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Wife gets turned into a whore.
I'm getting ahead of myself here. Our new camp was in line-of-sight (barely) with a cell tower. We called home for a status check. Carol's folks had handled minor kiddy crises with their usual aplomb. Nobody missed us much. Carol and Ted plugged their mini-laptops into cell-USB adapters and called their office servers to pass emails and notes. Everything was copasetic.
Well, everything was copasetic except the weather forecast. We got warning of a storm moving up from the southeast. The monsoon was a month early!
Wet weather usually blows in from the Gulf of Mexico in early July. The Tucson tradition is: dry on the Fourth, wet on the Fifth. But not this year; I guess those climate-change guys were right, after all.
It was not forecast to reach us till late on Memorial Day (Monday) after we headed back, so no problem, right?
Problems could wait till tomorrow. Oh boy...
Coyotes howled in the distance. Strange lights flashed overhead, and distant roars and thumps. These were not surprising; we were camped just north of the Chocolate Mountains Gunnery Range, where the military practiced bombing and shelling the shit out of whatever. Strobes flashed. Coyotes sang again. Summer bugs flew and crawled. Navy and Marine aviators sped by.
I do not know about you, but I find such flash-bangs exciting. Carol does too. More flashing and roaring overhead, and howling and banging in the distance translated into more banging and howling on the ground. Mmmm...
Dawn brought an earlier start than yesterday. This camp was on the east slope of the Chuckwallas and caught the glare of the sun rising over the vast expanse of the Sonoran desert, flat for well over a hundred kilometers to the unseen Colorado River, the west coast of Arizona. The soft calls of desert thrushes, poorwills, and mourning doves washed around us.
We dressed lightly in shorts and tees for another Breakfast of Champions. We tore down the camp and drove uphill, over a saddle notch, and back to the west slope, into a tight network of deep rocky cuts overseen by eerie Joshua trees and bulky ironwoods, just below the pinyon-juniper zone.
Scooting down a steep sandy wash, I misjudged a turn. We slid and bounced, hard, on a tough granitic chunk of quartz monzonite. I touched the gas pedal; the engine responded, but the vehicle did not. Uh-oh.
Ted and Alice's Sequoia was in the lead then. I honked to get their attention. Ted backed up carefully. We all stood and surveyed the situation.
"Smooth move, smart-ass," Ted grunted. I had to agree.
"Let me take a look." I slid underneath. The oil pan looked okay as did everything else... except the U-joint. It had snapped. Fuck. I crawled out and delivered the bad news.
"You brought tools and spare parts, right?" Carol demanded imperiously.
"Tools, yes. Many spares, yes. Spare U-joint, no. I could maybe kludge it together if we had welding gear -- but we don't." I felt glum.
"How about brazing?" Alice asked. "You packed the brazing kit, right, Ted?"
"Yeah, it's in there," Ted said. "But will a torch-brazed U-joint hold?"
I thought about that. "No, not in really rough use. It'd likely survive a fairly smooth drive as long it's not too stressed -- no sudden starts or stops, just nice steady pressure. But you might have to tow us back to the I-10, or at least to the last downslope. Once we get that far, it's just a few miles on to Desert Center. I can get a U-joint replacement there."
"You'd better get that brazing kit out, Ted; we don't want to be stuck here all day," Carol ordered.
"Yes, your highness, at once, your majesty," Ted mumbled, and grumbled, rooting around in the back of the Sequoia. I did my own grumbling as I dug out the hydraulic jacks and tool box from their storage niches.
We jacked-up the disabled Land Cruiser.