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David John Taylor

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The Taylor Horde Grand Tour/Forced March: DAY TEN
By David John Taylor   
Rated "G" by the Author.
Last edited: Thursday, January 04, 2007
Posted: Thursday, January 04, 2007

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MONDAY; From Mummy Mountain to Wikieup

The morning came with pine needles whispering in the breeze, the air crisp, although already warming.

I loaded up as quickly as I could. My thought was to get the RV and trailer down to where we unloaded the Bronco, and reload there. It would give me a chance to check the engine. I really should have pulled the cowling and checked the condition of the transmission fluid, but I didn’t. There seemed no point.

Mummy Mountain could easily stand a week’s worth of visiting. Just sitting around here is pleasant, but we could explore the other side of the ridge, and find some hikes. I fear, however, that the RV will never like getting here. If I had dropped the trailer, had the Bronco haul that up as well, maybe it would help, but the trailer just doesn’t weigh that much. We ate breakfast, loaded all our gear, checked for anything we had left behind, loaded kids and dogs. I fired up the engine. It idled with a tremulous flutter. We pulled up our anchors. Robin got into the Bronco and pulled back so that I led the way up the rest of the one lane path.

Leaving that time of the morning on a Sunday made us a novelty. Everyone else was just waking up as we ground up the mountain. According to the map, the thin winding road made a loop that would allow us to reverse our direction and get back down to 156.

Robin followed us. The campground was packed with RVs and fifth-wheels, very few tents, an occasional tent trailer. Some of the campsites on the right hung precariously off the edge of the mountain, offering a spectacular, if acrophobic, view to the camper.

We came up to the top, and started into the one-way loop, with camps both outside the ring, and on the island made by the loop. I had nearly made the turn and was maybe twenty yards to where we started down the hill, when a loud thunk and shudder went off.

I locked up the brakes. We weren’t going fifteen miles an hour, but it was still a sudden stop.

“What was that?” Alex asked.

“Go check with your mother, ask if she saw anything.”

Alex exited the RV, the dogs carefully watched so that they might not escape. He was gone a long time. I watched all the campers glaring at us from all sides. We were an unwanted intruder there in the middle of the road, spewing exhaust into their morning. When Alex got back, he stood at my shoulder.

“Mom heard something, but she didn’t see anything.”

I stared around us at all the unhappy people tucked amongst the tall stately Ponderosas waiting for us to leave. It had been a loud thunk, and yet my imagination failed to suggest any possibility. Uneasily I put the RV back in gear and started down the hill with no incidence.

Getting off Mummy Mountain seemed to take a long time, and I don’t know why. The speed limit is 55. I kept a bit under that, seeing no reason to test my brakes now that I had so thoroughly tested the drive-train. We fell from pine forest, through Juniper-Pinyon, to scrub brush, and finally desiccated desert, to the spot we’d unloaded the Bronco. I pulled off.

Robin’s ill humor had not abated. I rushed to get the Bronco on the trailer. I should have taken this time to check the source of the loud noise. I didn’t.

Back on the road, the RV seemed practically healed of its torment from yesterday. Occasionally I got a cough, but was otherwise quite pleased.

The plan now was to get to our property near Wikieup in Arizona. We’d be there for two days, exploring the neighborhood on the Fourth, and then going to the Grand Canyon on the fifth.

To get to Wikieup, we had to get through Las Vegas, shoot down to either Laughlin, or go further and pick up I-10, then head east on I-10 through Kingman until you hit Highway 93, where you turn south, and in due course, you pass through the little burg of Wikieup, two gas stations, two small convenience stores, an auto repair shop, and an RV park, all right along the highway. There’s homes and ranches tucked around the town as well, but you can’t hardly see them. Five miles south of the town, past the bridge over the Great Sandy River, is Old Burro Mine Road. Three miles east on that road, you come to our twenty acres. It’s the first and favorite piece of real estate we’ve bought over the Internet. We are the proud owners of about ten Saguaros that grow up the side of the mountain. Most of the property is that side of the mountain, but there’s a small piece at the bottom, right along the well-maintained dirt road, that has an ancient cattle corral with a loading chute, and just outside of that is a popular camping spot. I don’t know if it’s all on our property, but a big hunk of it is.

From Mummy Mountain to Wikieup is about two hundred eighty miles. So we were into our next and last forced march of the vacation.

“We tried to do too much this time,” Robin said dreamily as she propped her feet up on the dashboard, lazily dragging on her cigarette. I sighed and nodded.

“Bit off more than we could chew, that’s a fact. But, we’re headed home. I’d skip the Grand Canyon at this point, but everything’s paid for already. And who knows when we might get another chance.”

“Tried to do too much,” Robin repeated, perhaps not hearing me, perhaps just ignoring my agreement.

Cruising south on 95, we met little traffic until we reached Las Vegas. Applying the same logic we’d used before, we started looking for a gas station on this northern side of the metropolis. Sure enough, an ARCO station was sporting two dollar eighty five-point-nine cents a gallon. Fill up here and we wouldn’t need gas for the Bounder until Quartzite.

Then we got lost. I don’t know how I’d failed to do this, but I hadn’t worked out the exact directions we needed to get through Vegas. You head for Hoover Dam, then take the highway to Spotlight. I had Robin on the map, and she had us traveling all the way through Vegas, and as it turned out, into California, back to Spotlight. We ended up getting off the freeway, onto The Strip, finally getting back on the freeway headed east, got on the right freeway headed in the wrong direction.

The most direct route to our Arizona property would have been across the Hoover Dam. We’ve been warned by everybody, though, that all vehicles are stopped and thoroughly searched to protect the Hoover Dam from terrorist attack. Can you imagine the Hoover Dam going? Besides the sheer amount of damage that would be caused downstream, Southern California would lose its water source in a blink of an eye. The Imperial Valley, the Salad Bowl of America, not to mention the largest producer of cotton in the Americas, would lose the All American Canal. Just like that, some of the most densely populated areas in the country would become uninhabitable, and the rest of the nation, and the world for that matter, would be looking at a food shortage. Yes, the Hoover Dam is a phenomenal target for terrorists. Since we tend to have a large number of firearms for target shooting with us on these trips, we never even considered crossing the Dam until we met up with an e-buddy from the Yahoo Bounder website at our property in Wikieup, and he’d crossed the Hoover Dam with no hassle at all. I wrote the director of security for the Hoover Dam to see if there was any way we could cross it with our armory, and he counseled against it. Bummer.

We finally ended up going the right way on Hoover, headed for the Hoover Dam, then took 93 toward Spotlight.

My plan had been to cruise down to I-10, head east, and cross the Colorado there. Going through Laughlin to Kingman is quite a bit shorter, about fifty miles, but I just remembered our last time through there. It was before we’d gotten Bilstein shocks, and we had the brake issues. Worse than getting down to Laughlin, though, then you have to ascend to Kingman. Grinding up that grade is brutal. Last time we reached the top at fifteen miles an hour, and I remember fearing for the transmission, the temp doing what we’d only done the day before. I-10 skirts all those mountains, and it’s a gentle rise up to Kingman and to 93

The thing is, we’d wasted so much time lost in Las Vegas, cruising all the way down to I-10 was all that less appealing.

“Why don’t we chance it?” Robin asked. I’d ignored at least one of her directions before, resulting in us going in the wrong direction on that last freeway, so despite my fears, we turned east toward Laughlin.

Compared to last time, this was down-right pleasant. The brakes performed magnificently, the engine and tranny temps were non-existent on the way down. I worked through the gears and kept the whole system

When you get to the river crossing, you’re looking up at Frank’s Dam to the north. There’s a beach there at the bottom, the water so blue, the sand so incredibly white, that it looks like something from a brochure. Seedoos are lined up along the beach, and palms tress shade a grassy strip between the sand and the parking lot. Then the road heads up.

It was on the way up that things went bad quick. If I could have built up some speed before we hit the really bad part, we would have at least done better, but we got stopped at a traffic light, something I don’t think was there the last time we came through, and not half-way up, the engine was bucking and faltering. I had to pull over, losing all our momentum, and stranding us at a terrible location.

The terrain in this area is classic tortured desert, the stone mountains looming above us looked like they were ripped to their present positions yesterday, raw, jagged, with tattered shades of grey, white and black. I looked out the windshield to the right, and noted lamely the chain-fruit cholla growing along the highway.

“What are we going to do?” Robin asked pointedly.

I tried it again, throwing it in gear and shoving the gas to the floor, grinding up the hill, crawling along in the break-down lane until, around a turn, there were actually two cars broken down, a sedan and a U-Haul truck. I rolled to a halt again. The three people standing off the road by the rear vehicle, two Hispanic men and a young woman glared at us.

The engine coughed and popped, the transmission fluid temperature was as bad as yesterday.

“We unload the Bronco, and you take the kids up the rest of the way. Get fuel in the Bronco.”

Robin sighed with disgust.

“It made it the last time. Why not now?”

I looked at her and wondered how much I should volunteer. We were breaking all the rules, and if she didn’t know it, she hadn’t been listening to me. The particular rule we were flouting insofar as our troubles right there right then was, the Bronco on the flatbed is way, way beyond the recommended towing weight of the Bounder, by about three thousand pounds. The headers and the gear splitter, in my opinion, greatly enhance the towing capability of the RV, but who am I kidding? Not three tons worth. Even with the extra horsepower, the three extra gears, the weight of the trailer and Bronco made the Bounder’s front end float, and even a little wind kicked us all over the place.

I didn’t bother to go into this. It would be non-productive. We unloaded the Bronco.

“Where do we meet?”

I closed my eyes and thought on that canted road, with sports cars and sixteen wheelers grinding by alike.

“How ‘bout the first gas station we come to in Kingman proper?” I suggested. “I’m going to let the engine cool for half an hour and try again.”

As I loaded the yellow straps into the storage bin, one of the three Hispanics, a man I’d say was about my age, stepped around toward me.

“Looks like I ran out’a gas,” he started. “Do you have anything we might use as a tow rope?” I looked from him to the straps I’d just put away, grabbed one and lifted it up to him.

“Think that would work?”

He stared at the offered strap.

“Well – yes.”

I handed it off. He looked down at the contraption in his hand.

“How will I get this back to you?”

My first thought was to just say ‘keep it’, but that would complicate my rigging.

I don’t know if I’ve ever gone into this before, but each of these straps, some kind of exotic cloth-like material with big metal hooks at both ends, with a crank that allows me to tie the Bronco to the trailer, is rated at ten thousand pounds. I use one for each tire. On the front I have wood blocks bolted to the trailer floor to keep the Bronco from rolling forward, and to tell me I’ve pulled the Bronco far enough forward, and then two sets of metal and plastic blocks to check the rear tires. Technically, any one of the straps should be able to hold twice as much as the Bronco weighs, meaning I have eight times more strap than I need, but If I bind up just one axle, the other is going to bounce around, If I use one strap for each axle, and one of the devices should fail, then I have the original problem. So it just seems logical to have two straps per axle in case any one strap should fail. I remember coming back from Holbrook and the Petrified Forest, getting into a conversation with a local. He’d noticed one of the rear straps had gotten loose and pointed it out to me. We agreed that I had plenty of straps, though, and one getting loose wasn’t too big a deal. I opined as I worked the crank to re-tighten the lash that I could afford to lose some of these straps, that I was too safe. He, in his Stetson cowboy hat, blue jeans and big belt buckle, shot back, “You can’t be too safe, no such thing. How far y’headin’? No, no such thing as too safe.”

So I looked at the strap that I’d scored for ten bucks apiece at Home Depot after spending twenty-five dollars for one at a car parts store. In an emergency, such as running out of gas while crawling up this stretch of highway with no businesses or turn-outs or much of anything else to assist you, I could, should, offer what I had to help.

“Tell you what, we’re stopping at the first gas station we get to in Kingman. Meet you there.”

The man nodded several times as he watched me warily, then said, “Better make it the first Texaco. There’s room there t’pull in.”

He departed and I finished loading all the gear we use into one of the outside bins, then trotted back to Robin, who had now loaded the children.

“That guy said to use the first Texaco station we come to,” I started. “He said there’s parking there.”

“What did you give him?”

I studied the unblinking wife as she bore a hole through me.

“He ran out of gas, needs something to tow the car to a gas station.”

“And you gave him one of our straps?” she countered incredulously.

“He’s going to get it back to us,” I said, which struck me as a stupid response. A silent challenge to my entire cosmology ensued as Robin glared out the driver’s window of the Bronco at me. What if he didn’t? What if we missed connections, or he just stole it? It would speak poorly of him, but someone needed help, I could help. When had the rules changed? Where was I misinterpreting the way we’d lived our lives up to this moment?

“And if he doesn’t?”

The challenge just didn’t let up as I stood there, cars charging past me, inches away.

“I’ll stretch one strap the length of the rear axle from one side to the other,” I finally said.

Robin glared askance at me for another few seconds before gasping with disgust and turning her attention to getting into traffic.

I got back to the RV. The dogs were most worried about the situation, Robin gone, the kids gone. I thought about the refrigerator. Sitting at this angle, not moving, I should turn the unit off. As I watched Bronco climb the grade, I found myself in a most curious situation. Suffer the wrath of Robin for turning off the refrigerator, or have to explain why the practically new refrigerator wasn’t working at all. I went to turn the unit off, and resolved I’d turn it on the moment we reached flat ground, and then, before I turned it off, I resolved to try again, to make the last of the grade and get on to Kingman. It had been almost a half hour anyway. Though the Bronco was now out of sight, I wondered for a moment if I might catch up with them. A ridiculous thought, really.

Traffic was actually somewhat sparse as I started the engine. With only a pause, I merged into the slow lane. I glanced over to the stricken sedan and U-haul truck as I passed them. The younger man and woman were looking at me, speaking between themselves, her pointing at me with an incredulous look, as if I’d done something offensive. I could not imagine what it could be.

I didn’t really notice much improvement without the Bronco aboard the trailer, but to my surprise and chagrin, the top of the grade was less than a mile. The road nearly leveled off, and then, to my abject joy ,started down. The engine was still not happy, fretting and hesitating as I went. There’s a wide valley this road passes through before you get to Kingman that I had forgotten about. I watched all the gas stations as I went, looking for Robin. There’s another climb to the intersection of 95. West goes to the Hoover Dam, east takes you to Kingman. This minor rise got the Bounder gasping and choking again, but I made it over and rolled down into town.

The Texaco station came into view, right hand side, but the parking lot was packed with cars. Not a hundred yards farther along is a nice undeveloped field with a repair shop off to one side. I pulled up into the lot. The next business was another gas station, but it was some three hundred yards further on. I thought I’d seen a sign saying something to the affect “welcome to Kingman Arizona”, but this was a spare and dusty section of town. From where I sat, I could see I-10. At the off-ramps, the businesses appeared new with manicured landscaping, but not here, perhaps six hundred yards away.

The engine did not hesitate to shut down.

I got on the cell phone, but it was roaming. I thought I better wait awhile before wracking up new debt.

Sure enough, Robin pulled in.

“Have they brought back the strap?”

I sighed.

“They were still on the side of the road when I left. Why don’t you fill up the Bronco somewhere?”

“Take the dogs out for a walk,” she answered, and took off with the kids.

It was really hot. I made sure the refrigerator was on. It didn’t feel all that cool. Of course, we were shifting bottles of drinking water from the storage bins underneath the dining seats’ storage bins into the reefer to make them cold, so there was bound to be some heat transfer issues there.

I walked the dogs, who dragged me about the empty field. There was a wash to the rear of the property, parallel to the road we’d come in on, and across the wash a rise with drab ticky-tack houses along the edge of them. Unkempt yards with dusty playsets scattered around completed my impression of Kingston.

Time dragged on. I put the dogs back inside the Bounder, made sure they had water, walked up to the Texaco station to see if the U-haul trailer and stricken sedan had made it there. No joy.

In plotting the future, I imagine Robin returning with the Bronco, tank full, and I found the idea of reloading it on the trailer unpalatable. I couldn’t put my finger on it, butI walked back to the Bounder. Now the question was, where was everybody? Where was Robin? It was close to half an hour since she’d left. I was getting worried when, finally. Our Bronco, with its distinctive oxidizing dark green body paint, pulled up.

“Is there something wrong with the Bronco’s gas tank?”

“No,” I answered pointedly. “There is nothing wrong with the gas tank.”

“Its taken me all this time to get in ten dollars worth,” Robin pressed.

“I’ll go take it.”

“Don’t go to the American Eagle station,” Robin pointed at the station that was just in sight. “All this time for ten dollars worth.”

“Keep an eye out for the U-Haul truck,” I told her.

“You mean they haven’t passed by yet?”

I didn’t answer.

I drove down to the station across the street from the American Eagle. It reminded me of an AM/PM station like we have in San Diego. Alex went with me and talked me out of a soda and a Slim Jim, with the promise that he’d toss both before we got back to the Bounder.

The tank filled up just fine, and I topped it off. Alex had to stuff the Slim Jim in his mouth, and we ended up sharing the sixteen ounce soda between us. Robin loathes us buying stuff at these little stores. Why she doesn’t mind spending a fortune at a KOA camp store is a mystery to me.

I got back to where the Bounder was. Though we weren’t blocking anything, the people at the garage nearby were watching us.

“We gonna try loading the Bronco?” Robin asked.

“I was thinking,” I started. “We don’t have that much further to go, less than a hundred miles, and we’re going to want to unload the Bronco when we get to the dirt road anyway.”

Last time we’d been there, we’d left the Bronco on the trailer, and we must have hit a rock or something sharp, because it tore one of the trailer tires to pieces. Thank God for dual axles.

“There’s at least one more good climb before we get to 93 on I-10. Why don’t you follow me there. Take Alex for company.”

Robin stared unflinchingly at me, measuring me, before nodding.

“Fine.”

Just then, on the road we’d come in on, the U-Haul truck, the stricken sedan now operating on its own, came to a stop in the middle of the street in front of us. The older Hispanic was driving the U-Haul, the young woman driving the sedan. The young man leapt out of the passenger side of the U-Haul, signaling to me. I dashed out, feeling quite vindicated.

The young man was at the rear door of the U-Haul. He popped it open. The inside was a mess of boxes and debris, obviously whatever it was they had been transporting already delivered.

The young man didn’t speak to me, just jumped in the back and began rustling through the debris. He came up with what I recognized as the crank that went to the strap. The ribbon of material itself was gone. He handed the cincher to me, then turned to the driver’s compartment.

“I can’t find the rest of it.”

“It’s all there,” the older man bellowed back harshly. “For God’s sake, look.”

The U-Haul and sedan were blocking the lane they sat in. Traffic was quickly piling up behind, siphoned down to the one lane to the left. The young man jumped back into the bed of the U-Haul cabover, now frantically kicking around in the back. I was about to tell him forget it, get along, when he came up with the bright yellow unwound band. They must have had to disconnect the cinch to wrap around the bumpers, I surmised as he handed the mess of material to me.

“Look, ah,” the young man, in his mid-twenties, started. “Thanks alot. We’d still be there if you hadn’t helped.”

“Aw, well,” I answered dismissively, “Y’know, we’re all in this together.”

The look of abject confusion warped the young Hispanic’s face. He did not comprehend a word I said. I smiled as best I could and waved as I turned away.

“Have a good one.”

The young man stood frozen for a second, looking after me, before hauling down the slide-up gate, then running to the passenger door of the U-Haul.

I chucked the mess of textile into the storage bin with all the others. Each strap is marked so that I use the same one on the same tire each time. When I loosen them, I don’t undue them any more than necessary. That way it only takes a couple of cranks to tighten them up when I load the Bronco. This was the rear passenger one, the one I favor for the rear, the driver rear taking a circuitous route to avoid pressing against the hydraulic line to the brake.

This would have been my last chance to check for the unidentified bump from when we’d left that morning, but I’d forgotten all about it.

“Ready?” I asked Robin. She didn’t answer, but slid into the driver’s seat and fired it up.

I got to the driver’s seat of the Bounder. The engine started, but it still wasn’t a happy purr. I guess mechanical things don’t heal like humans or animals. Go figure.

I rolled out into traffic, got to the freeway. Going up the on-ramp, the Bounder protested, kicked and coughed.

“We’re on our way home,” I kept telling myself. “All I gotta do is get us home.”

It’s actually a short run of maybe twenty miles east on I-10 to 93. There’s a good painful climb out of Kingman, and then a drop. We were climbing again, with Juniper and an occasional Pinyon Pine appearing when we got to 93, took the off-ramp and headed east. This all looked familiar now. Another sixty miles, and we’d be in Wikieup.

The road here is mostly flat. There’s some pretty impressive climbs, but nothing like the grade out of Laughlin, and they’ve got mile-long passing lanes, where you can get out of the way of the screaming sports cars and SUVs and just go at your own sane pace. The speed limit varies according to the road, but mostly its 65 miles an hour. There is, however, an awful lot of road work going on along this strip. Something called the Hoover Dam Bypass is being built across the Colorado River that will make the whole Hoover Dam or Laughlin debate moot. It will trim off two hours of driving between Phoenix and Las Vegas, and in anticipation of increased usage, Highway 93 is being upgraded, widened and smoothed all through this section.

This sixty miles here is rolling Junipers mixed with occasional outbreaks of saguaro and desert. The Big Sandy is to the north, and 93 parallels it the whole distance. It would be fun to explore, and we’ve done some, but to drive it is boring. I pushed the speed as much as I could, but was amazed at how slowly the miles progressed. In some places there are sharp unforgiving turns, and the lanes are thin like old highways are.

We finally came to Wikieup around three in the afternoon. I recognized the place, but only a little. Where there had been one lane each ways through town, there were now four lanes accommodating traffic both ways, and still road work in the middle lanes. The dusty gravelly parking area at the Wikieup Trading Post was now paved and concreted. Speed limit through town was 35, and it seemed to take forever to get through.

On the other side of town we crossed over the Big Sandy River, and we started up again, nothing radical, nothing the Bounder could protest too much, but we had to be in the fast hand lane to turn left. I didn’t dare miss the turn, as the next turn-around would be the BLM Burro Creek Campground, so my mind focused on the terrain ahead and the miles. Its nine miles past Wikieup, but somehow I start spotting the turn-off miles ahead of that, always wrong, always exactly nine miles past the town. With my mind purely focused on the road ahead, it took me a second to acknowledge the loud ‘clung’ and sudden grinding drag on the RV. I looked back in my side-view mirror to see the trailer fishtailing all over the place behind us. It had come off its hitch.

Climbing up the grade made it all that much easier to pull over. Once I cut the speed enough, the trailer straightened up. When I finally stopped, I noted my heartbeat, and I noted the engine purred. I did not turn the engine off, but put on the emergency brake and put the transmission in ‘Park’.

I told the twins to stay where they were and I walked back to the trailer.

Robin and Alex had pulled up behind the trailer and bailed out.

“Didn’t you see me waving?”

I looked at Alex.

“Waving at what?”

”It came off and you just kept driving,” Robin accused. I stared at her for what seemed a long time.

“I felt the bump, determined what was wrong, and pulled over,” I answered. “I did not look to see if you were waving.”

They kept talking at me as I finally surveyed the trailer.

The trailer had not come off the hitch. The hitch had come out of the hitch post. I studied the damage. The hitch did not appear to be damaged. The hitch lever base had been what the trailer had been riding on as we’d cruised along, but it did not appear to be destroyed. The jack had popped out of the socket, and it had dragged underneath the trailer. I assumed it was pasted.

“How did this happen?” Robin asked.

I was crouched at the hitch post.

“Someone pulled the pin,” I said, and it all came to me like a revelation as I looked up at Robin.I rose. “Someone pulled the pin back at Mummy Mountain. That’s what the big clunk was up there on the loop. Which means we’ve been running on half a bolt all this way.”

“Huh?” Alex answered. I grabbed the trailer, and it hauled neatly up as I maneuvered the hitch up to its post.

“This male piece fits into this female post.” I grunted, and slid the hitch into its place. “A bolt fits through this hole here, pinning post to hitch, and a cotter pin fits through one end of the bolt. Someone pulled the pin.”

“Who?” Robin asked.

My mind went to the surfer dude squatting on our campsite.

“It doesn’t matter,” I answered. “We should be thinking about God.”

“God?”

I nodded.

“Yeah, we should be going to church, saying prayers, something like that, thanking God. We should be all lost in prayer.”

“Church,” Robin stated. I nodded some more.

“The bolt must have popped halfway out, back at Mummy Mountain. We came down the hill, loaded up the Bronco, drove through downtown Vegas, all the way down to Laughlin, halfway up from Laughlin before we unloaded the Bronco, then drove it all the way here. If the Bronco had been on the trailer when the bolt finally popped out or split, assuming these chains held and didn’t send the trailer and Bronco careening off the road, or rolling back into oncoming traffic, when I brought it to a halt, the trailer, with the weight of the Bronco, would have slammed into the back of the Bounder, and the Bronco would be where you and I usually sleep, Robin. “

I nodded some more. Kel and Nick had come around, quite against what I had told them to do.

“We should be thanking God we didn’t load the Bronco back on the trailer back in Kingman. We should be thanking Him we weren’t a major accident somewhere between Mummy Mountain and right here.”

Robin rolled her eyes, sighed, put her hands on her hips, then looked back down the road.

“Well, the chances of finding this pin or bolt or whatever, is nil, even assuming I knew what it looked like.”

“I have another,” I said, and noticed the adrenaline, still pumping through my veins, had me hopping over to the storage bin with the Bronco’s hitch in it. I had brought it thinking that there might be some time when we’d want to have the Bronco tow the trailer. The Bronco’s hitch came with its own bolt and cotter pin, which, after a little wiggling and effort, I used to reconnect the trailer to the Bounder. We plugged the battered electrical connection back into its socket, and by the Grace of God, it worked.

Behind the wheel, I now once again worked up through the gears, climbing the grade out of Wikieup, looking for the left-hand turn that takes us up to our property.

And there it was. My heart quickened. We were home. I sighed as the band across my chest loosened. The Bounder’s protest seemed to fade as we rose up higher into the hills.

We pulled into this now familiar place, and within minutes, through rote practice and the help of Robin, Alex and the Twins, we were set up next to the old cattle corral full of beavertail cactus. The kids knew right where they were going to go play.

Perhaps I had no right, but I felt an overwhelming sense of relief as I found a cold beer. We were here for two days. The place was brutally hot as I slipped underneath the canopy. We had tomorrow off, planning to go to the Burro Creek Hot Springs, exploring this lovely place.

Robin might not have shared my glee, but she said nothing, and made dinner inside, although I thought it would have been fun to cook on the fire.



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