we didn't see much of the town. What we did see seemed neat and clean. In 1939, John Ford made his first sound movie. The film, based on a short story called "The Stage to Lordsburg", starred a young John Wayne. The movie, entitled Stagecoach, was Wayne's breakthrough role. The story followed the passengers of a stagecoach as they ride from Tonto, Arizona Territory, to Lordsburg, New Mexico, through Apache territory. However, most of the movie was shot in Monument Valley in northeaster Arizona and on a studio back lot in California.

As we approached Lordsburg, the dusty skies began to clear and we began seeing patches of blue. Although the wind continued to blow hard, there was much less dust in the air and driving became easier.

Mountains touching the clouds in the background behind a pecan orchard in southern Arizona.

One of the more interesting areas along this route is Texas Canyon, near Benson, Arizona. Most of the countryside is typical desert terrain with scattered grass and cactus. In Texas Canyon, rock jumbles appear.

Rock formations are abundant in Texas Canyon, near Benson.

To the south of the Interstate is Cochise's Stronghold and Fort Bowie. South of Benson is Tombstone, home of the OK Corral and that 30 second gun battle between the Earp brothers and their ally, Doc Holiday, and the Cowboy faction of Clantons and McLaurys.

A few saguaros began appearing as we approached Tucson, but most grow naturally to the east of the city in Saguaro National Park. We find a hotel for the night and rest up for another day of driving tomorrow.

Throughout the day, we monitored the thermometer on our truck's computer system. When we left Angelo, it was about 52 degrees. Gradually, the temperature rose until it topped out at 70 near El Paso. In southern New Mexico, the temp fell until it reached a low of 43, but it rose a little as we headed into Arizona. Higher elevations and dust blocking out the sun were 2 of the many reasons for the lower temps.

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