We drove all the way across the state and ended up in the pan-handle near Pensacola. We were trying to focus on Hyatt hotels in between AIRBNBs but I thought it might be fun to camp out on the Gulf if the opportunity presented itself. We found a campground in Ft Pickens Park which is a National Seashore. This means we got to use our National Park Annual Pass! Unfortunately when we got to the gate there computers were down and they were letting everyone through. “But I have the pass right here! Please Appreciate us!” Anyway, we found a spot for $25, which I thought was a pretty good deal. No electric or anything just a fire ring and a place to park. As soon as we parked the guy from the campsite next to us came over to talk. His appearance and that of his site looked as if he was a “long-hauler” to use a term that the kids picked up for this COVID thing.
He immediately reeled off his story. I got uncomfortable as the more he told, the more his story mirrored mine. He was a male nurse who originally had a degree in marketing. He had a brother that lived in Katy TX. I felt like I was in bizzarro world where you run into your twin whose life diverged at some point and ended up in the gutter. But the more I thought about it, he really was not my evil twin, but rather very similar. I began to feel nervous that a couple poor choices and I could still be the one living in a tent at a campground struggling to put the pieces back together. Amy and the dog were with me so I had to keep him at an arm’s length otherwise I would like to have shared a fire and some booze to hear his story.
Anyway, once the tent was setup, we walked to the beach before it got dark
After Max played in the ocean a bit we headed back to heat up a dehydrated meal. We were all in bed before 7pm as we had no firewood and no alcohol
The neighbors on the other side were a bunch of teenagers and smoked, drank, swore and played music all night. I popped and Ambien and did my best to get through it, vowing not to quell their good time. Ah, to be young. The next morning we hit the beach again then packed up and moved on
Driving out was kinda cool. The road was constantly getting covered over by blowing sand as we were on a very thin spit/isthmus/whatever of land
There was also a Fort here where they had guns pointed out to sea from WW2
We drove through the rest of FL and on into Louisiana. Our plan was to stop and camp in the bayou somewhere but the rain was coming down and we just kept driving. Interstate 10 is just a straight shot across. Most of it is raised due to the soggy ground. I can only imagine what a bitch it was to construct. We left LA and moved into TX. Nothing around but huge oil refineries with thousands of lights lit up like a small town. We arrived outside Katy Tx and set up shop at the local Hyatt. We got cheesesteaks for takeout and I could feel myself getting fatter and arteries clogging with every bite.
We spent the next couple nights here, spending Xmas with my brother’s family
Always fun sneaking Max into the hotel Cloak and Dagger style.
We left town the 26th of Dec and worked our way across the state. We ended up at the border town of El Paso. As we came in we saw all these lights to our south and wondered why all that industry wasn’t showing up on my map. Then it came to me that it was Juarez Mexico. One of the most dangerous cities around.
They did not have room at the Hyatt so I found a budget BW. It was sketchy for $60, but the my travel group were troopers and I was amazed our stuff was still attached to the car in the morning. We probably got COVID from that room if we didn’t already have it.
When we got on the freeway we got stopped at a checkpoint…on the freeway. We were pulling up to an armed guard and Amy had the cell phone out to document. I whispered “Put the fuckin’ phone down.” They were looking for people stuffed in my wheel wells. Reminded me of this video.
Our ultimate goal was Scottsdale but we had a couple days before we were able to check-in so we stopped at a Hyatt by the airport in Tucson. It seemed like a tough town relative to my time in Scottsdale. Kinda like Johannesburg to Capetown. More of an industrial feel. Detroit vs LA. We found an outdoor Taqueria night one and I had a Michelado. Forgot how acidic these things were. And how you really can only drink just one.
The next day we woke up and I looked out at the car and realized; “Houston we have a problem”.
The straps were all cut on my bikes and the mountain bike was missing. We went outside and assessed the damage. They were pros. They had cut the cable locks and all the ratchet straps. They stole the bike and damaged the dirt bike, but they left Amy’s POS cruiser bike. I went to the front desk and they handed me the police number like it was a daily occurrence. Unfortunately I was not able to collect anything since my homeowners deductible was $1k and the bike was only worth $700 new. I was more pissed that I would not have anything to ride in AZ and that they busted the fuel line on the dirtbike spilling gas all over the place.
We drove to a Motorcycle shop and got some stuff for the bike and some new ratchet straps and then went to Saguaro NP for a day hike outside town
On the way home we stopped at a local church: San Xavier del Bac Mission
That night we had dinner outdoors at a place called Rolos. They basically made those Taquirios or rolled up tacos you see in the frozen food aisle at grocery store
We also drove by a wildlife refuge but they wanted $50/person to walk around and it felt too much like a zoo for us anyway.
One more night at the Tucson Hyatt. I had serious thoughts about changing hotels, since we still had all our luggage just tied to the roof. I did not want to drag it all into the room, although I probably should have. Amy convinced me to park it under the overhang at the front desk and I got up to check on it all night. I kept having this feeling like in a movie, “No one would ever expect us the rob the same place twice! It would be the perfect crime!”
Our stuff was there in the morning and we headed out of town. On the way out we stopped at a couple of Pawn shops to see if we ran across my bike, but no luck.
On the way north drove up Mt Lemmon, high enough to hit snow
The switchback were crazy
We finally got to the Airbnb in North Scottsdale late afternoon. The setup is called a Casita. Basically a small addition on the main house with a separate entrance. It looked like it was part of the house at one point and they walled of a hallway and added a door. It was a perfect space for our needs.
We were up in the Northeast corner of Scottsdale, up against Cave Creek and the Tonto National Forest. Most of the houses out here were horse farms and this place was no exception
The owner lived on site with her son but we never heard any noise from their side and they kept to themselves most of the time. Not to say they were not accommodating and friendly. Tracey was kind enough to give us the tour and introduce us to the resident horse: Cookie and pig: Hormel
Once we dropped off the stuff we headed back into Scottsdale to get groceries at Fry’s and picked at outside for dinner at a local Japanese/Korean restaurant.
Our month in AZ had begun.