Tag Archives: Williams

How to Make Your Husband Disappear. Poof!

Precious hours had been wasted waiting for a thaw at our campsite in Williams which clearly wasn’t going to happen that day. We should have packed a sledge hammer and chisel as we were frozen into place.

Completely unused to and unprepared for it, our mental functions weren’t cooperating at 15°F, probably lower taking into account wind chill, but we didn’t need a weatherman to tell us it wasn’t the weather for standing around, scratching our heads and thinking hmmm, now what do we do? More by desperation than determination, we prized the trailer off the frozen ground with a screwdriver, a hammer and swear words and pressed on.

Next was the actual hitching up of the car to the trailer. At some point in the previous months we had taken up divorce free docking, a technique which involved switching roles to keep our marriage intact. Now I reverse the car while Jimmy gives the docking hand signals. This allowed me to appreciate what himself had told me all along, how sensitive the accelerator is when the car is in reverse. Jimmy has learned for himself how difficult it is to position the hitch over the ball on the trailer without standing directly over the hitch and using stupid little finger gestures which need to be visible at all times in one or the other of the rearview mirrors. To eyeball the mission’s progress one must be on a collision course with a car driven by a spouse who has already been snapped at that morning.

Part of the tow kit is two “lead” bars, of a heft and length that might be useful to a gangster, attached to the hitch on the car which Jimmy had put in place the night before for a quick a.m. getaway.

I had been tentatively backing the car on icy ground onto the trailer guided by his confident hand signals when I heard a yelp and he vanished, like a magician’s assistant. Certain I’d run over him, I leapt from the driver’s seat. Expecting to see him trapped under the wheels of the car it crossed my mind, well he told me not to stand there.

I found him doubled over, hands on knees, wheezing and speechless with pain. After some gasping and pointing from him I understood that the “lead bar” had attacked him. We examined the damage to his ankle to find he’d lost a large flap of skin. There was nothing I could do for him, except to think to suggest that we pack the wound with snow to stop the swelling. I kept that little nugget of medical wisdom to myself for about two hours when the pain had subsided and he’d warmed up in the car. He was then able to smile weakly at the thought of the relief it could have brought and the modicum of humor in the situation.

We’d also had some sewer pipe issues earlier which I won’t explain in graphic detail but rigid plastic and seriously cold weather don’t go well together. A stop at the first rest area on the interstate ensured everything was still well contained and traveling along with us to a warmer place where we could get rid of it. The next snowfall at the last campsite would blanket the mishap we had.

Once off the interstate, we crossed the Little Colorado River and mini canyon and bowled through the Painted Desert. Extravagantly colored hillsides flashed by the car window so quickly I hardly took them in. “Look! Oh! That must be . . . awww. It’s gone.”

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Disappointment was replaced with awe as we entered Monument Valley. We warmed up and cheered up as the sights took our breath away (the second time that day for Jimmy).

Our first glimpse of the famous red rock monuments.
Our first glimpse of the famous red rock formations of Monument Valley.

We camped right in Monument Valley on Navajo Nation land. The terracotta earth was dry, the glowing canyon walls rose above us, our view to the east was of a landscape that has graced dozens of western films and the temperature only dropped to 20°F that night – positively balmy.

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Here we are camped right in Monument Valley. Blue skies. Warm earth. Ahhhh.
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Look at that view! That’s for real. Not a movie backdrop.

The contrast between Williams and Monument Valley couldn’t have been more striking. In a country of three and a half million square miles, our journey from one to the other had been miniscule – 207 miles – and yet we’d left a bleak grey/white unutterably cold landscape and arrived in the welcoming scene that is Monument Valley. The valley floor and walls were warm to the touch. Our demeanors soared. The wind had dropped, the air was dry. The setting ebbed the tension out of our bodies.

I would have been able to sit comfortably outside and vegetate if I hadn’t felt the need to start taking the first of the 500 photographs I would accumulate in the next three days. Not a single one of them needed to be deleted.

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Please indulge me by glancing at a few photos. It’s so hard to pick just a few!!!

Frozen in Place, Help!

5°F? Surely not.  Our last night at Williams where we camped in order to drive up to the Grand Canyon I slept until about 3:00 a.m. when the cold started to ooze through the walls of the trailer. My freezing nose, all that was exposed, kept me awake. When I could stand it no longer, I leapt out of bed to turn up our blast furnace, put the kettle on for tea and retrieve a thermometer from the outside step. It said 5°.

View from our campsite. Tell me that doesn't look cold!
View from our campsite. Tell me that doesn’t look cold! Those are straw bales insulating the water hookups.

I blinked and looked again certain I’d read it wrong and watched the mercury quickly rise through 10° and 15° in the relative warmth of the trailer. The cold outside didn’t seem to matter at the time as the few cubic yards of the trailer soon cozied up with the fire breathing dragon that is our forced air furnace.

As it happened the cold outside did matter. We soon discovered that the trailer was frozen into place.

We’d pictured in our naïve European minds the whole of Arizona as a sunshine capital, warm and bright in the winter and blazing in the summer. Parts of it are like that. If I’d read Wikipedia beforehand I would have discovered that “the northern third of Arizona is a plateau at significantly higher altitudes than the lower desert” and “extreme cold temperatures are not unknown.” Well I know that now.

Ok you guys from the north, I know that doesn’t look like much snow to you.
Ok you guys from the north, I know that doesn’t look like much snow to you.

Let’s be clear about this. We are tourists traveling in a trailer, not campers who enjoy roughing it. We don’t, and never will, own hiking boots. Any trail requiring more equipment than a pair of trainers is off limits to us. Many people around the world tolerate and cope with frigid temperatures every winter and in considerably less comfort than we are able to afford. Some hardy souls sleep in tents in this weather. For fun. We hate the very idea of it.

I know I'm smiling at the camera but Crikey! it was cold.
I know I’m smiling at the camera but Crikey! it was cold.

The day before, I’d seen an earnest young man, his narrow back heaped with camping gear, stride off from the trailhead at Grandview Point – a viewpoint for sissies and inappropriately shod tourists at the Grand Canyon – and disappear from view at three o’clock in the afternoon. It would soon be dark . . . and cold . . . very, very cold. We stood on the rim and admired the canyon from the chilly height of 7,000 feet. As the backpacker descended from us he would get warmer, even snug on the canyon floor, but I’d visions of the poor fellow sinking into the bowels of hell, at least my version of it.

The plumbing on trailers is vulnerable to freezing weather so we always take precautions when freezing temperatures are predicted, disconnecting hoses, draining tanks and bringing inside the trailer gallon bottles of water for bathing and washing dishes. It was laborious to heat our washing water on the stove but that day it was a way to procrastinate going outside.

When we could put it off no longer and forced ourselves out to begin the hitching process by winding up the corner jacks, our steadying supports, we found they were concreted into the ground. Successive thaws and freezes had done the work. Forcing the mechanisms would break them and little kicks rewarded us with stubbed toes and jarred ankles. Jimmy gave the base of one of the jacks an angry jab with the jack winder and impaled it into his palm, drawing blood and bad words.

Within moments of stepping outside of the trailer we had become numb in the frigid air. We were frantic to leave Williams before having to suffer another arctic night. How could we possibly get out of this predicament?

The Grand Canyon train arriving into our bleak landscape just before dark.
The Grand Canyon train arriving into our bleak landscape just before dark.