Arizona, Desert and Deadly Snakes

Arizona Desert

“But don’t worry,” she continued. “Most snakes don’t want to hurt you. If you’re out in the bush and a snake comes along, just stop dead and let it slide over your shoes.” This, I decided, was the least-likely-to-be-followed advice I have ever been given.”  –  Bill Bryson – ‘In a Sunburned Country’

Next day we had another big breakfast but we did it very quietly as we drank lots of juice and shared out the paracetamol supplies on account of the very heavy hangovers.

It was a glorious day and we had a lot of it at our disposal because we weren’t due to fly home until much later so after partial recovery, we still looked like zombies but didn’t sound like them as well, we checked out of the Best Western, packed the bags into the vehicle and headed off south into the desert.  We were taking the road towards Tuscon, the Pearl Harbour Memorial Highway,  but it was a long way so we had to abandon any thoughts of getting there and back in time for our flight.  I would really have liked to have gone to Tuscon.

Today Arizona was very different from the trip north to the Grand Canyon and we could see exactly why the State is a land of contrast.  There was no snow down here and no mountains either just miles and miles of dusty desert with long straight roads and small towns along the way.

Arizona is a good name for a place but there is some disagreement over the origin of the name, some believe the name is an abbreviation of the Spanish phrase arida zona, or ‘dry region’, but others argue that it comes from the Basque phrase aritz onak, or ‘good oaks’, The name Arizonac was initially applied to a silver mining camp, and later, when it had been shortened to Arizona to the entire territory.  Both versions sound plausible I suppose but either must depend on whether you are in the north or the south of the State.

A disagreeable feature of driving in the USA with which Europeans are not familiar is the number of advertising billboards which litter the highways.  No matter that there is nothing to see because everything is obscured by massive advertising boards.  This all seems quite normal to Americans because I found this on Trip Advisor…

“We visited England about 3 weeks ago and rented a car to go from London down to the Cornwall area. We were really surprised to find that there were no billboards along the way indicating any sort of restaurants that might be coming up as there are in the U.S. All there was, were forks and knives/spoons on the square exit signs.”

Well, that’s the way we like it, highways without clutter.

Arizona Billboard

We stopped at a desert recreational area and took a walk amongst the Saguaro cactus which are sometimes called the ‘desert monarch’  on account of the fact that they can be fifty feet tall and up to two hundred years old.  We walked among them a short way but became understandably nervous when we read a warning sign about rattle snakes and we remembered Mike’s gruesome stories of painful venomous deaths so we didn’t stay very long.  I liked the snake tips on the sign, which advised:

  • ‘If bitten by a rattlesnake do not open the wound and try to suck out the venom’ (I wouldn’t do that even for a Playboy centrefold!)
  • ‘If bitten by a rattlesnake do not use a tourniquet because this will cut off blood flow and the limb may be lost’ (good recommendation, you don’t want your leg falling off as well as well as going delirious!)
  • And my favourite piece of completely unnecessary advice: ‘Avoid rattlesnakes altogether.  If you see one don’t try to get closer to it or catch it!’

After a while we came across an out of town shopping mall with shops and restaurants and Dave and Allan wanted to do more souvenir shopping so we parked up and while they went off to the outlet stores for cheap denim jeans the rest of us found a little bar and had the first of the day.  Shopping over, the others returned and Dave declared it to be lunch time so there was a final burger and fries before we returned north the way that we had come and went directly back to the airport for the flight back home.

It was the same arrangement with an internal flight to Dallas, a much shorter time to wait this time and then the big journey home to Heathrow.  It was a night flight and we were all very tired after a busy three days and an awful lot of alcohol so most of the eight hours was spent sleeping and we weren’t nearly so boisterous on this leg of the journey.  Back home we said goodbye and promised to report back to Percy on the potential of the vehicle and then we all went our separate ways home.

This had been a really good trip and on reflection I decided that refuse vehicle manufacture was actually rather interesting after all.  We posted the report of our visit  and offered our availability for any similar official trips in the future.

This was a good  move because the following year I was sent to La Rochelle in France to look at Semat refuse trucks and later in the same year I went to Milan to see the Brivio factory.  It’s amazing how interesting refuse trucks can suddenly become when there is an all expenses overseas trip involved.  Later the Company set up a centralised procurement unit that saved the best gigs for themselves and that was the end of the factory visits and the overseas travel but believe me I enjoyed it while it lasted.

Incidentally, in case you are wondering,  the company never did buy a Heil sideloading refuse vehicle, they were absolutely useless for use in the UK, but I have to say that they were brilliant at hospitality.  Jack Allen folded and went out of business just a short while afterwards, which was a shame and the Heil Engineering Plant in Phoenix that had opened in 1990 was closed down in August 2003 and production was switched to Fort Payne in Alabama.

20 responses to “Arizona, Desert and Deadly Snakes

  1. Actually, number 3 is often quite pertinent… Apparently the number 1 cause of snakebites in Texas is alcohol-induced pestering of snakes. I love visitors’ observations of my country 🙂

  2. Pingback: The Trip that Changed My Life | Part Two | The Free Range

  3. Pingback: Arizona, Desert and Deadly Snakes | Have Bag, Will Travel

  4. My favourite road sign from Arizona said something along the lines of « No offroad driving or shooting of guns. »

  5. I’m sure you contributed to the decision not to buy the trucks 🙂

  6. You would have liked Tucson. i lived there in the 70’s when I was doing my graduate work at the U of A.

  7. Thank you for the entertaining episodes of your trip. I Loved each one. 🙂

  8. I enjoyed this trip with you. Arizona is my favorite state. Too bad you didn’t get to Tombstone. I’m glad you didn’t encounter any vicious snakes.

  9. There’s this old joke I’m sure everyone has heard (or not) that ends with the punchline “he said you’re gonna die.”

    It also involves sucking out the poison.

  10. I love spending time in Arizona. Anywhere but Phoenix, world’s ugliest most boring city. So hey, in the US there are four states that ban billboards. I found out about it when I lived in Vermont, where highway advertisement is banned outside of cities, and within cities is strictly regulated to small signs that must meet design and colour criteria. The reason is that the appeal of the landscape is the state’s brand, and as you rightly explain: one can’t see a damned thing with those ginormous billboards cluttering up the horizon. Other states marketing their beauty and banning billboards include Hawaii, Maine, and Alaska.

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