Happy New Year 2011! On Friday we had driven 650 miles from Paris to Van Horn, all in the state of Texas. The really stunning thing is that we still had 120 miles just to get to El Paso (westernmost point of Texas) – man that is one big state. The plan for the day was to drive to El Paso, on through southern New Mexico and into southern Arizona, ending at beautiful (well we hoped so) Benson, AZ – about 50 miles east of Tucson. This would be for us what can only be considered a light day – a measly 375 miles. You will recall that our Badgers were to make their first Rose Bowl appearance since we were still in our 40’s (late 40’s, but 40’s none the less) later that day, and we darn sure weren’t going to miss it.
The left front jack seemed to have learned its manners from yesterday’s hammer as it retracted, though not without several starts, stops and plenty of wailing. We were now to the far western end of the central time zone, so our 6:30 start had us again driving in the dark for the first 45 minutes. From what little we could see in the gloaming, the mountains outside of Van Horn were pretty, in an Arizona / Mexico sort of way. We drove in cold (it got down to 30) and clouds for the first 2 hours, but the sun was out as we approached El Paso.
This was our first visit to this area and I frankly expected worse than what we saw – OK, it was New Year’s morning, but traffic was moving and the place looked fairly prosperous. The bad part is when we drove close to the border and you could see Juarez across the way. Man it looked rough over there – and dangerous too – probably a hundred times worse than Nogales where we cross, and we never stay within 50 miles of Nogales. In any event, El Paso seemed alright, and the exit for “Lee Trevino Way” reminded all of one of their more famous citizens.
After El Paso it is just a short 50 miles on up to Las Cruces, before heading west again toward Arizona. Just outside of Las Cruces I thought we had driven into an alkali flat – there were sprinklings of white “sand” showing up in the desert. As we drove a few more miles we realized we were seeing SNOW, in southern New Mexico, and it wasn’t melting in the “heat” of the day. It wasn’t more than an inch or so, but it lasted for 150 miles until we were well into Arizona. Just what the local chambers of commerce want to show to all the northern visitors.
With Rose Bowl kickoff set for 3:15 local time, we were quite pleased to pull into Benson by 1:30. There were at least 4 RV parks to choose from so we went with a very nice but reasonably priced place, just ½ mile from the interstate. Holiday Rest had been voted best Arizona RV park in both 2007 & 2008 and deservedly so. The previous night we had used the internet to scout out restaurants / sports bars (one even an Irish pub) in Benson where we hoped to watch the game, possibly with other Wisconsin snowbirds. Once we were set up we drove from one end of town to the other (turns out Benson ain’t very darn big at all) and found no open restaurants, no sports bars, and definitely no Irish pubs. This place had all the makings of a dry town! Huh? In Arizona? We learned later that the bars we sought were 4-5 miles further down the interstate. From the road these joints looked more biker than Badger friendly, so it is a good thing we were able to return to the RV park and catch the game in their rec hall.
Interestingly, we had the place (complete with 54” screen) all to ourselves. Apparently all the park residents who cared were at private parties. It was quite fun but a bit eerie hearing one’s cheers (or groans) echoing through a place that could handle 100 with ease. Of course given the way the Badgers played, one could also hear a few choice profanities reverberating as well. In retrospect, the Badgers got beat by a very good team and could easily have won with some better play. Perhaps it is small consolation that Bucky wasn’t clobbered nearly as bad as all the other teams in the Big 10’s New Year’s Day massacre. Hopefully the Badgers don’t wait another 11 years to get back to Pasadena – I might be starting to get old by then.
With my having consumed a bit of leftover pizza (along with a couple of beers of course) during the game, and a relatively early finale at 6:00, we did what most semi-depressed Badger fans doubtless did – we went to Wal-Mart.
As an aside, given concerns with traveling in Mexico, several RV websites had made “buddie” arrangements available. We had found an Oregon couple on-line who were going where we were in Mexico, at about the same time and they had driven in Mexico at least as much as we had. Thus we agreed to become Mexico “travel buddies”. We were to meet these folks at a campground south of Tucson the night of January 2 and then proceed together for the 3-4 days it would take us to get to Rincon de Guayabitos and Sayulita (20 miles further down the road) .
So you’re saying, “well that sounds smart Norton, but how does a ‘travel buddie’ get you to Wal-Mart in what might be a dry town on New Year’s Day in southern Arizona?” Well it’s all very logical: During the Rose Bowl we got a call (obviously these folks were Oregon fans, not Badger or TCU fans) from our erstwhile “buddies” indicating they had brake problems (they didn’t have any!) on their trailer. They were not going to be able to meet us Sunday night because they were going to have to search all over Tucson on Monday and hope to find someone to fix their brakes. They suggested this might take a few days and that we might want to consider heading south on our own rather than wait 2-5 days for their brakes. In the time since we had set up our buddie arrangement in the fall, there had been numerous online reports of RV types traveling the exact route we were to take, with absolutely no problems whatsoever. There were plenty of suggestions that people were even more friendly than usual, that there were numerous extra cops for added security along the route and that only driving at night (something we never do in Mexico) was any concern at all. Thus, as the Badgers proceeded to almost win their game, we decided to get up and head for Mexico the very next day and not wait for our “buddies” – and that my friends is why we just had to get to Wal-Mart. Everyone knows you just don’t leave the USA without it.