Tools, bad and good

I’ve just finished an editor’s project column for the Gear issue that deals with quality tools. The importance of that subject was brought home to me this morning.

For nine years I’ve been using and abusing an excellent Bosch cordless drill, the batteries for which finally died a few months ago. To my chagrin, I discovered that that model drill was one of a very few Bosch made with a battery no longer available. So I put it on my list to buy a new pro-level drill, and until I had the money figured the Sears cordless model someone traded me for construction work a while ago would suffice. It was a nice-looking 18-volt model, and brand new when I got it. Not one of Sears’ professional models, but it should do, no?

No: This morning as I was holding up a panel of sheetrock to secure to the shop ceiling, and driving a drywall screw through the panel and into an ordinary 2 x 6, the gearset on the drill stripped itself of every tooth it possessed. Inconvenient enough that I was balancing sheetrock on my head, and now have to drive 40 miles to town to get a new drill. What if I’d been in the middle of nowhere using it to repair a broken-down vehicle?

It pays to buy good tools.

Update: Mark Weiss sent me a link to, a battery rebuilding service. I already bought a new 18-volt lithium-ion Bosch set, but now I can have my old Bosch batteries rebuilt so that drill can serve as a backup or loaner.

Open House

Overland Journal and Adventure Trailers recently hosted an Open House and BBQ at their headquarters in Prescott, Arizona. Overlanders from far and wide turned out for the event, the longest-traveled being Espen and Malin, a couple visiting from Norway in their Nissan Patrol. Many vehicles, trailers, and equipment were on display and there were presentations and slideshows on new mapping software, a trip to Mexico, and an adventure in the Mongol Rally. Clint Rounsavall was there to present his new book, Adventures From the Trail. Overland Gourmet was on site creating more delicious food made in the outdoors. Thanks to everyone who came out to see us and have some fun!

More photos can be seen at the Expedition Portal forum

Overland Journal and Adventure Trailers open house and BBQ

Chowin\' and chattin\'

Espin and Malin from Norway

Overland Gourmet made grilled peaches and bacon-wrapped sausages

Short trip to Bisbee

Roseann and I managed an overnight trip to Bisbee from our house southwest of Tucson, she on her Honda NX250, me on the long-term Royal Enfield Bullet EFI.

We stayed on two-lane pavement on the way over – Sahuarita Road to Highway 83, south to Sonoita then west on 82 to 80, down through Tombstone. Self-portrait at 65:

. . . and on to the Copper Queen Hotel, historic and stately but seriously overpriced.

. .

We arrived in time to visit some shops, including a look in the window at the Bisbee Bicycle Brothel, which we knew would be closed (only open on weekends). But just a look was thrilling: the entire shop is filled with vintage bicycles and frames.

The next morning we headed south and west, to Montezuma Canyon Road, a dirt route that climbs to the pass at the Coronado National Memorial . . .

. . . which offers spectacular views to the west:

We continued on, through a few shallow water crossings . . .

. . . and out to Sonoita again, and west for lunch in Patagonia. We continued on to I-19 and north, but exited west at Arivaca Road. Rather than stay on pavement again to Highway 286 to head north to home, we cut off on Ryan Ranch Road, another dirt route that skirts the Cerro Colorado and Sierrita Mountains. We stopped at the old ranch house:

. . . came across a Border Patrol surveillance post:

. . . and continued on to home. On the way I found a 20-foot length of heavy choker chain with hooks on both ends that someone had dropped, so I stuffed the whole thing in one side of my Andy Strapz panniers. It made handling much more interesting on the rest of the loose dirt sections – which the Bullet EFI otherwise handled with ease.

Interestingly, both bikes – the 250cc Honda and the 500cc Royal Enfield – got exactly the same 71 mpg for the whole trip.


Four Peaks Pickup 2010

The 2010 Four Peaks Pickup has come and gone, and once again the Sonoran desert is a little better for it. Tim Huber and Danica Moore spearheaded the event and tackled the enormous task with Everest-sized spirit. They brought together the talents and hard work of numerous individuals, families, clubs, groups, friends, and businesses for a big day of transformation. Just under 500 people turned out to clean up almost 25 tons (yes, that’s fifty thousand pounds) of trash from this otherwise beautiful area that stretches west of the mighty Four Peaks, just northeast of Phoenix, Arizona.

Why is there so much trash? Great question. Some will say it’s ignorance, some will say laziness, many will say “because they just don’t care” and obviously it’s because the area is so convenient to a sprawling metropolis of over four million people, but I continue to be perplexed and insist that no reason is good enough to explain it. Human behavior, logic, whatever, I just can’t relate. It won’t compute in my head.

Why would someone seek out a place like this. . .

Four Peaks Arizona

to do this. . .

Again, I can’t comprehend. It doesn’t compute.

The Four Peaks area and the Mazatzal mountains were once home to the Tonto Apache people. Not far north of the peaks lies the site of old Camp Reno, a short-lived military outpost positioned in the region along with others in an effort to daisy-chain the U.S. military efforts along this Arizona portion of Apachería in the late 1800s. There are tales of lost gold mines somewhere around the base of the peaks and accounts of Apaches who continually brought in ample amounts of the metal to obtain goods and supplies. An amethyst mine that is thought to have been originally worked by the Spanish is located on the southernmost of the four peaks and is the only mine in the U.S.A. that produces world-class specimens of this highly valuable gemstone.

The area of the cleanup is a watershed of the Mazatzal mountains, and contains numerous canyons and springs that flow westward to the Verde River. Spectacular buff-colored granite boulders and imposing rock formations dominate the topography and along with classic Sonoran desert flora and fauna create a magical atmosphere that is unique among the world’s landscapes.

The good news is that I see an improvement. When I visited an area along Cottonwood creek that my wife Sharon and I worked on last year, it was in much better shape. Overall, I think there was less trash, and perhaps future efforts and awareness will make a lasting change.

Before-and-after comparison of one of the cleanup sites

Overland Journal sponsored the event with boxes of magazines and raffle prizes that included subscriptions, hats, and decals.

Tim and Danica asked if I would photograph the event this year, which I was more than happy to oblige. The full gallery of images can be seen here: Four Peaks Pickup 2010 photo gallery

Overland Journal’s Director of Advertising, Brian McVickers, with his children, Max and Charlie

L to R: Chris Marzonie (Overland Journal Editorial Director), Tim Huber, Danica Moore (Four Peaks Pickup masterminds) Thank you Heidi for the photo

More links:
Four Peaks Pickup website (more info, photos, and videos)
Tim Huber’s blog, SOAZ “Exploring the Southwest one paycheck at a time” (it’s a good one!)

Getting ready for a 3,000 mile Mexico ride

Riding a 250-cc Honda NX to Queretaro, Mexico (just north of Mexico City) will really challenge my packing and organizing skills – but I think I’m finally getting there. With an iM2400 Pelican Storm Case bolted to the rear rack, I have room for my Macbook Pro, a Canon G10, and power bricks and charging gear in a waterproof, tough and lockable carrier. The Wolfman medium Expedition Dry Duffle holds all my clothes in a cool Eagle Creek Pack-It Folder and a small Pack-It Cube (these are amazing – I wrote about them in 2008 on a safari in Kenya), plus a toilet kit, extra shoes, very light sleeping bag, and a sweater (it’s not packed full in this picture). I’ll use a dry bag on top of the Storm Case for lashing down soft items like liners or extra gloves. The Wolfman Enduro Tank Bag is perfect for my small travel purse from Overland (of course), my iPhone, and a map (in a clear holder on top). I’m also trying out the new First Gear Monarch jacket for women and their TPG Escape pants – they are fantastic so far, and I plan to really give them a workout. It’s really nice to have gear cut especially for women but tough and serious, too – and not pink! I won’t be leaving for Mexico until after Overland Expo.2010, so I’ll get to really hone the setup in the meantime. – Roseann Hanson

Correct website for Brooks-Range

In my recent update on outfitting our Royal Enfield Bullet EFI (Winter, 2009), I let an incorrect website address slip by for Brooks-Range, which makes the excellent ultralight tarps I mentioned. Here’s the link (the address in the magazine should have a hyphen in between “Brooks” and “Range,” not a period):


Surplus aluminum sand ladders

Charter subscriber Allen Padgett was kind enough to write and inform us of a source for military surplus aluminum sand mats (PAP): Colemans. The item number is 251401. Price is $75 (plus substantial freight, one would imagine), for an 18″ by 10′ section. Sounds like a good potential for a group of friends to go in on to save shipping. Each 10-foot section could be cut into two usable five-foot lengths.

Availability is limited.

Hunting with the Jeep Wrangler Unlimited

I seem to have become a magnet for snowstorms—or maybe it’s the long-term Wrangler that’s attracting them. First the entire northern Great Plains got slammed with a where-did-autumn-go blizzard just as Roseann and I headed for Alberta to teach a conservation seminar (even native Montanans were complaining), then the White Mountains in Arizona received two feet of snow just before I drove up for an elk hunt. The upside is, I’ve had excellent opportunities to get a feel for the Wrangler’s handling on icy and/or snowed-in roads.

Roseann and I try to eat as much wild game as possible, to minimize buying into America’s current industrialized and inhumane method of raising beef, pork, and other domesticated animals. So I was pleased to draw an elk tag this year, after two years of striking out. However, when I arrived in Springerville/Eagar in central Arizona’s mountains, I found the area I’ve hunted before totally snowed in and inaccessible. On my first try to get as far as possible up the Water Canyon Road toward the Big Lake area, I pulled out a stuck Toyota belonging to some local kids, then on the way down came upon a Ford pickup that had slid off the road and was within inches of tipping off the edge, held by a strap across the road to a tree.

So it wasn’t just my desertified imagination that conditions were iffy. Nevertheless, the Jeep felt secure in four high. It’s way more stable than my FJ40, thanks largely to nearly two feet of extra wheelbase. The BFG Mud-Terrains applied themselves well as Snow-Terrains. I’ve been genuinely impressed at the ability of the Wrangler to handle long freeway drives comfortably, while retaining four-wheel-drive capability unbeaten by anything else available in the U.S.

Although I snowshoed into the higher areas south of Eagar and found a few tracks, it became clear the elk had moved out. I found a lower wintering ground that was mostly clear of snow, and located several herds, almost all cows, matching my tag. Two days later—the last day of my season—I got close enough to one group of 12 to safely single out and kill a smallish one. It was very late in the day, so I had some work ahead. I field dressed the elk, stashed the quarters on a snow bank to cool (hoping the numerous coyotes, ravens, and bald eagles hanging around expectantly would leave them alone), loaded the backstraps (the choicest cuts) into my rucksack, left my Surefire Lumamax shining on low on the carcass as a locator, and walked the mile and a half back to the Jeep to retrieve the $12 plastic toboggan I’d bought for this eventuality. Two trips later, and 9:30 PM, I’d finished dragging everything out. So we have at least a year’s worth of all-natural elk meat in the freezer—I’m very satisfied.

Why Fool Around?

Why Fool Around?

When it comes to first-aid, the term “wilderness” means any place more than an hour away from definitive medical care. It’s not that hard to find yourself in a situation like this, especially considering the backcountry and remote travel that we so commonly enjoy. It not only makes sense to be trained for such an event, it’s a responsibility. Would you embark on a challenging 4WD or moto trip on dirt roads in the backcountry without a spare tire/tube, tools, or food and water? Of course, not. So, think about the poor logic of being unprepared when someone gets hurt or becomes unresponsive without warning or explanation and you can’t call 911. What would you do? The decisions you make can mean the difference between life and death, or perhaps the difference between a full recovery and lifelong disability.

Wilderness First-Aid course materials
Wilderness First-Aid course materials

In the classroom
The classroom at Overland Training is never boring

CPR Training
Kate demonstrates CPR

Thanks to Overland Training and Remote Medical International, I just renewed my certificate for Wilderness First Aid, or WFA (commonly called “woo-fa”) and CPR along with fifteen fellow overlanders. Over a three-day weekend, Janet Peterson and Kate Earle taught our group how to assess a scene and get to work quickly on helping those in need. There is a definitive protocol to follow that literally uses the “ABCs” to help you keep thinking straight, even after the adrenaline kicks in. The course offered through Overland Training includes CPR (with AED instruction) and some vehicle-focused scenarios. The class is super fun, easy to understand, and will educate you on how to be a better-prepared adventurer. So, why fool around? (WFA?) Get trained!

Treating hypothermia

The Overland Training medical kit
The Overland Training medical kit

Chris Marzonie with the infectiously fun (pun intended) and tremendously talented instructors, Janet Peterson (left) and Kate Earle (right)


Overland Training

Ibuprofen: Hydrate before you medicate – some very practical info from Janet Peterson

Camels at Altitude – An adventure rescue blog entry from Kate Earle