So here I am, about 5,000 miles and four and a half centuries from the Defeat of the Spanish Armada, thinking about how size can be a detriment. I’m thinking about flies. There have only been a few of them, but they’re big. So they’re kind of slow, especially compared to the tiny flies I’ve encountered elsewhere that buzz back and forth, around and around, in my face and ears, rarely landing where I can swat them. Those flies are like the English navy, and the big ones I have now are like the Spanish: slow and easy to hit. I’m seven for seven so far today.
Monday, June 14, 2021
The local temperatures lately have been in the upper 90s, occasionally slipping into the triple digits (about 36°C to 38°C) . It hasn’t been fun but it hasn’t been unbearable. I got out my windshield cover and shade netting, turned on the fans, and opened everything up to take advantage of the breeze/wind. This photo was taken just before sunset because it was unpleasant being outside in the blazing sun. But at least—hallelujah—it’s not humid.
A few weeks ago one of those You Might Have Unclaimed Money ads showed up on my Facebook feed and I thought, what the hell, I might as well check. A query of my former residence in North Carolina returned a handful of hits labeled simply “more than $50.” Cool. So I did the paperwork, sent it off, and settled in to wait and see if anything would happen.
Today I got an email:
As State Treasurer, I am delighted to inform you that your previously submitted claim for unclaimed property held by the North Carolina Department of State Treasurer has been approved and payment or property will soon be on its way.
Attached is the detail pertaining to your claim…
There are small amounts from AT&T (phone/TV/internet), Western Digital (for I don’t know—maybe a class action suit), the bank, a former home equity loan holder, and the Department of Transportation, but the biggest chunk was a property tax refund from the county. It all totaled up to $860.35. Not shabby. It wasn’t a massive inheritance from a distant relative, nor the payout from a PowerBall ticket I had forgotten I bought, but it was more than worth the very minor inconvenience of the claim process. I guess some things on the Interweb aren’t scams.
Saturday, June 12, 2021
Friday, June 11, 2021
Thursday, June 10, 2021
NXH® Heating Technology, I learned, comes from NEX-XOS Worldwide, LLC which “is committed to producing safe, shelf-stable quality products that conforms to all regulatory requirements and meets the highest food safety best standards.” They also claim NXH® “has revolutionized what has come to be widely known as the flameless ration heater (FRH)… we created an innovative FRH that requires no water or saltwater, our FRH can activated with any non-flammable liquid! River water, juice, milk, tea, soda etc.” And that “Our proprietary heating technology, NXH®, is certified safe and non-toxic, odorless and safe to use in closed confined spaces. When activated, our FRH emits safe, odorless steam to heat up your meal.”
I followed the instructions and… for a few seconds nothing happened. So I shook it and… nothing happened. I opened the bag to see whether the chemical pack had even gotten wet. Mmmm, sort of. I poked at things a little then sealed the bag back up and… Foosh! It started venting steam out of the little hole. I set the timer.
After five minutes (the instructions suggested 3-5 minutes) I used tongs to fish the foil pizza packets out of the very hot bag. The packets resisted my attempts to tear them open, so I used scissors. The “pizzas” were only slightly warmer than the ambient temperature. The “cheese” wasn’t even melty. It was as if the foil of the packets had insulated the pizzas instead of conducting heat. Maybe the process works better with other foods, like their cheese tortellini, chicken pasta parmesan, or lentils with beef. And maybe those are a better eating experience.
There’s an exposed wire bundle in the back corner of the Rolling Steel Tent. In passenger vans it would be covered by nice plastic moulding, but in work vans it just hangs out there, saying, “Hi, I’m a bunch of wires and stuff.”
I’ve done various things over the years to make it slightly less unsightly. The first was wrapping it in white baseball bat grip tape.
Linda May gave me a strand of fairy lights that I wrapped around the cable. Oooo, atmosphere. After visiting a Lakota shrine I started hanging strips of colorful cloth from the wires. I occasionally added feathers I’d find on the ground. Or bits of discarded metal rusting in the wild. A key… some washers… rings… a spoon… a piece of bone…
Then, this past winter, while wandering through the vendor tents in Quartzsite, I saw some cool beads. Yeah, that’s what I need. So:
Tuesday, June 8, 2021
Monday, June 7, 2021
Bob Wells posted a Cheap RV Living video about buying used vehicles, presented by his assistant KC. Among other things, she mentioned Facebook Marketplace, which I had been ignoring because of various biases and some lack of experience. So, out of curiosity, I went to Marketplace to see what vans people were selling.
The Rolling Steel Tent has been pretty damn good to me, but it is getting on in years, with 312,377 miles at the moment. Should I remain loyal to the bitter end or should I be thinking about retiring it and bringing in some younger blood?
I’m partial to Express/Savana vans, so I searched them first. The choices were in three categories: ones only slightly younger the Rolling Steel Tent (250-280K miles), ones with fewer than 100,000 miles in the $25,000 range (ouch), and parts vehicles.
I checked the Fords. There were only three E-series at the moment and they were in sad sad shape. And the Transits were too expensive.
I have no interest in the Mercedes/Dodge/Freightliner versions of Sprinters or the Nissan NV series, and the Ram ProMaster, being front wheel drive, won’t serve my purposes. Or my wallet.
Oh, but what about the Chevy Astro/GMC Safari? Smaller, but maybe not too small. They’re getting on in years too, though. I checked anyway. And now I feel guilty because there are a couple of them at the moment that look pretty sweet, and I’m daydreaming about them. Sorry, RST.
I would need to downsize further to fit into an Astro, but I suspect there’s a good amount of stuff I’m carrying in the Rolling Steel Tent simply because I can.
Part of me says to forget about it for now, if only because 210k miles and blue interior. The other part says good Astros will only get harder to find. Oh well, something to lose sleep over for a night or two.
A jackrabbit was chillin’ near the Rolling Steel Tent. Photo opportunity. When I looked through my telephoto lens I saw there was something unusual about its ears.
I suppose this means the rabbit is hearing-impaired. But at least wind is less of a problem when its ears are deployed.
Sunday, June 6, 2021
One of those lights had gotten rather dim. Time to recharge. Since the charger gets stored in an inconvenient place (which is appropriate for seldom used things) I decided I might as well top off all my various batteries, including the nine AA’s in my 1,200 lumen flashlight/bludgeon. And it's nice to be using shore power for this rather than my solar batteries.
Tuesday, June 1, 2021
But I got sidetracked in Safford AZ. I went to California instead. However, in August I drove the Montana sections of 191. That left just a couple of relatively short pieces: from Bluff UT to Chinle AZ, and from I-40 to Alpine AZ.
So what’s next? Maybe I could finish driving the rest of Baja California—Guerrero Negro to Cabo San Lucas. We’ll see.
Sunday, May 30, 2021
When I visit ancestral Puebloan ruins I look for handprints in the mud mortar. It brings me closer to the time and place. Look, there, the prints of actual people from hundreds of years ago; tough people who hauled rock, water, dirt and branches up the side of the canyon.
I didn’t spot any clear impressions of hands or fingers at Horse Collar Ruin in Natural Bridges National Monument. I saw something far more unexpected, and maybe more rare: footprints on the roof of a kiva. Way cool.
Saturday, May 29, 2021
You know that thing I wrote the other day about getting outside your comfort zone? Unlike me, you shouldn’t take that to mean you should also get outside your physical abilities zone. Like I did. Twice, not having learned the first time.
Once I had stopped climbing my aerobic system was able to get through to my consciousness and complain it wasn’t all too happy either.
I sat and wondered how long it would take to recover enough to get down off the rock and back to the Rolling Steel Tent.
Obviously, I lived to tell about it.
Then I got back to the short ladder at the base of Sipapu. Oof! Then there was a mild uphill climb, with handrails, to the next bench. Double oof! Crap, if I’m having trouble at the beginning of the climb, then what?
Holy crap. I stood holding the upper end of that railing, legs screaming, heart pounding. This was going to take a while. Climb, rest, climb a little more, rest a lot more…
“I can make it to that next sitting-sized boulder,” I told myself. “Then the next one.” I try to look like I’m just pausing to enjoy the view, not like I’m about to die.
A twenty-something couple scampered up. “Do you need anything,” they asked. “To be about 40 years younger,” I replied. I got up and headed for my next short-distance goal. (Like they say, how do you eat a whale? One bite at a time.)
Never had I ever been so glad to see the Rolling Steel Tent waiting for me. And never (well, since yesterday) had I been so glad to flop down on the World’s Most Comfortable Bed.
So, here I am, reevaluating my plans. Cedar Mesa is filled with ruins I’d love to see in person, but getting to them requires hikes like today’s. Or worse. How insane am I? About this hiking stuff.
(This post was written earlier in the week, but I was out of cell range. Then Blogger said there was trouble posting the photos. Then I was out of cell range again. Life.)
On the map, the stretch of US-95 between Hanksville and Hite Crossing looks like just another stretch of desolate Utah. No one had told me otherwise. Man, was I surprised! Miles of tall, sheer red sandstone cliffs. Exactly the kind of scenery I love.
The story goes that back in the 1930s a rancher borrowed a bulldozer from the government and started turning the old animal/foot/horse/wagon trail through North Wash into a proper road. The government finally took over the project and the highway was finished in 1976, earning it the name Bicentennial Highway. (Back then they were naming all sorts of things in honor of the Bicentennial.)
Natural Bridges National Monument was my goal. I had been there before but only saw it from the ridge. This time I would hike into the canyon.
But first there was a 20-minute road construction delay. I was first in line and got thinking about the woman holding the stop sign. Unlike others assigned this duty, she didn’t have a cooler, radio, walkie-talkie, chair or anything else. It was just her and her sign, and a small water bottle in the pocket of her safety vest, on the side of the road. At least it was overcast instead of horrible summer heat. I wondered what she thought about while standing there alone. How boring the job was? How well or poorly she was getting paid to do it? Was she thinking about friends and family? Humming to herself? Doing complex math in her head? When the pilot car finally arrived, another sign holder got out of the passenger seat and traded places. Ah, okay, it’s not as dismal as it could be.
I had decided I’d stay at the Natural Bridges campground if a spot were available, or develop Plan B if it weren’t. But plan B—or whatever comes before Plan A—presented itself almost immediately after turning off the highway. Oh, a road up to Bears Ears National Monument. With dispersed camping spots. Excellent!
So here I am, in the parking lot of a fairly nice grocery, writing this post. I figure I’ll do laundry while I’m in town, maybe even wash the Rolling Steel Tent.
Tuesday, May 25, 2021
As soon as the sun broke the eastern horizon I took off for some hikes I’d planned. (Tip: if any section of your route runs east, don’t try driving first thing in the morning. Especially if your windshield is a little dirty.)
There were only a handful of cars at the Escalante River trailhead on Highway 12 when I pulled in at 7:15. That was good.
Less good was the temperature. Still in the upper 40s. Maybe lower 50s. And most of the river was still in the shadows of the cliffs. Ordinarily I could just put on a few extra layers and peel them off as the day warmed. But this hike required wading across the river several times. So shorts. And if my legs were going to be cold, then the rest of me might as well be. Or not. I couldn’t decide.
So I made breakfast and waited. By the time I’d done the dishes it seemed a little warmer, or I was a little bolder. I stepped outside in shorts and tee. Mmmmm, bearable. Let’s go.
The first river crossing is just beyond the trailhead. I guess it’s good to find out first thing whether the water is too cold. You can scamper—or Frankenstein walk—right back to your vehicle and rethink your life decisions.
I didn’t see any other hikers on the way out but passed several on the way back. Early bird… worm… et cetera.
Next on the agenda was a hike to Calf Creek Falls. That trailhead is at a campground. But the place was packed. Nowhere to park. I was not the early bird there. Oh well, some other time.
Can you see the road snaking down?Heading south on Notom-Bullfrog Road I pulled into the trailhead for Upper Muley Twist. The sign said 4x4s only. I got out to walk ahead and see what the story was.
As for me, I was surprised at how much my strength and stamina have improved since my first post-cancer hike. My attitude has improved, too. I use to be a don’t-walk-if-I-don’t-have-to kind of guy. But now? Another canyon today? Sure.
However walking in the sandy wash on the way back pretty much did me in. So I passed on Headquarters Canyon just a mile or so down the road.
I continued on southward toward Bullfrog, down on Lake Powell. I saw a promising turnoff and discovered a large gravel lot near the rim of a mesa with a camping spot in the corner. And—surprise, surprise—a cell signal. Weak but useable. A good place to end the day.
Sunday, May 23, 2021
My eldest sister, Karen, and her husband, Niels, live in Saint George, Utah. I visited them when I passed through there, parked in the side yard for the night, and used their shower. They also took me to dinner.
To my surprise, these oldsters have taken up bicycle riding. Well, electric bicycles. Well, Niels rides a bicycle and Karen rides a tricycle. But they mostly use pedal assist mode, not fully motorized mode. And they don’t stick to just the flatter lands.
Karen asked if I wanted to try the e-bike. Sure. She led the way through the neighborhood to the top of a mesa, peddling the entire time. I only twisted the throttle a few times, usually when accelerating from a stop. And during part of one long uphill section. It was about a five-mile ride.
It was an interesting experience, not only because it was my first time on an e-bike, but also to see what a peddling machine my 80-ish sister is.
“You know,” she said, “they make mountain bike versions of these that would be better suited for your lifestyle.”
I let her suggestion/sales pitch slide. E-bikes are cool, but my main problem (besides price) would be charging one. I have just enough solar power to run the stuff I have, not enough for a bike too. And I’d have to get a carrier, and chains and locks, and worry about it getting stolen anyway. Besides, walking has become my thing.
I don’t remember when I bought my 20 liter Marmot backpack. I certainly wasn’t into hiking or backpacking at the time. I think I originally got it to use with my motorcycle. Maybe. I don’t know. Old man memory loss.
Anyway, it’s a good pack but larger than I need for my short hikes. I really only need a hydration pack with room for snacks and a few emergency items. And since that Marmot wasn’t designed for a water bladder, the 3 liter bladder I bought flops over and strangles itself when it’s half empty (which I guess is one way to judge how much water I have left).Utah Canyon Outdoors in Escalante to see if they had a pack that would better suit my needs. I came away with the 10 liter Gregory you see on the right. It’s half the size but still holds 3 liters of water. It also has fewer pockets—and pockets inside pockets inside pockets—where I can misplace things. And the bright blue is a happier color than the somber, masculine gray of the Marmot.
I’m keeping the Marmot, though. I’ll probably need it someday for a more involved hike. In the meantime I’ll use it to store the Gregory.
I found that replacement plug the other day while looking for something else. Oh. Yeah. I should finally fix that, what with summer on its way. It’s not an elegant repair, but it works. Someday I’ll do a proper job with solder and heat shrink.