Thursday, September 29, 2016

Cleaning and maintenance

I'd like to be able to brag that I have a regular schedule for cleaning and maintaining the Rolling Steel Tent. It would make me feel so superior. Or at least less shameful. But I put it off until I can't stand the grime anymore. Which happened to be today.

I like having the window open when I drive. I like to have the doors open when I camp. That lets a lot of dust in. And it collects everywhere. So I started with cleaning the windows and mirrors, then moved on to the dashboard and door panels. Then the fridge exterior and cabinets. And the floor. I changed the fitted sheet and pillow cases. I rearranged some things in the cupboard. Yay, clean.

Then it was onto repairs and maintenance. I spray painted over the spots on the hood where the factory paint tends to peel off. I sprayed some scratches in the rain gutters where the original ladder rack had scratched the paint. I checked the oil and transmission fluid (which had been changed a few weeks ago). Yay, fixed.

Finally, since the radio had done that thing again where it stops working, I pulled the perfectly good fuse and replaced it. Yay, music.

All this before lunch. Yay, me.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Trust me, there's an ocean out there

Coastal fog usually burns off by late morning. Not today at Pismo Beach, California. It's a break, though, from the Santa Ana winds of the past few days. And it doesn't keep some people away.

Pismo Beach is known as a place where you can drive out onto the sand and camp. I've had enough bad sand driving experiences, so I won't be doing that.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

This should do the trick

When I posted on a van dweller forum about my directional cellular antenna installation, I got the following reply: aware, the very stiff, thick low noise cable, in combination with the adapters causes strain at the booster's antenna connection and can eventually cause the connector on the Wilson cell booster to break. Mine pulled the traces right off the circuit board. 
This rig needs a pigtail of light, flexible cable between the heavy low noise cable and cell booster as a strain relief. Mine normally sat on a shelf, but every time it was moved or connected/disconnected, there was strain on the booster antenna connection and it eventually failed.
Okay. I wanted to do something about that, because I think my previous cell booster failed because the power connection broke free of the circuit board. I knew the same was possible with the antenna connection. So I searched online and found this:

The fact it was a bulkhead style connector meant I could drill a hole in my steel cabinet, where the booster was already mounted, and have the large end of the cable securely mounted, easily taking the weight of the antenna cable. No movement transmitted to the booster's somewhat fragile connector. And it was nice to no longer need the two adaptors to step down from the antenna cable's N connector to the booster's SMA connector. 

There was even a plastic cap to keep out dirt when the antenna cable isn't connected. Sweet.

I need to stop wanting a drone—again

Just as I've talked myself out of getting a drone, DJI has released a new model that eliminates one of my most compelling reasons: the space it would take up in the Rolling Steel Tent. The DJI Mavic Pro folds up (like the new GoPro drone) to almost pocket size (unlike the GoPro drone).

Watch the video here.

Now I just need to wait until it becomes an old model and the price drops. Or until I come to my senses again. Or until money falls from the sky (delivered by a drone, perhaps).

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Jay Leno was sighted

I'm visiting friends Richard and Gail in Burbank, California. "Let's see," said Richard, "It's Friday. That means it's hot rod night at the Bob's Big Boy down the street. Wanna get dinner there?"

As we ate, Jay Leno pulled in driving a blue and white '56 Chevy. Alas, he was gone by the time we finished our food and conversation. But there were still some sweet cars.

Friday, September 23, 2016

Evicted from the rich people's campground

Rincon Parkway is a stretch of Highway 1 in Ventura County. It's an unusual "campground." A wide shoulder is marked off into sites. It's first-come-first-served and hard to get a spot. Some people stay the whole summer.

So, why would I want to camp in a quarter mile long row of RVs, with highways 1 and 101 and the railroad tracks at my back door? Because it's right by the ocean. And because I haven't stayed there before.

The problem is, the place is restricted to "self contained" RVs. You have to have a toilet and holding tank. (Hey, my bucket is a holding tank.) That means only actual RVs and travel trailers. That means only people who have the money for such things. I thought I'd give it a shot, though.

I had barely stopped (woo-hoo, a vacant space) when a county ranger told me I couldn't stay. She was nice about it, and admitted my bucket should fit the rules, and that RVs were harder on the environment, but she had to go by the book. Sigh.

There are two regular campgrounds at either end of Rincon Parkway, but they're always full, too, with long term RVers. That's part of what makes camping on the California coast difficult. And expensive. It is, after all, the place a lot of people want to be. Including me.

Faria Campground, run by Ventura County

So I'm spending the morning at the day use area, blogging and staring at the waves. Then I'm off to Burbank to spend the weekend with some old friends. Free. With no restrictions.

The curtain comes down on another fine day

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Back at Carpinteria State Beach

I don't know whether these guy's form is good, but I caught them at dramatic moments. Lots of splash.

I do know that the weather was much better than the past two days a Doheny Beach. I don't know the surfer slang for that.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

I had no idea where I was

Somewhere back in my youth I read about John Wesley Powell's exploration of the Colorado River. Decades later, about all I remembered was that Powell had one arm and that he took wooden boats down the rapids.

Since I was a kid living in Virginia when I read that book, I hadn't traveled much and most of the places mentioned meant nothing to me.

Then, in discussing my current travels with my brother-in-law, he suggested I read Wallace Stegner's Beyond the Hundredth Meridian: John Wesley Powell and the Second Opening of the West. "You'll learn a lot of things about this region." So I got the book. (Thanks, Kindle.) What I've learned is that I've been several places Powell's expedition had been.

"For a while the river flirts with the great mountain table rising east and west across its course. It cuts in through Flaming Gorge…"
Flaming Gorge from my campsite

I camped at Flaming Gorge this summer. Of course, now it's a reservoir instead of the Green River, but south of the dam, the river still flows through Red Canyon and the Uinta Mountains.
"The rapids Powell saw from the walls had not looked too bad, but they turned out to be sharp, fierce pitches in the riverbed, filled with boulders fallen from the cliffs. Powell went ahead, waving the boats ashore at every bad spot, reconnoitering on foot. Until noon they had short stretches of navigable water broken by rapids so furious that Andy Hall, remembering some schoolboy lesson, was led to exclaim, 'Oh how the waters come down at Lodore!' They named it the Canyon of Lodore..."
I saw Gates of Lodore on the map of Dinosaur National Monument, up in the far north corner. I thought about going there, but I didn't know what it was.

"As if the lessons were now finished, the river relented, and on the morning of June 18 they floated down into a cliff-walled park where the Yampa flowed smoothly in, carrying more water at this stage than the Green. In a grassy, sunny bottom “the size of a good farm” they camped and rested and sent their voices against the cliffs that sent them back in diminishing echoes, six or eight echoes, or echoes of echoes.
"…They were all feeling good as they camped in Echo Park and established altitude and latitude and longitude for the junction of the rivers…"

There. Right there. Probably on that patch of beach. Just like these river runners. Was I standing on the same spot as Powell and company when I took that picture—and didn't even know it? I had gone to Echo Park just because it looked nice and got some good campground reviews. 
"The river played no favorites, and it showed no sign of conforming to their united wish for a letup. Beyond the Canyon of Desolation they ran directly into another, which they called Coal Canyon from the seams of lignite in the walls. It is now called Gray Canyon. And Gray Canyon was more of the same. In one bad rapid the river filled the channel from cliff to cliff, leaving not even the bare toehold of a portage."
This is a photo I shot of rafters near the end of Gray Canyon. I thought the river looked boringly calm. Not an exciting raft trip. Probably a bunch of first-timers. I didn't know what was upstream.

"…They ran nineteen rapids in eighteen miles without the necessity of getting out of the boats, and at the end of Coal Canyon they burst out into open country again, a shimmering, blistered desert broken by circumeroded buttes of buff and gray and brown and slaty blue."
That would be here, about a half mile south of the Lower Gray Canyon Campground, where I stayed twice.

I've read to the part where Powell reaches the confluence of the Green and Colorado rivers. I haven't been there, only in the general area, at the southern end of Canyonlands National Park.

I've been at Lake Powell, which didn't exist then, of course. I've been to Lee's Ferry and Marble Canyon. I've been to Grand Canyon, but only at the rim. Maybe someday, before I'm too old and poor, I'll do a raft trip there. I've been to Boulder Canyon, which is now Lake Mead. I've been to Lake Mojave and Lake Havasu. I've crossed the Colorado at Needles, Parker, Blythe and Yuma. I've even seen what's left of it in Mexico. 

I was near the headwaters of the Colorado in Rocky Mountain National Park, where Powell also explored. I've seen where it flows into Grand Lake, Shadow Mountain Lake and out of Lake Granby. I've followed it to Hot Sulphur Springs, where Powell's expedition stayed a while. I drove beside it along I-70 to Grand Junction and on toward Utah. But I didn't know that in Powell's time the river upstream of the confluence with the Green was called the Grand River. And it is grand.

The river is down there. Powell and company were down there. In oak boats. With no Gor-Tex or neoprene or guides. Amazing.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Down the coast a bit

I'm at Doheny State Beach campground now, between Dana Point and San Juan Capistrano. All the beachfront sites were already taken, but my spot is roomy and well shielded from the neighbors.

It  was rainy earlier. Not the best beach weather, but it has been clearing off. Tomorrow should be better. Everyone sing: The sun'll come out tomorrow/bet yer' bottom dollar/that tomorrow there'll be sun!

Well, there goes a lot of work

I was going through my camping resources bookmarks, all organized by state and such. I wanted to delete a bookmark that was no longer valid. Somehow I deleted the entire folder. AAAAAAAAAAaaaaargh!

Monday, September 19, 2016

Back at the coast

All the years I worked in Southern California I thought about calling in sick and going to the beach instead. So here I am, on a work day morning, hanging at Huntington Beach with the other hooky players, night workers, retirees and jobless. Sweet.

Saturday, September 17, 2016

But it's a dry heat

Lake Mead, Nevada

Through the Fire

When you want to get to the Southern California coast from Utah or eastern Nevada, you pretty much need to go through Las Vegas. But it's still very much summer there. That's okay, because I'm not mentally ready for weather that requires outerwear.

I decided to spend the night in Valley of Fire State Park. It's my third visit. I really like the place. So Flintstones. So red.

Since I've been through extensive therapy to suppress the mad dogs and Englishmen of my personality, I waited until dusk before doing any exploring.

Friday, September 16, 2016


A lot of people imagine Nevada as a vast wasteland of dirt, rock, sagebrush and Las Vegas. A place where atomic testing actually improved the landscape.

But Pahranagat Lake is one of the spots that run counter to stereotypes. And it reminds us what a difference some water will make.

Yes, that's the Rolling Steel Tent camped among the cottonwoods. Yes, that's a heron thinking about getting some dinner.

And this is part of the view out the van door.

Pahrahagat Lake is run by US Fish & Wildlife. As with most campgrounds on public land, there are tables, fire rings and vault toilets. But best of all, it's free.

Though herons are elegant looking birds, they make an unattractive squawk

One reason I avoid camping in bear country

The windows were closed and the doors locked

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Mind if I squeeze through here?

Cathedral Gorge State Park near Panaca, Nevada, doesn't really fit my picture of a gorge. And the "caves" there, with their open tops, are more like slot canyons. But they're pretty neat.

For scale, that formation in the middle is about ten feet high

The eroded bluff where the "caves" are

The gaps are a little wider than a person and about thirty to fifty feet high