Thursday, December 29, 2016

A present for my butt

I started off in the Rolling Steel Tent with just the factory-standard seat, with a small tear made by the previous owner. After a few months, my butt said (because it talks), "I could use something more comfortable." So I got a sheepskin seat cover. That was fine for a while, but it eventually got all matted down, and it itched my legs when I wore shorts. (See earlier post about itchy wool socks.)

Then I got the bath mat pictured below. Loops of microfiber kept my butt from sweating and it was sufficiently cushy and non-itchy. As a bonus, I could throw it in the wash. I was satisfied.

But today I went with Lou to Bed, Bath & Beyond while he looked for a duvet cover. We were on our way out when we spotted these on display:

WonderGel seat cushions. We tried them out. You know that moaning, gurgling sound Homer Simpson makes when he thinks of donuts? That was us—my butt and I. To quote another Matt Groening cartooon, "Take my money!"

Here it is in its cover. I thought the dots would grip the seat to keep it from sliding around. Maybe on fabric, but not on the vinyl of my seat.

Now I'll have to drive around for a few minutes/hours/days to see if it continues to make us (my butt and I) as happy as it did in the store. Lou, I think I'll drive to San Diego and back tomorrow. Or maybe I'll leave right now. See ya.

(Oooh! What if I put the bath mat on top of the WonderGel?)

Laptop charging alternative

It was overcast, my laptop battery was almost dead, and my house batteries were kind of low. But I was about to make a 90-minute drive. "Hey, I could use that other charger thing I have."

A 12-Volt plug and some circuitry on one end and a MacBook magnetic connector on the other. Why go DC to AC to DC via my inverter when I could go straight from DC to DC via the van "power port" (cigaret lighter) as I drove?

I found the charger on eBay. There are a variety of them for different laptops. You need to read the tiny type on your charger to make sure you order the correct voltage and amperage, as well as the right plug for your computer.

When I reached my destination my computer battery was charged and happy. And so was I.

And now for something completely different

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Wool socks time

I go sockless most of the year. When temperatures drop, I put on some cotton socks. But I had to break out the wool socks yesterday evening. I don't like the bulky, itchy things, but my toes do.

Time for Plan B

This is not Baja

Remember that thing I wrote about plans?
"The more parts of a plan that depend upon things beyond your control, the lower the likelihood of success."
Well, some things beyond our control went wrong for Lou and I, spoiling our fine time in San Felipe. So we're back in Arizona instead of lounging by the sea with new friends and eating Vicky's excellent cooking.

First, Lou developed flashing lights in his right eye. Not knowing whether it was temporary or serious, it was best to seek medical attention.

Then the camp manager confirmed our suspicions he was a scammer. Things got ugly. We would've left even if Lou's eye was fine. Only south instead of north.

Lou saw a doctor today who said there's no detached retina, that it will probably go away, but that he should have his eye checked again in about six weeks. If, however, the symptoms got worse, he should rush to a hospital. That means no wandering around Mexico for him.

My plans depended on Lou's status. Would he need help? Would it be okay to travel? So now I'm formulating new plans. Hopefully something fun.

UPDATE: Lou's eye is improving on its own, so the general alarm level has dropped greatly.

Sunday, December 25, 2016

The launch

Lou took his new inflatable kayak for its maiden voyage this morning. Though he was calm on the outside, inside he was giddy as a kid with a Christmas bicycle.


The morning sun, a cup of coffee and a faithful dog under a palapa by the sea. What more of a Christmas present does one need?

Previously, in Mexico

Quintana Roo, on the Caribbean, 2007

East side of Cozumel, 2009

Friday, December 23, 2016

Back at the beach. And the new pond.

It feels great to be back in San Felipe, even though the recent rain left us with a mud bog. We'll smooth it out before the ruts turn to adobe.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Simple things I rarely use become complicated

I was having one of my uncoordinated moments. Some small dark stuff that was headed for the wastebasket ended up on the floor, next to the driver seat. It was night. I needed light in order to find and gather the stuff.

If I'd been in the back of the Rolling Steel Tent, I could have grabbed one of my flashlights. But I was sitting up front, about to get out of the van. I knew there were two buttons/dials/knobs on the dash that had something to do with interior lights. One was for adjusting the instrument lights and the other was for the overhead lights. If one knows what one is doing, one can set the overhead lights to never come on (which I had done long ago after consulting the owner's manual), to come on only when the doors are open, or to come on when you fiddle with the correct knob the correct way.

It took an embarrassingly long time to find the proper combination of pushing, pulling, turning and cursing—both the correct and incorrect knobs—to finally get the lights off and, I think, back in never-come-on mode. It might have taken less time if I had cursed first.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Breathe in, breathe out

The nights here in Ehrenberg AZ have been dipping into the 30s. Yesterday, when I crawled out from under my sleeping bag and down quilt (where it was body temperature) I thought, "Hmmmm, it's brisk in the van but, surprisingly, not uncomfortably cold."

I fired up the propane heater anyway. I turned it off a few minutes later when it got too warm in the Rolling Steel Tent. The space gradually cooled down, of course, because solid objects—the van and its contents—are more tenacious about holding onto their low temperature than the air is about holding onto its heat. Air, being a wimp, lost.

It seemed, though, that it got colder than what it had been before I'd turned on the heat. Now, that could've been psychological. But maybe something else was going on.

As we know from basic science, air expands as it warms. The molecules start dancing around. Nitrogen does the polka, oxygen break dances, argon does the boot scoot and carbon dioxide does interpretive jazz. All that requires more room.

We also know from personal experience that vehicles aren't airtight. As heated air in the van expands, it leaks out air vents, gaps in the door seals, and a few unplugged bolt holes in the floor. Because the van doesn't stretch like a balloon.

When I remove the heat source the molecules stop dancing and the air starts to condense, taking up less volume and creating a partial vacuum. I suspect the partial vacuum sucks cold air in through the same leaks. That's my hypothesis, anyway. I'm not going to spoil it by collecting actual data.

Monday, December 19, 2016

While I was away

Lou sent this photo. Strong winds blew through Campo Turistico #1 and ripped the tops of three palapas. No one was hurt and no property other than the palapas was damaged.

Meanwhile, here in Arizona, a couple of people have expressed interest in following me back down to San Felipe. This photo might influence their decisions.

Friday, December 16, 2016

More squinting

This time of year, with the sun low in the sky, I spend more time with a hand shading my eyes. Or positioning myself so something else keeps the sun out of my eyes. Or intentionally turning my back to the sun. Hats and sunglasses help, but not always. I've chuckled a few times when I realize a group of us are doing the same thing, like we're saluting an unseen commander. "Aye-aye, Sir!" But I'd rather have sun in my eyes than gloomy overcast.

Here to work

I made the schlep yesterday to the patch of public desert across the freeway from tiny Eherenberg AZ. Bob is here and the video editing will commence.

So will the showering. There are great showers at the Flying J back at the interchange. Mmmmm, showers.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

I see your sunset and raise you a sunrise

"Gift" from the sea

I saw something odd floating toward shore yesterday. I got out the binoculars. Aw man, a dead bottle nose dolphin. Dead wildlife never makes me happy.

The dolphin was decomposing. How had it been in the water that long without being chewed on? And had it died naturally or had it been caught in a net and discarded?

School kids have an impromptu biology lesson

Alacón gives it the sniff test

It's sad (and unpleasant smelling), but death happens. I was hoping the tide would return the dolphin to the sea during the night. But it just washed it farther on shore, as if the sea is saying, "No, you take it. I insist."

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Poached fish

Not this kind of poached. The illegal kind.

In order to protect the Vaquita dolphin, fishing with nets is illegal in this part of the Sea of Cortez. But some people, desperate to make a little money, do it anyway.

About once a week or so, usually at low tide, often at night, they'll set their nets just off shore of the campground. When they do, Vicky (the property owner) or Roberto (the manager) will call the authorities. Sometimes they come, sometimes they don't. When they do, the nets are confiscated and the poachers are fined—if they're there when the "marinos" arrive.

The poachers in the photo above, in what looks like a gutted two-person personal watercraft, were here in the middle of the night. When they came back this morning to move their net, both Vicky and Roberto called the authorities. Several times. No one has shown up yet, after several hours. The person in charge of one enforcement agency is out of town, and interagency coordination leaves much to be desired. So these poachers will probably go unpunished. I just hope they don't snag any Vaquitas.

Monday, December 12, 2016


Half of the couple from Germany

The flats

I used to think a decent ocean, a real ocean, had surf. Crashing surf. All the time. Not little ripples that politely lap the shore. But I've grown to appreciate the relative calm of the Sea of Cortez, the bay at San Felipe, and its tidal flats.

Waves pounding the shore can become monotonous. The tidal flats offer variety, reveal new shapes. Rivulets of draining water. Wet sand reflecting the sky. The wading birds come to hunt. And odd marine life makes itself known. I do miss surfer girls, though.

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Bad planning

The old saying is that if you fail to plan, you plan to fail. That's only part of the story, though. You can plan the hell out of something, but you can still fail because there was something wrong with the plan. I had a failed plan last week, and I recently talked with someone who was in the middle of a failing plan. So I'm going to share some thoughts on the subject. And I'll try to follow my own advice.

The more parts of a plan that depend upon things beyond your control, the lower the likelihood of success. 

You can control what you do, and you might have some solidly dependable people in your life, but beyond that, you can't really control others. Blanche Dubois might have depended upon the kindness of strangers, but it's a bad plan for the rest of us.

You can't control people, or the weather, or institutions, or market fluctuations, or anything else that can throw a monkey wrench in your plan. It's risky enough having one uncontrollable thing in a plan, but sometimes our plans are built on several of them. The likelihood of failure increases exponentially. You could be doomed before you start. Unless you have a huge pile of luck. But:

Las Vegas was built on people wrongly believing in luck. It's called luck, rather than a sure thing, because it's the least likely thing to happen. Luck is not only the weak link in a plan, it can be the poison pill.

The more complex a plan, the lower the likelihood of success.

Yes, this looks like the first graph. It's the same principle. Even though the plan might be free of things beyond your control, you might have too many ducks to get in a row, too many cats to herd. Too little time. Too little skill. And so on. Less is more. If a plan can't be simplified, break it into several smaller plans. How do you eat a whale? One bite at a time. Having several simpler plans also allows you to feel successful sooner and more often.

The more rigid the plan, the lower the likelihood of success.

Don't become too married to a plan or its details. I knew exactly the van I wanted when I started planning my nomadic life. The trouble was finding a used one for sale (Thing Beyond My Control #1) in the condition I wanted (Thing Beyond My Control #2) with the mileage I wanted (Thing Beyond My Control #3) in the price range I wanted (Thing Beyond My Control #4). So I loosened my parameters and bought something slightly different. Because heading out on the road was more important than what I did it in.

Flexibility is a virtue. Our bodies, for example, are rigid parts held together by soft stuff. The more flexy bits a plan has, the better. Because we can bend the plan to fit the situation instead of trying to bend things that are beyond our control to fit the plan.

I had planned on writing more, but I'm going to be flexible and end it here.

Europeans have some of the coolest rigs

A German couple and their Bernese Mountain Dog rolled into camp yesterday evening in their four-wheel-drive, Ford diesel-powered, Land Rover-based camper. The Rolling Steel Tent looks rather sad and amateurish next to it.

They've driven from Nova Scotia to Yukon Territory, through the US and now to Mexico. They're headed to Cabo San Lucas, then they'll have their rig ferried to the mainland where they'll make their way to the Yucatan Peninsula. Not only is their rig cool, so's their adventure.


Saturday, December 10, 2016

Friday, December 9, 2016

Este soy yo ahora

The beggar is back

There must be a school all dogs everywhere attend to learn the give-me-some-of-your-food stare. This is Alacón, the yawning dog from a couple of weeks ago. He realized his begging face didn't work from the doorway of the Rolling Steel Tent, so he positioned himself where he wouldn't be ignored. That didn't work either. This time.

Homesteading continues

Lou has been turning our palapa into a beach shack. Tarps to block winds. Palm fronds for shade and decoration. Scavenged pots and coconut husk planters. A pelican skull. Shells. A hummingbird feeder... I go along with his plans because, as you can see, he's armed.

And, yes, it's shorts weather here

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Maybe I'll just sleep on the floor

It  was time to give the Rolling Steel Tent a good sweeping out, particularly under the bed. Dirt, sand, dust bunnies, down feathers, stray coins... It's easier to do it with the bed out.

I figured it was convenient time to show how my bed goes together.

The steel frame, which I got somewhere online, started out with springy wood slats. That worked fine. But then I had a storage idea. So I built this compartmented platform.

It  holds flat things, like my atlases, books and papers. I have Benchmark and DeLorme atlases for all the states west of the Rockies. The stacks used to slide around in a drawer, and the one I wanted seemed to always be at the bottom of the stack. Those aren't problems anymore. And they're out of the way until I need one. The dividers, which are glued and screwed, also stiffen the plywood.

Another sheet of plywood goes on top. two pegs keep it aligned and the mattress holds it down. I lift the top and mattress when I need to access the storage compartment. The front end of the bed bolts to the cabinet, and the cabinet is bolted through the floor. So the bed stays put while driving.

The mattress is a standard foam twin extra long mattress with a memory foam topper. Bins and boxes slide under the bed.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Pet sharing

Plans change

Oh  look, I'm not in Ehrenberg AZ this morning. I'm back in Mexico. I was supposed to meet up with Bob on Monday to start editing more of his videos. But he wasn't there. His travel plans had changed and he wouldn't be there for another week.

Um, okay.

So, rather than sit around one of my less favorite locations for six, seven, eight days, I returned to San Felipe. I do the driving thing much better than the waiting thing. And the desert coast is much more pleasant than the desert non-coast.

As I pulled into town, it felt like I'd been away much more than two and a half days. It felt like I was coming home.

Monday, December 5, 2016

Back at the ocotillo spiral

The drive from San Felipe to Los Algodones was uneventful. Once at the border, though, there was a horrible line. It took two hours to creep about a half mile. I should have known better than to come on the weekend, when a lot of Mexicans go to the US to shop and visit relatives.

Unlike the last time I returned to the US, via San Luis, border authorities just took a quick look in the back of the Rolling Steel Tent to make sure I was alone.

But once that was done, I settled into my second most favorite desert spot, off American Girl Mine Road, between the Colorado River and the Imperial Dunes. The air was calm and the nighttime temperature wasn't too chilly. After taking this sunrise photo I stocked up in Yuma, did laundry, and drove to Ehrenburg to meet Bob and edit more of his videos. Except he's not here yet. Guess I'll take a nap.

Friday, December 2, 2016

Lou starts to homestead

You know Lou really likes a location when he expands his outdoor space beyond a clothesline and a mat by the door of his trailer. He has decided to stay at Campo Turistico #1 for another three months or so, and today he's filling some planters he scrounged. A palm, succulents, some herbs.

Meanwhile, about the most I can commit to a place is to pay for a certain number of nights and put out my chair.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

How much contentment can one guy withstand?

An  American catches something

The daily routine here at Campo Turistico Uno starts with watching the sunrise, staring at the sea and breathing the fresh air. It ends with watching the tide, shrimp boats and marine life and commenting about how much we like it here. In between there is conversation, Internet, a little exploration, showers, naps, more sea gazing, and excellent food.

This evening we went to satisfy our jones for flame grilled chicken at a joint recommended by the campground manager. It was perfect. So were the fish tacos the campground owner made for lunch. And the huevos rancheros she made yesterday. And the burritos before that. And the enchiladas before that. And the shrimp and fish before that. And the tacos from the stand in town. And the produce from the vendor. And the tamal from the lady at the swap meet.

Lou asked, "Have we had any bad food since we've been here?"

"Mmmmm, nope." We haven't even had anything mediocre, except maybe what we made ourselves.

Okay, so the temperature has dropped into the upper 60s, and it's windy on and off. Not storybook paradise weather. But it's warmer than Yuma or Quartzsite or other Arizona snowbird havens. And there's the sea. And the food. And the friendly, gracious people. That's a lot to be happy about.

Next week I'll be going back to El Norte for a while to take care of some business. I hope it won't take long. I'll miss this place.