Road Trip – Chapter 13

We head south toward the Tucson Desert Museum. It’s odd to see crop-bearing fields on one side of the highway and sand with a very few stubby mesquite shrubs on the other. Many fields are growing cotton. 

It’s a short side trip so we visit Casa Grande, a four story building made around 1,350 by native Americans  I wonder if anyone would have stayed here if they came from elsewhere? I do some research. 

Humans arrived here around 11,000 years ago when the climate was more temperate. Trees and plants began retreating north a couple of thousand years later and it was another 4,500 years before today’s plant and animal life was established.

So the folks who lived here had many thousands of years to adjust how they lived as the climate changed. They began living in communities around 300, established increasingly ambitious irrigation systems, and the population of the Casa Grande compound was around 2,000 by the time the great four story building was constructed.  

The compound was abandoned only a century later, most likely because massive flooding destroyed the irrigation system. Native Americans who live here now also have a legend that the community was destroyed by war. 

The purpose of the Casa Grande is not known but it has openings in the walls placed so the sun is visible through both holes at the equinoxes. Perhaps it was used by spirit leaders not just to keep track of time in that way but also to predict when the rains would come and when crops should be planted. 

Felicity guesses they got it wrong too many times and were killed, then fighting broke out among the desperately hungry people, survivors of whom returned to the way their remote ancestors had lived. 

From there we travel on to the Desert Museum and camp nearby. 

Next day – Felicity tells me I was grinding my teeth so hard last night that the noise woke her up. Now she’s more awake she realizes it was mesquite branches blowing against Henry’s walls. 

In my dream I was listening to Vera Lynn singing We’ll meet again, don’t know where, don’t know when but I know we’ll meet again some sunny day”.

I had a new appreciation for why British soldiers and those they left behind in WW2 loved that song. I did not feel sad. I was happy for everyone who found solace in her song. 

Is my mind hoping for rebirth? I know we have no intrinsic self that could be reborn and I’m happy that every action we take shapes the future of everything, but my mental roommate Mr Ego may not have accepted those truths yet. 

We walk around the desert museum for a couple of hours. I realize now, of course you’d stay if you were born here into the time tested way of life. Also, if you did go exploring you’d find the land all around was pretty much the same. 

The mountain lion is so elegant but its home is so small compared to what a lion is used to. The wolves look bored and the deer seems to have lost the will to live. The javelinas have a much larger territory, though, and they look happy. The desert plants don’t appear to need territory in the way mobile brings do. They come in such diverse forms. How amazing life is!

There are so many places we’re tempted to visit but we do want to be home before Christmas so after lunch we just barrel along the highway to Lordsberg New Mexico. We’re soon away from saguaro cacti and climbing through terrain covered by rounded light brown boulders balanced perilously on others. 

The land flattens, the mountain ranges are further from the road. The cacti are low growing, agave, cholla and others. Then mesquite and what look to be more and more creosote bushes. They smell so fine!

The road goes on and on. We pass a few tracts of pecans. Nothing humans en masse want can grow here without irrigation. How long before that collapses as it did at Casa Grande and what will we do then?  This is why we have science fiction. 

As we get close to today’s destination, road signs warn us about dust storms. If we get in one we must pull over and stop, turn off our lights, stay off the brake pedal, remain buckled, and wait. We’re on a very flat and very large stretch of sand with surprisingly large areas of standing water. The grass growing thinly around the water is brown. 

And now we’re at the KOA. This one is a bare parking lot, very different from last night’s where all the sites were nestled among desert plants and trees. The man who checks us in puts us next to another camper because he knows people like to be close to each other. 

Next day – There are so many places to see in New Mexico but most of them are too cold now and also, we want to be home before Christmas. We’ll head for the Gulf of Mexico and explore the coast. 

We turn off the highway onto a minor road that takes us to the Mexican border through the same sandy, mesquite sprinkled desert. We turn east close to the border and run parallel along it. 

Verizon claims we’re in Mexico and texts us we’ll be charged $5/day extra to use our cellphones now we’re no longer in the US. 

There’s hardly any traffic on this road, just Border Patrol pickups driving along the dirt track beside the road with dust clouds billowing high in the air behind them. Perhaps they don’t want to catch anyone trying to cross the border. 

We pass an encampment surrounded by a high fence. Many, many Border Patrol pickups parked outside the block house. 

Felicity fancies a taco for lunch so we stop in Columbus, a small village with several restaurants. We find one that looks promising. Felicity goes in, I have my formula in the rv and then go across the street to the library where they’re having a sale. I finished the very good Frank Lloyd Wright biography last night. Felicity returns from where it turned out they only sold hamburgers tricked out in many ways. 

Driving through El Paso is quite hairy then we barrel along the highway through the usual desert. Despite seeing it from the air many times I really had no sense of just how much of the US southwest is desert before we did this trip. Roadside signs far from anywhere offer 20 acres for $16,500, zero cash down, zero interest and $165/month. 

Not far short of our destination, Van Horn Texas, we stop at the Inspection Station. “Both of you US citizens?” I give a thumbs up. Felicity says “yes”. The man says “have a nice day” and we’re back on the road. 

Felicity reads that one of its founders said “Van Horn is so healthy we had to shoot a man to start a cemetery” and that he was shot a year later. 

I didn’t feel tired today and I had good energy. 

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