The Road to San Carlos

Cactus. Giant Cactus. Tree-like Cactus. Small, blooming Cactus. The drive to San Carlos is filled with Cactus! We began in Phoenix, driving south and over the border. The continuing display of cactus followed as we went, ebbing slightly at times, but a nearly constant reminder that we were not in Oregon anymore!



For years I was certain I didn’t like road trips. Memories of long driving vacations all around the United states with my family as a child had scarred me. My dad, one of those odd souls who actually enjoys full days on the nations highways, also happened to have been a history teacher at one point and time. As such, our long days, often began before dawn to “get a start on the day” and involved frequent stops at historical markers where he would read the text aloud to us, to be further expanded for an hour or so once we were back on the road. No reading or napping for us! Oh no, we were required to gaze endlessly out the window, “appreciating” what we were seeing. Before you judge my discontent I ask you, have you driven across North Texas? Or Oklahoma? Or Eastern Wyoming. Even if you consider such landscape attractive, hours and days of it are NOT.


In typical childhood rebellion, I have to admit remembering almost none of the history told to me on those long trips. My memories of that time are more about early mornings and late arrivals at the latest in our tour of Motel 6’s and Super 8’s scattered throughout the country. Of bologna, iceberg lettuce and miracle whip sandwiches on wonder bread. (hey we WERE from the Midwest after all!) Memories of mom getting us lost with her notoriously bad navigational ability, and the fights that ensued. Memories of scraping much of the skin off the front of one calf falling (being pushed Howard??) off some old cannon in some Southern state. Or what felt like thousands of metal fragment splinters needing to be dug out of my foot after I didn’t listen to mom and went running across the grass without shoes.


As an adult, while still insisting I did not enjoy road trips, I came to appreciate more the fact that these memories even exist. Having lived in four states and numerous houses by the time I was 13  years old, having seen both coasts, having driven through the dessert and stood on top of the Rocky Mountains is part of what has caused me to be.. well, ME. Although my parents were not international adventurers, the mere fact that they pushed us out of the limited boundaries of our Midwestern, small town lifestyle, speaks volumes.

Once I became and adult and Jim and I began taking our own road trips, I realized I actually love them… but I love them with certain rules! Traveling with dogs can be challenging. Although the black dogs are fantastic travelers, our road trips do tend to revolve around their comfort. Ironically enough, much of the time that means we are more comfortable as well! Last year when we took advantage of a trip to Overland Expo to road trip through California, Nevada, Arizona, and Utah, we quickly realized that we are all significantly happier when we take breaks every 2-3 hours, trying for no longer than a 6-7 hour driving day. Everyone is peed and re-hydrated. We all get a chance to stretch, smell a new air, and change drivers. Making sure the black dogs have enough walks to not feel cooped up means Jim and I also get in our daily walking allowance and avoid car fatigue, a nearly perfect situation.


On our recent trip down to Mexico’s Copper Canyon, we embarked on what would become an epic road trip, all without having to drive! Throughout my years of working at Grand European Travel, we have been on many of the company trips, throughout the world. Never before have we wandered into such a mostly unexplored region. The long road to San Carlos began in Arizona and, other than cactus, there was not a whole lot to take in through our viewing windows for quite some time. Thus, we were delighted to arrive at our first stop as the The 300+ year old San  Xavier BAC de Mission beckoned us to explore her history. The history and renovation of this delightful mission continues to enchant, with stories reaching back to when this area was part of New Spain.



Years of sun and wind, combined with an earthquake and lightening strike, have done nothing to diminish this lovely testament to the enduring culture of the region. The most recent renovations have seen workers going back to the original lime plaster, a fascinating and painstaking process all on it’s own.


Revived with the historical stop, we continued over the border and into Mexico, that country that continues to beckon us, regardless of how many times we visit within it’s borders. With miles to go, we enjoyed a brief lunch stop before arriving in the capital of Sonora, Hermosillo. A working town, the city center is highlighted by the lovely Plaza Zaragoza, bordered on two sides by the majestic Cathedral a la Asuncion and the State Government Palace. We slowly consumed our coconut ice cream while enjoying the sight of families strolling the square and the photo op for a young lady experiencing her quinceañera. This coming of age, ceremony occurs when a young lady reaches turns 15 years old and is quite a lavish occasion, complete with thanksgiving style fiestas, dancing and gifts.DSCN2204_1696DSCN2211_1702DSCN2205_1697

We ended the day with a sunset arrival in San Carlos, scenically set on the Sea of Cortez. A long day, to be sure, but our souls felt at peace. A simple border crossing into this land we love so much, and we felt at immediately at home. Excited to be back in Mexico, excited to be embarking on a vacation exploring a region of this beloved country that was new to us.



As we sipped tequila and embraced the warmth of a Mexico evening … I smiled.

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6 thoughts on “The Road to San Carlos

  1. My husband and I are about to take off (in one month) for our first big road trip together ever. I am honestly nervous about all the time in the car – we tend to not like the same car entertainment, we get hungry at different times, etc. I think we’ll be setting some ground rules ourselves! But I’m sure it will be an amazing trip and even though we live abroad right now, I will still get a chance to visit two new states on the journey which is hard for me to do these days. So, fingers crossed!

    • Hi Julie.. thanks for stopping by! I just saw your site on facebook the other day and need to go in and give you a like 🙂 I’m sure you’ll do great… we do have compatible likes, etc but still needed to find a routine that worked for us. At the very least you’ll have plenty of time to figure it out! Best of luck as you head out.

  2. I think there is something to be said for how our concept of time changes as we age. I remember how five hours in the car used to feel interminable when I was a kid, stuck in the car driving up to northern Ontario for the summer. Or, on the few trips my family took to Florida when I was little, but we would drive all the way from Toronto… These days, though, Tony & I can easily spend 8 – 10 hours in the car and barely feel it. Yes, we’re a little tired at the end of the day, but the drive itself is rarely the problem (though yes, certain states are definitely more inspiring for lengthy drives than others. Nebraska? Not so fun…). Thankfully our dogs are great in the car—they pretty much just conk out right away!

    • You are absolutely correct, Steph, in that perceptions change however, lol, my dad is quite proud of his ability to drive for 12-14 hours a day with barely a yawn so, sad to say we did cover thousands of miles during those dreaded childhood road trips 🙂 And great that the dogs are good travelers.. so are Aspen and Porter, a huge plus!

  3. Nearly every day we travel we are excited to hit the road to somewhere new. We love road trips, always have, but then there’s nowhere that far to drive back home. However, we do agree, some of those interstates in the larger, flatter states were a bit coma-inducing. Can’t get enough of those cacti though!

    • oh I do love discovering something new. Looks like you’re stuck in Belize right now 🙂 so sad, not!

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