Saturday, October 12, 2019

Fixing the fakery

Chevrolet and GMC trucks have hubcaps held on by fake nuts. The plastic gets more brittle over time, and some tire jockeys go overboard tightening them, causing them to strip or split. Then road vibrations cause them to loosen. It’s not a great design, but I like the looks of the hubcaps better than none at all.

So rather than having to keep snugging up the fake bolts, I got wondering about some type of sticky stuff I could apply to hold them on but not make them impossible to remove. Something permanently temporary. Thread locker? Silicone? Ear wax?

Lou suggested plumber’s putty. And he had some on hand. It was worth a try. I smeared blobs on the actual lug nuts, installed the hubcaps and…

It has worked so far. After about a thousand miles, some of it on lumpy and washboarded roads, the fake nuts are still snug.

Friday, October 11, 2019

Thursday, October 10, 2019

I. O. Who?

I finally picked up mail from my address in Arizona. These are the medical bills that have been piling up since May. It’s not as bad as it looks because most of them are just monthly demands for payment of the same charges. And most of the charges are less than $100. Understandably, Tucson Medical Center and UCLA Health want some four-digit amounts from me. Thanks to Medicare, my portion is just a fraction of the nearly $100,000 total. My out-of-pocket share is far less than premiums I would’ve been paying a regular insurer, and probably less than the deductibles said insurer would have me pay. So hurray for socialized medicine, y’all.

Wednesday, October 9, 2019

This little piggy

I have no idea what caused this toenail to start turning black. I don’t remember injuring it and it doesn’t hurt. Any thoughts on what’s happening and why?

Who are you now?

You who are on the road
Must have a code that you can live by
And so become yourself
Because the past is just a goodbye
Questions for my fellow nomads:

Have you rethought your life, your values, your goals since hitting the road?

Do you have a code?

Have you become your authentic self?

Is your past over and done with or is it part of your present and future?

What would you teach “the children” about your experiences, your changes?

Which dreams would you feed them?

Which one would you want them to know you by?

Have things worked out pretty much the way you hoped?

Tuesday, October 8, 2019

Half way there

My bed doubles as my chair. I’d like to lower it a couple of inches so my head doesn’t brush the roof, or so I don’t need to hunch over. However, the existing bed height was chosen so a 58 quart storage bin could slide underneath.

In the beginning, there were three of those bins. But over the past six years I’ve discovered more things I don’t need to carry with me. So three bins became two. Then one of those was replaced with a half-height 28 quart bin. Then the half bin became only about half full.


I bought another half-height bin and, after realizing I no longer needed a certain threadbare fitted sheet nor a pair of worn out shoes, I could fit everything into the two shorter bins. I thought it would be harder than that.

Now the only thing in the way of a lower bed is a small bin that sits atop one of the short ones. It contains my four quart pot and lid and a few other things. Or I could relocate my laundry bag. It’s soft so there are more placement options.


Monday, October 7, 2019

Coffin for a jack

The tire jack for Express and Savana vans comes mounted to a bracket in the rear corner. I removed that bracket to make room for the cabinet. And to make paneling easier.

The past six years the jack and associated bits have lived on the floor, under the cabinet. But there are other things I’d rather put there, like shoes.

Since Lou has a table saw (among other things), it was a perfect opportunity to build a box for the jack. There are several places in the van it could go while being both out of the way for daily living and still easily accessible if I should need it. It turned out pretty good, especially considering I did it all by myself.

Friday, October 4, 2019

Nature had other plans

An hours-long thunderstorm payed a visit last night. Water rushed out of the mountains and canyons and across Rancho Lou. Shoes, a rug, some lumber and assorted items were washed across the yard. You can see the high water mark on my tire, plus the way the van sank about an inch into the softened ground.

I wanted to go to Las Cruces today, but when I tried to back out I just dug ruts. Lou attempted to pull me out, but he just dug in. Oh well. I guess I’ll be waiting until things dry out. It’s not like I needed to go to Las Cruces.

(Insert lecture about the benefits of a locking differential and offroad tires)

Thursday, October 3, 2019

The down side of insulation

The Rolling Steel Tent is pretty well insulated. Two-and-a-quarter inches of foam board in the roof, an inch-and-a-half in the walls. That usually results in a ten to fifteen degree difference from the outside temperature.

However, in cooler seasons, like autumn, when I’m glad the sun is up and warming things, the Rolling Steel Tent wants to maintain its lower overnight temperature.

In the summer, when the insulation makes a 90 degree day a slightly more tolerable 80 degrees, it wants to hold onto that 80 degrees into the night when the outside temperature is much more pleasant.

This is why Jason Odom, author of Vanabode, is against insulation. The van takes longer to warm up and cool down. True, but insulation also helps keep things warmer and cooler when I want it to. So it’s a tradeoff. And there are solutions. I can turn on some heat or go outside on mornings like today. I can sleep with the windows and door open on summer nights. Or, in the spirit of living closer to nature, I can just tough it out.

Wednesday, October 2, 2019

More friends!

Loretta wants you to know she doesn't like this picture because she’s squinting

Hal and Loretta from Oregon arrived at Ranch Lou yesterday. I unknowingly drove past them in northern New Mexico last week. They have a different travel trailer than before, so I didn’t recognize them. Their former rig had distinctive arched solar panel racks. It’s funny how we get to know people by the details of what they drive/tow.


The shower floor reminds me of Joan Miro’s paintings

Lou has just a few things to finish up on his cabin. The bathroom is essentially done and the kitchen just needs some shelves and a cabinet door. He’s waiting for the air conditioning guy to hook up his mini-split unit.

Tuesday, October 1, 2019


I wore a beard from about 1980 until radiation therapy decided to make about half of my whiskers fall out. Now I shave the remaining patches, which makes me feel like I’m betraying the whiskers that boldly, strongly withstood the attack. Sorry, guys.

I don’t like the whole shaving cream and safety razor thing (no matter how many blades they put in them), and I can’t keep running to the barber for a professional straight razor shave, so I bought an electric shaver. The last time I had one was in the ‘70s, and it didn’t do a very good job. Shavers have improved a lot since then. My new one does a good job. Nice and close. Quick and easy.

So many Boomer men—especially nomadic ones—have beards. It’s almost the standard look for guys my age. So being clean-shaven puts me in a different group. Maybe it makes me an outsider. Which is fine. That’s sort of the story of my life.

Monday, September 30, 2019

Lunch and shopping

In the course of familiarizing himself with his new community, Lou discovered the senior citizens’ center and its two-buck lunches. Today’s menu: chicken, mashed potatoes, gravy, green beans, a biscuit, peaches and an apple.

After enjoying some solid food I checked out the thrift shop where I discovered this excellent rayon camp shirt. Also two bucks. Thank you to whichever fashionable resident of the Mimbres Valley donated this fine garment.

Laundry is not for the meek

Sunday, September 29, 2019

People, places or things

An odd thing happened when I was finally free to return to the road. You can see it in my blog posts the past couple of weeks. They’re less about the places I went or the scenery I saw and more about the people I met up with.

Damn, I’ve become sociable.

Maybe it’s because Nature, in its disinterested way, hadn’t shown concern for my wellbeing this summer. No mountains wished me luck in my treatment, no bodies of water offered encouragement, no sunsets shared kind thoughts. But people did.

My priority has been to see family and friends. Like a normal person. The landscapes will still be there afterward.

The Other Alan arrived yesterday at Rancho Lou. It was good to see him again. Yay! People!

Friday, September 27, 2019

Ring of fire

Stock butane burner

I like my butane stove. Easy to light, good temperature control. However, the thing the pots and pans sit on (someone give me the proper name for that) doesn’t work well with my tiny one-egg pan. The points are too far apart so the pan can’t sit level.

With the thingamabob added

So I got a filler/reducer thingamabob from Amazon. I had looked at several and thought I had ordered a cast iron one. What I got was stamped steel. Um, okay, my fault. The way it was stamped, though, made its prongs point slightly upward. That meant the pan was trying to sit on top of a pyramid. But I managed to bend the prongs downward to solve that problem. Time to cook.

Happy, stable little pan

Well, whatever the black coating is, it started smoking and fuming. Open the door, turn on the fan, wait for it to quit. Okay, there we go. Everything from there on went just fine. And the bacon & eggs were tasty.


Shave and a haircut, $12, by Tom at Silver Clipper Barber Shop, Silver City, New Mexico. There was no bleeding.

The last time I was reclined and a guy was working on me with something sharp, I was having a tracheostomy. This was more pleasant.


When Lou left me in the hospital in Tucson, he believed he might never see me again. We are both thrilled he was wrong.

I’m back at Lou’s place and my plan is to hang around until it gets too cold for me.

Thursday, September 26, 2019


I was hungry. I was approaching Socorro. I wanted something other than a burger or pizza (neither of which I was certain I could eat anyway). I wanted something local, not a chain. The parking lot of the El Camino Family Restaurant was full, which is a good indicator, but who could resist that Jetsons sign?

The “seniors and children” menu had spaghetti for six bucks, including garlic bread. It was pretty good, though it could’ve been a little wetter.

In real life

Four years ago I read this article about a guy boondocking with a Geo Metro. I wrote a blog post about it. A little later, the man in the article and in my post, Michel Herrmann, started commenting on this blog. So I started reading his blog.Then we started exchanging email.

One day, totally unplanned, our wanderings had us passing just feet from each other. I was camped at Buckeye Hills Regional Park (back when you could do that) and he was looking for a spot. (By then he had exchanged the Metro for a Tracker.) He didn’t stop because, I learned later, he was experiencing extreme intestinal distress and needed to, um, be alone.

He has been temporarily housed in Albuquerque while his rig undergoes repairs. When he learned I was in New Mexico, he invited me to visit and discuss weighty topics.

There are risks bringing people from the virtual world into one’s real world, but I had a good feeling about Michael. So I was there last night.

He took me to dinner at an Albuquerque institution, the Frontier Restaurant across from UNM. I had a carne adovada burrito (thumbs up) and he had a breakfast burrito, wet. And we talked.

This morning we talked some more, about life, death, cancer, aging, purpose, meaning, therapy, validation, opera, espionage, lies, love, sex, careers, contentment, heater cores and a lot of other stuff. It was fun and enlightening. I still have good feelings about Michael.

Wednesday, September 25, 2019

Three amigos

Linda May is the thread that winds through Jessica Bruder’s Nomadland. A well educated, multi-skilled woman, yet the work she was able to find paid poorly or didn’t last long, making survival difficult.

Francis McDormand bought the movie rights to Nomadland and chose ChloĆ© Zhou to direct. Zhou likes to use the actual people in her reality-based films, and Linda May was asked to play herself. With the money she was paid, she bought some land near Taos, New Mexico, where she hopes to build an off-grid earth ship and grow much of her own food. There’s room on her acreage for her children and their families, plus nomadic friends who need a place to crash.

When Linda May learned I was back on the road after cancer treatment, and that I was heading to New Mexico, she invited me to visit. Of course!

When fellow nomad Debra Dickinson heard I was going to visit Linda May, she reversed course so she could join us. Debra was the victim of a vicious beating that left her with Traumatic Brain Injury. Despite various symptoms that make day-to-day living difficult, Debra has built an independent and rewarding life.

So there we were, three people overcoming adversity yet happy and feeling rich.

(Oh, and I worked as an extra in the movie. And the Rolling Steel Tent worked as a prop. The RST got paid more.)