Traveling West

Blow straight through or enjoy the journey? It’s always a dilemma while traveling to a new home.

Joshua Element

One of our goals for 2016 is to ‘connect’ with people more often. That means being more deliberate in our route choices and scheduling decisions to create opportunities to visit with friends. We just finished what I call our migration west to this winter’s home base in Santa Monica, California. A combination of hard miles and layovers was a great choice for this trip. Every chance we took to spend more time with people paid off in deepening friendships and as a bonus, some spectacular vistas.

Now, our Honda Element is a great car for holding loads of stuff but it’s not the most comfortable ride for long distances. Five to six hours of driving is that sweet spot of knocking down some miles without killing our backs. The roughed out driving plan included a layover in Tucson in time to meet friends for dinner and possibly brunch the next morning. Of course, all of this was dependent on how early we could make it out of Austin and if we could get to El Paso that first day. Chameleon

Day One started early with a pre-dawn departure from Austin. With a steady inflow of Chameleon cold brew coffee, I was able to drive 13 hours straight getting us close to the Arizona border. (A friend that co-founded the company  had sent along samples of their new flavors for me to try – yum!)

The effort paid off. We made it to a lunchtime meetup at the Tubac Art Festival before spending the night in Tucson. We first met Gordy and Lin back in 2014 while on a Rick Steve’s tour of Eastern Europe. It just so happened that Bruce and Robyn, another couple from the 2014 tour, was down in Tucson visiting for the weekend from their new winter condo in suburban Phoenix. It was a wine-filled reunion weekend with Gordy and Lin playing tour guides for the group.


Of course a side detour to Tumacacori National Historical Park would be well received by this group. (Two of the six worked in public television.) This is one of a series of missions established throughout the Sonoran desert by Father Kino, a Jesuit priest, during the late 1600’s.

Abandoning our planned early departure the next morning, we were treated to a visit to San Xavier del Bac mission where our friend Lin was completing her docent training. We joined the tour group that was her ‘final exam’. The mission is a major example of Mexican Baroque architecture in the US and a pilgrimage site while still a full functioning Catholic parish. (Take a look at the virtual tour on their website here. The interior is amazing)

My original schedule had us driving up to Scottsdale with time to experience the James Turrell skyspace at the Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art. I had abandoned that idea but somehow, we got to our hotel and scampered the couple of blocks to the museum just after the sun went down. Not the full sunset show but good enough at this older installation.


Phoenix had been a two night stop to ensure we had a full evening open for the Desert Botanical Gardens and the Bruce Munro exhibit. I happened across the info when gathering links for my Nashville postcard. Watch for an upcoming post on the show.

Dome with People

Beacon by Bruce Munro

By Sunday morning, we chose once again to delay our planned departure to visit Bruce and Robyn’s new condo in Mesa. The late start meant that we wouldn’t have any time for hiking in Joshua Tree National Park that afternoon. It was amazing how the timing worked perfectly for us to experience sunset on the eastern side of the park. (Something we would not have done if we had gotten there earlier.) The 360 degree views changed moment by moment.


Joshua Vista 2


Joshua Vista 3


Joshua Vista 1


Instead of rushing off Monday morning to avoid holiday traffic returning to Los Angeles, our morning was guided through the north loop of Joshua Tree accompanied by the Just Ahead audio tour. It gave us some useful info including pointing out the tallest Joshua Tree in the park. We allowed time to enjoy some of the shorter walks and hikes giving us a taste of the fun we could have on the longer hikes. (A return trip for the spring bloom is now in the works.)




Traffic delays on the way into LA were the ultimate price to pay but so worth it in the end as we reached Santa Monica just in time for sunset on the beach!


Walk to the Beach

The beach a few blocks west of our apartment


How about your road trips – do you power through or dawdle along the way?