Saturday 24th June – No Escape

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We woke today ready to leave. We’d planned to head up to Flagstaff yesterday but our card playing and sleeping got in the way. Today though, it felt like the right time. Dan was getting itchy feet from being home for a while and I was happy to get somewhere out of the heat. We spent the morning packing, Dan cleaning up his van and me putting on the finishing touches. Needless to say, it was still oppressively hot outside, but we remained composed, doing our runs out to the cars in stints.

By noon we were ready. We said goodbye to Debbie and Peter in the kitchen and we all hoped we’d see each other again. Into the heat, I lead us out of Phoenix, Dan keenly following behind to monitor just in case I had any issues. Cleo looked happy to have her front seat back but she probably wasn’t happy about the temperature inside Dan’s van. My phone turned off within the first ten minutes from a temperature overdose and my fridge was trying desperately hard to get down from its 43*C temperature when I turned it on. I was so happy the Astro was running like a well oiled machine. No engine codes, she didn’t even seem to mind the heat. Windows down, I had the radio blasting.

We passed Lake Pleasant where we’d spent so many of the early days together and started climbing out of Phoenix. This is where it all started to go wrong. About halfway through the 3,000 feet climb, I felt the familiar feeling of loss of power under my foot. Oh no! Not that I was that surprised, I knew it couldn’t have been that simple. A nicked wire? Bullshit. Dan was in front of me at this stage and I wasn’t recovering power so I put my hazards on and flashed my lights at him. Eventually he saw me and pulled over so I could stop behind him. Dan met me with a smile to match mine. I asked him about the hill before us, thinking maybe it would be over soon and we’d be able to roll into Flagstaff. We got going again (just) and the problem didn’t seem to get any better.

A few km’s later, when I saw Sunrise Point rest area coming up, I pulled in and Dan stopped behind me. We figured our best bet was to put the fuel injector cleaner I’d bought into the tank and put Dan’s jerry can of fuel in after it to slosh it around a bit. After a bit of searching for the missing jerry can gasket, Dan tipped the can up into my fuel tank after I’d added the cleaner. When he was done, I bounced up and down on the siderails to encourage the cleaner to mix with the fuel. When I noticed my fridge had cool down to 18*C, I put my phone in it to bring it back to life. When I opened the empty fridge, I realised something looked different. I’d left the basket back at Dan’s place. Bugger. I knew I’d forgotten something and I knew exactly where I left it to. We were wondering if I’d make it to Flagstaff and this was the obvious sign that we weren’t meant to get to Flag but go back to Phoenix.

And so, we made our way down the hill and back into the centre of the inferno. Heading downhill, I had no issues with the car, but as soon as we were on flat ground again, she died and died and died. Each time I had to pull over, slow to a stop, then put my boot it in it to get her going again. With Dan with me, I played with the problem more than I had the first time, trying to understand what the issue could be. By the time we got back to Dan’s I was really crawling but I had an inkling of the problem and a way to test it. All that would be left for tomorrow.

As soon as we parked, we were looking for the pool. We’d stopped at a servo fifteen minutes from home to recover Cleo from the heat. She was in struggle town panting all over the place and needed a full bowl of ice water to get back to some sort of normal state. We could hear Emmi already playing in the water so we quickly joined her. The whole family was here this time on a rare Saturday that Dan’s brother Matt had off. It was nice we’d be able to join them for dinner, the silver lining on a three hour failed test drive in the stinking heat.

Dan, Emmi and I played in the pool for a good two hours, getting away from sharks, standing and jumping on each others shoulders and jumping off the roof into the pool. There was a lot of splashing, shouting and laughter, we all had a great time. Our fingers and toes had turned to prunes by the time dinner was announced and we put some clothes on and retreated inside for a sit down dinner. Peter had made a beautiful steak dinner with spinach, mushrooms and home made wedges. I don’t think I’ve ever eaten a better steak in my life. If I’d cooked that meat I’d have wrecked it. I was feeling kinda glad that the Astro had turned us around.

Shortly after dinner, Emmi announced dessert of peanut butter ice cream. A bit of playing around with Emmi and a bath in the sink for her little sister Eva and the family were ready to retire. We said goodbye and me and Dan went outside for him to have a cigarette. I sat out with him to enjoy the music Peter had put on. It was relaxing and Hawaiian in theme, the perfect sounds for a warm (actually, stinking hot) evening. We were both feeling tired from our afternoon ideal so we retired early to bed, but it wasn’t to last. After watching a bit of news, we were riled up again and too restless to sleep. Dan suggested a walk outside which I was up for.

Cleo in tow, we grabbed our shoes and walked a small block around the neighbourhood, amazed that we could see inside some of the most fancy houses I’d ever seen. My mother would not approve of these people’s living spaces being completely visible to the wandering eye. Obviously curtains or blinds are not in fashion. When we’d crested the hill and walked looking down at the lights of Phoenix when fireworks sprung up into the air. How cool! Apparently they were coming from a hotel in the middle of the city that makes a regular thing of it. Dan only enjoyed the first few bursts before he had to run after Cleo who was off over the hill scared of the firework noises. From what I heard, Dan wasn’t having any luck persuading her to come back to us so I made myself comfortable on the side of the road to sit and watch the rest of the show. I’ll never get sick of fireworks, it was a pleasure to watch.

The show over, I went back up the hill to find my companions and they were coming towards me, Cleo seeming nonplussed by the pain in the arse she’d just been. We wandered the rest of the block, sweating now because it was still so hot. When we got back into the house, we were straight to the fridge for some cold water which we chugged.

It was ok for us to go to bed now, but I was up a while, my head going round and round with the Astro issue and the solutions I could come up with.

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