Velvet Ride South

This is the most time we’ve ever spent in the western states and we’re really enjoying it. After small doses here and there over the years, we’ve been dreaming about coming back and being able to stay in these parts for as long as we wanted. And it’s finally happening.

This is also the first time we’ve been here during an election. Over the months, I’ve tried to figure out the psyche, learn what it means to be from these states and grasp the various sides on issues and political values. I did make some progress but admittedly, I could never really understand it all. But I also realized that when we’d meet someone face to face (often around questions about the Vermonster), it didn’t matter which side we were on because the barriers were broken down and it is just people talking to each other and sharing a conversation and exchanging some thoughts and ideas. And I have no doubt that if we needed help with anything, they would be there even if our political views didn’t match behind the scenes. That said, we’re relieved that the outcome is what it is. With any luck, there will be some coherence now and maybe even some sanity.

John Morley Birds of Prey Refuge, Snake River

All play and no work means nothing gets fixed or better. But living on the road means we’re always scouting out the next destination to complete the task and scheming for a way to receive packages of parts. While in McCall hanging with Mark & Anne, we were also waiting for a new set of front leaf springs for the truck that were coming from Germany via UPS expedited air shipping- supposedly 5 days. But it ended up taking more than 7 days before the shipment was even picked up! There were two 60kg packages- each a set of springs with the accompanying nuts & U-bolts. Well somewhere along the way, everything got separated into 4 different packages but still using the opriginal 2 tracking numbers. Many days after our packages were to arrive, we were still sitting in McCall waiting for them. We even drove down to Boise to get a change of scenery and explore the John Morley Birds of Prey Refuge. It’s on the Snake River, further down than where we’d explored previously, and we stayed down beside it on BLM land as before. In the morning you could hear the coyotes calling from right nearby and due to the lateness of the season, we had the place to ourselves. Then when the packages finally started trickling in over 2 days, the last pack of bolts never showed up.

While waiting, Jon had decided that it was probably best to just tackle the change of the springs himself rather than wait around for a mechanic to be available to do it because we weren’t having any luck finding one. It felt like every day was getting colder but we were approaching a warm spell and if he could get it done in 4 days, it would be good weather. We decided doing it in Oregon at Mary & David’s would be best because they had a good flat place in their yard for us to set up. So when we finally got the springs, we loaded them onto the rear rack and drove to Oregon that evening. We stopped for the night at a boat ramp where camping is permitted. The Snake River is so beautiful and the sunsets so colorful. And the concept of just being able to pull over and stop for the night in such peaceful places with no one around is one we have great appreciation for.

Pull-off along the Snake River in Eastern Oregon

We got rolling on the project immediately. It wasn’t easy for Jon to get the old springs off and there wasn’t much I could do to help. At one point it seemed near impossible, but then the following day he made a lot of progress and things started to fall into place- one spring set was on! I busied myself finishing the center console that he’d worked on and now we finally have cupholders in the cab along with a great cubbie to put stuff. Eventually the USB charger will be wired too.

New center console in the truck cab. There’s room to store stuff under the cushion and finally, cupholders!

The ride in the front of the truck had always been hard. When we converted from dual rear wheels to super singles things had softened, but we both still cringed whenever we went over bumps and we knew the front suspension wasn’t really working as it should. If it felt hard on us, it was surely hard on the truck. When Jon took the shocks off, those were shot too. We had a shop make the missing u-bolts, we overnighted new shocks in and in a few days time of lots of work, we ended up with new parabolic springs and shocks in the front to match the rear. And all for the price of a set of jack stands. The only scary thing was when Jon lowered the truck back down off the jack, it seemed the front was sitting a lot higher than the rear. Another night of lost sleep- could it be that now we would need to make yet another adjustment to even things out? The next morning we took a test drive down some washboard dirt roads to see if the springs would settle in. What a complete transformation! They did settle quite a bit and the truck now sits just about even. The truck glides over the washboard & bumps and the interior is even quieter. We’re so glad we made this change and even though it was a pain to sweat out the shipping and we had to shell out some money to get them, it was worth it. Jon is quite the mechanic. One thing his dad taught him was perseverance to get a project done. He told me that he feels like our ride is velvet smooth now and I totally agree.

Salamanca the cat. She’s small but she’s 16 years old!

We shared several great meals with Mary & David, took one more hike into the Eagle Caps and then we said goodbye to our great campspot by the barn and the little cat that kept us company throughout our time there.

Then it was off to The City of Rocks in southern Idaho by way of Bruneau Dunes State Park that claims the highest free standing sand dune in N America. We got the usual sand in our ears but its always fun climbing up the dunes! And a stop at Shoshone Falls, which is apparently 45ft taller than Niagara Falls but not quite the same effect, especially with a dam right there. We have followed the Snake river for so many miles through Oregon and Idaho and camped beside it so many times. It is a beautiful river, dammed several times but still with enough left in it to flow all the way to the Columbia in Washington.

We met up with Mark & Anne at City of Rocks to travel together for a bit and we’re having a great time. It’s a beautiful place full of- you guessed it, very interesting rocks! I’ll write more about that later.

Parked up with Mark & Anne at the City of Rocks, southern Idaho

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