Sunday, January 24, 2021

The H word

A storm system rolled into the desert this past week. We really needed the rain, but since every silver lining has a cloud, I have reason to be less than thrilled. Humidity. 

I love arid air. It’s the glorious antithesis to my less-than-happy life in the South. Dry is good. Dry is clean. Humidity is clammy, clingy, laden with spores and malaise. Humidity is intrusive. It doesn’t want you to forget it’s there.

So here I am, with the humidity fluctuating between 40 and 60 percent—a range most of the country considers normal—getting all cranky, wanting this oppressive wetness to end. Now! But, no. There’s more rain tomorrow. Sigh. I think I’m sprouting gills.

Taking advantage of a break in the weather

Wednesday, January 20, 2021

To the limit

Speed limits can serve several purposes. One is safety, right? Speed kills. Slow down, save lives. School zone. So on. Sometimes it’s simply to generate revenue. Speed traps. A third is to pander to those with delusions of living in quieter, slower, more genteel times. And, so, we have speed limit signs. And speed limit enforcement signs.

If you think about it (like I do while wandering the country), the threatening signs are essentially low-cost substitutes for a cruiser at the side of the road scaring drivers into slowing down. But the signs mean it’s highly unlikely there are actually any cops watching—on the ground or in the air. The signs are there because people haven’t been slowing down—because there’s no officer to stop them. If there were, a simple speed limit sign would suffice.

What you really need to watch for are speed cameras. Ah, technology. Recording every speeder, every day, sending it off to the central computer, issuing tickets, mailing them out, all with dispassionate robotic efficiency. Ironically, the companies operating the camera systems want people to keep speeding. In fact, their contracts usually contain clauses prohibiting their customers from raising speed limits or reworking traffic flow in ways that might naturally slow drivers. Because the companies get a cut of the fines. More speeders = more profit. Ah, public-private partnerships. Ah, capitalism.

But it’s all about safety. No, really. I swear.

Thursday, January 14, 2021

More Death Valley fun

Because too much brown is boring

Unlike many places that have neatly arranged geologic layers, Death Valley has lumps and clumps and piles. It’s as if Nature used the place to dump Earth’s leftover building materials.

Back to the valley of death

It had been a few years since I was last in Death Valley. I had been antsy to travel, and the forecast looked like the overnight temperatures would be bearable, so off I went.

The Zabriskie Point Trail isn’t very long. Besides, I was starting to lose light by the time I got there, so I couldn’t stay out long. It was a nice way to get reacquainted with the place. The almost total lack of vegetation made this hike feel like I was on another planet.

Tuesday, January 12, 2021

Sunrise over the Colorado River

As seen from my room at the Edgewater Hotel & Casino, Laughlin, Nevada. I'm on my way to Death Valley and didn’t want to camp in freezing weather if I didn't need to. The hotel was built back before guests had a bunch of electronics they needed to plug in, so the room is short on outlets. And since they want you to be gambling instead of sitting in your room, there’s no desk, just a small table with no outlets nearby. So I moved the table across the room. Good thing it’s small. Oh, and their standard free wifi is slow. They charge for a faster connection. Nice sunrise view, though.

Monday, January 11, 2021

The college of electrical knowledge

Many times electrical savvy nomads have asked me how many Amps my solar setup puts out. I could only answer that I didn’t know. One reason is that the whole concept of Amps refuses to stick in my brain for some reason. I’m good with Watts and Volts, but Amps…? The second reason is that I didn’t have anything measuring Amps for me. Can’t give anyone a number I don’t have.

But that has changed. (Well, at least the second reason has. I’m still an idiot about Amps.) I spent part of my second stimulus check on the meter that replaces the face plate of my MorningStar charge controller. Remove the old plate, plug the meter into the waiting receptacle, screw the new meter/faceplate in place, and… presto! Not only the Amps, but even more data i don’t understand. Yet. 

Before

After

Sunday, January 10, 2021

Out of the funk and into a canyon

Packages had arrived at my mail forwarder in Quartzsite, so I headed up there. No hurry, since they’re not open on Sundays, so I braved the washboard road to Palm Canyon and hiked it again—this time with the video camera.

Grab the pliers

At least it wasn’t a dog and porcupine situation

Thursday, January 7, 2021

Absent and unaccounted for

Lately my mind has been wandering around a lot of place the rest of me hasn’t been. And none of those places was worthy of a blog post. Or appropriate for public consumption. But i’m here. Things are fine. I hope they are for you, too.

Monday, January 4, 2021

Oh yeah, that's what warm is

No, it’s not real winter here in southern Arizona, but it’s chilly enough at night and early morning that I can’t go around in sandals, shorts and a t-shirt. And I’ve acclimated enough to not need serious winter clothing or bedding. I run the stove for a couple of minutes to cut the chill in the Rolling Steel Tent and all is good.

But those times I have access to modern plumbing I get a little shock to the system. Oh, I didn’t realize how cold my hands were. The hot water feels really nice, warming me to the bone. Mmmmmmmm, yesssssss… 

Sunday, January 3, 2021

That’s better

Farther from town, farther from the freeway, farther from other campers.

This morning I took my sweet time getting out of bed. I was so happy to be bundled under the covers while breathing cool, crisp air. But I started thinking about breakfast. Cinnamon & spice oatmeal with a pile of dried cranberries? Or corned beef hash and eggs with cheese and salsa? Well, neither if I don’t get up. 

Saturday, January 2, 2021

By the highway

Sometimes I’m fine camping in not-so-out-of-the-way spots. Sometimes being handy to services for a couple of days is more important than solitude and quietude. So here are the Rolling Steel Tent and I, at Scaddan Wash in Quartzsite, I-10 in my front yard, other weirdos like me within spittin' distance.

Thursday, December 31, 2020

One size fits two

I use this stabilizer ring when I connect good old green propane bottles to my dual-fuel stove. As I reported a while back, I also have a couple of propane bottles intended for use with blowtorches. They’re taller and narrower, so more prone to tipping over, right? Hmmmm…

The stabilizer was already out and in position because the green bottle had just run out. I connected the blue bottle and plopped it into the stabilizer because it was where there was room. 

Surprise, surprise. It fit nice and snugly. Because there was an inner ring the correct size. Some industrial designer knew there would be someone using different sized bottles. Maybe he had a vision. “I see an old fart in a van in the desert, about to cook breakfast…”

Monday, December 28, 2020

Deconstructed breakfast burrito

I exercised amazing restraint and ate only half of the carne asada burrito I got yesterday. Okay, what to do with the remaining half? Ordinarily, I’d treat it like leftover pizza and just eat it the next day, cold. Not bad, but I could do better.

First, I disassembled the burrito, cut the tortilla into strips and deep fried them.

Then I reheated the meat, adding a little Salsa Huichol for extra kick.

Next, I fried up a couple of eggs in clarified butter.

Finally, I assembled my repurposed creation and topped it with the last of the salsa verde that came with the burrito. Much better than cold, even with extra pans and dishes to wash.

Sunday, December 27, 2020

Down for the count

I’m a big believer in the siesta. Since retirement I’ve become almost religious about it. Mmmm, yes-s-s-s-s-z-z-z-z-z-z-z-z…

However, I hadn’t napped the past few days. Maybe it was because I didn’t want to miss any of the limited daylight. 

Then, this afternoon, after doing laundry, getting water and butane and a carne asada burrito from Diego’s, after doing some house cleaning and rearranging in the Rolling Steel Tent, I laid back to read and… whoosh, I was deeply, deeply out. For two hours. I guess I was making up for missed naps.

Hit me with your best shot

Just like our human joints get stiff with age, so do some of the Rolling Steel Tent’s parts.

The sliding door has latches at both ends. The rearward one has started sticking, despite several treatments with cleaners and lubricants. But a smack on the door does the trick.

There’s a vendor in Quartzsite who makes custom vinyl stickers. So, because I’m a weird guy, I had him make this:

Bit o' desert