The iconic highlight of the Devil’s Garden is a hoodoo attached by a thin bridge to a larger rock formation. I took way too many pictures of it from every possible angle. The afternoon light and the clouds against the deep blue Utah sky made it easy to get carried away. Besides, pictures are free and I can always delete the duds later.
Sharon and I had wandered away from each other so I took a break from shooting to see what she’d gotten into. I found her sneaking up on a jackrabbit, something we don’t have at home. She does tend to gravitate towards the wildlife, and she ended up with way too many pictures of rabbits (as I did hoodoos).
It was about this time that a couple of families arrived and began scrambling over the hoodoos. Watching them, I was reminded of my time growing up in Arizona. Like we had been, these kids had no fear of heights and were taking turns posing in the middle of the thin bridge of rock that I’d been shooting earlier. I was impressed by both the careless bravery of youth and the strength of the bridge of stone. As we headed back to the car we saw photographers beginning to arrive with their tripods to capture the arch and hoodoos during the golden hour before sunset. We needed to head back to town since our plan was to camp at Escalante State Park.
As we left the parking area, a light on the dashboard indicated a tire pressure issue. We stopped and checked the tires, sure that the offender would be the left front. I banged on the tires and they seemed fine. I jumped in and decided to proceed with all due haste toward Escalante. I turned onto Hole-in-the-Rock Road and drove as rapidly as seemed prudent. Probably 50 to 60 mph. We had 16 miles of dirt and probably another 10 on Rt. 12 before we made town. I was setting a pretty good pace so you can imagine my surprise when a white Dodge pickup appeared out of our dust trail and passed us! There was a dirt bike strapped in the bed of the truck as it was flying by. Musta been a Hemi.
We pulled over again to check the tires, and it seemed like the left rear was a little softer than the rest. Looks like we had a slow leak. We were wishing we’d bought a can of Fix-a-Flat (like we’d talked about during our trip planning. Guess we should’ve followed our own good advice.) The tire wasn’t so soft that we couldn’t drive on it so we continued, although at a lower rate of speed now that we knew we had a real issue with the tire.
We reached the pavement and drove into Escalante. We’d already decided that camping was out and that we’d need to be in town to resolve the tire situation. We stopped again to use the minimart air pump. All the tires were fine except the left rear. It was down 20psi from the 40 it had been before we’d headed up the Hell’s Backbone Road. Just lovely. There was an empty spot on the shelf at the minimart where the Fix-a-Flat should’ve been. Must be a popular item hereabouts. I inquired at the register and was told that the grocery store would have it but they were closed until morning. I figured that the Fix-a-Flat was my best early option since it was the Sunday evening before Labor Day. The chances of getting a tire fixed on Labor Day in this tiny town seemed nil.
I topped off the tire and figured that we’d grab a room and see what the morning brought.
After a drive through town to check out our options, we booked a night at the Prospector Inn ($62/night). Our room was modern, clean and good sized, and right in the center of town. After unloading our luggage, we drove back north on the strip in search of what food might be found in this peaceful little town of Escalante. Considering that it was a Sunday evening, we didn’t expect much but were willing to try any other option than returning to The Prospector.
Escalante Outfitters seemed to have a deck with something going on so we pulled in. Sure enough, next to the store they have a little bistro serving light fare including pizza. They also had a nice selection of cold beer and that sounded great after a stressful hour or so. We sat outside on the deck which had seven or eight hummingbird feeders hanging each with several hummingbirds zipping around it. Our beers soon arrived and we ordered a couple of little pizzas and a salad. After a few sips of cold beer and a few minutes of watching the hummers tussle over access to the feeders, we began to chill out. There was quite a variety of hummingbirds and we asked the waitress about it. She said that they have five or six kinds and they were usually gone by now. They’d be leaving any day. Lucky us! The pizzas arrived and, although we don’t recall what kinds we had, but they were quite good and really hit the spot. We told our waitress of our tire issue and she gave us the number of a local guy somewhere just outside of town. I wondered if he’d be open on Labor Day and she laughed and said, “It's his house so I’d guess he’s open if he’s home.” Better than nothing I guess.
Before heading back to the motel, we drove back to the tire pump at the minimart. The tire had lost 15psi in about an hour and a half. I topped it off but, at the rate it was leaking, it seemed as though it would be flat by morning. Oh well, at least it will be easier to change on the concrete motel parking lot than by the side of the road. The Jeep had a full sized spare so that was reassuring. We watched the tube until 11 or so and then turned in. I wasn’t sleeping well and went out a couple of times to check the tire. It seemed to be holding up pretty well, and I finally dozed off completely at about 3am.
Woke up not knowing what to expect. The tire was low but it looked like we’d be able to drive it to the grocery store to get the Fix-a-Flat. While brewing our pot of coffee, I exchanged pleasantries with the couple next door as they loaded up their matched pair of BMW motorcycles. They were getting an early start headed up Highway 12. They were pretty excited and I reassured them that they had every reason to be.
We enjoyed our coffee and showers and such and then headed off to get our Fix-a-Flat and stock up on ice and gallon jugs of water at the grocery store. Sure enough, they had the tire stuff, three cans. We bought two and left one for the next unfortunate soul who might need it. We reloaded the coolers and headed for the minimart air pump yet again. I wanted to let lots of air out of the tire before putting the Fix-a-Flat in and then top it off with the air pump right before we leave town for Boulder and Torrey.
As we drove down the strip toward the north end of town, we noticed that Thomason’s Garage was open and it looked like they specialized in tires. We’d noticed them yesterday but they’d been closed and we figured they’d be closed on Labor Day. The heck with the Fix-a-Flat, we turned around and pulled in. I asked if they might have a look and somebody went out back to see if maybe they could. Turns out that their tire guy was there loading a truck. It seems that the whole business was getting moved to another location and this was their first moving day. I explained the situation and he agreed to take on the job. Hallelujah!
I pulled the car up and he pulled the tire off lickitysplit. He sprayed water on it and misted it with a soapy solution. Nothing. No bubbles. I mentioned the slowness of the leak again and he filled a tub with water and a little soap. We both looked but nothing showed. “Sometimes these slow ones take awhile” mused the rangy, wrinkled tire guy. After patiently turning and misting the tire for a few more minutes “there it is” he says. I looked where he was pointing and finally I could pick out the tiniest little bubble forming. Good eyes. He marked the location of the leak and the tire weights and started removing the tire from the rim.