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Tales of a Hay Hauler: The long trip home

Brad Nelson Published on 03 March 2014

Happenings never have singular, simple sources of ideas or objects that make them possible. Within a mile of where I live, there is an auto repair business that includes a towing service.

They advertised an auction of unclaimed vehicles, and I became the proud new owner of a 1993 Geo Tracker. It had numerous battle scars, and the exhaust blew white smoke that smelled of antifreeze. A double dose of Bar’s head gasket sealant stopped that.

With a few other minor quirks fixed, I ended up with a reliable mini-Jeep. My wife let me keep it. As she walked away, I was sure she mumbled something about it being better than a new girlfriend.

The winter of 2012-2013, my friend Kennon moved from central Washington state to southern Nevada. I volunteered to help drive his trucks loaded with a 30-year accumulation of farm equipment to Nevada. The first estimate was for it to be two or three trips. I lost count after the ninth load.

As we neared the end of the move, we discussed how to get me back to Washington after the last load. I suggested hauling the Tracker to Nevada on the last load and then driving it home. The Tracker took up space on the trailer 11 feet long by 5 feet wide.

By the time the final load made it to Nevada, it was the first week in June. Temperatures jumped into the high 90s and the Tracker had no air conditioning. I brought my GPS and my Gazetteer maps of Nevada and Idaho.

With the last load delivered to Nyala, Nevada, and the Tracker unloaded from the truck, I found some exotic stuffing was in order to get all my plunder from the sleeper cab of the Rudolph truck into the Tracker.

Dave, who had worked on the Nevada ranch for eight years before Kennon bought it, was nearby as I readied to leave. “Is there anything I need to go out of my way to see on the way home?” I asked. There was.

Between Dave’s directions and the map, I found the Lunar Crater. Some of the way there the map and the GPS told me I was on the road. The rest of the way the road was clearly in a different place than the map and GPS said it was.

Finally, thinking I was lost, I drove up an incline and blurted, “Holy mackerel!” There in front of me was a near-circular crater about three-quarters of a mile across and some 400 feet deep.

Dave thought it was a meteor strike, but the research I did after I got home called it a maars, the result of a steam explosion caused by subterranean water contacting hot magma.

I got some nice pictures, but the best ones are from a smartphone GPS.

At Ely, Nevada, I fueled up and noted a best-ever 23.7 mpg for the Tracker. I found a car wash and removed about 100 pounds of fine desert dust from the little guy.

It was too hot to drive with the windows up and too loud and turbulent with them rolled down. The wind noise drowned out the radio. The best combination was to open both windows partway, forget the radio and turn off my hearing aids.

I spent the night at Jerome, Idaho. My 2-liter pop bottles of frozen water that had cooled my food were now warm, so I invested in a bag of crushed ice. As the heat of the day increased,

I went to a radical self-cooling plan. I took a double layer of blue paper towel, placed about three handfuls of crushed ice in the center and then rolled it up like a burrito. I parked this on the top of my head, then screwed my hat down tight to hold it in place.

This kept my brain from frying for about three hours, and, surprisingly, without any water running down my face or neck.

I made it home the second night with no mechanical issues from the 19-year-old Tracker. Fuel mileage averaged 26 with a high of 31.

It will be February when you read this. In most areas, you will either be battling winter cold or will have just finished with the cold. I thought this tale would take your minds off of staying warm. I’ll do my best to share an adventure involving snowdrifts next July.  FG