Tuesday, May 3, 2022

I'll make it official

 I'm putting this blog on hiatus. Not much to write about lately. Other things require my focus. See all y'all in a few months, maybe. But here's a photo from earlier today. Bear Canyon Reservoir, Mimbres NM.

Tuesday, April 26, 2022

I might have invented a game

The game is like Heads Or Tails, only it’s about whether the avocado pit will be in the left or right half when it’s opened. For another level of guessing/betting, there’s the question of whether the avocado will be unripe, ripe, or too ripe. And if two people with avocados open them at the same time you can play Same Or Different. Then make guacamole.

Saturday, April 16, 2022

Wish list

Let’s say I could afford any replacement for the Rolling Steel Tent I wanted. What would I get? A tricked out 4x4 Sprinter or Transit with a high roof? A step van? A box truck? A Unimog?

Nah. I’d want something very similar to what I have, with a few minor improvements. Here’s the wish list:

Chevrolet Express or GMC Savana cargo van (because they’re tanks)

3/4 ton (a 1/2 ton would probably be enough, but they stopped making them)

V-8 (my 4.8L is enough, but now the only engine choices are the 4.3L V6, the 6.6L V8 and 2.8L turbo diesel 4 cylinder)

Silver (so I don’t have to deal with white paint peeling)

Sliding side door with tilt-out window (see this for why I prefer a sliding door)

Tilt-out windows on the back doors (ventilation, man)

Passenger seat delete (because I’d remove it anyway to make room for the fridge)

Power windows/locks/mirrors (because I’m tired or doing the door lock walk around, and I'd like to roll the passenger side window up and down from the driver seat)

Cruise control (because I cruise)

Blind zone alert (always good on a van)

Backup camera (because I have one now)

Automatic locking differential (for the iffy roads)

My needs are simple. 

Monday, April 11, 2022

White air

I’m in Pahrump. The wind is out of the south. And the sky is weird. There are mountains to the east, the city and mountains to the west, but they’re invisible today. It doesn’t smell like smoke, taste like dust, feel like fog, or trigger my allergies like pollen. It must be the end of the world.

Sunday, April 10, 2022

It was another one of those mornings

I woke up just before the sun crested the mountains. My first thought: this bed is very, very comfortable. I enjoyed it for another minute, stretching, scratching, letting out a deep breath. The desert lit up. G-o-o-o-o-o-d morning.

I tossed off the covers. The Rolling Steel Tent was comfortably cool. I slid open the door to let the sunshine in. I pulled on my pants and shoes and stepped outside.

The air was fresh and clean. It was quiet. The yuccas and creosote bushes were rimmed in light. Some of the rocks sparkled. I was still and absorbed the moment.

Whatever else was happening in the world, it wasn’t here. It wasn’t weighing on me. It was just this beautiful, peaceful morning. Another one of many. Another one I wouldn’t have experienced if I was living my old life.

Saturday, April 9, 2022

Today’s haul

Four 15-packs of cheap-ass beer

Three bottles of cheap-ass vodka

Two 1-liter water bottles

One 1-quart milk bottle

One small Pringles can

Three random pieces of cardboard

About a dozen no-longer-wet wet wipes

One sock

Thursday, April 7, 2022

Night noises

As I drifted up out of sleep I became aware of a faint repetitive plik… plik… plik… plik… 

Huh? What’s that? water dripping?

I sat up and turned my head side to side, trying to ascertain the direction the sound was coming from. There was a brief pause, then plak… plak… plak… plak… plak… plak…

I moved toward the front of the Rolling Steel Tent, hoping it wasn’t a mouse gnawing on something. The sound seemed to come from outside. I had left a bag of collected litter by the door. Had a critter broken into the bag, (re)scattered the contents and was now trying to chew a discarded water bottle?

I stuck my head out. The bag was undisturbed. The elusive noise changed to KAK… KAK… KAK… KAK…

There were headlights about a hundred yards away silhouetting a figure. Ah, that’s it. Someone is trying to drive tent stakes into the rocky ground. Oh, the misery of desert pavement. Oh the misery of setting up camp in the dark. What time is it anyway? 2:38 AM. Someone had badly miscalculated travel time, or had trouble along the way. Here’s wishing better luck, amigo.

At least I didn’t have a rodent problem. That I knew of.

Wednesday, April 6, 2022

These are the people I hate

The public land on the east side of Pahrump NV is littered with, well, litter. It can be windy here, so it’s somewhat forgivable when some lightweight something-or-other—a plastic bag, an empty water bottle, a paper towel, etc.—slips away and ends up stuck in a creosote bush a quarter mile away. Some litter blows in from the developed parts of town, where it seems trash cans and dumpsters have no lids. But some of the crap is just flagrantly dumped here. Like this:

I discovered it while gathering trash around my campsite. I don’t know what this pile was wrapped in originally (a blanket?) but the sun and heat have turned it into something that looks like dryer lint. Picking this up would require more resources than I have, starting with a backhoe and hazmat suit.

Tuesday, April 5, 2022

All clean

Way back, during one of my first visits to Pahrump NV, I discovered the Horizon Market, a convenience store out on the west side of town that had public showers. I knew it had showers because it said so in large letters across the front of the building.

I was feeling grimey after a week in the warm, dusty desert. I wanted something more than a sponge bath, so I headed to Horizon Market.

"Uh-oh," I thought as I turned off the highway. The store facade had been remodeled. It no longer listed showers. Did that mean they had stopped offering them? Although the guy behind the counter had sort of a surly desert rat look, he was quite affable and assured me they still had showers and that the price hadn’t changed. Two bucks for the shorter shower, four for the longer one. I splurged.

Tuesday, March 29, 2022

Monday, March 28, 2022

I fixed the fan, but...

In the previous episode, the power cord on the fan that I like, that isn’t made anymore, broke. I decided to do the ecologically right thing and repair it rather than replace it. 

To make the repair I’d need a soldering iron, some solder, and some heat shrink. At least I already had some suitable wire left over from installing lights and 12-Volt outlets in the Rolling Steel Tent.

I went to the Home Depot in Pahrump NV, just down the street from where I was camping. They were all out of the $20 soldering irons, so I had to get the $30 one. Add the other items and the total came to $49. Forty-nine dollars to repair a fan I could’ve replaced for $18. Sigh. It sort of makes me hope I’ll have an opportunity to use the soldering iron several times in the future—even though I don’t want anything to need repairs.

I bypassed the plug and wired directly to the internals

It’s back in action

All is good

Just got off the video call with my radiation oncologist, Dr. Chin. Everything on the scan continues to look good. Yay!


Thursday, March 24, 2022

The fan is dead. Long live the fan.

This fan has served me well for nearly nine years. The 12V plug disassembled itself last year and I replaced it. But when I tried to use the fan today (90-something degrees in the Mojave Desert) I discovered the other end of the cord was damaged. And the socket inside the fan had come loose.

I like this fan because of its magnetic mounting ability. I have the perfect location for it. But O2Cool stopped making this model several years ago.

So, do I toss the fan because of the cord? Or do I try to wire up a different cord, eliminating the whole plug and socket thing? If the latter, can I disassemble the fan, or is it glued together? Stay tuned.

Monday, March 21, 2022

It’s a gas gas gas

It was time to complete my schlep to Los Angeles. A little over 160 miles from the south entrance of Joshua Tree National Park to UCLA Health. I had about three-quarters of a tank of $3.87 Arizona gasoline. More than enough to get to LA. Not enough to get back.

I kept my speed down, following a big rig that was doing between 55 and 60 miles per hour. The truck also helped punch a hole in the strong headwind.

In my mind, the leg of the trip from Joshua Tree and on through the Indio-Palm Springs sprawl is just a ten or fifteen mile coast downhill and then a quick squeeze through the pass to Cabazon. But it’s sixty miles. No matter how many times I’ve driven it I’m still surprised it’s that far. 

The needle on the Rolling Steel Tent’s gas gauge moves faster as the fuel level drops. So half a tank on the gauge is something less than half, and a quarter is as good as empty. At least it feels that way. I watched the gauge and did sloppy calculations in my head about actual range. Well, I knew I would have to fill up in California sometime, and better too soon than too late, so I pulled into Banning.

If the question is, “Al, how much would you pay to know you’re either still cancer-free or something’s growing in you again,” the answer would certainly be more than a couple of hundred dollars. So even though it was shocking to see $100.00 ring up on the pump, I knew I wasn’t buying just gasoline. I was buying knowledge, peace of mind, and maybe an early warning.

Friday, March 18, 2022

Can ya dig it?

 I violated one of my own rules: Stay off loose dirt and sand. But, you know, there were other tire tracks, so I followed. Like a good sheep. Or lemming.

Most of the camping spots outside the south entrance to Joshua Tree National Park were taken or too close together, so I hunted for less likely spots. And ended up stuck about a van length from hard pack. The driver side got buried to the hub, the bottom of the shock absorber was scraping, and the differential was touching the ground. Sigh.

Fortunately, I carry an honest-to-goodness shovel. I started digging. And digging. I couldn’t get the shovel under the differential. I dug by hand. I jabbed at the ground with my tire iron and pried up a large stone. This was going to take a while, but I had all day.

There was enough room under the passenger side of the axle to slip the scissor jack in. It seems counterintuitive to jack up the high side, but it gave me more room to dig around the differential. 

Back on the driver side there was still no room under the axle for the jack, and jacking the chassis would raise the wheel last of all as it sagged on the spring. Hmmm, the spring… I dug out a spot large enough for the jack and a flat rock to set it on. Thousands of cranks of the jack later, I had the tire high enough to fit some flat stones underneath. I laid more stones along the bottom of the exit ramp I had dug. Good thing there were rocks mixed in the gritty sand.

As I was executing my inelegant desperation engineering, I kept thinking about how open differentials work. They transfer power to the wheel with the least traction. Since the van was leaning toward the driver side, that should mean less traction on the passenger side. That wasn’t the wheel that needed power if I had any hope of driving out of the hole.

But weight and traction bias must have been sufficiently in my favor. The driver side tire slipped a little, caught traction on the stones and, as you can see, I got out.

The irony of this misadventure is that next month I’ll be interviewing an off-road recovery/search & rescue guy for and article on the Cheap RV Living website about how nomads can avoid getting stuck.