Total Distance: 2202 miles
Today's Destinations: Phoenix, AZ
Our goal today was just to get to Phoenix, where we are looking forward to meeting an old friend. So other than stopping every two hours or so to stretch, walk around, and change drivers, we've just been plowing straight ahead on the road. It's been great actually.
First of all, the difference between the California coast and California inland is stark.
|California, near San Diego|
It actually looks pretty similar to the Columbia Basin, with two differences: 1) the rock formations are not basalt. I don't know what they are but they're really, really different.
2) I didn't see much, if any, cheat grass. Cheat grass is not native to North America. It is an invasive weed that threatens shrub-steppe habitats (sagebrush and other desert stuff). Because it's so dry, the risk of wildfire is very high in a shrub-steppe environment; however, shrub-steppe habitats consist of plants with lots of dead space around them. This space makes it more difficult for fires to spread, providing a little bit of natural fire resistance to the area. Cheat grass grows everywhere, making an uninterrupted path for a fire to grow along. You can learn more about this at the Columbia National Wildlife Refuge or onlin at http://www.ext.colostate.edu/pubs/natres/06310.html
Another cool thing about today is that I-8 gets really close to the Mexican border. We could see what we believe to be a fence separating the two countries at the closest point.
When we crossed into Arizona, it felt like the temperature climbed immediately. My car said it as 111 degrees Fahrenheit. We cold feel the heat just by putting our hands up close to the windows or windshield (not even touching it).
I was pretty excited to see cacti. I don't think I've ever seen cacti growing wild on the side of the road before; I didn't know they got so big!
If you didn't read it already, please check out Justin's lovely post about the beauty of being in the desert. That's really how we felt today. You might think that driving through 300 miles of desert would be the most mind-numbingly boring thing one could possibly do, but after three days of big cities and all the stress that goes along with them, it felt great to be on the open road again, able to talk and laugh and listen to music without constantly looking for the next turn or having to cross 5 lanes of heavy traffic or finding a place to park. We could just be, and that was something we really needed at this point.
If you are feeling stressed by the busyness of life, I recommend taking a drive out of town. Go someplace quiet where you can sit and relax, or just get in your car and drive and don't worry about where you're going (as long as you then drive back home). It can be a really peaceful experience.