Friday, May 30, 2014

RST Renovation: Project 1

This looks like a simple bed platform, right?

But it has a secret. Lift the top panel and there's storage for flat objects I don't need to access often.

Not just maps, but also off-season shirts and socks, some gadgets, and whatever else will fit. All out of the way without taking up space in bins or cupboards.

Next on the list, an improved insulated container for the fridge.

A morning of exploration

I'd seen the Forest Service sign in Oakley UT pointing to Smith-Morehouse campground. My sister recommended I go see it. And since early morning is one of the best times for nature photography, that's when I headed up Weber Canyon. (The one in Summit County. There are two Weber Canyons in Utah. This Weber guy got around.) (And Utahns pronounce it Wee-ber.)

It was worth loosing a little sleep.

The next canyon south leads to the very popular Mirror Lake area. And to the Provo River Falls. And to Bald Mountain Pass. And snow. So I went there, too.

Spring melt at Provo River Falls

Yes, it's almost June, and the lakes at 10,000 feet are still frozen, and the campgrounds are buried in snow

I really need to recalibrate what "late spring" means

Katy and Shawn

They were riding their motorcycles up in the Uintas and were very curious
about how I live off the grid.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Playing in the mud

My brother-in-law calls it irrigating his garden, but I know that's just an excuse.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Spring cleaning

I took everything out of the van today and stacked it next to my sister's garage.

I went to the car wash to vacuum out the Rolling Steel Tent.There was dirt in there from last autumn.

Then rain threatened, so I put nearly everything back in the van. Funny how it looks like too much stuff when it's not all stowed away in its regular places.

Then the Reflectix window inserts blew across the yard, nearly into the neighbor's mule pasture.

Eh, tomorrow's another day.

From my window

Irrigation day

Gettin' all faux-impressionist on ya

I'm staying with my eldest sister's family in the small town of Oakley, Utah. Their neighbors have horses, mules and cattle. My brother-in-law loves to work in his vegetable garden and tend to his fruit trees.

I woke up unusually early (for me) and saw it was a good time to take some pictures. And it seemed like a good idea to apply Photoshop's paint daubs filter. Arty time.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

High-altitude aerobic workout 2

This is only about a third of the way up the trail

The trail from the Timpanogos Cave visitor center to the actual cave rises 1,500 feet in 1.5 miles. The hike looked so benign on the poster.

Is this sign to encourage or discourage? It should also say that it gets steeper from here.

But I kept marching on, gasping for air, until I reached the cave entrance. Woo! Victory for the old man from lower elevations!

I happened to be the last one of our group to enter the cave (the rest were geology students who were together) so I was given the trusted job of sweep man and the closer of doors between various chambers.

The geology students were fascinated

There were the usual stalactites, stalagmites and pools, but the star of the show is what they call the Heart of Timpanogos. I think we also passed through the spleen.

Because, it's shaped like a heart

Timpanogos Cave doesn't have the wow factor of places like Luray Caverns near where I grew up, but I think it was worth the hike. With its narrow passages and low ceilings it felt more like a spelunking experience.

Oh, and the walk back down was easy.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Mt. Timpanogos hike

Mt. Timpanogos from the east

Thanks to some ambitious people several generations ago, a road was blazed from American Fork Canyon to Provo Canyon. Or the other way around. Or from both ends to the middle. Whichever, it runs up along the the eastern side of Mt. Timpanogos. I had been as far as the Sundance ski resort, but I'd never driven it end to end. Until today.

A little past Sundance

Rather than just make the drive, I stopped at the Summit Trailhead and did some walking.

I like this kind of trail. Through the shade of trees, a surface that has just a little cushion to it, no oddly angled rocks. However, the aspens blocked most of the view (except the view of trees) so I took this shot at one of the road pullouts.

Imagine autumn with all those aspens brilliant yellow. I'll have to come back.

I had planned on going to Timpanogos Cave, but the day's tickets were sold out by the time I got there. Tuesday, after the holiday weekend, will be a good time to go. Mmmmm, stalactites!

Friday, May 23, 2014

Better than I expected

Everyone knows you need to go to big cities in order to see decent art. I've done that. New York, Paris, London...

But Springville, Utah? Does the Art® world even know where that is? And how dare it call itself Art City?

Well, I'm visiting my sister in Springville and had some time to kill. She paints a little, was a clothing and textiles major, so when she said the local art museum was surprisingly good, I took her word for it. She was right.

They were having their big annual show of current Utah artists. There's some excellent work being done in the state. Here are a couple of my favorites from the show.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Under-promise and over-deliver

Imagine a heavenly chorus going, "Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah!"

Woo! The Rolling Steel Tent is back! A day early. And the work was done right. 

Not only does the door now open all the way, not only is the dent gone, but they also buffed out the entire vehicle. They must have read my mind. After I had placed my home in the hands of the Progressive Insurance service center, who would deliver it to one of their trusted repair shops, I thought, "Doh! I should have asked them to buff out the bush/tree scratches and the ghosts of the former owner's business decals." Well, thank you, Shine Collision Repair in Murray, UT. You knew the van would look bad with only the door and fender shiny and new.

When I worked in advertising, too many clients thought victory went to those who could out-hype, out-BS their competitors. That was short-term thinking. They might convince people to buy the sun, moon and stars they promised, but only once before buyers realized they'd been lied to.

On the other hand, under-promising and over-delivering leaves customers delightfully surprised. The product or service was even better than they expected. That's a long-term approach to marketing. Build loyalty and word of mouth. The problem, though, is actually being good at what you do.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

It's a question of questions

I've run into two kinds of people in life (not the only two kinds, of course). There are those who seek answers and those who never have questions. The curious and the incurious.

Van dwelling is a good lifestyle for curious people. While you might not find the answers to some of your questions, there are many times you will be presented with the answers to questions you didn't know you had. Good answers often lead to more questions. And more answers. And more questions... (Oooo, a question-answer perpetual motion machine!)

Curiosity leads to having more answers, more solutions in your brain. So you can handle life's crap better. Or avoid some of it better. Or even turn a negative into something positive.

Curiosity accepts risk, or at least the possibility of disappointment. Perhaps that's why some folks are incurious. "What if I go to the trouble of finding an answer but I don't like what I find out?" That's life. And a much smaller one if you avoid curiosity. However, I much prefer those who don't have any questions over those who believe they have all the answers.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Evening hike

My niece, Lisa, and her husband, Russell, led me on a hike up Payson (UT) Canyon to Maple Lake and to the Grotto. I like places with water (not to be confused with oppressive humidity).

Russell obviously used the Bloated Al filter.


I thought the damage to the Rolling Steel Tent from my fender bender was just cosmetic. But things were bent enough that the passenger door wouldn't open more than three inches. Sigh.

But Progressive makes the repair process rather painless. Come into one of their service centers, sign some papers, give them the key, load some stuff in the rental car they provided, and wave goodbye to my home for a couple of weeks.

It's good this happened near family. I have places to stay and people to be with.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Other photos from Zion National Park

A different type of town

Too many cities consider people who live in vehicles instead of buildings to be
undesirable, or even criminal. So it’s a joy to discover a town that accommodates us wanderers.

The first time I stayed near Cottonwood, Arizona, about all I knew of it was some BLM land to camp on and a Walmart to shop at. But this time around, thanks to someone far more curious than me, I learned Cottonwood is downright hospitable to folks living a mobile life. Or to people just down on their luck.

In most cities the problem is where to park and sleep in your vehicle. Though Walmarts are usually a good bet, some towns have outlawed the practice. In Cottonwood you can sleep in several shopping center parking lots. Stay a night, stay a month. No problem. Do dirty looks. No citizens with torches and pitchforks to drive you off. (Though the middle-of-the-night parking lot sweepers can be annoying.)

I liked the Safeway parking lot. It had trees.

Sometimes you need more than a parking spot. Sometimes your resources are very limited. Charities in Cottonwood offer a food bank, a kitchen you can use, free meals (including a weekly community picnic where all are welcome, even if they can’t bring food), free showers, free haircuts, free laundry, free clothing, free eye exams and low-cost glasses... All without questions asked. A friend learned that Goodwill would give her a bicycle. Just because she needed one. And there are mental health services that actually want to help rather than finding excuses not to.

Food bank, showers, laundry and more

Not just neighbors helping neighbors. Neighbors helping strangers, too.

There is such a thing as a free lunch

A good resource

An oasis

Need a bike?

Some argue that this kind of charity just attracts riffraff and damages the community. But Cottonwood is doing fine. In fact, it’s probably a better town because of its magnanimity.

See my friend Lesa's blog for further information.

UPDATE: Due, in part, to a brawl and shooting in the Walmart parking lot, Cottonwood passed an ordinance in 2015 banning overnight camping anywhere in town.