From Carlsbad, California to San Tan Valley, Arizona, stop one on our Billy-less journey back to Auburn, Alabama, was a cool, desert breeze of a ride for Murph and me.
From Southern California, I normally go staright across the 10, or certainly most of the way, but this drive, the shortest distance between our friend’s home where Billy is recovering fomr heartworms (go below for more) to the Pressman Pack home southeast of Phoenix took us along I-8 through the Cleveland National Forest, within view of the Sawtooth and Coyote Mountains to the north and the Hauser Mountain and Jacumba Wilderness to the south. We drove within spitting distance of the most ridiculous thing I have ever seen, some sort of “wall” along the so-called border. A fence. I’m pretty sure Murphy could find a way through it. Then El Centro, where things got a little green, before the stunning North Algodones Dunes Wilderness and a stop over in Yuma.
Now I know Yuma was home to a notorious territorial prison. But did you know the city, founded along the southern end of the Colorado River, was once the gateway to California known as Yuma Crossing and the Southern Emigrant Trail. Of course it got ugly in those days, no doubt, between the native people who were there, and the American settlers who were taking all the way to the ocean. But since I’m a big fan of the Russel Crowe film 310 to Yuma, (based on the Elmore Leonard short story), Murph and I decided to walk the historic main streets and get our eyes set on the prison, that was the destination of many a tough bad dude.
Yep, it was hot. The streets were empty. (People who live in this part of the world are a bit smarter than weekday tourists). Murph and I walked and sensed the vibe of the people, all the people, who have lived there over the centuries. the wild west stuff, of course, is just a blip in time for most of these towns. So much more to learn from all of the people who have lived on this continent…
A moment of greatness came when Murphy, a legend in his own circles and quite an hombre, stopped and shared a nod of the cap and a respectful exchange with the Quiet Man. John Wayne, whose birthday was just a few days prior and thus on our mind, caught my partner’s eye from a storefront window. No barking. No spitting. Just an exchange of respect between two explorers. The Duke had his gun drawn, but it was playful and Murph knew it, as the quiet men do… And we moved on.
The Territorial Prison was just around the corner, and there were quite a few miles of set-aside acreage in the area for hiking and walking and picnicking; the Colorado River provided a great place for living over the years, and perhaps next time we’ll stay and visit some of these – earlier int he day, of course. We walked to the gate of the prison, hoping to get a glimpse of this harsh place to die, but as it turns out, dogs ain’t allowed on the grounds. Even legends like Murph. We looked from afar, and moved along down the highway…
I was shocked at the cool considerations from there to the Pressman Pack destination… So much wilderness to potentially explore along the north, and across Gila Blend, Sierra Estrella, up the Arizona 85 to 238, the Maricopa Road. then north and east to SanTan Valley. We made note passing Gila Bend to visit the petroglyphs, now under management of the BLM, to learn and see something next time – or perhaps on our way back.
We arrived where we met a new friend, Biggy Smallz, who along with his new brother Buddy, greeted Murphy with the love and respect due a tribal elder.
Murphy and I are making this cross-country trip to Auburn, Alabama to take care of some personal business and pick up a bunch of personal belongings left behind a year earlier when we returned home from a job at Auburn University to be with family and find our way home to California. The key to this trip? We are making it without Billy, who we learned has heartworms. I want everyone to know, everywhere we go, that in this day and age heartworms are our responsibility as owners, and that we must be sure to give our pets medicine even if we thinking (in the desert like Arizona), that the ‘skeeters there aren’t carrying the virus. Who knows where Billy got but? What I do know is you can’t lapse on the meds, and the treatment to kill larvae and worms growing inside a dog’s body is painful, dangerous and second only yo the pain they would endure if you leave the heartworms alive to kill them. So if you get a new dog or cat, give them heartworms meds and never skip a beat. If you have an adult, don’t take it for granted — get them checked and then begin their treatment. Even Biggy Smallz knows first hand to take his meds, and does so, thanks to Suzy (his mom) knowing that Billy isn’t on this trip because of them, but we’ll see him in a few days or weeks with many stories to tell.
Next stop: Albuquerque.