Oregon Trail Day 7

We spent Saturday driving across New Mexico and Arizona to get to Williams, a little town about an hour south of the Grand Canyon National Park.  It was a long day of driving (about as long as the previous day when we drove across most of Texas), but it was generally pleasant because the weather wasn’t terrible and the landscape changed drastically every few hours.

Desert hills in New Mexico.

Our major stop of the day was in Albuquerque, New Mexico, where we visited an old friend from college and spent some time walking around the Albuquerque BioPark.  We got to see a portion of a documentary about a photographer who has spent the last decade taking pictures of endangered animals to be logged into an archive he calls the PhotoArk.  His hope is to use his photography to help communicate the amount of biodiversity that’s being lost because of careless human interactions with the environment and try to get people to act in ways that are more friendly to the life with whom we share the planet.  We also saw exhibits at the zoo like a bug house where a colony of leaf cutter ants traveled across the atrium on an open air overhead vine between their colony and their food source and Rachael was extremely excited by a container of old tarantula carapaces labeled “Education Molts.”  After the zoo, we tried some New Mexican food and received an education on the importance of poblano chiles to the local cuisine and how one’s opinion on green versus red chile salsa is a vital matter.

The rocks on the sides of the hills all through this leg of the drive were humongous.

The afternoon drive saw us attempt to detour to the Petroglyph National Park, but we decided to skip it after we learned it would take at least an hour to hike the shortest trails, and we needed to make sure we didn’t arrive in Williams too late to check in (arriving in a town late with no place to sleep would have been pretty bad).  Because of that we skipped a couple other attractions that might have been fun to see, like the Meteor Crater in the Arizona desert.  A lot of this paranoia had to do with time zone weirdness, as our GPS predicted we’d arrive at one time, but it didn’t line up with the projected travel time.  We didn’t solve this particular mystery until this morning when I looked up a time zone map and discovered that most of Arizona does not participate in Daylight Savings Time, which means that this time of year the majority of the state is effectively on Pacific Time.  That one was a weird puzzle since our phone clocks updated accordingly, but, because it needs to be changed manually, our car clock didn’t.  Since we knew we were still in the Mountain Time zone, you can imagine our confusion.

That all worked out okay though, and we got into town with plenty of time to check in and go out to a nice local gastropub where they served us flights of Arizona craft beers and local varieties of mead, all while we sat next to a classic muscle car (this place is located inside a converted auto shop).

I was taken with how drastically the weather changed every time we’ve crossed state lines in the Southwest.  Texas had these beautiful, serene skies with big, billowy clouds, and New Mexico was unrelentingly sunny all the way across.  As soon as we crossed the Arizona border the storm clouds set in and we were treated to a desert thunderstorm.  I tried to get some pictures of the lightning, but that’s really hard to do even when you aren’t riding in a car that’s moving at seventy-five miles per hour.  It was still pretty spectacular to see, and I did get a few pictures of the isolated storms that were happening in different spots miles away from each other.

We ended up driving through that splotch of light directly ahead on the horizon with rain coming down hard on either side of us. There was also some much heavier rain later.

Today we’re heading out for the Grand Canyon, where we’re going to camp for a couple nights.  Power and internet are likely to be scarce resources out there, so expect another major update around Tuesday or Wednesday when we’re stopped Los Angeles for a couple days to see more friends.

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