A farewell to the Gila Cliff Dwellings meant a farewell to New Mexico, and off to Arizona we went. Like Utah’s scenic route 24, New Mexico’s Interstate 10 spoiled us with vast, rugged desert eye candy.
Because we were racing to get back to the Bay Area for Christmas, we unfortunately could not fit in any of Arizona’s natural wonders into this trip. We had already visited the Grand Canyon in previous years, and because Arizona is a neighbor of California, we knew it wouldn’t be long before we returned.
We did manage to visit a national monument during our brief stay in Phoenix. The Casa Grande Ruins National Monument outside of Phoenix was probably more worthwhile in the 70’s when a trek through the desert was required to see the adobe ruins, but now with the strip mall across the street and a drive-up parking lot it is nothing more than an old house with a strange modern shade structure.
We spent our last night in Yuma, Arizona before crossing the state border into California the next morning. Interstate 8 literally brushed beside the international Mexico-U.S. border, making a clear statement with its dark, seemingly endless wall that separates the two countries.
Soon enough, we made it to California. Finally. Back to California. Back home. Back in the familiar state with blue skies, vibrant colors, and perfect weather. We set our clocks one last time to Pacific time. Damn it felt good.
As we drove toward San Diego, I reflected upon our journey across the dozens of states. Before embarking on this road trip, I had always loved California. Most people love their home not because it’s actually an awesome place, but because it’s…home. That’s it. Nothing else. I don’t love California because it’s my home–I don’t–I can go on and on about how much San Jose sucks. I love California because it’s fucking awesome. Just ask anyone who lives there–it seems as if more than half the Californian population is from another state or country. For me, it’s more than just the food, the diversity, the beaches, the forests, the party scene, the hills and mountains with breathtaking views, the talent, the innovative work force, and job opportunities. In California I can spend every day doing what I love most–cycling, running, open water swimming, skydiving, and simply being kissed by the sun. I’ve always loved California, but after spending time in other states, I now have a deeper appreciation and love for my home state more than ever. The perpetual gray skies of autumn blanketed a lackluster atmosphere in the Midwest states, Northeast states, and Southwest deserts–almost like living in a black and white world. When I returned to California, I realized how much brighter the flowers shined, and how much bolder the colors of my shoes stood out. I also noticed how much I missed the smell of the salt-water ocean spray in the wind.
It was easy to become saddened by the idea that our 3.5 month road trip was coming to an end, but the realization that we were spending our holidays in California quickly warmed our hearts. Because our actual home is in Northern California, we wanted to spend a week in Southern and Central California to visit beaches and parks we had not yet seen. And besides, a Christmas holiday spent on beaches with flip flops, gazing at the surfers with envy, skydiving, and cycling sounded not only awesome but also sounded like my typical weekend anyway, which meant I was that much closer to home.