Challenges of a boondocking vagabond

Unless the wind is too gusty, the crew and I leave Ash Fork Fields tomorrow.

The road back to camp on today's morning walk. I think the crew liked it here at Ash Fork Fields Camp.

The Perfect Tow Vehicle faces a big test.  The road from Ash Fork to Williams is up, up, up.  Think of a long uphill grade going up a mountain.  Now put four or five of those together with curves and you’ve got the road to Williams.  This road, Interstate 40 from Ash Fork to Williams, recently took a bite out of the truck of fellow blogger and new friend, Geogypsy, as she tried to move her home up that mountain.

Needless to say, calling a tow truck can really take the fun out of a trip.

Today’s Weird Lunch: Vermicelli topped with Pseudo-Pesto: butter, garlic powder, dried basil, wilted spinach, and parmesan cheese. Corn on the cob.

If you’ve been following along and reading carefully, you know that the PTV’s cluster assembly went bonkers, as these Chevy’s are wont to do.

The oil pressure gauge reads “OMG, you’re still driving this thing!” all the time.  Just like in the children’s story, “The Boy Who Cried Wolf,” the oil gauge is always crying wolf.

Plus it’s in cahoots with the Check Engine Light which has cried wolf ever since I got the PTV about a year ago.

In essence, I can’t tell what’s going on with the engine, other than how fast we’re going, the battery charge, and the water temperature.

Did I mention I dread going up that mountain?

The plan is to put the PTV in second gear and creep up the grade with “my foot on the pedal like there’s an egg under it,” to use Rusty’s expression.   About a third of the way up, I’ll move over into a pull-out and let the engine cool for 15-20 minutes.  Like it says on the shampoo bottle, I’ll “repeat as needed. “

Maybe this sounds silly from where you sit.

Well, I’d rather be cautious than have the PTV and the BLT towed to Williams.  Where will I camp?  The rough plan is to continue on to Flagstaff, either turn south and go a few miles to boondock near Lake Mary or turn north and boondock on a forest road off Highway 89.  How long I’ll stay, I don’t know.

The Arizona triple-digit heat wave is over.

The temperatures are expected to drop twenty degrees with rain on the way, possibly thunderstorms Thursday.  This forecast is for Ash Fork, Williams, and Flagstaff, so we might as well move on up the road.  The tricky part will be choosing a campsite in an unfamiliar area of the Kaibab National Forest that won’t turn into a mud hole when the rain comes.

Ah, the challenges of a boondocking vagabond!

In spite of these challenges, or maybe because of them, I feel alive and energized and anxious to see what tomorrow will bring for me and my crew.

Our last night at Ash Fork Fields, Arizona


 4/18/12 . . . $66.80 for 18.16 gal. of gas @ $3.679 a gal, $68.30 groceries, $19.71 gift (groceries), $11.99 dog food
4/19/12 . . .  $0
4/20/12 . . . $0
4/21/12 . . . $21.83 + $2.42 tax for 7.30 gal. propane @ $2.99 a gal, $5.00 tip,  $1.59 soda, $1.50 for 6 gal. of drinking water
4/22/12 . . . $0
4/23/12 . . . $0

About rvsueandcrew

Fulltime nomad
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54 Responses to Challenges of a boondocking vagabond

  1. Steve says:

    Sue, what are you feeding the pups?

    • rvsueandcrew says:

      Dry kibble . . . Purina ONE, lamb and rice

      • Steve says:

        And I thought I typed “How much food do you go through in a month?” along with my original comment. Old age is creepin up on me fast!

        • rvsueandcrew says:

          I don’t know, Steve. I should figure that out.

          • Steve says:

            Thanks Sue. This post made me realize I need to work out how to keep the beagle into her favorite food. It might be harder to come by when boondocking.

            • rvsueandcrew says:

              One thing I learned about dog food . . . Whenever I open up a new bag, I buy another bag. This worked well when I was in a place where I couldn’t find their usual brand. I was able to mix the strange brand in with their usual brand and that kept them going until we moved to another place.

              • Hey, that’s a GREAT idea!!!!

              • Sue says:

                Wow I am learning so much. Never would have thought of Dog Food, till it came time. But we have a dog and when we start traveling that is something I will have to think of. I am sure getting a lot of good info from several of you here on Hitchitch. Thanks.

  2. bearwise2010 says:

    The adventure continues.. you will do fine climbing that mountain. just take your time.. looking forward to seeing and hearing all about your next adventures boondocking.. take care

  3. Ron says:

    Just watch your heat gauge as long as you stay in the normal range you should be fine. The trailer isnt very heavy,so the ptv should handle it well.
    Now let me freak you out a little and ask a question ,do you have trailer brakes? Going down is the dangerous part not going up.. Keep the PTV in second gear going down (DO NO RIDE THE BRAKES) let your engine work keeping you slowed down. when you pick up enough speed hit the brakes pretty hard slow it down then get back off them so the brakes dont get hot and try to fade..
    A little tale on myself , for a couple years I delivered new rvs to dealers , between Flagstaff and phoenix at the top of one of the passes I lost the brakes on a 36 ft fiver I was pulling. made it fine but it was a white knuckle ride.
    I love your blog and if any of your reader have other blogs from folks full timing in small trailer or cabovers I sure would like the links.

    • rvsueandcrew says:

      Hi, Ron,

      Yes, I had a Tekonsha Prodigy brake controller installed on the PTV. I’ve been very pleased with it. I never feel like the PTV or the BLT is doing too much of the braking.

      Scary downhill experience. Glad you survived!

      Thanks for the advice. I appreciate it.

    • Pat says:

      I had a problem on the I17 the first time I drove to PHX. I was in a 1 ton, 4 wheel drive Chevy van towing a car trailer. Had to stop at Sunset Point rest area and let them cool, thank goodness I had 2 mechanics on the trip. All of us towing something, at least this time when I hit the road I won’t be towing anything. Just me and my class C, it has a 6 speed tranny so I should be OK. Oh the great memories of past road trips………..

  4. Pat says:

    You sound like me, I have the same fears about finding places to camp and how my class C will handle mountains. I have driven mountain roads and know I can do it, just not sure how CC will do. I think the worst I have ever been on is on interstate 80 between Cheynne and Larmie, no curves just straight and very steep. I can’t wait to get started on my adventure even with the fears. Guess that is part of the fun. Be safe and good luck finding a great place!!!!!!!!!!

    • rvsueandcrew says:

      I’ll feel better about these steep grades once the PTV has proven herself. Finding a new camp is fun once you find it!

      Maybe “fears” is too strong a word for us . . . I like to think of them as challenges to be met and overcome!

      • Ed says:

        You are displaying your ‘flat lander’ background. The ‘steep grade’ that you make reference to is never over 6%. I say that because it is on I-40, part of the Interstate System, and all Interstate highways are built to never have a grade exceeding 6%. If you are going to be traveling in the western US and not be tied to the Interstates then you need to put more trust in your PTV.

  5. hobopals says:

    Sue, I never gave the mountains a thought because my big truck is so over the top for what I need to tow my little trailer. In fact, in my travels I wound up giving my Mountain West directory to a solo woman in a campground who was nervous about some hills she was facing (hoping I wouldn’t need it before ordering a new one). Unlike with the motorhome, I never looked at the directory after a while because I didn’t need to. The truck just took it in stride. You have brakes on your trailer, right? You are under the weight of what your tow vehicle can handle, right? You’re traveling a relatively short distance so you won’t be tired. Go at your own comfort speed, but remember to enjoy the scenery. I have found for the most part, the roads in the west are engineered far better than the roads in the east. I’m looking forward to hearing how you enjoyed conquering your uneasiness. I have heard, and maybe some will repeat. Whatever gear you travel up in, you travel down in. I never had to use another gear. The warnings are mostly for big rigs and truckers, but towing anything changes the way you’ll drive.

    I just went out to my trailer and got my Mountain West Directory. Here’s what it says. I-40 Near Ash Fork – about 10 miles east of Ash Fork there is a brake check area for westbound traffic (near milepost 155 1/2) and some warning signs–“Trucks-vehicles pulling trailers check brakes and equipment-use lower gear” and “6% grade next 6 miles.” The first 2 miles are 6% followed by about
    1-1/2 miles of 4-5% and 1-1/2 miles of 6% grade.

    Nothing about runaway truck runaway ramps or curves. That’s a good sign. Hope this eases your mind a bit.

    • rvsueandcrew says:

      Interesting. Thanks for all the information. I’m not dealing with going downhill tomorrow. It’s a climb to Williams and Flagstaff. Yes, you have eased my mind!

  6. Wishing you the best tomorrow on your new adventure. Good idea, stopping along the way,letting the engine cool. You’ll do great! Hope you find a good camp and the weather is kind to you.
    looking forward to see where you end up. Sharon

    • rvsueandcrew says:

      It should be fun posting in the blog tomorrow. Always nice to have something more to write about than a morning walk, what I ate for lunch, and washing my hair!

  7. geogypsy2u says:

    Yes that is a long haul up the that pass to Williams but you’ll do fine just taking it slow in the truck lane. It did make my truck sick but would have happened anyway.

    I do see rain in the forecast, which we need so bad. So be real careful with your next camp spot. Remember there was fire on the San Fransisco Peaks a few years ago so mud slides can be bad. You might want to consider Lake Mary instead of N 89.

    Will be driving past that way Friday and Sunday as Mike and I are going back to Yarnell for a family reunion.

  8. Old Fat Man says:

    My chevy Truck had to have a new instrument cluster at 100k miles. $600 installed.

    • rvsueandcrew says:

      Hi, Barney,

      From what I’ve read, that’s typical for a Chevy. As soon as I’m settled somewhere that has an auto repair place with a good reputation I can verify, I’m going to get the cluster for the PTV.

  9. Emjay says:

    As I recall Lake Mary, I think there are elk around that area. How fun!


  10. Al from The Bayfield Bunch says:

    Came through that stretch east of Ash Fork 3 weeks ago & for whatever reason I cannot remember that grade as being any kind of a problem. Usually if a stretch of road is a nail biter I remember it but I have no recollection of anything unduly scary along there. Your rig will handle the going up parts just fine but you & your van will have to work together on the going down parts. It’s just the way it is with mountain driving & the more miles you get under your belt the more comfortable you will feel about it. Seems like only yesterday we were rolling east on I-40 through Flagstaff. I remember seeing snow on the big mountain to the North……….

    • rvsueandcrew says:

      I don’t know why, Al, but that road bothered me when I drove up it to get to Safeway. I’ve probably let it grow worse in my mind. Your recollection is helpful. I need to get more mountain miles under my belt, like you say. Too many years as a flatlander.

  11. Bob says:

    Sue, you might consider adding a ScanGauge to your dash. I love mine. On a scale of 10 installation difficulty was 1 and usefulness is 11. 🙂

    Safe travels, and happy blogiversary. 😀

  12. Bob C says:

    I agree with the ScanGauge II. At $160 it’s much cheaper than a cluster and it plugs right into a port close to the steering wheel and provides much more information like transmission temp, mpg, and oil temp/pressure. You can install it yourself so no need to visit a repair shop.

  13. Ben says:

    About your gauge not working correct. Simple,Get you one of these and just plug it in. Tells you a whole lot more than those idiot lights on the dashboard. ScanGuage
    I put one on my Big Ole Ford Truck and love it.

    • rvsueandcrew says:

      Ben . . . If you — or any other readers — find the ScanGauge online, would you post the link on the Readers’ Rving Resources page? If you don’t, I’ll try to find it later. I’m writing this Tuesday morning as my coffee perks, and then the crew and I will be hitting the road. It sounds like a good alternative to having the cluster replaced.

      Thank you, Ben, for telling me about this.

  14. Shar Pei Mom says:

    Sue, you’ll love the Lake Mary road drive…you will never wanna leave the area! We do most of our summer camping off that road, Mormon lake community, Stoneman lake area and out further the Blue ridge reservoir area. Not much in the way of groceries after you leave Flagstaff, just small Mom n Pop places…Lake Mary does have a small place for shopping, propane and dump. Good Luck in your new adventure and you will do fine on the Williams climb.

  15. cathieok says:

    Just getting to read this latest post, so you may be breaking camp now. Will be keeping my fingers crossed for you drive up the mountain.

    • rvsueandcrew says:

      I’ll be leaving soon. Gotta have a cup of coffee and answer comments or my day will be messed up! Thanks for the crossed fingers . . . I’m feeling pretty sure of myself and the PTV right now after all the encouragement I’m reading here.

  16. Pauline says:

    Looking forward to your next adventure. I am sure you will do just fine traveling….just take it slow and easy like the other RVers have been advising. Post pictures when you get settled.
    Love you

    • rvsueandcrew says:

      Oh, yes, photos. Thanks for reminding me to charge up the camera. I charged up the cellphone. Isn’t it wonderful to have these aids? More fun and more safety. Love you, too.

  17. jsathe says:

    Sue, there is great boondocking site on BLM land at Willard Springs, Exit 326 off I-17 about 15 miles south of Flagstaff. Lots of trees for shade. Huge land area to get a quiet spot and a Verizon cell tower at the entrance.

  18. Karen says:

    Wishing you the best on your drive up the mountains. Looking forward to hearing how it went and seeing your new campsite. Bridget and Spike will be excited to see their new place. Take care.

  19. rvsueandcrew says:

    The three of us are like kids on their first trip to Disneyland when we find a new campsite.

  20. earthdancerimages says:

    Lake Mary… Morman Lake….. Thse names bring back such wonderful memories! I camped there often in the early 1980’s and actually caught a fish out of Lake Mary and the cried because I didn’t know I was gonna have to kill it and fillet it! I threw away my pole that day! haha! Elk !!! YES !!! I saw several in that area! Saw a deer with baby twins too! You are gonna love it! Drive safely, know we all love you!

  21. Sue says:

    Last time I drove the 40 through that area I was moving my Mom from Huntingdon, TN to my home in Cali. I don’t remember it being so steep or a challenge. But we were in a Van and were not towing anything. Anyway my prayers are with you for a safe and uneventful (as far as problems go) ride and that you would find a safe and wonderful place to dock. The post about the Elk reminded me of Staci Eldredge’s book “Captivating”. If you have read it you will know why. Blessings and safe travel. Gonna miss Rusty, as I am sure you will too.

  22. Sherry says:

    Getting here late this morning. Had to run first and then provide transport to the doctor. Wishing you an easy trip and waiting to see the new sites with you and the crew! Love all your commenters from whom I learn a great deal. You could call yourself an information blog. 🙂

    • rvsueandcrew says:

      I’m very grateful for all the information people share on this blog. I’ve been helped many, many times by readers. . . and probably avoided some disasters.

  23. Chuck says:

    Hi Sue, Couldn’t post to RV Resource page but Amazon carries the ScanGauge II and that would be a very good fix for the bad gauge + give you trans temp, mpg etc. Drive safe, Chuck

  24. jeff says:

    Without reading through all the comments, there was a recall for the gauge clusters. I had mine replaced for free. You might want to do a little research and see if you can get it fixed.

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