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Natural Bridges Road Trip

Preping for a short seven-hour drive for a four-night camping trip starts a few days beforehand with check lists. It's amazing how one small exclusion can make a disappointing impact. I start with my vehicle service list, my RV safety list, perishables list, photo gear list, day trail clothing list, night trail clothing list, personal safety/security items list, electronics/chargers/cords, meds and more. Upon arrival, if boondocking, send your GPS location to someone when you get a signal.


This trip starts on the 17N to the 40 E then to 89A N. I stop in Flagstaff for gas and carbs before heading over the mountain pass and down into the long and windy (just had a Beatles moment) high desert stretch. Sustained 35 plus knot winds were sending walls of sand and hundreds of tumble weeds across the highway constantly obscuring my visibility for forty plus miles. Great music and audio books really helped get me through this stretch.


As I pass the historic Cameron Trading Post and the Colorado River overpass, I start my approach to Interstate 160 towards Tuba City and Kayenta. It is about an 80ish mile drive to Kayenta where fuel, carbs and some stretching were needed. As I was fueling up a curious neighboring fuel customer asked where I was heading and he confirmed the best route towards my destination (Blanding) was north on the 163. As I did a walk-around of my vehicle and trailer, as I do at every stop, I noticed the slide-out topper was tearing away from the trailer wall and unraveling as the wind was getting into it. I pulled out of the station and into an empty lot to inspect the damage and assess. I had no ladder but fortunately I had brought along a bar stool on this trip and that served as my lift. After an evaluation I extended the slide-out and retracted it but the tear kept it from rolling up tight. I had some Gorilla tape and used it to tape the loose Topper folds down which secured it from unraveling. I have since purchased a compact 12' collapsible ladder.


I Headed north on 163 out of Kayenta towards Monument Valley, Mexican Hat, Valley of the Gods, Bluff and Blanding. WOW! . . a scenic route of classic southwest scenery for your next road trip.


At Blanding I was able to fuel up, fill my fresh water tank (dump tanks on departure) at the local RV park and headed to Natural Bridges National Monument, about a 35 mile drive. I boondocked at the abandoned airstrip and set-up. The slide-out was very challenging as it would not fully open due to the topper bunching up and folding on itself and jammed. I had to park my Escalade right up against it to use the car door as a boost and struggled to get to the top of the trailer. The wind was blowing hard and steady at 25-35 knots. The solution was to detach the topper bracket and pull the 'topper roller' up and back onto the trailer roof, manually roll it out until the folded part revealed itself fully and rolled it back up, tight and fold free, remounted the bracket which then finally allowed the slide-out to fully extend. Getting off the trailer roof was a painful exercise but I managed, mostly injury free and without the help of the Escalade, as the car door had blown closed due to the high winds.


I was very fortunate to have brought a compact cordless with a few star and square bits on this trip to accomplish the repair. Every camping road trip I take I am always surprised at how much "extra" stuff I bring but this is one time I was so glad I over 'geared'. You never know what obstacles you will have to deal with.


Four days and nights of clear skies followed presenting incredible shooting opportunities. The days were for hiking and recon with some photos and the late night nightscapes were spectacular, Virtually no visible light pollution, just dark skies.


Next up; North Rim with reservations at the Park's campground during the new moon star party week. I wonder what challenges await me...


Solo boondocking at the Airstrip



On the trail down to Sipapu Bridge


Inner Canyon hike from Sipapu Bridge towards Horse Collar Ruins


Small shallow narrow canyon heads toward Sipapu Bridge


Sipapu Bridge at sunset

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