Strolling Amok

Pops goes on tour.

Setting Up the Intrepid’s Solar Ground Panels

The video below shows how the Intrepid carries its two 100-watt solar ground panels onboard, and how they are removed and deployed. The usual setup on Four Wheel campers is to carry one panel by using two aluminum rails attached underneath the bed area of the camper, but there isn’t enough of a vertical gap between the camper and the truck’s cab roof to stow two 100-watt panels in this way. Plus, the then-owner of Four Wheel personally interceded on the phone to dissuade me from using that method due to his fear that the combined weight of the panels and the inherent violence of off-roading might cause delamination of the board used in that area. I had wanted to use adhesive tape rather than drill for machine screws through the board from inside the camper, something I’m squeamish about when accuracy is vital. It’s a moot point, though. There isn’t enough physical space available.

So I designed, prepped and had a highly experienced welder assemble an aluminum carrier rack that is bolted to the forward jack mounts of the camper. It’s a twin-track affair which carries Read more…

Back to Woodchute Trailhead

As sunset approaches, the view from the two campsites up here is unmatched.

I rarely backtrack when I’m onroute to a destination, but weather for the next week makes a 7,100′ elevation desirable, and I’m still waiting for a package in Cottonwood that should show up this week. So why not be comfortable? Once I completed errands in Cottonwood, I headed for the Woodchute Trailhead west of Jerome and arrived with plenty of time to set up camp. As the photo above shows, there’s good reason to go backwards for an hour.

Actually, I set up camp and then moved. A family in a Jeep was in my #1 preferred campsite overlooking a valley, so I moved into the nearby #2 site, which is almost as primo. I couldn’t tell if they were just there for the day or intended to set up a tent, so I got the Grandby happily situated. Just after I finished though, I looked out the window and they had vamoosed! I really didn’t need to move, since the only difference between the two sites is size. But I moved anyway, figuring that hey, I’d be here for the week so why not? It didn’t take long at all, and the Four Wheel can be safely Read more…

A New Campsite

Not much of it is level, but finding “the spot” should be possible.

Nope, I haven’t relocated to the campsite in the photo above, but I did simply find it on a walk. It’s actually a good-sized circle where only a little bit of is level enough to use for vehicle camping. But it should work. The issue is getting to it. It is a short but isolating distance off NF-493, 0.6 miles past where my current campsite is. That makes it GPS: 34.709066, -112.073265 and is visible on Google Maps. What it offers is mainly solitude. It’s in the high ground of a valley, so it should stay usable if it rains. It has a pleasant if unspectacular view in all directions. It is technically accessible by 2WD, but you do need Read more…

The Sound of Music

The Photographic Studio and Audio Workshop at Rancho Begley, officially designated the “Command Center”.

It all started in the Defiant’s front “bedroom”, since converted by my son into a working office and library. Notice the record turntable in the far corner? Once I hit the road, I methodically sawed through literally hundreds of LPs, 45s and 78s to record them into raw digital form. With no space to store many boxes of records, this was the only way that I could continue to listen to the wide span of music and comedy that I’ve always enjoyed.

Talk about intense activity! Looking back, I don’t know how I kept at it so relentlessly – except for the realization that if I didn’t accomplish recording the whole pile of the most significant works (significant to me, anyway), then they’d have to be given away quickly or trashed without, and so disappear forever.

To cut the time needed to record each disk, they were all played at 78 RPM or whatever speed would allow them to play without skipping. Many records were worn, some were damaged, and nearly all presented the little clicks and scratches that characterize vinyl music. When that task was completed, the digital recordings stayed intact on a reliable hard drive. Now they’ve been waiting years for me to get back to them and translate them into a clean, listenable form that could play on a computer or smartphone accessing decent speakers.

They were recorded off the turntable using Audacity, a free and quite capable audio program. The first step to deal with the result is to pull each file up, rediscover what speed it was recorded at and then alter it to play properly within Audacity. It’s edited to whack off the extra nothingness at each end, as well as any pause recorded while the disc was flipped over to side B. Very few records are clean-sounding enough to export directly into an MP3 format, so that requires a translation into an .aiff file (or other format) that ClickRepair can deal with. ClickRepair is a very capable click removal program that fortunately can do a very credible job when allowed to operate automatically on its own. That generates a “cleaned” .aiff file that can be called back into Audacity or, when necessary, pulled into Denoise (created by the same guy who made ClickRepair) to get rid of background hiss. Whatever. Audacity can then be used to adjust the volume to workable levels, accomplish any final trimming, and export the file into a compact MP3 format that can be played on just about any device extant. To conserve limited hard disk space, the .aiff files must be deleted once the final MP# has been created.  Naturally, all this editing, cleaning and file format translation absorbs quite a bit of time to grind through.

So, as of late, my idyllic camping experience has more resembled a Read more…

A Shocking Discovery

Huh? White, branded shock absorbers from a new car dealer? Don’t mind the squiggle at top center – that’s the VIRB’s default display that indicates where you currently are along the recording’s total path. (It has a GPS sensor.) Here, I’m just beginning to head east on a trail.

When the Mighty Furd was having its front suspension rebuilt and new shock absorbers put on, all I looked at were the front shocks, which were easily seen. They’re black. I assumed that the rears were also black, since this set had to be ordered, and Ford won’t put on non-Ford parts that aren’t related to their OEM chain. They of course order a heap of parts from OEM vendors, most of which also sell aftermarket. But the original testing, evaluation and approvals of whatever they specify and order must run the gauntlet in order for Ford to be able to warranty them both as-delivered and as replacement parts. Dealers can of course install nearly anything the customer wants, but if they fail, you then only have recourse via the outfit that made the parts you wanted put on. Ford Motor won’t warranty them.

So here we have Ford-issued no-name shocks in front, and white Rancho shocks in the rear, and Ford Motor warranties them all for their usual two years. So the original black Ford-supplied rears are apparently out of production, and the Rancho-branded shocks are considered to be fully equivalent. This is not particularly surprising, since Ford now sells at least one pickup model wearing Rancho-branded shocks. As I wrote in an earlier post, the performance of this set feels equivalent to what the Mighty Furd was originally delivered with, unlike the Monroe Gas-Magnums that I later replaced them with.

Not being one to leave well enough alone, I was now curious as to what model of Ranchos these rear shocks are. After all, finding that out will in the future enable me to have them replaced with Ranchos all-’round, and more cheaply than having to go to Ford to get them. You can get any model of Rancho anywhere. So I emailed the “RanchoExtreme Team” to ask Read more…

NF-493 – The Movie

Well, due to its length of 29 minutes, not too many folks are going to suffer through this thing because it’s not relevant to how they camp or would want to camp if they could. Then again, if you harbor the same “get out there” delusions I do and want to find out what you can unknowingly get yourself into, then this is for you. All the trail surface variety and wild 3 MPH action is here. plus there’s all that blue sky on one side and mountainside on the other. Looking at the footage, it’s obvious that I dropped a wheel solidly into that erosion hole at ledge’s edge, and yet I can’t explain why no tire tracks can be found in the dust around the bad part of it. I’ll have to leave that mystery as it is. Not being a Read more…

NF-593 – The Movie

My apologies: the route is NF-493. This error is in the video as well, so all subscribers have received another notification to a corrected post and video in addition to this now-bogus one. The corrected post is here.


Campsploring Turned 4-Wheeling

Even this flat rock shows why a tire’s shoulder wrap can become vital when rocky roads loom.

Yesterday, I attempted the trip from my campsite near Cottonwood to Mingus Mountain Recreation Area via fire roads. And yes, “attempted” means that I didn’t make it. As I mentioned in my previous post, the blessing of “Approved for Camping” on any National Forest MVUM implies neither areas usable for camping, nor passable conditions for anything short of a Unimog.

After picking up a package in town, I doubled back to my campsite on NF-593 and then kept going. The shipment didn’t arrive until about 3:30, so that signaled that time might become an issue in making this trek. As soon as Read more…

Cottonwood NF-493

There’s a trail route from Cottonwood to Mingus Mountain. How passable it is, is anyone’s guess. 493 turns unto 413, which eventually reaches Mingus Mountain.

Having the bug to find camping spots not on any boondocking website can be either rewarding or disappointing, depending on the results. Normally, if you want to go from Mingus Mountain or Woodchute Trailhead to Cottonwood, you’ll take route 89A through Jerome. And normally, if you look at the MVUM map of any area, you’ll see routes laid out that are approved for camping, yet be unlikely to find any usable campsites on those trails.

Cottonwood sprawls in the valley below.

That can be frustrating, because many such approved trails are quite rough, and the going for a fully-laden 3/4-ton truck can be quite slow (1-2 MPH) over distances of many miles while looking for a site – or even a place to turn around. Ah, but if you do find a campsite, it can be a very nice situation. The complication of course is that Read more…

On Tour: Woodchute to Jerome


A holiday snap taken by the Garmin VIRB Ultra, which inserted its own default data overlays of speed, elevation and location on a mapped track. And its own logo, of course. These are probably easy to get rid of, just as they are on video captures, but I haven’t explored that yet.

Once you get the video bug, it’s hard to stop seeing what can be done on a budget. The 16-minute video below takes the viewer from my campsite at Woodchute Trail through the eclectic town of Jerome, Arizona. If all you want is to see what driving through Jerome is like, just skip farther in. Should you be considering Woodchute as a potential camping spot, you’ll want to start at the beginning. Basically, anyone in any rig can make it up to the cattle gate, and there are plenty of pull-offs to choose from. Cell reception may be an issue there, however. In this video, you’ll eventually see some travel trailers large and small in this section.

Once past the gate however, your rig should be more compact and have good ground clearance, ’cause it can get pretty bumpy and rutted. 2WD is all that is needed in dry weather, however. The Mighty Furd’s new shocks certainly got a workout on a few parts of it, and you need to know how to pick your path to avoid dropping a wheel into something deep enough to ground out an axle. It’s not difficult at all, but it’s worth mentioning and something to avoid doing in the dark.

As for the mechanics of the video, it was all done with an action cam. Except for a view of the rear suspension taken by mounting the camera on the cargo box’s hitch stalk, all of the footage was taken Read more…

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