Sunday, October 18, 2009

Road Trip Story #42.

Now that our weather is starting to improve, we are getting back into a great time of year to go observing and we are always interested in creating a little star party whenever possible. This past week Dean spoke with the Ranger's office at the Chiricahua National Monument, suggesting that since we were planning a trip to that area to view the Fall colors we might consider doing some public viewing, if there was interest. Their response? "We'll get the shuttle bus out and bring the campers to you!!!" We also contacted our friend in Phoenix, Laurie, and when invited to join us responded, "I'm there!" Seems we picked just the right weekend to do a little excursion!

We headed southeast to the Chiricahua's around 10am, with all we would need for a day of picture taking and a night of observing. Included in those supplies were sandwiches, brownies, and two gallons of water (always advisable when traveling in remote areas). Our drive took us down through Willcox, where we stopped for refills on our 44 ounce sodas before heading into the nearby mountains for the afternoon. Quickly, the road turned from paved to maintained dirt/gravel - as many of the remote roads do in Arizona. This is cattle ranching territory - cattle guards across the road (lots of free range cattle around here) and even this sign! About the time we decided to turn around to go back and take this picture my 44 oz Coke spilled over (second time this year, I might add) and dumped into my seat and open purse sitting directly below it on the floor! The women reading this post will understand the ramifications of this more than the men, no doubt. I do wish I had a picture of when Dean picked my purse up and turned it upside down, letting about 6 ounces of Coke drain from inside the bag. After getting that situation under control we continued onward. As we climbed higher in elevation we saw more deciduous trees, and more Fall colors. While we don't have Maple trees in Southern AZ, we do have Sycamore, Oak, Ash, and Aspen; all which give a beautiful golden glow to the hillsides, and scenic drives. The colors contrasted with the deep blue sky and the mountains was breathtaking! The Chiricahua's are a very interesting range, with beautiful rock formations that remind me of the Easter Island statues. Near the entrance to Chiricahua National Monument is a dirt/gravel road that takes you to the other side of the range to the town of Portal. This area is world reknown for it's diverse bird population, listed as possibly the best bird watching site in North America! The road over the mountains is most scenic - lots of hairpin turns (no guardrails), vistas into canyons, and canopies of trees shading the drive. While we didn't see many birds (it's a little early for the migration to this area), we enjoyed each twist and turn revealing a new site......until.....uh oh.....the van is awfully quiet......the power steering is gone.....uh that the serpentine belt laying in the road behind us???? Readers that know us, who know Dean, also know his trusty Ford Clubwagon van. You also know that we have been having adventure after adventure keeping the workhorse going. Yesterday adds a new chapter to the story of "the van", to be sure. Yes, indeed, the serpentine belt was laying in the road several yards behind us, but it was next to a huge puddle of antifreeze....the mystery continues. Dean is good about carrying tools in his vehicle (much better than most, in fact), and after doing some diagnostic work he found that the cooling fins for the alternator had cut into the coolant hose causing antifreeze to spurt onto the serpentine belt, that caused the serpentine belt to shoot (like a really big rubber band) off of the pulleys! Fortunately, the belt was intact and not cracked or broken by the episode (it's a new belt as of this summer). **scratching head** now what do we do? We were a good 8miles from the nearest town, so no help there. Many (and I mean many) people stopped to offer assistance, which we were very thankful for, and we garnered some advice and suggestions from some of them. In searching through the tool box and piecing together what we had to work with we were able to repair the hole in the hose with duct tape, securing that further with an extra hose clamp we found hanging on a hose under the hood (there for such an occasion, perhaps???), and then we worked together to get that serpentine belt back in place. Fortunately, Dean had thought to make sure we had those two gallons of water in the van before we started our journey. We filled the radiator, checked for leaks and were on our way in a total time of about 80 minutes! While this may seem like 'another nail in the coffin' for the van, I have to say - that old 'girl' just keeps going! Reminds me of the pioneer women who help settle the wild West! Kudos to Dean, though....that man can fix anything - while never losing his temper or saying a harsh word. He is, absolutely, the best!

We arrived at Chiricahua National Monument in plenty of time to wash up, change clothes, set up telescopes, take some pictures and welcome our 30 or so eager guests when the stars came out to play!

No comments: