Saturday, February 27, 2021

Trips into Safford, fixing a leak, 4-wheeling to the nearby hills avoiding the maddening crowds

 Friday, FEB 26

The day was spent mostly riding to/from the campsite to the town of Safford, AZ which is located about 37 miles away.  It has most of your regular stores, to include a Walmart, so a better choice than Bowie, AZ which is slightly closer but without many amenities.

First trip was to take the broken Sony camera to a a shipping store where they printed out for me the paperwork to be included with the camera, the Fedex label provided by Sony and I paid for a box/packaging for them to ship it for me.  Cost to me?  $6.31.

I then went to the Walmart and picked up some groceries.  Had I been thinking, I would have done some more stops but instead I just gassed up Mariko and headed back to camp.

Lounging back at the camp, it occurred to me to check the 21mm socket I'd planned to use to remove the wheel lug nuts on Mariko should the need arise.  I was shopping for a jack handle (missing, not provided by previous owner) on Amazon and realized I lacked a lug wrench as well.

Turned out, the socket was too shallow and useless for removing the lug nuts.  It was solely good Providence that Mariko hasn't had a flat tire since I've owned her; I wouldn't have been able to remove the punctured tire to place the spare tire in its place!  Note: I do carry a tire plugging kit but still, not having the ability to put on the spare troubled me greatly.

So, it was time to do yet another run to Safford to purchase a lug wrench!  37 miles later, I was back in Safford at the O'Reilly's Auto Parts store and found what I needed, along with a couple of other items for Mariko: A fluid pump that uses caps to engage to gear oil bottles and a small air filter for the crankcase vent opening on the engine.

Back at camp, I installed the air filter to hopefully relieve the air pressure better than what the PCV valve is accomplishing.  The current theory being this might be contributing to engine oil usage beyond desired levels.

After all those miles, I didn't do any further driving this day.  The place is filling up with ATVs and UTVs, dirt bikes and associated RVs and toy haulers!  One the positive side, they're all mostly away from me at my new location; on the negative side, they're a noisy bunch!

Saturday, FEB 27

Made some progress early this morning, after filling up the engine coolant reservoir again, I started up the Sammy and decided to monitor the action of the thermal choke (see if there were movements as it turned off).  No movement detected but my eye caught a stream of coolant spurting from a small hole in one of the two rubber tubes connecting the thermal choke to the radiator coolant system!

Hard to see, but it's the three small roundish objects....drops of coolant coming out under pressure.

You can also see, in the above pic, how road dust had accumulated around the leak, sticking to the wet surfaces.

After some hassle, got the tube removed, check out the gash/hole.

I flipped the tube vertically, cut off the portion with the hole and it was long enough to reconnect.  The hardest part was manipulating the dang snap rings that secure the ends.  Spent an hour or more cleaning up the mess left behind, to include where the coolant had dropped onto the top of the front differential.  No wonder I'd not spotted any coolant pooling on the ground, it would then evaporate as I drove.

After firing up the engine once more and verifying the tube was holding pressure, I went for a test ride.

I went to the small hills nearby, close to where I'd parked before at the metal cross memorial, this time posing Mariko by the heavily eroded edges of the small flat dirt hills.

The whole recreation area was crawling with dirt bikes, ATVs, UTVs, other four-wheeling vehicles....most of them careening at high speed in the dunes, never mind the 10 mph speed limit near the camping areas!  

The four-wheelers, ATVs and dirt bikes I'd seen careening about from the above location ended up converging on my location so I left and headed back towards camp.

As I drove the main trail, with its 10 MPH limit signs, a column of dirt bikes went racing in the opposite direction, each pretty much blinded by the dust of the preceding rider and me on the trail facing them!  Its quite fortunate they saw me as I saw them emerge from dust clouds and no collisions ensued.

Back at the campsite, I grabbed my wallet and headed out of the recreation area.  Had another near miss with an incoming truck towing a trailer with an ATV, he wasn't minding the speed limit either.  

Finally outside where the ATVs and OHVs couldn't go, I drove over to the nearby conservation area where I'd seen a wind mill previously.  Found a spot where the only thing I could hear was the wind and just relaxed, reading my e-book.  

About 12:30 or so, made my way back to was all quiet, I guess all the motorized fans of dune riding were having lunch.  Or perhaps enough collisions had occurred to keep them busy.

Had lunch myself, checked the coolant reservoir and it was down to the low level but at least it wasn't empty as before!  I filled it up to the halfway mark and we'll see how things look after tomorrow's driving.  It's supposed to get pretty windy after noon tomorrow so a run into Safford for more coolant is probably in order.

Update: 7:41 PM
It's dark though the moon is casting some light.  Just had, like last night, a large group of ATVs drive nearby with their LED lights blazing away.  Not sure what the attraction is about driving off-road in the dark and the only thing you can see is the area lit up by your lights, add in the dust from the preceding vehicles and I'm sure it's a recipe for trouble eventually.  I'm just hoping some idiot doesn't end up in my camping area, lost and out of control due to speed.

Thursday, February 25, 2021

Changing campsites and a camera malfunction.

I decided to displace to a better campsite within the Hot Well Dunes Recreation Area this morning, it's a bit more secluded/isolated and away from the UTV crowd that showed up last night.

It was within walking distance of site 11 where I had been so not a big hassle.

Not sure if it was the same road runner but one of them showed up at the new campsite, walking around the URRV like he owned the place.  I followed him around and once he was in the light, I activated the zoom on the Sony HX80....griding noise and the camera displayed "turn power off and back on" on the LCD screen.


Many attempts at rebooting it later, I got hold of Sony tech support and they're having me mail the camera to them for repair under warranty.  Apparently, dust and dirt can get into the lens housing/assembly and jam things up!  Delicate things these cameras with the popout lenses!  Perhaps it's a Sony thing, I don't know.  The tech I chatted with didn't seem surprised when I mentioned the dusty conditions around here.

Didn't do any driving with Mariko today, just didn't have it in me after the camera problems.  Instead, I did cleaning inside the URRV and tried to keep my blood pressure under control.

So, tomorrow I'll be mailing the camera to Martha and she'll take care of sending it onwards to the repair center since they'll be sending the repaired unit back to my home address.

Now down to the Pixel 4a's camera and Thing Two's Nikon D5600, truly a first world problem I know but still irritating to me.

Wednesday, February 24, 2021

Wind Pumps, a Roadrunner and more dune driving...

 An issue-free day as it pertained with Mariko!

She and I drove out of the Hot Well Dunes Campground area and meandered northward, eventually finding four wind pumps while exploring trails as we found them.

Driving along Tanque Road (Spanish word for Tank)
Never did find the tank...

Aermotor is still in business it turns out.
These things are pricey!

Got back to the campsite around 1PM, had a light lunch and just hung out at the campsite listening to podcasts, relaxing and for about 30 minutes, following a visitor to the campsite:

As you might have assumed, the zoom feature of the camera came in real handy since I couldn't really get too close to this fellow without it moving away into the brush.

Drove out again on Mariko into the nearby dunes less than a quarter mile from the campsite and parked her on top of a dune to wait for the golden hour and sunset.

Not many clouds so didn't hang out after the sun set behind the nearby mountain range.  Besides, didn't really want to find my way through the dunes in the dark!  Got back to the URRV with no issues and ended the day with a nice meal and a beer.  Ah.

The only negative?  A couple of campers showed up in the late afternoon, luckily setting up way away from me; however, the site host and I were treated to a couple of the ATVs the new campers brought....ripping up and down the access road in the darkness.  Never mind the 10 mph speed limit eh?

Oh well.  The weekend approaches and this is expected.  I think I'll be staying a few more days, and displace on Monday perhaps.

Tuesday, February 23, 2021

Mariko is a project at times...

 A bit of a stressful day in terms of issues that arose with Mariko.

First, everything was fine as I drove the 30 miles or so to Safford, AZ where the nearest NAPA store was located.  Well, almost everything was fine, she seemed to be idling at around 1100 rpms where normally it would be between 800-900 rpm.  Hmm.

I got there just fine and purchased antifreeze (50/50 mix) and another 5 quart bottle of 10W30 oil.  It didn't take very much to fill up the radiator to the top so being low on coolant is probably not the issue in the ongoing heavy oil usage by the engine.  While I had the hood up I manually moved the throttle lever on the carburetor, checking for binding, trying to figure out the higher idle.

I also noticed, as I put antifreeze in, that the nut that held down the lid for the air cleaner that mates to the carburetor was missing!  Must have vibrated off or I forgot to put it back on.  Regardless, it was time to head on over to the Ace hardware to get an appropriate wingnut.

Trouble was, on the way, Mariko would not stay on when coming to a stop....forcing me to restart her via the ignition each time.  Quite worrisome.  Best I can figure out, my manually actuating the throttle lever caused the adjustment screw to "back out" and so the light pressure it should have been applying when at idle wasn't being applied and the engine would die.

My continuing thanks to RichardM who figured out what the issue was.  I would have thought the tension spring would keep the screw from moving but hey.  I turned the screw clockwise till the idle settled out and the engine ran smooth at idle.

Tried getting 5 gallons of water at a vending machine but all it did was swallow my $5 and not only didn't give me water, didn't give me change or return my $5!  

Quitting while I was behind, I headed on back to the campsite.  I've had to back off the idle screw twice since then, 1/4 turn each time or less, to try and get rid of the dieseling behavior.  Annoying mostly, but I'll figure it out.  Oh, also changed out the air filter with a new one I got at the NAPA store.

On one of the test rides, I drove Mariko into the sandy dunes, heading towards nearby rock formations:

After the above pic, I got slightly misoriented....OK I got lost trying to make it back to camp.  A whole bunch of wandering back and forth later, finally stopped at this other rock formation and looked at google maps to get a sense of direction.

Got pointed in the right direction finally and slowly made my way back to the access road leading into the BLM campground.

Spent part of the afternoon sewing velcro strips to the failed zipper area in the back window of the soft top but it failed during the next test ride, didn't hold up.  Oh well.

As the golden hour came around, I headed out once again into the dunes, this time spotting what looked like a cross atop a small ridge line.  I headed in that direction and managed to find the right sandy trail to climb up onto the ridge:

I believe the cross is just a memorial marker, not an actual grave.  Still, not something one expects to find on BLM land.  

Coming back down the ridge, it was sandy four-wheeling all the way back to this spot:

Finally found the name for this mountain: Javelina Peak

Got back to camp, still some minor dieseling going on so I backed off the idle screw 1/8 of a turn and will see tomorrow how she behaves.  RichardM did mention that the warmer temperatures could also cause the dieseling in combination to my ham fisted efforts at resetting the idle screw.  I'll figure it out.

Monday, February 22, 2021

Now boondocking in the Hot Well Dunes BLM campground, Arizona

This BLM campground is located roughly halfway between the towns of Safford on the north and Bowie on the south.  I've stayed here before, a little short of a year ago: LINK, leaving when things were starting to be shut down everywhere due to the pandemic.

The hot water tubs remain closed due to Covid-19 but camping is once again permitted, at the rate of $3/vehicle per day.  A bargain!  Especially since as a American the Beautiful Pass holder, I only pay half.

I even got the same spot as last time, with no clear line of sight of the neighboring sites so pretty secluded.

As I type this, the only people camping here are a family in a schoolie bus and the rig owned by the camp host and his wife.

It was after 3PM when I was ready to head out for a short spin with Mariko after airing down her tires to 20 PSI from the regular 30 PSI both for traction and ride comfort.

She did fine on the sandy trail I took out to get a picture of the nearby unnamed mountain:

Heading back towards the campground, I did a brief recon of an area where UTVs had carved out lots of trails among the small hills and low spots:

Back at camp, I discovered the radiator coolant reservoir was completely empty!  What I had mistakenly thought was the fluid level was really an inner coating of crud on the inside walls.  Dammit.

Still, the temperature gauge hadn't registered hot conditions so enough coolant must be in the radiator to keep things cool for now.  I'll drive the 30 miles to the town of Safford tomorrow to get coolant, some more 10W30 oil and hopefully an air filter Mariko can use.

I'm hoping ensuring sufficient radiator coolant will cut down on the engine oil she's burning through over the last few weeks.  There's a small chance that not enough coolant could have caused high oil least, I hope that is the issue causing the oil consumption.

I also have to crawl under her tomorrow and ensure no oil leaks which could also be causing the high oil consumption.  So far, I've not spotted oil drops/pools under her after being parked overnight.

Sunday, February 21, 2021

Checking out the Flea Market and some T-Dubing.

 Clear skies today, but a high of only 61°F (16°C) and gusty winds.  It was definitely a long pants and fleece jacket kind of day.


Drove into Las Cruces to check out the Flea Market, searching for a replacement handle for the scissor jack that came with the Sammy.  Found out it was very helpful for me to know Spanish when asking a vendor of tools and stuff like that for this item.  In spite of being understood, no one had one on hand, they'd all left theirs at home, darn it.

The rest of the stuff for sale was of no interest for me except for displays of Hot Wheels cars.  I was seeking a Suzuki Samurai you see but no luck there either.

I stopped at Lowe's Hardware and picked up a 12" long piano hinge and a small band saw, thinking that I only needed 10" of the hinge, I would end up using it all.

On the way back to camp, I cross over the Rio Grande, which is not even a shadow of what it must have been back in the day before things got dammed up further upstream:

Rio Grande, present day

Got back to camp and used the hinge to repair the glove compartment's lid, which had separated where it mated to the compartment's lower edge.

After that task, lunch and some miscellaneous tasks trying to fix the left zipper on the back window of the sammy's soft top, it was time for some T-Dubing.

I decided to pose her at the ridge nearby:

Then it was time to check out Box Canyon Road, perhaps do a recon/recce of it perhaps to try it with Mariko, the Sammy.

First, I came to a sign that pointed to the Box Canyon Dam.  Dam?  Curious, I followed the sandy trail and this is what I found:

Returning to the main "road", it was a lot of negotiating sandy portions, loose rocks, and patches of firm dirt.  Nothing Yagi couldn't handle for the most part; and she's certainly less bumpy than the Sammy's ride!

The back side of Picacho Peak

I finally came upon a portion that I think would have caused me to turn back had I been driving Mariko.  Can't go on the right, and the left had some pretty deep holes among the slick rock.  The middle gap was too narrow for a four-wheeled vehicle,  so you'd have to have a spotter guiding you past the rocks on one side of the other!

Less than a half mile further on, I found a drop off spot where I stopped and decided to turn around.  I did find a spot where I could squeeze Yagi down a narrow channel but the spot failed the second criteria I use to judge further progress:  Can I make it back if things get worse further on?  I had my doubts about climbing the narrow steep slot and so turned around.

The furthest point along Box Canyon Road.

So I retraced my way back to the campsite, with no issues but noticeable fatigue dealing with the deep sand spots as I found myself dabbing more often than on the outbound leg of the ride!

The plan is to displace tomorrow morning and cross the border into Arizona.

Saturday, February 20, 2021

A hike up Picacho Peak and more light four-wheeling

Warmest day in quite a while, it was in the high 60s in the late afternoon though quite breezy with gusty winds bringing a bit of wind chill factor.

Started walking from my campsite at 9:02 AM and would be standing at the top of the highest point of Picacho Peak 40 minutes later.  Yes, several stops to catch my breath were made on the way up!

Near the start of the trail up, you can just see what I called the
gateway rock formations upper center.

The gateway rock formations, things would get much rockier
and steeper once I was past them.

Minimal marking of the trail from the above picture upwards, lost the trail a couple of times but managed to find it soon enough.  There's actually several trails, I guess made by past hikers, which tends to confuse things in the right lighting.

Still, made it to the top with no issues besides having to stop a time or three to catch my breath and wait for my heart to stop trying to leave my chest.

So can you spot Uma and the campsite?

Here's a zoomed in view, at max optical zoom

360 degree pano shot

The following were taken as I made my way back down:

You have to watch your step, lots of ankle-turning rocks on the trail

Someone left behind a mini-Stonehenge trailside

Getting closer to the gateway rock formation

On top of the gateway rocks

Looking down at the remaining trail from the top of the gateway rocks

One last look at the gateway rocks

I just liked the way the light was bringing out
the colors of these rocks.

Made it back to the campsite shortly before Noon and had a light lunch while resting from the hike, even had me a tiny little nap.

Waking from the nap, I then drove out on Mariko to do some more light four-wheeling, down trails already explored and branching off to see others.  No steep hills this time, kept it really light duty.

Some steep trails probably popular with the UTV crowd
Mariko and I did not try them.

Picacho Peak

Looking at Las Cruces and the Desert Peaks

Picacho Peak from near Box Canyon Road

I returned to camp and just relaxed in the warm-ish late afternoon, the strong breeze was still around and I just listened to podcasts to wind down the day.

A good day of hiking and four-wheeling, tomorrow isn't supposed to be as warm as today but it should be warm enough if the winds die down.