Tuesday, July 31, 2018

What are the odds?

A couple of years ago I posted about the joy of following an RV that was actually driving the speed limit instead of the typical ten miles per hour slower. I figured it was a once-in-a-lifetime thing. But it happened again yesterday.

I was driving south along Oregon’s central coast and a Class A was about five vehicles ahead. Traffic was a little slow and I assumed it was because of the RV. A curve in the highway revealed the holdup was a car in front of the RV. After the car took a different road, traffic—now led by the RV—sped up. Alright. Driving bliss.

After a while I noticed another Class A gradually approaching from behind, which meant it was going faster than me. Two RVs within a quarter mile of each other driving like they meant it? Impossible.

The second RV settled in behind me then, in one of the towns with four lanes and a couple of traffic lights, it passed me. I chuckled and saluted. Drive on, dudes.

Another way to do it

Sunday, July 29, 2018

You’ve got mail. Or maybe not.

Two popular mail forwarding services have gone out of business and their former clients are scrambling for replacements.

MyDakotaAddress, in Madison SD, is ceasing operations, effective immediately. They’ve stopped accepting mail delivery from the Postal Service. So if you’re awaiting an important delivery, who knows where it might be or how you could receive it. And those using MyDakotaAddress's address for South Dakota residency are screwed.

MyDakotaAddress did a terrible job notifying their clients. Some still haven’t received official notice and only learned about it on various nomad and RV forums. The suddenness, and the slipshod way they told their clients, suggests some sort of big trouble. Or big incompetence.

J&B Mailroom, of Pahrump NV, gave more warning. It was known for a while the owner was terminally ill. What wasn’t known was whether someone else would take over the business. Now we know both the owner and business have died. Condolences to the family, and sympathy for former customers.

Although we nomads like to be as independent as possible, mail forwarding is something most of us need. A few have friends or relatives handling that chore, but most of us use a service, and those services are small businesses—sometimes just one person and a part-time assistant. While the small forwarders can give more personalized service at a lower price, they’re at greater risk of things going south.

My forwarder—which I’m in the process of abandoning—is a decent sized operation. I just don’t like them as people. So I’m switching to a mom & pop outfit in a different state and crossing my fingers they’ll be around for a while. And that they’ll give plenty of advanced warning if things change.


When I told my mail forwarder, Americas Mailbox, I wanted to step down a level of service, they tried to talk me out of it with threats warnings it would mean they’d no longer sort out my junk mail and I’d be buried under a mountain of the stuff and I’d be begging them to go back to the higher level and the extra postage would negate any savings in the plan and it would be a pain in the butt for them and…

Whatever. Just make the change.

So, as I waited yesterday for the postal clerk to retrieve my latest shipment from General Delivery, I pictured a big courier pack bulging with junk mail. There might even be a box of it. Maybe they shipped me a crate of other people’s junk mail just to make me regret my decision.

But it was just the usual large envelope, thin and light. It contained:
June’s bank statement
July’s bank statement
A new Medicare card
A letter from Social Security about the new Medicare card
A fundraising letter from a women’s health charity
And that’s all
I’ve been away from the consumerist mainstream long enough to fall off junk mail lists. “Put this guy in the Ain’t Gonna Be Spending Money On Our Crap pile. He’s debt-free and hasn’t used a credit card in five years. He’s useless to us.”

Yeah, so bite me.

UPDATE: So here it is, October 5th, over two months since the last time I bothered having mail forwarded.  This time there were just the bank statements for August and September.

Saturday, July 28, 2018

Embracing the grayness

The weather has been fairly predictable along the Oregon coast. Marine layer and fog until about noon. But I headed to the shore early to get some of that misty moodiness.

Friday, July 27, 2018

Curiously wrong mints

So, what happens when the Rolling Steel Tent goes around a traffic circle with a tin of Altoids on the counter?

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Shall the circle be unbroken?

I’ve been in the Rolling Steel Tent all day, except for a walk to the restroom and a few moments standing outside so folks could see I was alive. I’ve been doing what I do when I’m not at a gathering. Writing, reading, daydreaming, having ideas, napping… You know, the alone stuff.

This is not what I pledged to do. And I don’t feel too bad about it.

The day’s solitary mental work lead to a hypothesis as to why mixing and mingling seems harder here than at, say, the Rubber Tramp Rendezvous. It’s all because of the circles. My fellow nomads have been gathering in a central part of the campground, sitting in a circle (sometimes two) of chairs.

At RTR I can almost always find scattered small clusters of standing people where I can mosey up, say Hi, do a brief introduction, participate for a few moments and then move on—or stay if things become engaging

Joining the circle is a much bigger deal. You don’t just happen upon a circle while on the way elsewhere. A circle is a destination, a commitment. You go on purpose, carrying your chair.

Then, where do you plant your chair? Who do you want to be next to? More importantly, who do you not want to be next to? And what if there’s no gap?

You don’t really have conversations in a circle of fifteen, twenty people. There are too many participants for that. So the circle often breaks down into multiple conversations—often with someone across the circle. That means too much talking at once, which is hell with my bad hearing. And it means not talking about anything you don’t want all the others to hear.

So I tend to go silent, which has me wondering what I’m doing there. It would be bad form to just pack up my chair and leave, especially after saying nothing. Too bad I don’t knit. I could sit silently without looking like an unfortunate deaf-mute.

Last night was different. There was a group of six people off to the side. I knew two of them well and two of them well enough. The other two were strangers. I joined in with them because that’s a manageable group size for actual conversation, and because two of them were standing. It was a more casual, more fluid arrangement.

One of the strangers and I turned out to have a lot in common. We had a side conversation for about and hour and a half then seamlessly reinserted ourselves back into the group’s discussion. See, I can socialize just fine. Under the right conditions.

This works better

If I were a nervier person, I’d go to the big circle and regale the group with my thoughts on sitting in circles. Then withdraw and observe whether any behavior changes ensue. Or whether they come after me with torches and pitchforks.

Somewhere in the grey area

When you google gray water you’ll not only learn the preferred spelling is g-r-e-y, and that it’s any “used” water that doesn’t have fecal matter in it, you’ll also get a mountain of articles about repurposing it. Watering gardens, flushing toilets, doing laundry, and so on. With enough filtering and treating, you could even drink it and cook with it.

Many van dwellers have grey water tanks of some sort. Not because they’re ever going to garden or flush toilets or cook their pasta in grey water, but because RVs have grey water tanks and they view their self-built van homes as small RVs. And/or because they think it’s wrong to just toss grey water on the ground. Well, let’s talk about the latter. (There won’t be any actual talking. I’ll write and you can read. Or not.)

What’s in your grey water? Food particles? Skin cells? Hair? Body oils? Sweat? Dirt? Soap? All but the last one are natural and biodegradable and do no harm when poured back onto Mother Earth, who gave them to us in the first place.

So soap is the problem. Unless you use biodegradable ones. Or none. (Google can also provide a mountain of articles about washing without soaps or detergents.)

If you’re happy dealing with your grey water tank then continue on. But if you’re tired of monitoring grey water level and then finding a “proper” place to dispose of it (where it will get mixed with sewage and sent through a treatment plant, or into a septic system where it gets mixed with sewage and slowly dribbles into the ground anyway, or gets pumped out and hauled to a treatment plant) consider switching to biodegradable soap and adopting the toss-as-you-go method. It eliminates the middlemen. Just look before you fling. You don’t want to be splashing anyone. Well, except maybe your enemies.

Monday, July 23, 2018

Out of the comfort zone

When my usual reclusive nature wants to take a break, I meet up with various friends. One or two at a time. No more than four. But sometimes the minuscule gregarious part of me says, “Hey, let’s go to a gathering and maybe make a new friend or two!”

Okay, it’ll be something different to do.

That’s why I’m at the Tillamook gathering. However, I’m not doing a very good job of friend making. I joined the pot luck dinner yesterday and I even shared some stories. But I failed at the Socializing 101 stuff, like asking people their names and swapping a few personal details. I’ve gotten way out of the habit.

I tell myself, “It’s okay. This thing doesn’t really start until tomorrow. I’m not here early to get a jump start on socializing. I wanted to get a good spot and settle in, to shift out of traveling mode. But tomorrow—yeah, that’s it, tomorrow—I’ll drag out my best meager friend making skills. The goal will be to come away with one new friend.

Sunday, July 22, 2018

Open for business

The slide

In May of last year, about 75 acres of Big Sur decided to take a swim in the Pacific. Only some of the mountainside made it to the water. The rest buried a quarter mile of Highway 1. That, of course, wasn’t convenient for anyone, particularly those living in the area.

All fixed

Well, the highway is open again. Woot! Now we lovers of oceans, salty air, curvy roads and the possibility of sending our vehicles swan diving into the sea can take that wonderful drive again. Do it soon, before there’s another slide.

Coastal Oregon being coastal Oregon

Yesterday evening it was like this

This morning it’s like this

People are starting to arrive at the small campground next to the Tillamook airport for an informal gathering of nomads, part-time nomads, and potential nomads. The local weather is providing entertainment.

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Wherein I disgust some Italians

A few years ago I saw a video where they made marinara sauce (or something similar) then just dropped the raw pasta in the pot, cooking it in the sauce instead of water. It made perfect sense to me. Why waste all that water and the fuel to boil it? Why not let the pasta soak up as much flavor as possible from the sauce? So I did a variation of that this evening.

I started by cooking Italian sausage in my pot. (I love it when I can get a single sausage from the butcher instead of needing to buy a four pack.) When it was done I transferred it to my bowl. Then I poured some Newman’s Own on it. The heat from the sausage helped warm the sauce. Then I added water to the same pot and let it boil with the grease and other goodies from the sausage still in there.

When the brownish sausage-water was ready I threw in some angel hair pasta (which I had broken in half first to better fit the pot). When it was done I forked it into the bowl. The hot pasta warmed the sauce and sausage some more.

It. Was. Delicious.

If I had been camped in the boonies instead of a marina parking lot, I would’ve drained the water in the fire ring or on the ground. Instead, I walked the pot over to the restroom and emptied it in the toilet. Gotta act civilized sometimes.

For the end of the world

Hippie van? Adventure vehicle? Shaggin’ Wagon? Camo van? Plain white plumber van? Yeah, all are possibilities. But for the dark souls who’ve consumed too much of the Mad Max franchise, and have welding skills, and access to rocket launchers, and want to be part of Wasteland Weekend, there’s the post-apocalyptic treatment.

Oh, sure, this look would limit the number of places you could stealth camp, but you’d be far less likely to get messed with. Or mistaken for a kidnapper. I think I’ll pick up some razor wire this weekend. I’ll have to wait until I’m in Nevada again before I can get a bazooka.

Monday, July 16, 2018


“As a kid, I hungered to be by myself. I had friends, sleepovers, but my favorite was being with nobody at all. After school, I’d hop fences and explore fields, finding places I thought no one else had ever found. When I went adventuring with other kids, they talked, or asked me to carry something, or stopped when I wanted to continue, or didn’t stop when I wanted to sit and enjoy a place, or they wanted to go someplace other than where I wanted to be. Spoiled. Self-absorbed. Introverted. Only child. I’m sure there are many explanations. Does not play well with others.”

Craig Childs
Emergence Magazine

Saturday, July 14, 2018

I’m where I need to be

It was in the 90s in Sisters, Oregon. That’s not unbearable without air conditioning, but it’s not pleasant. I got sweaty. I spent a lot of time wiping myself down with a damp washcloth. And the ground in the camping spots was loose, dusty dirt that got into everything. But the camping was free.

In contrast, it’s in the 70s here in Winchester Bay. And, unlike my other times here, it isn’t foggy. Windy, though. Out of the north. I’m camped on nice clean pavement, so there’s no dirt problem or lovely trees blocking solar exposure. I’m surrounded by RVers, which isn’t glamorous, and I have to pay to stay, but I’m not hot and dirty. And there are pizza, Mexican, sea food and ice cream joints within walking distance. And a strong cell signal. So all is good.

Friday, July 13, 2018

Another reason I don’t tow

Over the hump

Serious heat is on the way to central Oregon (and a lot of other places) so it’s time for me to flee to the coast. That means crossing the Cascades.

There’s a faster way to the ocean, but I chose the scenic route over McKenzie Pass. The summit is a lava field, with The Sisters rising up in the south.

What’s in your balloon?

Zack Weinersmith, creator of Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal, posted this cartoon. He probably didn’t know he was drawing my life—or that of many people I know.

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Get one pair for the price of two!

I have a couple of pairs of Keen Arroyo II semi-sandals I wear every day. I love ‘em but once in a blue moon it would be better to wear closed shoes. Like when there are prickly things or when loose grit finds its way through the holes.

So a week ago, when getting supplies at Walmart, I spotted some cheap shoes that didn’t look bad. They also fit okay. They might not last very long, but for $25 it didn’t matter much. I tossed them in my cart and continued shopping. I checked out, loaded my stuff in the Rolling Steel Tent and drove the twenty miles back to camp. That’s when I discovered the new shoes were missing.


After some head scratching I realized I had left them at the self-checkout. Because my old brain is getting stupid.

I didn't want to drive back to Redmond only to discover the shoes weren’t there anymore. I shrugged and wrote it off. Sure, twenty-five bucks isn’t nothing, but it’s not the end of my world, either.

Well, I was back at Walmart yesterday. “I won’t forget the shoes this time.” As you can see from the photo, I didn’t. They’ll need to last twice as long and make me twice as satisfied.

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Where dinosaurs go to die?

I posted before about a concerned citizen worrying whether my boondocked van contained a body. Well, this past week it happened three more times.

In the first instance the doors were open and I was lying down, considering a nap, when a woman cruised up on her mountain bike. (There’s a trail about twenty yards away.)

“Hi,” I said.

“Oh, I just wanted to make sure you were alive.”

“Doin’ fine, thanks.”

A couple of days later I was working in the van, doors open, when a guy cruised up on his mountain bike.

I waved. “Hi.”

“Oh… um… are you, um, here to… ride a bike?”

“No, just camping.”

“Oh. Okay.”

Then this afternoon I was laying down, reading, doors open, when a Forest Service ranger pulled up and approached. “Hello?”

“Hi. How’s it going.”

“Are you okay?”

“Fine. Just relaxing and reading.”

“Good. I just wanted to make sure you’re alive.”

“As far as I know. Do you find bodies out here often?”

“Yes, unfortunately.”

“Well, it’s a nice place to die.”

“It is that.”

So there you have it. A surprising number of souls go to the forests around Sisters, Oregon, and transition into the grand mystery. That is not in my plans, in case you were wondering.


Sunday, July 8, 2018

Inattention = pleasant surprise

I needed some butter. I didn’t need a pound of butter, but there were half-pound packages. Good. But next to those were single sticks. Excellent. Enough to last me several weeks.

Later, when I opened the butter, I discovered it had green flecks in it. Huh? I had failed to notice it was garlic & herb butter. Humph.

But I like garlic. I like herbs. Why not garlicky, herby eggs?

Oh, wow! Amazing. I wish I had always had eggs this way. Let’s see, garlic & herb toast? Garlic & herb potatoes? Glasses of melted garlic & herb butter? Big spoonfuls of garlic & herb butter? I’m afraid this stick isn’t going to last as long as I had imagined.

New stove

Lucky me! I happened to be in the right place at the right time to get a free Coleman butane stove. Only used once, complete with case, manual and a partial can of fuel.

I had been thinking of getting one of these. My propane stove has worked exactly as it should, but “as it should” includes things I don’t like. The main one is that it has only three settings: off, too hot, and burned. But I put up with that because I could connect it to a bulk propane tank, to which I could also connect my heater. But I don’t use the heater anymore. It’s just as easy to warm the Rolling Steel Tent with a stove. Bye-bye heater. One less appliance taking up space. And if I swapped the propane stove for a butane one, I could also let the bulk tank go, freeing more space.

Using a butane stove is just like using a natural gas range. It lights with a piezoelectric sparker and the flame actually responds to adjustments. Imagine that. Welcome to the 20th Century.

The down side? Needing to keep a stock of butane canisters. But it’s not like I’m a heavy user of stoves. I don’t boil a lot of water or try to make tough meats edible. My menu cooks quickly. So my fuel will probably last long enough to not be inconvenient or an onerous expense. Besides, it was free.

Possibility vs. probablilty

People entering the home-on-wheels life worry about various negative things that might happen. Their sphere of familiarity and experience is changing. Things will be different. There might be new dangers.

It’s reasonable to be concerned, but some folks worry too much. They lose sight of the difference between the possibility of something happening and its probability.

Just because something can occur, that doesn’t mean it will. Some things are so likely they’re essentially certain, but some are so unlikely they’re essentially impossible. There’s no point worrying about things that will probably never happen.

How can we tell which things are more likely? Experience helps—your own or that of others. You might think about how often or rarely you hear about something happening. And did you hear about it only because it’s freakishly rare? Some things happen only under certain conditions. The more conditions and decisions that need to align for something to occur, the less likely it is to happen.

Besides something's likelihood, we also need to consider the severity of the consequences if it ever happens. Some things that are fairly certain are no big deal. Some things that are very improbable are horrific.

The whole what-is-likely calculation is muddied by those who benefit from making us fearful. Some, like family and friends, might want to scare us out of leaving them behind. Some want to sell us solutions for problems we might not have. Some want to cover their asses in case some idiot manages to misuse the solution they bought. To those who sell us fear, preparedness and hypervigilance, every horror is certain.

In my years of following various nomad blogs and forums, the vast majority of problems folks actually have are rather ordinary. Health, financial, mechanical, electrical, weather, social, emotional… We should be appropriately concerned because the consequences can be quite serious sometimes. But there’s a mountain of other things we can pretty much ignore, because the consequences and/or probability are slight.

Friday, July 6, 2018

Solo act again, for a while

The other nomads in our camp were going separate ways for a few days. So I decided to book a room in Redmond, exploit the free wifi, and take a long hot bath. Or two. And get the laundry done. Now I’m back in the woods near Sisters, Oregon. Just me and the chipmunks. And occasional groups of bicyclists.

Wednesday, July 4, 2018


To me, today is about more than the United States’ independence from England. It’s about personal independence. Or at least a greater degree of independence than I had before hitting the road.

My current life isn’t as tied to the agendas and expectations of others. I’m not anchored to a quarter acre of suburb. I don’t have a mountain of debt. My worries are a fraction of what they were.

So here’s wishing you a happy Independence Day and a life of increasing freedom from the things that hold you captive.