We have been driving and driving and driving, but we’ve also been stopping for a little fun along the way. Definitely the most stressful part of this trip, for me, prior to leaving, was knowing that we had to drive from New Orleans to Phoenix (or rather, right outside of Phoenix) in a matter of 5 days—from our wedding on March 23 to our wedding on March 29 in Arizona. I sort of anticipated us spending entire days driving and arriving just in time for the wedding Saturday, but that, thankfully, is not what happened. We did put in 2 super long days leaving Louisiana to push all the way across Texas and into West Texas, but after we got to Balmorhea State Park, about 200 miles from El Paso, we felt we could take our time getting onto Phoenix.
Wednesday, we woke up at Balmorhea and decided to check out Marfa, Texas, hipster paradise and home to all things creative in the middle of truly nowhere. Marfa has recently gained notoriety for a few things—not only is it a bastion of culture and creativity in the middle of West Texas, but it also hosts a public radio station, a film festival or two, a really fantastic art museum, the infamous Prada Marfa art installation (truthfully, Prada Marfa is actually in Valentine, TX which is about 30 miles West of Marfa) as well as many, many, many creative, artists, illustrators, designers, painters, etc. We were slightly reluctant about going to Marfa simply because we didn’t want to follow the crowd and “do Marfa” as all the other traveling folks do…but we were only 2 hours away, so it sort of felt a shame not to check it out.
We left early Wednesday morning and headed towards Marfa—the 2 hour drive from the park was beautiful—vistas and buttes, huge mountains, a few cacti here and there, but for the most part open and blank sagebrush fed areas. It also was empty—except for at least 10 Airstreams. Now, it’s pretty rare to see another Airstream on the road. We can drive for 5 or 6 hours and maybe see one…on the way to Marfa we saw 3 on the road hauling and at least 6 in fields, at homes, parked next to post offices, etc. This is where all the Airstreams go, we figured out. When we arrived to Marfa it was sort of exactly what we thought—pretty small…. fairly modernized….one food truck serving a plethora of young 20 something’s who were all wearing black skinny jeans despite the 84 degree temperatures, and….again…lots of Airstreams. We spent about an hour walking around the town, letting the dogs stretch their legs, checking out some cool buildings and modernized housing. As we headed out of Marfa, towards El Paso, we passed the Prada Marfa building and stopped to take a couple pictures. I was bummed initially that a group of French bicyclists who had also stopped to photograph the building wouldn’t move out of the way so I could get the clean Prada building on its own, but then later, upon looking at the picture, I realized I liked this photo with the bicyclists was better—much cooler than the blank slate, I think.
After Marfa, we spent about 3 hours driving north towards El Paso and then onward, out of Texas and into New Mexico. We stayed that night in a really tragic small town, Deming, about 30 minutes across the Texas border and quite closet to he Mexico border. Actually, as we were driving through El Paso, we could see the Mexican border and the river—lots of signs about not picking up hitchhikers and travelers and I found myself wondering how many people in Texas, Arizona, and New Mexico spend their time as Minutemen (civilians who patrol the border in their off-time) and also what, exactly, brings about such anti-immigration sentiment in this part of the country. I suppose I can vaguely understand the “immigrants take our jobs” stance that many adapt, but, truly, that just isn’t the case. I won’t get too political right now except to say that I think it goes without saying that building a wall to divide the countries is pretty much the silliest thing ever. It’s so evident how entrenched the Mexican culture is in this part of the country and, I’m sure, how Americanized parts of Mexico are as well.
In Deming we stayed at a really small and pretty basic RV park---it was literally just a parking lot with hookups. We ate at a Mexican restaurant called Si Senor and then went to bed about 9pm. All 4 of us were tired after a long day and ready to hit the road in the morning.
Thursday morning we headed towards Roper Lake State Park which is a state park outside of Safford, AZ, about 90 minutes from the wedding we were photographing on Saturday. We initially planned to only stay one night, but upon arriving and finding such a lovely state park, we made the decision to stay 2 nights, leaving early on Saturday morning. Probably the highlight of our time at Roper Lake, besides the natural springs hot tub fed by hot springs, was meeting 2 kids who wanted to make donuts with us. They came over and we used our new (from the thrift store) electric skillet to fry up some pseudo-Café Dumonde donuts and they had a great time. The best part for them, I think was being told that they could make the donuts into any shape they wished—they were like “You mean they don’t have to be circles?!” and proceeded to attempt to make letters, animals and such. None were recognizable after they came out of the oil, but the kids didn’t seem to mind. They were both from Arizona, but their grandfather, whom they were camping with for the weekend, had lived in Michigan, Illinois and Alaska. We had a great time cooking in the warm evening sun and meeting some new friends as well.
Early Saturday morning we headed out towards Superior, AZ. Now, prior to leaving, we had spent a lot of time researching the best and safest route to take. From everything we could determine, Superior, AZ is not only a really, really, really small town, but it also sits in a valley between 2 mountain ranges. We took to the trusty Airstream forum and asked for route advice from Safford to Superior and while there were a variety of suggestions, the prevailing best option seemed to be to take Highway 60 West into Superior. We were told, “the road is good and there is little traffic. A few small declines, but nothing bad.”
Leaving Safford and driving into Globe, AZ was just fine—it was a beautiful 2-lane highway with lots of little towns along the way and a huge stretch passing through the San Carlos Apache Reservation. According to the Wikipedia page the San Carlos Reservation is one of the poorest reservations in the country and 68% of the labor force is unemployed with the average median income of $14,000 a year.
Globe, AZ was a fantastic little town with loads of antique shops boasting some f the best quilts and cowboy boots we’ve seen this whole trip. We also had a lovely breakfast at a local bakery of burros and chiliquiles for only about $7. After breakfast and antiquing, it was time to head into Superior—no problem, only 14 miles and then onto the wedding.
The drive over the pass was interesting. Ian did a great job, but my palms were definitely sweaty and it was definitely fairly nerve-wracking. Had we not been towing a 31 foot trailer, I think we would not have felt nervous at all, but after 6 or 7 miles of 8% grades and various runaway truck ramps and a low ceilinged tunnel going through a mountain AND over a bridge, you’re sort of rattled. We joked that we could tell our couple that THIS was the most stressful part of the drive in the 9,000 miles we’ve covered on this trip. But, we made it to Superior, Priscilla holding up great and our truck doing a fantastic job of getting us over the pass, and arrived to the Boyce Thompson Arboretum, where the wedding would be held.
We had no plan for where to spend the night. The one RV park in Superior had closed a month ago and while we had been told that it might be possible to camp in the parking lot at the Arb after the wedding, we had not had confirmation yet. When we got to the Arb, we asked again if we could park there for the night and after much hemming and hawing, we were told that no, we could not park there overnight and we would need to move on. No matter—there is a creek wash a mile down the road—a larger parking lot/cow pasture type structure with open grazing, so we could just pull in there after we left and boondock for the night. For those of you not familiar with this term, boon docking is when you camp without services—no electrical or water hookups, everything running off the battery. No problem—shot the wedding (it was gorgeous….I could not stop geeking out about the light…seriously, the desert light is the best in the world, I think) and afterwards we drove down the road to the wash, parked the Airstream, and tucked in for the night. All went well and off we went early this morning at 6am towards Flagstaff. We need to be in Santa Fe by Wednesday, but we plan to take some time to check out the Petrified Forest National Park on the way. One more Pop Up wedding on Friday and then exploring Santa Fe for a few days and then we’ll begin to head home. We’re having a wonderful time and certainly enjoying this leg of the trip a lot, but we will both be ready to be back and settled into the cottage in Grand Haven in just a few weeks as well, back on a slightly more normalized schedule and ready for wedding season to officially kick off in early May.