Part 21: Durango, CO to San Diego, CA


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The Trip

We left Durango with the intention of putting in some miles to help us meet our goal of being in Tucson in time for my father's 92nd birthday.  There were plenty of miles to be traversed, much of it across the various indian reservations in northern New Mexico and Arizona.  There is some desolate land out there and it is clear that the white man did them no favors.  We spent the first night at a state park in Arizona near St. Johns.  The park was clean and well maintained, but generally unremarkable except for a reservoir (that was about half full).  Interestingly, in an area that is a desert just the presence of open water is a reason for a park.  From the park, we headed south toward Tucson through the Mogollon Rim and Salt River Canyon.

The Photos

The photos below are what we saw.

The Salt River Canyon as a monument to road building techniques.  But the grades are long and steep and unless both your cooling and braking systems are in tip-top shape you will remember the trip not for the scenery, but rather the cost of being in such a remote location when your vehicle breaks down.  Thor had no problems, but we were going slow on both the down-hill and up-hill grades.  The Salt River Canyon is cut through the edges of the Mogollon Rim and takes the river from the high country toward Phoenix.  The shot above is a side canyon.

There were many caves and alcoves that were exposed by the erosion of the canyon.

The walls were steep and in most areas impassable.  The path that the road travels had been the "old road" used by hunters, trappers and the local indian tribes.

As we approached an uphill pull-out, we could see the uphill portion on the other side of the canyon.  The structure at the switchback at the far left of the photo is a runaway truck ramp.  The canyon itself is many, many miles of 6-8% grades without respite.

There were two bridges at the bottom of the canyon.  The old bridge was left standing (likely due to the cost of demolition).

On the southern side of the Salt River Canyon, we could see both bridges that cross the final river gorge. We could also see the switchbacks that led to the bridge crossing, providing visual evidence of the steep grade.

My father's birthday is on the 4th of July.  So, for the past N years the kids have been gathering at dad's place to watch fireworks from the roof.  This year, things have been subdued; dad has cancer (at 92) and was too weak to leave his bed to watch.  So, I went and took photos so he could see the event anyway.  The fireworks were at the El Conquistador Hotel in Oro Valley and were easily visible from the roof deck.

There were a small variety of fireworks, most of them similar to the one shown above.  The lights in the distance are Oro Valley on the northwest side of Tucson.

The previous year the show was canceled due to excessively dry conditions.  This year, conditions were also dry, but extra steps were taken to insure that a fire was not started.  Oro Valley had fire equipment stationed at the launch area and just down wind.  It was hot, but the breeze was just strong enough to blow the excess smoke away from the viewing area.

Some of the bursts were quite complex with many stages to the explosion.

This burst was multi-colored.

I used by small Olympus OMD-EM5 mirror-less SLR for these photos and it did a good job.

There was plenty of smoke from the fireworks and fortunately it blew the smoke away from us.

The time exposure technique I was using to capture these photos fools the eye: these blasts seem to happen at the same time when in reality they were many seconds apart.

The red glow of the smoke indicates the direction of the breeze.

For me, the fireworks were bittersweet.  It was sad that my father was unable to view them, but I was happy that I was able to capture them for his later enjoyment.  It is heart-wrenching to watch someone who you love be eaten alive from the inside out with no recourse and no assistance possible.  He is wasting away and this experience proves to me there is no death with dignity in America.  You wound not let your family dog suffer like this, but the law states that you must when it is a relative.  In America, it is "life at all costs" with the emphasis being on the "all costs" part.  The dying are exploited right to the very end until every last drop of blood and funds are consumed with the final exploitation happening after death has arrived.

The trip to San Diego was uneventful but hot.  It was 115 degrees when we went through Yuma, AZ in the afternoon and seemingly hotter in the Imperial Valley.  But we made it home in one piece.

With the exception of having the trip cut short by father's situation, we had a great time.  The American west is beyond comparison and should be explored at every opportunity.

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Photos and Text Copyright Bill Caid 2013, all rights reserved.
For your enjoyment only, not for commercial use.