Completing the Circle – AZ to NM to CO to WA

Now we are leaving the ‘Best Coast’ for the high deserts of Arizona and New Mexico. Because of recent heavy rains, the hills and valleys of the coastal mountains are covered with grass that has grown up to the height of a cow’s tummy and these high grasses have choked out the promised spring desert bloom. After two long days of taking turns driving, we arrive in Tucson where we meet up with Boulder friends, Carol and Dave Kampert.

Thus begin two days of hiking in the deserts with a long visit to the Sonoran Desert Museum and pleasant hours of reminiscing about trips taken together to many, many places over the past 50 years.

We next drove to Scottsdale where Val’s sister Ann and her husband, Johndale, live. We had lots of time to catch up since our visit two years ago. We hiked up nearby Rattlesnake Hill with its expansive view out over Scottsdale and Phoenix. And, we shared a pleasant lunch at the Scottsdale Musical Instrument Museum. Johndale is much improved, now two years after his fall and traumatic brain injury. Ann and Johndale have been helped immensely over these past two challenging years by wonderful caregivers giving support around the clock.

Now we headed east, climbing up the Mogollon Rim, a high escarpment more-or-less demarcating the boundary between Arizona and New Mexico. Here we climb out of the land of saguaro and into a land of tall pines that soon transforms to the familiar pinon-juniper woodland that covers much of New Mexico.

We adjusted our pace to give us a bit of a break by staying two nights in tiny Grants, NM. Two highlights of our overnight stay in Grants are a charming food truck and a specialty grocery store in the middle of a wasteland of motels that failed when I-40 bypassed this stop on historic Route 66 from Chicago to LA. We enjoyed an unexpected free day in Grants by finishing the books that we were reading, napping, and doing little else.

We next had a long and terrific day of traveling and visiting. We drove past Acoma Pueblo and into Albuquerque where we lunched with Bob and Virginia, a couple whom we had met on a train in Spain in 1968! What’s going on with these cows leaping out of the restaurant ceiling?

Then, on to Santa Fe and a catch-up with Leslie’s step-brother, Al, and his wife, Maryanne, at their beautiful home high above Santa Fe. Leslie and Al grew up together in rural Maryland as their two families were best friends and then merged.

We ended this long day at the home of past CC students, Matt Hecht and Mary Olson, staying comfortably in their casita adjacent to retired art teacher and potter Mary’s very active studio. Matt has recently retired from his work as a computational oceanographer at Los Alamos National Laboratory, and is currently enjoying his new role as a singer-songwriter and player of stringed instruments.

On to the main event for this second Charging Around the West trip: Shane Burns’ retirement from the CC Physics Department. We stayed two days with long-time Colorado Springs friends, Bob and Beth, and then two days with Shane and Stormy. Here we are hiking in Aiken Canyon, a Nature Conservancy park south of Colorado Springs.

Leslie enjoyed a lovely lunch hosted by her recently retired TAG friend, Jen, with friends from her many years of teaching in Academy School District 20. Val revisited the scenic, uplifted foothills of Pike’s Peak with Shane and their huge, happy and galumphing rescue pooch, Major. We went to parties and dinners and lectures and celebrations. Revisiting our old stomping grounds was wonderful!

One such party was based on physics trivia. Another day was full of presentations by CC Physics graduates and research colleagues of Shane. Leslie and Stormy had time to view several exhibits at the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center, including the work of local Colorado Springs artist, Laurence Shivers, while the physicists phrolicked.

Shane and Stormy have been great friends from the time we met back in about 1984. We have taught together, skied together, enjoyed art together and watched each others’ children grow up.

One of many sweet moments came on a Saturday evening when we had entered the lovely, historic Bemis Hall for a celebratory dinner for Shane. We were late, having had many side conversations en route. When we entered the hall carrying our buffet plates, we found that the only tables available were stand-up ones, so we stood up and ate and conversed with two other couples. We all wondered if we could stand for the following three upcoming hours….. About half an hour later, a group of Physics students got up and asked us to take their table, and they took ours. What fine students we found the Colorado College students to be!

Now we are (sort of…) starting toward home. Off we went to Denver to catch up with Dottie Lamm who regaled us at brunch with her recent trip up the lower Mississippi River. One high point was Dottie getting far separated from her group, walking toward the cruise ship and finding herself lost. But, southern hospitality and racial amity came to her rescue; her savior drove her where she needed to be.

Our last night, before starting the long return to San Juan Island, was spent with Julia and Derrick, the parents of Lindsay whom we visited in California at the beginning of this sojourn. We have camped and canoed and adventured with these two, and have watched their children grow up. Son Jeff came over for dinner and we all had spirited conversation, attempting to fix the many problems of the world. Front and center is Jeff and his wife’s George, who may be just about the most unusual dog we have ever seen. George is a French Bulldog.

Overnight the strong winds came. The Front Range is famous for its down-slope windstorms called Chinook winds. These 50mph+ winds plus accompanying snow in the high country gave us pause as we decided which return route to take back to the island. Wyoming seemed out of the question – so up and through the Eisenhower Tunnel we went, hoping to get into the snow and then, most importantly, quickly out of it.

The rest of the 1200 mile return was comprised of each of us taking long turns driving, visiting many charging stations, dodging high speed tumbleweeds in a landscape of mountains and exposed rocks, and enjoying varied vistas.

Near the town of Stinker, Idaho we encountered our first tacky charging station of the trip, as evidenced by the photo to the left. Down to 16 miles of range, with warning alarms going off, we slowly pulled into the charging unit and heaved a big sigh of relief. Gas seems cheap here. But, electricity is still cheaper!

Almost home – waiting for the ferry (with no charging anxiety) with Mt. Baker in full display.

This Post Has 5 Comments

  1. Wow!!! You must be ready to take a big break from driving, smiling, and laughing! What an itinerary of old friends. The one I loved most was of you with Al and Maryann. Terrific desert photos! Welcome home.

  2. Beautifully written and delightful to read. When did we meet up in Chicago and Val took a b&w portrait of us? Why were you in town? ’69-72! when we were there.

  3. You too washed your car after all the snow. Photos are amazing as usual.

  4. We so enjoyed our time with you, and the dinner with friends here. Thank you for sharing the awesome photos and your travel adventures! Beth & Bob

  5. Such a wonderful voyage of friendship and family. When reading, I felt like you were wrapping arms around your memories and the people within in a circle of Love. Well done! Truly a journey all will remember.

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