Saturday, September 30, 2017

How do they do that?

Imagine you got your food by repeatedly jabbing your mouth in the ground until... got something. Amazing.

Friday, September 29, 2017

Almost perfect

Google Maps pointed me to a laundromat. It turned out to be a good one. Clean, new machines with effective spin cycles, plenty of baskets and folding tables.

But that's not all.

The strip mall it was in also had a mom & pop donut shop, a mom & pop pizza joint, and a mom & pop Mexican restaurant. Your choice of places to eat while waiting for your washing. If only there had been a bagel bakery.

Per chance to dream

In 1958, North Carolina newspaper columnist, Harry Golden, observed that white people got upset when black people tried sitting with them—in schools, on buses, in restaurants, and so on—but were fine when black people were standing with them—in stores, in bank lines, etc. He proposed the tongue-in-cheek Vertical Negro Plan. Just have everyone stand. Problem solved.

We vehicle dwellers face a similar (though nowhere near as vile) problem. For the most part, folks who live in buildings have decided they can tolerate us sitting in cars, trucks, vans, campers and RVs, but they get all bent out of shape when we’re horizontal.

“They’re sleeping in there! Call the cops! Run them off!”

Of all the disgusting things. Sleeping.

It must not occur to them that sleeping people are totally harmless. They aren’t causing trouble or committing crimes. They’re out of it. Dead to the world. Okay, some are snoring very loudly, maybe muttering, or farting, but not robbing, raping or killing. If they must fear us, fear us while we’re awake, not when we’re unconscious.

Nonetheless, citizens have pressured local governments into banning sleeping in vehicles. Oh, you might be allowed to park your van there, as long as you’re not in it. Sleeping. That would be too revolting.

I have no Golden-style solution for our problem. Have everyone do everything while horizontal? Sleep vertically? Nah. And a rational solution has little hope because the fear of people sleeping in vehicles is irrational. Maybe I'll come up with something after a little nap.

All things in balance

Chevrolet and GMC light trucks have plastic hub caps held on by decorative fake nuts. Being plastic, they crack (which means they can't really tighten) and sometimes they fall off. I lost one. Forrest happened to find one somewhere that had fallen off someone else's truck. We put it on the Rolling Steel Tent, but it fell from its new home, too.

So, in the spirit of maximum wheel balancing, and not wanting to spend about $30 on a new set of hub caps, I removed the fake nut that was 180° from the missing one. Naturally, the little suckers fight you when you want them gone.

I wouldn't be surprised if the remaining six fake nuts thought, "Why should we have to take up the slack for the two who've gone AWOL? Screw this. (Or unscrew this.) We're out of here." That's when I'll feel like spending $30.

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Follow the sun

The beach was all fogged in by lunch. I'm not that hard core of an ocean lover, so I went looking for a drier, warmer alternative inland. I didn't need to go far before the fog was gone and the temperature was about twenty-five degrees higher. And it's a lot greener than I would expect for this time of year. Nice.

A rocky morning

Stone stackers have been doing their thing on the beach. Their work isn't as elaborate as some, but I think the simplicity accentuates the tension in the works. (How's that for arty talk?) And the approaching fog removes background distractions.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Shimmy shimmy shake

The Rolling Steel Tent had developed a shimmy. Not only that up-and-down vibration that's usually the sign of an improperly balanced tire, but also, under certain conditions, a side-to-side shake that's the sign of, well, one or more other things. Improper alignment, improper caster adjustment, worn suspension parts, bent suspension parts... With over 200,000 miles on the clock, and much of that on rough roads the past four years, there was a chance I'd be spending some serious money getting the ol' steel tent rolling smoothly again.

But one of the rules of vehicle repair is to try free stuff before getting a mechanic involved. So I made sure the tires were correctly inflated. They were a little low, so I pumped them up to Chevy's recommended 50 PSI in the front, 80 PSI in the back. I didn't really notice a change.

Okay, the next free thing would be having all the tires rebalanced and rotated at the chain where I bought them—Big O. That solved about 95% of the problem. No more shake and only a hint of shimmy.

Another reason I went to Big O was that I thought the tires were out of round or maybe even starting to come apart. I didn't have Michelin-level funds when I needed tires, so I had to settle for their cheap house-brand tires, made in China. If it had turned out the tires were defective I could've waved my warranty at them. But that wasn't necessary. At least not yet.

If your vehicle is suffering from the shakes, here's a good article covering the possible reasons. May the causes be simple and the solutions free.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Why I drive

I drove another 300+ miles today, about half of it through the greater Los Angeles area. Not because I'm nuts. (Well, not too nuts.) Because I wanted to be here. The ocean. The Pacific, to be specific. I would rather be in a crowd by the sea than alone in the mountains or desert. Solitude is grand, but the beach is better. Having millions of people just out of my peripheral vision is a fair price for all this. So is the campground fee.

Sunday, September 24, 2017

A 360-mile slog

I downed some biscuits and gravy at the hotel's free breakfast, gassed up the Rolling Steel Tent and took off west on I-40. I turned south at Holbrook, and at Show Low I jumped on US 60 to Globe. The goal was Buckeye Hills Regional Park just west of the Phoenix metro area. It makes a nice overnight stop because, among other things, it's free.

I hadn't driven the leg from Show Low to Globe before. It's one of the routes down off the Mogollon Rim, which sort of divides northern Arizona from the southern, lower, hotter, part of the state. Along the way is dramatic Salt River Canyon. I hadn't known anything about it, but it brings out the Sunday crowds.

As with many long drives, the last part of this trip felt the longest. I've driven between Globe and Phoenix—and vice versa—several times, but the distance between landmarks seemed farther today. Aw man, I'm only at Apache Junction? Only in Mesa? Tempe? But I made it. I'm fine. I had a late lunch and napped and adjusted to the time zone change. Gee, it got dark early.

Saturday, September 23, 2017

The olden days

Something caught my eye when I emptied my pocket change on the hotel table. Oh, look, an old "wheat" penny. You don't see many of those in the wild anymore. I turned it over to see the date. Cool, 1944.

It only looks like I made an irrational zig-zag

So, what am I doing in a nice room at the La Quinta Inn in Gallup, New Mexico? It's a long story of converging needs.

Ever since I hit the road in 2013 I've been been editing videos with Adobe's no-frills Premier Elements. It worked as it was supposed to up until a few months ago when it started crashing whenever I'd try to import video, making it useless. About the same time, Photoshop Elements started crashing whenever I'd try to save any photos except those that had been compressed for use on the Web.

Whenever those crashes occurred, a notice would come up explaining the problem, but since I do not speak the arcane language of programmers, the notices were no help. But I suspected it had something to do with either Apple's operating system or Adobe's software. Whereas Adobe has a carefully constructed barrier of inaccessibility, Apple has their Genius Bars. However, I wasn't near an Apple Store until Thursday.

Nicole Overholt was my knowledgeable and pleasant genius, and she was able to decipher the error messages. The Adobe programs couldn't locate a critical bit of their own code. The fact it started happening to both programs at the same time made me suspect Adobe had built time bombs into the software that would "encourage" users to upgrade to the latest versions. "Not upgrading for four years, huh? We'll show you."

But I would need to upgrade my also-several-generations-old Apple OS in order to be compatible with the current Adobe programs. You can see where this is going. Downloading gigabytes of software with my limited monthly mobile data allocation, during which my laptop would need to be plugged in, while camped in the forest where my solar panels don't get much light to charge the batteries which power my computer.

Meanwhile, the previous couple of days I had been feeling kind of, oh, dissatisfied with where I was in Northern New Mexico. It was beautiful. The weather was great. But something was gnawing at me. Then a friend posted a video of waves crashing on the California coast. I suddenly knew my problem was I wanted—needed—to be at the ocean. Right now, not in several weeks, as previously planned. I could do it, because wandering has no rules.

I looked at the map. How many hours? Where were places to camp along the way? Flagstaff would be a long slog, but Gallup would be easy. I could get a room there, plug in the laptop and use free wifi to download all that software. I was a little overdue on a shower, too.

Installing... installing... installing...

So, everything is downloaded and installed. The Photoshop problem is fixed. The Premier problem is not. X/*@!#^~x!!! Breathe deeply. Let it out. Think of the ocean. Mmmmmm, ocean...

UPDATE: Premier Elements has decided it wants to work after all. Maybe it just needed to go to the ocean, too.

Friday, September 22, 2017

The Rolling Steel Tent gets a tattoo

Loud and clear

I followed my antiquated GPS to the coordinates Vanholio! had sent me. National Forest boondocking in the Jemez Mountains, near the Valles Caldera National Preserve (a.k.a. what's left of the "volcano that blew a big chunk out of what eons later would become northern New Mexico.")

Vanholio! lured me here by texting that the cellular reception was good and that with my antenna it should be great. He was right. After deploying the antenna my signal jumped from three bars of 3G to four bars of 4G LTE.

The downside is that it will probably rain. The antenna cable goes through the slightly open rear door. I'll have to disconnect the cable in order to keep the rain out, leaving me trapped inside with no Internet. Oh, the things I suffer.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

What do bagels and medications have in common?

Albuquerque is a spread out city. There are lots of places to be at any given time. And sometimes we're at places we didn't particularly plan to be.

This morning I craved bagels. Google Maps sent me to an Einstein Bros. across from the University of New Mexico. After enjoying my everything bagel with plain cream cheese, I consulted Google Maps again for the closest Walmart. I needed to restock my beverage supply.

I was pushing my cart of Diet Coke toward the exit, lost in thoughts, when a guy a few feet away called out, "Hey! Surprise meeting you here!"

It took a second to realized the voice was addressing me, another to figure where it had come from (the guy offering his hand) and another for my old brain to realize who it was.


I knew he was in the general northern New Mexico area. He had texted me his location while I was at Chaco Canyon, but I hadn't received get it until I was back within cell range and he had moved on. And a series of his Facebook posts jumped around in time and place. But he had been spending a couple of days with a friend who lived near that particular Walmart, and he'd come to refill a prescription.

As with the movies Sliding Doors and Run Lola Run (both from 1998), we would've totally missed each other if one of us had taken more or less time to do something else earlier this morning. Or if I hadn't wanted a bagel. Mmmmm, bagels.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

What could be better than pointy rocks?

Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument exists because of strange formations shaped like teepees. They were formed by a volcano that blew a big chunk out of what eons later would become northern New Mexico. Ash... pyroclastic flow (one of my favorite things to say)... erosion... and so on.

But being the weirdo I am, I get more into what's going on at the base of those cones. Slot canyons!

I've posted before about my love of slot canyons, and about my nearly equal love of canyons that are merely narrow and tall. It's one of my things. I think it's about the close space and the quality of golden light reflecting off the walls. And maybe there's something Freudian about it, too.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Casino night

I have some city-type things to take care of and Albuquerque was the handiest. And the RV parking area of the Isleta Casino & Resort a little south of town was also handy. And free.

Doors and windows

The stone buildings of the Ancestral Puebloans out in flatter country aren't as dramatic as cliff dwellings. So I went to Chaco Culture National Historical Park with a different state of mind. I slowed down, paused more, reflected. I got thinking about (and photographing) doors and windows—passages not only between rooms but between lives and times.

I've been missing the desert



There used to be giants

Near Mancos, Colorado

The road to ruin(s)

The Park Service warns the road to Chaco Culture National Historic Park is rough, unsuitable for RVs, and impassible in wet weather. A park official has said there is no interest in road improvement, partly because it's a tribal road and partly to keep visitation low, minimizing impact on the park.

The warnings had kept me away. Then a friend who'd been there said, "It's not that bad. Just air down your tires to smooth out the washboard, and watch for the bigger potholes." His encouragement, plus reading House of Rain, made me want to go. Now.

The good news: the first third of the road from US 550 is paved. No sweat.

The okay news: the middle third is fairly well maintained gravel. Some mild washboard, but if you cruise at about 40 MPH so you're skimming the tops, it's not bad at all.

The I-guess-it-could-be-worse news: the final third, before reaching the park and its pavement, is like this.

At least it was dry instead of muddy. The deep ruts aren't too bad, but there are occasional small washouts across the road. If the light is wrong you can't see them in time. It's like driving off a curb and back over again.

And then there are patches like this.

There's really no way to dodge any of them. You just slow to a crawl and gently roll in and out of them. And hope nothing breaks.

The sign at the start of this section of road should say, "End of ANY maintenance at all."

What's in a name?

Early European settlers along the Animas River in northern New Mexico thought they'd discovered Aztec ruins. So they named their town Aztec. However, the Ancestral Puebloans (who we used to call Anasazi) who built the stone villages were only very distantly related to the Aztecs. They also predated the Aztecs. But mistakes often stick.

I went to Aztec Ruins National Monument because Craig Childs wrote about it in House of Rain. He went there on a rainy day to sit and meditate in the reconstructed kiva. I did the same. It even rained briefly.

Archaeologist Earl H. Morris rebuilt the kiva in 1934. There was a lot of guesswork involved, so it's more about an impression than architectural detail. And about getting out of an afternoon cloudburst.

A fellow visitor asked if I knew what this was. Her guess was as good as mine. And Earl H. Morris's.

Saturday, September 16, 2017

A day among the ruins

The first time I was ay Mesa Verde I skipped the five buck guided tours. I think it was because they were sold out for the day and I didn't want to hang around for a second day. I think I had somewhere else I wanted to go. So I just went to Spruce Tree House.

I planned ahead this time. I bought tickets yesterday before setting up camp. Cliff Palace at 10:00, Balcony House at noon.

One exits Cliff Palace via stairs and ladders through narrow gaps

And one enters Balcony House via a three-story ladder

And one exits through a tunnel that wasn't sized for modern people

I'm staying the night at Morefield Campground, in the park. It's not a particularly scenic spot, but it has showers and free wifi. Fifteen bucks with my senior pass.