The day started with a whirlwind of activity! My alarm went off. Justin, as per his usual, refused to get out of bed. Jake and I exchanged our morning shake-of-the-head and cuss-out of Justin. Same old, same old. Edd had called first shower the night before, so we all grudgingly agreed to let him have first dibs, knowing it would allow us our only opportunity to talk about him behind his soap-lathered back. We put on our requisite dirty clothing and smelly shoes and exited our hotel. I thought about caring a little more about personal hygiene, I mean there were girls in our van to keep on impressing. Yeah, I only thought about it. Jake and I then packed up the Merck-mobile, finishing well ahead of Holtz's green van. I must say Jake and I had it down to a science at this point. You've never seen so well packed a van. I'm pretty sure Holtz's van was drooling. We're hoping it was because of our packing and not just the animal magnetism of the Merck-mobile troupe. So, like a pack of stinky sardines, we loaded into the van, for a day of driving and, well, more driving. We stopped at a gas station to pick up a healthy yet delicious midday meal. I waited in line for the bathroom there; Dr. Holtz edged me out, darn him to heck! After my bathroom excursion, I purchased a turkey sandwich, some Florida's Natural Orange Juice (from concentrate, those jerks), and a bag of Spicy Nacho Doritos.
After the excitement of the gas station consumerism extravaganza we decided to cleanse our palettes with, you guessed it, driving. I don't remember how long we drove, but at some point it was deemed lunchtime, so we stopped at a scenic rest area. Now, in this case, I believe it was categorized as scenic due to the large "rock" blocking our view of the 18-wheeler trucks zooming down the highway. It was a nice picnic spot, with a small gorge and a trickling stream. Very Thoreau-ish, for what that's worth. Edd and I climbed down do eat our lunch in relative peace as everyone else mostly knelt in the gravel, devouring there meals like a pack of rabid hounds. Just kidding everyone! Some of them stood while they ate.
I'll skip the part where we got back in the vans and just tell you that we got back in the vans. Off we went! A little while later, we got to the Boyce Thompson Arboretum. We walked around this desert oasis, looking at various sharp, pointy things that Dr. Merck told us were "plants." There were tons of Chollas and different kinds of Agaves and Prickly Pears. All very exciting stuff. At the end of our tour through the arboretum, there was an artificial pond. This pond was teeming with wildlife. I definitely saw a bird or 38. One cool duck-like bird did a very interesting thing where it would half fly and half run over the water. Weird, wild stuff. There were also little tadpoles, minnows and frogs to be found. After a brief respite from the murderous sun, we walked on to the greenhouse. Inside said greenhouse was, you heard me, pointy plants! One room held cacti, while the other held cacti-like plants. Good. Great. Grand. Back to the visitors center. All in all, the arboretum was an excellent way to break up a long day of driving. My only regret was letting Annette steal my map of the arboretum to shade her delicate, sun shy shoulders. Darn her, what if I had gotten lost without my map? Maybe that was her plan all along. Oh well. No harm, no foul.
Back in the van, we continued our drive. Dr. Merck continued to quiz us on what biomes we were entering and leaving. As usual, the lighthearted banter and camaraderie of the Merck-mobile was lost on Justin, who grumpily put his headphones on the second we were back in the van. We didn't want to talk to him anyways, the party pooper. We arrived in Tucson quickly, relative to the geologic time scale of the ages of the rocks we were driving past. It was all right with us, though; we could look forward to a new and exciting Econo Lodge at days end. When we arrived, we were in for quite a surprise. Most of us had ever seen such a filthy hotel. Our room had no phone, no remote control, and the toilet was apparently of the "Old toilets don't break, they just regurgitate" school of thought. Ah well, we're men, we can handle anything. The girls, on the other hand, had it pretty rough too. Apparently one of the workers just came in the room, while Mrs. Shaw was in the bathroom, to drop off towels. Maybe that's how they run things down near the border, but the girls were none too pleased. What a dump. I didn't even want to think about the continental breakfast the next morning. As bad as the hotel was, perhaps my biggest gripe, and Jake's as well, was the hotels lack of receiving UPN on its televisions, barring us from watching a brand new episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Dr. Holtz was also equally upset. Don't worry though, good listeners, Jake and procured a tape of the episode upon our return. You can all breathe a sigh of relief. All right, back to the trip. At some point, we went to bed.
All in all, it was an uneventful but pleasant day. Travels in the Merck-mobile were always a hoot, so driving was never a problem for us. It was great to finally get a turkey sandwich on the trip, and the arboretum was colorful and pretty. Barring the hotel, I would say it was a picture perfect day for us. Maybe that would explain why Edd took approximately 300 pictures that day, I don't know. Even so, it was a day to remember, partly because I had to write about it, but also because there's no substitute for good company, beautiful surroundings, and a bag of much needed Doritos.
Day 5 - West of Tucson
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