I figure if I don’t write anything soon, it’ll be Christmas. I see the decorations are out and the Christmas music is playing so it must be right around the corner!

The hills above the Snake River

It was hard to tear ourselves away from Mark & Anne’s and they did their best to make us too comfortable, but then it snowed and we were shocked to our senses. We packed up our door, cleaned up the shoppe, had a couple more great meals & walks together and then shed a few tears saying goodbye. The three of us headed to the Snake River to catch the last of Fall. I love the Snake River. I feel bad for it because it’s dammed so many times but the landscape drives me nuts and I love all the campspots and great hiking trails on both the Idaho & Oregon side. We sat out in the sun for happy hour beside the river and then took a hike the next day through the rolling hills that flank the river. We needed time on our feet exercising rather than standing next to our door sanding it or applying yet more chemicals. All of us had sore fingers but Ivan & Jon even worse because they’d sanded their fingerprints off. Getting the phone unlocked is a pain when you don’t have a fingerprint!

The beautiful Snake River from the Oregon side

We continued on to Mary & David’s house in Oregon through beautiful golden grasslands with cattle & horses in the fields and glowing cottonwoods along the streams that run through the canyons. I love that drive and all the colors and open vistas. We picked up a mountain of packages at Mary & David’s including the much sought after brake parts that took heaps of perseverence to get shipped over from Europe. Since Oregon is tax free, all all had our packrafts sent to Mary’s too because why not?

Since we’ve been there several times, it almost feels like coming home to roll up our spot under the old tree that’s right next to the barn that sings in a light breeze. The ewes are doing their thing, the ram is doing his thing to the ewes (’tis the season for that), the dogs, cats, birds and fish are all hanging out with us and the whole summer push of growth everywhere was wrapping up for the season. Since we had no projects to do there other than open up all the cardboard boxes, we could just hang out & visit, take long hikes, go out for burgers, make nice meals and shoot the breeze. It was a great visit and I felt sad thinking that we don’t plan to be back up there in our truck for a while now.

We’d decided that it was too late to do the brake job in Oregon so Jon had found a place in Reno- Reno Brake that was willing to rivet the linings on our brake shoes and then John at Nevada Sandblast & Paint, only a mile away, was happy to allow us to park in his back lot to actually do the work. So after a few days of fun at Mary’s, we started to drive down to Reno.

We got 1/2 way there and stopped to camp in a grassy area off the highway with a great sand road leading through the hills. We parked up and Ivan suggested we take a run together! This is just another bonus part of traveling with friends. Jon said if it had just been us he wouldn’t have had the gumption to go for a run but because Ivan was asking, he decided to go! It was great to be out moving at my favorite time of day.

Then we carried on to Reno in a windstorm which was followed by some rain and blowing trash. When we got in to town, it was still blowing like stink and the flying dust made it hard to keep our eyes open. We visited both the brake shop and the place where we were going to park up for the work in all that wind and we quickly became filled with dread. We had no ambition for more work and the anxiety of not knowing what we’d uncover was stressful too. Gambling is not our thing, nor are cities that have a bunch of casinos. But we got some groceries, got parked up in the back of the lot and went inside for the night to have dinner together hoping the next day would be better.

Great minds on the job!

Well the next morning, the wind had died and the sun was peeking out. Jon & Ivan dug into the job because there was no time like the present. Our truck was in dire need of new brakes. Because they are wedge brakes and not common anymore, expecially in the US, no one would touch them so there was no alternative except for a DIY job. Fortunately, we have great friends to give us a hand. Ivan was already with us of course & then Sandie & Karsten came to park next to us and pitch in. We were very thankful for their help and for their moral support.

After a few hours, the first set of rear brake shoes was removed and Ivan shuttled us over to the brake shop with the new pads. But when we took everything out and lined it up, it became apparent that the pads were too big for the shoes. And they also figured out that they didn’t have the exact size rivets either, nor could they get them. All of our hearts sank. Our minds immediately turned to thoughts like how long are we going to get stuck here and what can I do to get out of here? And most importantly, how could the parts not be right after all the work to make sure they were?? We contacted our German mechanic friend Stefan for advice, started calling around all over for rivet distributors, and generally were coming up with nothing. Sandie made some of her awesome pizza dough and I made some salad and we had a nice evening together despite the anxiety over the brakes.

The next morning, Mark, the owner of Reno brake, came over to our truck and told us he’d thought about our truck all night (so did we!) and he thought he could make it work after all by shortening the rivets to fit and actually cutting down the pads to fit the shoes. He could adhesive and rivet them for a good fit. We decided to go forward with that plan. While Mark was doing that, the guys went about getting the next set of shoes off, this time faster because they’d developed a method. They also began installing the new brake parts such as new actuators & sprag units. We’d also carried 4 new drums with us since the old ones were quite heat checked. We cleaned up some of the reusable parts with a good scrape & fresh paint. We were able to scrap the old drums right there where we were so we didn’t have to carry them anywhere.

Back in Mcall, we’d ordered in custom white spray paint to paint our door but when I used it, I found the spray cans to be low quality and paint was spattering all over. It ended up that we were quite dissatisfied with the finish and it wasn’t because we have a really high standard- it just sucked! So I inquired with the owner of where we were parked and he said sure, they could professionally paint our door. Phew! It was great to get that taken care of. We enjoyed going in to the shop and gawking at how shiny it looked.

By Friday afternoon, the last set of brake shoes came back to the guys and they torqued the last tire in place. Sandie took this celebratory picture and we were ready to party! Because even though it was a convenient place to do the work, there was nothing fun nor pretty about it and we all were more than ready to bust out of there. We started the truck for a test drive and released the parking brake… and nothing. The truck wouldn’t move! It would require troubleshooting in the morning. We were all exhausted and it takes even more out of you trying to stay warm all day outside. Who said Reno was warm? Oh that’s right, no one! We had salmon chowder that night to warm up because even though we’d envisioned a night out on the town to thank our friends, none of us really had the energy to go out.

Jon got back under the truck early Sat morning and discovered that he’d inadvertently reversed the air hoses so the brakes weren’t getting the air they needed to release. It wasn’t hard to fix and before we knew it we were test driving the truck with new brakes. You can probably imagine how relieved we were to have this project done. We said goodbye to Sandie & Karsten and then headed for the hills outside of Reno. We would have to come back in on Monday to collect our door, since it was left hanging to dry inside the shop over the weekend.

Reno gets a lot of wind, at least this time of year. While we were exhausted and just wanted to sleep like the dead, it was too windy to do. The following day, we dug out our bikes and went for a mountain bike ride with Ivan. Since his bike rides on the back of his van, it takes him a couple minutes to get his set up. By the time we got back it was blowing a gale and we got to put the bikes away in it. We were definitely ready to be rid of Reno even though everyone we met was extremely kind and helpful to us. We delivered choc chip cookies to both places the next morning, picked up the door, did a pile of laundry and then drove south through the Eastern Sierras to meet Ivan who was parked next to a hot spring in the Mammoth area. A snowstorm was just getting going and we drove the last bit in it. Then we sunk into the steaming water as snowflakes fell.

I had dreaded saying goodbye to Mark & Anne because I didn’t know when I was going to see them again but as luck would have it, they decided to meet up with us on their way to LA to see family. So they put in a marathon day and arrived to park at our hot spring at midnight. We all dunked in the pool the next morning before moving further south to Alabama Hills. The snowstorm was still going and the day was pretty miserable overall. We went to the Eastern Sierras Museum which was interesting and drove through Bishop where we’d hoped to explore and take in the scenery but it was just too crappy to be outside so we kept moving.

We’d been to Alabama Hills before around the time we’d also climbed Mt Whitney and it’s beautiful, especially with a fresh coat of snow to set everything off. That night we went out to dinner at a steakhouse in Lone Pine at the same place Mark & Anne went to on one of their earliest dates, many years ago! By the next morning, the sun was back out and we could be warm during the day at least.

After staying a day to hike around the rocks, we moved to Ridgecrest, CA to check out the Trona Pinnacles by way of the BLM Horse Corrals in Ridgecrest, CA. Basically, the BLM oversees the numbers of wild horses & burros and provides veterinary care & adoption opportunities to maintain the size of the herd. Anne bought a huge bag of carrots so that we could feed them, which they encourage to help them socialize.

The Trona Pinnacles are a group of 500 tufa spires made of calcium carbonate, formed many years ago when the Searles Basin was still a lake. I’d had this place on my list to come to since last year. You can camp right among them and at sunset, all of the colors in that landscape are really impressive. It’s pretty neat by day too! Mark & Anne headed out (until next time….) but we stayed there a few days doing projects and resting. We finally got some good sleep there! We’d really wanted to try out our packrafts somewhere but there’s of course no water around. Ivan finally pumped his up and we did the best we could to imagine what it would be like to use it!

We also made a stop at Red Rock Canyon State Park and got our pink rock fix.

Then we said goodbye to Ivan till January (fingers crossed) and drove to Phoenix in preparation for heading back east for a much anticipated visit to see our parents! Finally! We’re pretty excited to go. We’ve been busying ourselves getting new tires for the truck and setting up an upholsterer for new interior cushions. The ones we have were intended as temporary and we’re ready to get proper, more comfortable ones made now. I can see why so many people winter in Arizona. The sun just shines & shines, the desert is beautiful in parts and we can wear shorts! We’ve also noted that if you break down on the highway, you might come back to all of your tires missing. Hope that doesn’t happen to us!

When we were at Trona, we got to talking to a couple of guys, one of them traveling on an overland motorcycle. Turns out he and his girlfriend have a small ranch in Phoenix and he suggested we store our truck there rather than at the airport. And so that’s where we are right now, next to the goats. Sweet!

Well that’s the update. I don’t feel too poetic about what we’ve been doing because a lot of it has been working on projects but we knew this time was going to be about that. And it feels good to cross them off. It also feels good to have good brakes. But more than that even it feels good to be surrounded by friends who aren’t only there during the fun times, but also for the project days. It’s better together. We were happy to get a breather for a few days with Mark & Anne.

We’re excited to be headed to Vermont & Florida to see our loved ones. When we get back, we’ll head to Tuscon for oh no…. some welding work!

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