What was lost in Dilkon

Ruby, with dead battery, is somewhere under that shade…

Over the past few months, I was sent to program lighting at the Dilkon Regional Medical Center in Dilkon, AZ, within the Navajo reservation.  I do not have many day-job adventures that are both interesting, and in-bounds for open disclosure.

Through a combination of poor fortune and self-created folly, Dilkon proved to be expensive, with each of the expeditions being more expensive than the last.

Let’s pause here to clarify: I do not mean travel expenses. My company picks that up. And while the work was more troublesome than it needed to be, that was a product of the locale and personnel involved, and not generally instructive. Also, there were more than the three trips I am about to describe, but these were the major expeditions.

We have already described one adventure related to this job. This would turn out to be foreshadowing.

1st Visit- January 2022

Navajo burger

There are two places I found to eat lunch in Dilkon, and by that I mean pick up the food and eat it in your car. The Navajo Nation was (and still is at this writing) 100% masks indoors, and indoor dining is out-of-the-question.  There is a food stand in a dirt lot that will sell you a Navajo burger, a double green-chile burger in a pita of some sort. Or you could go to the pizza place, and get a slice or pie of arguably the best pizza for 50 miles in any direction. (It is honestly decent if not outstanding pizza.

Having learned the day before that a Navajo burger will sit in my stomach like a boulder for three hours, I had gotten some pizza, driven back to the jobsite and ate my slices while listening the NPR station I could kinda-get out there on the car radio. When I finished, I tossed my crusts to the stray, or at least unleashed dogs waiting for that, and went back in to work.

I came back out at the end of the day to discover my battery dead. I then discovered that I had not gotten back (or replaced) the jumper cables I had loaned to my child.

Happily, one of the electricians hadn’t left yet. After failing to jump the car with his cables, we ruled the battery dead. Dilkon has a grocery store, and two convenience stores, none of which carry jumper cables, much less car batteries.

Good fortune balanced poor fortune when it turned out the electrician passed through Winslow, where my hotel was, on his way back to north of Flagstaff somewhere.

His daily commute was close to 90 minutes. I added twenty more at the auto parts store (just down the road from my hotel) where I purchased the second most expensive battery on the shelf (cheap parts die with simple radio play in deeply rural parking lots) and a set of jumper cables.

He added five more minutes picking me up in the pre-dawn gloom the next morning.

It’s forty minutes from Winslow to Dilkon, during which I learned a a lot about this man’s family problems and his relationship to Jesus, none of which is fodder for this space. I also learned that people in and around Dilkon have been driving as far New Mexico for simple medical services.

So, it’s nice to be part of a project that is clearly necessary. We have surprisingly few of those.

 2nd Visit – Late February – early March 2022

On my way back from Two Rivers (next to last post – I’ve been busy) the power steering died in the truck.

Verity – new to me.

While I bought Verity as a back-up vehicle, Oliver, my child, has been using it as a primary vehicle to and forth from Phoenix College and related young adult adventures. Oliver lacks the size and skill to manage a pick-up truck without power steering.

Warned that it could be a while before I had the time or money to fixt the truck, Oliver convinced one of their young adult friends to fix it – at my expense, but not at a lot of expense.

The repair happened while I was in Dilkon.

Then as Oliver drove the newly nimble Verity about the oil light came on. Knowing the oil had been recently changed, Oliver chose to ignore it and keep driving – until Verity threw a rod.

Throwing a rod is generally fatal to twenty-year-old pick-ups.

Verity + Rattletrap

Yet times are strange. I bought that thing for about $5k – pre-pandemic. The replacement cost for a similar vehicle now would be something like $7-8k as I understand the market now. The part-time mechanic (who likely destroyed the thing in the first place) has offered to replace the engine at cost. He thinks that could be below $3k. I am not so certain. I have tasked Oliver with that research, and that is ongoing.

Bongo at Homolovi

Meanwhile , Lyft charges appear randomly on one of my credit cards.

There was a mid-February visit during which I visited the Homolovi State Park.

It went without further disaster.

3rd Visit 23-24 March 2022

UnObtanium at Pirate Fest

This visit took place two days before Unobtanium was to appear at the Las Vegas Pirate Fest. My tow vehicle is dead in my backyard, and while Ruby has a towing hitch (that I had installed) the Subaru Forester is not a good towing vehicle. Las Vegas is 350 miles and four good climbs from Phoenix.

My first thought was to rent a van. Inventory inside the van, tent and gear in Rattle-trap. But no one, I mean no one, rents a van with a tow hitch.

U-Haul, however, will rent a pick-up with a tow hitch – even for an out-of-state run. So I thought I had done that.

I burn back home from Dilkon, slide into U-Haul minutes before closing, and discover they have not the pick-up I had confirmed and paid for.

I towed Rattletrap to Las Vegas in a 12’ box truck, which had plenty of capacity but over-all cost me $800 I’ll never get back. Impoverished and emboldened by that experience I then towed that same rig with Ruby, my Subaru Forester, on the shorter and flatter run to Lake Havasu City for the London Bridge Ren Faire.

Ruby+Rattletrap at LBRF

The listed towing capacity of a 2015 Subaru Forester is 1500#. I don’t know how much Rattletrap plus the Unobtanium tent and inventory actually weigh, but Ruby can tow it as long as we stay under 75 mph.

Traversing I-10 westbound at or near the posted limit does not improve the scenic value of the journey.

FTR – London Bridge RF actually takes place on the shadeless, packed dirt expanse of the county rodeo grounds.

The big bell tent held up just fine.

UnObtanium at London Bridge RF complete with tent.

When the smoke cleared:

  • The Dilkon Medical Center is still not open (medical facilities dawdle forever before opening) by my lighting is complete.
  • Ruby survived her Reservation country and towing adventures.
  • If you don’t count the U-Haul fee, UnObtanium made money at both events.
    • We plan to return to both next year.
  • And Verity still sits in my backyard, with her new roof rack still in place. If you want or need a 2001 Dodge Dakota with a blown engine, make me an offer.

Now we know.

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