Sunday, November 18, 2018

Is it a pattern?

I’m a big fan of slow traffic keeping to the right, even when I’m the slow traffic.

I’m also a big fan of long following distances, especially since it takes a while to haul down the Rolling Steel Tent, even with fresh brakes.

I don’t like squeezing between vehicles in order to make lane changes. Give me a nice big gap in case the guy ahead hits the brakes or someone behind does something stupid. And especially if traffic in the left lane is going a lot faster.

So, there I was, cruising south on I-5, keeping at or below the 70 MPH speed limit most of the time, keeping in the right lane as much as possible but gradually closing on slower traffic. When there was plenty of empty right lane ahead—a quarter mile, a half mile—and I didn’t need to pass anyone, traffic on the left was usually light.


Lots of following space, light left lane traffic

But when I’d use up my following distance and would want to pass, the left lane would suddenly, seemingly out of nowhere, be filled with a long line of tightly packed traffic, usually driving about ten miles per hour over the speed limit. And vehicles behind me in the left lane would be merging into the gaps in the left, making the line even longer. I would need to slow way down until the left lane cleared, which always seemed… to..… take…… for………. ever.

Needing to pass, lots of left lane traffic

I started planning my passes sooner, but it still meant fast traffic way back there would be on my ass before I could make it around a couple of semis, an RV and someone in a small truck with a big trailer. And another semi. So I would wait. And wait.

But perhaps the most frustrating and infuriating situation is when a lone vehicle, going just a fraction of a sliver of a hair faster then me is hugging my flank as I get closer and closer to the slow traffic. PASS ME, DAMMIT! Nope.

This jerk

Oh well. I don’t need to drive that type of highway very often.

Waking to reality

Once again I had another series of dreams about being back at work, with troublesome coworkers and the deadlines for too many projects looming. For some reason, cold Mexican takeout cluttered my office. (What did burritos and quesadillas have to do with anything? Meals missed?)

But the anxiety of those dreams turned to happiness when I awoke. Oh yeah, I’m retired. That’s not my life anymore. I’m free.

Good morning, freedom

Friday, November 16, 2018

California fire escape

It wasn’t until I crossed over into the desert that the air started looking mostly smoke-free and I could see more than a half mile or so.

Thursday, November 15, 2018

Su casa es su casa

Staying in someone else’s house is weird. No matter how much they say to make myself at home, I just can’t. And, honestly, they wouldn’t want me to. Because, to me, being at home means wandering around in my underwear (or less), leaving the bathroom door open, eating out of a pot while standing at the sink, spreading various projects on all available horizontal surfaces, going the entire day without talking to anyone or acknowledging their presence… Instead, I play the role of the Good Houseguest. That’s exhausting.

It’s not any better when my hosts are away, when I’m watching the house and tending the pet. “Here are the keys,” they say, “and the emergency contacts, the wifi password, and the instructions for that slightly malfunctioning appliance. Help yourself to whatever’s in the fridge and cupboards.” But left unsaid is, “Don’t steal anything, break anything, befoul anything, clog anything, flood anything, set anything on fire, or conduct a criminal enterprise. And, most of all, don’t go snooping around trying to discover our embarrassing secrets. If you accidentally discover an embarrassing secret while looking for, say, a garlic press (though why you’d be looking for it in the master bedroom closet is a mystery) just erase that new knowledge from your brain. Otherwise we’ll have to kill you.” That means I need to play the Good Houseguest on the Honor System, which is twice as exhausting, even if I’m free to drink all the tequila, naked.

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Good dog

Caira has all the qualities I’d want in a dog. Smart, obedient, even tempered, well socialized.

I was concerned she might reject me. But she saw I was accepted by her owner, so, presto, I was a member of the pack. She responded to my commands as if I’d been with her all her life. That was particularly important when she was off-leash in the dog park. Just call her name and she comes right to you.

We go out at least twice a day. She knows when I put on my shoes she’s going for a walk or ride.

Does spending one-on-one time with a fine dog like Ciara make me want to have a dog again? No. It’s more responsibility than I want right now. And I don’t want to repeat the heartbreak of needing to put a dog down. So I’ll just enjoy other people’s dogs. The good ones.

Sunday, November 11, 2018

Pet sharing

This is Caira. I’m looking after her for a few days while my friends are away on business. Besides having canine companionship, I get to stay in a casita with such luxuries as hot running water, high-speed internet and a view of San Francisco Bay.

Friday, November 9, 2018

Stopover

So, let’s say you’re feeling a little lazy and don’t want to make the 340-mile trek from Lake Isabella to Mill Valley in one day. Where might one stop for the night that’s about half way there? And free?

Well, the nice folks at the Harris Ranch Inn & Restaurant in Coalinga let RVers and riffraff like me overnight in their parking lot.

I found a space away from the RVs. There’s faint traffic noise from the freeway but the smells from the restaurant compensate for it, as does the free no-password-needed wifi.

Smile for the camera, again

I was driving through a California canyon when a Google Street View car passed in the opposite direction. The Rolling Steel Tent will be featured if the cameras were on. They might not have been, since that highway is already on Street View and nothing about it warrants an update.

A few years back, Google Satellite View captured Lou, Jo and I camped together in Joshua Tree.

Thursday, November 8, 2018

Know before you go

As the kids’ book reminds us, everyone poops. But not everyone poops in a bucket in a van. And some people who want to poop in a bucket in a van just can’t. Maybe they have physical limitations that prevent them from squatting on a bucket or un-squatting afterward. Maybe they’re grossed out by pooping in something other than a flush toilet. Maybe they’re the type who can only poop under certain conditions. Maybe they worry about making a mess with their mess.

Well, this is something folks should figure out before committing to living in a van. Because it could be a deal breaker. Get a bucket and some bags and try it out before driving away from the world of indoor plumbing. Your first experience will probably fit somewhere on a scale with Impossible at one end and No Problem at the other. For me it was This Is Weird and Will Take Some Getting Used To. After a few days it was totally normal. Hurray for adaptability.

But bucket pooping isn’t the only thing to try out ahead of time. For example, will you actually be comfortable with your planned bed? Will you be able to cope with not having hot water from a tap? Out in the boonies, with all your “normal life” bridges burned behind you, is not the place to find out.

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Double bagging

I had checked the forecast, so I knew it was going to be in the low 40s last night. Ordinarily that wouldn’t be a big deal, but I haven’t had time yet to re-acclimate to cooler temperatures. No problem, I’d just don some wool socks, pajama bottoms and a long-sleeve t-shirt and pull my down quilt over my head.

At about 2:30 a.m. I sensed I needed more to keep me warm. So I reached into the cabinet and pulled out my sleeping bag. Quilt over sleeping bag, two layers of downy goodness with a cozy pocket for my feet, which are always the first to complain about being cold.

But around 4:00 I woke up sweating. Yup, that’s what too much insulation will do to ya. So I ditched the sleeping bag and was fine for the rest of the night.

This is a variation of the game I play during the transition into and out of summer. Can I get by without the blanket, or will my legs and feet get cold? Sure, some type of thermostatically controlled central heating and cooling would solve the problem, but it would create the problem of being in a building.

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Monday, November 5, 2018

A bad penny returns

There was a junction ahead. A choice presented itself. Turn west as planned or continue north? The latter option would mean backtracking in a couple of days. But it also meant one of my favorite locations. And showers at the hostel. So I continued on to Lone Pine and Alabama Hills instead of crossing the bottom of the Sierras.

I’d left a month ago because it was getting chilly. And I was getting antsy. But I’m back for one last visit until spring.

Sunday, November 4, 2018

A girlfriend!

Someone’s girlfriend, anyway. Considering she’s at the Hub Cap Capital of the World, maybe she’s the Queen of Caps. Or simply Ms. Pearson.

Where’s the Lug Nut Capital?

Saturday, November 3, 2018

Hit and run

Near Parker AZ

From Quartzsite to Eherenberg to Parker to Joshua Tree National Park. A night here, a night there. On the move, feeling antsy, making progress toward being in the San Francisco area in a week.

Joshua Tree NP

Thursday, November 1, 2018

Changing it up

I’ve lost count of how often I’ve camped around Quartzsite. Most of the time I’ve set up camp at either Scaddan Wash to the east of town or Hi Jolly to the north.

This time I decided to check out the Roadrunner dispersed camping area about eight miles south of town, at the intersection of US-95 and La Paz Valley Road.

I like it. It’s flat, rather smooth and, at this time of year, nearly empty. There’s almost no sound from highway traffic and no neighbors running generators or zooming around on ATVs. That’s hard to beat.

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Bugs beware

You know it’s an exceptionally buggy season when they’re selling two-packs of spray. Two cans, zero tolerance of flies and no-see-ems.

Monday, October 29, 2018

Where and when?

The tail end of Hurricane Rosa passed through Arizona earlier this month, dropping eight inches of rain on the Sonoran Desert in an hour or so. Things are very green, which is excellent for the desert. However, it also means the flies and no-see-em’s are more plentiful and annoying than they have been in a long time. They drove me out of Why. (Actually, I drove myself, but you know what I mean.)

I need to be in Mill Valley, California, on the tenth to dog sit for a friend. Twelve days to go about 670 miles, several ways to get there. Since it’s one of those five-week Social Security months my route and stops along the way need to be as economical as possible. For example, I should avoid California gas prices, but sticking to Arizona and Nevada as far as possible means a longer route, which would use more fuel. I'll figure something out. I always do.

In the meantime, here’s a song about Mill Valley.

Give me land, lots of land

As I posted earlier, Lou bought some land in New Mexico. Here it is. It already has electricity and a well. There’s also a refrigerated shipping container and a ramada that could be the beginning of a house. There are no restrictions on what he may or may not build on the land. And it’s in a part of southern New Mexico that doesn’t get too hot or too cold.

Lou saw the property while looking for other land. It wasn’t listed for sale, but he asked some neighbors about it. They contacted the owner back East. Yeah, he was willing to sell.

A couple of days ago, as a welcoming gift, the neighbors who put him in contact with the seller came over and mowed his grass. Nice people.

Sunday, October 28, 2018

Vardo-to-go


My buddy Lou has bought a nice piece of land in New Mexico. That means he’s selling the very excellent vardo-style trailer he made. Lou used to be a builder of custom wood boats. All that skill and care went into the construction of his trailer home. Since I used to work in advertising, it’s appropriate that I help him with marketing hi soon-to-be former home.

Here are some specifics:

7x15 feet
Heavy duty purpose-built chassis
Timbren off-road suspension

Rigid foam insulation throughout
Double-pane windows

450 watts of solar panels
470Ah, four 6V flooded cell batteries
Bogert Engineering charge controller
Bogert Trimetric 2030 battery monitor
Samlex 600W pure sine inverter

12V Nova Kool 3.5 cubic foot refrigerator
12V Nova Kool 2.5 cubic foot top loading freezer

Nature’s Head composting toilet
Eco-Temp on demand water heater
Two burner propane stove
Olympian Wave 3 propane heater
Copper propane piping
Fan-Tastic vent

12V 19-inch TV/DVD and digital antenna
ARB awning

Can be towed by a mid-size pickup truck

But that’s not all. His large landscaped and improved space at Coyote Howls East Campground, in Why AZ, can be part of a package deal. Campground regulations allow current lease holders to decide who leases their space next.

Improvements include an 8x10 storage shed, washing station with water filter, and wind/privacy screens.

Here’s a link to photos of the vardo and campground space.

Here are links to a video tour of the vardo and an explanation of the tankless water heater.

Contact Lou at 503-302-7104 for more details, like the price.






Saturday, October 27, 2018

It could be yours

 The Mercedes Benz of campers. Just $2,900 asking price. How could you pass it up?


It’s just driving

A couple of guys from the online car site, Jalopnik, are driving a 50-year-old BMW of uncertain condition from Seattle to New York City. The following quote from the latest report echoed what I’ve been wanting to tell virgin nomads who’ve never ventured very far.
Deep down, I knew I could do it. It’s just driving, steadily and carefully, with some fixes when needed and a good sense of when to throw in the towel. But the fear-brain can be a powerful thing. Doubt is a powerful thing.
Driving a hundred miles at once isn’t all that different than driving ten ten-mile trips. A thousand miles is a hundred ten-mile trips. A lot of little bites or a few big bites; the difference is mostly in your head, where those self-defeating doubts live. And your vehicle (assuming it’s not a complete pile of crap) doesn’t know whether it’s commuting to work and doing errands for a couple of months or driving across the continent for a week. You’re just drivin’ to the store. Except the store is a few states away. No big deal.
But Ralph and I figured this out too: a huge trip across the country isn’t so intimidating when you think of it as a series of steps, of smaller goals to accomplish. It’s not a drive to New York City. It’s a drive to lunch, yesterday afternoon. Then to the North Dakota border. Then to Bismarck. Then a few hours to Minneapolis today. 

One step at a time, that’s all it is.
This grand nomadic adventure—and all of life—is also one step at a time. Don’t let the seeming enormity of it paralyze you. The fear-brain will mess you up.

Thursday, October 25, 2018

One who works with boxes

I went to Target to pick up my online order. Thanks to bilingual signage I learned some new Spanish while waiting at the customer service desk. Not only does caja mean box, in contemporary usage it also means cash register, derived from cash box. And a cashier is a cajero or cajera. The cajera explained this to me.

Ow

I spent most of the morning walking around with what I thought was a tiny stone in my shoe. When I finally got annoyed enough to do something about it I discovered the pebble was actually an ocotillo thorn jabbing through the sole and insole, poking up about a quarter inch inside the shoe. I don’t know how the little piggy who had none avoided being stabbed.

Very alone, in a good way

I moved down to Yuma because I have a Target order being delivered to the store. And because it’s time to go to Los Algodones to replenish my meds and eat shrimp tacos.

The area by American Girl Mine is completely deserted. Imagine that, a deserted desert. It’s just me and my thoughts. And an occasional curious hummingbird.

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Rock on!

I pulled into the grocery parking lot and found a space. A white-haired lady was sitting in the car next to me, the engine idling. She had her stereo cranked up good and loud and I recognized the last bit of “Born to Run.” The song ended, she turned off the car and got out. She smiled and gave me a snappy nod. I thought to myself, “Yeah, tramps like us, baby.”

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Making them words ‘n’ stuff

Words words words. One after another. Flowing from my addled mind like, well, a dripping faucet. I’m not the most prolific writer but I’ve been dedicating more time to it than I have in a long time. And I’ve been happy. Ideas come to mind that surprise and delight me. I thought of that? Very cool. To me, at least. I don’t know if anyone else would be as delighted. After all, no one loves your kids as much as you do.

All this writing means I haven’t blogged in a few days. I’ve been distracted. And I’ll probably be distracted a while longer. I usually think of something to blog about as I settle in for the night. The novel has usurped that time now.

Oh, And I didn't win the Mega Millions. Did you?

Saturday, October 20, 2018

Fire in the sky instead of on the ground

Yet another adventure in the dark

Last night I took a break from reading and stepped outside for some fresh night air and a little star gazing. That’s when I saw the fire.

At first I thought a fellow camper had a ridiculously huge bonfire going. But as I walked toward the blaze my perspective and sense of scale shifted. It was somewhere outside the Hi Jolly dispersed camping area. A semi went past on the highway, revealing the fire was on the other side of Highway 95 and at least a quarter mile away.

What was burning? And why hadn’t I heard any sirens? None of the smoke was black, so it probably wasn’t a structure or vehicle. It didn’t seem to be spreading, so it probably wasn’t vegetation. (There’s not much of that to burn anyway.) Passing vehicles didn’t slow down to gawk. Was this a regular thing, no big deal?

Part of me wanted to walk over to see what was going on, but the wiser part of me didn’t want to go stumbling around in the dark and end up skewered by cacti.

So I hiked as close as I could this morning. A thin wisp of smoke was still drifting upward. It looked like it was somewhere behind the water treatment plant. Fences kept me from getting close enough to see anything.

Back at the Rolling Steel Tent I fired up Google Maps satellite view. What was behind the water treatment plant? A pale oblong blob of something. A rock formation? Then I noticed the thin shadow line along the south side. The pale oblong blob wasn’t a mound, it was a depression. A pit? Of… something? Something flammable? Some byproduct of water treatment? Or was it stuff brought over from the nearby refuse transfer station? If so, why dump and burn it there instead of hauling it a few more miles to the landfill?

I guess if I really wanted the answer I could ask various official sources. But I think I’d rather hold onto the mystery.

Friday, October 19, 2018

Another adventure in the dark

I don’t remember the last time I drove at night. It’s not that I don’t like driving in the dark or have a night vision problem, I just haven’t had the need. Until this evening. I headed out on an errand a little later than planned and ended up returning in the dark.

The past few days it seems like twilight lasts about 17 seconds. The sun reaches the horizon and a couple of blinks later it’s pitch black, as if daylight were on an on-off switch rather than a rheostat. Yes, the days are getting shorter, but my brain wants to think the time is lost somewhere in the middle of the day. When I stop to think about it, oh yeah, twilight gets shorter, too.

I hate November through February.

Thursday, October 18, 2018

Incident report

It was after dark and I was reading in the Rolling Steel Tent. Suddenly the area outside lit up like a UFO hovering overhead.

Huh?

I looked out the window and saw three vehicles with blazing light bars facing me. I thought a group of off-roaders was looking for a camping spot. I opened the door and gave my best WTF look. A voice over a speaker said, “Show me your hands.” Um, okay. I also stepped out.

A law enforcement officer stepped from the side and asked, “How are you tonight?”

I thought, what is this? Rangers checking to see if I had my permit? I answered, “I’m fine.”

“We had several reports of someone yelling, swearing and threatening people.”

“Oh, that must be the guy in the blue van over there. I heard a bunch of yelling but I thought maybe it was a loud TV or something.”

“Did anyone come over here and bother you?”

“No.”

“Okay.”

He and the other officers converged on the blue van. I was curious what would happen, of course. Would mayhem ensue? Would there be an arrest? I grabbed my camera and watched.

It was all very calm. The officer who’d spoken to me talked with the two van dwellers. One sat in a chair and the other sat on the ground leaning against the van. The one in the chair was gray-haired and the other was younger, with blue hair. A father and adult son, perhaps. The older one seemed to be doing the talking. Everyone was calm, except maybe the younger one who mostly stared at his feet. At first I thought he’d been handcuffed, but then I saw his hands move apart. The officers left after about ten minutes.

It’s only my guess, but I think all the earlier yelling was due to the younger one having some sort of mental condition and his medication (if he was taking any) hadn’t been working. Or maybe he had just been drunk.

So, things have been quiet and calm the past few hours. I’m glad things didn’t get ugly. However, if the blue van is still here tomorrow, I might move farther away.

UPDATE: They moved on shortly before lunch.

Something’s rotten in the state of Arizona

I like to leave the side door open as often as I can when I’m camped. Let the outside into the Rolling Steel Tent. But there’s a downside. All that sunlight fades my bedding. And, in the case of my red fitted sheet, it weakened the fibers to the point of shredding.

An awning could alleviate the problem. I have a tarp and some camo netting. But unpacking, setting it up, taking it down and packing it away again is annoying since I move so often. So I’ll just try to park with the side door not facing south whenever I can.

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Might as well jump

Earlier this morning I heard footsteps crunching on the gravel and then, “Hello? Anyone home?”

It was a fellow camper with a dead starter battery. “I went and left the ignition on all night,” he explained, shaking his head, acknowledging his boneheadedness. “I used up both of my jumper packs trying to start the truck, but no luck. Do you have a jumper pack I could use?”

“No, but I have cables.”

He gave me a look like I was from the Stone Age then asked, “Do you have time?”

“Sure.”

I drove over, passing five other rigs the guy must have asked for help before finding me. Five other rigs that would be up a creek if they were to have battery problems.

Thanks to my apparently obsolete jumper cables, my wimpy van was able to start his Super Bad-Ass Macho Duty diesel dually. De nada, amigo.

“It’s funny,” he said. “I probably have enough tools with me to rebuild my engine, but no jumper cables.”

Any day I can feel justifiably smug is a good day.

Sure, jumper packs are great if there’s no one around to help, or if you’re too much of an introvert to approach strangers, or if your ego is too fragile to ask for assistance. Maybe I should have one. But there’s a lot to be said for good old no-tech solutions.

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Preseason

There are two main seasons in Quartzsite: Hellishly Hot, and Snow Bird. Right now it’s that brief season in between when the weather is nice yet the town is still rather empty. Some businesses aren’t open yet and those that are have no lines. It’s almost like having a personal village.


Monday, October 15, 2018

So soon?

It seems unusually early for me to be in Quartzsite, yet here I am. I rode a cold and enthusiastic tailwind all the way from chilly Las Vegas.

I plan to settle in and spend some serious time working on a novel I started writing about three years ago. I’ve already broken one of the rules. I have no idea how the story ends. But that’s what keeps me interested. Where is this thing going to lead? Otherwise, it becomes drudgery, finding all the words to fill in the outline. I like discovering forks in the plot and deciding which way to go without needing to end up at a particular point. I have decided no one is going to triumph in the end. It’s that type of dark, twisted genre. Screw the classic story arc. I didn’t start this post with an ending in mind, only a beginning premise that swerved off on an unrelated topic, sort of like the way I travel.

This blows

I saw the forecast. I knew it was coming. I was prepared. But I still don’t have to like howling wind. At least I had the Rolling Steel Tent properly oriented and the wind didn’t change directions, so the rocking wasn’t too bad—just enough to keep waking me up. It did drop the temperature down to a comfortable blanket-to-my-chin level, though. And it kept the flying bugs away, so there was a positive side to it.

Saturday, October 13, 2018

I can’t sleep like this

It’s the in-between season again when it’s too warm to sleep with the Rolling Steel Tent all closed up but too chilly to sleep with windows open. It’s too warm to sleep with a blanket but too chilly to sleep without. So it’s a balancing act with adjustments made during the night—sometimes every couple of hours, sometimes every few seconds. Mix and match between columns A and B.

Honor among boondockers

A guy flagged me down as I was pulling out of my long Class-A-RV-sized boondocking spot. I was going for a shower at the Pilot Travel Center in North Las Vegas. Mmmmm, lots of hot water.

“Will you be coming back?”

“Yes.”

“Oh,” he nodded and shrugged, “I was hoping to take that spot. But okay.” He had a Class A RV.

I figured even if he didn’t snag the spot someone else would, it being the beginning of a weekend with anglers and boaters and locals who just want a break from the city arriving at Lake Mead National Recreation Area. It would’ve been no big deal for me to lose the spot since the Rolling Steel Tent is compact enough to fit a variety of other places.

When I returned, all clean and fresh, with my hair and beard buzzed back into control, “my” spot was still empty. Quelle surprise.

Friday, October 12, 2018

Too near, too far

The past summer’s travels reminded me that while I like being out in the boonies I prefer not being inconveniently far from the benefits of civilization.

I don’t hate cities. I lived in them—happily—for sixty-one years. Sure, they’re crowded and noisy and filled with jerks and crazy people, but so is my head. Now, as a nomad, cities are very useful centers of resources. The larger the city the greater those resources, the broader the options.

I love being out in the beauty of nature, but I’m not the type who needs to be so far off the beaten path that there’s no longer a path and it’s a major trek to get eggs or a fan belt.

I don’t need for there to be no hint of any other humans. I’ve developed the city dweller’s (and the introvert’s) ability to tune out, to ignore it all when I want to. Sure, perfect solitude in a beautiful place is wonderful, but so is partial solitude. By accepting imperfect solitude there are far more places I can be happy. Like now, just over the hill from the craziness of Las Vegas. But like they say, out of sight, out of mind—at least until I’m out of toilet paper.