Given some delightful weather and a mild breeze, it looked like a good a time as any to discover an alternate way to get to town, other than Wild Horse Canyon Road, also referred to as White Mountain Road on some devices. I figured that an alternate would probably be preferable, since passing vehicles produce huge plumes of enveloping dust on the main dirt road in. A recent pass by a grader on the nicely-graveled top section has made the surface so loose that biking it takes considerable care and power – you’re better off riding the wide dirt ditch on either side.
My online map of the area showed that there was a trail branch that dropped right into the middle of town. The Defiant is encamped right at a trail intersection leading to it. Considering that a vehicle occasionally turns in to head down it or return, it seemed like a possibility. But it wasn’t a certainty. Both GPS and online map accuracy is wanting, when it comes to trails. The Lost Dog trail to the Green River itself a few days before had distinctly shown the trail leading straight ahead, with a branch cranking awkwardly left and then twisting a bit. The difficulty with that was that this straight continuation was a phantom that lead right off a cliff, while the odd crank left was actually the only way to descend in a rugged area. Blast along at speed in the dark, depending on the GPS, and it could change your whole day.
It’s more common to see paths that are not on any map, and that makes sense. Most paths for utility access are on maps, but when the utility was long ago relocated, the early, disused path is unlikely to be shown. A few lead to early ranches that no longer exist, and some trails exist just to amuse the 4×4 or ATV locals with their difficulty. Still other trails seem to wind on and on for purposes that I have never been able to figure out. The combination of distances, difficulty, and the questionable value of the land to any enterprise would make for a spirited debate over a campfire, especially after the party had spent a day battling it and still appeared to be in the middle of nowhere. Out here, there is a great deal of hoopla about some historic trails. Others served their purpose but fell through the cracks in nostalgia, and are now simply two-track unknowns that even the locals may not recall.
Trails like this demand suitable tires on a bike. Loose dirt just a quarter inch deep can cause steering traction issues when the surface underneath is tilted off to one side, and trying to stick to the high center ridge is seldom workable. The lower of the two tracks is often eroded and carrying gravel and sizable rocks. On a slope, all this can make for traction issues with brakes and steering. You can take in the surrounding vistas, but this is best done at a stop, since taking attention away from picking a path or monitoring brake pressures can be hazardous, real quick. New just last year, the Michelin Dry Country 2 tires are not quite aggressive enough to deal with this thick loose dirt and gravel. The low lugs on the rear tire are already worn halfway down, but because of the weight are still less prone to slip than the lightly-loaded front lugs.
Given that this is no place for an old-school coaster brake cruiser bike, the Aurora itself posed no problems at all. Dust makes the well-used twin disk brakes squeal and honk, but a sprinkle of water clears the dust away and ends the issue. They are easy to modulate right at that point where less pressure would let the bike speed up on a downhill, while more pressure would break traction. Apart from occasionally readjusting to compensate for brake pad wear over time, brake performance and feel is no different at the bottom of a long descent as it was at the beginning. The Aurora’s brakes are not particularly sophisticated as bicycle disk brakes go, but given their effectiveness, I’d think twice before I ever went back to traditional caliper brakes, which show more “personality” in challenging conditions.
The optional NuVinci shifting collar can get a bit reluctant in pulling its cable for a downshift while under full power, but this varies over time, and can be lessened by momentarily letting up some pressure on the pedals or trimming back throttle. Given that this bike has effectively been “left out in the yard” for a year without touching the collar or cables, this should not be real surprising. Today’s ride showed no issues. As far as the core bike goes, it’s business as usual. Climb on, and ride. In country like this, that’s both a pleasure and an adventure.
It is lovely.
Vast, indeed! Too wide open for me. I would feel vulnerable.
That’s a very individual thing, I guess. I feel much more vulnerable in and around urban areas, less so here, next to a main trail. Well off on a disused sub-branch, the best. Wide open does keep you from hiding away, but then again, you can see ’em coming a mile or three away. No element of surprise, making any self-appointed perp feel a bit vulnerable as well, at least in states that acknowledge an individual’s right to defend himself or herself.
Still, your being a woman, I can see your reason for unease. Drunks and would-be perps can feel free to investigate on sight of a woman, an elderly person, or anyone else they consider defenseless. Spotting a man, they will go on about their original course. Seems the only two options are to hide out of easy sight and hope, or provide yourself an effective option or two and the willingness to enforce your will over theirs. In wildlife areas where I’m not representing the top of the food chain, I’d much rather be out in areas like this than in woods and rocks, where I actually am much more vulnerable. They can both move and hide much better than I can. In any case, man or beast, I consider a set of bagpipes to be an invaluable defensive tool, but you do have to be willing to use them. 😉
I’ll join in on that campfire debate, sounds fun. “…other trails seem to wind on and on for purposes that I have never been able to figure out…”
Yeah. My problem is that I cannot seem to resist the lure of a new trail, however sketchy. I’ve explored most of them in my neck of the woods, usually in a 4×4 pickup or Jeeps of various sorts.Or my dad’s Bronco when I was in high school. Oh, and don’t forget the goat-like abilities of a 1972 VW Bug, my first car. Those lil rear-engines rocked in snow and off-road.
I fear that my love of following trails means it will take me several years to drive from Tahoe to Alaska; did it in a week in ’77 and vowed to return some day to explore those roads not taken. I guess there will be many times I’ll have to unhitch so as to find the ultimate camping spot without trashing my trailer.
I keep telling myself that it’s a character trait, not a sickness… I think that part of it is being a suburbanite from birth; all paths must have a purpose. Thing is, I’m used to finite distances, while here, “just up the road for a better deal” is a one hundred mile drive. Old mining roads, service access roads, it’s hard to tell which are defunct because they are reclaimed so very slowly by vegetation.
Bronco! In the mid-70s, I had two bugs, a ’60 and ’63, both well-used. One had a manual sliding fabric sunroof which, unlike the mechanical end, worked like new. Driving them was like seeing fossil fragments in Jurassic Park come to life – experiencing powertrain design history in 3D. They were somehow endearing, and never left me beside the road. Though my son was exposed to some “drive off the cliff” wheeling by some local Land Rover crazies when he was young, my own off-road experience was limited to a ride across a plowed field in an old Jeep J-series pickup, during which I suspect that some of my innards may have reversed positions with each other. Incredibly stiff suspension. I was not even convinced that it had one. The Mighty Furd is a supple limo by comparison.
Trailer trashing trails were one of the reasons I justified getting the e-bike (though not the prime reason for getting it). But, the Defiant is an unusual old tub, and you will have much more success with any more modern TT. Still, if you’ll want THE camping spot and plan to stay awhile, unhitching to make the rounds will be worth the effort in some places. Then you just hitch back up and go straight there, feeling unbearably smug. Just leave yourself enough time in the day to do that!
“…They were somehow endearing…” I agree, and they were so much fun to drive, lots of giddy-up. Makes me smile to remember. I’ve had the bug, a square-back, and ultimately a convertible baby-blue Karmann Ghia. Sigh.
You’re right about leaving enough time. Ideally I want to drive less than 2-3 hours a day between good camp spots, longer when I want to cover less-exciting miles, but preferably no more than 5 or 6 hours even then. Especially knowing myself and that urge to get a Really Neat spot, I do need to allow a few hours to find it at the end of the driving day. No fun setting up in the dark.
I just found another reason to win the lottery or somehow earn some extra bucks: Taylor Coach (http://taylorcoach.com). They make a 12-footer to die for, maker sells ’em, no middle man, and you can even order a built-in cat box area! (About 13-14K, depending on options. That includes a full bath and a solar system with one panel, which is all I need.) They build per order, so it’s custom, takes about 6 weeks I think. They do make bigger ones but that little 12-footer is nice and short, perfect for off-road. GVWR 1,800. Drooling now.
But as a practical matter, based on current income, I can probably afford a 4-5K oldie, maybe even a vintage. As long as it’s small.
Doug, I too love to be comfortable inside my home, at night, during bad weather, when I’m sick, when I just want to hide or work or whatever. I love a home with open space, light and airy. But that doesn’t jibe with finding that perfect hidden camp spot far away from other people, so I will make a small rig work. I’ll make it as light and neat as I can, and stow most of my crap, er, supplies, in the tow vehicle. And the great outdoors will be my light, airy living room. I hope that way I can have enough space to breathe most of the time, enough to offset any claustrophobia when confined to the trailer. We shall see.
I can tell you’re researching, thinking, and soul-searching to find what’s just right for you. Approaching it from my own viewpoint of a slob, I’m too lazy to make the bed, let alone convert it to and from a dining/work space. It’s heartening to see people with more gumption than I have. Taylor sure has your number with that cat box thing! A 12-footer with features is not as claustrophobic as one might think. Though you may not be able to swing a new Taylor, it will at least help you locate what will work for you in the used market. You’ll know it when you see it. And, if you keep it light enough, small 4x4s can pull it – though no doubt you need to use whatever you already have.
According to my son, if you had hung on to that Karmann Ghia, you’d be shopping new these days! I’ve had a few cars like that, handoffs at the bottom of their value curve, but spiking up once they finally became scarce and people started appreciating them as icons to enjoy. Who woulda thought? At the time, they were just old cars that needed work.
Funny you should mention that! My plan is to have a bed I don’t have to convert, because that would not work for me. Bed stays permanently set up and ready to fall upon at all times. Besides, my cat sleeps there too. And my dog, which I’ll get when I quit working.
Work space must exist at all times too. So, I want a full/double bed, but might settle for a twin (shudder). Dinettes are out, I despise them. If necessary, I will move any holding tanks from dinette to under the bed…or move the bed to above the tanks.
I’ll put in as much workbench/tabletop as I can swing. Outside: Large folding worktable under the awning, or a small one in the screen house, which is about 6′ square.
Ways to gain room for bed and work table, if needed: Shrink the kitchen. I am only one person, so why would I need 4 burners? Can do fine with just one. Can also do without oven, honestly; I almost never use mine now. Compact fridge, perhaps, but only if old one needs replacing. If finances preclude these mods, well, I’ll punt.
(runs off to find graph paper…)
It can work! Can’t wait to see what I’ll have to work with 🙂
Planning on getting a fish aquarium too? 😉
I’d be interesting in signing up for your biannual status report, as long as it includes an analysis of the evolving target rig, complete with charts and graphs. 😉
I have yet to even fire up the pilot light in my oven, and I’m not the only one – I’m sure it has never been used in its two decades. I had hopes of making biscuits and breads someday, but I need to be stationary and undistracted to do such an unfamiliar task. My only urging would be to avoid replacing a propane fridge with either another one or a cheapie 12V cooler. If financially do-able, the “better” approach is a 12V compressor fridge from Engel, ARB and similar, with enough battery and solar to support it. Bucks down, maybe the best conventional cooler you can afford, and a budget for ice. That’s nothing but an opinion of course, since people can make do with anything. It’s just that a propane fridge has tight tilt limits, and I’ve picked up on a lot of disappointment and frustration about the cheaper “electric coolers” that use a lot of power and vary temperatures all over the map, depending on outside temps. There is no real thermostat as such.
Waste holding tanks in a TT are under the floor and “choice of one” as to location. Freshwater is generally on the floor someplace, inside a bench or cabinetry. If you’re figuring on redoing an old TT camper, you’ll need to guess at the effect of relocated full tanks on tongue weight. I’m hoping that I misunderstand what you’re calling holding tanks. People don’t normally mess with those in a TT, except perhaps to tear out the freshwater and use a series of jugs with valves over a sink.
As always you are full of good ideas, I take your advice to heart…but, so, a 3-way fridge isn’t a good thing? I’ve heard about the need for leveling them prior to running on propane…I love propane, lol, won’t have a ton of solar and probably won’t have a genny. I will consider the high-end ice chest if necessary, too. Thanks for the heads-up re: electric coolers, had wondered about them.
Flattery will get you more misinformation. A 3-way fridge is a fine thing – with certain limitations. The absorption system that does the cooling is intolerant of more than a few degrees of tilt in any direction, and older models are more finicky in this regard. Mine is 2 degrees nose-to-tail and 4 degrees side-to-side. Less than that can be compensated for with the temp controls. More than that poses a hazard risk. It will need the gas burner area cleaned every year or maybe two, a simple job do-able by anyone.
In general, it will run on shore power using a thermostat. On propane, it will use the gas and 12VDC to power its control boards. It doesn’t really have a thermostat per se, then. You need to put a refrigerator thermometer inside and keep an eye on it when air temps or direct sun vary, readjusting the limited controls this way and that as needed over the day. The claim to run on 12VDC is valid but temporary. Word on the street is that generating the heat needed to run the absorption system pulls around 75 watts, which will take out most small battery systems in a few hours. It’s really intended for use when driving from place to place, since getting into a wreck with a wide-open propane system is a bit risky. Many older systems are 2-way (like mine), which spawns much debate about keeping it rolling to prevent food spoilage, or shutting it down and closing the propane valve(s) to decrease risk on the road.
I’m hepped up on compressor fridges and coolers merely because absorption units have that intolerance to tilt, which complicates the “perfect site” scenario. Plus, the lack of a true thermostat for accurate temp control. Many compressor units will run on both battery and shore power. However, if you plan to run a minimal battery and solar system, a 2- or 3-way fridge is the only way to go. To “upgrade” to a compressor fridge that will run anywhere, my opinion is that you would need at least 200Ah of battery capacity and 200 watts of solar panels to power it plus whatever minor gizmos you want to run. The liability of a compressor model is that running a minimal power setup will limit how long you can run it on several successive days of overcast, particularly in hot weather, when the fridge is working harder. Personally, I’d add another solar panel up top before I added another battery. So, if you won’t mind its foibles, just about any propane fridge will do for you. They aren’t cheap to replace if they can’t be repaired, which is what makes it debatable as to which way to go after they wear out.
I dub thee Font, as in font of information. Thanks, Doug! 🙂
Thank you, Dawn. That’s why my LinkedIn current job description is “Minister of Disinformation”.