Saturday, November 30, 2013

Lost and found

My wifi hot spot went missing the other morning. I had been using it shortly before going to bed and it was gone when I got up. I searched the van but couldn’t find it.

It’s not like there were many places it could go. Had I been sleepwalking and left it somewhere? Had someone managed to slip into my van while I was sleeping? That’s an unsettling thought.

Today I took nearly everything out of the van. The bed and everything under it. The things in the small cabinet. The contents of the front cabinet. If I still didn’t find it, at least the van would be cleaner and more orderly when I was through.

I had just started going through the large metal cabinet that I’d searched the day before when, ah-ha! It was inside the tissue box.

You can see how the hot spot would have ended up in the tissue box.

I know how it probably got there. The door of that cabinet serves as my desk. When I’d finished with the computer, I put it away but forgot the hot spot. When I closed the cabinet door it fell into the tissue box.

It’s good to find it. It's good to be back online. It’s also good to not be suspecting any of my fellow van dwellers of theft.

Thursday, November 28, 2013


A group of van dwellers gathered here in Quartzsite, AZ, for Thanksgiving dinner. Everyone provided something, just like the first Thanksgiving (so the story goes).



Mark & Donna






"Swankie Wheels" and LaVonne (showing their matching missing teeth)







Today I was thinking that the day isn't just about things we're thankful for, but also about doing what we can to provide others with things they will be thankful for.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013


Solar panels work best when facing the sun directly. Of course. This is particularly important during the seasons when the sun is low in the sky, like now. That’s why nearly every solar panel installation you see is tilted to the south. (Well, okay, in the southern hemisphere they’re tilted to the north.)

Many van dwellers try to get by with their solar panels facing up, in a fixed position. I did. But with a low sun, short days and occasional overcast, I was having trouble keeping my batteries charged.


Thanks to Mark Cabral for the loan of his ladder and cordless drill. And for his thoughts on how to hinge the panel.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Dry or wet?

A rainstorm is headed this way. Two inches of rain over Friday and Saturday. Yuck. Funny how weather that used to be no big deal when I was living in a house like a normal person is now cause to make special plans

Having spent a day or two in the past cooped up in the van while it rained, and seeing that the storm is headed for pretty much every area within a day’s drive that isn’t cold, I decided it was time to expand my wet weather options.

Ta-dah, an awning.

In theory, if the thing doesn’t sail away in the wind or collapse because of my improvised rigging (old Boy Scout tent pitching skills have their limits), the tarp will allow me to cook outside while it rains. We shall see.

My left knee is so grateful

The big step up into the van is now a comfortable step up. I had started my trek with a folding plastic step stool. I used it a couple of weeks before discovering its engineering limitations.

Then I learned about a metal step designed for RVs. "Most places want $125 for them, but there's a vendor in Quartzsite who has them for $55. I've run over mine a couple of times and it's still good."

So I found the vendor today and got the last one (or at least the last one they had out on the table.) I can now enter and exit my van with grace.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Dealing with it

As I posted below, the days are shorter, which means less time to fully charge solar batteries. And that caused problems with running the fridge all day. So I took basic measures to deal with that.

Refrigerators cycle on and off as needed to maintain the set temperature. The more insulated the fridge, the less time it needs to run. So I added insulation.

I’d been given some half-inch foil-backed insulation which I’ve been carrying around for a couple of months, meaning to build a box to cover the fridge. It was time.

Before and after

Considering I didn't have a carpenter's square or big table to work on, I think it turned out rather well. When I'm near a home improvement store, I'll get more insulation. You can never have too much.

Cozy won’t keep the groceries cool

When picking just where to park at a campsite, the natural inclination is to go for the spot with trees and a feeling of enclosure. The instinct goes way back to prehuman times. We want shelter. Or even the illusion of it.

The original spot. Mmmm, trees.

That’s what I did at my current location in Quartzsite, Arizona. I pulled up next to some trees and bushes, set up a table and chair in the space between, offloaded some space consuming containers and called it home. The trouble was, I was in the shade. Solar panels don’t like the shade. And refrigerators crave the electricity produced by solar panels. I begrudgingly backed the Rolling Steel Tent about twenty feet, out into the sun. There, problem solved.

Well, only partially solved. My panel got more sunlight but not really enough for the fridge to run well. These darned shorter days and lower sun. 

The new spot. Mmmm, sunlight.

So this morning as the sun creeped over the eastern mountains, I saw that the area about a hundred yards away had sunlight while I was still in shadows. That sunny area was more barren. No vegetation to cozy up to except some cacti. But I had to do the technologically correct thing and move. I can always carry my chair over to the trees if I miss them too much. But I can’t un-spoil hamburger.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Sometimes clichés happen

Just missing the campfire and coyote.

Semi-dumb luck

When we broke camp in Cottonwood, AZ, I was going to Phoenix for a night (mmmmm, long shower, big bed) while Bob and Judy were going to Wickenburg for one night, maybe two. They’d see. 

We’d meet up in Quartzsite. But we didn’t specify how. I don’t have Judy’s phone number, and while I have Bob’s, he never answers. He likes email.

So, after my fling in Phoenix (next time spring the extra few bucks for the room that doesn’t face I-17) I decided to head to Wickenburg. It’s a longer way to Quartzsite, but less manic than I-10. If Judy and Bob had left Wickenburg (they had), I’d just continue on (I did).

There was no reply to my email by the time I hit Quartzsite, so I got lunch. Afterward, I headed out to a part of the desert I’d watched Judy diagram for someone else. Cross over I-10, turn left at the T, turn right at the dead end (map not to scale) and... look for familiar vehicles?

Presto. There were Bob, Judy and another vehicle about a hundred yards off to the right, still picking a campsite.

Sometimes things just work out.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Pilot Dave

Took me on a helicopter tour of Sedona.
He's got the pilot look down pat.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

It wasn't on the agenda

Judy, Bob and I went to run errands in Cottonwood, AZ. To our surprise, there was barrel racing going on at the fair grounds.

For the too-urban among you, barrel racing is a rodeo sport wherein you race your specially trained horse in a course around three barrels. It's very cool.

Oh, the things one can discover when your schedule is very loose.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

My home for now

Near Cottonwood, Arizona

I am so slow

There are times when I driving down long, straight, featureless highways that I feel like a slow bug crawling on a gigantic ball. The miles I’m racking up seem to count for nothing. Sixty, seventy miles an hour? A snail’s pace.

I am so cool

The nights are getting cooler. I have various ways of measuring how chilly it is as I prepare for bed.

Do I need to roll up the windows?

Do I need to close the roof vent?

Do I need covers?

Do I need to keep my socks on?

Do I need to keep my pants on?

Do I need to wear my knit cap?

Do I need the sleeping bag in addition to the duvet?

Do I need to fire up the heater?

So far, I’ve needed to go with the heater only when we were camped near Flagstaff and at Mule Canyon. October at higher altitudes. 

When I was in California, at sea level, it was mostly window and vent open, covers just for snuggle purposes.

Now, early November, I’m at 3,500 feet. Last night was closed windows, socks on (my feet are usually cold), pants off, covers and knit cap. I could be happy if I slept like that through the winter. But maybe without the cap.

In a week or so, we’ll be going to about 850 feet elevation and 150 miles farther south. And in January I might be in Mexico. We’ll see.

Saturday, November 2, 2013


The beaches were fun, but a bit tame compared to Dias de los Muertos night at Hollywood Forever Cemetery. It's too bad nighttime made it hard to get many good shots.