Joshua Tree to Sedona was supposed to be a fairly easy five-hour cruise on open highway. We were up with the sun and got an early start, so we decided to take the long way through the park. I’d never seen Joshua Tree and John was keen to travel the extra miles. On a map it looked to be only a 20-minute detour, but 90 minutes later I was still navigating a thin strip of road through incredible rock formations and shrubby high desert flora. The Park Road eventually deposited us on The 10 and we turned left.
The travel was smooth, but The 10 was a grind. We cleared the Arizona border and decided to take another detour to cut a corner into Sedona. We picked up some gusty wind over a shallow pass into Wickenburg about two hours southwest our destination. The orange cube feels every slight breeze, especially any crosswind, and a big gust blew us clear across the center double yellow divide. My dashboard lit up like a Christmas tree.
Yellow warning lights buzzed and flashed between the speedometer and the tach. Apparently, the Jeep thought I was trying to kill it. I said something to the effect of “aw f-@#” and John finally reacted in a way commensurate with the situation. Riding beside the boy who cried wolf had desensitized him to the point of blowing off my incessant panic warranted or not. I corrected for the wind, found the proper lane, and crested the pass. The Jeep drove fine, but the dashboard was still illuminated. As luck would have it, we passed an Auto Zone on the way into town and decided to investigate the issue.
The light gave an EPS and BAS notation. We were able to borrow a diagnostic tool from the shop and plugged it in to see if we could speak Jeep. After a bit of research, we found that we likely tripped a steering sensor when we got blown off course. There was an odd reset method that required us to turn the steering wheel a few times in each direction to reset the sensor. This seemed hokey to me. I took out a vial of De-Jinxer a friend provided prior to the trip, and sprayed it over the hood for good measure. It worked on our 1987 Volkswagen Westfalia. Might as well give it a go.
There is no way of knowing if the De-Jinxer or the steering wheel reset method was the correct remedy, but the dashboard returned to normal and we climbed 3000 feet into Northern Arizona. The air outside was hot, but we decided to shut off the AC and roll down the windows as we passed Sedona’s city limits. I love the scent of the high plateau and I could hear the noisy chirping of birds. Strange to hear so many birds, but it was spring and I gathered they were excited about the heat.
The interesting thing about these birds, is that they only exercised their vocal cords when the Jeep was accelerating in gears one through three. They would effectively stop singing while coasting or when I wasn’t applying my foot to the gas pedal. These must be really smart birds. I also found it odd that the birds were omnipresent. As I pulled into the Sedona Springs Resort parking lot and opened the driver side door, I looked everywhere for these winged harlequins. Strangely, the birds had vanished.
We checked into our studio and flipped a coin for who got the bed and who got the couch. John called heads and the coin landed tails. Seems dumb to waste my luck on a bed, but I took the better of two options without guilt. Little did I know what a waste of luck that would be. Regardless to the quality of mattress, we both awoke the next morning and set out to find a mountain bike trailhead five miles out of town. Bikes loaded into the Kuat Rack, the Jeep motored up a back road. And the birds were back.
The birds were definitely coming from the rear driveshaft. An incessant squeak just behind the transfer case. I made note of it and went about our business. We had an amazing ride through cactus and sage on red rock trails. Stunning scenery and fantastic terrain for riding. I almost forgot about the new sound my cool Jeep can now make. As soon as we got off the trail, I drove to an auto shop that had good Yelp reviews. They said they would take a look, and three days later, they said they would take a look. It was at least a free parking space and eventually I bullied the shop owner to test drive it.
Bill from Red Rock Auto in Sedona talked about a small bearing in the front of the drive shaft that gets dry. He put some lube into it and said “Screw it. Drive it. Drive the hell out of it!” He never charged me and after three days of killer mountain biking that’s exactly what we did. Saturday morning, I checked the oil, loaded the bags, and we set course for Santa Fe. Birds and all.