We had been driving a mere three hours and had yet to leave the state of Montana when our check engine light came on.  Would this be the end of our grand adventure before we even crossed a state line? Luckily it was only the exhaust gas recirculation valve, and lo and behold, we’re getting better gas mileage without it than we ever have before. The shocks are bottomed out, the cooler hitch has about 4 inches of clearance and we look like we’re heading to a Clampett family reunion (replace the rocking chair with a composting toilet), but 2500 miles later the old subaru’s still purring like a kitten.

We completed the first leg of our journey towards the sea, and we’re now taking a breather in Austin, TX to do some more celebrating and to see the Texan side of the family one last time before the big trip. …Wait, Austin is not on the way to the Sea of Cortez, you say?

Indeed, we turned what could have been a 1600 mile trip into a 3700 mile cross country epic. But hey, seeing the family will be worth it.

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Along the way we explored and camped in the canyonlands of Utah and the Kaibab plateau above the Grand Canyon. We swam in the Colorado and the Pecos Rivers and fought off skunks on the South Llano in the hill country of Texas. We felt the blistering heat that will consume us for the next three months, and we felt the joy of cold waters on our skin.

We’ll stay here in Austin for another 9 days before setting out west towards Tucson where we’ll wrap up our last bit of business before crossing the border into Mexico.