Part 1 | Beyond creature comforts like air conditioning and cruise control, one of the biggest reasons I bought a larger truck was so my wife and daughter could join me on on off-tarmac adventures. Not long after finally getting Fezzik registered, I’m pleased to announce we’ve done a little four-wheeling – as a family!
Vanessa, Penny and I met with John, Jill, and Robyn at the McDonald’s on Carefree Highway where it crosses I-17, just north of Phoenix. After a brief catching up, we hit the road toward Flagstaff. Uphill all the way, this drive would have regularly seen Rocinante doing less than 50mph in line with the big trucks. Fezzik handled it like a boss, managing at least the speed limit at all times.
Since the previous owner’s wife never drove the truck very far, they didn’t feel an alignment was important. To their credit, below 50mph, Fezzik is an absolute cream puff. At 60-65mph, though, the severely cupped front tires and blown struts made for a horribly shaky ride. The noises around every curve made me wonder if the front bearings were shot as well.
It was more than a little frustrating, but V & P were in good spirits the whole time, and that made it easier for me to focus on the good things. This was still the fastest, most comfortable run up the hill I’d made in my own vehicle since owning a Galant VR4 several years prior.
Our plan for the day was to backtrack down to Sedona via Schnebly Hill. A long, winding dirt road, Schnebly passes numerous scenic outlooks. Barring time in a helicopter or hot air balloon, you’re not going to get better views of Sedona’s famous red rocks anywhere else.
We stopped a couple times for pictures, and so Robyn could unpack her super cool drone for some test flights. If I haven’t mentioned it before, Robyn used to be my boss. Pretty much the coolest boss I ever had at that. When the company decided to lay her off (and hand most of her responsibilities to John, by the way, whom they said was sufficiently qualified to do the job – just not be titled or paid as such) Robyn put her severance situation to good work, investing in a commercial quality drone.
While Robyn piloted her Inspire off toward red rock bluffs – and John manned the 4K resolution camera from the other controller – Penny, Vanessa, Jill, and I wandered about, taking in the sights at eye level. Penny picked some flowers, I found a quarter on the side of the road (random!), and then a Hummer tour pulled along side us and stopped to watch the drone land.
We hopped back into the trucks and made our way down the mountain toward Sedona. After a few more switchbacks, we pulled into a sort of parking lot and got out for more drone time and leg stretching. Everyone was amazed by the drone. We talked to some F150 owners, a Pink Jeep Tour pulled in for a few minutes, and a couple UTVs rolled past at twice the speed anyone else would find considerate.
Penny Gets to Drive
Seeing as we were going less than 10mph (16kmh) down a relatively smooth dirt road, I let Penny sit on the center console for the last mile or so back to tarmac. She was thrilled. So was I. After almost 20 years of playing cars as a sort of solo thing to be endured by by the rest of my family, I was finally including them and it was great.
I put my arm around Penny as we ambled along the trail. We followed John, Jill, and Robyn in the TJ. Penny loved the new view out over the dash. She pointed out mountains, trees, and big rocks as she saw them, and I even let her put a hand on the steering wheel for a taste of driving. (I still think she prefers flying, though.)
As soon as we saw pavement again, we pulled over, strapped Penny back into her seat, and turned the overdrive back on for a smooth, leisurely cruise through town to our favorite little brewery and hot dog joint – Simon’s Hot Dogs at Oak Creek Brewery. Sitting on the sunny patio under an umbrella, the nachos (smothered in cheese and jalapenos), Columbian hot dogs (covered with pineapple, crushed potato chips, and a special sauce), and tasty beers really hit the spot.
Then this guy, I think his name is Bill Barnes, sets up his guitar and mic and starts playing live music. He even asked Penny’s name and sang a couple songs for her. She loved it and clapped every time. So did everyone else. Talk about a great way to put a little extra bread in the jar, eh?
After lunch, we loaded back up and set our sights on a quick run through Broken Arrow Trail.
To be continued…