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On my latest cross country drive to deliver my Mom’s car to Phoenix, I broke the 2000 mile journey into two parts. Here’s why.

For years I’ve been reading and hearing about Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge. It’s known as one of the best places in the USA to watch birds, especially those who have migrated there from the northern latitudes for the winter. Since the route from Grand Rapids to Phoenix passes close by, I decided to detour slightly.

Part one of the journey was 2-1/2 days traveling from Grand Rapids to Socorro, NM and visiting Bosque. Although I was in the NWR for only 16 hours or so, I totally enjoyed the wildlife and outdoor. You can see some of the photos from short stay at Bosque here.

Part two of the journey was the remaining 380 mile ride between Socorro and Phoenix. As I was planning for the drive a few days before the trip, I noticed a place on the map with a funny name “VLA”. When I googled it, I found it to be an acronym for Very Large Array. It’s a set of huge radio telescopes 50 miles west of Socorro on US Route 60, the preferred highway to Phoenix. It sounded interesting, so I decided that this would be another stop after Bosque del Apache.

On Friday morning I was on the road by seven and heading west on US 60. An hour later, I saw an amazing group of what appeared to be white dishes sitting on the high desert.



The VLA is operated by the National Radio Astronomy Observatory


The array consists of 27 antennas mounted on tracks to enable repositioning.

You may recognize these antennas if you’ve seen the 1997 movie “Contact” starring Jodie Foster about the search for extra-terrestrial intelligence. I don’t know if the NRAO found any, but they were definitely pointing the dishes away from Washington, DC. I’m not sure what that means. 🙂

At the visitor’s center I followed the self-guided walking tour of the VLA.

The 1/2 mile walk afforded me time to take a few snapshots of the impressive machinery that gazes the universe.

I watched as the 27 antennas rotated together similar to a synchronized dance. Click to here see a short video.



Each dish is 81 feet in diameter


Jack is another VLA visitor

After spending two hours at the VLA, it’s time to go. The road takes me over some easy mountain grades. Shortly after reaching the New Mexico-Arizona state line I spot several large black birds making circles overhead. I stop the car, retrieve my camera and begin shooting when I notice a dozen much larger birds flying much higher.

Seeing their white heads, there’s no mistaking that these are bald eagles! Although they are above a field a few hundred yards away, I have such a wonderful feeling watching these majestic creatures soar the skies.





Heading west again it’s more high plains and scrub. At Show Low, US 60 turns south and descends into the Salt River Canyon, another gorgeous part of Arizona.



small drop off along the Salt River


scenic view at the top of the canyon


one of many mesas typical of the area



colorful surroundings in the canyon

The next town is Globe about 90 miles from my final destination. An hour and a half later I’m approaching Phoenix. It’s still early enough in the afternoon so I’ve avoided the heavy commuter traffic.

Mom’s house is slightly east of Phoenix. I pull into her driveway about 4pm completing the 2000 mile drive. I’m relieved to be out of the car. Mom’s there to greet me – she arrived earlier in the day via a flight from Grand Rapids. With the delivery of her car, she now has wheels for her winter stay.



grapefruit growing in Mom’s yard

To make the travel more interesting, I’ve been able to break up this long cross-country drive into a series of short “photo trips”. I hope that you enjoyed some of these sights as much as I enjoyed visiting them.

I’ll be writing about a few of my next photo trips soon. I’m off the the southwest again in two days.

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