In early October, as Colorado started to freeze at night, we packed up and headed for Arizona. About 60 miles north of Albuquerque, we pulled over to let Luna pee while we smoked a few bowls of intense hash oil, swallowed a handful of peyote buds, stuck some window pane under our tongues and chugged down a bottle of Gran Patron Platinum.
Wait, maybe that was one day in the seventies, but then again, that’s more the late Mr. Thompson’s speed. The fact is, there would not have been any tequila involved. Why would you piss into the wind? I got rules about drinking and flying.
Perhaps we should have stayed there and pursued that visit with Don Juan. As we pulled out of the rest area the engine started balking. The next sixty miles of serious hills (mountains back east) were a struggle. Our campground was on the western outskirts of Albuquerque, and if you know it, up on top of that eight-mile hill on I-40. That old reliable Cummins diesel sounded awful as we limped into our campsite. In the morning we walked over to the nextdoor Camping World and asked if they did engine work. No, but they gave us the number of a family outfit in town. We basically rolled back down I-40 East to their shop.
Mr. Statkus and his two mechanic daughters (but don’t envision Mona Lisa DeVito) have been repairing truck and RV engines for nearly 30 years. Their approach is to prepare you for the worst, like a total $25-35,000 engine replacement, first. Then, a few days later, as we contemplated a new life without an RV, and after they peeked inside the weak fifth cylinder, maybe it would only be $10-15,000 to completely detach the coach from the chassis because they can’t get to the engine. And finally, $3,000 after figuring out how to get the engine low enough (from the rear bathroom) to get into the cylinder and determine that it was a broken rocker arm. Felt like we won the lottery.
After many long conversations with dad, it appears the Cummins “legendary” tag is not well deserved. Most engines he fixes are Cummins in the 40-70,000 mile range. Our damn, piece of crap Jeep is over 130,000 and it’s never burped. If you’ve been following this blurb from the beginning, you might recall we had a major scare in Iowa our first week as fulltimers. That turned out to be a transmission problem resolved by flushing it. But the engine? Fine. Uh-oh, now I’ve really jinxed us. Anyway, if you have a Cummins, beware.
While staying in a couple of hotels for a week, we had three memorable days:
1. A visit with 1st cousin Mark and TV star wife, Wren – thanks again, guys.
2. George J. Maloof Memorial Airpark, a very cool city park with a paved airstrip for model airplanes.
3. And, because it was that time of year, bucket list item number 64, the world renowned Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta. It better be worth it because we had to get up really early to catch a 4:30AM bus. Liftoff at 6AM. It turned out to be a bust. The winds were too strong to allow lift off, but a couple of balloons fired up a bit so the owners could show them off, including the strangely familiar Timepeace balloon – wanderlustballoons.com.
From the pictures we’ve seen of the real thing (a few hundred balloons launching at once – the actual balloon fest), we’ll keep it on the bucket list. Maybe next year. Check it out: http://www.balloonfiesta.com/
I’m told we might be late getting into the on-site campground.
One more while-hanging-around-doing-nothing-but-internet-doodling-and-waiting-for-the-RV: Andrea came upon a great phone deal from T-Mobile for seniors, 55 and up. The plan, 55+, is free unlimited everything for $30 a line. We checked coverage maps to see if they are in our most visited places, and planned ones. Looked ok, so bye bye AT&T. Since the rate was so much cheaper, we decided to trade in our older phones for new ones – and still pay less per month. Andrea’s Iphone 6 gave way to an IPhone 8+. I still have a distaste for proprietary technology and the most popular of anything, like Budweiser or Bamboo papers (rather, any malty Porter and Esmerelda’s. I retired my beloved LG G2 for an LG V20. Great, multi-lens camera and 64G of memory with a slot for a 64G SD card. I already had a couple of those cards. Cool. Data transfer with our PC, which happens to have a compatible slot, is a breeze. And you can do that magic file transfer between Androids without a wire. l recently copied nearly every photo we have on the PC, and that includes scanned black and whites from 1951 through digital years, Polaroids from the Army, slides from the seventies, and all the old Kodak digital camera shots onto that tiny memory card. For you, like me, who grew up without computers, and you whose first big computer had a “massive” 20 megabyte – yes, kids, megabyte – hard drive, and, you fellow computer geeks of the 80’s, when you needed some data at work, had to request and wait for a tape to be mounted, having 64gig of data the size of your fingernail is just mind blowing. But, I digress…
ROCKER ARM REPLACED
Just as we started playing with our new phones, we got the call – finally, the engine fix was complete. Whoopee! With our travelling funds now thoroughly depleted, we bolted straight for Gold Canyon, Arizona. Of course, our idea of bolting anywhere may not be your idea of getting somewhere with alacrity. I think we stopped 60 miles down I-40 at the Sky City Casino RV park. It was late afternoon and driving into the sun is not fun. And, we have a rule – never arrive at an RV park in the dark. That gave us some time to take stock of our refrigerator situation. It was on propane most of the time but the temperature was a bit high. We had a couple of science projects.
It was still over 350 miles to Gold Canyon, and we won’t drive that far in a day anymore, so we also stopped in OK RV Park, a classic, specializing-in-overnighters, park in Holbrook, AZ the next night. Living up to its name, it was OK.
The drive from Holbrook to Phoenix, going through Payson is really nice. At first it’s mile after mile of bare rolling hills and then it transitions to heavily wooded forest. You would think you’re in Colorado. You finally descend steeply into civilization again, Payson. The next part of the drive is one of my favorites. As you leave Payson to the south on US 87, you ascend a hill replete with a trucker’s check-your-brakes area at the top. The landscape shifts from forests to bare mountains and then high desert. As the ups and downs bring you to a lower altitude, the Saguaro cacti appear. The views are gorgeous, if you can see through the insect schmutz on the windshield.
We arrived at Canyon Vistas in Gold Canyon with the big Cummins purring. It was seventy degrees, our camp site was great, and we had a nice view of the setting sun and the glow of it against Superstition Mountain.
Life is good.