Adventure, a word we love, is defined as an undertaking usually involving danger and unknown risks or an exciting or remarkable experience. We’d like to think that our adventures are not too filled with danger or unknown risks, but despite any danger or risks we’ll take every exciting or remarkable experience placed in front of us.
One such adventure we took allowed us to spend time in ARB’s well-equipped 2013 Ford F-350 Super Duty. The truck has a 4-inch Old Man Emu suspension, which includes new leaf springs, all the steering and control arm drop brackets, coils and shocks, front and rear ARB Air Lockers, and 37/13.50R20 Toyo MTs on 20x9 wheels. It is powered by a 6.7L diesel via an automatic transmission. Also bolted to the truck is ARB’s new modular front winch bumper, available as just a bumper, a bumper with a push bar, or in Deluxe style (like on this truck), which is a bumper with a push bar and a grille guard. Inside the bumper is a Warn 16.5ti winch, and on the bumper is a pair of 9-inch ARB Intensity LED lights. Our trip allowed us to test the lockers, but also spend time with the suspension and lights and even play with that bumper a bit.
Since you should never go 4-wheeling alone, even in a well-equipped rig like the ARB F-350, who better to take along than another adventurer? Namely my mom, Friderun A. Simons. Mom is an adventurer in her own right, having traveled all over the world, including most of Europe, parts of India, Chile, Egypt, Iceland, and East Africa, and all over the U.S. since the 1960s. She’s funny and smart and always ready for an adventure. We figured she was the perfect company for an adventure to the White Mountains of eastern Arizona, a place we’d never been. What an adventure we would have!
Despite our trip’s timing, late in April, we encountered plenty of snow, traveled hundreds of miles on Forest Service roads, butted heads with an unexpected multiple sensor failure, ate some pie, and got to see a little more of this beautiful world. The White Mountains are home to the Apache Sitgreaves National Forest and the Fort Apache and San Carlos Indian reservations. We stuck to paved roads while on the reservations; backcountry permits and fishing permits for reservation land are available and required if you want to camp, fish, hunt, or explore. While in the national forest we stayed on marked Forest Service roads and major highways. The dirt roads we hit were all pretty easy, but inclement weather in the form of rain and snow can cause these roads to become treacherous, if not undrivable. In good weather there are thousands of miles of dirt roads to explore and sights to see.
Since this was an adventure and the unexpected can occur, we were sure to leave our itinerary with someone who would send out help if we were out of contact longer than expected. Our hope was to make our way through the forest into western New Mexico, but an unforeseen issue prevented this. We’ll have to go back and continue the journey.
Our real adventures began just outside of Globe, Arizona, where rare late spring rain clouds were an omen of weather to come. Almost all of Arizona is sunny most of the time, so any change in the weather is exciting.
At the Salt River Canyon at the eastern edge of the San Carlos Indian Reservation the clouds released some rain. The views at the Salt River Canyon are breathtaking. We then continued through the reservation to the White Mountains.
Once we were near the town of McNary, Arizona, the rain turned to snow. As we continued east and up in elevation the snowfall increased and began to stick to the road. We did not expect to see this much snow in late April in Arizona, but with enough altitude and a front coming through, anything is possible.
As we entered the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest we began to look for Forest Service roads that would take us farther south and east. The snow made the dirt roads that much more of a challenge and that much more scenic. When necessary we dialed the large Ford into 4WD high-range, or clicked on the ARB Twin Motor Compressor under the rear seat and engaged the rear ARB Air Locker. On loose dirt and snow I prefer 2WD and a rear locker so I can get a bit sideways on turns. As the daylight dwindled we headed north into Eagar/Springerville, Arizona. We hoped we might get to see a bear in its natural habitat—from the safety of the big red Ford.
We grabbed a warm dinner in Springerville and got a hotel room in Eagar. (The region is ripe for camping, but the snow encouraged us to find indoor lodging.) These two towns blur into one. After a night of rest we came across this original Mini on the side of the road in Eagar and had to park next to it for a picture. The red ARB truck dwarfs the tiny European car—like it dwarfs my tiny European mom!
After grabbing some breakfast we headed back out to the Forest Service roads to explore the regions beautiful views. We headed south on Highway 261 and then west on 273 before getting dirt under our Toyo tires and heading south toward the West Fork of the Black River, Centerfire Creek, and Forest Road 25. The area is full of beautiful pine trees, spruce trees, aspens, and large treeless plains. Oh, and there was more snow!
Where are you, bear? We kept seeing signs warning campers and hikers about bears, but we did not get a glimpse of one of the furry beasts. We did, however, get a pretty good look at this beautiful red-tailed hawk hanging out near a corral. We saw a few elk, a deer, several wild turkeys, and smaller birds, but no bear.
As the day continued the snow melted and we wove our way through the national forest via well-marked Forest Service roads. Despite the weather the roads were pretty good, although washboards and bumps gave us a great feel for the Old Man Emu suspension. The springs and shocks are well matched in this 1-ton truck, ensuring that our teeth are still in place despite a light payload and hundreds of miles of bumps, rocks, and drainage culverts. The Australian suspension company has this system pretty well worked out. The lift is available as a full kit or as individual components.
The area of the White Mountains south and east of Alpine, Arizona, was affected by the Wallow fire of 2011. The area is still very beautiful, but parts were devastated. The roads warn of possible downed trees and washouts because of erosion. We hoped to find a downed tree across one of the fire roads we explored so we could test out the Warn 16.5ti winch mounted to the ARB modular bumper. No trees blocked our way, but we did find one log close to the road that we thought could set a few feet farther back.
After playing with the winch and bumper we decided to head into Alpine for lunch. As it turned out, this was a lucky decision. Without warning, as we rolled the last few hundred feet into town, the big red Ford’s information center said “Stop safely now!” Unsure of what was happening, we coasted into the lot of the tackle shop where the big Ford’s 6.7L diesel shut off and would not restart. This was not “limp mode.” The truck was dead. How about we call this lump mode?
What do we do when our means of transportation dies in a small town far away from home? Find out where the best pie is. Mom and I walked up the street to the Alpine Grill, where we sampled one slice of blueberry pie and one slice of blackberry-peach, each with a scoop of ice cream. The pies were delicious. This gave the Ford time to cool down and us time to decide what went wrong. We contacted a few friends and searched the internet for information.
After pie and returning to the F-350, I tried the ignition again. The now cooler truck started up—but the check engine light was on. We had an inkling that the issue was somewhere in the DPF or from a bad sensor, so when the truck ran we decided to drive up the street to the Alpine Garage, where Bill and Susan were our best hope for help. With an OBD-II scanner in hand, it was decided that the truck needed to go to the dealership to avoid damaging parts that we didn’t want to have to pay for. Louis, from the Alpine Garage, was happy to tow us and the big red Ford to the nearest dealership in Show Low, Arizona.
We stayed overnight in Show Low. The next morning Show Low Ford was able to change three (yep, three) malfunctioning exhaust gas temperature sensors. They had somehow all failed and caused the truck to go into limp mode.
With the F-350 given a clean bill of health we headed back into the woods for more dirt. We had to get back home, but not before finding a nice place for a picnic just off of Forest Service Road 300 or the Rim Road. FS300, closed in the winter, runs along the upper edge of the Mogollon Rim (pronounced “mo-gee-on”) from Show Low almost all the way to Strawberry, Arizona, and affords stunning views of the hills to the south of the rim. This last little bit of dirt will keep us going until the next adventure. We’ll have to head back to the White Mountains, stop in Alpine for some pie, and to say thanks and then head for New Mexico. We can’t wait!