Way back to San Diego
story: Peter Matusov
photos: Mike Gorbunov and Peter Matusov
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In the morning, I’ve spent about half an hour reverting the Discovery to its highway-friendly configuration – reconnected the rear sway bar, inflated the tires to their preferred hardtop pressures (35 psi front/42 psi rear), put the ABS fuse where it belonged, replaced bulbs in crushed rear bumper lights, checked oil and other fluids – and we were ready for an 800-mile trek home.
Mike volunteered to drive the most of the way back; I liked the though of sitting back and enjoying the scenery.
We didn’t really have a plan of our way back; neither of us enjoyed the thought of spending the entire day on the Interstate, so it left going South on U.S.191. At the same time, we were tired enough to want to get home tonight – so the side trip to San Juan Mountains in Colorado was cancelled by mutual agreement. A little detour to Four Corners followed suit, so after Bluff, Utah, we left U.S.191 for U.S.163 through the town of Mexican Hat and Monument Valley. I have driven North on the same road six years prior to this trip, but it was already pitch dark so I didn’t know what gave the town its name – Mexican Hat rock is really an amazing geological feature!
In Monument Valley, we stopped by the scenic overlook area, and took mandatory photos of the views made famous by Forrest Gump. There are magnificent views indeed – but, I’m afraid, we failed to make anything worthy the cover of National Geographic.
After Monument Valley, the road flattened out; we crossed into Arizona, merged with U.S.160 in Kayenta, and followed it all the way to the U.S.89. In Cameron, we duly ignored all the signs beckoning us to the Grand Canyon, and hammered to Flagstaff. I had to treat Mike to lunch at a Cracker Barrel – I don’t know of any in Southern California. After lunch, we’ve discussed at length whether it made much sense to bring my wife one of these Cracker Barrel’s rocking chairs to San Diego – and Mike talked me out of it.
Since we’ve been to Sedona before, we skipped it by driving 67 miles South on Interstate 17, where we turned off to State Hwy.69 to Prescott. By the time we reached Prescott Valley, it was close to 4 p.m., and we’ve found ourselves jammed in commuter traffic. In the retrospect, we could’ve used the same time to go to Four Corners, or Sedona – but neither of us has been to Prescott before. S.R.89 South of Prescott winds its way through very picturesque dense forests (some of which had recently been burned), and then turns to switchbacks while descending to Peeples Valley. In a little town of Congress, AZ, we followed S.R.71 to U.S.60; there, the landscape reached its proper Arizona form – with groves of Organ Pipe cacti. This was the first time when I actually saw many of these plants in Arizona (we’ve seen even larger variety of those in San Felipe, Baja California). That was really neat!
Mike took the wheel back from me, and suffered through driving against the sun shining from below the visors for an hour and a half. It was almost dark when we reached Interstate 10, and followed it for 12 miles West until the U.S.95. It took a little more than an hour to drive 81 miles from Quartzsite to Yuma, AZ, and we arrived in Yuma just in time for a dinner – yes, at the last Cracker Barrel before entering California.
After two and a half hours of rather boring ride along Interstate 8, we were home. We’ve pulled in, split the rest of tequila, and crashed.
One of the best vacations I’ve had was over. I would never know if it was enough to wash off the stress of work and everyday life, for Witch Fire of 2007 broke out before I had a chance to wash the red dust off the truck. This fire would eventually burn two hundred thousand acres in populated areas of San Diego County, and temporarily displace half a million people and countless animals – a few of which made us a company for a week to come.
I want to go back!
P.S. One of many great things about this trip was the trail planning. I don’t know whether it was by design or by chance, but the sequence of trails seemed to be near-ideal to me – starting with a fairly easy, just enough to get everyone back in the groove and familiar with their vehicles; moving on to a hard trail early enough so that, should anyone experience some major damage, there would be enough time to recover from it; and then – on to one of the most scenic trails in the area, and to a rather relaxed ride on the very last day.
P.P.S. I tend to be a loner on road trips, and don’t attend various club rides or large events very often. That said, I don’t remember ever having been disappointed on a LRCSD trip. An amazing bunch of folk in this club – very friendly, helpful, knowledgeable, and challenging at the same time.
Thank you very much – Joe, Larry, Carol, Nick, Frank, Roger, Richard, and, of course – special thanks to Dan Mick who looked after us all these four days.
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