After Mexico 5, 14th September 2004

I'd stopped for the night on a mesa just outside the park - an official camp site but free - after taking a photo of an arch in Canyonlands.

There are superb views from my camp site, but I didn't manage to catch a photo. I drove around the Arches National Park and looked at some - well - arches.

I went shopping, carefully closing all the windows as I always do now. Unfortunately I somehow missed closing a quarter light, I left it partly open, and when I got back little cat was gone. If he's out, he generally doesn't go far, and hides under the van. But he was nowhere around. I asked a lady clearing up trolleys, and she had seen another lady going into the store carrying a small cat. I asked at the welcome desk, they said another lady had taken the cat, she thought it might be one of hers, and had left her phone number. I phoned, she had my cat, she said she'd bring it straight back to the supermarket car park. Which she did. I'm very grateful to Mrs Engleman of Moab for looking after and then returning Little Cat.

Now they say once is an accident, three times is carelessness. But I am being very careful. Containing this cat is like juggling jelly. So he will have to have a collar, with his address on it.

I parked up by the Colorado River, again, but at a different site. In the morning I headed back to Moab and picked up emails. Then the van wouldn't start. Turn the key to start, all the lights came on, then, nothing. I thought, maybe, it was a battery problem, and connected my two batteries with jump leads. It had worked before. But this time nothing. So I crossed the road to a motel, the receptionist looked up some numbers, one guy says if you'll get it towed in, we'll look at it. Eventually Marvin Grey offered to come out. I wandered back to the van and started it. Marvin, when he arrived, suggested it might be starter motor brushes that needed replacing. He's 84 years old and been working on cars almost for ever so I believe him. He says if it happens again hit the starter while (someone else) is turning the key. It was Saturday, no chance of getting the van worked on today, so I headed up into the La Sal Mountains and parked by Lake Oowah. This is the stream running out of Lake Oowah.

And this is Lake Oowah.

I don't know the altitude but it's high. And cold. 10,000 feet or so I guess. I needed my sleeping bag AND my Mexican blanket. That's a first.

In the morning I drove around a touch more, up on the mountains, with astounding views all around, visiting another lake before returning to Moab to take a self guided tour around the "old" houses in the town. I parked for the night east of town, along the Colorado River, near another free camp site. Near, because there was soft sand around the site, not only was I concerned that I might sink there for ever, but there was a high wind blowing sandstorms over the site.

I reached Colorado in the morning, stopped for a moment in Fruita, and the van wouldn't start. Oh-oh! I tried the jump lead trick with no success, and a local lady found me a garage who would come out and look at it. Of course when I got back to the van it started so I high tailed it round to the garage. After a bit of testing I was told the starter is sticky, the starter solenoid is getting hot, both need replacing. OK I said and in quite quick time both were replaced. The engine started fine but thick black smoke came out from near the engine. Oh shit! says the mechanic and disconnects the battery at high speed.

Seems he'd trapped a wire which had shorted out and melted stuff all over the place. He replaced wires and tried again. Something else went wrong, I forget what exactly. It was 5 pm, the owner of the garage said we have to close. The mechanic, Bill, said, but I have stay to fix this, it was my mistake, I have to cover the cost of repairing it. So I said, I have to stop somewhere tonight, I'll stop here, see you in the morning! The garage owner, a lady, says that's OK.

We kick off with coffee in the morning and everything continues to go wrong. A lesser man would have been chucking bricks at the van but Bill plugs on. Bits come and are fitted and blow up. I know for a fact that he replaced the starter solenoid 3 times (or was it 4 times?) As I write most everything is working, I have driven the van around locally for almost two hours with no problem, we know the battery charge meter is faulty, that's quite minor stuff, and is due to be replaced first thing in the in the morning. So I'm parked in front of the garage again. Sam's Auto. I'd come here again except Bill might think I'm jinxed.

It's quite handy in a way, parking here. I can pick up a strong internet connection. I've downloaded and installed the 75 Mb Windows XP Service pack 2 update while I have been hanging around, and tonight the garage have left out an extension lead for me so I have lights without running out my battery. I'd rather be up in the mountains though.

I've got a collar for Little Cat. He doesn't seem to mind wearing it. (I've also got a lead. I'll bet he hates that) Next I have to get a thing to show his address, that he lives in my van. I'll get one of those in Grand Junction. Then I'm off to meet with Bruce Wood, he tells me it is the Snowmass balloon festival this weekend. Be nice to see some balloons again.

Best regards

David Barker

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