We don’t find the truck, but we do find two cars and a motorcycle.
I was hard at work on my Excel Visual QuickProject Guide (really, Nancy!) when my office phone rang. It was my friend Tammy. She told me that a white dualie pickup truck had been stolen from in front of a house in Wickenburg. It had some unusual cargo, which I prefer not to discuss, in the back that made its recovery rather urgent. If I was out and about in the helicopter, could I look for it?
I did better than that. I offered to take her and one of our local police officers on a flight to find it.
(If you’re from the east coast or a metro area and don’t know what a dualie is, it’s a pickup truck with four back wheels. It’s better for towing but also sucks more gas. I suspect that many dualie owners buy them because they think dualies are cool. Until they have to replace the first set of six tires.)
We met at the airport. The officer, decked out in his dark uniform and looking bulky with his flack vest on, climbed in. His gun hung right over my collective. He later told me that his utility belt weighted about 27 lbs. Tammy rode in the back. I had our three doors off.
If this was a typical stolen vehicle, it would be stripped of anything easily strippable and ditched somewhere out in the desert. There were a number of usual places to look. So that’s where we started.
We flew around the outskirts of town, up and down washes and dirt roads. We didn’t see the truck, but we did see some cows, a tent pitched right off Constellation Road, lots of shiny windmills, and more dumped junk than you could imagine. We headed south toward Wittman, passing over the concentric circles of Circle City.
We crossed the Hassayampa River way down south and flew over Whispering Ranch, a rather notorious collection of off-the-grid ranches south of Vulture Peak. It was there that we saw a two cars and a motorcycle hidden under trees in a wash. I used my GPS to set a waypoint so I could give the police the GPS coordinates to investigate later. (There are no street signs down there.)
Then Vulture Mine to Vulture Mine Road to Vulture Peak Road. Then around Constellation Road and across to Moreton Airpark. Then south to Route 60 west of the airport, skirting around the hills out there.
The dualie was not in sight.
If this was not a typical stolen vehicle, it could be in a Phoenix chop shop. Or down on the Mexican border, getting ready to pick up Mexicans crossing over into the remote parts of the southern Arizona desert.
Or if someone stole it for its cargo, it could be anywhere.
We came back to the airport. It wasn’t a total loss. The police officer now had a whole different perspective of Wickenburg, along with GPS coordinates for three potentially stolen vehicles that he could hand off to the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office. Tammy had gotten a second chance to see Wickenburg — and a whole lot more — from a helicopter. I’d gotten a chance to fly about an hour and a half and provide a service for Wickenburg.
It’s true: I didn’t get paid. But the Town of Wickenburg did pick up my fuel tab.
Update, October 1: I tried to keep the cargo a secret, but KTAR didn’t.