The beginning of the End

We left the Valley of Fire and headed toward I-15 on Valley of Fire Highway, passing quietly through the guard gates in the early morning. Along the way we saw several great boondocking sites on the road outside of the park boundaries that we may have to revisit, and before long we emerged to fill up at the gas station at the intersection to Las Vegas Freeway (I-15).

The kids had taken off earlier and  were well on their way to our next rendezvous which was to be outside the Grand Canyon around Williams. We cruised through Las Vegas and across the Hoover dam before cutting down state highway 93, stopped off to get some brake pads….because there is not a trip that we make that we don’t have to do a brake pad change. Little did we know, brakes would be the least of our troubles.

The spawns had gone ahead to Flagstaff to procure some new boots for Kepler after a recent shoe fiasco at Arches National Park and had planned on a short return to the next stop. Unfortunately as we climbed the grade on the Purple Heart Trail highway leaving Kingman, AZ the truck suddenly lost power, and a plume of smoke emanated the underside. We were fortunate enough to have enough “umph” to pull off to the shoulder not 100 yards from the exit ramp… dang it! In my head I was rationalizing anything that would rule out a blown out transmission. “Oh…. it was a bad transfer case, or it was this, that, or the other”

Nope…we lost the transmission on our brand new (to us) tow vehicle.  Luckily we had AAA and they were able to dispatch a truck to come tow us. When the tow truck arrived he was taken aback by the presence of the goat and said he didn’t usually transport pets, and in particular farm animals. But after we asked frankie to go pee pee on command he relented. With the truck on the flatbed, the Argosy hitched, and Frankie in the back of the cab he took the camper to the Kingman KOA Journey RV park and the truck to One Stop Automotive . Long story short, we happened to be in a town with a transmission distribution center and while expensive, we only had to wait 3 days for the repair!

In the meantime the days with the kids were drawing to a close and one of our highlights was supposed to be the Grand Canyon, and due to the breakdown it looked like this would not happen. We recalculated and thanks to the generous support from Cate’s art buyers we were able to rent a car for the 1.5 hour trip to the canyon (and pay for the transmission). The car rental service had a strict no dogs policy, but they said nothing about goats. Oh well… 🙂

We all piled into the rental and took off down the road to the South Rim of the Grand Canyon where we hiked along the Rim Trail ( since it was goat-friendly).

As the day drew to a close, we loaded back up into the rental and headed back to Kingman. About halfway back, the most amazing sunset I have ever witnessed in my life unfolded in front of us. We pulled over (along with several other cars) to take pictures and revel in the beauty. The kids were due to leave the next day and head back to North Carolina, and it seemed like such a poignant moment on our journey.


The next morning, after an incredible meal prepared by chef Kep (the night before) we returned the rental, picked up the newly repaired Yukon, bid tearful adieus to my wonderful children, and watched them drive away. They are the most wonderful traveling companions anyone could ask for, and it is my hope that their journeys together will only help to strengthen their bond with each other as well. I hope we can do it again.

Suddenly and sadly Cate, Frankie, and I were alone. We still had a fair bit of road ahead of us, and a few things we wanted to see (and wanted to experience with the kiddos if it hadn’t have been for the breakdown).

So we hooked up the camper, and pulled out of the KOA, our hearts were both happy that we were able to spend a month adventuring with our kids, and heavy at their absence.


  1. Enjoyed your wonderful post – oh my, a set of brake pads per trip, wow! You must be quite the rapid brake changer by now, lol. What a joy to spend a month with your kiddos, super cool. Frankie pees on command, wow! With a sunset like that its easy to see how the Valley of Fire highway got its name. Keep on trucking , love your adventures ~

    1. Thanks for the kind comments. Funny you would say that, I am like a racecar pit crew mechanic. I can change a pair of brake pads (two tires) in 20 minutes flat…. and usually in a city park or an auto zone parking lot with minimal tools. Also once you buy auto zone brake pads you never buy any more, just trade them in for warranty every time!

  2. If I ever win the lottery I’m buying you a Brand New truck with Warranty written all over it! Thank you for sharing the good and the bad times of life on the road!

    1. Oh my! You are too kind! Happy bird day! Yep we sure could use a brand new truck, but where is the adventure in that? Kidding….hahahahaha.

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