And we're back.
Like the "snow birds" who occasionally shared our campground, we escaped from the frigid temperatures of New Mexico in December, opting instead for the pleasant weather and predictable climate of Southern California. We had our fun there, and we did some great work, learning about and working in a whole new ecosystem, but we always looked forward to coming back to the place that gave birth to this crew. So, with the trailer packed the brim, the truck bed weighted down with the accumulation of half a year and Alana and Michael's vehicles following, we started our convoy rolling across the Southwest, New Mexico bound.
The journey took two days, with a stopping point at the Ponderosa Campground in the Tonto National Forest, Arizona. What can be said about spending thirteen hours driving across the desert? Quite a lot actually. We chose to cut across the Sonoran Desert on I-10, saying one last goodbye to Blythe, CA and the Big Maria Mountain Wilderness, our home away from surrogate home for the last three months. We cross the mythical California/Arizona border, heretofore forbidden to us due to Worker's Compensation issues and possibly dragons. Upon entering Arizona, we saw the sudden change that took place, with saguaro cacti popping up in surreal formations, ocotillo flowering in new hues and…BEES!
Yes, bees. They were the talk of the town when we arrived at our campground that evening. Along I-10, near the Colorado River, the crew had come across millions of bees along the highway. The sad story starts with an unfortunate truck driver who was transporting active bee hives along the interstate. Something happened (we don't know what), that caused the entire load of bee hives to come crashing off the truck bed and onto the interstate. When we came across it, the boxes were crumpled along the side of the road and an opaque cloud of bees was hovering in the area. We were unable to stop in time before we crashed right into the swarm, causing the front window to take on the appearance of a used lime Jell-O mold. Beyond the hives were two police officers, looking slightly unprepared for what they were dealing with.
There was much anxious speculation that night about what had happened with the bees, but for the most part the crew enjoyed their campground, which, with its ponderosa pines and soft bedding of needles, resembled the first camping trip the crew had taken during training up to the Jemez Mountains in New Mexico. The next morning, with the truck's radiator looking like a two-dimensional apiary, the crew rolled back out onto the road again, thought his time one car short. Alana's van, Charlize, was having problems with the A/C compressor, so she had to spend another day around Payson, AZ, waiting for Monday when someone could work on her ride.
The crew drove into the New Mexico, into familiar territory as they passed through El Malpais, their home during the first part of the season. They rolled across I-40, past their former hangout in Albuquerque, all the way to Santa Fe. Once there, they were greeted by a small adobe house near downtown. It wasn't easy to back the trailer in, down a small side street, bordered by adobe walls, but it was easy to get used to the new living situation, only a short walk from downtown.
With the driving done, the crew begins working on turning their new house into a home, learning about their new city, and making the last part of the season, a five-hitch grand tour of New Mexico, from the deserts of the south to the mountains of the north, the best part yet.