Ever had one of those trips that, at every turn, near disaster struck? A trip where you wished you’d never left the comforts of your home? Well, been there, had that done to me. Such is the saga of our last, recent journey.
It started out as a 5-day camping excursion to Lake Roosevelt, Arizona. We new the temps were going to be hot as hell, as July in AZ is somewhat unforgiving. Little did we know that it would be a record setting weekend, with temps reaching 118 in Phoenix that Saturday.
We arrived in the afternoon, later than planned. After “setting up,” which is a couple hour ordeal, we decided not to take the boat out, yet planned on waking at 4 am for some very early morning fishing. Late afternoon temps hit around 111 degrees, a tad on the warm side. At a certain point, we determined that it would be a good idea to get the generator started to run the AC in the camper. The gas in our generator and spare can was stale, at least 2 years old, and our generator was conking out, not running the AC. So, off to the gas station, 20 miles away & back. Ran the old gas out of the generator, filled up with newly acquired premium fuel. Still, AC would surge and generator would shut down. After starting cocktail hour, just before the sun was setting, it was 104 outside and 113 inside the camper. Yikes.
Had our charcoal burning in our little football shaped BBQ and a fire going in the campground fire ring when a Forest Ranger drove up & informed us there was a fire restriction in place- No fires or charcoal BBQ’s! (Thanks for not posting any signs on the information boards). So, it was sausage and peppers in the frying pan on our propane stove.
That night’s sleep was a bit grueling. It cooled down to about 90, outside, and with the windows and a small, desk-type fan hooked up to an inverter and marine battery, it was somewhat cool after 3 am. Then, at 4 am, the old style clanging bell alarm clock sounded off… Time to get up and start fishing. I flipped on the light and Wifey exclaimed, “No way… No way!” Slept until about 8 am, and then decided to start the day, from hell.
Figuring there was no way the generator was going to run and power the AC in the camper, we headed back to “town,” (Tonto Basin is more like an outpost), the hardware store to grab us a couple of fans. Back at the campsite, after loading a cooler with waters, lunch, Gatorades and water, it was out to the lake for a day full of fun! Launched the boat, Wifey parked the car and trailer, met her at the dock, and we zoomed out to find a cove or beach to set up our own little paradise. After cruising at moderate speed for about 15 minutes, I gunned the throttle and a KABOOM sounded at the back of the boat where the engine was. Uh Oh. Checked the motor, everything looked still intact. Tried to get underway again, but the engine roared and the prop wasn’t turning.
What took 15 minutes at nearly full speed from the launch ramp to the other side of the lake took about an hour and a half at putt-putt sped to get back! 3 gallons of water later, we arrived at the dock, and put the boat back on the trailer. After a short conversation about selling the boat, we decided to seek a marine repair spot in town… Uh… I mean back at the outpost, and checked back in with our buddies at the hardware store. They recommended a guy in town who would take care of us, Rusty. His shop and home was about 5 minutes away, so I gave him a call. He explained how to get there, and instructed us to pick up a 12 pack of Bud Lite as his diagnostic fee. Rusty turned out to be a cool, fun, goofy guy, who determined that our prop blew out (the hub was shot), and called another local marine repair place and set us up with a guy who could put a new prop on for us.
About 30 miles down the road, at the other end of the lake, we arrived at M&S marine, where the grumpiest man in the southwest sold us and installed a new prop. 200 bucks & 30 minutes later, we were headed back to the campground. It was pretty much at this point where Wifey made it clear that she was not staying another night! “I haven’t been having any fun since 11 O’clock!” What was she doing at 10:30 that I didn’t know about?
The car temperature gauge read 111 degrees as we headed back to the campsite to pack up. The phrase, “packing up,” doesn’t sound all that heinous, unless you consider the amount of crap we have and the fact that it was record setting, blazing hot temps this particular weekend. Plus, there’s a lot of heavy crap: marine batteries (about 40 lbs), coolers full of ice and food (3), the generator (50 lbs.), gas cans, crates filled with gear, etc. etc. etc. I worked outside as Wifey was inside the confines of the (aluminum) camper at about 130 degrees. I overheard lot’s of mumbling, unpleasant swear words emitting from the vintage Shasta trailer, as I took down the bungee lines, put away the stove, dumped the water container, took the battery out of the boat and back in the car, collected out solar panel/re-charger… Get the idea? At one point, my poor Wife had to stop and get in the car, turn on the AC and re-group. She almost passed out when bending down to grab something.
The jack on our camper was as old as the actual camper, dating back to 1962. We had purchased another new jack, black metal, which needed to be installed. Despite the 110 degree heat, it needed to be put on. Removing the old one was a beast- Rusted bolts, WD-40 in the wind getting in my eyes, wrenches that wouldn't fit, laying on the ground with rocks poking in my back and arms... Tons of fun! Finally got the old one off and installed the new.
After another visit from a Ranger, we were packed up after 2 hours of torture and headed back to our spot where we store our boat and camper. We thought about taking out the boat with our brand new prop, but at this point, home… Ya’ know… AC in every room, pool in the back yard, steaks on the grill, cold beer in my hand… Hitting the lake again wasn’t a viable option! Arrived at Jacqleen’s Storage, put the boat in the spot, looked down at the car, and discovered a flat as a pancake tire. Just what I needed at this point. ½ hour later, spare was on, flat was off. When putting the boat cover on, Wifey slipped, fell over the side of the boat, and her leg caught on the window and railing as she dangled over the ground... Looked like one of those Amazon jungle monkeys dangling from a tree! Ran over to help, and she got up, started crying a little, and reiterated, “I haven’t been having fun since 11 O’clock!” Then it was back the campground to pick up the camper. About 4 hours after the “packing up” started, we dropped off the camper and were headed home at 8:30 at night.
Now that I’ve had a great night’s sleep, and we are safe and at home, I wonder, will we be doing this again in the near future? Hell yeah! Like everything else in life, you have to learn from your mistakes, improve on past experiences to make them better, and plan on having a good time with a positive attitude. In this case, we think the trip would have been completely enjoyable if (just) our AC had have worked properly. We’ll try a smaller wall unit in a window instead of our mega, heavy duty, portable jobber AC. The boat is fixed, has a new engine and added goodies, so we shouldn’t have to worry about the floating vessel. Right now, I’m off to the back yard to BBQ some hot dogs, swim in the pool, enjoy my 4rth of July Weekend… and daydream about the next time we head out camping and taking the boat out on the lake!
No flash, solar patio lights