Thursday, July 17, 2014

Spontaneity and the Summer Storms

I love to travel.  If I ever won the lottery I wouldn't buy a great, big mansion or own hundreds of fast cars (sorry, Nick) or a million pairs of shoes (handbags however....maybe?).  Instead, you'd find me on a plane, boat or train just traveling the world.  When I was younger, it seemed like no big thing to go somewhere if I got it in my brain to do so.  More often than not, my trips were of the spontaneous type - overpaying for last minute airfare, or driving the streets of wherever I was, late at night, trying to find a hotel that wasn't overbooked (yeah...that was life before Travelocity). 

Recently, I found myself a little homesick for my hometown.  It's monsoon season in the southwest this time of year, and although I love visiting family and friends, I was longing for the smell of the desert after the storm just a teensy bit more.  There's just such a fresh, unique sense to the desert after the rain. It's wonderful, and refreshing, and I found myself really missing it this year. 

I tried to be responsible and book my 21-days in advance airline tickets, but the next cheap flight out of town wasn't until August.  August?  Storm season is almost over by then!  So in the not-so-long-ago spirit of adventure and spontaneity, on Friday afternoon we threw a handful of clothes into some bags and ran out the door.

We did, however, need to make a few stops on the way out of town.  Despite what you may think - even spontaneity requires some planning.  For example.  While the truck can't run without fuel for 8 hours, one can't just drive to Tucson without snacks!

Or energy:

There you are, my old traveling companion
Fully stocked, we began the trek.  Slogging through LA afternoon rush hour traffic is draining enough to sap the strength out of anyone.  But just as I was about to seriously reconsider our decision, all of a sudden we were free of the city.  And once we were out on the open road, I felt a renewed energy surging through me.

(of course that also could have been the Red Bull....)

By the way, getting to Tucson is very easy.  Just get on I-10 east and watch the temperature. 

(Yup...that says 112)

Nope - too hot.  Must be in Phoenix. 

There we go.....  Much better.

I could tell just driving into the city that good rain had preceded us.  The lingering look of dust in the air was gone, the cacti were a brighter shade of green, and the air had the intoxicating aroma of freshness and cleanness to it.  So by our first full day in town, I was in full-alert storm watch mode.  After all, watching the storms build and grow really is a show all by itself:

All day long it's hot and sticky - but just off to the edge of the city, where the mountains lie, you can see it begin.  The previously blue sky starts to darken and the clouds begin creep in.

As you watch, you'll see them swirl and change, morphing from regular cumulus clouds into cumulonimbus clouds - all poofy and cottony on top with the flat grey bottoms.  Then the wind starts to pick up - which helps that previously miserable temperature cool down into a more manageable range (although it's still humid and sticky as snot).  Finally, the storm is ready to strike.  And just as I thought I was  about to see the first streak of lightning zap across the sky and the rumble of thunder boom across the land....


The wind blew too strongly, the storm clouds dissipated and the whole thing passed  us by (although it did leave a very nice sunset...).


Well, so much for Storm Watch - Day 1.  Meh.  So instead we spent the remainder of evening in Downtown Tucson among great friends, fabulous food, and live music while watching the soon-to-be-ready Sun Link Streetcar go around...and around...and around...and around.

I hear everyone loves this thing!

The next day, even as we threw everything back into our bags to head back home, I could feel another monsoon storm building on the outskirts of the city.  "Before we leave, I will have rain", I vowed and shook my fist at the sky. 
(the housekeeping staff at the hotel gave me some rather strange looks....)
We had just enough time to spend with family

Aren't we a rather motley looking bunch?
And then it was time to hit the road. 
As I looked to the sky, I began to seriously doubt if I would feel any rain before we left. 

But I couldn't give up hope.  Not yet.  It was so, so close.
So we began the drive out of town.  We drove down Ina Road and made the turn onto I-10 West. 
But wait...what was this.  Just off in the distance...????


And then...

OK, it didn't last very long, but for me, it was just enough.  By the time we hit Picacho Peak, the storm clouds had already begun their slow march across the county.  I could tell by the wet freeway that we apparently missed a huge storm by minutes.  But it didn't matter.  I had the remnants of rain on my hands, the cool, fragrant wind in my hair, and a huge, satisfied smile on my face.

We drove with the windows down for as long as we could.  But as the city disappeared further and further from view, the roads dried up, the sun returned, and that beautiful sweet smell started to disappear. 
Next thing you know (or...more like 4 hours later)...we were crossing back into California.

Finally we pulled into our driveway exhausted, physically fatigued, and having to go to work in about 8 hours. But despite that, I still felt good - maybe even a little rejuvenated.  I may not jump in a car and drive off on a spontaneous trip to anywhere as much as I used to - but I did this weekend and it felt great.  Even now I can close my eyes and bring up the sights and smells of the monsoons and it makes me smile to think I was there, albeit briefly, to enjoy it this season.
By the way, if you're a Zonie and find yourself craving a cool breeze that blows off the Pacific, have your own spontaneous weekend trip!  Just throw some clothes in a bag, fuel up the car, grab a Red Bull and head west.  Getting to Los Angeles is easy.  Get on I-10 west, watch the temperature gauge....

Hello Palm Springs!
And just keep driving until you hit water.

We'll be waiting for ya!