Easter in the Ozarks and AlCan Delayed

Well, I sorta buried the lede in my long-winded “Who is we?” rebranding post. Something something something drive Seattle to Anchorage something something something real soon. And it was to be in May!

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But over over a whiskey video conference last night, we have had to face the realities of our schedules. Or George’s anyway. And in truth, four months was feeling really quick given my own business travel agenda.

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So we’re still definitely going to do it, but now we have to wait so very long until late August. Obviously we’re going to make it up to ourselves by doing another mini trip in the meantime!

Evan has been itchin’ to get his Wagovan, a 1986 Honda Civic with a “push-button” 4WD system, out on a trip since he got it. I was there on its first trip to the Whitewater ORV park:

Oh. And there it goes. And what’s that smell?

But in fairness, he did make it out there and had a ball.

Lo, the little Civic that could… get stuck in a dusting of sand.

Since then, he’s worked on it tirelessly to get it up to speed. And he has apparently concluded it is ready for a roadtrip. I have to admit, much as I like to give him a hard time, I am excite. It’s a plucky little car that seems so determined to get out there and go. And it’s fun to watch.

So who knows stuff about pretty driving and light overlanding in Arkansas? Looks like we’re planning another Easter Special a little to the east.

AllTrails map provided by Mapbox and OpenStreetMap

PlastiDip for the Civic, Xterra the Younger has a Birthday

In preparation for its first foray into our roadtripping adventures with Easter in the Ozarks, the Civic is having a wardrobe change. It all started when Evan was bored:

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So we’re plastidipping the Wagovan. It’s a super cool vinyl paint that sets and lasts a long time, but can also be peeled off at anytime totally cleanly. He won’t tell me what color though. He’s keeping it a surprise for The Internet.

Oh I’m happy to help, and I’m even happier that this is happening to not my car.

Taylor. Though he would love to do this with the truck…

I was in Tulsa for CCDC over the weekend and after the competition ended, I spent part of Sunday afternoon helping Evan get it ready for painting. After many years in theatre, precision taping is one of my specialties.

Oh good these are “Organic” vapor cartridges.

Evan. Getting his respirator ready.

Last time he did this was for the old Buggy back in 2014 when I lived in the garage apartment attached to this makeshift painting studio. I got royally high on paint fumes; it was deeply unpleasant. So we both put on our PPE to only modest effect, as it turns out.

Oh good. My coffee breath is going straight into my nose.

Taylor. Also it was about to get a whole lot worse.

And then we got to it. Or rather, Evan got to it, and I was on sprayer hose management duty:

Plasti Dip is a solvent paint so each layer dissolves and mixes in with the coat below it, producing a very nice, even coat after a few layers. Unfortunately, Evan got a little ahead of me and there was an incident with the hose…

The boop after the first fixes applied. Could be a lot worse, but ain’t great.

Evan tried to blow it out, which caused the ripples to spread outward from the hose-impact. Then we tried painting over it and wiping it down, but because the the lower coats had been liquefied, we ended up being able to see all the way through to the door paint. We decided to let it cure as-is so Evan can either sand smooth or just peel off and start over on that panel. Thankfully peeling and re-painting is actually pretty easy because it’s pretty self-leveling as the paint is applied.

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Fast forward to Monday, while I was out with Kate at the climbing gym, Evan did a wet sand on Sunday’s little boop.

Remember that this is primer! The smoothing out of the error is flawless. It is smoother than the original paint that sprayed down, but another coat or two of the primer, and I seriously believe it won’t be noticeable at all.

I ended up having to leave Tulsa before Evan was able to finish this. He’d been keeping the color a secret, but he finally posted the results of our handiwork. Intense teal it is!

I think it looks great. He’s going to do more cleanup around the masking and trim parts before we head out.

Meanwhile, Xterra the Younger celebrated a birthday two ways this week. Can’t believe it’s been a year.

Well this is not good.

Easter in the Ozarks begins tomorrow! George and I have been making maps:

We have a dozen or so overland / light offroading routes pinned and a handful of hikes that all sound pretty great, all within striking distance of our cabin in Dover, AR.

Whitaker Point. Buffalo River Outdoor Center.
(Yes, this is the hike I’m trying to talk the group into doing with me.)

All of this is scattered around the Ozark National Forest and Buffalo National River.

Carwash Falls. Trails Offroad.

The forest is almost 1.2 million acres and includes the tallest mountain in Arkansas, Mount Magazine — designated in 1908 by proclamation of Teddy Roosevelt. The river was the first “National River” to be designated in the US (in 1972), of which there are now five, along with another ten “National Wild and Scenic Rivers.” As it turns out, I’ve already been to two of those: the Ozark National Scenic Riverways in Missouri and the New River Gorge National River in West Virginia.

Unfortunately, we have a few launch blockers.

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Evan’s 4WD Civic, around which this trip was kinda planned, is ill. It still has trouble at highway speeds and despite many hours of his own wrenching, he hasn’t been able to clear it. Like in December, I think it’d be fine for the trail driving, but getting there would be problematic.

And then we have Brady’s Sidekick. I was really looking forward to a trip out with this one. But it was having some trouble that was traced down to a blown head gasket. Simple enough, Evan did his on the Rover last year.

But when he got in there, he discovered the problem was a bit worse: it has a cracked cylinder head. So this vehicle is out for the trip.

And then there’s this:

National Weather Service office for Austin and San Antonio.

See, the rest of the group is coming from Tulsa, which is about a 3 or 4 hour drive. From Austin, it’s 9 hours. So I had planned to leave tonight and work from East Dallas tomorrow, to get me in closer to a reasonable hour. Unfortunately, NWS Austin/San Antonio is predicting tornadoes and baseball size hail along the I35 corridor north of here.

Lane T. / Yelp.

There’s a TxDPS rest stop with multiple tornado shelters in the middle of this forecast area, between Jarrell and Salado, called the Bell County Safety Rest Area. It was constructed in 2008 partially in memory of the Jarrell Tornado. A placard in the station reads:

The tornado slammed into town with winds over 261 miles per hour. Within those few seconds, the tornado left 27 people dead. The twister destroyed about 50 homes, ripped pavement from roads, debarked trees and carried dozens of automobiles more than half mile away from where they were parked. There was nothing left in a three-quarter mile wide swath left in the tornado’s wake as it swept to the south-southwest.

Driving directly into this area under a severe weather advisory seems unwise. So all in all, not the most auspicious start to a trip we’ve ever had…

The things we do for love. Of roadtrips.

I got moving very early.

Car clock radio showing 4am departure time
It was so early even my my phone camera was blurry-eyed. That’s how that works, right?

Before I went to bed last night, the NWS walked back their severe apocalypse warning:

The storms which prompted the warning have weakened below severe limits, and no longer pose an immediate threat to life or property. Therefore, the warning will be allowed to expire. Frequent lightning and wind gusts over 40 mph will still be possible with this line of storms. A Severe Thunderstorm Watch remains in effect until 200 AM CDT for south central Texas.

My apartment roof sounded like it was going to blow away last night, but there was thankfully no hail. The drive was fine. It was rainy and I could see lightning in the distance to the east most of the way up, but things are now overcast and getting brighter. I made it to Sulfur Springs this morning before work started, which is just shy of half way and it’s also interstate the whole way so I can make quick work of the rest of it once I can call it a day.

Welcome to Arkansas

The “almost halfway there” proclamation may have been slightly over-stated but I made it before it was too late.

The rest of the trip was mostly uneventful for me, just scattered rains and fog for the rest of the way in. But off the side of the highway, every river and creek crossing was flooded. So that’ll make things very interesting.

Evan’s Civic is running well after a replacement fuel tank sock and a richer mixture. Kate and the Jeep, who readers of this site have yet to meet, are doing well, but the A/C leaks terribly and she got a warning for speeding. I assume everything was fine for George in the Renegade, aside from stopping for gas a million times.

We’re staying at a little cabin outside Dover, Arkansas that the owner calls the “WanderLost.” At some point between poking around the place and having a celebratory “we survived the highway drive” beverage, we’ll figure out what we’re gonna do tomorrow…

Apparently the Ouachita National Forest is just like the Ozark National Forest but with a three drink minimum.


Fire Towers and Water Crossings

George, Evan, Kate, and I all had today off, so we spent the day meandering between interesting things that we didn’t think Brady would miss since he didn’t get in until this afternoon.

The group acquiesced to my hiking request and so we were headed vaguely toward Whitaker Point all day, mostly on unpaved but calm county roads through thick forests, electric green with fresh spring leaves and peppered with purple flowers. And the sun finally came out, after yesterday’s crazy weather! But there sure were a lot of water crossings. A helluva lot. I was proud of the Civic though; it handled them all quite well. Especially considering that its alternator is on the bottom of the engine, so it really shouldn’t take too well to the dunking.

On the way, we stopped to dry off and have a roadside snack at Devil’s Knob Fire Tower. There may or may not be photos floating around somewhere of me climbing up the tower to get better photos. Don’t tell anyone.

Almost to our next stop, Evan’s car suddenly broke down. It stalled going down a hill and wouldn’t idle / stay running without lots of gas. He poked around the engine for a few minutes before declaring that “something must have fallen out.” Uh…huh…

George and I started walking back up the road, not really sure what we were looking for. Until I saw a glint in the dirt in the distance.

That was the idle jet that should be screwed into the back of the carburetor. We’re pretty lucky we found it because they’re apparently rather expensive for seeming so insignificant. But in the words of a favorite TV character, “It’s nothin’ ’til you don’t got one, then it appears to be everything.” Evan actually only knew what it was because he was watching a video earlier this week on servicing his carb and they mentioned it.

We drove the rest of the way into Oark (“OH-ark”) a bit delicately, trying to offer the Civic a bit of a break. We were headed to Oark’s General Store for charcoal.

But between the breakdown anxiety and the late hour, when we smelled their burgers, we opted to make a lunch of it. Sorry, Brady.

After lunch we tried to make our way quickly over to Whitaker Point through another overland route. There were a few more water crossings and a tiny bit of rockiness, so this was a fun little road. Unfortunately, then we encountered a bit of a river.

So we backtracked to the highway, which was a gorgeous twisted ribbon of a road, so I didn’t feel bad about it. By this point, we’d spent most of the day trying to make it to Whitaker, and Brady was already there. He met us at the turn-off in his Scion FRS. It would have been lonely on the side of the highway, so he decided to follow us on the dirt roads to the hike in it. Suddenly the Civic wasn’t the shortest in the group anymore. And from the view behind, it seemed to go well. Apparently he needed a new pair of shorts after this.

Whitaker Point was amazing. A fairly short hike, just under 3 miles. But I “forgot” to warn everyone that it was a downhill-first out-and-back kinda hike… It runs along the top of a bluff out to a rock formation that juts out over a valley. I am so glad we went.

After the hike, Evan and Brady got on the road back to the cabin. Kate, George, and I wanted to hit up one more fire tower nearby, Buffalo Tower. It was up a much rockier road, but probably not even a mile.

Pay no attention to the razor wire between me and my car…

After it was finally dark out, we discovered it’d be almost an hour on the twisted highway back to the cabin, but chili was waiting. Overall, a great first day. Not sure what tomorrow holds yet, but we’ll drink about it.

Oh and another thing — I spent the entire day taking pictures of my tiny car.