Day 3 - January 31, 1998 - Milepost 1184 (242 today) - Tonopah, AZ
(SF). Boy, is it cold! It was warm in bed but unable to sleep I got up to read. The thermometer inside reads 50 degrees. I put on the heater, well aware of running the battery down. After an hour I crawl under the welcome warmth of the covers. Arising again at 7:50 AM, the batteries show "fair" and I decide to start the generator. After a nice warm shower and hot cup of coffee, RTENT and I become liveable. As we depart camp, I ask the host if US70 to Phoenix is good to drive, explaining that we have 35 foot motor home pulling a car. She assures me it is fine, people do it all the time and just around the town of Globe it gets a little hilly. Off we go. Right before reaching Globe we do run into some hills, but nothing bad. We stop at a wonderful grocery store called Smith's. We sign up for their value card since Smith's is a chain found throughout Arizona and in addition the card can be used at Fred Meyer's up north. I know I will be using that card a lot this summer. After lunch I take my turn at driving. No sooner do I get out of town, when I encounter some more hills. Only these hills go up enough to require a passing lane. I climb for about a half hour while Bert snoozes, missing the spectacular scenery. I think that what goes up must come down and am getting nervous about the descent. I round a corner and spy one of those signs with a truck on an angle labeled 6%. I shout 6%, startling Bert from his nap. This is the first descent I have ever driven and it was not fun. I thankfully give the wheel to Bert at the first opportune moment. That was a wonderful decision since he does not drive a mile before we come to another one of those inclined trucks labeled 7%. We get down the mountain in good shape and decide to camp at Lost Dutchman State Park in Apache. It is only 1 PM but they are booked. Too bad since it looks spectacular. Outside of Phoenix we need gas and pass stations at $1.23 per gallon. Finally we really need it and biting the bullet, we pay the price. Hindsight tells us we should have gotten it in Globe at $1.04. But who would think a small mountain community would be cheaper than a big city? We stop at Saddle Mountain RV in Tonopah for the night. It is a parking lot with palm trees. It has electricity and the hosts let us use their phone jack for our e-mail. I try to get e-mail with the cellular, but find out that Phoenix is one of the areas GTE browns out due to fraudulent calling. What a bummer! The only way to call out is to give a credit card number to an operator. That will not work for a computer call and I do not know what one does to receive a call. So much for automatic roaming.
(BF). SIX PERCENT! The cry awakens me from my after lunch nap. Not that I had slept much anyway, Shari had been murmuring repeatedly with "Oh my", "Look at this" and "Why does this happen on my turn to drive?" Earlier today I drove through rolling Arizona desert, replete with a multitude of cactus species including a sprinkling of Saguaro, the largest and most impressive. Sometimes my birding eyes would discern a black dot atop a high thin scrub a quarter mile off. As we closed the distance the black dot morphed into a cardinal profile but retained its silky black feathers and became a Phainopepla, a delicate desert flycatcher. I called out "Phainopepla" several times as the miles passed, then saw a black dot ahead on the passenger side and pointed out the spot to Shari. 30 seconds later she saw the first Phainopela of her life. By noon we reached Globe where we stopped for groceries and lunch. I usually feel drowsy after lunch, so it's Shari's shift at driving. SIX PERCENT! I blink my sleepy eyes to see the sign announcing the forthcoming descent. Usually restricted to flat straight interstates, Shari is not anxious to tackle steep narrow mountain passes, so she pulls off the road at the nearest opportunity. I take over and soon encounter a 7% decline for the next 3 miles. With all our Rocky Mountain and Alaska experiences, this really isn't much of a challenge and it even leaves fleeting chances to watch the dramatic scenery pass by: abrupt stone mountains, jagged dropoffs, abundant Saguaro. The descent takes us through a long tunnel that doesn't slacken a 5% decline and then across an impressive expansion bridge crossing a deep ravine, also on the decline. Soon the highway flattens as we coast through Superior and head on to Mesa and Phoenix. We stop just west of the big city in mid afternoon giving me an hour or two to try to find out why my computer isn't working on e-mail while Shari's works without problems. With the two computers side by side I correct the one Windows 95 checkbox that differs. But I cannot test the configuration today as Phoenix is a blacklisted city for cellular phones and we won't get an outside line because of their problem with phone usage theft.
Next Day Itinerary