Saturday, August 18, 2018

This gives me an idea

Paint a few clowns on the Rolling Steel Tent, get a loop of Pop Goes the Weasel, and I'd have my own parking spot. What’s the cost of shipping a van to England?

Friday, August 17, 2018

Dry at last

After another long day of driving, but without yesterday’s frustrations, I reached Montana. I’m camped again at the casino in Haugan. It’s warm and there’s smoke in the air, but the humidity is much lower. See, Oregon and Washington, you can have forests without all that wetness.

I have a category?

The free wifi at a Pizza Hut in Coeur d’Alene blocked my blog. The tiny type says, “You’ve tried to access a web page which belongs to a category that is blocked.” Oooo, I wonder what “bad” thing got me in trouble. Advocating the mobile life? Too much smart-assery? Ordering pineapple on my Personal Pan Pizza®?

Full regalia

Sculpture at a gas station in Moses Lake WA

Warning: this post contains crankiness and no photos

It was muggy in the Rolling Steel Tent when I woke up. Outside, everything was dripping in a heavy mist. Again.

Enough. I’d had my fill of this Pacific Northwest climate. I didn’t care if the only way out took me into the Hubs of Hell. I needed to dry out, forest fires and triple-digit heat be damned.

I had hoped to get an early start to beat commuter traffic in the Seattle metro area, but breakfast, a self-inflicted haircut, a campground shower and stopping for gas put me behind schedule. (Ugh, schedules.)

I was under way at last. Until I wasn’t. I and a hundred or so other drivers had to wait about a half hour for a drawbridge. A big container ship or tanker perhaps? A Navy vessel? No, three sailboats. Ah yes, let’s have the little people stop so the yachties won’t be inconvenienced.

At least the Rolling Steel Tent’s air conditioner, set to warm, was doing a fine job of dehumidifying.

Okay, I was moving again. Until I wasn’t. Traffic was at a crawl on I-5 because of construction. And people. (Ugh, people.)

After creeping along for another half hour, traffic got up to speed and… BAP! A stone came from somewhere and put a nickel-sized chip in the windshield. X@/¿*#!!!! It happened last week, too. Why me? Both times I was driving below the speed limit with plenty of following distance. Last week’s divot was below and slightly to the right of my line of sight. The new one is on the left edge but level with my eyes. If those two decide to join up, it’ll be new windshield time. Again.

There was an uneventful hour cruising along, clouds clearing, humidity dropping, feeling better about the world (except for the X@/¿*# rock chip) when traffic slowed to a crawl again for construction. I had the misfortune of spending most of the next half hour next to a semi with extra manly loud exhaust stacks. The up side, though, was having plenty of time to admire the dramatic Snoqualmie Pass—what I could see of it through the wildfire smoke.

It was seriously hot by the time I stopped for a pee break in Ellensburg, and I was seriously worn out and seriously cranky. Ahead of me was one of the least pleasant stretches in the state, a trip that would best be tackled early in the morning. Oh look, a budget hotel across the street. I wonder if they have a vacancy. They did.

Thursday, August 16, 2018

Put another pin in the map

I decided to drive out to Cape Flattery, billed as the northwest corner of Washington. It would be the third corner of the contiguous states I’ve been to. Key West FL and Imperial Beach CA were the other two. I’ve also been to Blaine WA, which is farther north than Cape Flattery. And I’ve been a few miles from the southern tip of Texas. I doubt I’ll ever go to the far corner of Maine or that little blip at the top of Minnesota.

Wave to the Canadians out there somewhere

The road to Cape Flattery follows the shore of the Strait of Juan de Fuca. (That’s fun to say. Juan de Fuca... Juan de Fuca...) Vancouver Island is across the way ten to eighteen miles. At least that’s what my geography lessons taught me. I couldn’t see it through the fog. Maybe only a ghost of it.

I was surprised, then not surprised to pass a Border Patrol truck. Oh, of course, they need to be on the watch for “fishermen” sneaking in.

When I got to Neah Bay I could see even thicker fog curling over and around the mountain that forms the cape. Should I make the fifteen mile round trip to the point only to see more fog, just so I can say I’d been there? Mmmmm, no. Close enough. Make your own joke about flattery and getting nowhere.

Flight cancelled because of weather

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Back to pumping my own

Farewell, Oregon


At the Pavement Ends sign I cross my fingers and hope the first-come-first-served campground at the end of a washboarded, potholed road isn’t full. In case it is, I shift into my Just Exploring mindset. I’ll go see what there is to see, add new things to my bank of experiences and knowledge. A place to stay would be a bonus.

A ranger pulls over to let me squeeze by on the narrow road. I return the favor for a couple in a Subaru, and then for several others. Are they vacating campsites or have they turned around after learning the campground was full?

I wonder if it’s too early for campers to be breaking camp. When is the magical site availability gap in this neck of the woods, on a Tuesday in mid-August?

There was a sign declaring the road was unsuitable for large vehicles, so that should filter out some of the campsite competitors, right?

I arrive and there are plenty of vacant sites, though the ones by the river are probably never available, handed down from generation to generation. I find a solar-friendly spot, rare in the rain forest. It’s also a short stroll to the toilet, which a park employee has just finished cleaning.

By 1:30 it’s just me and the folks with waterfront sites. Sweet.

Monday, August 13, 2018


I’m Wallydocking in Aberdeen, Washington (home town of Kurt Cobain) on my way to the Olympic Peninsula. I hadn’t decided where I was going until very late last night. It feels like the right choice. So far.


Tillamook OR

Does New Age mean instead of conventional soap and water they release the dirt from your vehicle using astrology, traditional Chinese medicine, crystals and essential oils?

Sunday, August 12, 2018

What, I missed this?

First, even though I'm camped at the Tillamook airport, I had no idea the Tillamook County Fair was this weekend. Second, I had no idea there was such a thing as racing Model T Fords with pigs. I know where I need to be next August.

Saturday, August 11, 2018


Back in my building-living days, my favorite breakfast item, second only to an onion bagel with herb cream cheese, was sourdough toast with peanut butter and cinnamon.

I thought I had invented something great. Why haven’t we all been eating this ever since peanut butter was invented? The world needed cinnamon peanut butter. I could market it (even though I knew nothing about the food business). But I had other work that needed to be done. Work at which I was experienced and competent. And then I had to rest from all that work. So Al’s Patented Gourmet Cinnamon Peanut Butter never became a thing.

Then a few weeks ago I discovered someone in the Jif product development department had had the same idea. And the infrastructure in place. And the ability to surprise and delight me. And make me feel a little like a failure. I could’uh been a contendah.

Here’s another idea someone could swipe develop: peach and ginger jam.

Curling up

There are people who so hate being cooped up (particularly in something as small as a van) that they’d rather go out in the rain. I'm not one of those people. I have a couple of new ebooks, so my mind will be somewhere else today.

Thursday, August 9, 2018

A book report

The Pacific Crest Trail traces the backbone of Washington, Oregon and California. Border to border. I know people who’ve hiked some or all of it and I keep intersecting the trail whenever my wanderings have me crossing the Sierras and Cascades. One of these days I might actually walk on it—for a couple of miles, anyway.

Writer Cheryl Strayed hiked hundreds of miles on the PCT. Alone. With a backpack even the burliest hikers thought was ridiculously heavy. She hiked because she was devastated by her mother’s death. She hiked because her marriage crashed and burned. She hiked because she had gotten sucked in by heroin.

Strayed’s reasons for hiking are the main point of Wild, I suppose. As the cover says, from lost to found. But I was more interested in the actual hiking. Because a life in turmoil isn't unusual. Walking alone through hundreds of miles of difficult and amazing terrain is. Common disease, uncommon cure. The farther I got into the book the more I skimmed the parts about her non-PCT life.

There was little doubt Strayed would make it to the Columbia River filled with peace, enlightenment and closure. Stories that end in failure and disappointment don’t sell well or get made into movies. So when the ending can be safely assumed, I prefer more about the journey.

“Ah,” some might respond, “the real journey was internal. Mountains, dehydration, heavy packs, lost toenails and all that are merely metaphors. The hero’s quest is never actually about the quest. It’s about the change in the hero.”

Yes, well, thank you Joseph Campbell.

I still recommend Wild. Oprah did. And if you’ve never been in the Sierras and Cascades, I highly recommend them too.

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Okay, about the fridge

Back in December I reported the fridge’s error light kept coming on overnight but would go off in the morning.

A while later I learned (from reading the manual, duh) that the automatic battery protection shutoff could be set for different levels, depending on whether you wanted it to activate when there was still plenty of charge in your battery or when you were willing to live dangerously and wait until the charge was low. And there was a medium setting. HI, MED, LO. The fridge was set on HI. I switched it to LO. Problem solved.

Then, about the middle of June, the situation flip-flopped. The error light would come on when the batteries were full from solar charging, then the error light would turn off when it was dark and the fridge would resume cooling until the sun came up. It was like it was freaking out from too much voltage, as if a voltage control circuit had failed. I didn’t think it was a temperature issue since the air was only in the sixties and low seventies.

So, what to do?

I would replace it rather than deal with a totally failed fridge sometime in the future. I had spare money and there were friends reasonably close who could accept a shipment for me. Now would be a good time.

I researched a bunch of other fridges. There were larger ones that cost less than the Dometic CF-25 I have. However, I had built an insulated box for the Dometic. It also served as a place to mount my fuse panel. If a different fridge couldn’t fit in the box (and none would) I’d have to build a new one, or at least find a place to mount the fuse panel that wouldn’t require a lot of rewiring. A new CF-25 wouldn’t be a bargain, but it would be plug-n-play. So that’s how I went. It arrived yesterday and I made the swap today.

Different color and logo but otherwise the same

Surprise, there was condensation and a little mold between the fridge and box. Oh yeah, that happens with cold things in humid climates.

Wet bottom

There was also dust buildup at the intake fan, just like with my computers back in the day. I don’t know if either contributed to the fridge’s malfunction, but I’ll keep tabs on it with the new fridge.

I plugged it in and there was no error light. Within a half hour it had cooled from 54°F to 31°F. Here’s hoping for another five years of service. Or more.

Now, anyone want a free finicky fridge with an uncertain lifespan?

Hangin' with some locals

Matt Groening says he chose Springfield for the name of The Simpsons’ home town because it was so generic.
According to the U.S. Geological Survey there are currently 33 populated places in 25 states named Springfield throughout the United States, including five in Wisconsin; additionally, there are at least 36 Springfield Townships, including 11 in Ohio.
Springfield, Oregon, doesn’t have a nuclear power plant, Krusty Burger or Mega Lo Mart, but it’s claiming a bit of the Simpsons for itself with this mural. Sure, why not?

Springfield is also happy to remind folks that Ken Kesey spent his youth there before leaving for the University of Oregon across the river and LSD trips across the universe.

I have a several-degrees-of-separation thing going with Kesey. While in a writing program at Stanford, he worked at the Veterans Hospital in Menlo Park, California. It was there he got inspiration for One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest and was introduced to psychoactive drugs by the CIA. My connection, pathetic as it is: in the early '80s I lived in an apartment across the street from the hospital, writing nothing, taking no drugs.

Monday, August 6, 2018

How long?

Back in April or May I didn't think I’d be in Oregon at all this summer. Then I thought I’d go for maybe a couple of weeks at the beginning of June to be around when Lou had his eye surgery. Then I figured a week, ten days, while I did some video editing for Bob. By then it was horribly hot everywhere except the thin band along the Pacific Coast or up in the higher elevations of the Rockies. So I went to the coast.

Here it is, a week into August and I'm still in Oregon. I go to Salem tomorrow to see Hal and Loretta and pick up my new fridge. (More on that later.)

Then where?

My nomadiversary is at the end of the month. Is there anywhere special I want to be to mark the occasion? (Shrug)

Mr. Towd

I was sitting in the Rolling Steel Tent, enjoying a muffin from Safeway, when this guy pulled his Jeep up behind his RV. Oooo, I thought, I’ll be able to see, beginning to end, what it takes to turn the Jeep into a towd. (In case you don’t know, towd is RVer slang for the vehicle that’s towed behind and used to make side trips and run errands.)

First he had to line the Jeep up behind the RV, which took about three tries.

Then he unloaded stuff from a storage compartment to get to the hitch components that were also in there.

He fumbled with some fittings that connected to the Jeep. He struggled with the cross bar that attached to the fittings (a hammer was employed).

He got more things from the storage compartment. Clevis pins, hitch locks, safety cables, electrical cable…

He got something from the back of the Jeep.

He made a few attempts attaching the bars that connect the Jeep to the RV.

He fought with the coiled cables.

He got something else from the back of the Jeep. And something else from the storage compartment. And he put some things away.

He eventually got the pebble guard properly attached.

Then he checked the right turn signal. The left turn signal. The brake lights.

He put the rest of the stuff away and checked the locks on all his hatches.

He put the Jeep in neutral and maybe unlocked the hubs. He locked the Jeep.

And he was ready to hit the road.

It took him about 40 minutes. I suspect he hadn’t set this stuff up many times. But even if an experienced RVer could do it in, say, 15 minutes, it’s still quite a process—by my just-put-the-step-in-the-van-and-go standards. Yet, if the towd towers are happy, tow away.

Saturday, August 4, 2018

Nautical bumper guard

Good morning

A slight shift in the weather the past couple of days has kept away the usual night and morning overcast. But a little fog hangs around for artistic effect.

Friday, August 3, 2018

A tip from the Clumsy Chef

I learned this a few years ago: If you’re cooking something gooey, sloppy, runny or sticky in your vehicle, and the interior surfaces can’t be power washed, step outside to flip it.

If the weather is too nasty to be stepping outside, don’t go cooking anything gooey, sloppy, runny or sticky that requires flipping.