The Arizona Trail on Unicycle: Day 13, The Welder


April 12, 2017

It was supposed to be an easy 10 miles or so from where we camped on the side of the dirt road to the next town of Payson that we had planned on staying at. We weren’t 100% sure of the route, but we continued up the dirt road and kept an eye out for our turn. 

Eventually we saw a service road number 47 and turned down it. Later we discovered that we should have kept going on the main dirt road further to a different number 47 road! This road seemed to head in the right direction, and it started out as a semi-ridable trail. Then we hit a fork in the road and google wasn’t helping us out in the wilderness. We took the lower route and followed it till another fork at the end of the “road”. I use that term loosely as there is no way a car could get down it. The trail continued down, but it wasn’t the direction we really wanted to go. If we took it, we would hit the main highway and have 20 miles on the hot road to Payson. The alternative was to back track and go another road that was unmarked; we also couldn’t find it on any of our maps. We decided to go down the sure fire way instead of taking an unknown which might lead us far astray. 

The trail. It quickly became overgrown brush that we were pushing the unicycles through. It was downhill and in the shade but we had to walk behind the unis to push aside the weeds. Even so, my legs and arms got a bit scratched up from all the brush. After 5 or so slow miles we hit a larger fireroad and started making some better time. 

Jamey had stashed more water at this road, so we topped off and each of us was carrying three or four empty gallons at this point. We felt like homeless trash men going down the road with plastic bottles clanking from the side of our packs. 

I was taking it pretty easy on the terrain and trying hard to not fall. Another fall or two could cause my handlebar to snap off, which would be a lot harder to repair and require full welding. With a small crack I could get some JB weld and patch it up myself, but tossing on a full bead would be much better. Or best yet was to do both things: metal weld and JB weld. 

I was debating hitch hiking to Payson to take care of my unicycle. I disliked having to take a car and not being able to ride it all, but it seemed like the best idea. However it was around 11:30 and the shops are usually closed around lunch so I decided to swap into my smaller 127mm cranks and ride as fast as I could to Payson. Jamey and Rebekka could take it easier on the road and I would have been able to meet up with them later in the day. 

So I blasted off spinning my legs on the pavement making good time. The sun was hot with no overcast. I saw a bunch of old cars and bikes on the side of the road and a large shed full of stuff. An old bearded guy named Ron was out near the front so I started to yell at him and ask if he had a welder. I explained my situation and he said he did have an old wire feed welder that I could use. Excellent! He pulled it out and found some sandpaper for me to scrape the paint off with. 

The welder was a pretty old school 120V that was missing the amp and wire feed knobs. Oh well, I figured it was better than nothing. I put on his old welding helmet (no gloves) and started trying to make it stick. It is tricky without a modern auto-darkening welding helmet but I finally got a big chunk of metal over the cracked area. I don’t know how good of a weld it was but it was better than a crack. 

While I was welding Rebekka and Jamey rolled up. They must have seen me on the side, and came on over to check everything out. Ron had a ton of junk in the large oversized barn. Tons of old motorcycles, in various states of disrepair, old car parts, old bikes and even an old unicycle. He pumped up the tire on this relic from the 60’s for us to give it a try, and sure enough: it still worked. 

I gave Ron $20 for letting me use his welder and we were off in the hottest part of the day. Ron also warned us: Payson, our next destination for the evening, was all uphill. 

And Ron was right. We had to slog through a long uphill. All of it was ridable road, but it was a 4 lane highway and not all that pleasant in the baking hot sun. But arriving in Payson had it’s rewards: a Dairy Queen! I had pointed it out to Rebekka and Jamey who were riding behind me, but it didn’t mean anything to a German girl. Jamey got it, and we stopped for some of the most delicious ice cream ever. The heat makes you really appreciate it so much more. 

The plan was for me to go to Wallmart to buy some JB weld to add strength to my cracked (but hackily re-welded) handle, while the others got us a campsite at an RV/Camp park up the road. I had never been in Walmart; I just tried to avoid the chain after hearing such bad stories on how they cause lots of job loss and pay workers poorly. But, out on the trail necessity won over morals, and I went in to get JB Weld. I also meant to get my own Sawyer water filter, but I forgot and left promptly after getting the JB and headed to the campground to do some more makeshift repairs. 

The nice thing about an RV park was that it had free showers and a laundry room. We were getting pretty stinky so it was nice to freshen up a bit and then head over to the restaurant a few blocks away to grab a beer. We had opted to save a few bucks and eat the dinners we had lugged with us on our backs instead of splurging on a real meal. But we usually can’t carry beer… and while drinking we overlooked maps and figured out where we should have gone on that day.



Today: 32.0 miles
Total: 313.4 miles  





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