Friday, November 30, 2018

What's better than a freebie?

Two freebies. And maybe more.

It used to be that non-pro drivers paid $12 for showers at the Flying J on the east side of Yuma. The last two times I was there they waved away my cash and said, “Give us your driver license to hold until you return the key.” (This is an older place without fancy digital door locks on the showers.) And it all went just like that.

This isn’t my favorite truck stop for showers. The towels are thin and scratchy and the bath mat is a piece of paper. But hey, it’s free. At the moment, anyway.

Thursday, November 29, 2018

In with the new

Having set up a mail forwarding address in Quartzsite it’s now easy to have packages shipped to me—providing I’m in the general area or would be passing through. And since had knocked 20 percent off the price of Keen Arroyo II’s, it was a good time to order up my favorite shoe.

Looking a little too new

My old Arroyo II’s are still going strong, but it’s good to have a backup pair in case they stop making them or I grow another set of legs.

Good thing I had stopped at the fish market earlier

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Hurray for public dumpsters!

Trash disposal is seldom simple for us nomads. We can leave small bags in trash cans at places like gas stations, city parks, fast food joints, and big box store parking lots.

Our options become a lot fewer, though, if we’ve been away from civilization long enough to fill a 30-gallon trash bag or two. Then it’s time to find a dumpster. Naturally, no one wants their dumpsters filled with other people’s trash. That’s why so many of them are locked. But what do building dwellers and business owners want us to do (other than not exist)? They don’t want us littering. We don’t want to litter.

Fortunately some governmental institutions have seen the wisdom of providing dumpsters in places heavily used by the mobile public. It’s cheaper to have dumpsters serviced than to clean up trash all over the boonies.

Four of six dumpsters at a California rest stop

Saturday, November 24, 2018

Now hear this

If I’m going to spend more time around clusters of campers, nomads, RVers and such, I might need to get a bullhorn.

“Hey! It’s after ten o’clock! Shut down your #*/x!@+* generator!”

“Hey! Quit revving your #*/x!@+* ATV for no reason!”

“Hey! Silence your #*/x!@+* dog(s)!”

Yeah, maybe Santa will bring me one.

Friday, November 23, 2018

Hey, buddy, do you have the time?

I’m camped in the southeast corner of California, about fifteen miles from Yuma Arizona and ten miles from Baja California. That means time is an issue—at least as much as time can be a issue for a guy with no schedules. Pacific Standard Time in California and Baja, and Mountain Standard Time in Arizona and Baja Sur. I’ve had a few weeks to adapt, but still…

It’s simpler here when it’s Daylight Saving Time and Arizona is on Contrarian Time. Then the time is the same in both California and Arizona. And those who cross in and out of Utah, New Mexico and Sonora grumble about the time difference.

When I camped here with Lou, he kept his watch set to Arizona time because he had various medical appointments in Yuma. I compromise. I keep my computer set for whatever time zone I’m camped in and let my phone automatically switch as I drive. It’s not that great of a compromise since I sometimes forget that’s what I’m doing. Good thing it rarely matters. At least I’m not in one of those states with two time zones. Oh, wait. The Navajo Nation (but not the Hopi Nation, which is surrounded by the Navajo Nation) observes Daylight Saving Time.

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Nose job

I decided to do a little cosmetic work on the Rolling Steel Tent while the grille was off. The gold coating on the Chevrolet logo had started to peel and, since I’m not a huge fan of gold, I painted it white. After cleaning the bug guts off of it.

Tuesday, November 20, 2018


The headlight buckets on the Rolling Steel Tent are each held in place by two aiming screws and a spring. Sometime a few years ago, one of the springs went missing. It was because of a budget-cutting design flaw. One end of the spring hooks into a plastic piece, and that piece eventually breaks.

I rigged a repair using a zip tie. It worked fine until the zip tie got dry and brittle and broke. So I replaced it with a thicker zip tie. That one broke recently after about three years of faithful duty, so it was replacement time again. I had meant to get some bailing wire after the last time, but, of course, I forgot.

While I was at it, I figured I’d replace one of the headlights. It still worked even though there was a small hole in it, but who knows how long that would be the case.

These two jobs would be easier if I removed the grille first. I had never done that before and it turned out to be rather simple. Undo four screws and yank the clips out of their slots.

(Hmmmm… I like the GMC grille better. I wonder if I could find one cheap at a salvage yard. It should attach the same way. And I like to confuse people.)

Dream report

I dreamed I was staying with friends. They said, “You must have had a horrible dream last night.”

“Why do you say that?”

“You were screaming.”

“Really? I don’t remember. Was it angry screaming or fearful screaming?”


“Huh. I wonder what that was all about.”

When I woke up I thought, “A dream about a dream. That’s a new one.”

Monday, November 19, 2018

Gas pains

The Rolling Steel Tent gets about 16.5 miles per gallon most of the time. About 15 in city traffic and occasionally 17.5 downhill with a tailwind.

The other day I filled the tank then drove two miles to an overnighting spot. When I started the van the next morning, the needle on the fuel gauge was down about a half tick mark while sitting on level ground. Hmmm, maybe I didn’t actually fill the tank all the way.

Just past ten miles down the road the needle was down a tick and a half. At thirty miles I was down a quarter tank. “That’s like seven gallons, which is (...head math...) a little over four miles a gallon. That’s ridiculous!”

I didn’t smell gasoline from inside the van, but I pulled off at the next exit, popped the hood, looked around underneath… No visible leaks, no fumes. “Where is the gas going?”

I pulled onto the highway again and the fuel level continued to drop unusually fast. “Maybe it’s just the gauge.” I stopped at the next gas station and filled up. It took ten gallons. “Okay, so it’s not the gauge. But what is it? A sensor or something? I mean, it’s driving fine otherwise, just drinking huge amounts of gas in order to keep running ‘normally.’”

I hit the road again, hoping I wouldn’t need to keep stopping for gas, trying to formulate plausible sources of my problem.

Then gas consumption magically returned to normal. About 125 miles on a quarter tank, 250 on a half tank…

Okay, mechanical things don’t fix themselves. But electrical things can go weird then return to normal. Before going weird again. Or never going weird again. Because electricity is the tool of the devil.

Sunday, November 18, 2018

Is it a pattern?

I’m a big fan of slow traffic keeping to the right, even when I’m the slow traffic.

I’m also a big fan of long following distances, especially since it takes a while to haul down the Rolling Steel Tent, even with fresh brakes.

I don’t like squeezing between vehicles in order to make lane changes. Give me a nice big gap in case the guy ahead hits the brakes or someone behind does something stupid. And especially if traffic in the left lane is going a lot faster.

So, there I was, cruising south on I-5, keeping at or below the 70 MPH speed limit most of the time, keeping in the right lane as much as possible but gradually closing on slower traffic. When there was plenty of empty right lane ahead—a quarter mile, a half mile—and I didn’t need to pass anyone, traffic on the left was usually light.

Lots of following space, light left lane traffic

But when I’d use up my following distance and would want to pass, the left lane would suddenly, seemingly out of nowhere, be filled with a long line of tightly packed traffic, usually driving about ten miles per hour over the speed limit. And vehicles behind me in the right lane would be merging into the gaps in the left, making the line even longer. I would need to slow way down until the left lane cleared, which always seemed… to..… take…… for………. ever.

Needing to pass, lots of left lane traffic

I started planning my passes sooner, but it still meant fast traffic way back there would be on my ass before I could make it around a couple of semis, an RV and someone in a small truck with a big trailer. And another semi. So I would wait. And wait.

But perhaps the most frustrating and infuriating situation is when a lone vehicle, going just a fraction of a sliver of a hair faster then me is hugging my flank as I get closer and closer to the slow traffic. PASS ME, DAMMIT! Nope.

This jerk

Oh well. I don’t need to drive that type of highway very often.

Waking to reality

Once again I had another series of dreams about being back at work, with troublesome coworkers and the deadlines for too many projects looming. For some reason, cold Mexican takeout cluttered my office. (What did burritos and quesadillas have to do with anything? Meals missed?)

But the anxiety of those dreams turned to happiness when I awoke. Oh yeah, I’m retired. That’s not my life anymore. I’m free.

Good morning, freedom

Friday, November 16, 2018

California fire escape

It wasn’t until I crossed over into the desert that the air started looking mostly smoke-free and I could see more than a half mile or so.

Thursday, November 15, 2018

Su casa es su casa

Staying in someone else’s house is weird. No matter how much they say to make myself at home, I just can’t. And, honestly, they wouldn’t want me to. Because, to me, being at home means wandering around in my underwear (or less), leaving the bathroom door open, eating out of a pot while standing at the sink, spreading various projects on all available horizontal surfaces, going the entire day without talking to anyone or acknowledging their presence… Instead, I play the role of the Good Houseguest. That’s exhausting.

It’s not any better when my hosts are away, when I’m watching the house and tending the pet. “Here are the keys,” they say, “and the emergency contacts, the wifi password, and the instructions for that slightly malfunctioning appliance. Help yourself to whatever’s in the fridge and cupboards.” But left unsaid is, “Don’t steal anything, break anything, befoul anything, clog anything, flood anything, set anything on fire, or conduct a criminal enterprise. And, most of all, don’t go snooping around trying to discover our embarrassing secrets. If you accidentally discover an embarrassing secret while looking for, say, a garlic press (though why you’d be looking for it in the master bedroom closet is a mystery) just erase that new knowledge from your brain. Otherwise we’ll have to kill you.” That means I need to play the Good Houseguest on the Honor System, which is twice as exhausting, even if I’m free to drink all the tequila, naked.

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Good dog

Caira has all the qualities I’d want in a dog. Smart, obedient, even tempered, well socialized.

I was concerned she might reject me. But she saw I was accepted by her owner, so, presto, I was a member of the pack. She responded to my commands as if I’d been with her all her life. That was particularly important when she was off-leash in the dog park. Just call her name and she comes right to you.

We go out at least twice a day. She knows when I put on my shoes she’s going for a walk or ride.

Does spending one-on-one time with a fine dog like Ciara make me want to have a dog again? No. It’s more responsibility than I want right now. And I don’t want to repeat the heartbreak of needing to put a dog down. So I’ll just enjoy other people’s dogs. The good ones.

Sunday, November 11, 2018

Pet sharing

This is Caira. I’m looking after her for a few days while my friends are away on business. Besides having canine companionship, I get to stay in a casita with such luxuries as hot running water, high-speed internet and a view of San Francisco Bay.

Friday, November 9, 2018


So, let’s say you’re feeling a little lazy and don’t want to make the 340-mile trek from Lake Isabella to Mill Valley in one day. Where might one stop for the night that’s about half way there? And free?

Well, the nice folks at the Harris Ranch Inn & Restaurant in Coalinga let RVers and riffraff like me overnight in their parking lot.

I found a space away from the RVs. There’s faint traffic noise from the freeway but the smells from the restaurant compensate for it, as does the free no-password-needed wifi.

Smile for the camera, again

I was driving through a California canyon when a Google Street View car passed in the opposite direction. The Rolling Steel Tent will be featured if the cameras were on. They might not have been, since that highway is already on Street View and nothing about it warrants an update.

A few years back, Google Satellite View captured Lou, Jo and I camped together in Joshua Tree.

Thursday, November 8, 2018

Know before you go

As the kids’ book reminds us, everyone poops. But not everyone poops in a bucket in a van. And some people who want to poop in a bucket in a van just can’t. Maybe they have physical limitations that prevent them from squatting on a bucket or un-squatting afterward. Maybe they’re grossed out by pooping in something other than a flush toilet. Maybe they’re the type who can only poop under certain conditions. Maybe they worry about making a mess with their mess.

Well, this is something folks should figure out before committing to living in a van. Because it could be a deal breaker. Get a bucket and some bags and try it out before driving away from the world of indoor plumbing. Your first experience will probably fit somewhere on a scale with Impossible at one end and No Problem at the other. For me it was This Is Weird and Will Take Some Getting Used To. After a few days it was totally normal. Hurray for adaptability.

But bucket pooping isn’t the only thing to try out ahead of time. For example, will you actually be comfortable with your planned bed? Will you be able to cope with not having hot water from a tap? Out in the boonies, with all your “normal life” bridges burned behind you, is not the place to find out.

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Double bagging

I had checked the forecast, so I knew it was going to be in the low 40s last night. Ordinarily that wouldn’t be a big deal, but I haven’t had time yet to re-acclimate to cooler temperatures. No problem, I’d just don some wool socks, pajama bottoms and a long-sleeve t-shirt and pull my down quilt over my head.

At about 2:30 a.m. I sensed I needed more to keep me warm. So I reached into the cabinet and pulled out my sleeping bag. Quilt over sleeping bag, two layers of downy goodness with a cozy pocket for my feet, which are always the first to complain about being cold.

But around 4:00 I woke up sweating. Yup, that’s what too much insulation will do to ya. So I ditched the sleeping bag and was fine for the rest of the night.

This is a variation of the game I play during the transition into and out of summer. Can I get by without the blanket, or will my legs and feet get cold? Sure, some type of thermostatically controlled central heating and cooling would solve the problem, but it would create the problem of being in a building.

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Monday, November 5, 2018

A bad penny returns

There was a junction ahead. A choice presented itself. Turn west as planned or continue north? The latter option would mean backtracking in a couple of days. But it also meant one of my favorite locations. And showers at the hostel. So I continued on to Lone Pine and Alabama Hills instead of crossing the bottom of the Sierras.

I’d left a month ago because it was getting chilly. And I was getting antsy. But I’m back for one last visit until spring.

Sunday, November 4, 2018

A girlfriend!

Someone’s girlfriend, anyway. Considering she’s at the Hub Cap Capital of the World, maybe she’s the Queen of Caps. Or simply Ms. Pearson.

Where’s the Lug Nut Capital?

Saturday, November 3, 2018

Hit and run

Near Parker AZ

From Quartzsite to Eherenberg to Parker to Joshua Tree National Park. A night here, a night there. On the move, feeling antsy, making progress toward being in the San Francisco area in a week.

Joshua Tree NP

Thursday, November 1, 2018

Changing it up

I’ve lost count of how often I’ve camped around Quartzsite. Most of the time I’ve set up camp at either Scaddan Wash to the east of town or Hi Jolly to the north.

This time I decided to check out the Roadrunner dispersed camping area about eight miles south of town, at the intersection of US-95 and La Paz Valley Road.

I like it. It’s flat, rather smooth and, at this time of year, nearly empty. There’s almost no sound from highway traffic and no neighbors running generators or zooming around on ATVs. That’s hard to beat.