Saturday, September 6, 2008

Day 9: Penguins in the Desert

We left after a quick breakfast from our gracious hosts, and headed west to the Desert Museum. I thought it would be an interesting thing to see, but my expectations were totally blown out of the water. The museum is almost entirely outdoors, but features many very natural settings in which classic examples of desert vegetation and life were displayed. Black Widows, Rattlesnakes, Ocelots, Bobcats, coyotes, wolves, foxes, some crazy bugs and other creepy crawlers as well as endless cacti and agave etc etc. It was really just the presentation of the whole place that sold me so heavily on it. Set right on the edge of the Saguaro National Park, with rocky orange mountains covered in towering saguaro cacti. We spent over 2 hours and only saw under 2/3 of the exhibits that they had there. But alas, the clock was ticking and we had lots to do.

Beth had 2 good high school friends who were recently married in Phoenix so we dropped in to say hi to/meet them. They made us a great and bountiful Jumbalaya and were really fun nice people. Browsed through their extensive record collection, marvelled at the enormous and awesome fish tank, and went for a brief tour of downtown Phoenix which had apparently been ravaged by the storm we saw in Tucson the night we drove in. Uprooted trees and knocked down walls were everywhere. It was pretty amazing. As always though, it was gorgeous that day as we were there, though the storm clouds were closing in on us as we were there, and we decided to take off for San Diego.

The drive out was gorgeous as anticipated. I-10 runs about 1/4 mile from the Mexican border for quite some time as well, so we had to go through about 5 border patrol checkpoints, but we were pretty clearly not mexicans, nor did we have any room in my car to store whatsoever. Then we got into some really windy awesome roads in the central California Desert area which was pretty neat. A really good drive again, mostly empty till just outside of SD and even then no traffic to mention really.

We got in at about 9:30 and were greeted by my old friend from physics classes, Dan Knudsen, who is doing some awesome neuroscience PhD research at UCSD, and his girlfriend Kara who apparently sat next to/befriended Sarah in an english lit class at NU which was really unexpected and entertaining connection for both of us. Furthering the small world bizareness, Beth had worked at almost all of the same labs that Dan had at NU, but never at the same time, so they traded stories about all their old coworkers' antics.

Dan and Kara were amazing hosts, fueling us with beer and raviolli and cooked us a huge breakfast the next morning. It was great to spend some time with them, as anyone who knows either of them will certainly attest to. But we had another super full packed day coming up, so we turned in finally.

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