July 6, 2016
Skye let me sleep in the bed she’d used last night, and she slept with her sisters, so I was able to get good rest. She’s a sweetheart. In the morning we packed up our things at Trent’s house, took a picture with him and the boys, and headed out. We drove south from Flagstaff, through Phoenix, and finally to Tucson.
As was the case in the Rockies and the Sierras and pretty much every day we’ve driven a long distance, the scenery changed dramatically along the way. The pine tree mountain forest we started in at Flagstaff quickly turned to flat arid desert with little vegetation. Past Phoenix the cacti became more numerous and significantly taller, and at several points we drove through forests of giant saguaro cacti.
It was f**king hot out, at one point registering on the Expedition’s thermometer at 110 ºF! Why, we discussed, would anybody want to live here?
Seguaro National Park is just north of Tucson. Skye navigated us there through several back roads with large dips in the road so that parts of the drive was like riding a rollercoaster. It was kinda fun. These dips, apparently, fill with water during monsoons, so signs are posted warning motorists not to drive into the water. Big nimbostratus clouds were forming in the distance, but were far enough away to not be a factor for us. There were also signs on the bridges warning that they freeze first, which must surely be a joke.
We were practically the only people at the national park, which was odd. All of the other parks we’ve been to have been teaming with visitors. We chatted with the ranger about what to do and see. She warned us not to attempt to hike due to the extreme heat. Then we watched a short film about the saguaros and how the local indigenous populations think about them.
Our experience of the park, since we weren’t doing any hiking, was a short five-mile loop road in our vehicle. When we first stopped to take a picture I noticed that our gas tank was practically empty, so we suspended our visit to get gas.
With a full tank of gas, we resumed the dirt road loop through a small portion of Saguaro National Park. We only encountered two other vehicles while we were there, so we were alone in the lush desert. We took lots of pictures and explored the giant cacti as well as smaller cacti and evidence of the many animals that live in the desert. We didn’t see any, however, as they were all desperately trying to beat the heat. They didn’t have the advantage of air conditioning and seat coolers like we did.
We left the park at around 17:30 so we’d have time to drive to Tucson to meet the Bell’s for dinner. I hadn’t met them before, but Lauren had reached out on Facebook after Kirsten died to offer her house for us to stay. We arrived at around the same time she, her husband Trent, and two of their teenage kids, Gavin and Avery did. They are wonderful people. We enjoyed our conversation with them and the delicious Mexican cuisine. Lauren was Kirsten’s college roommate while I was on my Mormon mission, so I hadn’t met her. She talked about how much fun it was to live with Kirsten. It was nice to hear her stories about how Kirsten tried one summer to get a tan laying by the pool. She always did that. I miss her immensely.
The Bells generously gave up their own bedrooms so that we could sleep in their beds. As I have so many times before, I was struck with how wonderful are the people of the world, and how many people loved Kirsten. It seems like everybody who ever had the fortune to get to know her loved her.
Hayley introduced the Bells to Exploding Kittens, which we left for them as a gift. It was fun to watch her explain to them the rules and a bit of strategy. They seemed to like the game, too, which was fun.