Wow, this month has flown by. It started out with all work and thankfully ended with some play. Here are the highlights. We spent something like 10 days with Tom Wilson of Arizona Performance Offroad camped at his house. He’d made our roof rack a couple of years ago and we liked working with him as well as what he did. It’s hard to find a welder who will take on the projects Jon wants to do and also let him work alongside him since everything is so custom and most often the design is in Jon’s head. He actually lives in a beautiful part of the Tucson desert and being able to just stay at his house makes doing the work much easier. We enjoy his family too. Over the days, we had a big taco night and another pizza night with his family. They are very close and also live close- like a family compound almost. It’s a great set-up, and we’re glad to know them.
The projects we had done this round were new, fairly elaborate electric entry steps, an interior trim ring for our new door, a bin for the door to store stuff because we had one on the old door and were missing it. Then we had tow points made for the front of the truck because we didn’t have any. The motorcycle lift needed some adjustments and new bushings made because the holes were wearing as there was too much play in them. And lastly, we had a new aluminum box made for the back wall of the truck to store nothing other than coco coir for our “composting” toilet. It seems ridiculous to have to have a special place to store it but then where the heck DO you store it when you need to carry a bunch of it? So now it’s done. A whole year supply stored now.
We left Tom’s only to do more projects afterward such as continue working to try to make the door fit better in it’s frame and get the right gasket for it. This has taken a lot of tries (and a lot of thrown away gasket) but we think we have the right one now! And the door is funny because Jon has a habit of precision. Well, when the door is really cold, it shrinks and the lock mechanism is very tight. Then when the door is warm, everything is loose again and moves smoothly. So getting the three point locking mechanism all lined up for both conditions took a bunch of trial and error and it required the two of us to hold the door while making the adjustments. We think we almost have it now! We are really enjoying this door despite the fact that it wasn’t install and forget about it.
One of many nice things about being in Tucson is that we have our friend Rob here. He accepts a nutty amount of packages for us. We go out to dinner sometimes or throw something on the grill together, we go biking on Tucson’s awesome mountain bike trails and we even benefitted from he & his dad giving our bikes a tune-up! That was very kind and they now work the best since we’ve had them! We’re hoping to do some more trails together before we leave the area.
You might wonder where we stay at night. Well, if we need to be in the city for errands and such we will often stay at a Home Depot or Walmart where permitted. We don’t preferit, but sometimes it works out well even if a little noisy. Tuscon actually has a few decent spots like this and even one at a multi-use path trailhead along a wash which was actually pretty nice I thought. Because we’d just gotten an unusually large amount of rain, the wash had turned into a rushing river and even the locals were out taking pictures of this special event. We took a walk one eve after a day of errands and ran into a couple in an overland truck similar to ours named Blaze Our Way. We met Chris & Lori at the Overland Expo in Virginia back in 2019 when we were showing our truck there. It was fun to see them again by happenstance on the other side of the country.
But our favorite places are out in the desert. It’s so beautiful and quiet and we long for the solitude of these open spaces. We found a great one at Ironwood national monument. It sat at the base of Ragged Top Mountain. There is a rough route to the summit and some biking in the area. We took the bikes out for a few hours and visited an old cold war missile silo site and a pair of really old ironwood trees. Because the weather was unsettled the next day, we departed for Phoenix with plans to come back to climb the hill at a later date.
We climbed Picacho Peak the next day between Phoenix and Tucson which has plenty of cables and ladders to keep you busy.
We had to go to Phoenix to pick up our cushions. Back in November, we’d arranged to have them made by EYM Upholstery. After some delays, we arrived for our appointment and they weren’t yet finished. Like, one out of 8 was almost complete. So,,, that meant we had to park there along a very busy road while Nena, a very friendly lady, started working very hard to get these cushions done for us. It took the better part of 2 days and we can’t say we enjoyed being there but we got a lot done. We used the time to do a bunch of projects that were hanging over our heads and so no time was wasted. We’re happy with how they turned out, not absolutely perfect but handmade and really nice. Plus we have plump foam and soft fabric and we can finally see out the window like we were supposed to be able to do. Success!
We blasted out of there and headed over to meet Ivan, who had been waiting for us in the Superstition Mountains since we weren’t really planning on that extent of delay with the cushions. It was great to see him after 2 months apart and we quickly fell into our old routine of hikes and dinners together. We do laugh a lot. We were camped adjacent to Saguaro Lake, where we could finally try out the packrafts that we’d bought months ago.
They were great! Easy to carry, easy to pump up with our first ever battery operated pump (wow that was easy!) and they’re easy to paddle and track relatively well. I can’t wait to go out again and drift down a river. I’m really glad we made this switch because I can totally see us heading up a trail to explore a lake or river, perhaps ride it down. Or just get to difficult places where we can’t park the truck right nearby. And, we each got a Tizip zipper so that we can store gear inside the tubes of the raft if we were to go backpacking or on longer trips with it. I sure hope we can put them to good use. I know if we were in Alaska we would!
The three of us went back to Ragged Top mountain to climb it and knocked that off in a morning. It was a pretty hike on a perfect weather day. Then that afternoon, we biked at Sweetwater Preserve which is a great purpose-built network of trails among some impressive stands of Saguaro cactus. We were meant to do this with Rob but he had a cold and didn’t feel up to the exertion. But he met us there at the trailhead and delivered our bikes to us since we’d left them with him for the tune-up. The trails were a lot of fun.
The last couple of times we were here, we never got to visit the Pima Air & Space Museum because of covid. Well this time we didn’t want to miss it. We spent the whole day there looking at planes. Unique to this museum is the amount of huge jets that they have on display. While you can’t get inside them, you can walk all around everywhere including underneath them. They have the Air Force One plane that carried the hostages back from Iran, lots of old military planes complete with nose art. And lots of bombers with visual exhibits that show you what it was like to be crammed into a tiny hole as a gunner in what was basically an open plane at frostbite temperatures with a 14% chance for survival. I learned a lot, forgot a bunch already but was impressed by the collection and really it was another great day with great company. And, there was a beautiful great horned owl in the plane graveyard area. We got a wonderful look at him and it was funny to watch him turn his head and look down at us and blink.
When we were up in Alaska at Kennicott with Sandie & Karsten, we all had buffet breakfast together at an inn one morning before heading out to hike the glacier. It was really good and fun to overeat for a change because we never let ourselves do it. So we got to remembering Sunday brunches of the past and decided that we’d hunt one out while we were here. Tom’s family gave us a good one at Tanque Verde Ranch and we went yesterday. You know, the kind that has oysters and prime rib. We dirtied a lot of plates before rolling out to the sitting area for a bit with heavy stomachs. We moved the trucks to Tanque Verde Falls trailhead and hiked down to quite an impressive waterfall! We had more time in the evening because there was no need for dinner prep!
I don’t know what it is, but we often seem to be plagued by certain projects. We get them done, only to have to revisit them again. Well there’s a shimmy in the front brakes. Even after the big brake job a couple months ago. So today is about Jon and Ivan having a good look at them to see what is causing it. Hoping it’s nothing big. Hoping we don’t need parts.
It’s been good to have some fun days lately. We deserved it. The project list has narrowed and the to-buy list is just about done. In the coming days, we plan to move south together.