Thursday, November 6, 2014

On the Road: Laughlin, NV, to Alamogorgo, NM

Thursday, October 16, 2014

We checked out of the Aquarius early this morning and began the long journey home. Keeping with our plan of seeing new country, we intended to cover new territory in eastern Arizona. But first we had to get through Phoenix, that sprawling monster.

Our route today is 664 long miles.
The first part of the trip took us to Kingman, Arizona, where we always connect with I-40. We stopped there for coffee and breakfast. We jumped back on the interstate as the sun was beginning to rise in the east. We soon left Kingman behind and found our exit about 20 miles east of town. We began our long journey by retracing the route we took the first time we drove to Laughlin: US 93 southeast towards Phoenix.

I was delighted by the highway for the most part. Most of it is now 4-lane. Stretches are still under construction being converted to 4-lane, but the vast majority of the drive is good. Near Wickenburg, we finally trickled down to 2 lanes. From Kingman to Phoenix, there are only 2 towns, Wikieup and Wickenburg. The highway between these two towns is known as the Joshua Forest Scenic Road for good reason. There are also good stands of saguaro cactus along stretches of the roadway, and some impressive mountain and desert expanses. It's an interesting, though long, drive. Of the two towns, Wickenburg has the most amenities for travelers.

Saguaros cover a slope between Wikieup and Wickenburg

Closer view of several saguaros
This is a beautiful example of a saguaro
Just south of Wickenburg, we turned east on Highway 74 to cut over and hit I-17 on the north side of Phoenix. Prior to today, I was not aware of anything of note on this road, but we were surprised to discover Lake Pleasant on the north side of the highway. The lake is good size and contains Lake Pleasant Regional Park. Always on the lookout for places to stay should we get another RV, I made a mental note of this place with plans to research it upon returning home.

We picked up I-17 and turned south to head into Phoenix. By taking this route, I was hoping to miss some of the large city, but I guess I didn't. Just inside the city limits, we hit 101, the loop around Phoenix, and headed east for what seemed like hours and hours of fairly heavy urban traffic. We finally came to US 60, known locally as the Superstition Freeway, and headed east. At the outskirts of town, we stopped for gas and a break, and switched drivers.

This next section was the new part of the trip for us. We dipped through a southern part of the Tonto National Forest, then came to the little town of Superior, where things got a bit more interesting. I was not aware of the section of the highway from Superior to Globe, but it is indeed quite scenic. It's pretty mountainous terrain with some tricky highway sections, including a small pass through a tunnel. But it's a scenic drive, and I'm glad we took it. It's not a route I would want to pull a trailer through, though.

US 60 just east of Superior, where the road is just getting interesting. Note the bridge in center-left of picture.

Tunnel through a hillside not far beyond the bridge in the picture above. If you look carefully, you'll see numerous saguaros on the slope above the tunnel.
The highway weaves through the mountains.
I'm glad Donna was driving so I could enjoy all this scenery and snap a few pictures.
Approaching the small community of Miami, Arizona. I included this picture because it is typical of the scenery throughout the southwest. There seem to always be expanses such as this. Notice not only the mountain in the direct center of the picture, but also those dim outlines behind them.
One thing I learned about Arizona towns this trip is that they often come in groups. We were expecting to pass through Globe, but instead we passed through first Miami, then Claypool, and then Globe. The towns run together, giving the impression of one continuous town, and it causes for slow travel. Globe is an interesting town and would probably reward the traveler who stopped to visit its museum and other points of interest. But we had a lot of miles to cover, so we continued on.

At Globe, we picked up US 70, an old friend of ours. I was teaching in Olton a lifetime ago when our daughter Courtney was born to us. Olton is on US 70 in the lower Texas Panhandle. We would stay on this old friend for the rest of today and much of tomorrow.

We entered the San Carlos Reservation. If you enjoy the history of the American Southwest, then this is a familiar name and recalls some very famous Apaches of the past, such as Eskiminzin, Victorio, and Geronimo.

After leaving the reservation, we passed through another of those Arizona town groups: Pima, Thatcher,  Safford, and Solomon. It was in this area, I believe, where I was surprised to see a great deal of farming, including cotton. The highway basically follows the Gila River through this area, so perhaps the area is irrigated from this water source.

After leaving this group of towns, we set our sites on Lordsburg, New Mexico. Whenever I hear the name of this town, I think of the 1939 movie Stagecoach, which was John Wayne's breakout role. In the movie, which ironically was shot farther north in Monument Valley, the passengers on a stage are headed from Tonto, AZ, (a fictitious town?) to Lordsburg, NM. The movie began the long collaboration between Wayne and director John Ford.

But back to our journey. We crossed the state line into New Mexico, and soon arrived in Lordsburg where we took a break at the local McDonald's. Our plans had originally called to stop in Deming for the day, about 60 miles farther east. But I was afraid that would leave us another really long day tomorrow, so we journeyed on with plans to make it to Alamogordo. Along the interstate, we made good time.

But then we exited in Las Cruces. I should have taken the interstate around town, even though it added several miles. There was a great deal of construction in town, and it was all poorly planned and managed, and we got held up in traffic for a while. The side of Las Cruces we saw was not at all attractive, either. Of course, it was near the end of the day, so we were essentially there at rush hour, and people were indeed rushing to get home. We finally made it to US 70 east of I-25, heading towards the Organ Mountains. This is another place rich in history. So much to see and do and so little time to do it.

Highway 70 works its way up to and through San Augustin Pass, and the views are impressive in almost all directions. To the east is the White Sands Missile Range. It dominates the land for the final leg of our trip today.

We descended from the pass and the 4 lane highway slowly straightened out, and we made good time as the sun set lower and lower behind the mountains now behind us. As we neared Alamogordo, the White Sands National Monument appeared on our left. They were locking the gate as we passed, so we'll have to wait until another day to visit.

Somewhere around here, all east-bound traffic was routed through a border patrol inspection area. They looked Donna over carefully. Her beady eyes and swarthy appearance aroused their suspicions, but in the end I think they were overwhelmed by their fear of her and they let us pass through. We found our way to the Holiday Inn, secured a room, then had a late meal before getting a good night's rest.

No comments:

Post a Comment