I’ve mentioned Marlene several times. We met through blogging years ago when I asked for her address so I could send her my Christmas letter, and that’s when I discovered she lived about 40 minutes from my house. Naturally, we had to meet, and when we did we became friends immediately. A year later I moved to Rainier, and took myself about an hour and twenty minutes from her. This year she did one better and moved to Arizona, and took herself far, far away to be closer to her son. Ah well.
My road trip was an opportunity for my first visit post-move. I could see her new home and new town and say hi to her son she calls TS for Tech Support (who used to live with her in Oregon and house-sat for me years ago). After I explored Hidden Cove Park, it was one hour to Marlene’s place. When I arrived, Marlene gave me a tour of her new apartment and the building she lives in. Then we decided to go for a drive: to tour all the places she remembered from when she lived here long ago, and to include a favourite place to eat among those places, because we were both hungry.
Marlene and I spent several hours together, I don’t recall how many. The beginning of our drive was to see her son’s home, which is walking distance from where she now lives. What convenience. Then we drove for miles, getting a good sense of the area. It was an enjoyable day with lots of catching up, and talking about her strides in moving in and getting all her stuff from Oregon, and my road trip up till that point. I completely forgot to ask her about her recent trip to Germany. As she navigated me all over the place, she told stories from her old neighborhood, pointing to homes and recalling who lived there, and pointing to buildings in town and recalling what they were back in the day. The weather was ideal and the company was perfect.
We finally pulled into Darbi’s in the nearby town of Pinetop. Marlene told the story of how the business got started, and how she knew Darbi herself (who is still owner and still works there) and another original employee who has her own business across the road now. The place was packed, and that’s always a sign of a good restaurant. We stuffed ourselves and packed up the leftovers and finally headed home.
When we returned to Marlene’s apartment, her son TS showed up and said hi. He was there to help install new blinds. We discussed the best route to take to Phoenix and TS gave his suggestions. I was curious about their impressions because both of them had driven these roads for much of their lives. I said goodbye and we shared lots of hugs. It was three more hours of driving to get to the Airbnb that my brother Tanner and I had rented in Gilbert, Arizona, a suburb of Phoenix. So I needed to get on the road again…
Marlene had described Highway 60 as the route to avoid. She said it had too many curves, it went through the mountains, and followed the Salt River canyon. (The image at the right is a screenshot I grabbed from my phone – she was right about the curves!) She said the other way had wide, straight highways with lots of civilization along the way so travelers wouldn’t feel too far away from safety and food and fuel. She said Highway 60 was remote, and went through the town of Globe, which I had only been through once in my life on an incredible road trip long ago. She said everything she needed to say to convince me that Highway 60 was the perfect highway for me.
I curved around and around, no wonder Marlene recalled this road. But I was perpetually in awe and constantly looking for a wide place to pull over. I missed multiple spectacular shots because I could not safely stop. I certainly couldn’t take photographs while driving in this section; my attention needed to be on driving. Eventually I reached the bottom of the canyon, crossed a bridge over the Salt River, and began winding up the other side.
When I crossed this desert and began to approach those hills on the other side, I finally saw cacti for the first time during my journey. It was getting late and I did not stop for photos and merely caught some lopsided images out my side window as I drove.
I arrived at the rental place just after my brother and his family did. They had already scoped the place out, chosen bedrooms, and started a load of laundry. They insisted I take the best room in the house, despite my protests. Oh, how nice it was to 1) be so warm I wore only a T-shirt and went barefoot, and 2) know I would not have to drive the next day.