I lifted my head the next morning, while camping less than a mile away from the North Rim, and this was my morning picture, my first sight of the day, a message so clear that nothing could go wrong in the big scheme of things that were to follow. I am actually still back there I think, I really did not want to return, and even this afternoon as I was napping, my mind must have been wandering the Rim, as I woke up with the same sensation I had when looking down the 3000 feet cliffs. It will get a hold of you and again, hope that some day as Spirit and I did, you will experience it. Michael came by and we decided to leave that morning. Some clouds had been forming, the weather forecast on the one site for Saturday afternoon was still on my mind, an overnight in Toroweap is a bit too quick for me, but I figured the decision would be a wise one.
I wanted to stop and photograph this 1930’s horse pulled Adams leaning wheel grader, seemingly in great shape, resting like a giant bug on the side of the road.
And… like a little bug itself, Old Faithful also rested. She rested for about 5 hours as I noticed the main bolt holding the two forward arms to the sidecar being broken. A bit too much torsion on the upper rough road, it’s bottom was sheared off, gone with the nut and still barely holding the two arms. Tool box came out and, fault of mine, no spare bolt. Could not have happened in a better place! Michael arrived from behind us, we take a close inspection at the grader thinking maybe we could "borrow" some parts…
No luck. So it is about 9 in the morning and Michael offers to ride to Colorado City, a 120 mile round trip, to find me a new bolt and nut. Without wasting time he takes off, we move the rig toward the Ranger’s Station, absent that morning, and again set up camp, food, water and still looking for a bolt and nut that might get us going as if I did we had agreed to meet ahead on the road. There were a few tire changers and I did find a real poor quality bolt, one amongst 3, 2 of them already bend, I was not going to take a chance, my memories of us crashing in Louisiana might be by now vague, but suddenly were refreshed.
Tarp was unpacked, walked around a bit and "played" the Ranger’s role while a couple cars where coming in for the day. A group from Sweden, some campers wondering if they should leave due to changing weather, more tourists coming in. I said… "yes". The hours went by fast mixed with a bit of napping, studying further the maps on the walls and finally truly enjoying this break, however a bit hesitant when I saw the clouds forming behind me.
Suddenly, just like in the Movies, a cloud of dust was approaching and I soon recognized Michael’s two wheeler from the headlight pattern. Yes, the man brought me a new Grade 8 bolt and nut, he had a nice lunch, ice water, a great ride in still cool weather… we had nothing to complain about. The day was going fairly well considering being so far off the paved road.
The repair did not take long and now, by mid afternoon, we took off again thinking we would be off the dirt road within about 5 hours. Dark clouds ahead of us had formed to our left, darker clouds were letting some heavy rain come down behind us already, we guessed at the campsite we spend the night. We decided to exit through Colorado City, straight up, instead of the shorter route having to ride under those clouds. We thought! Michael is ahead of me, I take off a few minutes later and only about a mile ahead I see him parked, motorcycle on the center stand and his camping gear is coming off. I knew it, indication of a flat tire! And it was. He carried plugs as I do, no compressor… I have one and we get to work, by now the concern of imminent rain upon us more than ever.
We were getting squeezed in from both sides and still thinking that our little hope to veer right, even taking the road to Fredonia will able us to avoid any drops. One puncture is taking care off but the tire is not holding any air. What were the chances of a second puncture? slim but it happens. After much water poured on the tire we found not one more but two more, luckily the last two being right next to each other. We were happy and I kept thinking how great Karma was. It happened after his return with the bolt… how about if it had happened before he reached me as then we would have been both stranded within miles from each other, specially him without a compressor. I even started joking about the fact if he would have stopped when I saw the cloud of smoke… It would have been kind of "strange" to wonder, so close and yet, why isn’t he riding over? The moral was high, this is all part of the day’s work, preparedness unlike so many riders I have met on the side of the road helpless never thinking that a failure can happen to them. Life had trained us both for this… as I was glancing at Michael’s unpacked bag I realized that he himself was truly ready for anything… "four times larger pads" it even said… I had a great laugh at his expense!
We look up the skies, none of it was looking that good, but we were still hopping to beat the rain. It did not last too long. The drops started within a couple miles, creating at first little bursts of smoke on yet the dry road, slim hopes, human nature always thinking positive… but finally beaten by Mother Nature who said for once that enough was enough. I am by then riding last, I am watching Michael’s rear tire, waiting for the moment when the calachi will start building up like layers of soles getting thicker and thicker. It did not take him too long to fishtail and that would have been the right time to then stop immediately. Nowhere to camp however, bushes on both sides, nowhere to park, I am sure that is what he thought as he did not stop. A couple hundred feet later, throughout a nice muddy curve the inevitable happened, he smoothly went down sideways and as I passed him not able to stop immediately he was already getting up. What he did not realize, neither I, was the calachi quick built up between the front tire and fender locking up the front wheel, resulting in an awkward riding dilemma to say the least. Good spot however! Much clearing at high ground, perfect for our tents. We had to first get the 800lb beast off the road as the more we tried the more it slid down the hill. We finally turned it sideways and managed to get it upright, we were by then both parked semi safely on the side of the road and went on in the rain to set up camp, one more time.
And it rained, and rained some more till the next day. Two inches of it I was told upon our return. Our mood was elevated. Again we were home! I had emptied three gallons of water that morning wanting to travel back lighter, I had some hesitations at the time thinking "wise move? one never knows…", but we still had plenty of water for the three of us, plenty of food, enough dry spare clothing and towels to change into and a book to read. Life was good, we would get out when we get out. Relaxed times were ahead with no clock to look at, only living with the darkness of the day followed by a night of great sleep. Tents are a wonderful invention specially when they do not leak, all was top notch and going over mentally and physically through my gear I could not think of anything I was missing, even food for Spirit, 4 days worth. My only concern was my book not wanting to finish it too quickly! The ice in my two coolers was melting by then and I knew that by the next day the leftover salads would have to be thrown away. I ate as much as I could.
Yes, I played with the little camera, rearranged my wallet, both tents where close enough to be able to communicate with each other at times when the deluge slowed down and even for a few minutes take a few steps outside trying to get unglued from the ground. The rain stopped the next day and we were able to appreciate the scenery, appreciate talking to a Ranger that stopped by making sure we were alright, offering us some water and Gatorade and calling Sandra, Michael’s wife to let her know all was fine, perfectly fine. We then dried our laundry, ate some more as also another camper up the road brought us some more food, walked around, joked around, a great day was ahead of us.
I was hoping we would be stuck for a few days! But as the skies started to turn blue I knew we would be out as soon as the calachi would dry as it does quickly. Spirit? well, he is my Hero. We are one together and he rolls with the punches never complaining, never wanting to be anywhere else but next to me. He was able to also get out of the tent and spend the day within the fresh air, he is always as I am, "home" wherever we are. There will be more on the beautiful ride back witnessing an amazing sunset and successfully ride through the patches of deep calachi still filled with water. This below was one of the sights keeping us company later on toward Fredonia.
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Be well, always. Ara & Spirit