Monday, July 16, 2018

Solo

“As a kid, I hungered to be by myself. I had friends, sleepovers, but my favorite was being with nobody at all. After school, I’d hop fences and explore fields, finding places I thought no one else had ever found. When I went adventuring with other kids, they talked, or asked me to carry something, or stopped when I wanted to continue, or didn’t stop when I wanted to sit and enjoy a place, or they wanted to go someplace other than where I wanted to be. Spoiled. Self-absorbed. Introverted. Only child. I’m sure there are many explanations. Does not play well with others.”

Craig Childs
Emergence Magazine

Saturday, July 14, 2018

I’m where I need to be

It was in the 90s in Sisters, Oregon. That’s not unbearable without air conditioning, but it’s not pleasant. I got sweaty. I spent a lot of time wiping myself down with a damp washcloth. And the ground in the camping spots was loose, dusty dirt that got into everything. But the camping was free.

In contrast, it’s in the 70s here in Winchester Bay. And, unlike my other times here, it isn’t foggy. Windy, though. Out of the north. I’m camped on nice clean pavement, so there’s no dirt problem or lovely trees blocking solar exposure. I’m surrounded by RVers, which isn’t glamorous, and I have to pay to stay, but I’m not hot and dirty. And there are pizza, Mexican, sea food and ice cream joints within walking distance. And a strong cell signal. So all is good.

Friday, July 13, 2018

Another reason I don’t tow


Over the hump

Serious heat is on the way to central Oregon (and a lot of other places) so it’s time for me to flee to the coast. That means crossing the Cascades.

There’s a faster way to the ocean, but I chose the scenic route over McKenzie Pass. The summit is a lava field, with The Sisters rising up in the south.

What’s in your balloon?

Zack Weinersmith, creator of Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal, posted this cartoon. He probably didn’t know he was drawing my life—or that of many people I know.


Thursday, July 12, 2018

Get one pair for the price of two!

I have a couple of pairs of Keen Arroyo II semi-sandals I wear every day. I love ‘em but once in a blue moon it would be better to wear closed shoes. Like when there are prickly things or when loose grit finds its way through the holes.

So a week ago, when getting supplies at Walmart, I spotted some cheap shoes that didn’t look bad. They also fit okay. They might not last very long, but for $25 it didn’t matter much. I tossed them in my cart and continued shopping. I checked out, loaded my stuff in the Rolling Steel Tent and drove the twenty miles back to camp. That’s when I discovered the new shoes were missing.

Huh?

After some head scratching I realized I had left them at the self-checkout. Because my old brain is getting stupid.

I didn't want to drive back to Redmond only to discover the shoes weren’t there anymore. I shrugged and wrote it off. Sure, twenty-five bucks isn’t nothing, but it’s not the end of my world, either.

Well, I was back at Walmart yesterday. “I won’t forget the shoes this time.” As you can see from the photo, I didn’t. They’ll need to last twice as long and make me twice as satisfied.

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Where dinosaurs go to die?

I posted before about a concerned citizen worrying whether my boondocked van contained a body. Well, this past week it happened three more times.

In the first instance the doors were open and I was lying down, considering a nap, when a woman cruised up on her mountain bike. (There’s a trail about twenty yards away.)

“Hi,” I said.

“Oh, I just wanted to make sure you were alive.”

“Doin’ fine, thanks.”

A couple of days later I was working in the van, doors open, when a guy cruised up on his mountain bike.

I waved. “Hi.”

“Oh… um… are you, um, here to… ride a bike?”

“No, just camping.”

“Oh. Okay.”

Then this afternoon I was laying down, reading, doors open, when a Forest Service ranger pulled up and approached. “Hello?”

“Hi. How’s it going.”

“Are you okay?”

“Fine. Just relaxing and reading.”

“Good. I just wanted to make sure you’re alive.”

“As far as I know. Do you find bodies out here often?”

“Yes, unfortunately.”

“Well, it’s a nice place to die.”

“It is that.”

So there you have it. A surprising number of souls go to the forests around Sisters, Oregon, and transition into the grand mystery. That is not in my plans, in case you were wondering.

Jerks

Sunday, July 8, 2018

Inattention = pleasant surprise

I needed some butter. I didn’t need a pound of butter, but there were half-pound packages. Good. But next to those were single sticks. Excellent. Enough to last me several weeks.

Later, when I opened the butter, I discovered it had green flecks in it. Huh? I had failed to notice it was garlic & herb butter. Humph.

But I like garlic. I like herbs. Why not garlicky, herby eggs?

Oh, wow! Amazing. I wish I had always had eggs this way. Let’s see, garlic & herb toast? Garlic & herb potatoes? Glasses of melted garlic & herb butter? Big spoonfuls of garlic & herb butter? I’m afraid this stick isn’t going to last as long as I had imagined.

New stove

Lucky me! I happened to be in the right place at the right time to get a free Coleman butane stove. Only used once, complete with case, manual and a partial can of fuel.

I had been thinking of getting one of these. My propane stove has worked exactly as it should, but “as it should” includes things I don’t like. The main one is that it has only three settings: off, too hot, and burned. But I put up with that because I could connect it to a bulk propane tank, to which I could also connect my heater. But I don’t use the heater anymore. It’s just as easy to warm the Rolling Steel Tent with a stove. Bye-bye heater. One less appliance taking up space. And if I swapped the propane stove for a butane one, I could also let the bulk tank go, freeing more space.

Using a butane stove is just like using a natural gas range. It lights with a piezoelectric sparker and the flame actually responds to adjustments. Imagine that. Welcome to the 20th Century.

The down side? Needing to keep a stock of butane canisters. But it’s not like I’m a heavy user of stoves. I don’t boil a lot of water or try to make tough meats edible. My menu cooks quickly. So my fuel will probably last long enough to not be inconvenient or an onerous expense. Besides, it was free.

Possibility vs. probablilty

People entering the home-on-wheels life worry about various negative things that might happen. Their sphere of familiarity and experience is changing. Things will be different. There might be new dangers.

It’s reasonable to be concerned, but some folks worry too much. They lose sight of the difference between the possibility of something happening and its probability.

Just because something can occur, that doesn’t mean it will. Some things are so likely they’re essentially certain, but some are so unlikely they’re essentially impossible. There’s no point worrying about things that will probably never happen.

How can we tell which things are more likely? Experience helps—your own or that of others. You might think about how often or rarely you hear about something happening. And did you hear about it only because it’s freakishly rare? Some things happen only under certain conditions. The more conditions and decisions that need to align for something to occur, the less likely it is to happen.

Besides something's likelihood, we also need to consider the severity of the consequences if it ever happens. Some things that are fairly certain are no big deal. Some things that are very improbable are horrific.

The whole what-is-likely calculation is muddied by those who benefit from making us fearful. Some, like family and friends, might want to scare us out of leaving them behind. Some want to sell us solutions for problems we might not have. Some want to cover their asses in case some idiot manages to misuse the solution they bought. To those who sell us fear, preparedness and hypervigilance, every horror is certain.

In my years of following various nomad blogs and forums, the vast majority of problems folks actually have are rather ordinary. Health, financial, mechanical, electrical, weather, social, emotional… We should be appropriately concerned because the consequences can be quite serious sometimes. But there’s a mountain of other things we can pretty much ignore, because the consequences and/or probability are slight.

Friday, July 6, 2018

Solo act again, for a while

The other nomads in our camp were going separate ways for a few days. So I decided to book a room in Redmond, exploit the free wifi, and take a long hot bath. Or two. And get the laundry done. Now I’m back in the woods near Sisters, Oregon. Just me and the chipmunks. And occasional groups of bicyclists.

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Freer

To me, today is about more than the United States’ independence from England. It’s about personal independence. Or at least a greater degree of independence than I had before hitting the road.

My current life isn’t as tied to the agendas and expectations of others. I’m not anchored to a quarter acre of suburb. I don’t have a mountain of debt. My worries are a fraction of what they were.

So here’s wishing you a happy Independence Day and a life of increasing freedom from the things that hold you captive.

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

No-dog night

According to my fellow campers, it was near freezing last night (July 2-3). They fired up a heater or added bedding. Me? I slept totally unaware of the temperature. I had taken a Benedryl. Knocked me out. In a good way. Coincidentally, I’m the only one of us without a dog or two to help keep me warm.

Sunday, July 1, 2018

Spice is the spice of life

I heated up some soup and it was... ummm... adequate. Some people love subtle foods. I prefer more flavor. This soup was so bland mild that within a minute I would probably forget I even ate it.

I was about to add some black pepper when I remembered my beloved Salsa Huichol. It’s a sauce that believes in flavor, not just heat. A few dashes added to the soup and... perfection. The extra layer of spices made my tongue happy without overpowering the squash. And my tastebuds are still humming softly, contentedly.

It’s all my fault

I was making a bacon frittata this morning. I cut raw bacon into narrow strips, which resulted in some pieces being only fat. Pork fat is excellent, but it’s possible to overdo it. So I flipped a few chunks out into the forest for nature to biodegrade or for bugs and critters to enjoy.

That’s when I learned chipmunks are omnivores. Or at least huge fans of applewood smoked bacon. Who knew?

Now they won’t go away. They keep sneaking into the Rolling Steel Tent hoping to score another hit of pig. Or whatever else they can find, really.

Back door man

I drove up a narrow Forest Service “road” in search of the ultimate camping spot. Trees and bushes scraped along the sides of the Rolling Steel Tent and it looked worse up ahead. You know you’re off the beaten path when bushes are growing between the wheel ruts. I needed to find a place to turn around. Soon. I came to a spot that was slightly wider. “Well, this will have to do.”

I started what would end up a fourteen-point turn, backing into bushes and saplings, cranking the wheel the other way, pulling forward until I kissed trees. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat…

By the ninth or tenth point I had gotten impatient, frustrated, and a little panicked that I’d get myself stuck. I got more aggressive. And a little irrational. Thicker growth moaned and shrieked against the bumpers and body panels as I backed farther into the undergrowth. No doubt I was collecting some dents, but I wanted out. Now! I was finally free.

I pulled into the site I should’ve taken before my fruitless quest for something better. I checked the van for damage. Except for scratches down the sides to go along with all the others I’ve accumulated over the years, and some new gouges in the rear bumper, and pine twigs littering the roof, everything looked okay.

But when I went to open the back door, it wouldn’t unlatch unless I pushed against it first. Aw, man, I had tweaked something. Bowed a door? Bent a hinge? It wouldn’t be tragic, but it would be inconvenient. Sigh.

Today I made a run to town, and when I used the back door it came open just like it always had before my encounter with the forest. Yay, the door is fine! It was just a matter of how I had parked at the campsite. The van had been fairly level, but the left front and right rear wheels had been high and the other wheels low, which twisted the Rolling Steel Tent just enough to skew the back doors and cause the latch to bind a tiny bit.

Now all is right with my microscopic part of the world. It doesn’t take something exceptional to make me happy. It’s enough that something bad didn’t happen.

Thursday, June 28, 2018

Circle the wagons

A fellow white Chevy van dweller took her DJI Mavic drone up this morning to capture our little group. That's the Rolling Steel Tent at the bottom.

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Supplies

Some people, whether living in buildings or vehicles, want to stock up with enough food, water and toilet paper to last to the end of time. At the opposite end of the scale are those who acquire supplies only as needed. Most of us are somewhere between. I’m more in the as-needed range.

My space is limited. My fridge capacity is only 24 quarts. My pantry cupboard is 24” by 24” by 31” and part of that is taken up with non-consumables and the bump for the gasoline filler neck. I don’t want to be climbing over cases of chili and barrels of peanut butter. So I buy enough to last a few days. A week at most. That works for me because I don’t go off into the boonies for months at a time. I wander the land and there are stores along the way. Let them warehouse my food.

That’s what various businesses do. It’s called Just-In-Time Delivery. Rather than maintaining huge inventories and the space to warehouse it, they have their suppliers delivered only what’s needed just before it’s needed.

When I head out for a new destination I don’t need to fret whether I have everything, only whether I have enough for now.

Pet sharing

A peek into a stranger’s life

Someone made out a shopping list, neatly categorized, then left it behind. Mac & cheese... Cool Whip... Pepto... five-gallon gas can... Antifreeze...What, no Coke Zero?

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

My true theme song, maybe?

Less obvious choices

I’ve been in Oregon this month. Most visitors to the state head for the western side. The coast, the Cascades, Portland… Maybe because that’s what they really like, or maybe because that’s all they know about. Meanwhile, other parts of the state are sort of ignored, or they’re simply places visitors have to pass through on their way to the Big Destinations. It’s not just an Oregon thing. It’s the same all around the planet. Folks go see The Sights.

I confess, I spent my first years as a nomad doing the must-do spots. But now I try to see the less-seen. And there’s so much of it out there, not just a handful of picture-perfect, social-media-worthy, been-there-got-the-souvenir, on-everyone’s-bucket-list locations. Some of those alternative places will always be there. Some exist for only a few seconds because of a magical combination of light, weather, frame of mind and luck.

The Sights, with all their hype, can disappoint. “Yeah, it was nice, but not as amazing as I expected.” (Cue Peggy Lee singing “Is That All There Is?”) But the un-hyped places can totally blow my mind because I expected nothing.

Monday, June 25, 2018

I’ve been trying my best to comply

But the Rolling Steel Tent is covered in dust. It’s starting to look like the Peanuts character Pig-Pen, a cloud of filth trailing behind.

Taking refuge

There’s an unusual campground in the northwest corner of Nevada that’s part of the Sheldon National Wildlife Refuge. The Virgin Valley Campground is free and has a semi-natural swimmin’ hole and showers. It was just what I needed.

Saturday, June 23, 2018

How to avoid mosquitoes

Number Two on my friend Vanholio’s list of reasons not to camp by water is:
Guess what else loves water? Mosquitoes! That goes for lakes, ponds, marshes, creeks, rivers, seashore, bays, and the rest. Water equals mosquitoes. It’s a simple goddamn formula.
He’s right. And I should know better. But sometimes I cross my fingers and hope I’m lucky. The only ones lucky at the Page Springs campground were the mosquitoes. But I had a plan (other than shutting the van tight and never going outside).

The dry lakebed of the Alvord Desert has no water, therefore no mosquitoes.

Friday, June 22, 2018

Take it from the top

Lou recommended I go to Steens Mountain in southeast Oregon. He even suggested a cheap BLM campground near Frenchglen, at the western base. It’s a nice one. They even mow the grass.

It’s a long, gradual climb on an excellent unpaved road. All the way to the top. I waited for the sun to be just high enough that it wouldn’t be in my eyes as I drove. I had the road mostly to myself. The early bird gets the empty road. And first choice of photo locations.

That light patch in the distance, showing just above the ridge, is the Alvord Desert. Yes, there are deserts in Oregon.

Thursday, June 21, 2018

Blue, or some other color

Whether Blue Basin in the John Day Fossil Beds National Monument is actually blue, or mossy green, or sage green, or turquoise or gray is a matter of opinion, the light and how wet or dry things are. I went on an overcast morning after a night of rain. I liked my hike regardless of the color.

Off to the woods

Billy Fields Forest Camp is in the Aldrich Mountains, between Dayville and John Day, Oregon. The road is paved all the way to this small, free campground. There’s a pit toilet, some tables and not much level space. You don't need to be in the Cascades to get that Oregon forest experience.

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Pet sharing

This day in RST history

The van is fixed and I want to get back on the road. As I considered which direction I might go I thought back to where I had been on June 19 of previous years.

2017: Alta Lakes, near Telluride, Colorado. Taking a break from helping on Forrest’s camper project.

2016: Near Leadville, Colorado. On my way to helping with Forrest’s tiny house project.

2015: Nearly running out of gas in eastern Oregon. This one-pump station saved me.

2014: Near Darby, Montana. Checked out a lot of boondocking spots before finding this place.

2013: Turning in my car at end of lease, Charlotte, North Carolina. I bought the van a few days before and sold the house a few days before that. No looking back.