Monday, November 30, 2015

Desert art

Looks like a good spot to spend a day or two

What does one do while boondocking in the desert? Well, someone decided he/she needed to make a spiraling meditation maze around an ocotillo. Nice.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Meanwhile, on another planet

Attack of the weekenders

There were five other rigs when I pulled into Fortuna Pond on Friday. No problem. There were seven when I came back from town, but they were still well spread out. Then, after sundown, several more people arrived. And they weren't very quiet about it. Ergh.

So I packed up this morning and headed to the wide open spaces along Olgiby Road, off Interstate 8, across the Colorado River, in California. There were various rigs heading the opposite direction, going home after the Thanksgiving weekend. A good sign.

I went farther north to get away from lingering ATV encampments and turned into the BLM area near American Girl Mine. There were two toy haulers there, but they packed up and left within a half hour. So I have the place all to myself. That's better.

Cargo Muchachos Mountains in the background, ocotillo in the foreground

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Micro dwelling?

This is the tiny van FedEx uses on Catalina Island. It's almost too small for the logo decal. Yet I can't keep from imagining it converted to living space.

The wind is my mother / the highway is my brother

As Rare Earth sang, I was born to wander. And, I would add, to run from freezing nights.

I know you folks in places with actual winters have it far worse than I do right now. And I'm extremely glad I'm not where daytime highs are below zero. Or even merely below freezing. I'm not looking for pity. But I do not like cold weather. I did two winters in Saskatchewan, so I know serious cold. I don't ever want to be near it again.

Yesterday I left Quartzsite for Yuma with the idea of heading to the campground at Painted Rock Petroglyphs, near Gila Bend. Or maybe the Anza-Borrego Desert. Because of itchy feet. And because it might be a little warmer.

Well, Yuma is warmer than Quartzsite, by about eight degrees. The nighttime lows are in the 40s rather than the 30s. But head any direction within the US from here and it gets colder again. It's almost like Yuma is where the heater is. So I'll be staying a while.

Yuma is an okay place to be stuck for a while. It has everything I need. It's just that I've been here several times before and I'm craving someplace new, someplace different. Stimulation. So maybe that will come from discovering new and different things about Yuma. After it warms up a little.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

More food, more people

It was van dweller Thanksgiving again in Quartzsite. About 45 people (some of whom I didn't even know were in the area) showed up for the pot luck feast.

Click to enlarge

There were two turkeys—one roasted on a gas grill, one deep fried—and mountains of side dishes. I brought corn. Way too much corn.

What's left of he roasted turkey

The remains of the deep fried turkey. The group lacked carving skills.

Earlier in the week we thought Thanksgiving dinner would need to be postponed due to heavy winds. It's hard to keep stoves lit outside when it's blowing twenty to thirty miles per hour. But the forecast improved and it was nearly windless today. No problems.

Oh, and there was a pile of desserts. Pies, cakes, cookies, candy... I suggested that next year we just do desserts. A coalition of traditionalists and health-conscious eaters vetoed the idea. Foo on them.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Sprocket is in the house

Beth's dog, Sprocket, suddenly showed up in the Rolling Steel Tent. He was looking for food, not fine company.

I let him lick the remains from my lunch's salad bowl. "Mmmmm, Caesar dressing and a bit of avocado residue." Yay, easier dish washing for me.

"Mission accomplished. I'm outta here." De nada, pero.

Men misusing power tools

Mike Rowe, star of Dirty Jobs, once said that safety isn't Job 1. Getting the job done is Job 1.  Safety is, like, Job 3.

To that end, when I needed a piece of steel cut, and James couldn't find his angle grinder, we improvised with a reciprocating saw and some pliers.

Photo by Michael Whiteside

After wearing out three blades and doing some pounding and swearing and making the dogs nervous, James's wife, Kyndal, found the angle grinder and we finished the job in a few seconds. No fingers were severed.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Still in the desert

5:27 PM

How do you bring a bunch of loners together?

Most people like waffles. Fellow boondocker, Bryce, loves waffles. He has a waffle iron and the power to run it. So he put together a waffle breakfast for the folks hanging around Scadden Wash in Quartzsite. About 25 of us showed up. Because, food.

Our host and wafflero, Bryce

There were also eggs, sausage and mimosas. And after the food, conversation.

Saturday, November 21, 2015


Karl could give up a lot of things in order to live the nomadic life, but he absolutely had to have a bathroom.

In other news

Shihab Rattansi, reporter

A crew from Al Jazeera English came around to interview people who have decided to live in vehicles instead of buildings. They had contacted Bob Wells, the guru of vandwelling, and since I'm currently camped a couple hundred yards from him, Bob recommended me, among others. I thought, "Sure, why not?"

Anar Virji, field producer

We talked mostly about the economic pressures that led me to this life. Declining career, crash of 2008, inadequate retirement funds, the costs of maintaining a house, and so on.

Rob Michaud, cameraman

The story they're putting together is slated for international broadcast. They have hours of interviews to edit down to a 2.5 minute segment, so who knows if I'll make the cut. And if I do, who knows whether I'll be happy with it. But it's an experience I would never have had if I were still living in a building.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Wednesday morning, Balboa Pier

There are always gulls

There are always fishermen

There's usually some guy with a metal detector

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Waiting for the sack girl

I'm hangin' at Bolsa Chica State Beach. Great weather after a couple of chilly, windy days along the coast. And, as one would expect, the beach is nearly deserted on a workday in November.

That's the Long Beach skyline in the distance

It's rather serene. The noises from Coast Highway blend with the sound of the surf to form calming white noise. Occasionally a cyclist glides by, tires hissing on asphalt. The gulls are quiet.

The beach is more barren than the desert. But I feel more alive, more full by the ocean. The Southern California traffic and general chaos I have to pass through in order to get to the beach is totally worth it. Maybe there's some validity to the aquatic ape hypothesis. I know I'm more at home by the water than up in the trees. Too bad I can afford only to visit.

Another glamorous day in the life of a free spirit

At least we nomads can get to the laundromat when it's not busy

Yes, I did laundry just a few days ago, but there were two reasons to do it again. One was that I'd bought a long sleeved t-shirt I wanted to wash before wearing. The other was that one of my water jugs  leaked, soaking the laundry bag (a.k.a. the black and lime green scuba duffle) and three day's of dirty clothes. I figured I might as well run them through the wash before drying them out. Livin' large!

Monday, November 16, 2015

What is a guy without a house doing at Ikea?

I mean, besides following the arrows through the maze? I'm getting ideas. Maybe there's something that will let me stow my stuff more compactly and/or let me get at it easier. Or something that makes my surroundings more pleasant.

Hmmmm, lots of containers. And if I were starting the Rolling Steel Tent from scratch, there's a wide choice of compact cabinets to consider.

What about lights? Maybe a small one for atmosphere on those long winter nights? I might be able to rewire one to run on 12 volts or AA batteries.

Of course, I don't need to use things for their intended purposes. For example, this lid/dish rack could be used vertically to hang things.

And there are all sorts of things other than beans that could be kept in these magnetic jars.

And though these stools were meant to allow little kids to reach sinks, they could work just as well as a step into a van. The happy blue & green one is more fun than the beige ones you see everywhere.

I know money can be tight for those of us living in various kinds of vehicles. Many of us have to do the best we can with what we have or can scrounge. But ideas are free (unless ideas are your job, like mine was). As the old saying goes, opportunity favors the prepared mind. So if your mind is prepared with the habit of seeing creative ways to use things, if you're in the habit of looking at your surroundings, your life, and seeing ways to improve them, your opportunities for a more functional and attractive existence expand.

I didn't buy anything at Ikea today. I got a sackful of ideas, though. They were handing out samples.

A small rant

As if huge diesel pusher Class A RVs didn't annoy me enough already, there was one causing mayhem on the freeway yesterday. It was driving along, way slower than the rest of traffic, part way onto the shoulder, with one of its driver-side basement doors open, sticking about four feet out to the side, ready to slice through other vehicles. This caused much jumpings on of the brakes, swervings, honkings, swearings, angry gesturings...

So these beasts have all the comforts and luxuries of home, but they don't have decent hatch locks or devices that keep you from driving away when when a hatch isn't 100% secure?

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Well, we can't have sunshine every day

Yesterday I helped make a video about solar panels and how great they are. Perhaps today's weather is nature laughing at my hubris. Or it's just an unthinking, impartial El Niño doing its thing. But if we're going to have overcast, it should at least rain.