There were five other rigs when I pulled into Fortuna Pond on Friday. No problem. There were seven when I came back from town, but they were still well spread out. Then, after sundown, several more people arrived. And they weren't very quiet about it. Ergh.
So I packed up this morning and headed to the wide open spaces along Olgiby Road, off Interstate 8, across the Colorado River, in California. There were various rigs heading the opposite direction, going home after the Thanksgiving weekend. A good sign.
I went farther north to get away from lingering ATV encampments and turned into the BLM area near American Girl Mine. There were two toy haulers there, but they packed up and left within a half hour. So I have the place all to myself. That's better.
Cargo Muchachos Mountains in the background, ocotillo in the foreground
As Rare Earth sang, I was born to wander. And, I would add, to run from freezing nights.
I know you folks in places with actual winters have it far worse than I do right now. And I'm extremely glad I'm not where daytime highs are below zero. Or even merely below freezing. I'm not looking for pity. But I do not like cold weather. I did two winters in Saskatchewan, so I know serious cold. I don't ever want to be near it again.
Yesterday I left Quartzsite for Yuma with the idea of heading to the campground at Painted Rock Petroglyphs, near Gila Bend. Or maybe the Anza-Borrego Desert. Because of itchy feet. And because it might be a little warmer.
Well, Yuma is warmer than Quartzsite, by about eight degrees. The nighttime lows are in the 40s rather than the 30s. But head any direction within the US from here and it gets colder again. It's almost like Yuma is where the heater is. So I'll be staying a while.
Yuma is an okay place to be stuck for a while. It has everything I need. It's just that I've been here several times before and I'm craving someplace new, someplace different. Stimulation. So maybe that will come from discovering new and different things about Yuma. After it warms up a little.
It was van dweller Thanksgiving again in Quartzsite. About 45 people (some of whom I didn't even know were in the area) showed up for the pot luck feast.
Click to enlarge
There were two turkeys—one roasted on a gas grill, one deep fried—and mountains of side dishes. I brought corn. Way too much corn.
What's left of he roasted turkey
The remains of the deep fried turkey. The group lacked carving skills.
Earlier in the week we thought Thanksgiving dinner would need to be postponed due to heavy winds. It's hard to keep stoves lit outside when it's blowing twenty to thirty miles per hour. But the forecast improved and it was nearly windless today. No problems.
Oh, and there was a pile of desserts. Pies, cakes, cookies, candy... I suggested that next year we just do desserts. A coalition of traditionalists and health-conscious eaters vetoed the idea. Foo on them.
Mike Rowe, star of Dirty Jobs, once said that safety isn't Job 1. Getting the job done is Job 1. Safety is, like, Job 3.
To that end, when I needed a piece of steel cut, and James couldn't find his angle grinder, we improvised with a reciprocating saw and some pliers.
Photo by Michael Whiteside
After wearing out three blades and doing some pounding and swearing and making the dogs nervous, James's wife, Kyndal, found the angle grinder and we finished the job in a few seconds. No fingers were severed.
Most people like waffles. Fellow boondocker, Bryce, loves waffles. He has a waffle iron and the power to run it. So he put together a waffle breakfast for the folks hanging around Scadden Wash in Quartzsite. About 25 of us showed up. Because, food.
Our host and wafflero, Bryce
There were also eggs, sausage and mimosas. And after the food, conversation.
A crew from Al Jazeera English came around to interview people who have decided to live in vehicles instead of buildings. They had contacted Bob Wells, the guru of vandwelling, and since I'm currently camped a couple hundred yards from him, Bob recommended me, among others. I thought, "Sure, why not?"
Anar Virji, field producer
We talked mostly about the economic pressures that led me to this life. Declining career, crash of 2008, inadequate retirement funds, the costs of maintaining a house, and so on.
Rob Michaud, cameraman
The story they're putting together is slated for international broadcast. They have hours of interviews to edit down to a 2.5 minute segment, so who knows if I'll make the cut. And if I do, who knows whether I'll be happy with it. But it's an experience I would never have had if I were still living in a building.
I'm hangin' at Bolsa Chica State Beach. Great weather after a couple of chilly, windy days along the coast. And, as one would expect, the beach is nearly deserted on a workday in November.
That's the Long Beach skyline in the distance
It's rather serene. The noises from Coast Highway blend with the sound of the surf to form calming white noise. Occasionally a cyclist glides by, tires hissing on asphalt. The gulls are quiet.
The beach is more barren than the desert. But I feel more alive, more full by the ocean. The Southern California traffic and general chaos I have to pass through in order to get to the beach is totally worth it. Maybe there's some validity to the aquatic ape hypothesis. I know I'm more at home by the water than up in the trees. Too bad I can afford only to visit.
At least we nomads can get to the laundromat when it's not busy
Yes, I did laundry just a few days ago, but there were two reasons to do it again. One was that I'd bought a long sleeved t-shirt I wanted to wash before wearing. The other was that one of my water jugs leaked, soaking the laundry bag (a.k.a. the black and lime green scuba duffle) and three day's of dirty clothes. I figured I might as well run them through the wash before drying them out. Livin' large!
I mean, besides following the arrows through the maze? I'm getting ideas. Maybe there's something that will let me stow my stuff more compactly and/or let me get at it easier. Or something that makes my surroundings more pleasant.
Hmmmm, lots of containers. And if I were starting the Rolling Steel Tent from scratch, there's a wide choice of compact cabinets to consider.
What about lights? Maybe a small one for atmosphere on those long winter nights? I might be able to rewire one to run on 12 volts or AA batteries.
Of course, I don't need to use things for their intended purposes. For example, this lid/dish rack could be used vertically to hang things.
And there are all sorts of things other than beans that could be kept in these magnetic jars.
And though these stools were meant to allow little kids to reach sinks, they could work just as well as a step into a van. The happy blue & green one is more fun than the beige ones you see everywhere.
I know money can be tight for those of us living in various kinds of vehicles. Many of us have to do the best we can with what we have or can scrounge. But ideas are free (unless ideas are your job, like mine was). As the old saying goes, opportunity favors the prepared mind. So if your mind is prepared with the habit of seeing creative ways to use things, if you're in the habit of looking at your surroundings, your life, and seeing ways to improve them, your opportunities for a more functional and attractive existence expand.
I didn't buy anything at Ikea today. I got a sackful of ideas, though. They were handing out samples.
As if huge diesel pusher Class A RVs didn't annoy me enough already, there was one causing mayhem on the freeway yesterday. It was driving along, way slower than the rest of traffic, part way onto the shoulder, with one of its driver-side basement doors open, sticking about four feet out to the side, ready to slice through other vehicles. This caused much jumpings on of the brakes, swervings, honkings, swearings, angry gesturings...
So these beasts have all the comforts and luxuries of home, but they don't have decent hatch locks or devices that keep you from driving away when when a hatch isn't 100% secure?
Yesterday I helped make a video about solar panels and how great they are. Perhaps today's weather is nature laughing at my hubris. Or it's just an unthinking, impartial El Niño doing its thing. But if we're going to have overcast, it should at least rain.