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week 6+7: new mexico, arizona

day 37: el paso to new mexico

bill: today we explored white sands national park which is very cool. the park is in the tularosa basin between mountain ranges and because there is no outlet to the sea in the basin, all of the dissolved minerals from the rain in the mountains ends up pooling in the basin until it evaporates, leaving behind these massive gypsum sand dunes. we did a hike through the alkali flats despite a very dark looking sky and wind warnings, turned around just in time to get caught in a wicked rain/sandstorm. we waited out the storm in the van then drove to oliver lee state park where we watched the snow fall on the mountains and a rainbow arch over our van. pretty cool.

Amy: White Sands National Park is otherworldly! Just a few minutes into the park, we were driving through dunes as white as snow. It really felt like another planet. As we entered, we were warned of a wind advisory (50+ mph) so we decided to hustle and squeeze in a hike before the weather got too bad. The Alkali flats “trail” (we followed sparse plastic markers stuck in the sand) snaked up and down dunes, as far as the eye could see. We took off our shoes and ran up and down the dunes - some totally untouched - the sand rippling beneath our feet. This is the only hike I’ve done in bare feet! Partway through, the dark sky opened up, pelting icy raindrops and grains of sand into our faces. The van was rocking with the gusts when we got back. We skidaddled out of there, and when we got to camp, the sun peeked out of the clouds for sunset, forming a FULL rainbow over the van. Magic.


day 38: new mexico

bill: we hiked dog canyon trail up in the sacramento mountains, a quick 10.4km 360m hike up past the snow line to and old ranger cabin, very cool. lots of snow covered cholla cacti.

flowering cholla

after calling around to a million scrapyards as far as california who didn't have a match for our windshield, by the grace of god we found one at the closest one in alamogordo so we went to pick that up and install it. it is very tinted and i am not sure how i feel about that but it is better than a sheet of plexiglass. with our window repaired, we were ready to head west. we stopped back at white sands quickly for sunset which was magical, then drove to las cruces and stayed at a scenic outlook rest stop.

Amy: We decided to explore Lincoln National Forest while we were camped nearby, so we we hiked in (and up) a very vertical trail into Dog Canyon. Eventually, we got above the frost line and a thin layer of snow coated the trail, bushes and cacti. It was surreal to hike through a desert winter wonderland! Some of the spindly cacti were even blossoming yellow flowers. We hiked down, ate macaroni, showered and then headed out for some chores! Gas, propane, groceries and A BRAND NEW (to us) WINDOW! Calling all those scrapyards paid off. Feeling accomplished, we hit the road again. As we drove past White Sands, the sunset was at its peak, so we stopped to admire the golden sky, purple mountains and indigo dunes.


day 39: las cruces to tucson

Amy: On our way to Phoenix, we wanted to hit Saguaro National Park (free with our park pass) so we stopped in Tucson for a few nights. We stayed in a cactus forest, dense with many species of cacti (short bulbous ones, blobby tree-like ones, and the ginormous saguaros - neither of us can believe they're so tall!) We made a small campfire at sunset using dried up, dead cactus wood. The sun illuminated the spikes on all the cacti so it seemed like the whole forest was glowing. Magic again. 

bill: tucson is beautiful in the winter. compared to the dead, dreary wasteland of new mexico, tucson is green and lush, surrounded by snow capped mountains. there is almost as much biodiversity here as is in the amazon, though a lot of it is cacti. the plants here all have this luminant cyan-green hue to them, very cool. i had no idea that saguaro cactuses (the classic cactus you would draw as a kid) are like 50 feet tall. we stayed on blm land in a lush cactus forest which was absolutely wild.

day 40: tucson

bill: today we explored saguaro national park and hiked wasson peak, the highest mountain in the park, a 12km 500m hike that overlooks the whole park and tucson, very cool. more gigantic cacti, though less lush than our cactus forest site.

Amy: We are still in awe of the towering saguaros. Our hike took us right through a valley thick with their weird and wild forms. I made a game out of naming shapes - an elephant, a giant hand, a police hold up. The hike up the peak was hot and tired us right out, but it was worth the view and we got to see some petroglyphs etched into rocks by ancient peoples. 

day 41 to 46: phoenix

Amy: Before we left the cactus forest, Bill took a piece of one and put it in a jar on our dashboard. VERY spiky, but cute. Made it to Phoenix and it was time to fly back to Vancouver for that sweet Canadian healthcare. Spent a few days with my family (and got to sleep in a real bed!!).

bill: drove to phoenix, dropped amy off at the airport, camped on phoenix on state land near the superstition mountains for 3 days by myself. rode my bike, drank zoom beers, ran errands to get ready for departure to mexico - bought surfboards, wetsuits, got an oil change, tried to find traction boards to get us out of the sand but nowhere had them in stock so i built some out of 2x6s and nuts + bolts, navigated buying mexican insurance, tracked down hard to find motorcycle parts, got a hepatitis a vaccine, and broke and subsequently fixed our awning. mostly a boring and annoying few days. living in a van isn't always fun when you are always on the move and have no fixed address to ship things to now that stores have all gone to the amazon business model.

very superstitious

day 47: phoenix to the arizona desert near yuma

bill: turns out driving with the motocycle suspension compressed for 6 weeks isn’t good for it, both fork seals ended up blowing. unfortunately this meant completely disassembling and reassembling the front suspension, which is a real pain, even more so when you don’t have a clean garage to work in. despite best efforts, dirt got all inside the forks while trying to hammer out a stuck bushing and it was much more complicated than it should have been. amy was an excellent mechanic and helped me problem solve. we had to make a makeshift jack with the traction boards and the spare tire to get the alignment right, which involved essentially deadlifting the bike. but we got the job done, and i devised a system to strap down the bike without compressing the suspension: a 2x4 cut to the length from the tire to the fender. now it is off to mexico!

Amy: We spent one last night in Arizona to refill water, shower, do laundry etc. at a cool place called Dateland, where they grow dates on palm trees. We tried one of their "world famous" date milkshakes, and it was pretty tasty. Then we ate dinner at the Pizza Hut attached to the gift shop. We are recharged and ready for Mexico!

blog posting might be less frequent for the next bit since we need service to write and publish the blog and there basically isn't any on the baja, also updates like “today we sat on the beach” aren’t really as exciting. Hablamos luego!

here is this week's video:

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David Caughey
David Caughey
12 thg 3, 2023

What's a zoom beer?




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