Claiming Ezmerelda…

by dal…


Last week I returned to Cortez, CO to pick-up the repaired Ezmerelda. 

A little background-

Shortly before Kathy and I left on a trip to Missouri in August I had Ezmerelda bumped out and painted. She had a couple of minor dings and a few more rust spots after what I now know was 483,000 miles and over 18 years on the road. Mileage was questionable because I replaced the instrument panel/odometer a few years ago and her actual mileage required a few computations based on the mileage of the original odometer plus the mileage I put on the replacement odometer, less the mileage that the previously used odometer actually showed when I got it from a scrapped van in the salvage yard.

She looked great on the trip, shiny and proud and was running like a stealthy cat. After Missouri we came back through Santa Fe to see Forrest and then headed north and west for a new-to-me area where I had a long-shot search I call the Taos Artist Petroglyph Search. Once again I had a place to begin, great canyon down with a decent road to travel on since the hoB was too far to walk…

If the truth be known, I didn’t really have much faith in this search as a likely candidate for the location of Forrest’s hidden chest…but it was in a nice piece of country that I hadn’t really walked around in much, and well….I was using the TTOTC as an excuse to do a little reading and take a nice hike in some “new to me” countryside. Probably the last one of the search season for me.

The terrain where two Taos Artists went on a camping trip and etched their mark on a nearby rock…but could I find the mark?

As always though…once you start some basic research…and have settled on a WWWH location to begin…and a canyon to travel in…things tend to fall into an enticing place. All of a sudden the location wasn’t such a bad choice after all…The whole solution seemed possible. There was a meek trace and a paddleless stream . The water was high, the lure was strong, BUT, once again I had no blaze.

I had determined from reading the story of the two Taos Artist’s what the blaze would be. But I didn’t know where it was within several square miles…and even then I had no idea if it was still in existance. I knew that I was looking for a very specific petroglyph…not ancient but older than me and from the early 20th century.

My petroglyph/blaze was the result of a camping trip taken by two of Forrest’s favorite Taos artists to this scenic area in the 30’s. It was both a sight-seeing and a working trip and they left their mark on a rock face to memorialize their visit. It was this mark that I thought could be the blaze…but could I find it?

Now…I have to admit that I ran across this story about the Taos Artist’s camping trip quite by accident and when I read about their petroglyph I worked it backwards in the poem to see if it was possible that the clues could lead me there…and they could…easily…

This is exactly what I warn others not to do-

Start at the beginning, I say…find where warm waters halt and follow the clues in chronological order to the chest…

DO NOT…I repeat…DO NOT pick a cool location where you think the chest might be and then head there and look…If you do this you will be looking for a needle in a stack of needles…impossible!!! But I did it anyway…

The bad news is that I had knowledge of only a general area where the rock etching could be. I could find no modern reference to it as having been found by others and for all I knew the mark had been erased by weather or grown over by vegetation. Heck, maybe it was whacked off by a road building crew fifty years ago.…or it could have been such a shallow scratch that it is now impossible to find…However, hope springs eternal…and I decided to go looking for it. If still there, that mark could be the calling card for Forrest’s hidden chest. At least that was my sideways hope as Ezy and Kathy and I sped smoothly west from Missouri toward Cortez, CO.

Then it happened…suddenly…on the highway between Durango and Cortez, a long up-hill stretch of insignificance really… but in an instant one of Ezy’s 18 year old valve bearings seized and in the process bent the cam and damaged the crank. It was the end of a beautiful engine that had allowed Ezy and me to explore 486,000 miles of highways and trails. mountains and deserts, canyons and valleys since the year 2000 when I bought her new. 

Although destroyed, the engine still ran and Ezy still moved but with great effort and a frightening rattle and clank that clearly meant the bitter end. We hobbled clumsily the remaining few miles into Cortez and a nearby repair shop where I had to make a decision about scrapping Ezy or having them replace the engine….and I had to figure out how to get Kathy and Dal back home to Lummi Island. The mechanics figured I was crazy for even considering putting a $5K engine into a vehicle not even worth half that amount.

These guys had evidently never felt attached to their vehicles. When I looked at Ezy I saw a friend who took us on hundreds of family camping trips, explorations, adventures, road trips from Michigan to Arizona and Alberta to Texas. I saw wonderful family history and exciting solo memories. I remembered treasure hunts, river crossings, desert journeys, 17 Christmas trees and lots of love. I did not see a simple white box of steel and plastic that could be replaced by money. Ezy was…and still is…a trusted and reliable companion, a family member that was having a bad day.. I consulted with the blog and a comforting number of my fellow searchers thought I should bite the bullet and get her repaired.

There was an economy in repairing her too. A new van would cost a minimum of $38K which meant $700 monthly payments for 5 years….Eeeeek!!! I’ve purchased houses for less and I’d like to retire some day soon. No room for a $700 monthly payment in my approaching retirement scheme.

So Ezy was getting a new engine-

The other problem was getting home…Kathy and I saw no way to spend the next month in Cortez…and we had two weeks worth of collecting stuff at garage sales between Lummi Island and Missouri and Cortez stuffed inside Ezy…we needed a reliable vehicle for a few weeks and it had to be roomy enough to take most of our collected “stuff” back to Washington. Worse…no rental cars were available in all of the Cortez area…Some big event was going on at Mesa Verde and none of the rental car places had anything available for at least a week…

Enter the used car dealer-

I bought a 2005 Ford Expedition for far too much money from a used car dealer in Cortez…I did not buy the car from Fast Eddie…I am at least smart enough not to do business with a used car dealer by the name of Fast Eddie. I bought it from Joe instead. It ran great but only got about 13mpg and cost nearly twice as much to drive home as Ezy…bummer!!!

On the road, in the Ford between Moab and Cortez

Almost exactly a month later Ezy was finished and ready for pick-up. I took another week long vacation from the studio and packed up the Ford with my camera gear and bedroll and headed back to Cortez. That trip is about 1200 miles each way and takes two long days of driving to get there. By the way, although that Ford was made for driving and handled great…it was designed by a saddest  when it comes to sleeping. That Ford is the most uncomfortable thing to take a nap in that I have ever driven. In comparison, Ezy is a dream to catch some zzz’s in. Spread out the bedroll and snooze in the back…If I ever buy another vehicle I will definitely take it for a “nap test” before I buy it.

As I entered Cortez I saw Ezy waiting patiently for me out in front of the shop…I waved as I drove by. First stop was Joe and selling him back that outrageous Ford. I traded it back for considerably less than what I paid for it after one month and 4,000 miles…such is life…I rationalized that I still made out because it cost less than if I had rented a van for a month and drove it 4,000 miles.

Next I retrieved Ezy…no vehicle left behind…I felt really good about seeing her again…I was told to get an oil change at 500 miles and the mechanic bid me well on my trip home…him shaking his head at my decision to put a new engine in her and me delighted that I had gotten rid of the Ford and had Ezy’s steering wheel in my grip again.

Ezy on the trail to adventure…again!!

Heading out-

First order of business was to follow that solution I had to abandon a month ago and head out to look for my memorial blaze…I am writing the Taos Artist Petroglyph Search as you read this and will post it in the next few days.

Ezy admiring the shore on Lummi Island

Thanks fellow searchers…for your collective wisdom to hold onto Ezy…She looks really happy to be home, and she purrs like a cat again. I believe she is happy in our comforting fall rains, on the island. Don’t you think she looks grand???

Oh…and she has 1,415 miles on her brand new, shiny engine.






72 thoughts on “Claiming Ezmerelda…

    • No…at the Tomahawk. Close to the repair shop and next to a nature preserve where we could walk around and explore the vegetation a bit. I saw an ad for the looks like they have a set of small camper trailers that they restored and use as cabins…kinda cool!

  1. Sometimes cars like animals can have sentimental value and we end up keeping them.
    My dad was like that with his dang Ford vans. Did you make it 4×4 and lift it for your trips though?

    • Tony=
      Ezy is a basic cargo/delivery van. No air conditioning, no cruise control, no four wheel drive, no captain’s chair seats. But she has good road clearance for dirt trails, gets decent mileage and runs cool and steady.

  2. Glad you have Ezy back and ready for more adventures. I think you made the correct decision. Ezy will show them she still has what it takes to give Kathy and you more memories. Enjoyed your story and looking forward to reading more about your search.

  3. That looks like a really nice new van. A new or rebuilt engine is the right choice. I once had a motorcycle that had a bad transmission. But I loved that bike and wound up paying five thousand dollars to do all of the repairs, when I should have just pushed it into the river and gave it a viking funeral. But when a vehicle has been such a joy, and been part of so many good times, it becomes part of the family, and you can’t just let it go. Anything less could be defined as a psychological disorder.
    Have a heart. Anything named Ezmerelda will have your love until you are hunched over and ringing the bells of Notre Dame.

  4. Ezy is part of the family.
    What am I saying!
    Ezy is the mother of the family!
    She’s seen more than I’m willing to.

  5. I love it! What a fabulous ending to a fabulous story.

    Faith. You had faith. Wasn’t logical, practical, easy, or perhaps wise at the time. But you had faith in her. It was well placed.

    There is a lesson or ten in your story, Dal. Thanks for sharing.

    Glad she’s home safe and where she always belonged and felt loved. Grand. Ain’t life Grand?

    • The overtly positive attitude constantly plastered throughout this blog gives me the creeps.

        • Me too. Can breathe easy here. Just good conversation. Good stories. Good fun.

          This is how i wish it were always.

          • Me too. Seriously I agree. And maybe I’m wrong about all of you, or most of you. But many of the comments seem forced, and fake. It feels like a lot of people are trying to please fenn while secretly hurting others. I’m probably wrong.

          • I highly doubt Forrest takes much time reading the blogs considering how infrequently he has been posting. There occasionally seems some who ate discontent but most are positive good humor folks. I was happy to see your positive reply BumbleBee and look forward to your upcoming movie!

          • Idle, fly me to the moon/lucky mix come to mind. It’s just better on the moon without all that darn gravity. Thanks.

          • That is a great mix! One Foot (Walk the Moon) also fits imo.

            Dal, really happy you got her back! Definitely a lot easier to travel long distances when you can lay down in the back!

      • And speaking if bees, I’ve wanted to try beekeeping forever. “The Secret Lives of Bees” is among my favorite movies – it is a great balance I’d dark and light. True to life I’d say.

        When life gives you light, bask in it as Dal and Ezy are. Yet recognize that the heart must hunt in the dark. Bwwaaaahhhhaaaa.

        Good enough?

  6. Hey Dal,

    We’re there no drivable U-Hauls available in Cortez? Seems like that would have been a cheaper option than buying a used Explorer and selling it back….and it would have come with the room for your stuff.

    • DT-
      I didn’t check on U-Haul. But if I had thought about them I probably would have given them a pass anyway unless I was desperate… The price I ended up paying for that Ford for almost a month was less than the cost of a rental for a month…and much easier to drive…in my opinion…
      Bottom line was that I needed a vehicle to drive back to Cortez and leave there…otherwise I would have two vehicles to take to Cortez and need two drivers…buying something reasonable and selling it back seemed like a viable option…

  7. And another of my former vehicles: my first car. A 1962 Chevy 2 Nova wagon. It must have been found in a barn, because it was faded, rotted out, with a hole so large under the drivers feet that I could put my feet down on the road and Flintstone the old beast. It fit the personality of the former owner. He must have lived in it while cultivating his persona as a drunk philosopher and poet.
    … Charles Bukowski…
    My parents somehow knew a lot of famous and interesting people back in the day, when we lived in Santa Barbara , California. This quotable character was among them. Somehow my father got him to sell me his old beater for $200.
    My mother made some curtains for the back, and I put in some blankets and sleeping bags so I could hit the road, and sleep without a expense or a shower. I gave it a paint job and a new clutch. Then I would start it by using a long screw driver connecting the bolts on the starter and the solenoid. That is how cars worked back then.
    Down the road I would go. Up mountain passes and down mountain roads.Back then I would seek out other quotable characters that made their way through the scene in California. Most often down to Simi valley to listen to the ramblings of J. Krishnamurti. Until I fell asleep during one of his talks. I awoke and got up and walked right past him, and was enlightened enough to know that I didn’t need teachers anymore. I had graduated.
    After one last night in the Chevy, I was done with it. Done with that phase of life. I found another car and moved to Montana for a fresh start.
    Some cars have a purpose in our life. To carry us on. To the place that we are meant to be.

  8. Dal,
    New paint, new motor, fresh start,,, ya might want to give Ezy a gift. Fuzzy dice come to mind, only too nostalgic… How about a dream catcher for all the new trips ya’ll be taking while saving the old memories…
    Just a thought

  9. Dal can you atleast get this Beautiful ride a cool name plate for the front so we will know it’s her coming great read and I can’t believe I thought you had some kind of cool old antique car all this time and I’m
    Like so where’s that esmarelda your always talking about and you point to a white van lol I about spit my beer out at ya lol lol I had a huge vision and it wasn’t of a caravan

  10. I had a ’79 Ford van that I drove for 13 years. When I traded it in for a new car, my youngest daughter broke my heart. She said it was like getting rid of the family dog. I’ll never live that one down.

  11. I see a little silhouette of a van. Esy come, Ezy go, will you let her go? No!

    This is no van ordinaire! The big end may have blown, but for 5k she’s as good as new – and sporting a brand new letter…

    If 5k were really all it took to gain a new big end, life would be a lot easier. Sometimes she needs a lot more than that.

    Good story!

    (Apologies to the late, great Freddie.)

  12. Dal and EZY ride again. Here’s to happy endings , new beginnings and many more adventures!

  13. 1200 miles in 2 days is a lot of driving, but if you’ve got the time, why not? I just looked and my drive would be more than 1600 miles. Retired and doing it over 4 days, as part of a 2-3 week trip, I’d consider it.

  14. Dal, you do indeed have a great eye for photogenic landscapes. The first one in your article (3rd paragraph) looks strongly New Mexican, perhaps somewhere on the Chama River? I can imagine the Taos artists, and certainly Georgia O’keeffe, saving that scene to a canvas.

  15. I read your story with a tear in my eye. I have a 2001 that I bought new and has over 300,000 miles. “Old Blue” is starting to show signs of age. I’m not ready to part ways but know it is inevitable.

  16. Dal,
    You’re a better and more forgiving person than I will ever be. My hat’s off to you.
    After all the nice things you did for Ezy she paid you back with a blown motor,
    or just “one bad day” as you forgiveingly put it. You rock.

    I’ve had over 70 vehicles over 5 decades: cars and pickups and mcs and semis.
    In the 60s my rule was to never pay over $50 for a car…sometimes they made it
    around the block, others would last for many months. I never named them and
    rarely did anything nice for them. My Datsun 510 was an exception of sorts, it was
    pre-bashed so there was no use trying to make it look pretty, but it ran so well I
    did something nice for it. I splurged and bought it four brand new tires at K Mart
    for $99 ! Shortly after that it holed a piston. Ungrateful hunk of junk, thanks for
    nothing I thought. I got $20 for it from the wrecking yard, new tires and all. 45
    years later the memory still lingers…jeeeze…let go already, right? I will someday
    I hope.

    To this day I never lavish much attention on a vehicle because, well…you never know.
    May you and Ezy ride off into many sunsets until death do you part; you are a loyal
    friend indeed.


    • DC-
      Holy cow!!! Over 70 vehicles…That’s a vehicle museum…If you still had them you could charge people to look at them…take selfies with their favorite…
      $50 is a pretty low threshold…I don’t know how you did that…lol…

      • Dal,

        That is so right. I do wish I still had some of them, eg. Whizzer motor
        bicycle, ’60 Corvair (free) , ’57 Olds with J2 package (radio contest
        prize), ’56 Chevy with the visquine plastic still on the seats (remember
        that?) ($5 and motor transplant), ’57 Morris Minor ($75 what a blast ),
        Chevy IIs and Novas, Peugeot 403 (free and a freeze plug), ’66 Rover
        2000SC ($300), ’66 Cadillac limo (sweet ride! $800), 51 HD panhead,
        ’68 Charger big block ultimate muscle car , yeah, that one! Ouch.
        ’43 military jeep (rusted out, $40 in Hawaii), ’60 Ford Galaxie ($50)…

        Storage charge is what does in many a car collection, though one
        man’s “collection” is an old biddy’s “junkyard” it seems, lol.

        When my first boss gave me his Corvair (it needed rings) I hitchhiked
        to his house to pick it up. He said I was quite the piker. I thought it
        was a compliment on my hitchiking (on the turnpike?) skills. Decades
        passed before I learned what it meant. Yolk’s on me it seems.

        Happy Motoring, drive with care and buy Sinclair!
        D C

  17. We totally understand commitment, Dal. Our ’97 Ford conversion (with captain’s chairs) has 247,000+ miles worth of memories. The mechanic doesn’t get it. And if it weren’t for the failed air-conditioner, I could see heading southwest in it. It’s been to Montana a few times, but before I knew about Forrest’s treasure.

  18. You are inspiring me to take off on the adventure in my 2002 Chevrolet Tahoe. Just fold down the middle seats, throw in a sleeping bag and camping gear and head out.

  19. Dal….great story, so glad you got her back!
    So, what was Mr. Fenn’s advice to you while you were in that situation?
    Did he encourage you to save her and then take her to New Mexico for the Thrill of the Chase?
    Clearly Clueless

  20. I know it’s not the poetry page Dal, but here’s one for you my friend… it’s great to hear Ezzy’s back home…. see ya my friend


    Now Ezzy purrs, with a shiny hue,

    Awaiting for, adventures new.

    Chasing dreams, across deserts wide,

    Over mountains steep, to other sides.

    Now Lummi Island, a Distant place,

    Faithful friends, our dreams we chase.

    Cold, chilly nights, with bedroll spread,

    Within her care, I lay my head.

    Though she layed down, in ol’ Cortez,

    I just couldn’t leave, my trusty Ezz.

    So many places, we’ve yet to go,

    So Ezzy’s care, I left with Joe.

    Time it slowed, The days seemed long,

    To hear hear her purring, engine song.

    Now Ezzy’s fixed, thanks to good ol’ Joe,

    Pat on her dash, and off we go……

    By: Focused

    • Thanks Focused-
      I took my laptop out to the drive and read your poem to Ezy, the carved pumpkins and the island deer in the front yard. The deer appeared unaffected in their glazed, stupperish sort of way…Ezy was bowled over by the thought that someone would write a poem about her…she made me read it twice…and oddly, I am certain I saw a smile appear on the largest, meanest pumpkin head.

      • Dal,
        Well at least I could put a smile on a pumpkins face out there on Lummi iIsland….
        I’m glad Ezzy liked it too…. have a great day my friend… see ya

  21. for some reason dal ,when you would mention ezy,I always pictured her yellow and like a safari type jeep,but all covered.weird.I’m glad you get to see all the pretty country,and you share with us sometimes.god sure made a beautiful earth .I’d like to be in the mountains at night,like I see on the tv show survival and see alot of stars.if its really real like that at night,that would be awesome.I have seen pictures of the milky way,and stars by hubble,so awesome.a nice story would be good about now mr. forrest,love your stories,they are so interesting.I hope your kids and grand children know what they have in you.stories and wisdom.

  22. DAl,
    Any chance of EZY having puppies you might want to sell.??
    Yeah, strange and sometimes good happenings in the Durango neck of the woods.

  23. I always thought Ezmerelda was an Astro van. I guess I “shaving creamed” a stranger’s windshield on the white Astro parked near my search site. 😉 I think I like Safari’s better.

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