My last stop on Route 60 was the Boyce Thompson Arboretum in Superior, nine miles east of the turnoff onto Route 77 for Tucson. I wanted to savor the preponderance of these archaic-looking plants but not to drive through the desert in the dark again, especially since the landscape on the way to Tucson was supposed to be very beautiful, abundant with cacti. I hurried, and as an afterthought I bought a little—but not that little—cactus from its nursery, buckled it into the front seat next to me, and took off down the highway with the top down. The cactus was encased in a small box with holes for air. It was like my buddy, riding shotgun.
In Tucson I picked up a friend and drove to the Arizona Inn for an extravagant dinner of filet mignon after checking in. Lots of movie stars have stayed at the inn since it opened in 1930, and you feel like a movie star yourself there; the lawns are green, the bungalows are secretive, and the main dining room ceiling is soaring. After dinner we lounged on beach chairs by the dark pool. It was utterly relaxing but soon I sat up with a start, remembering the cactus strapped into the seat of the convertible, whose top was still down. I was already cherishing that cactus as the one souvenir that would prove my Route 60 sojourn to have been real, and now I worried that it would be stolen.
“The cactus?” my friend said. “Stolen?” He pointed out that there was no shortage of cacti in Tucson. I lay back again and shut my eyes against the lush vines and hedges surrounding the pool, remembering how it felt to be driving down Route 60 as though I were moving through the dead center of a clear glass globe.