I wonder what hindsight will tell us when this passes. Despite our plans being shaken just like everyone else and much uncertainty still, we’ve been easily filling our time, having fun and getting things done. It feels fortunate to have landed in Arizona where the sun is bright and warm, spring is in full swing and the number of cases is low. There is more leniency here and its easy to comply. We made Superior our base which is a small mining town east of Phoenix within Tonto National Forest. It sits pretty much in a bowl of mountains and there is a lot of hiking & horseback riding. There are old mine sites that are of interest to some because its easy to find obsidian. They call these chunks of lava glass Apache tears in memory of the Apaches that were driven from their homeland by invaders, some of whom chose death rather than submission. After a few days in a private campground, we realized that there are tons of dispersed campsites throughout the forest that are open and the forest is huge so we can easily move around to different areas.
The motorbike continues to prove very useful and the lift for it that Jon designed works like a charm. We had a hiccup one day when the carburetor clogged so he did a thorough clean of that for the first time and now we’re back in business. Its so funny looking back to when we didn’t have the endorsement yet and the lift build was in progress. Jon had to push the motorbike for over a half mile to the welder, then push it back to the marina and then he had to do it again when we replaced the tires and chain because it was having one of its carburetor clog events before we knew that was an issue. We figured it was the fact that it was 20 degrees that day in NC and this bike is very cold blooded. Where there’s a will there’s a way! Riding it is more fun than pushing it!
Picketpost mountain is the major backdrop of the town. Its pretty scenic and the trails that circle it run through lovely canyons and one even has a flowing stream. We’ve been doing sections of the Arizona Trail, a 790 mile north to south hiking trail that passes through this area and others on our path. On one day we did the circuit of Picketpost and summit which is a bit of a scramble, very steep and a decent number of miles. Back when we were at Organ Pipe we saw an eastern diamondback rattlesnake with plenty of warning and thought it was pretty cool. But then on this narrow and grassy canyon trail that day alone we stumbled upon 3 and 2 within striking distance, like, we almost stepped on them because they’re barely visible in the grass. We’ve been rattled at 3 times and one of them was even sprawled out perfectly flat in a shrub at about hip level rattling although we think it wouldn’t have bitten because it couldn’t coil up in that position but we had another one that did coil up. Anyway, the one in the shrub would’ve been a perfect picture but I didn’t have the phone on me and there was no way Jon was going to pass it up to me. So we kind of cooled off on hiking those trails and are considering some snake proof gear although it doesn’t look too comfortable. And while reading up on what exactly we would do if bitten, the guidance says your best tool is your cell phone- call for help fast! We know that wouldn’t work for the kinds of places we go. Since then we’ve seen several more snakes, most non poisonous, so maybe that was just a hot spot.
With snakes on the brain I yelped when I saw this gila monster because he was moving toward me on the trail but I think I scared him more than he did me. Nice to see one.
When we’re not marveling at really impressive amounts of wildflowers, we’ve been crossing some projects off for the truck. I like it when Jon busily starts one and knocks it out in a morning and then we can play the rest of the day. If we’re not doing the project together, then I do a pure pink job like bake a dessert or something. I’m still getting used to the oven in the truck which runs a lot hotter but things are coming out better now with practice. On a cruising sailboat, there were definite blue and pink jobs as we called them. It had to be clear who’s job was what so that things got done safely and on time by the most capable person especially underway. I felt comfortable doing engine maintenance on the boat whereas the truck… well, not so much. And installing equipment, not a pink job either! Now that we’re not sail handling, we still seem to be doing it. Anyway, the rear camera is installed and we decided we want another one back there- one as the backup camera and another as the rear view mirror. Plus we will eventually have side cameras for the blind spot. There are floodlights on the back too so that we can see if doing something at night like change a tire or put the motorbike away. And we installed rear marker lights and reflective tape to insure we are visible from behind because we do travel slower on most roads- 55 is our max. The Equalflow is now installed so we draw from both 50 gallon diesel tanks evenly as one big tank. So far this seems great. Jon tried the 3rd version of a fuel sender to see if the fuel gauge would work properly but it is still not the right one! The truck had a thorough wash at the campground including the roof and UV polish since the summer is definitely pushing in. Jon wired up a relay so that we will automatically make hot water when the solar panels are generating enough amps. We have a glut of power most every day and having this bit automatic rather than us having to switch the breaker will be nice. We’re missing our programming cord to finish the job.
One day we had a local exhaust shop put our truck up on the lift and re-route the tailpipe further aft. Now the exhaust exits out the back rather than circulate under the truck.
We started noticing that we’ve been going through antifreeze lately but couldn’t tell where it was going because nothing was dripping, the oil looks great and the exhaust is the same (smelly!). We had the mechanics take a look when we were in El Paso getting the springs changed but to no avail. But then this week we went to a place here called Total German and they pressurized the system and voila, the radiator is leaking from the top at pressure and the antifreeze is evaporating right away hence no leak seen. In the grand scheme of things this is good news and we feel relieved since now we know what is happening and a 32 year old radiator going doesn’t seem unreasonable. So Jon is ordering one from Europe and when it arrives it will become a priority to get it installed.
In the meantime, we donned our masks again and re-stocked at the store, so we could get moving and were pleased to be able to find distilled water for the truck now that the water crisis is apparently over but certain things are still tight like tonic water, dry beans and flour. We saw someone with 2 cases of tonic water bottles in his cart. A corona preventer?? That’s a lot of G&T’s! And my laptop completely died and so another thing that is in very short supply is laptops! The stores we talked to said they’ve been selling out faster than they can get supply in. I’m sure this is only the beginning of the fallout.
We are now parked up at Roosevelt Lake, still within Tonto NF. Its one of the largest reservoirs in Arizona and a popular place for boating. The Roosevelt Dam was built in the early 1900’s if I remember right and was so important to the development and agricultural possibilities for Arizona that is is pictured on the state seal. We explored the lake thinking we would want to kayak on it but it really didn’t appeal. And the Salt River which is on the other side of the Roosevelt Dam is all shut down. It might have been from a landslide. The Apache trail follows the river- a 40 mile dirt US Scenic Road that traverses the historical path that the Apaches used. It would’ve been great for our truck and neat camping & kayaking. There’s a national monument here with cliff dwellings that is closed. A lot of things are closed down for covid and we joke that the “fun police” have been here shutting down anything that might amount to fun. So instead we discovered a great spot high up in the mountains on a gorgeous ribbon of road that ends at a trailhead. We have a secluded campsite that is absolutely beautiful. And we hiked some more of the Arizona trail today and had a great day.
Its amazing to think back to what this truck looked like a year ago. And to know that every piece inside & out was something we carefully put in place. Sitting back now looking at it either from our outdoor chairs or the (relative) comfort of the interior cushions, we can’t believe we did it. Our dream was to have a truck that could take us to wonderful places all around the world. While we’ve had to table our plans to ship for now, we know there is a lot of beauty right here and we’re really enjoying it, closures or not.