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  • Writer's pictureKelsey

A three hour tour...

Well, as we were driving over to the monthly “Mid week meetup” we stopped at the local store to fill a growler to share. We went to start him... click... click... Damn! We had a charging issue. Thankfully I was able to push it and Kelsey popped the clutch in 2nd gear and he roared to life.

We still went to the meetup and hoped it would start when we left. It did, barely. The worrying part were the headlights that got more dim with every mile we traveled home. This was not good! After an evening of reading up about Voltage Regulators, adjusting the points, testing the Alternator etc we got to work. We cleaned and re-tightened every electrical connection in the chain of wiring from the Alternator to the battery.

In the end... it was a little glass fuse in the fuse panel marked “engine.” Son of a...Why didn’t I check that first!

Well, if it’s charging, we’d better do a little shake down run with what was left of the Saturday. Something simple... and easy. Right.

We headed up the freeway with the alternator pumping out plenty of amps and hit dirt near an old town called Bumble Bee. We took some much needed air out of the tires and turned off the main dirt road onto a lesser one. Then again onto a rougher one. The ride in Tonto can be bouncy and rough, but 18PSI made all the difference. We were happy trundling along. I’ve never met a vehicle that so well defines the word “trundling.” We had the stereo blasting. (A battery operated bluetooth speaker sitting on the dash).

Within a half mile we were at a pretty good size river crossing. I was acting more confident than I was. I know that if K senses I’m worried, she will get more worried. A kid on an ATV blasted down the road behind us, looked at the water and turned around. Before he left I asked him where the best spot to cross was and he said “Oh, I don’t know , I just wanted to see if you were going to!”

Great, I figured we’d dip Tonto’s toes in to see what the bottom was like and how deep it was. We just kept dipping and realized the river was rocky bottomed and only a foot or so deep so we keep going. A short while later the trail was full of traffic.

Just trundling along, the sites were beautiful. The desert was alive and green. I was practicing my left foot braking on the up hills and flat stuff. It made the ride so much better, but it’s always a disconcerting thing to do. Tonto was doing great.

The creek which we’d cross about a dozen times...

Pretty views, so near to town. We quickly reminded ourselves that we must never discount the trails so close to home.

Break time!

Ol' Tonto sure is photogenic.

Time to get moving. Crossing number 2. I didn’t like the look of that lip. It took a second try so I backed up and took it up to a wild 2 mph in second gear low range and he hopped right up.

Time for some slow work. This rock cut was a steep step up and then down with it leaning out to the river. Nothing too crazy, but with a manual it took full concentration.”Don’t look stupid, don’t look stupid, don’t do a slow roll into the creek!”

Nice and easy. Slow and steady.

Time to cross again!

Then we heard a swarm of bees. That’s never good. Thankfully, it was just a group of lost golfers. One of the carts got a bit sideways on the hill climb and almost went over the edge, but he recovered and didn’t spill a drop of his beer.

We let them pass, but a hundred yards later they were all stopped at the next water crossing so we decided to go around them and have a look for ourselves. No worse than the last few, I decided, so we kept moving along.

At the next crossing we came upon a couple of Jeeps looking at a crossing. Emboldened by the previous ones we went around them. It took a 2 punch to get up the latest one. It was the toughest so far, but thankfully the water was shallow enough that if you didn’t make it, there was no sinking penalty.

It was really the step-up that was the issue.

We decided to hang out and make sure the Jeeps had no issues.

Same basic scenario, try once at low speed, no luck. Try again with a mile an hour or two and he popped right up. These guys were sensible drivers. K and I headed on forward.

Oops... Let me explain.

We came to another crossing, was it the next one or the one after the next one, I’m not sure. All I know is that mid crossing the hood dipped under water. No time to get scared, “Keep moving, come on Tonto, keep moving!” We don’t have the luxury of backing into this one a second time. It took everything I had to not mash the throttle. The whiskey throttle instinct is strong in all of us when in trouble. The water was pouring in, but just as it got bad it started getting better. We popped out the other side and Tonto was still running. I turned him off and we popped the hood.

The intake hose has water in it... We pulled the air filter cover and it was almost completely dry. Some mist may have been ingested, but no actual water. Thank goodness. We knew the thing to do was to wait for our new Jeep friends to warn them about this one. They can decide if it’s worth it or not.

They were determined so we stood at the ready and wished them the best. I would guess that about 1% of what I yelled was heard over the roar of the creek anyway.

It got a bit dicey for a moment.

Until it wasn’t.

He made it look quite easy, but for a moment the flowing water did push the truck over to a slightly disturbing angle. I could see that a sitting truck could roll under the force of water if it lost power mid crossing.

Next up, “the David’s”, as we later found out.

It was at this point I worried a bit.

The water seemed to hold onto the trucks with more force at this crossing and this one only. It was just deep enough to really create some suction and it didn’t want to let go.

Still, all in all, it was over fast and we’d all made it. I knew we’d pushed Tonto further than I’d like to have. He shrugged it off as if to say “I do this all the time young man, don’t worry about me.”

We BS’d for a few minutes and wondered about the golfers, would their carts make this one? Engine’s in the rear would be of help to them, but those small tires and low seat height might make for a cold afternoon.

Tonto roared to life on 5 cylinders. I felt a sinking feeling, but I’ve had similar things happen after a water crossing in other trucks so I shut him down.... I turned the key again and he started firing on 6 happily. Off we went.

There were a couple more crossings and each seemed to carry more worry with our minds going back to the deep one. Finally, we were at the last crossing before climbing out of this canyon. On this one we had to simply enter the main channel and drive directly into the water flow for 20-30 yards before turning out of it. Great, nothing like the force of a creek to ingest water into all of the places you don’t want it. I was going to walk this one to see what we were up against. No point in ruining a good day now.

Instead, K offered to walk it for us. As she stepped into the creek and walked all over... at the deepest the level was up to her calf. We started laughing. The final crossing was the most shallow of them all so far.

We knew this one might give our new friends some pause so we hung out for a bit, but after not hearing anything we decided that they’d figure out the same thing we did. At the top of the first hill we could see Cleator in the distance.

Cleator is a gem of an old stage coach and train depot stop. The last Cleator descendant died just a couple years ago, but his wife still owns the establishment.

I took a seat on the old houseboat and had a celebratory beer. We’d had quite a little adventure just a short drive from home.

I have to say, we just love this little truck. Some vehicles are pretty good at a lot of things, but great at nothing. Tonto just had his couple of niches, but dammit was he good at them.

Off we went, the 10 or so miles back to the freeway and then back home. We never did see those golf carts again.

(Same spot 100 years ago)

(Did you match up the two buildings above?)


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