Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Scottsdale Roadtrip

Here’s the first installment from Scottsdale. We are here attending the Scottsdale Arabian Horse Show. Ian will be showing our six-year-old purebred Arabian breeding stallion, Legacys Renoir, in a halter class for amateur owners this Friday and Renoir will also show with our trainer Jerry Schall in the open stallion class on Saturday, February 23. We bought Renoir in December 2006, and have spent the last year getting him ready for this campaign of national-level shows. He will show here, in Las Vegas in April, at Canadian Nationals in Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada in August and, finally, in Tulsa, Oklahoma at US Nationals in October. As a yearling, Renoir blew everyone away here at Scottsdale when he unexpectedly won. Horse shows, like many other things in life, have their political aspects so an unknown horse and handler winning is really big and says a lot of the quality of the horse.

Now that you know why we’re here, let me tell you about our road trip from Minnesota to Arizona. We left as planned on Saturday morning, February 9, just after 10 when my shift ended at the post office. Ian and Lady picked me up in our one-ton Chevrolet dually pulling our living quarters trailer. (We have an RV spot reserved in Scottsdale on the West World exhibition lot.) It was snowing as we headed south. We decided to try an alternate route around the Cities and learned that highway 65 to highway 100 to 494 to 35W is NOT the way to go. It looks shorter, but it has its various forms of delays. Next time, we’ll just go 95 east to 35 and go south.

The weather turned a bit scary south of Lakeville when the sun that shone in the Cities was blocked by fog and blowing snow. The drifts in the ditches were high and allowed the accumulated wind blown snow to snake across 35’s blacktop. We drove slowly, following the center line, as the roadway edges were blurred. Why people do not understand that this is a time to slow their speed and put more space between vehicles is beyond me. I knew sooner or later we’d see cars in the ditch and sure enough the numbers began to mount near Owatonna. In fact, we sat stopped just past there and waited for 30 minutes as a bad accident was cleared. A one-ton truck hauling a six-horse trailer was nearly involved in that pile up, but rather than hit a car, this driver had made the good sense move toward the snow-filled ditch rather than hit his brakes, possibly jackknifing or tipping the load. The truck and trailer were buried in snow midway up the door, but all were safe an unharmed. We saw the driver patiently reading the paper waiting for his turn to be pulled out. The going was slow from there pretty much to the Iowa border where the weather improved.

That first day we drove the 700+ miles to Wichita, Kansas, arriving at 1 a.m., where we spent the night in a Wal-Mart parking lot. Ian fired up the generator, turned on the furnace and the bed’s electric blanket so we were quite cozy.

We were up just before 6, and after a McDonald’s breakfast, were on the road by 6:30. Here we left I-35 and took US 54, heading southwest. We saw green grass beginning to grow and saw the occasional oil derricks with their rocking hammerheads kissing the ground. Ian tells me that in the UK they’re called nodding donkeys. There was not a lot of snow, which left the palette mostly shades of brown, yellow and dirt white. The prairie stretched out before us and it was rare to see a mailbox, let alone a town. Here, I think route inspection must be done with crop duster using binoculars to spot mailboxes rather than by car!

At 8:30, we passed through Greensburg, Kansas, which was leveled by a killer tornado in May of this year. The devastation was almost complete, with its post office, and maybe two other businesses, looking untouched or maybe they were rebuilt already. What had been mature trees were nothing more than twisted, dead and dying trunks. It was very sad – a true testament to the power of such storms.

We crossed onto the Oklahoma panhandle at 10:30, where the air coated everything with a layer of frost, and a red clay color was added to the winter weary landscape. When we did pass through small towns I saw food chains I thought were long dead, like Long John Silver’s. The stretches of road were so long between towns and houses that a sign reading, “USPS rural carrier roadside stop,” just past Hooker, Oklahoma, seemed very appropriate. Surely, one must need a break from all that driving.

For many miles our road ran adjacent to a busy train track. All were running opposite us, headed northeast, all filled, often with more than two engines, but none with a caboose. I can’t remember the last time I saw train with a caboose.

At 11:30, we entered what is surely the most uninteresting part of the great State of Texas. That said, just outside of Dalheart Ian and I saw what must have been nearly 100 acres of penned beef cattle. There must have been thousands in large lots on both sides of the road. It was feeding time and grain was being delivered using a 12-ton dump truck, the same type used to haul gravel! Each pen had jet sprayers mounted at the corners and I think they’re to either cool the cattle or keep the bugs at bay – maybe both?

At 1:15, on Sunday, we crossed into New Mexico and lost an hour as we went to Mountain Time. From here it was 52 miles to Tucumcari, where we would join I-40 west. The weather was warmer and we stopped at a wide spot in the road called Nasa Visa, which is about the same size as Stanchfield, where we stood in the sunshine and ate cold, baked Cornish game hens we’d packed, while Lady sniffed and stretched her legs. The nicest building in this otherwise ghost town was its brick-red post office.

The warmer sun found us as we headed west along I-40. The prairie gave way to red rock outcropping and billboards touting jewelry, pottery and other goods made by Ute and Navajo. It was still on the coolish side and some snow was still evident at the higher elevations. We climbed to Albuquerque and stopped for dinner at the Route 66 Casino, just as the sun set. After dinner I dozed in the front seat and Ian woke me as we crossed into Arizona at 10 p.m. (CT). I took heart thinking our trip was near its end – HA! It was another six hours until we arrived in Scottsdale.

We left I-40 at Holbrook and took what amounts to the back roads. The decent from 6000 feet went well, but it was tiring as we slowed to 30 mph every time we came to a steep grade that lasted for several miles at a time. Last year, we’d gone to Flagstaff before descending into the Phoenix Valley, and that was harrowing with cars zipping around us at breakneck speeds while our truck and trailer with a combined (empty) weight of 26,000 pounds needed to be kept under some degree of control.

When the mountain road emptied into a sleeping Scottsdale, Ian pointed us across the city and found West World and our designated RV parking spot easily. Not wishing to wake our neighbors, we whispered directions to one another as the trailer was parked and we settled in for what was left of the night.

Yesterday, after a few hours needed sleep, we arose later to sunshine and temperatures that climbed into the 70s. A nice remedy for the weary.

The truck and trailer were both caked in salt and other winter road dirt. We found a Laundromat for our own wash, which was conveniently located next to a coin-operated car wash. I pumped quarters into a slot while Ian manned the high pressure spray gun and soap wand that eventually revealed the truck’s true color.

We ran other errands around the city with our windows down and we dressed short sleeved shirts and packed our winter wear in the trailer for return trip use.

Also on Monday we rendezvoused with Jerry Schall and Ian had a lesson with Renoir. Renoir has been here in Scottsdale since the end of January and seems to really enjoy his sun-filled stall and the warmer temps. Ian and Renoir looked very good together and we’re looking for a very good result on Friday. Wish us luck.


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