Driving around the western US is something everyone should experience once. The wide open spaces, the elaborate and well sealed roads are a worry free road trip experience. When you barrel down a highway with no cars in sight and wide expanses of nature on both sides it's exhilarating. Getting gas is a throwback too. None of that faceless stick your credit card in and pump yourself stuff. Someone comes out and does it for you and is likely to strike up a conversation as he does your windows. We had one young guy between Saguaro and the Municipal Pool who described the heat perfectly after we told him that the dry heat there was every bit as uncomfortable as our muggy hot South Florida. He laughed and said that the heat out there cooked you from the inside out. That's about how it felt too and it was another byline for us whenever we got stuck outside in the elements midday.
After flying into Phoenix, we rented a car to drive ourselves around Arizona. Our first stop was Saguaro National Park, the western side. Although not a large park, the Bajada Loop road is the way to get around, and honestly,I don't know how you would visit without a car.
There are quite a few rental places at the airport. We rented ours at Budget, they had the best rates.
Saguaro National Park is located only 2430 miles (3910 km) southwest of New York City :-) Where is it?
OK, wear good glasses and enlarge my picture first, please!
Look where Arizona is located in the USA.
Tucson is located in southern Arizona (green square with number 1 on my picture - map). Saguaro National Park consists of the two separate units: western and eastern, both are approx. 15 miles (24 km), west and east of Tucson's downtown.
As there is no public transportation to Saguaro National Park you must get to Tucson first unless you have a car. How?
Look at my Transportation Tips on my Tucson page, please - click here
Some roads inside Saguaro National Park are hilly (is it correct word? he?, deepy??) = you drive up and down as you can see on my picture. Drive carefully and never pass there.
As I know there are heavy rains (once a year or so) in Saguaro National Park. Deeps maybe... flooded that time as the dry earth can't absorb a lot of water in short time.
As you can see on my picture they used to paint middle line on a highway in bright orange color.
In many (but unfortunately not all) European countries they are painted in yellow. Side lines were painted in white in Saguaro National Park.
The human eye is the most sensitive just for yellow/orange color, especially at night. So, I like driving such highways more. Don't you?
In Europe - as I know hehe - there is fixed speed limit for various kinds of vehicles which depends on a kind of a highway (freeway, two-lane divided highway etc.) and other speed limit (lower) in urban areas. They are surely various in various countries.
In the USA it seems that each part of a highway/freeway has its own speed limits shown on traffic signs. Am I wrong?
So, watch speed limits on traffic signs. Look at my picture taken in Saguaro National Park: speed limit 30 (surely MPH = miles per hour = 48 km/h) and adding below: SPEED CHECKED BY RADAR. Wow, where was this radar?
It's not so easy to drive through real giant saguaros jungle. Believe me, watching for traffic signs instead of saguaros was not so easy! Luckily there were quite big warning traffic signs in all more dangerous bends.
Almost all road signs look either the same or almost the same as in Europe. Or you can easily find their meaning using a little your brain :-).
But there is one quite different sign. Look at my picture. On the right side of a highway there is a strange triangle sign. Believe me, it's written on the other side of this sign: DO NOT PASS = incoming cars are not allowed to pass. These signs are always located on the left and sometimes on both sides of a highway. Is it clear?
BTW there are only three traffic signs of other than circle shape (= easy to distinguish from other signs from back side) in the USA:
- octagonal STOP sign,
- triangle YIELD sign
- triangle DO NOT PASS sign.
In Europe the last one sign is round in shape.
Whenever you drive a car in the USA you can meet quite a lot road tables with written warnings and information. Always in English and sometimes (in southernwest states) in Spanish as well. Never in German or French.
Enlarge my picture taken on unpaved Scenic Bajada Loop Drive and read: Weapons Prohibited. Better to know English. Hmm... no time to check in a dictionary while you drive hehe.
Btw can one pass a driving exam with no knowledge of English in the USA?
I am not sure about it but it seems that they often say intersection instead of crossroads in the USA. Am I wrong?
Look at my picture please. It's T - shape intersection with STOP sign (the same as in Europe) and additional sign (black arrows on bright orange background) at the end of the road.
Wear good glasses and enlarge my picture, especially if you are not American, please.
What a strange warning traffic sign! It means STOP ahead.
In Europe there is a normal stop sing with explanation below: 200 m for example.
Look at my picture, please. There is one of the main roads inside western part of the Saguaro National Park - one lane in each direction.
Notice very wide, unpaved shoulder on the left side inviting you to stop :-).
Whenever you drive around Saguaro National Park watch for sharp bends. Hmm... they are not very sharp (in contrast to local cacti) but they are dangerous.
Usually there is a straight road so you can drive quite fast but then there is a bend and next straight part of your itinerary.
Enlarge my picture please to see how they sign sharp bends in the USA (quite different than in Europe): black bended arrow on bright orange square. Notice 15 MPH (15 miles per hour = 24 km/h) below the sign - it's NOT a speed limit, it's recommended speed for you!
There are a lot of shorter and quite long hiking trails in both parts of Saguaro National Park.
For fast and/or lazy visitors:
the shortest (100 yards = 91 m hehe) and easiest is Cactus Garden Trail which begins at parking lot in front of Red Hills Visitor Center.
I drove from Yuma I-8 and than I-10 towards Tucson. I took exit 236 in Marana that is 23 miles (37 km, 30 min.) northwest of Tucson. I drove southward North Sandario Road passing on the right side an airport in Marana (Avra Valley Airport). Then the road changed name to Sandario Road which entered the Saguaro National Park (western part). The entrance was marked by the table as on my picture.
Driving without wearing your seat belt and off road driving is forbidden in Saguaro National Park.