I haven’t really been making headway on my road trip posts, which I am very disappointed about. I want to be done with these before I leave for the APA Conference in Hawaii, since I want that to be a post all of its own shortly after I get back. I’d bring my computer and “live blog” the thing, but my computer is on life support (or the battery is crap and it won’t charge once it’s taken off the power cord).
Anyway…Arizona…This was the part of the trip I was not looking forward too. My mother-in-law and I…we don’t get along. I also had yet to meet Spencer’s maternal grandparents or aunt and uncle. Over the course of the year we had received a few scathing emails from grandpa who expressed his displeasure at our lack of contact with Spencer’s mother. I was convinced by this point that I was not going to be received warmly. I was sick to my stomach at the thought of having to meet his family and see his mother once again.
The trip to Tucson was pretty easy. We started out early from New Mexico to beat the heat. The drive in was a pretty leisurely one, as we had nothing to do that night besides check in to the hotel. Spencer took the reigns and drove straight to our first location – Cloudcroft, NM. Cloudcroft is a beautiful old logging town set high up in the mountains. We stopped at a picnic area in the Lincoln National Forests. Ellie and I took a short walk to the Devil’s Elbow overlook. The view was phenomenal, so we went back to wait for Spencer before embarking on our long walking adventure. It was in the upper 60s/lower 70s with a slight breeze. This change in temperature from 103 the day before had me digging down to the bottom of my bag for a jacket.
Lunch was light. We each grabbed a mouthful of sunflower seeds before heading out on our walk. We went back to the Devil’s Elbow. Spencer pointed to some white clouds down in the distant valley, asking if I knew what they were. When I guessed clouds, he pointed out that it was sandy desert (which was, in fact, the White Sands National Monument). What a view!
We continued to hike down to see bits and pieces of the old railroad trestles. Once we reached an area infested with what I thought were very active tent caterpillars, we decided to head back. It was then we realized just how far down we had hiked, and just how hard the altitude was hitting us. Going from sea level to 8600 feet above sea level was quite the athletic transition, and the hike up took significantly longer than usual. It seems as though we had gotten carried away by the idea of a hike with a significant elevation change (unlike the “hike” we have here in Florida), and overestimated our former Washingtonian hiking skills.
We continued our drive west towards the missile test range at Holloman Air Force Base. From there we drove through the entire white sand area we had seen from the mountain top. It was then I started to feel antsy. After a taste of the mountain and some mild weather, I was ready to be out of the desert. I felt hot and claustrophobic, which never happens to me. I pulled over at the next gas station to switch with Spencer.
We were almost to Arizona when traffic on I-10 slowed significantly and diverted into what seemed like a border crossing. I looked at the GPS, very confused. Had we driven South on accident, and somehow ended up at the Mexican border? No, we were almost at the border between New Mexico and Arizona, some 60 miles north of the Mexican border. As we drove closer, we saw that each car was stopped while a border patrol official poked his head in the car. We drove up and the officer looked at us and asked “Are you an American citizen, ma’am? Sir?” Oh yes, at this point I knew we were close to Arizona – the “Show Me Your Papers” state.
The rest of the journey was boring, as we trekked through the Southwestern desert. We pulled up to the hotel and settled in with the dog. Ellie slept in a bed with me, and Spencer had one to himself. Thankfully, Ellie slept well through the night, only popping off a few muted barks when people would walk past our ground floor door.
We went to Spencer’s aunt’s house for dinner. I was nervous the entire drive out to their house, with my stomach in huge knots. I took a few deep breaths getting out of the car. Thankfully Ellie was with us, so I could use her as a buffer for any unwanted hugs! Thankfully, the new family members that I had met were just as sweet and kind as Spencer had told me they would be. Even his grandfather said I was his new favorite granddaughter-in-law…as long as I overlooked the fact that I was his only granddaughter-in-law! Grammy sat and talked with me for hours about how much we both love Spencer, and she gave me useful tips on being a military wife. The two of them recently celebrated their 58th wedding anniversary. His auntie was the best though – she let us do our laundry there, cooked us an amazing dinner, and sent us home with leftovers.
Also, best quote from the mother-in-law, regarding why it’s so great to live in AZ – “I love it. It’s like being able to get back to nature…now if only there weren’t so many animals and things!”
What? Well, she was pretty sauced by that time thanks to the margaritas that auntie might have made on the strong side…:)
All-in-all, it was a great night. We slept well, and left early, preparing for our adventure to the Grand Canyon!