As early as last Feb/Mar 2012 we decided that this year (2013) we would not be heading back to Buenos Aires. Too much political upheaval, 28% annual increase in the cost of living and very restrictive protectionist policies by the government put Argentina on the sidelines for the time being. We will go back ... just not this year.
After a fair bit of searching the internet and other sources, we came to the conclusion that Las Cruces, New Mexico (in the U. S. of A.) might be the best choice as a spot to pass the winter months. We wanted to rent a place in the area of Las Cruces but needed easy access to a relatively inexpensive golf facility. Luckily enough we found such a house on the 10th fairway of the Picacho Hills Golf and Country Club, on the west side of the city. It has turned out to be a pretty good choice.
We started our trip south and thought that missing the winter snows in the mid-west states and the high ground of the mountains would be a good thing, so we planned the road trip south via the coast of Washington state, Oregon and California before turning east and travelling through Arizona and into New Mexico
The coast of Washington and Oregon is magnificent. The roads are very curvy and as they traverse a large area of bays and inlets, there are lots of bridges and ocean side scenery.
It took a bit longer for the miles to add up as the roads are twisty and slow to navigate. We had planned for 5-6 hour days but until we got clear of the slow roads we drove for upwards of 9-10 hours to get to the next way point. Mind you, once in California we stayed on schedule just fine.
There is a lot to see enroute and we found a colony of harbour seals that were quite interesting. They spend a lot of time in the water fishing but many of them "haul-out" for a rest and a sleep.
At this point (day two) we were not far from a place called Bandon Dunes Golf Resort. For serious golfers, this place has got to be one of the major destinations on their "bucket list". It is a "links" course (welcome to Scotland) and plays the same way. We were amazed at how windy and cold the coast actually was and for some reason thought that once out of Washington it would be balmy and quite nice. NOT !
We eventually crossed over the state border into California and the real fun started. What they say is true .. everyone here tailgates at 80 mph, they all carry a gun in the glove compartment (not actually sure about that) ... which are two things you want least in a place with no socialized medical coverage. It was like the proverbial rat race. We actually opted to by-pass San Francisco (and the Golden Gate bridge) and drove the alternate route through the east of Oakland and then down west again to the coast and points south. I didn't take any photos here, nor in Los Angeles, which was no different .. only more congested.
We finally made it to Palm Springs which was interesting. Stayed the night here as well, just to have a look around. We found a nice place for a couple of drinks in the late afternoon and a neat restaurant for dinner ... and they had a live band that started mid evening. Spent a pleasant hour of so with wine and dancing ... It made for a really pleasant break in the drive.
The fact that the temperature was 20 degrees warmer here than in Oregon probably had something to do with the enjoyment factor. Palm Springs seems like a nice place but we could tell it was a little on the expensive side.
We spoke with a number of passers-by and everyone seemed very happy, helpful and to be nice folks. There were a lot of Canadian license plates in the area as well. Seems we're not the only ones contemplating becoming "snow-birds".
We left Palm Springs with great expectations for the next two days heading east and were certainly not disappointed. We crossed the California/Arizona border, the sky cleared, the temperature went up and the road became straight and smooth. The sun shone and life was good. We stopped here and there for gas ($3.19/gal) or the "rest-stops" which seem to come up every hour or so of driving. It's a great road system and makes the driving a great deal less strenuous.
There is however the endless straight-away of the highways, with not much to see on the horizon except the mountains in the distance. We passed a lot of emptiness, with the odd old farm house or ramshackle cabin stuck way out in the middle of a field somewhere. In some ways it seems really desolate. But there is an abundance of blue sky, hardly any cloud, no rain (yes.. it is desert and very dry) and lots of cactus and tumbleweed.
As I said, there are mountains in the distance and every now and then we had to climb a fair sized hill along the way, but basically it's pretty flat. Wherever there are hills though, it gets interesting. At first I thought the hills were from some kind of geological land shift (orographic lift) forcing the hills upward, you can see the stratified layers of the earths crust on hillsides that have eroded away. It turns out that this area of the southwest was volcanic in origin and the flatlands are actually part of what was once a gigantic caldera. At one point the caldera was a lake (hence the sedimentary layers in the rock). There is a pretty huge magma extrusion underground here (about 10 miles down) .. not as big as the one under Yellowstone Park up north, but fairly big in any case. most of the mountains are part of old volcanic cones that have eroded or fallen apart with age.
Following the drive from Palm Springs to Tucson and points east, we managed to crawl into Las Cruces on day 6 around 2:30 pm and were met at the house by the care-taker gal who was most happy to see we'd made it.
For more photos please see http://globalodyssey.ca/p954330579