Our temporary traveling companions (Randy and Martha) arrived yesterday amidst the brutal heat, in the 100s, and the sun and wind continued to sap our already limited reserves. By the end of the day, we all kept saying, “I’m exhausted and I didn’t even do anything!”
Except we did. At 6am, Len was up helping the local tow-truck woman put our trailer onto a flatbed to have it serviced in Blanding on Monday. We’d heard some troubling squeals in The Valley of the Gods that a couple of motorcycle riders assured us was the sound of a bad bearing (our worry, too). So we limped out of the Valley of the Gods and back to Bluff (at 20mph) and called to arrange transport since the wheel was sizzling hot to the touch.
(Spoiler alert: As it turned out, it wasn’t a bearing but a brake adjustment/brake controller interface issue–somewhat better news, really, and now we knew what was causing the noise and heat. The combination of the brake controller–initially set high as we were having trouble getting it calibrated per the instructions–and the brake adjustment setting caused the brakes to intermittently be applied all the time, resulting in squealing and a very hot hub. As you will recall, our hometown experts didn’t find an issue, the experts in Cortez didn’t find one, and the Blanding mechanics (RV and 4wd experts) didn’t figure it out for a long time–Len had to keep explaining what we’d experienced as well as driving up and down route 191 to test different combinations and try and heat it up so they could troubleshoot.)
The good news in all of that was that once we uncoupled (not the Chris Martin uncoupling) we had the Jeep, unfettered, to explore the area with Randy and Martha, so we drove the whole loop of The Valley of the Gods and showed them our campsite from the night before. That tiny blue dot beneath the rock formation is Martha, by way of comparison.
After that, we drove up … and up … and up … wait for it … The Moki Dugway. If you don’t know what that is, google it … provided you have a strong stomach. The Moki Dugway is a narrow gravel road with sharp switchbacks and an 11% grade carved into the side of a 1,200 foot mesa. It is (apparently) one of the ten most dangerous roads in the US (we didn’t know this before we tackled it–or maybe Len did, but he wasn’t telling). There’s no guardrail, no side edge of any kind, really, and no runaway truck ramps, either. I made a short video (as much as I could stomach) at about 1,000 feet up. You can view it here.
It really was a spectacular, once-in-a-lifetime driving/riding experience, but I don’t know that I’d want to repeat it. I’m not a big fan of heights and my palms were sweaty for about twenty minutes even after we’d reached Cedar Mesa at the top with a grand view of the Manti LaSalle Mountains and no indication of the horrors that lay behind us. As Randy said, “I wanted to look, but a couple times I just couldn’t, and since they say you tend to drive toward where you look, that’s probably a good thing.”
We passed Salvation Knoll at 7,110 feet, where Mormon explorers got their bearings in a snowstorm and were thereby saved from death. Since we had only recently been saved from Moki death, we decided to skip that stop. On State Route 95, The Trail of the Ancients, we stopped to study some Native ruins. Since Randy teaches Oneida Indian Nation history in schools (and is Oneida himself) and had just come from a Native language conference in Flagstaff, he was a great one to offer extra tidbits of knowledge about the Pueblo lifestyle. The Anasazi Ruins at Butler Wash were worth the short .5 mile hike (even in 100-degree heat).
After all that, we came home, showered off the dust, and met for dinner at Twin Rocks Cafe, located just beneath the bluffs of Bluff. Three of us had the Navajo Taco (and the smart one, the actual Native American, had a Greek salad). The Navajo taco was–not unlike the Moki Dugway–an experience I’m glad to have had, but not one I’m likely to repeat anytime soon. It was delicious: frybread topped with chili, cheese, lettuce, tomatoes, black olives, onions, salsa, and sour cream. But later that night I was still so full I had a date with Senor Alka-Selzer and it took a while to get to sleep. I can’t say I hadn’t been warned–Randy made sure I knew what I was in for…and I dove in anyway, fork-first.
In other good news, without the trailer to pull, our gas mileage shot up to 17.8 mpg.
In other not-so-good news, my personal writing time is really suffering. (Sorry Zoe!) Must get back on track.