Eight years ago this week, Tim and I were married on the banks of the East Verde river, under a sycamore tree just outside Payson, Arizona. A Gila County Justice of the Peace met us from Globe, Arizona and we signed the paperwork on a big granite boulder. My sister and Tim's brother were there to witness the ink of an already 6-year-long union. It was a peaceful day, with no onlookers to speak of, and the river was grand.
A Windy Bluff
We delayed a big honeymoon, having just enough time for an escape to the North Rim, Grand Canyon. We had frequented a spot outside of the park which was National Forest and had a stunning, completely surreal view of the canyon from a distance. I won't disclose the exact location for reasons displayed in the coming photos, but likely some of you Arizona natives have been there.
It's a windy spot, on a bluff, remote, and less traveled by consumer campers because of the narrow passageways along the dirt road. Remarkably, the spot shows the remnants of being under sea, and evening strolls include fossil discoveries and what some might say is a paleontologist's dream.
The Happy Home
Long before Pin Drop Travel Trailers was born, we did most of our adventure traveling in a 1952 Happy Home trailer that Tim purchased for $400 from the parking lot behind the Beeline Cafe in Payson. Built in El Monte, California, the Happy Home was an all original 14' trailer that had likely been sitting for decades. For the longest time, we lovingly referred to this trailer as the only home we actually owned and it took us to remote destinations that it was not likely (for sure not) made for. It was a loyal companion along rocky, forgotten, washed out dirt roads and a shelter during inclement weather while we accessed lonely vistas and unseen camps across Arizona and the southwest. It would tag along with a few whines and moans but ultimately joyed in providing us a few comforts while isolated from all things and all people.
About 40 minutes from the north entrance of Grand Canyon National Park, this favorite spot is naturally a way to camp remotely and still easily access the park's hiking trails, canyon views, and of course indulge in a celebratory happy hour at the lodge.
We had supplies for a week and anticipated the changing weather patterns. We cooked food, hiked the Canyon, took naps, drank beer, took more naps, and soaked in the view. It was excellent.
We parted the camp in usual fashion, a bit melancholy and morose, yet recharged. We looked forward to the day's drive. If you are not familiar, the drive back from the North Rim along Highway 89A is a scenic one. It's rocky and deserted and in early June, it's H-O-T hot. The highway follows along the Colorado River and the red rock bluffs on the horizon make for a meditative experience. Drive time to and from remote destinations is often a time of reflection and goal setting for us. We talk about home projects, work projects, current challenges and dreams. We passed the Vermillion Cliffs, Marble Canyon Lodge and Lee's Ferry Road and then just before the Navajo Bridge, BAM! a noise unlike any I have heard. Was it jolting, scraping, wobbling, bonking? What on earth?
A slow transition into the parking lot of the interpretive center at the bridge, we inspect to find that the Happy Home's wheel had sheared the lug nuts completely off and the wheel and tire were freely spinning in the wheel base. As most break-downs go, untimely does not begin to describe. We uncouple the trailer, beg the site host for patience and understanding, yank off the wheel and hub assembly and head into Page, the closest town with a hopefully-well-stocked auto parts store.
Who predicts a 3-hour layover in Page, Arizona in the heat of the day, locating repair supplies to piece together a broken, obsolete 1952 Happy Home? No one, that's who. Back in the parking lot of the visitor center, we cobble together a new wheel with over-sized metric lug nuts to fit the original, wallowed out hub (so old it can't be replaced), bolt the assembly tight and cross our fingers.
Our return to the highway was celebratory. On the road again. Home bound. Sweet relief. We passed through Bitter Springs and Cameron, saw the San Francisco Peaks in the distance and started dreaming of a cold beer. We always make a quick final stop at Lumberyard Brewing, before the final stretch home to Cottonwood.... and BAM! The exact. same. noise.
This Trailer is NOT Abandoned
Only 40 miles north of Flagstaff, the wheel was back to a free spin in the wheel base and we were feeling defeated. Our plan was to uncouple, leave the 52' on the side of the highway, head into Flagstaff to find the supplies for another fix, and return to fix it. It was around 3 p.m. (I started to envision the future. I saw myself holding a flashlight and locating tools while Tim lay on his back with unthinkable curses screaming into the night sky.)
The fear of unhitching of course was that someone would think the only home we owned had been abandoned. We feared returning to this desolate spot and the trailer would no longer be there. We feared broken windows, missing cookware and bedding, a trailer foraged and in pieces. It was risky. And so, we hung a sign. A plea. "This trailer is not abandoned.....Please don't harm this trailer. It's the only home we own."
An Unthought Solution
As mentioned, long drives are good for making sense of things. They are also good for sorting through fears. It seems the 40-minute drive into Flagstaff gave us just the time we needed to realize we could just call a tow truck. And that's what we did. We called a tow truck and this nice gentleman came and hauled our 1952 Happy Home Trailer all the way to Cottonwood. Why spend money on a honeymoon getaway,