Leaving the hotel just before 11am, we head East into our next adventure.
It’s a smooth drive all the way to the other side of the city until we get out town into the wilderness. We take Route 88, also called Apache Trail, a very scenic route through the mountains and along Apache Lake, which stretches through the whole valley and is seamed by mountains full of saguaro and other cactuses. The first half of the trail until Tortilla Flat is a paved road. But a few miles later the pavement ends and a gravel road leads through the rest (about another 20 miles) of the valley all the way to the Roosevelt Dam. Despite the heat which keeps hovering at around 99 to 102 Fahrenheit (37 to 39 Celsius) we see a small desert fox, it is no bigger than a small cat.
We are driving along, enjoying the view, stopping frequently to get out of the car to take pictures, when Marco suddenly mutters: “Oh No”, I ask him: “what?”, he just shakes his head and repeats: “Oh No, not now, not here!” – a flat tire, in the middle of no-where with no shade and over 100 Fahrenheit (40 Celsius). But, there is no way around it we have to change that tire!
We check our tools, I grab the manuals and start figuring out what, how and where. I feel like a useless office clerk! Luckily we only have to unload one of our suitcases to access the tools compartment! Walking around the car with the manual in hand me must have looked pretty helpless. Only about 2 cars pass and the third one stops. A very nice couple with teenage kids and two dogs get out of the car and offer us their help, which we gladly accept. Within less than half an hour we are back on the road enjoying the rest of the trip to Roosevelt Dam. There we turn left and head North towards Payson but turn left on Interstate 87 to get back to Mesa.
Temperature wise we topped yesterdays record: when driving back to Mesa our thermometer shows a whooping 108 (42)!
At 5:10pm we arrive at the Toyota dealership in Mesa, they immediately take care of us, perform the 25,000 Miles maintenance which would be due soon anyway and try to fix the tire. But, the hole is too big so we need to replace the tire. They start calling around trying to find a same one as we already have, but with no luck. So he promises to try again tomorrow morning and to call us as soon as he has news.
Meanwhile, I found some good deals on hotels a few miles down the road at East Main Street. As soon as we have our car back we tell our navigation lady where we want to go, well we try to, but the first hotel and street address she tells us don’t exist in this city, so we try a different hotel at the same road. Driving down this road we get to know a very different side of Mesa, this is definitely a neighborhood that has seen better times. There are lots of motel and hotels there but they look worn down and most of them only have one or two cars on the parking lot, we would not feel very safe here so we continue on to the Outback Steakhouse another 8 miles through Mesa. The servant there confirms us that the economy has hit this area hard and that there are a lot of empty buildings around that part of town.
After a delicious prime rib we continue our search for a decent hotel room. From experience we know that usually Hotels can be found along the Highways. Therefore, we head back South towards HWY 60. We check two more hotels before we end up at the Days Inn on the South side of HWY 60. The Hotel looks very nice and the room they show us smells good and is roomy and clean – so we check in. But, we get a different room and that room smells of air-freshener covering up cold smoke. Marco goes back down and asks for a different room – this one is even worse, it smells as if someone smoked in there earlier that day (and they all are non-smoking rooms). We both return to the front desk tell them to give us the exact room they showed us or otherwise we would go somewhere else. Well I’m now sitting in that room enjoying the fresh air coming from the air conditioner!