Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Driving Cross Country: California & Arizona

One of the greatest recommendations I could give someone is to drive cross country. At least once. I've now done it four times and I can honestly say, I've appreciated it more and more each time. Maybe it's because I'm different. I'm older. I've learned. I've lived. And each trip cross country was made for a different reason.

But the way it feels to drive from one state into another. From one time zone into another. To cross the Continental Divide. To enter the territory of Native American Tribes. To look several hundred feet to your left and see another country. To watch the temperatures change. And my favorite - to watch the landscape of this country grow and twist and shift. The colors, the textures. I can't even put it into words.

Cross country trips are exhausting. Physically and mentally. But, even after the thousands of miles, gas station/truck stops, traveling with a cat (that I'm allergic to!), checking in and checking out of hotels, seeing two horrific truck accidents, and drinking two V8s for dinner because there's nothing else to eat/drink, I wouldn't have traded it for the world.

The drive from San Diego to the Arizona border is one of my favorite legs of the trip. You wind through the mountain range [okay, so the lack of guardrails did not make me the happiest driver] and then as soon as you come out of the mountains, boom... it's pure desert. I love the desert. It was at this point that I took my hands off the wheel [and may or may not have crossed my arms at one point] because it's literally a straight drive along the 8. You look to the right and see the black wall that separates the U.S. from Mexico. You look to the left and see the beautiful, pure sand dunes. No one else is on the road. It's just you, the road, the blue sky, and pretty sand!

Oh, and there was also a hay fire. Naturally, as soon as I saw the smoke from far away, I shrieked, "Is that a tornado?!" It's to be expected coming from the girl with recurring tornado nightmares. It was instead a horrible hay fire.

The first stop was just across the border in Yuma, AZ. A town where the super friendly gas station worker said the employment rate is so high he's just lucky to have a job. Another reason why I love driving cross country. The people you encounter. Their stories. Their communities.

After getting back into the car with my Arizona iced tea [when in Arizona, do as the Zonies do] reality started to sink in. I said to my cat, "Stella, I have a feeling we're not in California anymore." The sun started to set as we approached Phoenix. Looking in the rearview mirror at the jagged mountains pressed against the orange sky... it's heavenly. The Border Patrol officers and their adorable dog weren't a bad addition to the already gorgeous surroundings. Just saying...

We got a late start to the trip [I mean, did you see all of those boxes in yesterday's post?!] so Phoenix was the stopping point for Day One. I slept for about two hours that night due to Stella going haywire in the hotel room after being pent up all day and staying up to read. I'm crazy, I know. But Day Two was going to be the day I most looked forward to!

The drive through Arizona is a long one because you drive halfway across, all the way up, and then halfway across the other side. However, Arizona HAS to be one of the most naturally astonishing states. You start with the desert, get up into the mountains, then hit beautiful Sedona, into Flagstaff, and then level out into the old, sleepy historical towns such as Winslow, Arizona.

We took a quick trip off the road to drive to the 50,000 year old Meteor Crater. We didn't pay to get the tour but it was still so interesting to drive to the top of the crater! The picture below doesn't do it justice. I loved the drive from the crater back onto the freeway. Nothing but nature!

The final stop in Arizona was in Winslow! I totally recommend stopping in this tiny, tiny town. It's a blast from the past [it was right along Historic Route 66.] Winslow is best-known for being mentioned in The Eagles' song, "Take It Easy."

"Well, I'm standin' on a corner
In Winslow, Arizona..."

That song just so happened to come on my Pandora station during the trip :)

Well, that's it for California and Arizona! To read about and see pictures from my trip through Arizona last year, check out the post here. Stay tuned for the highlight of my trip...


Jessica said...

beautiful pictures

Mar @ t.o. and fro said...

What a great trip! This past summer my husband and I drove from Anchorage, AK to Toronto and it was one of the best things we've ever done. I totally agree with you that everyone should experience a cross country drive. Can't wait to read more!

JBean said...

I lived this post! Thanks for posting pics. I've never been out west and dream if driving cross country like this one day! You are so inspiring. Can't wait to see what the rest of the trip was like.

Cody Doll said...

Wow that is awesome. I would love to visit those places. I really really want to travel cross country at least one.

Jennifer said...

Ya for road trip! I couldn't agree more! Every time you take a road traveled your at a different point in your life and I always take a minute to reflect all the changes that have happened since the last time you crossed that path literally..

Cara-Mia said...

You drove through my home town then: El Centro! That's the drive I frequently make and I don't hate it. (Although it's kind of a treacherous road, there's always accidents on it.) Actually that hay bale looks like it's El Centro.

My parents believed in road trips and those drives are some of my favorite childhood memories. :)

Natalie Joseph said...

To drive accross country in the US is definitely on my bucket list!
Great pics x

Brandi said...

The drive from SD to the AZ border is one that is so familiar to me. I love your pics and description. I could totally see it in my head!