Sunday, December 30, 2018

Putting some bedding to bed

I went into Kohl’s looking for a particular thing and didn’t find it. But I came across some down quilts on sale. Well hey, I’d been thinking it was time to replace my old one.

Thirty-two years is probably a decent lifespan for a down quilt. I had sewn up dozens and dozens of little leaks but there would still be an errant bit of fluff or two or three each morning. The cotton exterior was becoming like netting.

A quick check online a few weeks ago informed me king size down quilts started in the $200 range. Ow. But Kohl’s had them for $89.99. After-Christmas pricing, I guess—plus this being far southern Arizona where demand for warm bedding isn’t as great.

So why a king size quilt on a twin bed? I love being all bunched up in my bedding.

I’ll take the old quilt to Goodwill and let them decide whether it still has some life—or feathers—in it.

UPDATE: First night with the new quilt. Excellent.

Saturday, December 29, 2018

It’s b-a-a-a-a-ck

The desert air had been unusually placid for the season. But the wind blew in from the frozen regions last night, cranky, probably drunk, and howling obscenities as if its flight had been delayed and its baggage lost.

Tuesday, December 25, 2018

Christmas on the Colorado

Arizona in the background, California in the foreground, waterfowl between

Sunday, December 23, 2018

Not poinsettias

Ocotillos can leaf out and bloom whenever there’s enough water. I’ve never noticed them blooming in December. We had some drizzle earlier in the month. I guess it was enough to do the trick.

Friday, December 21, 2018

Tis the season again

I have some pagan friends and relatives for whom the winter solstice is a big deal. But for me it’s unofficially Seasonal Affective Disorder Day. True, the solstice means we’ve turned the corner on the shorting daylight thing, but for us SAD sufferers it’s rock bottom time, not a celebration. Today’s overcast makes it worse. The cruel trick of SAD is that it makes me want to spend what little daylight there is sleeping, leaving me awake to curse the increased darkness.

The up side is I’m not in one of the bleak frozen regions. I’m not in central Saskatchewan like I was in 1971 and 1972. The desert temperatures are mild and the usual high winds haven’t shown up yet. It’s still my least favorite time of year, though.

I’m tired. I’m going to take a nap.

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Out of my sight, mostly

There are several chips in the Rolling Steel Tent’s windshield. The most annoying one is pretty much in my direct line of sight, taunting me.

About the size of a nickel

Years ago, when I was returning a car at the end of the lease, I had a chip repair guy do his thing. It didn’t work. So I’ve been skeptical ever since. But I ran across a video and thought, what the hell, that’s well within my abilities. I’ll give it a try.

Well, it didn’t come out perfectly, but it’s a huge improvement. One down, four to go.

Analog GPS

Sunday, December 16, 2018

Will it go boom?

Every vehicle dweller is concerned about engine longevity. I am. A busted engine would immobilize my mobile lifestyle. Where would I live if the Rolling Steel Tent was in the shop? And where would the mountain of money come from to fix it?

So a YouTube video about the top ten issues with Chevrolet/GMC LS-series truck engines (also known as Vortec engines) grabbed my attention. My engine has over a quarter million miles on it and is still going strong, but what should I expect in the future? Expensive things? Catastrophic things? Things where I’m better off setting the van on fire and pushing it off a cliff?

Certainly, something very very bad could happen to my motor, but as with the rest of life, it’s most likely to be relatively small things. At least according to the mechanic in the video.

I was particularly happy none of the top ten things he listed were about the guts of the engine, only things attached to the engine. And some (like the gauges) weren’t about the motor at all.

At the end he says very nice things about the LS-series engines. That’s reassuring—and makes me feel so damn smart for choosing a Chevy.

What’s the frequency, Kenneth?

Last night I was streaming a video about Express van repairs when it stopped. When that happens, and the circle thing spins for a couple of seconds, videos will start back up. Not this time. I waited and waited…

I looked to see if the battery in my mobile hot spot was still charged. Yup. But whereas I’d had three bars of 4G signal before I now had two bars of 1X. Hmmmm. The same with my phone. And then, as I watched, its signal dropped to none. Hmmmm. The hot spot briefly showed one bar of 3G then joined the phone in the land of no signal.

Well crap. So I returned to the old off-line world and read an actual book.

I checked back on the signal situation a couple of hours later. Still nothing. I figured there was a problem at the tower. Or maybe it was an aftereffect from the Geminid meteor shower. Or flying monkeys. Or the dirty work of Dr. Watts & the Ampere of Evil. Whatever. It was late, so I went to sleep.

I woke at about 2:30 (which is typical for me) and, after clearing the crud from my eyes, checked the signal. Still nothing. I contemplated moving my camp if this was going to be a continuing problem.

I woke again at about 4:30 (also typical for me) and rechecked the signal. I had one bar of 4G and a message from Verizon welcoming me to Mexico. Well, yeah, I’m about seven miles from the border, but there are cell towers between there and my California location. Oh well. I don’t get charged extra for international roaming.

Things were back to normal at sunrise. Yay technology (he said semi-sarcastically).

Saturday, December 15, 2018

I ride an old paint

There are spots on the hood of the Rolling Steel Tent where the paint has flaked off. It’s a common problem with cargo vans. According to a body shop guy, the gray epoxy-based primer is really good at preventing rust but it doesn’t get along all that well with the utilitarian white paint used on cargo vans. Sort of like coworkers who don’t like each other. Or a failing marriage.

I’ve done quick and dirty repairs on the hood with white spray paint. It looks okay from a distance, but up close it looks scabby in a way the says, “Poor and homeless.”

It would be nice to have a pro repaint it, but I don’t really have the money for it (unless there are folks feeling generous enough to click the donation button on the right).

Barring that, I need to sand back the the edges of the flaked spots so they blend in, then take a little more time applying the paint. I could do the sanding by hand, but it would go a lot faster if I had a random orbital sander. Mmmmmm, power tools.

I could rent a sander from a home improvement store, but I would need a cordless one, which they don’t have. So I considered buying one. I saw one for about $50. Not bad. Then I read the fine print on the box. “Battery and charger not included.” I guess they figure by the time you get a sander you already have one of their other cordless tools and you could just use the batteries and charger from them. Otherwise it’s another $50.

Well, since I already have a cordless Makita drill and impact driver I could get their random orbital sander. But it’s $99. No savings there.

So, it looks like I need to use good old elbow grease. Or just ignore it.

Monday, December 10, 2018

Where oh where?

Let’s say you wanted to buy one of these flexible grabber things to fish something out of a tight space in your van. Let’s also say you went to a store specializing in tools and related tool-ish things. A store like, oh, Harbor Freight on 16th Street in Yuma. Yeah, that’s a good example.

Here’s the question: Among what other tools and related tool-ish things would you expect to find a flexible grabber thing?

You’re wrong. Unless your mind is ordered in the same illogical way as someone at that Harbor Freight.

Or maybe the decision was made by a chimp caged at corporate headquarters. Let’s call the poor primate Skippy. The corporate honchos ask, “Where should we put the flexible grabber things, Skippy?” Skippy then throws his feces at a big map of the store layout. Wherever the largest bit sticks is where they put the flexible grabber thing. Then Skippy throws some feces at the corporate honchos. Because his name is actually Zeltonus the Great.

Sunday, December 9, 2018


Part of boondocking along American Girl Mine Road in far southeastern California is the train track nearby. Trains rumble through all day. And all night. I’ve become used to it. Mostly.

Last night I awoke to what sounded like a colossal VW Bug with a bad muffler idling just outside the Rolling Steel Tent. I checked. Nope. Just an unusually loud and odd sounding train. Perhaps it was loaded with idling old Volkswagens.

Saturday, December 8, 2018


We’re getting down to the short days and long nights, with some rainy days thrown in now and then.

My non-tilting solar panel provided enough charging power through last winter and so far this year. But I still need to be judicious with my use of electricity. Dude, recharge the laptop and phone before sunset.

After a little thought I realized I could tilt the solar panel by just removing two bolts and having it pivot on the other two. Grab a wrench and a socket for the drill, stand in the side and back doors, z-z-z-erp z-z-z-erp, remove the bolts, lift, slip a piece of scrap lumper in there to hold it up, and there I go.

A longer board would tilt it higher, but this was what I had on hand. It’s good for adding at least a half hour of exposure at each end of the day.

Now cross my fingers and hope for only mild breezes.

Friday, December 7, 2018

Dream Report: Trapped

In the wee hours I dreamed about visiting my former house/prison to see what the current owner had done with it. The renovations were ugly and poorly done.

It had snowed about a foot while I was in the house but there was a snowless spot on the driveway where I had parked the van. Where’s my van? Panic!

Then I realized I was in a dream. But how could I get out of it? Am I trapped?

I became sufficiently conscious to know I was out of the dream and in my good old van, snug in bed with rain pattering on the roof. I relaxed—and drifted right back into the dream. Crap.

Now a friend from high school had set up an office in one of the bedrooms. He was renting the space. The owner came in and was mad I was there. I wanted to leave but, ergh, I couldn’t find the exit from the dream.

Thanks, subconscious, but I don’t need to be reminded how glad I am to not be a homeowner anymore, to be a mostly carefree nomad.

Thursday, December 6, 2018

Two introverts named Alan walked into a bar

Well, there was no bar, and they didn’t walk in, but two introverts still got together. At a gathering of nomads. Ew, gatherings.

My friend Alan emailed me with the news he was taking a break from his homeowner life in southern Texas to visit a friend in Albuquerque and to hang out with one of the Cheap RV Living caravans camped near Parker, Arizona. Did I want to meet up? Sure!

So, what do introverts do at a social gathering? Talk to each other. Off to the side.

Okay, but why meet at a social gathering? Because Alan from Texas had set a goal to make at least two new friends. His Texas buddies are all too occupied with families and jobs. A group of nomads, who are less tied to those things, and who share an interest in wandering the country, would be a good place to seek likeminded folks. Even if it meant a 3,000 mile round trip.

I was there because I hadn’t seen Alan from Texas in over a year. And because he understands the whole introvert thing.

Monday, December 3, 2018

Doing it correctly

Back before Thanksgiving I reported how I fixed my headlight with a zip tie. It worked but, you know, it wasn’t a proper repair. Since I’m relatively close to a Chevrolet dealer, I went to buy the spring I should’ve acquired years ago. Naturally, they didn’t have one in stock. They ordered it and it arrived after the holiday. It had been sitting in my console since then, waiting for me to be in the mood to remove the grille again. Today I was in the mood.

While I had the hood open and the tools out, I also got around to replacing the heater fan control I’ve had for about a year. Or more. Now I have my preferred fan speed back.

Old on the right, new on the left

Old one removed

New one in place

I was in the process of buttoning everything back up when an RVer from about 200 yards away strolled up and asked if I had some kind of trouble. I explained what I was doing and thanked him for his concern.