thesticks

Sunday 12th June 1983

We make our own breakfast, very health: water melon and pink grapefruit. By 8 am we are leaving the motel. First stop to get ice before setting off for the Apache Trail. Finding ice here is easy. There is ice with everything.

Drinks are really glasses full of ice with only a splash of the drink. Once, when I asked for less ice and they put the price up.

I assume the locals are used to them, but we are still amazed by the size, number and variety of advertising bill boards along the edges of the roads. Although we are beginning to get a bit more used to the driving conditions, and the automatic car is very easy to drive, these huge advertising hoardings are very distracting.

We stop to take photographs and notice that passing motorists are staring at us. We wonder if it is illegal to stop at the edge of the road or whether pedestrians aren't allowed, but then a police car passes and completely ignores us, so we assume we may be unusual but are doing nothing wrong. After a few minutes one driver stops to check we are OK. I guess he thought we must have broken down. It's kind of him to enquire, but now he must think we're nuts.

I am enjoying the weather. It is wonderful, sunny and bright, but the heat is creating mirages on the road ahead, the lines marking the lanes keep distorting which makes driving feel strange.

Our second stop is at Boyce-Thompson South Western Arboretum.  Apart from the trees we had no idea what to expect, but the Arboretum was a delightful place, full of wildlife: birds, insects, small mammals, and of course the cacti. We enjoy strolling around the trails and have a pleasant time taking photographs.

It is beginning to get hot as we return to our car and continue along the southern section of our circular route, not yet the actual Apache Trail. We pass through Superior and Miami and stop for lunch at a small cafe just outside Miami. I try burro, which I think is more commonly known as burrito, with root beer, the non-alcoholic variety despite its name. We struggle to understand the man serving us and he struggles to understand us. Maybe he speaks Spanish and English isn't his first language.

The root beer tastes like deep heat. It's as if I have licked my fingers after massaging a muscle injury with liniment. I don't like it. Stewart says it must be an acquired taste. I can't understand why anyone would want to acquire it but it is a popular drink, or possible the alcoholic version is more popular. The burro is a bit leathery and eating it with only a fork and no knife is tricky. We finish our meal and want to leave. We hesitate and whisper about the tip.  What should we do? I don't think we will ever get the hang of leaving tips.

Onwards with our journey we finally turn onto Route 88, the Apache Trail proper. We think we are heading for Roosevelt Lake but find ourselves in a housing estate. American houses, even in one small area can vary from mansions to clapped out caravans. To our eyes, accustomed to housing estates of near identical or similar theme houses, it is very strange. Most of the houses in this area appear to be nearer to the smaller end of the scale, a shanty town of what looked like mobile homes or semi permanent homes, some with solid bases and wooden verandahs. However small and shabby looking the houses are, they all have at least one and often two very large cars or trucks parked outside. 

We find our way out of the houses and make our way to a recreation area on the lake, about three miles down a wide dirt track. It seems to be popular. There are a lot of cars and plenty of people boating, swimming and picnicking. Not yet familiar with recreation spots in a desert it looks odd to us. No grass. People sitting, playing and picnicking on what looks like dry mud. I realise how much I take grass for granted. Here is is noticeable by its absence. The water looks murky,  I assume the people playing in it are stirring up the dust, but they all seem to be having amazing fun. I imagine that a lake like this is a magnet for recreation for people who live in the Arizona dessert.

We don't stay by the lake for long, having no picnic and not being inclined to swim.

Our next stop is Tonto National Monument which turns out to be a very interesting place. We hike up the steep hill to explore the excavated old cliff dwellings of the Salado culture indians. There is too much to see and we are cramming too much into our time so we are rushed and we hurry around taking photographs. Been there, done that. I must remember not to mock next time someone mentions an American tour of Europe: Its Tuesday so it must be Belgium! Despite our hurry and the climb the walk is quite pleasant despite the sun still being high. We must be getting used to the heat, even Stewart.

After the Roosevelt Dam the road becomes very rough, a potted, rutted track. A sign warns us that it will be like this for the next 22 miles. It is steep and twisting. The car is gulping down its fuel. What we had estimated was more than enough fuel for the remaining 80 miles of our journey starts to disappear. We being to get anxious. Before we get half way the fuel light begins to flash. We are no longer enjoying the scenery.

Concern that we may be stranded is occupying our minds. We make it back to paved road and to Tortilla Flat. The fuel light is showing steady and the fuel gauge is pointing to empty, but we are relieved to have reached a named place. It never occurs to us that they won't have fuel, but they don't. No gas here. We are directed to the next place, Canyon Lake. We are advised to go to the marina, we should be OK. It's only two miles they say.

We make it. We get to the marina but they only have leaded petrol and our car needs lead free. The marina manager is reluctant to sell us leaded fuel for an unleaded fuel vehicle. He thinks it may be illegal, but the nozzle of his pump will fit the fuel tank of our car and he agrees to sell us two gallons. We hope it will not damage the car. It is very expensive. He charges us $1.50 a gallon, but he knows we are desperate. Two gallons will get us to Apache Junction.

With sufficient fuel we relax, relief and disappointment hit us. We are upset we missed the traditional indian trading post in Tortilla Flat and annoyed we spent more than half our our time looking at the fuel gauge and not the spectacular scenery we were driving through. As photographers, well Stewart is a decent amatuer, I just take snap shots, we console ourselves that there was no where we could have stopped to take pictures and that we would not have been able to capture the magnificent panoramic views.

It is nearly dark when we arrived back in Phoenix, too dark for me to go running. We head off to Pizza Hut and more salad than we can eat. Stewart is fascinated that the locals don't use knives and forks to eat their pizzas, "just fingers and teeth!" Americans don't seem keen on knives. 

We are tired, we have driven 200 miles despite this being designated as a "sight seeing" and not "driving day" in our schedule. The fuel consumption of the car was not too bad - just over 30 miles per gallon despite the adventure between Roosevelt Dam and Tortilla Flat. The post cards will have to wait until tomorrow. I am too tired to write them tonight. Goodnight.