Sunday, March 12, 2006

Arizona Trip Wrap Up

Well, actually, we did more than just Arizona. If you care to study the map to the left (which you probably won't), you'll see that we visited, in this order, Nevada, California, Arizona, Mexico, New Mexico, Utah and Colorado. The majority of time of course was spent in Arizona.

I did some quick queries in Visual FoxPro and came up with some interesting statistics gathered by the logger:

- total records generated: 232, 570
- total distance travelled: 5,390.03 km
- highest elevation attained: 2,480 m above sea level on SR 152 between Silver City, NM and Truth Or Consequences, NM
- lowest elevation attained: -14.70 m (below sea level), south of Yuma, AZ near the Mexican border)
- average speed: 82. 877 km/h
- top speed: 133.307 km/h (allright I admit it, I was speeding)

About the car: Saturn Ion, on a scale of 1 to 10, I'd rate it a 6. It being a brand new car, you would not expect any mechanical trouble and we didn't experience any. However, ergonomically it is poorly designed, the usual North American approach to looks over functionality. All those rounded lines really cut back on the amount of interior space available. The car's overall responsiveness to accelerating, steering and braking were not more than average, in fact, getting back into my Toyota Echo was a real joy. I couldn't readily track gasoline consumption, so I'm not sure what it was like, but again, compared to the Echo, it would not be good.

About accommodation: for the price you pay, the hotels and motels are a real bargain. They are also readily available, whether in the north or the south, so booking ahead is not really required unless you intend to visit a really small town, such as Kayenta, near Monument Valley. Accommodations are clean and well kept wherever you go. Most have continental breakfast thrown in. Staff, for the most part, are very friendly, with a few ignoramuses thrown in here and there to keep you on your toes.

Roads: Arizona, New Mexico and Nevada have excellent roads, some of the best in North America. Oddly enough, gasoline in these three states is a lot cheaper than in California ($2.30 US vs. $ 3.10 US), yet the roads in California (at least the ones we drove on) were in a lot poorer shape. I'll leave it to the pundits to analyze why.

Food: we bought a cooler the first day in Vegas and then stocked up on food at Von's, which is associated/owned by Safeway. A friendly cashier inquired whether we had a loyalty card, upon which I answered no. She thought for a sec, and decided to get us one, and it is a good thing she did, because it saved us money 'big time'. It works like a discount card: after the final tally, you swipe the card and like a slot machine, the cash register starts working away, calculating the varying discounts on each item you purchased. This usually adds up to about 33% of the total, causing the customer to leave the store sporting a huge smile, which is exactly what Safeway wants. So everybody's happy, supposedly. Anyway, this allowed us keep the grocery bill down to reasonable levels.

With the cooler topped up, we had excellent lunches and munched on things like carrots and fruits while driving. Not having to search for a place to eat, then ordering and finally eating lunch, saves a huge amount of time. We usually ate dinner at a middle-of-the-road restaurant, which are normally easy to find and priced very reasonably.

Weatherwise we were very lucky in that it was a dry winter: normally Flagstaff and other places north get a fair amount of snow. Except for a dusting in Kayenta, we didn't see any.

Arizona and the surrounding area are certainly very unique in their landscapes and are well worth visiting. The highlight: Monument Valley. We thoroughly enjoyed our trip, from start to finish. I'd love to do Utah next, but for that it would have to be a little warmer overall, e.g. October. Sounds good to me!

Just some observations about Arizona that perplexed me a little:

- recycling seems to be non existent. Whereas in Ontario we fanatically recycle newspapers, plastic, food scraps, cans, etc, none of that appears to be happening in the Great Southwest. The only reference to recycling we found was in the Grand Canyon where the signs announced 'The National Park Service proudly recycles'.

- although Arizona gets something like 300 days of sunshine a year, there was very little done to capture any of this in terms of solar energy devices. A few traffic signs, the odd house, but nothing more. Makes ya wonder...if not here then where? What it definitely establishes is that conventional fossil fuels are too cheap at this point in time.

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