Mesas and Buttes and Badlands, Oh My!
Originally published 10/24/2012
This post has been delayed by the lack of a cellular signal where I’m parked at the end of the day Monday, October 22. The cellphone is still able to cut it, but the Verizon hotspot thingie can’t see a thing. Not all that surprising, as its internal antenna is probably comparatively gimpy, or perhaps a data connection requires more horsepower. Will another camper in Quartzsite will have an affordable tip of two to get around that? Fashion an aluminum foil dish? Hold up a saucepan in back of it?
After a rocky start with my fixation on fuel mileage (7.8 MPG at the beginning of the day), I was fearing a repeat day of yesterday. Plus, I seemed to be perpetually going uphill and never down. After awhile, I cranked the cruise control down from 60 to a humiliating 55. The speed limit is 75. Turns out the uphill thing was true – I eventually had to swallow to let my ears pop. East of Amarillo, NM I began what seemed an endless descent. Signs warned of a 4% downgrade, and I perceived that figure to be pretty harmless. How steep could a lousy 4% be? It’s such a small number! Pretty steep, it turns out. It was a toboggan run. No worries – the Ol’ Furd shut the throttle off and then clamped down when it got about 3 MPH over the set speed. After that, I felt like I was ascending again now and then, but one glance at the boost gauge told a different story. It was still downhill, just much less so. Weird.
Eventually, the mileage averaged out to 10.4 at the end of the day, not bad considering a headwind that varied from 10-25 MPH. I passed my two designated wimp-out stops and decided to go for the gold – The Petrified Forest National Park in Arizona. Made it at about 3:45 local time. I assumed that I’d have to pay $10 at the entrance to get through, but apparently the Geezer Card I have, which lets me into National Parks at half price or some such, let me in for free. I had to drive through the 30-mile park drive to get to the free RV parking at the Crystal Forest Gift Shop outside the south entrance, and I made that just before the sun set at about 6 local time. 6 PM?? The road through the park was a bit uneven, so I averaged about 30 MPH and watched the trailer bounce the truck’s back end up and down. At least it wasn’t really rough – just a long series of whoop-de-doos.
I made a few stops at scenic outlooks and then realized that I’d never get to the south end of the park before it closed and the big steel gates slid shut, so I booked the remainder of the distance. There should be plenty of time to drive back up and see the sights tomorrow and/or the next couple of days. If I can leave the trailer behind to get more normal mileage, so much the better.
Once I was encamped (which means slurping a small gin and tonic while I break out the iPad), an orange, semi-vintage VW bus rolled in, one with a raise-able camper top. A young couple emerged, an explosion of black hair on the handsome young man’s face, and his companion long-haired, slender, and moving with the careful deliberation of a deer while she hesitated for him on her way to the gift shop. The effect was as if I were watching the distant past unfold into a slightly new iteration. The message seemed to be that yes, things are different now, but not at their core. In this case, except for the jeans, only the clothing and vehicle model year were changed to protect the innocent. Far out, man!