US Road Trip Day 14: Stuck in Phoenix

The last couple of days have been physically painful –

I wrote the last post from Carlsbad, NM, after we had visited the Carlsbad Caverns, which are to architecture what the human body are to computers: The complexity of nature-made systems is so much higher than man-made systems’s. The long drive of the following day gave me the chance to think about this, nature vs human-made, architecture, art, cities, etc.

After a night of reasonably good sleep, we left Carlsbad around 6am, going to the White Sands National Monument, still in New Mexico. It was a very surreal experience. Essentially, a big pile of white sand in the middle of the NM desert that doesn’t seem to have anything to do there. It’s well maintained and since we got there early, it was almost empty of tourists and very pleasant. It took us about 1hour to see the whole thing.

The drive to Phoenix after that was essentially made of long stretches through the desert, which I have learned to enjoy as a driver. We got to our hotel reasonably early, which gave us the chance to settle in, catch dinner, and go to bed early. We had to wake up at 6am again in order to reach the meeting point for our ATV excursion.

We rented two ATVs for three hours. The ATVs were nice and powerful. We were given a brief explanation of the handling of the machines, as well as the trail system. It was very nice – We went through a Canyon, and through more technical path. V. did a great job handling the big ATV. I look like a giant on those things.

Long story short, after riding for about 2.5 hours (Which was truly excellent), and right before turning around to get back to the meeting point, I managed to get my ATV stuck on a very narrow trail with steep slopes on each side. I got off the ATV to try to rock it out of that spot, at which point it started sliding down on the side. I tried as much as I could to prevent the ATV from rolling down the valley but all I did was slowing it down as it was dragging me through sand, rocks and cactuses. At some point I decided it was not worth it and let it go. It stopped stuck against a small tree about 4 meters from the trail. I stood up and walked to V. who had not seen what happened. I was covered in cactus spines. It was very painful and it took a good 10 minutes for V. and I to take them all off. It was like a scene from a children cartoon. I was pissed at myself that I let that happen. That trail was way too challenging and I would learn later that it was not the actual ATV trail, but and extension of it, for hikers. I went back to the ATV to assess the situation. I could reach it, but it was stuck for good. I shutdown the engine and accepted the fact that I wouldn’t be able to resolve the issue by myself. It was very frustrating since the ATV was right there, just a few meters down.

The trail of death – I now it doesn’t look too bad!

Assholes – The one on the right breaks down into small balls of spines that you can’t remove without getting stung further. What an ass.

I called the emergency number that we were given. The next three hours were spent trying to recover the ATV. First the “rescue team” from the ATV rental place – which was the same 19 year old kid form Iowa who gave us the ATV in the first place – showed up with some chains on another ATV. The chains were too short. He went back, and got more chains, trying to pull my ATV with his, but it was not powerful enough. He then left again to get the truck (taking V. with him so that she could get to our air-conditioned car) and came back with a big F350 (V8, 400HP, etc.), which he had to drive very slowly through the narrow ATV trails – Meaning I was up there for quite some time. Throughout that ordeal it was very hot, probably 40 degree Celsius (100+ F.), and my left knee started to bother me a bit. I was not too happy to be there. As I was waiting for the truck, I stacked up rocks, but forgot to take pictures of my creation. I even found some bullet casings.

View from where I was stuck for a few hours – Not too bad

Anyway, the Iowa kid started backing up the F350 onto the narrower trail, knocking down several cactuses twice as tall as me, rolling boulder down the canyon, etc. At some point the truck started sliding down and I really thought that we would have a bigger problem. Pretty freaky. It stopped with the right rear wheel not touching the ground, and it was stuck there, finely balanced between the trail and emptyness. The kid revved up the wheels pretty high but the truck would not move. I asked him if it was a four wheel drive, since I was not seeing the front wheels moving, he had a “duh” moment and he turned some key on the front wheels themselves to enable 4WD. He was then able to get out of the risky situation effortlessly. He backed up further and reached the point where he could attach the chains to the truck (The other end of the chain was attached to the ATV). He started pulling the ATV slowly and it came back onto the trail beautifully, on four wheels. It still worked just fine. I jumped on it to go back to V., while the kid drove the truck back. At this point my knee was hurting a lot – I’m not sure how I did that, but it probably has to do with being dragged down by 600 pounds of steel over a few meters.
Positive outcome: The trail that caused me problem is now significantly wider than before – I’d say about the width of a Ford F350.
Negative outcome: The rescue fee that I will have to pay (Though not as bad as this guy in the Phoenix area as well), and my knee which was starting to hurt more and more as V. was driving us back to our hotel.

By 8pm that evening, I was very much in pain and couldn’t move. This is very inconvenient since we don’t have health insurance. I woke up yesterday in pain as well, and spent the afternoon in bed watching episodes of Gold Rush on Discovery Chanel, which comforted me in my hate of american television, but gave me confidence that my initial career choice was a good one. Meanwhile V. visited Scottsdale which she found disappointing. By the evening I was feeling a little better. This morning, I was feeling even better, and as I’m typing this, I still have a bad limp, but I can tell that I’ll be alright. I think I sprained some ligaments and just have to go through the motion of a standard inflammation. V. bought me a sleeve for my knee which is very useful in keeping it aligned.

So this is why we are stuck in Phoenix – I can’t walk. We are staying here two extra days while I recover.

We spend part of today planning our next few days – Sedona, Grand Canyon, Las Vegas. We were disappointed that we won’t be able to do the mule ride:

Rider Qualifications

Each Overnight Phantom Ranch rider must not weigh more than 200 lbs. (91 kilograms) fully dressed. Each 3 hour Abyss overlook rider must not weigh more than 225 lbs. (102k). Yes, we do weigh everyone. Each rider must be at least 4 feet, 7 inches (55 total inches or 1.38 meters) in height, regardless of previous riding experience. Each rider must be able to speak and understand fluent English. Each rider must be in good physical condition. Riders should not be afraid of heights or large animals. Rider cannot be pregnant.

I’ll let you guess which of those requirements one of us could not fulfill…
… I mean seriously 200 lbs.? Is that reasonable? Normal people can’t ride mules, is that what they’re saying?

States visited so far: NJ, PA, WV, VA, TN, GA, AL, MS, LA, TX, NM, AZ

Total mileage: 3525.5 Miles (5673.74 km)

Hopefully these posts are not too long/boring!

2 thoughts on “US Road Trip Day 14: Stuck in Phoenix”

  1. Wow, what an ordeal. Aurel flipped his ATV when he was riding in Arizona so I have a feeling that these things happen more often than you think.

  2. Sorry to hear about your knee, Nico! I hope you are starting to feel better! Oh, and the cacti sound painful!!!

    Noah will be sad to know that you didn’t take any pictures of your stacks of rocks! We have pictures of Noah’s rock stacking sculptures… come over when you get back to the East Coast and I will show them to you.

    Be safe and have fun! Even I have not seen the Grand Canyon yet.

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