Starting mileage: 7611 Starting time: 7:45 am
Ending mileage: 8016 Ending time: 7:45 pm
Travel mileage: 405 Travel time: 12 hours
At breakfast we were talking to our waitress and was surprised that she had moved from San Diego to Gila Bend. Gila Bend is ridiculously and looks like it is dying with many boarded up store fronts. She said that her car broke down while driving through and had to be repaired. She became friends with the mechanic who turned into the "love of her life". She decided to stay, married him and has a 8 month year-old son!
The Sonoran Desert National Monument started just after leaving Gila Bend. The terrain is again very rocky with scrub, rolling hills and some mountains. We soon started seeing Saguaro cactus along both sides of the road which went on for miles. Then suddenly we didn't see them anymore although the terrain had not changed noticeably. Then after another 10 miles or so we started to see them again.
On the way to the Saguaro National Park we were surprised to see signs warning of flooding on the road and also signs warning of slippery when icy - it seemed incongruous with the temperature approaching 100 and the ground absolutely parched.
Approaching the park, the number of Saguaro increase and numerous other varieties of cactus also appear, prickly pear, barrel, cholla. It is quite a change and very spectacular.
At the park visitor center there is a visual showing how the ground water level has dropped by 250' between 1900 and 1980. It stopped there and we wondered where it was now. We also noticed in the distance what looked like a number of square lakes in the valley. When we asked one of the park staff about this, he said that those are ponds that are being used to recharge the aquifer, using water that comes from the Colorado river as part of Arizona's allocation. This has been successful, with the ground water level rising. He also added that this is still a problem because it is dependent on a scarce resource.
There is a nice short trail around the visitor center that identifies the different cactus and other desert plant species that we see.
Just outside the park is the Desert Museum which we went in. Most of it is outside where there are trails through different types of habitat. Many of the desert animals are there although we weren't able to see many of them - we suspect that in the mid-day heat most of them were resting in shade that they could find. There was an apiary where we could see a number of the bird species found in the desert. We would have liked to stay longer but it was unbearably hot, 101 degrees in the shade, and there wasn't much shade. We also still had over 3 hours to get to our hotel, even with a speed limit of 75 all the way.
In New Mexico we went over the continental divide again but it was a bit of a disappointment, just a sign on a relatively flat section of I-10. When we crossed the divide in the Canadian Rockies, it was much more obvious.
The gas prices have dropped considerably since leaving California. It was $2.14 in Tucson and $2.08 in Deming, NM. In California it was a challenge to find gas for less than $3/gallon.
We are staying at a Holiday Inn Express in Deming. When we looked for a restaurant, most of them were familiar chains: Denny's, IHOP, KFC, Carl Jr, BK, etc. We finally found the Rancher's Grill which was a local restaurant.