A vacation trip to the Great Southwest

Country Roads

Normal people take summer vacations or, perhaps, Spring Break vacations. We aren’t normal so we took a vacation trip a couple of weeks before Spring Break.

Julie’s daughter in Phoenix gave birth to a baby girl in January and we just couldn’t wait until Spring Break or summer to meet her.

With excellent air connections to Phoenix it would make sense to fly there but with ever-decreasing passenger room on airliners making my flight experiences painful we drove the 1,400 miles from here to there. And back.

We departed on a cold Monday morning looking forward to the legendary sunshine and warmth of the Southwest. Though our itinerary took us through warmer climes than Iowa it was still jacket weather.

On our third day out we left Gallup, New Mexico, with fresh snow on the ground and drove through snow and ice pellets in the mountains north of Phoenix. Finally, as we descended into the Valley of the Sun we began to enjoy the fabled sunshine and warmth of Arizona.

The new grandbaby is beautiful and her three-year-old brother a precocious ball of energy. Julie got lots of baby cuddling time and I entertained the older brother.

My first wife’s sister and her husband winter on the northwest side of the Phoenix metro which, according to our GPS unit, was less than an hour from our hotel on the southeast side. We agreed to meet at 4 p.m. and left an hour before. Even at that time of day traffic was so heavy the 55-mile drive took two stressful hours. Nonetheless, we had a delightful visit and dinner and then drove the same route back to our hotel in 45 minutes. Timing is everything.

A cousin is the director of finance and an instructor for a Christian missionary aviation school in the southeast corner of Arizona and on our trip home we visited their home in a small community miles from anywhere. While I prefer less remote locales, I was impressed with their home and their community. They live in a pancake-flat valley between two mountain ranges ̶ one to the west, the other to the east. The mountains we could see to the south were in Mexico. Surrounding their community are large fields where corn, alfalfa and other crops are grown, all requiring irrigation, of course.

We were given a tour of the aviation school which was larger and more impressive than I expected. A huge hangar housed several single-engine airplanes and a helicopter of the type missionaries use to fly into remote areas of South America, Papua New Guinea and other parts of the world. A couple of the planes were being rebuilt to be sent back into service on mission fields.

Our trip home took us through New Mexico from the southwest corner to the east central part of the state. We had driven through several Border Patrol Interior Checkpoints previously but the checkpoint south of Alamogordo was the first we found active. As we approached the Border Patrol agent I put down my window and gave him a hearty Iowa “good morning.” He took a steely-eyed look at our car and its occupants and then waved us through. I guess a hefty 70-year-old man and his good-looking wife don’t fit the profile of illegal border crossers.

One of the highlights of my trip was a visit to the International UFO Museum and Research Center in Roswell, New Mexico. I had read about the 1947 extra-terrestrial alien incident (and federal government cover-up) years ago. The museum does an excellent job of presenting the story in a scientific and non-sensational manner. My wife entered the museum with skepticism and left with… well, a little less skepticism.

The rest of the way home was routine. I enjoyed the southwestern part of the Texas panhandle where agriculture resembles Iowa ag. Driving through Oklahoma City’s evening rush hour reminded me of why I so enjoy retirement.

We drove in sunshine from southeast Arizona north but encountered snowflakes in northern Missouri. By the time we reached West Des Moines it was 27 degrees and snowing heavily.

Our Great Southwest vacation was definitely over.

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