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Road Trip – Day 9

Day 9 (Tuesday, December 09, 2003)

7:56 am — 0.0 mile: I, Ryan, wake up during the last moments of golden hour. I quickly get more clothes on, since it is bitter cold, and snap a few pictures of the mountains and a wandering deer. The deer around here are plentiful. Scott gets up too and we have to granola and milk for breakfast before breaking camp. While I journal, Scott is using his large format view camera to take a picture of the mountains. It has been a while since I updated the ‘blog; I’ve got to get on that.

9:20 am — 0.8 miles: We leave the visitor’s center, headed back to the campsite where we are supposed to pay our $8 fee — on a self-serve basis. After paying, we set out on US Hwy 62/180 toward another Highway into El Paso.

11:34 am — 110.5 miles: In El Paso, we decide to take a look at the US/Mexico border. We see it, but the wait looks too long and we don’t know all the procedures to get back and forth, so we decide we’ll just continue on to Phoenix.

12:05 pm — 136 miles: We cross into New Mexico for the second time, and once again only briefly, as I-10 jogs North before turning west again towards Phoenix.

12:01 pm — 201 miles: We change our clocks back an hour, so no, we didn’t just time warp. We are headed west on I-10, trying to figure out the rest of the day.

4:57 pm — 399.7 miles: We stopped at the Chiricahau (don’t worry, we can’t pronounce it either) National Monument, about an hour and twenty minutes out of our way, and spent a couple of hours admiring the scenery and taking photographs. Among the regular pillars of rock are some very unique ones: The Totem Pole is 137 feet tall and only a yard thick, and the Pinnacle Balanced rock weighs over 1000 tons and rests on a base only 4 feet wide. On our way to the monument, we had the opportunity of driving on a dirt and gravel roadway. Because of this stop, we won’t be able to make it to the Biosphere II in Oracle, Arizona, which I think would have been a pretty awesome thing to see. Its two hours away from Phoenix, though, so we probably won’t be returning to see it this trip.

6:57 pm — 523.1 miles: We missed our turnoff to Hwy-77, so we had to do a little bit of backtracking, on W Tangerine Rd, which is only significant because the road insisted on bobbing up and down, over and over again, similar to a kiddy rollercoaster.

8:11 pm — 565.7 miles: AAA’s campground guidebook sends us to a “free” site in the middle of nowhere down dirt roads. The signage for the campground is handwritten on cardboard. And after all that we find out that the campground actually has a ten dollar per night fee. I am very perturbed, I am very perturbed indeed.

12:18 am — 678.4 miles: Scott left some things out. The reason we are looking for a campground instead of staying in Phoenix with Jeana is twofold. First, we spent so much time getting up this morning, looking at the border to Mexico in El Paso, and photographizing at the Chiricahau National Monument that we got way behind schedule. Second, I still want to see the Biosphere, which is four hours out of the way if we were to go to Phoenix tonight. So, we decided to camp somewhere near Tucson so we could take things at a more leisurely pace. The first campground we attempted to go to, called Peppersauce, is the closest to the Biosphere, which itself is near a town called Oracle. Peppersauce turned out to be a pay site, as described above. Since the last place the AAA campbook told us was free was actually free (in Canton, Kansas), we thought that this Peppersauce deal was just a fluke and thought we’d try another one of the free campsites. On the way to where the other free campsites are supposed to be, we passed Catalina State Park — it, however, costs $12 a night. We pressed onward, but we were getting delirious from the lack of food and the fitful rest we had last night. So we decided to stop at a Subway for a break and some food. We headed out again, entering the same national forest that the Peppersauce campground is in, but from the other side, only to find out that the other two “Free” campsites are also pay sites. By this point, we didn’t care, and the cost was only five bucks, so we figured it’ll be alright. Well, upon arriving at the first campsite we discovered that it has been shut down for renovation. So we decided to press on to the second campsite, a mere 14 miles up a steep and twisty mountain road. About 10 miles on our way, we are informed that the road is closed in 2000 feet. Sure enough, it is blocked off. We cursed, and turned around, trying to figure out what to do next. We decided that it would be alright if we set up camp in the under construction campsite, for just one short night. However, upon driving into the site, a domesticated dog began to bark at us, warning us that there were indeed people manning the site. He got out of there, cursing again, and headed back to town. Now we have finally settled in at Catalina State Park — the one we rejected earlier — after a series of campground fiascos beyond belief.

Here’s to adventure!

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