Wednesday, May 11, 2016

May 11: Picacho Peak State Park, AZ > San Diego, CA

I didn't sleep all that well on this night, and awoke at 5:30 AM to use the bathroom, just in time to see the sunrise. 5:30 AM is, of course, 8:30 AM EST, so that makes a lot of sense. I tried to go back to sleep to no avail, so I just got up and started my day. This day would be the last day of heading westward. 

After an excellent shower (seemingly unlimited hot water!) I paused to photograph my campsite. I think the colors are beautiful. 

This was my second meal from Johnny Gibson's market, and the bacon was divine. After breakfast the weather and scenery were lovely, and I wanted to try and update the log, but the insects were far too prolific to be tolerable, so I packed up and toured the park.

Not only was this day the last of my westward travels, it also marked the 20 year anniversary of my first cross country road trip, May 11, 1996. I had planned to incorporate parts of that trip into this, but I doubt that will actually work out to any degree of success. 

The liquid component of last night's dinner.

Saguaro cactus! 

Picacho Peak State Park is the site of the few (and largest) Civil War battle in Arizona:

"Picacho Peak’s most noted historic event occurred on April 15, 1862, when Confederate and Union scouting parties met in the Battle of Picacho Pass during the Civil War. This was the largest Civil War clash to take place in Arizona."

It was a beautiful park, but I didn't really have the time or inclination to go hiking. 

A quick stop for some souvenirs and to pay for my night's camp and I was back on the road. I didn't go that far, as I wanted to catch up on my log and work on the first few days of this blog. I ended up at a Starbucks in Casa Grande, AZ for a few hours. The temperature was 90 degrees +. 

Back on the road, I saw the first signs for San Diego, CA. 

Heading west on I-10 put me in a place can only be described as being in a classic Hollywood western movie. Cactus, scrub, tumbleweeds, buttes off in the distance. It was quite something. 

I ventured off the highway at a random exit to take some photographs of the car in this landscape (and to empty my bladder). I did this to make up for the poor quality of my photographs on this trip. Taking a decent shot with an iPhone while driving was one thing, but adding in a distracting and annoying dashboard reflection made a lot of good photographs turn out poorly. So, I wasted a little time to get some decent glamor shots.

More movie-like scenery. 

Early in the afternoon, I noticed a sign pointing to a park with petroglyphs, 11 miles off the highway. It is my trip, I decided, so if I wanted to go out into the middle of nowhere to see some rocks, I could.

Painted Rock Petroglyph Site (and Campground) is a BLM site preserving rock carvings from the original inhabitants of the area. 

The north side of the site was a fairly ordinary pile of rocks, but around the south side, there were literally hundreds of rocks with images etched into them. 

There are over 800 individual etchings, commonly attributed to the Hohokam people, dating from 350 AD to 1400 AD.  

It was a very interesting site, but as the temperatures were soaring (97 degrees), I couldn't stay out in the sun for very long. I ate a quick lunch under the shelter and noticed a campground next to the site. I would love to return to view the petroglyphs by moonlight, I bet they are spectacular. 

Another roadside glamor shot.

Click on the above image to view the panorama.

Heading back out to the highway I passed another huge solar energy farm.

First glimpse of the Gila Mountains.

While climbing into the Gila Mountains, the interstate did something I've never encountered before. The westbound and eastbound lanes crossed over, so the eastbound lane was to my right, instead of my left. They were separated by a quarter mile or more of terrain, but it was still a sight to behold. 

2:29 PM, crossed over into California (114813 miles). 

Stopped for a little bit a the Imperial Sand Dunes

I ventured off to get a photo of the car on the sand itself, and almost got stuck. I decided to not press my luck and retreated to the harder packed surfaces for photographic purposes. It was amazing to be driving in what felt like the Sahara. 

Back out on the highway, there was a rest area between the eastbound and westbound lanes, so I stopped for a quick lunch in the shade. Hot and windy.

I was pleased to see so many wind turbines churning away, generating electricity.

Heading westward I hit the Jacumba Mountains, which felt like what I imagine Mars looks like.

I spotted a tower perched on a peak, and stopped for a moment to go enjoy the view, but unfortunately, the Desert View Tower was touristy, and in fact there was an admission fee to go up the tower. I didn't feel like it was worth it, so stopped for a photo (looking to the east) and headed back to the interstate. 

Alongside the service road to the Desert View Tower was a huge collection of random things, including this UFO.

And this vintage Allis-Chalmers road grader.

After the Jacumba Mountains, the landscape morphed into a plateau, yet another fascinating landscape. I-8 meanders close to "The Fence". It was a black ominous thing, stretching out into the horizon. Dropping down out of the mountains the temperature quickly fell to 75.

I was in a rush to get to the campground and get my camp set up so I could make it to the ocean to watch the sunset. I settled upon the KOA on the outskirts of San Diego (Chula Vista), and got stuck in rush hour traffic. I finally made it to the campground and set up camp. The main office recommended the best spot to view the sunset, and I headed towards the ocean.

Yes, well worth it. 

I ended up at Imperial Beach. 

What an amazing trip so far, and to be at this moment watching the over the Pacific Ocean was really something. Being raised on the East coast, the sunset in the west over the ocean is always something I marvel at. Sunrises over the Atlantic just aren't quite the same. 

I headed north to Coronado Beach, a lovely rich enclave in San Diego, and stopped at the first Von's I'd ever been to, years ago (2006). Picked up a few things for dinner and for the next few days, and then headed back to the KOA.

Along the way, I saw my first RI license plate (must be Navy), and got a very nice view of the city itself while headed over the Coronado Bridge. 

With sadness, I realized that every mile from here on out takes me closer to home. 


Halfway Summary:

3,322 miles
111.68 gallons of gas
29.75 average miles per gallon