The time our drive belt snapped in front of the Gods.

There is nothing more rewarding than finding a place to have an completely undisturbed night of sleep!

Camp spot near Four Corners monument.

Our spot, hidden not far from the road we drove in on, was far enough way to be completely protected from any nuisances from passing cars.

Traces of recent snow fall.

Sadly, Willow was still not feeling 100% and so we would have to keep waiting for a night where we would be able to sleep peacefully, undisturbed by her relentless coughing throughout the night.

Eager to keep moving, we ate breakfast quickly and moved Ruby around to the Four Corners Monument. Having to pay an entrance fee for a change, as the land was owned by the Native American Reserve.

I imagine in Summer, the site is bustling with tourists, eager to have their picture taken whilst standing in the famous spot. There were even ground rules, informing you how long you were allowed to stand, so not to cause too much of a delay.

Which state are we in again?

As we were travelling out of season, the place was dead. With only a few other tourists other than ourselves, prepared to brace the chilly conditions to stand across four states.

It’s nice to be separated by states sometimes!

After the obligatory photo, we walked around the native American stalls, that were scattered around the complex.

All of the items were of high quality and hand crafted, and we ended up buying ourselves and family treasures to fondly look back on when our trip is complete.

There wasn’t really anything else to do, and so we left, now heading towards Valley of the Gods. It was getting difficult keeping up with all of the places we wanted to visit as we made our way to Vegas.

Before heading to the valley, we made a quick ‘pit stop’ in the last town, named Bluff.

Stop off in Bluff.

Our dirty laundry was once again pilling up, and we were not sure when our next opportunity would be to wash our clothes.

After circling the streets for a while, we eventually found a launderette, which was so scatty looking, we both doubted whether the clothes would come out any cleaner by the time we were done.

Whilst we waited for the cycles to complete, I let Aimee out in the car park, much to the amusement of a small boy, who was there with his mother, who has doing her own laundry.

The boy must have been no older than four years old. Rather clumsily, we stumbled up to Aimee, scaring her away at his first attempt to get near her.

He was eating a slice of pizza, or rather, failing to eat it. At one point, falling over and dropping his slice in the dirt ground. Picking it up and examining the now dirt crusted slice, he did what any sensible person would do… Brush it off and continue to eat it!

Whilst waiting for the clothes, we researched places where we could try and have a shower. Finding a small RV park a couple of minutes down the road.

Our compost toilet was starting to get too runny again, and we figured out that if we didn’t empty the urine bottle soon enough, the overflow diverted into the poop box. This had apparently happened a few times, so we decided to also find a suitable place to bury our waste and clean the toilet out again.

Once our laundry was complete, we drove around to the RV park and knocked on the office door.

Who doesn’t love a free shower?

There was nobody there.

With the shower block open, we decided to drive Ruby to the far corner of the park so we could deal with our toilet issue, we would then have a shower and hope that we could leave some money after we were done.

As I was digging the hole, a guy walked over to us with his dog. Asking if he was the owner, he informed us that he was looking after the site on their behalf.

We explained what we wanted to do, and he told us we could shower for $10. A bargain when you smelled as bad as we probably did!

As he was walking away, he turned around and talked to us about a spot we could camp at, which would overlook Valley of the Gods and Monument Valley. He stressed that we would have to be quick if we wanted to make it there by sunset.

He then gave us our $10 back and wished us a happy Christmas.

We cleared the toilet waste away, and happily showered in what had been the best shower we’d had in a while.

Then we were off, racing out of Bluff towards the rocky region that was Valley of the Gods.

With Willow still suffering from her cold, I commented that I could smell something burning, but with my sense of smell not really being very effective, we decided to keep an eye out in case we spotted any visible signs.

About five minutes later, Willow told me to pull over because our battery light had turned on. Within a flash, she was at the back of the van, with a clear idea of what had gone wrong.

She returned to the cab with a concerned look on her face.

“What is it?” I asked nervously.

A bolt in he alternator had sheared off, causing the alternator to drop, meaning the drive belt had caught on the alternator and shredded itself and wasn’t strong enough to turn the alternator fast enough.

Failed alternator bolt

Without an alternator charging a starter battery, a car would break down within minutes.

But Ruby wasn’t a car. And Willow was very clever in the design of our leisure batteries!

Willow had fitted a connection from our starter batteries to our leisure batteries, so if we ever flattened our started battery, we could jump it off the leisure ones.

This meant that we could connect our leisure batteries and continue to drive. The only problem was, we didn’t know how far that would be without a continuous charge.

The spot we had been recommended, was located right up the top of a winding road, which lead to an overlook right on the cliff edge of a giant rock formation. Originally deciding to carry on as planned, for the first time ever, common sense prevailed, and we decided to find a suitable spot just off the road we were on. The last thing we needed was to be stuck in a place that would be difficult to rescue us if we underestimated our leisure batteries.

We found a gorgeous spot. We were literally in the middle of nowhere. But I wasn’t happy.

Not a soul in sight

I wanted a spot where we had a view of both the Valley of the Gods and Monument Valley. We also had no signal, and we both would have preferred a spot where we would be able to research replacement belts.

So I set off on foot, walking further towards Gooseneck State Park. We would have parked there, right on the overlook to the river, but there were signs stating that park required a fee.

Not a bad place to be forced to stop.
Man on a mission.

Five minutes down the road, I found a spot that had clearly been used by other travelers. And better yet… I had signal. So I triumphantly marched back to the van to share the great news.

With the van moved, we set about researching and messaging people, hoping to find a replacement belt, which wouldn’t be easy as our belt was shorter as we didn’t have power steering. Worst case scenario, Willow was going to try and use a pair of tights in the morning to get the alternator working.

Pretty sunset.

As a back up, Willow sent her Dad a message, asking him to pick one up in England to bring over when they came to visit us for Christmas.

With nothing else we could do, we tried to enjoy the evening, and not let the belt snapping ruin our fantastic camp spot. Which was easier said than done.

Father daughter picture
Beautiful night sky. Same about the camera.

Aimee was excited to go outside in the morning, which meant I was up in time to catch the sun rise above the mountains, showering the valley in warmth.

One of my favourite mornings.

The belt snapped as a result of a bolt shearing off, and so Willow set about trying to remove the remains using a screwdriver. Amazingly, she managed to get it out, and temporarily replaced it with a bolt screw created herself, after hacking off a piece of the starter battery support screw.

There’s the buggar!
And there’s the other one!

With the first hurdle complete, she hacked at her only pair of tights, and tied them around the fly wheel. Apparently, they she had seen a video at work and was curious to see if it would work.

Make shift drive belt.

To our surprise, it did. But not very well. She needed to tighten it, to get it to turn the alternator quick enough to produce a charge. This was too much for the tights and they snapped after a couple of minutes.

We’d ran the generator all night to charge up our leisure batteries. As we had been unsuccessful sourcing a replacement belt, we would have to make do limping on them until Willow’s parents arrived in Las Vegas. Only 600 miles away.

We headed down to the Gooseneck looking point.

Over the years, the river had carved it’s way through the rock in an unusual manner. Bending it’s way in a an illogical fashion.

It truly was an amazing spectacle!

Some view.
Shame these two got in the way!

We let Aimee out to explore, and held our breath as she just dived right over the cliff edge. There was a ledge underneath it, but it was still worrying to watch her dive over it without a lead attached.

Aimee didn’t want to miss out on the photo opportunities.
Our daredevil kitty.

What was the old saying about curious cats?

You’re not supposed to go down there!

It was soon time to move on again.

We were close to Monument Valley and extremely excited to explore it.

As we neared our destination, the rock formations grew grander in the horizon, so we pulled over for some of the most amazing pictures I think I have ever taken of Ruby.

Stunning!
My favourite place to stop off for a picture.

We had driven for about forty minutes, and our leisure batteries were doing just fine.

Nice skies.
Getting closer.

Pulling up to the visitor centre for Monument valley, we were relieved to find the ticket booth closed. Still love a free attraction.

And to think… It’s almost Christmas!

Everywhere you looked, there were reminders of the classic western movies that were once filmed in that very spot. I felt honoured to be treading the same path as the legendary John Wayne.

Future Western star.

We popped into the visitor centre to get another penny for Willow’s collection and sampled some native American flied bread, with mexican sides. Absolutely delicious, if not a little hazardous to the old cholesterol levels!

Traditional Indian grub.

With our bellies full, we fetched Aimee from the van and set off on a circular walk down through the rock formations.

It was a perfect day for a walk. Neither of us could believe that Christmas was fast approaching and yet we were out comfortably hiking with blue skies and sunshine.

Gorgeous.

Aimee loved the freedom of the trail. Probably too much at the start! She had to stop and smell every Bush and attempt to climb every tree. She did settle into a stride, and soon we were making excellent time.

Monument Valley surrounded us, as we walked through the partly snow covered track.

Still a little bit snowy.

The loop was four kilometres, and takes you around one of the main rocks. We made it round in amazing time, Aimee managing the walk without the use of her rucksack.

We made it back just as the sun was setting, which meant we had to get a move on to find somewhere to stop.

Willow was worried that the headlights would be too big a drain on the leisure batteries and so we drove as far as possible without turning them on. Only doing so after a number of cars started to flash us as they passed.

Somehow we managed to make it to our evenings destination. A lorry lay-by at the back of a Burger King.

The temperature had dropped dramatically as soon as the sunset, so I popped inside an bought two large cups of hot chocolate, which we made more interesting with the remains of our spirit cupboard.

As the tights had failed, I set about butchering some braces that I had brought over from the UK. I hoped they would offer enough flexibility, whilst also being strong enough to withstand the strain they were put under.

My attempts at sowing were not pretty, but it looked like it might work. After a few tweaks, we managed to get the engine running without the battery warning light.

“This mechanics business is a piece of cake!” I thought to myself.

In the morning, I popped into Burger King to use their WiFi to speak to Willow’s dad. We had no phone signal and we wanted to make sure that we knew what part to buy.

We then set off, powered by my brace belt. Well for fifteen minutes, until the battery light reappeared. Maybe I shouldn’t give up my day job too soon.

So we were back to running off the leisure batteries, which we had once again recharged off of the generator.

Our goal was to reach the town of Page, and see if we could do the Antelope Canyon guided tour. The pictures online were mind blowing, and it definitely looked like a must see location. Tickets were very limited and it was unclear what the price was.

People had reviewed that it was pricey and that although it was mesmerising, they didn’t felt like they really got to appreciate the canyon. Commenting that they felt like cattle, rushed through without stopping to appreciate the beauty.

Our leisure batteries got us to Page, and we stopped off to enquire about a tour. $70 would have been the price of a two hour tour. Too steep for our modest budget. Plus it was a cloudy day, and you really want to go when beams of light cascade into the canyon, revealing the hidden colours within the rocks.

Politely declining, we drove into the main town, stopping of at Walmart for supplies and to research an alternative plan. Deciding to make for Zion a day earlier than planned. We believed that it would be nice to spend a couple of days enjoying one thing properly, as opposed to rushing around, briefly experiencing the surroundings.

We parked up in the car park for a while, running the generator. Desperately trying to get as much charge into them before the big drive. Probably needing to stop off on the way to charge them again. The last thing we needed was to wreck our leisure batteries as well.

We drove past Lake Powell, a stunning lake, formed by a dam. If we’d had more time, we would have liked to have explored it.

After about an hour’s drive, we pulled over to charge the batteries. Stopping at a small walk aptly named ‘The Toadstools’, which lead to some strange rocks that had been created by erosion over millions of years.

Thinking it best to let Aimee stretch her legs, we brought her along on her lead.

Apparently, she was in no mood for a walk, and we ended up having to carry her the majority of the way. The formations were intriguing, so it was worth the stop off.

Batteries slightly better charged, we carried on towards Zion. We still had over an hour to drive and we were once again going to be losing to light before we got there.

We were both amazed that we once again managed to make our way to our final destination, using only our leisure battery set up.

We parked up in a hidden spot, located about forty minutes from Zion’s main entrance.

Relieved to still be moving, we settled down to the second season of Making a Murderer. Feeling completely shocked by the treatment of Steven Avery and Brendan Dassey. How are they still in prison? The documentary highlights the problems when corrupt people find their way into positions of power.

Our Vegas Christmas deadline was looming, but we were still on track to meet Willow’s parents off the plane.