Lured by the carrot of a free car, we opted to fly to Phoenix and drive to California, instead of the ever more convenient option of flying directly and renting a car. When my husband checked my inlaws' Rav 4, he noticed a couple of things. Number 1, the air conditioning (which my father-in-law checked two weeks ago) was broken. Number 2, two of the tires were leaking. Adam switched the leakiest tire with the spare, and we stopped at every gas station en route to buy air for the other (BTW: there aren't that many gas stations in the middle of the desert, surprisingly).
And yes, we drove across the desert with no air conditioning.
While I was staring out the car window, hot air blasting through my hair and eardrums, I was thinking about how best to describe the Arizona landscape. It felt, to me, like we were driving on an alien planet. There's no grass, at least no green grass. Instead, tufts of widely-spaced green bush-like plants grow out of what might otherwise resemble the surface of the moon. The tallest plants are the cactuses (cacti?). I've seen pictures of cacti before, even owned a small potted version, but it didn't prepare me for the sight of the ten-foot alien fingers reaching towards the sky. When we got into California, we saw more and more palm trees, but obviously they need more water than cactuses, because we saw several dry-looking trunks with dead palm tops littering the ground. And of course the entire landscape was framed by mountains, majestic, rocky, and completely naked of greenery.