Monday, August 30, 2010

Travels With Don

We drove to Phoenix earlier this month. This surprises some people because, once you get past the Texas Hill Country and hit Interstate 10, the trip is assumed to be dull, boring desert, so everyone else flies. Not so for us. First of all, there will be intermittant yelps of "Stop the car, I need to take a picture!" I thought this problem could be solved by making Susan drive but that trick just results in "Grab my camera! Take a picture! Hurry!" To her dismay, this always results in pictures that are blurry, have sunlight reflections on them or are images of my hairy legs and lap.

We love this drive. Over a 10-hour drive the landscape changes from Hill Country to ridges to mesas topped with wind turbines to flat desert and then to mountains with desert.  The road winds back and forth and sometimes we can see it stretch for miles ahead of us with only a few cars visible. We never fail to wonder aloud to each other how we cannot possibly imagine people traveling across this land on horseback or walking alongside wagons, for weeks and weeks. But somehow they did.

The cattle (above) were a surprise to me. I only know what Longhorns (below) look like. These guys look strange, sort of like Longhorns who took too many steroids. They weren't happy having Susan take their picture and I didn't like the thin fence they were behind so we got out of there fast.

In Tucson we decided to take a "scenic" back road up to Phoenix, State Highway 77 and then 79. Highway 77 was a disappointment. People! Do we really need to have that many mini-malls? That many fingernail places? That many Subway sandwich shops. Just as we thought we'd be out of "civilization" and into scenic desert, the road would curve around and there would be another mini-mall and a cluster of houses. It's depressing to think of the people who, years before, thought they were moving "out of town"  but now find themselves living next to a Sonic drive-in.

Once we hit Highway 79 we were in the isolated desert. We made a quick stop in the middle of nowhere to see the Tom Mix memorial (photos above and below). Tom Mix was the definitive cowboy back in the early movie days (yes, before my time) and a big screen idol.  He was driving on this highway when he died in 1940.  We hadn't seen a car ahead of us or behind us for the last 15 miles and were at the memorial for only a few minutes when a car pulled in.  The very friendly guy, his wife and 14-year old daughter had been driving all over the US for their summer vacation - from Maine, where they lived, to Mt Rushmore, down to Florida, over to Texas and now on to Arizona and Utah before they headed back to Maine.

Susan asked the girl what she thought was the best part of her trip, thinking she'd get an answer about Disneyworld but the the girl told her it was the Dakota Badlands. That surprised Susan but even more surprising was that the girl wasn't even holding a cellphone in her hands as she talked to us. Amazing!

We knew Tom Mix had died in a car accident at this spot but we didn't know the details. The guy gave us an additional piece of information: "A large polished aluminum suitcase containing a large sum of money, traveler's checks and jewels, which he had placed on the package shelf behind him flew forward and struck Mix in the back of the head, shattering his skull and breaking his neck." Susan helpfully pointed out to me the fact that my aluminum case was probably just like his, minus the money and jewels.

Small item of trivia that Susan wants to be sure you investigate for yourself.
We drove through Florence, AZ, where there is a large state prison complex, but before you get to Florence, off to the east, is the St. Anthony's Greek Orthodox Monastery. She found this by scanning Google Earth and it looks very interesting and worth finding out if we could tour the grounds. If you know how we can do that, let us know. But on to the main point: While trying to find information about the Monastery she did some research on Florence and found this trivia bit:
For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 582.5 males.
Does that include the prisoners? The men at the monastery? The demographic data doesn't seem to include the prisoners since it also mentions median income levels, but sure seems like not very many women in that town.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Don ... Always thought this monastery was in St. David, Arizona, but here's the contact info:
St. Anthony’s Greek Orthodox Monastery
4784 N. St. Joseph’s Way
Florence, AZ 85132-9399

Might be more pleasant to visit there when it's not 110°, tho!