Strolling Amok

Pops goes on tour.

2018 Overland Expo, Day 1

This little guy was toddling around holding a pine cone in the Four Wheel display area, and was just so cute that I couldn’t help but take a picture (with parental approval). He looked to have just started walking a week or so ago, and had that hesitant high-step that makes you smile.

Friday was the start of this event, and this post is only a “photo essay” of that one day. Day 2 will follow, but that’s how it usually is, with Day 2 following Day 1. Some smart alack may argue using quantum physics or some such gibberish, but that’s how it is in my book.

The aisles were long, and the vendors plentiful.

The B.F. Goodrich test track was there to convince people that their KO2 all-terrain and new KM3 mud tire were capable performers. This is an interactive display: you sign up, and they let you get behind the wheel!

I wouldn’t be able to bring myself to do this. The guide has them stop right here, and then ease up and over. On one of three vehicles, the front tires were slipping a bit on the hard-pack dirt, letting the front end shift very slightly sideways under power. Anyhow, I don’t like to go over what I can’t see, despite the poles and flags. Too big a dose of adventure, I guess, and no roll cage. Are you up for it?

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An Unusual Weekend

Parked at the Cinder Hill OHV Area, at last. Whew!

It was the best of times. It was the worst of times.

This year’s Overland Expo West was the largest ever, (130,000 attendees total, I was told) with enough acreage of gewgaws to exhaust anyone but a marathon runner. Honestly, just about every permutation of any concept or product was there in enough profusion to eventually numb the mind. Each of the many aisle lengths appeared to be a quarter-mile long.

The traffic stack-up to get in a day early (on Thursday) was over 45 minutes, since I arrived just when the gates opened at 1 PM. The check-in procedure itself was painless, since there was no need to even get out of the vehicle. Then it was on to the Read more…

The Day Before

And I thought the Intrepid was a bit large. This Dodge Ram with XCamper was in the Little America Truck Stop in Flagstaff. It’s for sale, and no doubt they too are headed for the Expo.

Errand day went fine in Flagstaff, at least until I finished and parked in a Conoco lot north of town on US-89. A local fishing guide stopped by to ask about the Four Wheel and how difficult it was to lift the roof, so while his small child slept in his SUV, I explained the standard setup, explained the Grandby’s optional setup to support the old-school framed solar panels on it, then put him to work to lift the rear up. “Oh! That’s not bad at all!” he said, being young and fit. During our conversation, he told me that he grew up in Flagstaff and lamented the complete change in aura and events, going from lumberjack contests to politically correct eco fare. It’s always painful when a town loses its authenticity and differentiation, which in this case he blamed on transplants from Californistan.

Right after he took off, a guy pulled up and wanted to know if I’d like a TV. He had a smallish television and antenna that he claimed would pull in a station 35 miles away. Now, I desire to watch television about as much as I love going to cardiologists and dentists, so I politely declined. I was tired and figured a nap was in order, but the highway Read more…

Prepping for Departure

Some places, I’m ready to go when the time comes. Some places, not quite. The 4-minute video below sums it up, kinda.

Solar power constraints at the Expo’s camping location should allow a decent evaluation of overall battery pack condition, since I will have to do the four days sans refrigerator. I strongly suspect that at least one of the batteries is failing, which would magnify any problems that the fridge might be creating. Could be I’ll be hanging around Flagstaff after the show, which isn’t all bad!

Wish You Were Here!

This is the view out my passenger side window (though I stood outside on the cargo box frame to take it).

As the snap above reveals, my current campsite is magnifique. You can click on it to get a larger image. I had gone exploring on the e-bike and passed by a van parked in the trees near the intersection of NF-536 & NF-536A, a lengthy stub. GPS: 35.057183, -111.804945. Elev 7,129. Not far down 536A, I passed a lady walking her small mutt on a leash. After I asked about whether she’d noticed any campsites on her walk, she asked whether Read more…

On Second Thought…

Flowers are not in abundance here, so discovering some is a moment to appreciate. You can click on any of these photos for a larger view.

I moved camp. One reason was wondering what else could be workable “on top”, which was another 200′ higher in elevation. The other reason was noise. Despite the considerable distances between campsites, or perhaps because of it, locals love to come here and turn up their favorite music as loudly as their equipment supports, day and night, and of course turn their dogs loose. A recent report of attempted theft made me consider my deployed solar ground panels. Perhaps it was time to go back on mission and hunt up an additional measure of solitude.

Gaps in the trees during the climb allow quite a view.

Morbid curiosity had its hand in, once I made a start at pedal-touring the road above the switchbacks on NF-535. Up top is a different story entirely. I decided to pack up the camper and crawl all camping-approved areas as noted on the MVUM. So I idled down a branch at a water hole, which they refer to as a tank out here. 9018H goes straight west and cuts through an area where the forest shows signs of having been deliberately thinned out. The road itself is plain dirt, deeply rutted for very long spans, and occasionally troubled by Read more…

89A North of Sedona

If you have nothing better to do, take a look at the 12-minute video below. It shows parts of the drive through a deep valley, and up some paved switchbacks to get to Oak Creek Scenic Viewpoint and my campsite on NF-535. On my hike today, I discovered that I have the choice location for solar exposure. If you crave cool shade though, this road is for you. Yesterday and today, quite a few spots have been taken by local weekenders, and I wonder what percentage of the total, if any, are actually staging for the Overland Expo like me. Overlanders tend to move around, not plant, and I’m not seeing any identifiable overland rigs. Lots of car-based tent campers are here, including a troop of Boy Scouts. There’s even one 26′ travel trailer set up for the long run. My advice for the video is to view it fullscreen. Enjoy.

Oak Creek & NF-535

At 6,900′ elevation, this should prove livable for awhile! It’s about 200′ from the road.

As you can see from the photo above, I made it out of my campsite near Cottonwood intact, though I took the precaution of pumping the Mighty Furd’s rear suspension airbags up to 70 PSI instead of the usual 30. (Maximum is 100 PSI. Fascinating, I’m sure.) That raised the cargo box frame about 2″, just in case. Both left side tires are now wearing a few cactus thorns.

Getting to NF-535, otherwise generically labeled Oak Creek, was a brief and picturesque hop. That places me something like 7 miles south of the Expo site and not much further to Read more…

NF-493 Campsite #2

Looking down “my driveway” reveals the town of Cottonwood, Arizona.

It’s sometimes difficult to drive solo off-road with a stock vehicle more suited to sloppy construction sites than rough trails. You know that, regardless of cause, if your rig is disabled or stuck or damaged, what is an inconvenience in town can pretty quickly become at best an epic financial tragedy out in the boonies. At worst, it can become a survival story, particularly when age or disability enters into the picture.

Naturally, I try to err on the side of caution, despite my determination to enjoy camping in the sticks. Despite that caution, I’ve still smacked the Mighty Furd’s running boards on rocks, grounded out both the bike rack in front and the cargo box frame in the rear. Each time was a “What?? Seriously? On that? It couldn’t have!” moment of disbelief. That’s significant because there’s no way to simply remove and toss any badly damaged assemblies in the back of the truck and continue on. Without a spotter, there’s no failsafe way to estimate whether you’re going to just clear an obstacle, or contact it badly enough to cause crippling problems. Thus I can’t recommend that Read more…

Deer Weather

Through a screen, darkly. The iPhone I used to capture this seemed to think I wanted to focus on the window screen, but hey, it’s a photo.

I moved back to NF-493 in Cottonwood to better get through a cool spell and rainstorms, which is better than cold and snow. At the moment I write this, it’s just past noon, and the outside temperature is 44 degrees F. The predicted high today is 55, but that’s for the lower elevations of Cottonwood itself, and I don’t think I’ll top 50 right here.

I decided to hit that isolated spot further up on NF-493, a quarter mile past where I stayed before. It’s a fab spot, but I gotta tell ya, the entrance to it is a tricky devil. I made it in after adding a rock or two to the climb, both to ease the “bumpage” and to save the tires from sidewall threats. A narrower rig with less overhang would have a somewhat easier time of it. I hope to cover that and a true view of this campsite in a later post, if the opportunity presents itself. Yesterday and today are very rainy, keeping me from wanting to Read more…

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