Monday, April 7
This morning we break camp and leave the BLM land between Wickenburg and Congress, Arizona. At Congress the Perfect Tow Vehicle takes on some gas before we head up Highway 89. And I do mean UP!
It’s a long, winding, 2nd-gear haul up the Weaver Mountains.
We make it to Yarnell at the top of the mountain, and from there on, it’s an easy, enjoyable ride.
I’m almost finished shopping when I hear “Hey!”
I turn and there’s Rusty smiling at me!
“Hello, Rusty! How are you?” We hug and talk in the aisle for a bit.
Out in the parking lot Rusty says, “I’ll lead you to my house.”
Rusty’s 1975 Ford pick-up with camper still takes him where he needs to go (although she leaks oil when driven over 45 mph). This isn’t a problem for Rusty because everything he needs is within a few miles and the driving is easy.
It has a country feel with lots of stores nearby. In only a few minutes we reach his driveway. Rusty directs me to a parking spot that will throw shade on the refrigerator side of the Best Little Trailer during the afternoon.
Timber is in his back yard. He goes nuts at the sight of the crew, racing back and forth on the other side of the fence, hopping up and down.
The crew greets him in a flash and I fail at my efforts to catch a good photo or two of the reunion-in-motion.
Rusty gives me a tour of the property and shows me the inside of his home. It’s pleasantly cool and clean. The kitchen and bathroom are spotless.
“I want to take care of it,” Rusty remarks. “I see how some guys are. I don’t want to live like that.”
During the tour of the property, Rusty shows me his train yard!
It’s located in his front yard which he has fenced, giving Timber access to both yards.
As the train chug-chugs on the winding track, Rusty excitedly describes his plans. “Over here . . . I’m going to build a mountain over that tunnel. And I’m going to make a village. The track is going to go over that way and come around to join in here.”
“I like how you put those rocks on that slope. This is incredible!”
The little train blows its horn at the tunnel.
“I’m going to move my garden from the back yard and put it over here and then the train will run around the garden,” he adds.
“Oh my gosh, you have a trestle. I love it, Rusty!” (The trestle can be seen in the photo above.)
While we’re playing with the train, Timber bounces around trying to get some play out of Bridget and Spike. Bridget, predictably, shows her teeth and snarls. Spike lies down in the shade.
Later, after more talk on the porch watching the train make its rounds . . .
“Rusty, I can’t find the keys to the BLT’s door. I called up Safeway and they said they found them. I’d better get over there. I can’t unhitch without those keys so I’m taking the BLT with me.”
I drive back to Safeway with the BLT following behind and pick up the keys at the Customer Service counter. I must’ve dropped them in the parking lot as I was loading up the groceries.
Timber is so excited that he jumps out of the yard and onto the porch, a good four feet up. Rusty sets to work affixing chicken wire across that section of the porch to keep Timber from escaping. Rusty declines my offer to help. I watch him work from my camp chair, relaxing with a cool drink.
While he works, Rusty mentions that the porch roof leaks and some other repairs are needed around the house. A few minutes pass as he continues to work.
“I know it’s not perfect,” he says, referring to his home, “but it’s a whole lot better than living in that.” He jerks his head toward the truck camper. I look at the pipe coming out of the camper roof and remember Rusty gathering wood for the stove within. Rusty taps the chicken wire securely to the porch rail.
“I’m happy with what I’ve got.”
“I can see that you are, Rusty. And that’s what matters.”
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