Strolling Amok

Pops goes on tour.

Monument Valley & Goosenecks

There be plenty of places to pull off and park.

[Caution: This post offers some 48 photos, so if you are on a restrictive cellular plan or simply have an aversion to looking at bad photos, go somewhere else now. The photos are small, but they add up.]

This action-packed day was also packed with goodness, the itinerary being a tour of Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park’s 17-mile road before camping at Goosenecks State Park. The one-hour jaunt from Sunset View Campground was pretty and uneventful, and I broke out the twenty bucks it took to breach Monument Valley’s entrance gate.

I’m not giving out the names of these for identification, since to me there’s no benefit in doing that. If you need to read a sign to figure out what some demented English-speaking soul thought each one looked like, there’s no gain here. One is named “elephant”, which doesn’t do much for its historical authenticity in ancient tribal land.

A quick stop and wander through The View Hotel netted a sandwich, lots of gewgaws for sale, and some impressive historical photographs and artwork on the walls. The place was crawling with shiny tour buses packed with Chinese tourists, whose economic powerhouse has enabled them to see the world. From what I could tell, they liked it. From the hotel, they then tended to descend on the plethora of tour guide vehicles, waving and smiling at passersby. At least the ones without surgical masks were smiling – they were sensibly protecting themselves against the dust clouds that were created by their vehicles and all those who passed them coming the other way. Those tour vehicles were all flatbed pickups equipped with rows of bench seats facing the sides. On the rougher sections of trail, they didn’t bounce nearly as much as the Mighty Furd did, so maybe they were half-tons loaded to the gunnels. The Furdster would have lifted them clear of their seats, guaranteed. Remember school buses?

Ah, the road! There’s always the question of, “Can I take my car on that road?” It started out as a mix of dirt and gravel, descending sharply through hairpin turns. RVs and similar large, heavy vehicles are prohibited from using the Monument Valley Road, and that’s a good idea. Fortunately for me, the Intrepid is Read more…

Sandal Trail

Dinosaur tracks, which mean I’m not the first being to walk around in this area.

Yesterday was a bit of an off-day physically, so it was just as well I had decided to stay put an extra day. Didn’t stop me from walking the mile-long Sandal Trail to view the Anasazi ruins in the Betatakin Canyon. Three trails begin behind the Visitor Center, and Sandal Trail is the only one that’s paved and offers such a view.

This is a Navajo hogan. It has a hole at the top to allow a small fire inside when needed. I would think the insulative properties work year-’round.

I rode the e-bike there from camp and, neglecting to bring a lock, decided to walk it beside me. That turned out to be a fortuitous decision, because the trail descends several hundred feet as it wanders along. That posed no problem on the stroll to the viewpoint, but the bike proved invaluable on the return lurch back. After some distance, I lowered the seat and let it carry me along, and the degree of uphill slope in a couple of places was all it could handle in its lowest gear! I still got my exercise aplenty, since I dismounted and walked it each time I encountered others on the trail. That wasn’t only from courtesy, but was for the sake of self-preservation. It’s a narrow trail to ride, with steep drop-offs, and that astonishing sense of balance that I once had on a bike has long since gone the way of all things. Especially when crawling along in low gear. In a situation like this, it’s a bad idea to impose upon anyone, or there might one day be a new sign added in the future about bikes being prohibited. By nature, it’s a walking track, not a cycling trail. By the time I reached the visitor center again, I’d had a pretty good workout.

A sign labeled this a sweat house, and it’s tiny. The people carried in heated rocks, and you can figure out the rest. According to a sign, they used it as an alternative to bathing when water was scarce, which it usually was. Here, a small child visiting from China has taken up residence. Don’t let your kids/grandkids see this photo, or they may develop plans for the backyard. “That? Oh, that’s just a Navajo sweatlodge the kids made themselves, but they just use it to camp in and stay cool.”

I then mounted up and headed for Canyon View Campground, the other free camping area here. That road descends a bit too, but it is smoothly paved as well. Once in camp, it changes to Read more…

Bad Start, Great Finish

A viewpoint along the road to Sunset View and Canyon View Campgrounds.

Bad start? I was going to drop off the old batteries and get the heck out of Dodge (Flagstaff), but while I was preparing to pack up, my Samlex inverter, a “special” model tolerant of high charge voltages, gave out an audible alarm. Looking at the digital voltage readout showed that system voltage was at 16.7 and climbing. it shouldn’t normally be exceeding 14.4V at full bluster. Not good. I immediately turned off the power to devices, popped the main camper harness switch to protect the fridge and such, and pulled the solar panel fuses to stop charging power. The battery meter slowly dropped to normal.

That was odd. Both solar charge controllers had thrown a red LED to indicate they weren’t happy. Since the ground panels were deployed, I began troubleshooting by Read more…

Out With the Old…

A trip to Northern Arizona Wind & Sun today netted a 15-minute wait before anyone could even respond to my coming in the door. They are much more of an Internet company than a retail store. Turns out that my four Fullriver AGMs were at their supplier, Battery Systems of Flagstaff, some 5 miles away and would not normally be delivered until Friday. But I could go pick them up there. So I did, and was assured that I could drop off my old battery set there the next day. If NAW&S hadn’t offered me 10% off as an Expo discount…

I decided to install the batteries at Cinder Hill OHV Area, since it would take several hours to throw all bench storage into the bed area (roof raised), pull fuses, and carefully work the cabling to trade batteries one by one. It went well, with only minimal bloodletting, although a funky automotive-style post with an M8 screw raised the connection point enough to make the cable eyelets fit under the battery box lids a challenge. The only disappointment was that Read more…

Miracle of Miracles

Lots of sun, not much wind, and quiet solitude.

Pulling into NF-535 well south of Flagstaff did not look promising as far as finding a full-sun campsite goes. Heck, finding any campsite still available looked impossible. Every niche in the woods and every open-air site was packed with rigs or groups of rigs, as well as all the tents and canopies you could hope to see in a lifetime. That’s Memorial Day weekend, I figure. Still, I pressed onward and upward, literally.

By the time I reached what I like to call the upper plateau where the sites thin out, impressively large clusters of the Hispanic community were encamped, and youngsters on ATVs were roaming the trail to relieve the boredom of a long camping weekend with parents. Camps were set up Read more…

Cinder Hill OHV Area

Yep, them is hills made of – or at least coated with – lots of cinders. Lots.

Cinder Hill OHV (Off-Highway Vehicle) Area is an interesting place. I innately read that as Overhead Valve, but that’s my problem. About 12 miles north of Flagstaff, it consists of some 13,500 acres of flats and hills coated with several inches of small cinders. The entrance from US-89 is well-marked but has no turning lane, so it’s prudent to use an early turn signal and keep an eye on your rig’s tail as you slow down. No camping is allowed on the first mile or so of the NF-776 access road, but signage as to where you can and where you can’t camp is obvious. The first area is adjoining a very large, flat span of deep cinders among many ponderosa pines. It is sizable, and decent privacy can easily be found.

Half a mile away from camp presents a view that isn’t available when you’re nearer the trees.

On the weekdays, you might find just half a dozen camping rigs parked among the trees, while weekends will produce some more toyhaulers and trailers loaded with ATVs and motorcycles. I hadn’t noticed that my arrival on Read more…

2018 Overland Expo, Day 2

Multiple rows like this can make for muchly exercise!

Here’s Day 2, and the last of the Expo’s 3 days that I’m covering.

This cute little trailer is perhaps intended for motorcycles. Made by Glass Action Fiberglass Specialists in Prescott AZ, it’s available in kit form or ready to go.

Another variation on the theme. With a 1,090-lb cargo limit, a cooler, chairs and a canopy are a cinch.

Muy macho. This old Jeep Gladiator shared the Wagoneer’s frame, but they are also now an attention-getter because they were comparatively rare. Like VW Beetles, most have long since been used up and crushed. I once rode in a 3/4-ton version as a passenger, and across an open field, the springs were stiff enough to rearrange one’s internals. A no-nonsense workhorse.

Read more…

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?

Read more…

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…

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