Wednesday, September 22, 2021

Peg leg

It had been over two years since I last ran over my step. I think that was a record for me. But lucky streaks end. 

I hadn’t been the slightest bit aware I had run over the step until I returned from my errands. Aw crap. Two legs were bent flat. But the rest of the step was undamaged. I could replace the legs. 

One-inch square aluminum tubing with the correct wall thickness would probably be a little difficult to get my hands on. But, hmmm, I wouldn’t need to use aluminum—just something strong enough. Like one of the hardwoods.

Lou’s neighbor, Pat, had some scraps of oak. Perfect. I cut it to length and slathered on some tinted polyurethane, drilled holes, and presto. Good to go until the next time I have a brain fart.

Tuesday, September 21, 2021

Time for martinis by the pool with Sammy and Dean

For once the ads in my Facebook feed offered something I really wanted

I used to love Hawaiian shirts. I had a dozen of them back in the '80s when the whole Magnum P.I. thing made them readily available. But in the past few years I realized they had become the regulation wear of old boomer farts like me. Sigh, delete them from my wardrobe and add them to the list of trends I’m way too cool to be part of.

But then, o-o-o-o-o-o, something I’d never seen before in menswear. Googie-ish mid-century modern prints! Now that’s different! And different is good.

I scrolled through hundreds of choices until, bingo, there was the one. I placed my order and waited.

And waited.

And waited.

Just when I had decided I'd been ripped off, the package arrived. Just in time for the end of Summer.

But, um, the sleeves are a different pattern. Manufacturing defect? Or special, rare, collectors' edition? I decided on the latter. Because it’s different. And different is good.

Sunday, September 19, 2021

Just like Dad

I saw something again today I’ve seen several times before out here in the more rural regions of the country. Father and young son (about ten years old) dressed almost identically, from hat to boots. Rancher wear.

It makes me wonder if the boy admires his father and wants to emulate him, or if it’s just what every male in his cultural circle wears, or if he had no say about his wardrobe. The pair were interacting pleasantly, so I like to think he wants to be like his old man.

I, on the other hand, didn’t want to dress like my father. It would’ve meant wearing the uniform of a middle-aged federal employee. A suit and tie. No suit on Saturdays, but no jeans and T-shirts either. It would be chinos and a sport shirt. Then back into a suit on Sunday. That would’ve meant about 80% of my waking hours in a suit.

I mean, look at me, the little boy on the far left. 
Do I appear to love wearing that outfit?

But that was the version of Dad I grew up with. Decades before he was a rugged outdoors guy, working in the mountains as a road surveyor, living in tents, riding horses, and looking like this: 

No suits then. I probably would have wanted tall lumberjack boots just like Dad’s.

Tuesday, September 14, 2021

Hanging on the edge

I first learned about this thing called via ferrata last year from a Dana Hollister video. Oh, wow, it was something I wanted to do the next time I was in southwest Colorado. If it wasn’t beyond my limits. The wire bridges looked, um, challenging, but most of it was sort of a ladder system. I can climb ladders.

From Dana Hollister’s video

My return from California would take me through southwest Utah, so I did some research about hikes there. One of those was Kanarra Falls. Yes, that was already on my list. But then I saw a video about a via ferrata on private land, along the rim of Kolob Canyon. THAT! Yes yes yes YES! I lucked out and got the last space on an open group guided tour.

I worried I’d be the lone old fart in a group of young athletic people, but my companions were a couple of late-30s guys and five 50-ish women. We loaded into two OHVs for a two-mile Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride to the trailhead. The view of the gorge was astounding.

After a brief explanation of our harnesses and the cable system, over the edge we went.

Our harnesses had two clips. When we navigated past cable anchor points we’d unclip and re-clip one safety line, then the other, so there was always at least one line connected.

Although it wasn’t as tough as some of the other via ferratas I’ve seen on YouTube, it was still a great time. Until the final climb. I think the guide said it was a 100 foot ascent. About two-thirds of the way up I became convinced he’d left a zero off that number. But I made it. Yay me!

Monday, September 13, 2021

Happy and disappointed. But mostly happy.

I learned about Kanarra Falls Trail when I was in Utah back in April. But the canyon is owned by Kanarraville and they limit the number of daily hikers. You need a reservation and the hike was all booked up.

This time I was able to snag a spot. Yay!

In the meantime, though, a flash flood had destroyed the ladder at the first waterfall. Rats. But half a hike is better than none.

The first quarter mile is up a steep road, but the going is much easier after that, especially once you get under tree cover. Then the fun starts—hiking in the creek, feeling like you’re being bad like a little kid. Or like you’re extra adventurous. Trails? We don’t need no trails!

I had been studying up on GoPro settings, learning what more I could do with it, like better exposure control and field of view options. This hike was going to be a great chance to apply what I’d learned.

But I got something wrong. The video played back too fast and I had somehow turned off image stabilization. Most of the footage is unusable. Damn. You’ll just have to settle for my screen captures. Or watch someone else’s great videos. 

Someone had rigged some logs at the first falls. It was very sketchy to start with, but spray from the falls also made it wet. Some people used it—like nimble 20-somethings oblivious of their mortality—but I chose the more sensible option. I turned back. But not before making my way behind/under the falls.

Even without the video I was glad I did the hike. I’ll return some day when the ladder is back. And my GoPro settings are correct.

Tuesday, September 7, 2021

Ghostly light pointed me to Maple Hollow Campground, up a canyon from Holden, Utah. Even though it was technically still Labor Day weekend, I had the place to myself. Sweet. 

After it got dark I noticed some fairy lights hung at a neighboring campsite. I assumed some very quiet campers had slipped in without me noticing. But come dawn there was no one there, only the lights, which were still on. Hmmm. Either the neighbors had slipped away just as quietly or they had been there some other day. Whichever, they forgot their lights.

I fished them out of the trees. It took me a few moments to figure out their odd shape. Oh, ghosts. The spirits of departed gummy bears, perhaps.

Monday, September 6, 2021

No wonder they didn’t know where they were going

I hadn’t seen the BLM road I was looking for until it was too late. I continued about a half mile to a historic marker pullout. There, a woman in an RV with a couple of cars in her convoy waved me down.

She gestured to the stack of papers she was holding and said, “I don’t know whether I’m lost.” The papers were a printout of MapQuest directions. Ah. Well there was her problem.

I’m not a big brand loyalty guy, but there are brands I’m avidly disloyal to. MapQuest is one of them.

“Where are you trying to get?”

“Oklahoma City.”

“Hmmm, there are several ways to get there.”

“I know, but I need to follow these directions.”

I tried to make sense of MapQuest’s overly complicated instructions. I cross-referenced with Google Maps on my phone. While MapQuest had included the somewhat unnecessary information that US-50 is known as the Loneliest Road in America, it failed to mention that this section between Ely NV and Delta UT is also US-6. Besides, the Loneliest Road is generally considered to start or end (depending upon your direction of travel) at Ely, with Carson City as the other terminus.

I assured the woman she was on the right road (so far). I made my U-turn thinking, “Good luck with the rest of the directions, particularly getting through Las Vegas to US-93. At least it’s just I-40 all the way to Oklahoma City once she gets to Kingman AZ. But even then MapQuest might find a way to confuse her. And good luck with the jumble of interchanges in OK City where 40, 44 and 35 collide. May you find yourself in the correct lane, Ma’am.”

Sunday, September 5, 2021

It’s not always the same

I wanted/needed to get out of my beloved California. It wasn’t a good time to be there. To the immediate west all the National Forests in the Sierras were closed. To the north Lake Tahoe was on fire. To the south the desert was burning hot. So… east? Into Nevada? Across Nevada? Some of the emptiest, driest, most barren land in the country? I had crossed Nevada before and it had been rather brutal. High heat and high wind on one occasion. Nearly freezing and nearly snowing on another. It’s a place where you get twice the miles for your money. Each mile seems twice as long. At least it’s not flat and monotonous like the plains states. But… sigh… it looked like the way to go this time.

I googled some routes, distances and drive times. Less than five hours to the other side of the state, to Ely? (Pronounced EE-lee, for those not familiar with the place.) That wouldn’t be horrible. Especially if I started at the crack of dawn and beat most of the heat.

And, actually, it was quite enjoyable. Smooth, empty highway. Cruising along with the window open. Short pauses at rest stops to get the circulation back in my thighs and butt, a dip into the infamous Clown Motel in Tonopah to buy a sticker. And, for the first time ever, I was at my destination before I expected it. Had the clown ghosts worked some kind of time warping juju on me? If so, thanks!

Saturday, September 4, 2021

What would my great-grandpa do?

Sometimes, when I’m faced with a living-off-the-grid problem, I try to imagine how my ancestors would have dealt with it. The current case in point: keeping my head warm while sleeping in an unheated van.

One solution is to simply pull the bedding over my head, leaving an opening for my face. But I move around in bed and the covers can end up elsewhere.

So I’ve adopted that classic Victorian habit of the night cap. Not the glass of distilled spirits before bed. The head covering one wears to bed. As in “Ma in her kerchief and I in my cap / Had just settled down for a long winter’s nap.” Except rather than the long pointed stocking cap Ebenezer Scrooge is always depicted wearing (how did they avoid getting tangled in those things?), mine is an ordinary knit beanie. Warm head, no problem. 

Another advantage is that I can continue wearing the cap the rest of the day, if necessary, without anyone thinking I’m weird. Or weirder than usual. And if I want to sleep past sunrise, I can just pull the cap over my eyes. My ancestors would never do that, though. They’d be up before the sun to tend the livestock before heading off to the Dickensian sweatshop.

Friday, September 3, 2021

Video evidence of my crime

Under pressure. Or is that over pressure?

Weird things start happening to high-mileage vehicles. Little things. Mysterious things.

Suddenly one day the oil pressure gauge was pegged all the way to maximum. Um, what? A reading like that would mean way too much oil in the engine. I checked the dipstick. The level was in the proper range.

Then I noticed that when the ignition key was turned to the second click, before starting the engine, the gauge would read about 60 PSI, then jump to 80 PSI when the engine started. I concluded it was a problem with the gauge, not with the oil pump or engine. Okay, but what, exactly?

Thanks to the University of Google I learned it’s the oil pressure sensor—a thirty buck part that would cost a couple of hundred in labor if I had a pro replace it. Most of that labor would involve removing things to gain access to the sensor, then reassembling everything. None of the required work is beyond my ability. It’s simply beyond my desire and need at the moment. The false reading isn’t affecting the way the van runs. I can live with it for a while.

It's that time again

Breakfast isn’t The Most Important Meal of the Day for me. I’ll occasionally be in the mood for something that requires actual cooking, multiple ingredients, several utensils and some post-meal cleanup. But usually it’s something light and simple, like toast or a banana. And many times I just skip breakfast, especially in summer.

When the weather cools down, though, when it’s chilly enough in the morning to fire up the stove to heat the Rolling Steel Tent—like it has been the past few days here in the Mammoth CA area—then it’s time for oatmeal. Mmmmmm, oatmeal. It’s almost a ritual. And the good thing about oatmeal (and dried cranberries) is that it’ll patiently wait in the cupboard until it is time once more.

However, I’m out of cinnamon

Thursday, September 2, 2021

I’m legal

The National Forests are all closed, but nearby BLM areas are still open for camping. No campfires, though, which is fine with me. 

The $5,000 hike

Ignorance is bliss, right? Or maybe it’s just that not keeping 100 percent up on things means I have less to worry over. Relevant details? Pffff.

I had heard all the National Forests in California were shut down because of fire danger. I thought that meant only no camping. So I researched hikes near me, chose one, and drove to the trailhead. There were two other vehicles there and I met their owners on the trail. Hi, how ya doin’? Beautiful day! What could be wrong?

Parker Lake Trail in the Ansel Adams Wilderness is rated moderate, mostly because the first quarter mile is rather steep. But it levels off somewhat from there to the lake. The open sage area gives way to pine and aspen groves, and the trail meets up with the creek. Very nice.

Then there was the first glimpse of the lake through the trees. Oh, wow! Solitude in a beautiful place, my old body feeling good from the exercise. Is this a great life, or what?

It wasn’t until I was back from the hike that I learned the National Forest ban wasn’t just for camping, it was for everything. 

1. Going into or being upon National Forest System lands within the National Forests listed below. 

2. Being on a National Forest System road within the National Forests listed below. 

3. Being on a National Forest System trail within the National Forests listed below.

Yeah, so nowhere at all. Don’t even think about it, mister. And what if they catch you? 

A violation of these prohibitions is punishable by a fine of not more than $5,000 for an individual or $10,000 for an organization, or imprisonment for not more than 6 months, or both.

So, as soon as I tie up business here, I’ll be heading elsewhere. The Loneliest Road in America might be a workable alternative.

Wednesday, September 1, 2021

Mom and triplets visit my camp

Then and now

This is the guardrail and the Mono Lake overlook the first time I stopped there in August of 2014.

This is what it looked like when I stopped there yesterday. Some things change for the better.

Tuesday, August 31, 2021

Pushing it

Sometimes (too many times?) I head off on an adventure with only the slightest of information. Yesterday was one of those times.

I needed to get from the Las Vegas area to Highway 395 along the eastern Sierras. I had taken the route through Death Valley many times and wanted to try something different. I consulted someone who was very familiar with all the routes and based on her recommendations I decided to take US-95 to Nevada 266, then California 168. That way I could go to Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest before connecting to US-395 at Bishop. That was enough of a plan to get me going.

Everything went fine and I arrived at the Schulman Grove visitor center, where the pavement ended.  The center was closed, but info boards outside showed two hiking trails. The four mile long Methuselah Trail seemed appealing. I knew “Methuselah” was supposed to be the oldest bristlecone pine ever found and I supposed the trail went there. So I headed off, packing water but not accounting for the fact I hadn’t done any serious hiking all summer, that all I’d eaten that morning were a couple of bananas and a fitness bar, and that the elevation was over 9,000 feet.

A half-mile marker came up rather quickly. It seemed twice as far to the one-mile marker. But I was feeling good. It seemed I’d walked three times as far by the time I decided the two-mile marker must’ve been missing, but, oh there it was. I was still feeling good, though. Half way. Piece of cake. But the last two miles felt like four miles, all uphill. Each bend revealed another uphill stretch. I kept thinking the next summit would be the last. Nope.

There were benches along the way. I started resting at each one. Also at spots between benches. My pulse was up and my legs were becoming unsteady. Hike fifty yards, lean against a tree, breathe deeply. Hike another fifty yards, sit on a boulder, breathe deeply. Another hiker came by and asked if I was okay. Yup, just old and not acclimated to the elevation. And probably hungry.

Never so happy to see a sign

I finally reached the four-mile marker. There had been no three-mile sign. I could see the roof of the visitor center at the top of the rise. I would make it.

Back at the road was a sign indicating Patriarch Grove, fifteen miles on a dirt road. Next to it was a warning sign. Heck, I’ve driven bad roads before. Off I went.

Washboard and walnut-to-potato sized rocks can make fifteen miles feel like forever. But at least I wasn’t walking. Suddenly there was a quarter mile of pavement. Okay. 

The elevation climbed to 11,000 feet. The mountain tops were treeless, just a carpet of sagebrush. The final mile of “road” was especially rough, just shy of Jeep trail status. Everything in the Rolling Steel Tent was shaking and bouncing. Woo-hoo! Adventure!

By the time I reached Patriarch Grove, even the sage was gone. Just bristlecone pines growing from gravel and rock. It was like a moonscape. With a scattering of trees.

Despite its roughness, the drive had given me the time to recuperate. I walked to the top of a hill with no problems, despite the thinner air. But as I climbed back into the van my right calf cramped up very badly. AAAaaaack! I lost control of my ankle and foot. I massaged the muscle, tried to flex my leg. Aaaack! No luck. The cramp continued for about fifteen minutes before it eased up enough to drive. I was probably more dehydrated than I thought.

I found a camping spot part way back down the mountain. I stretched out to do some serious resting and fell asleep until 4:20 AM. I guess I needed that.

Now I’m in Bishop, back within cell coverage, catching up on email. The main reason for making this trek might, almost literally, go up in smoke. Most of the National Forests in the area have been closed down because of fire danger. The TV crew’s permits are now invalid and they’re hustling to see if they can get a location on private land. Bob found a camping spot in a part of a forest that is still open. I’m headed there after posting this. We’ll see what happens. 

Sunday, August 29, 2021

Something in the air

As I approached Kingman I saw what I thought was a column of tan smoke in the distance. I realized it was a huge dust devil. An odd one, because it didn’t travel along. It just swayed a little side to side, like its feet were anchored, like it had a serious beef with a particular patch of ground. Strange.

I stopped for a chalupa in Kingman then headed up US-93 to Las Vegas. Off to the west an almost haboob-sized dust cloud streamed across the valley floor, headed for Laughlin/Bullhead City. Seek shelter and close the windows, people.

Ahead of me was a massive gray wall. Rain. I turned on my lights and wipers when the first drops hit. Then, whoosh, it was like driving into a car wash. Or under a waterfall. Strong wind blew from the side. There was standing water on the highway. Tire spray made things worse. Traffic slowed.

Then the hail started. Pea sized, but a lot of it. I attempted recording it with my phone, but I was concentrating on driving and hit the photo button instead of the record button. I got a blurry picture of the dash.

Then, like that, it was over. I half expected locusts or frogs, but no. Instead it was just 108° hellish heat. Welcome to Las Vegas.

Back at the canyon

It would be foolish to leave Flagstaff without making a run up to Grand Canyon. It was more crowded than the last time I was here, but not excessively so. It was a weekend, so that was to be expected. I strolled along the rim for a while before hitting the road to Las Vegas.

I had enough gas that the Rolling Steel Tent and I probably could’ve made it to Kingman, but I wanted to be safe. I knew gas in Tusayan (the tourist-oriented town just outside the park) would be ridiculously expensive because it had to be hauled all the way out there, and because, neener neener neener, where else are you going to get it, Mr. and Mrs. Tourist? I knew there was a station 20 miles south at the junction of 180 and 64, but it was just as outrageously priced—a buck and a quarter per gallon higher than in Flagstaff. I expected prices to be lower in Williams. Even though it’s sort of the gateway to Grand Canyon, it’s right on I-40, so fuel delivery should be no big expense. But the prices were even worse. It was a case of shameless exploitation, with probably a little collusion among the station owners. “Didn’t fill up before going to the canyon? Bwa-ha-ha! We got ya. Thought you’d be smart and fill up before going to the canyon? Bwa-ha-ha! We got ya.” So I gave them the one-finger salute and topped off the tank in Seligman.