The dirt at Freidkinburg now has something to fear
04/17/06 01:24pm

The time has come to prepare my old '90 Blazer for Meghan, who is in the process of getting her drivers license. Since that would leave me without a vehicle, I started looking around for something I could drive to and from work on a daily basis, but also be a vehicle that would make getting to and from and around Freidkinburg a little more fun - enter The Big Brown Machine, my new '87 Jeep Wrangler Laredo.

Our first trip up this year, which is coming in a few weeks, will be primarily involved with moving Rick's trailer up to the north lot - the Big BM will come in handy should Rick's truck get bogged down in the creek beds or washes while he's towing the Fleetwood. After that's done, there's some nice canyons and mini mountains that will get explored with the 4x4. Woot!
posted by Dave | comments: 0

The urbanization of FreidkinBurg
10/19/05 10:34am

So, Rick just bought a used 17-foot travel trailer - a 73 Fleetwood Prowler - complete with a/c and heat, water storage, gas stove/oven, terlit, and sleeping space for 4. He scored it for 1200 donuts, out the door.

It needs a little fixin', but the plan is to take it up to the property first trip up there next year and stash it in the trees behind our campsite. It'll give us a place to cook and eat and sleep if the weather gets ugly, and a place to store some of our camping gear so we don't have to haul it back and forth. Now we're in the market for a little generator to power it, or maybe a solar cell/battery setup.

In any case, FreidkinBurg now has its first permenant structure. Sweet!
posted by Dave | comments: 176

Ok, so maybe October isn't optimal camping weather
10/10/05 03:02pm

Rick took the girls' cousin Ray up to the property last Wednesday, and we drove up Saturday morning to meet them. The drive up was uneventful until a tire started throwing rubber about 7 miles out of Black Canyon City, so we changed the spare (btw, the 1992 Chevy Blazer has an awesome roadside repair kit nestled behind the spare tire), and diverted into BCC to top off the spare tire with air at this little mom-n-pop gas station. The cool thing about this gas station, apart from the painted plywood photo setups out front (you know, those things where you stick your face through and someone takes your picture and it looks like you're in jail or wrestling an alligator or what have you) and the free air is foreshadowed by a hand-painted sign in the window that says '100s OF KNIVES'.

Buddy, they weren't kidding.

Inside was the most ludicrous collection of knives I've ever seen for sale in anything short of a flea market - switchblades, bowie knives, toledo swords, all manner of pocketknives, balisongs with glow-in-the-dark handles, a scorpion made out of about 20 blades, and even a battle axe with a bone handle and a skull mounted around the base of the blade. Ray, being a typical teenaged guy, got glassy-eyed and drooly at the mere description of our knify diversion, and I will probably take him out there sometime in the next few months to let him experience the splendor and buy a pigsticker or two for himself.

Anyway, we got to FreidkinBurg a couple hours late thanks to the tire and store, but the sky was huge and the weather was gorgeous - maybe 80 degrees max during the day. Rick and Ray had already picked out and set up a new location for the campsite, on a gentle slope off the southern hillside, so after a quickie lunch we threw together our tents, and the girls and Ray set off to flying a kite Meghan had brought along. The kite was a 2-line stunt kite, and although the dual controls proved to be a bit too complex for the kids, they had fun spiraling it wildly and occasionally crashing it to the ground or Samantha's head. After they tired of that, Sam and Ray found a few extendable aluminum tent poles up on the hill and used them to pole vault and javelin around the campsite.

Sundown brought dinner, steaks over the firepit and Rick's homemade potato salad. We sat around the fire, slugging back 100 proof schnapps and telling horrible stories about our respective families. The kids made banana boats, which involves cutting open a banana, cramming it full of chocolate and marshmallows, and then wrapping it all up in foil and tossing it into the fire until everything is melty and gooey. Coyotes were howling like crazy on the far side of the valley, so we got to listen to their yap while the fire burned down. Eventually, there was nothing left but embers and we all headed off to sleep. I awoke with the usual camping charley horse in my leg around 3, and the temperature had dropped to about 40 degrees. Even after bundling up with sweatshirts and comforters and the like, it was just too damn cold to go back to sleep, so I staggered out to the firepit, got it roaring again, and hunkered down to wait for the sunrise.

Around 6 oclock Sunday morning, a little before day started breaking, Rick, Ray, and Sam woke up and joined me at the fire. Coffee and hot chocolate abounded, and once Meghan and Sunny were up, we made breakfast burritos and started planning the rest of the trip. The girls were originally going to stay up there with Rick while we took Ray back (they have staggered weeks off from school), but it was generally decided that it was just too cold at night to stick around, so we began to break camp around 10 am. While we were taking down tents and stuff, a couple of dogs from one of our neighbors came romping up to the camp, providing a nice distraction from the drudgery of cleaning up. We finished packing it all up around 11 and headed back to the big city.

A brief stopover in Cordes Junction for lunch turned into an hour-long ordeal, as the only restaurant left there is McDonalds, and it was PACKED. It was so busy there, they've installed an automatic sliding door at the entrance. The half-hour-long line to order went out the door a couple of times while we grubbed up, but we eventually got out of there and headed home.

Next time, more kites, preferably single-lined bat kites that anyone can fly without too much skill. We may even trick 'em out with blades and pins and do some kitefighting. We forgot to bring cameras again, too, gotta stop doing that. There were a good half dozen opportunities over the short weekend where we kicked ourselves for not being able to capture the moment on film or video.

Anyway, we're pretty much done with the property for this year - it'll be too cold and we'll be too busy until spring to head back up. When we go up next year, first order of business is to put a permenant shade up, an aluminum-roofed carport sunk into concrete posts.

Cows: 5
Jackrabbits: 0 : (
Big dumb happy dogs: 2
Ridiculous knives: 100s

Coyotes: 12
posted by Dave | comments: 2

A nice quiet weekend after a nice quiet week
07/17/05 03:57pm

The girls and Rick took off Monday, July 11 to spend a couple of days at Slide Rock and Sedona, then move on to FreidkinBurg on Wednesday. Sunny and I had to work, naturally, so we got us a quiet kid-free workweek, followed by a mad dash to the property immediately following work on Friday.

The drive up was unimaginably hot. It was at least 110° when we left Phoenix, an endeavor that took almost an hour longer than normal since freeway traffic was backed up almost to Black Canyon City. Once we broke free of the gridlock, we were treated to massive swaths of burnt land, and even drove through the spots where the fire jumped the interstate in its march across the Arizona wilderness. Although tragic, the devastation is in its own way quite beautiful -- expansive fields of black stretching up to and over mountains, blighting the landscape now, yet fertilizing the ground for lush regrowth in the future.

While tooling down the dirt roads on the way in, we passed a gaggle of cows with an interesting guest - a donkey. The way he was situated within the group, combined with the frozen stare he met us with, made me think that he was on the lam - hiding out and trying desperately to blend in to the mini-herd, too afraid to move lest he blow his cover.

We got to the campsite just as night fell, unfortunately just missing a rainstorm we had been chasing for the last 50 miles or so. According to Rick, it had rained pretty much every afternoon, sometimes hard, and that we'd get our share of it Saturday... and we didn't. Although the sky filled up with thunderheads and smeary rainclouds in the late afternoon, although we were surrounded on all sides with lightning and thunder for hours, we only actually got a couple of 2 minute drizzles. At least it dropped the temperature a few degrees. The girls had been using our humongous tent in our absence, so we didn't even have to set it up.

Saturday began for me at 4:30, waking up to the typical camping charleyhorse in my calf. I staggered out of the tent, took a whiz on a tree, and sat down under the shade to smoke and watch the sun come up. After 2 cigs and enough light peeking over the horizon, I realized Rick was also up, sitting by the firepit, watching the skyline light up as well. We watched the sun rise and chatted on construction plans for a permenant shade, maybe a storage building, and the realization that our campsite wasn't technically on our land. Our earlier attempts to define exact boundries from the deed turned out a bit off, and we were camping about 50 feet too far east. Next time up, we'll relocate and dig a new firepit and dump.

Once everyone else woke up, we made breakfast of french Texas toast and Lil' Cheesy Smokies with coffee and a jug of Sunny Delight. We feasted like kings and queens, sat around for a couple of hours reading and enjoying the morning, and then headed into Ash Fork to spend some time looking at curio shops, hanging out at the local diner, and generally copping air conditioning wherever we could find it. After that we headed up to Williams to see the train depot (they have a Starbucks that's apparently only open when there's a train in the station), and then turned around and headed back to the campsite, eager to catch a nice rainstorm out in the middle of nowhere. That, of course, didn't happen, so we did our own things for a while. Sam climbed one of the black rock faces that adorns the mountain on the other side of the wash from us, Sunny and Meghan read, Rick took a walk, and I dozed off in my chair.

There's a little site to the west of our easternmost boundry, about 1/3 of the way up one of the mountainsides that rim our property, that was obviously someone's shanty home a while back. There's 2 leveled areas with wooden palletes, a log-framed lean-to in sad sad shape, a sink, and other assorted junk strewn about. Investigation of a newspaper found under some aluminum piping revealed a date of 1998, so it's been a while since anyone was there. With some cleanup, we may use it as the next site, and Rick likes the elevated view so much he's considering it for where he ultimately builds a cabin or a house to retire to - he's as eager to move the hell out of Phoenix as we are.

Dinner Saturday was beanie weenie and homemade cornbread Sunny baked for the trip, and as night fell, we cranked up the fire and sat around it, telling dirty jokes and drinking Boone's Farm (or as Meghan says, 'Boonie's Farm') until everyone eventually headed off to bed. Sam had a bad moment with a spider and was the first to head to her tent because of it, where she then provided us with a good half hour of flashlight silhouette action of her in the tent wigging out on the bugs within.

Sunday morning we all decided to just slam some bagels and creamcheese for breakfast and then break camp and bail before it got all hot again. We had the trucks loaded and the fire doused by 8:30, and shambled back to the Phoenix valley around 11 oclock. Next big outing is planned for October, but hopefully Sunny and I can get out there for a solo weekend at some point before that.

Cows: 12
Donkow: 1
Jackrabbits: 1
Circle of hawks: 1
Bats: 3
posted by Dave | comments: 65776

The weekend after Sam's graduation
06/30/05 09:36pm

The last weekend of June, we headed north with Rick, the girls, and Meghan's friend Zeah. Piled all the adults in the cab of Rick's truck, and all the kids in the back. We left bright and early Saturday morning, stopping in Humbolt to take a whiz in a seedy convenience store attached to a restaurant that we need to try someday called Wendy's Kitchen. We hit this particular spot because Sunny and Rick had stopped there before, back when they initially scouted the land, and Sunny was stunned by the incredibly clean bathrooms. There's also a candy store and an antique store in the strip center that surrounds the place, so we'll no doubt hit it someday when the paychecks are fat.

Rick picked up a GPS locator so we could hopefully find our borders (based on some dubious calculations we derived from a pricey trip to World of Maps). We hit FreidkinBurg around 9, set up the tents and the shade, busted out the chairs, and set out to find our corners. We also pulled a bunch of big ole rocks out of the creek bed and hauled 'em up to camp, which we used to line the firepit. The day was largely spent just wandering around, admiring our phenomenally good deal. The girls spent a fair amount of time changing clothes and swapping shoes and doing whatever else it is that trendy urban teens do out in the middle of nowhere with no power or water.

Dinner was hot dogs and burgers, much to the delight of Zeah, who is 'all about the cow'. Add some Ranch Style Beans (which don't say 'Husband Pleasin' anymore, for some reason), and you have the ultimate camping dinner. Shortly after we stuffed our gullets, we were set upon by a chorus of cows, which freegraze all the lands around us (you can fence your property, which costs big bucks, to keep em out, but you can't do anything to them once they're on your land), so all 3 girls went off to commune with the bovines. For a solid hour, they stalked and mooed and taunted. They tiptoed up to a bull, which turned its head at them, and they all ran away shrieking - until Sam remembered she was wearing red, and suddently froze. After some convincing that the bull wasn't chasing her in some cartoonish fury, she came back to camp with the other girls. Note to self, next time, bring cameras.

After the sun went down, we burned smores over the campfire, drank Boone's Farm, and went to bed.

Woke up to the serenading of cows, and ate a spam-n-eggs breakfast while admiring the herd, which was grazing on the other side of the wash. It was abundantly clear that at least a couple of them had wandered through the campsite while we slept, as there were some fresh mines strewn about.

After breakfast, we re-situated to follow the shade, and spotted 3 HUGE jackrabbits hopping around to the west of us. These guys were giants, spider monkeys could have ridden on their backs like jockeys.. but unfortunately, no monkeys have been spotted other than the ones we brought up with us.

After a good sitaround, we had a sandwich lunch, and started taking everything down and packing up. After a brief detour to dump trash and score sodas (and let Zeah pee, since she hadn't all weekend long) at the gas-n-go in Ash Fork, we hit the road back to Phoenix.

Cows: 25
Jackrabbits: 3
Bats: 1
posted by Dave | comments: 1