Christian Kemp's USA travelogs

< Previous | List | Next > Early departure, sunrise at Salton Sea, quick stop at Imperial Sand Dunes, Organ Pipe National Monument, on to Tucson

Sunday evening, I was in bed by 8pm. Or rather, in tent. And that felt strange. One lesson I quickly learned was that it might not have been the best idea to erect the tent with the entrance facing away from the car and the road. That way, there was no easy way of taking a look what each noise was about that emanated from that direction, which of course worried me more than it should have.

Sometime in the evening, somebody with what I later identified as an old VW bus arrived. The exhaust must have been falling off, since it was making a lot of noise. He seems to unpack, but then starts the engine again. I can hear him driving a few meters, then stopping again. Repeat. I finally lose my nerve and open the zippers of the tent to look what is going on. Seems his lights are not working well, and he tries to fix them.After some time, he drives off again. Only to come back later in the night. Each time, he arrived just as I was about to drift to sleep.

There were annoying people, too. Some really manic laughs from some camp site, and a teenage girl expressing at the top of her lungs how "beautiful" and "amazing" the moon was. Somehow, this made me think that this is the generation that might have Britney Spears as a role model...

I finally slept a bit, only to awake and feel cold. No problem, use fleece inlay. Later, I awoke again and felt more cold. Put on sweater. Later still, I started feeling numb in my toes. I endured that for perhaps half an hour, before I decided to just get up, get in the car, and get away, seeing how I wouldn't be able to sleep comfortably anyway. That was sometime after 3:30am. So I packed up the tent, noticing that some condensed water inside the tent wall had actually frozen.

It took about an hour for the numbness in my toes to go away.

Santa Rosa Mountains across the Salton Sea, by sunrise I drove through Joshua Tree park towards the Cottonwood Exit. Which, as I discovered last year already, takes ages. I had planned to perhaps hike some trail out there, but decided that in that case I would still have to wait an hour or two for the sun to rise, so I dropped that plan.

Drove on towards Salton Sea, where I stopped around 6am to change clothes and take a few pictures of the sunrise. After some non-stop driving through the Imperial Valley, I arrived at the Imperial Sand Dunes around 7:35. Walked into the sand, got rid of the shoes, walked barefoot, returned to the car, had some breakfast, and drove on.

While passing the CA-AZ border, I lost an hour. Arrived at Gila Bend around 11:30, fueled up and had lunch at a Burger King. Continued half an hour later, and drove to the Organ Pipe National Monument.

Took the Ajo Mountain drive, a 21 mile dirt/gravel road that takes you through many Organ Pipe and Saguaro cactuses (cactii?). I wasn't too thrilled by it, perhaps because there were many people on the road, mostly snowbirds driving with their SUVs and trucks. What I dislike the most about this is that either you are stuck behind a car, or some other car is stuck behind you. This really gets on your nerves, especially if, like me, you like to stop often to take pictures, sometimes getting out of the car, sometimes just doing a "drive by shooting"...

A whole lot of Organ Pipe cactuses along Ajo Mountain Drive in Organ Pipe National Monument After considering my options, I decided not to stay there for the night: weather forecasts predicted another cold night (2°C); there was nothing left to do here, considering I had a minor sunburn and didn't want to spend too much time in the sun.

So I drove on, heading towards Tucson. I was stopped by a routine police control and had to show my passport and open the trunk, but since I wasn't clandestinely smuggling any mexicans, I suppose I didn't have any trouble getting by.

What struck me was the omnipresence of police, for the next three hours I would see many police cars either on the opposite lane, parked off-pavement, or following me for a while.

What also struck me was the amount of small white crosses beside the street. I didn't count them, but it seems like there was one of them every mile or so. Also, they all seem to be pretty recent, all white, and decorated with flowers and the like. That, or people renew the painting and the flowers every once in a while.

After three hours of driving at a ridiculously low 55mph though pretty boring Indian Reservation, I finally arrived in Tucson, and checked into the first Motel6 I could find.

Took a shower, watched some HBO, but probably was asleep by 8pm.

Miles driven: 558mi (898km)

Motel/Hotel Accommodation: Motel6 (Tucson, AZ): $46.98

Written in a Motel6 in Tucson, AZ on Tuesday March 5th around 7:40.