Nodes work directly, but not when hops are involved

I’ve got two T-Echo’s.
They communicate great when it’s iPhone to T-E1 to T-E2 to iPhone - No hops.
But when I see the two nodes at distance from each other with 1 or 2 hops, then messages are not received.

Maybe there’s congestion on the frequency. How far apart are they?
Are you using the standard antenna?

Great Questions and shame on me for omitting.
1 mile as the crow flies both using a 3db antenna upgrade and I confirmed and tested the antennas on a Nano VNA as bonifide improvements over stock.

I have also tried setting my max hops at 7 to see if it made a difference. It does not. We are either directly connected or not connected at all.

The map in the meshtastic app is showing me with connections as far as 130 miles out, 20 and 30 miles out, but nothing around me in the 5 to 10 mile range. I find it hard to believe that there are no MT devices near me. Especially when I know the second T-Echo I have is 1 mile line of sight.

Area is the Anthem Area of Northern Maricopa County / Phoenix AZ. 85086 Zip-Code for mapping references.

When you look at these maps:

Is there no one around you? shows

Liam Cottle shows

Mpowered247 shows

My phone shows this:

In the top two, I am the southern node and the other T-Echo is the northern node.
In the third pic - neither of us are present.
In the fourth pic only my node even though the other T-Echo will show up on the map when we are directly connected. When we are not connected my node directly to his he will not show on the map - only the node list.

Of interest - The top pic shows blue lines indicating two nodes heard me. One is the second T-Echo to my north and the other node where the blue line goes off screen is up north of Flagstaff AZ near the Grand Canyon - so like 100 miles? Can’t be direct. Too many mountains between here and there unless I’m getting some grey line propagation. But that’s for another day.