Thursday, March 28, 2019


In geologic time, much of the western United States has been covered by water. This area was under water a lot more recently than that. This is part of the land that was flooded by Hoover Dam, then re-exposed by chronic drought and overdevelopment in the Colorado River Basin. Lake Mead being low is bad, unless you’re in favor of it returning to a more natural state.

That’s how it’s done

About a hundred yards away two campers are packing gear into their SUV. Unlike too many people, they’re leaving the doors and hatch open until everything is in place. None of the damned door slamming... slamming… slamming………… slamming…. slamming slamming…………. slamming…

I know, I know, in normal non-camping situations, it’s probably a good habit to keep your vehicle closed up. Just, you know, develop a different habit when you’re out where people have come to get away from the noises of civilization.

Wednesday, March 27, 2019

I drove on an Interstate I didn’t know existed

I’ve been to Las Vegas/Henderson/Boulder City/Lake Mead more times than I can remember. I’ve arrived and departed via just about every possible route. I knew there was some construction near the junction of US 95 and US 93, but I thought it was just to smooth out the interchange. But surprise!

Brand spankin’ new Interstate 11, running from Boulder Dam to Henderson (or Henderson to Boulder Dam), bypasses Boulder City. Man, that was really needed. I don’t know what effect it’ll have on businesses (being bypassed is seldom good) but it’ll be great for actually getting somewhere.

Remembrance of things past

Sometimes when I’m hanging around the Rolling Steel Tent, doing chores, reading, researching, whatever, I’m overwhelmed by a feeling of blissful contentment. Or rather, memories of blissful contentment. Those are the best kind of memories.

What triggered those memories this afternoon? Washing the windows? Reading about crows?

No. This time it was the wind.

You know how sometimes the weather is so perfect you cease to be aware of it? This wasn’t one of those times. The subtile breeze had turned into an insistent wind, just a few degrees lower than ideal but not so chilly that I’d want to shut myself inside. It was Be Aware of Me wind. It was I’m Taking the Edge Off the Heat wind. It was Smell the Spring Vegetation and Clean Air from the Lake wind. It was Be Glad You’re Alive wind.

I remembered all the other times like this and they added to the sublimeness of the current moment. Multiplied it.

Hallelujah for van living.

A cove, Lake Mead

Tuesday, March 26, 2019

National Dog Day Afternoon

Zorro — 1989 to 2005

It was clear and warm when I woke up this morning near Blythe, California. A few days into spring and it’s already acting like summer.

As I headed north along the Colorado River it got hazier. And hotter. A fuel stop and email check in Parker, Arizona, had me wishing for shade.

By the time I got to Lake Havasu City the haze had formed into thin strips of cloud cover. If that was all the shade I’d get, I’d take it.

It seemed cooler when I came out of Smith’s Food. There was no blue showing through the thin clouds. And is that a breeze? Yes.

I found a suitable boondocking spot on BLM land south of town. A new spot for me, even though I’ve been in the area several times before. I opened up the Rolling Steel Tent. Windows, roof vent, doors. The breeze came in the back door, said hello, and exited out the front. Very nice. It was cooling off a little. Perfect napping conditions.

Now the sky is standard-issue overcast and the temperature has dropped from 86° to 77° and the humidity is up about 8 percent. It’s supposed to be like this the next couple of days. But I’m headed to Lake Mead, about 1,300 feet higher and several degrees cooler. Although I’ve spent the winter wishing for warmer weather, I’m not ready for it to be July.

Saturday, March 23, 2019

A driving tip I keep forgetting

If you drive a van with no side windows in the back, and you’re driving along a parking lot row where you have the choice of spots on either the right or left, choose left.

It runs counter to our keep right training, but there’s a good reason for it. When it’s time to back out you’ll be able to see more of what’s behind you in the row. You can see only so much in your mirrors.

Anyway, it works for me. When I remember to do it.

Of course, better still, is parking so you can drive forward out of your parking space—even if it’s the wrong direction for that row.

Friday, March 22, 2019

It’s bigger out here

The other day I shared the opinion of a woman who went from the desert to Los Angeles to feel invigorated. Today I’m sharing the thoughts of a city dweller traveling across the country by train.
Scale on a rail trip is what’s most arresting. We live so much of our lives close-up — scrolling through phones, watching our type appear on computer screens, scrutinizing papers, preparing meals, cleaning our homes room by room. Very few elements of our day-to-day tasks remain out of arms’ reach. An extended train ride affords a chance not just to see a horizon but also to soak it up. To luxuriate in the far-off for uninterrupted hours. To exist, briefly, in the uncharted sections of the cellphone-coverage map. 
And it feels as if you’re getting away with something — seeing more than you deserve. The best part of the trip wasn’t spying on the backyards of houses; it was out here, in the open. The bright hues of the nation’s choropleth population-density maps fade to white in these areas, yet many of the most beautiful habitable parts of the United States, no offense to Boston, are contained within those colorless expanses. Amtrak takes advantage of this circumstance. It is fortunate that its routes were laid during a period of industrious optimism, when everyone assumed the West would soon be made as unbearable as the East; if they had known it would remain beautiful, it would have been difficult to justify the financial investment. 
Caity Weaver
The New York Times
The Great Wide Open. The complete opposite of Manhattan. An expanded perspective. Actually seeing the sky and the land and realizing you’re part of it. These are some of the reasons I love the West. And it’s why I return to the open spaces after I recharge in the cities.

Amtrak used to have a slogan that encouraged us to travel at “see level.” As a full time van dweller, I try to travel at “be level.”

Thursday, March 21, 2019

Putting the ghost in ghost town

Into the dustbin of history

Almost exactly four years ago an imaging satellite snapped Jo, Lou and I camped in Joshua Tree National Park.

But sometime since then (fairly recently, I think) Google updated the imaging of that area and, poof, my friends and I are gone. I guess that’s appropriate since we haven’t traveled together in a while.

Dog on a rock

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Desert art day

Gloomy mornings that threaten rain are good to spend in museums. Even if the museum is outside.

My GPS zigged and zagged me out north of Joshua Tree to the ten-acre piece of land where Noah Purifoy worked during his final years.

A lot of large scale desert art is created by inspired amateurs. Purifoy, however, was a noted artist.

The white structure in the background is entitled Ode to Frank Gehry

Drinking fountains for whites and coloreds

The blue walls are made of stacks of still-folded Sunday newspapers

Monday, March 18, 2019

Running free by the sea


YouTube recommended a video by Kelly Doyle, a full time van dweller with Traumatic Brain Injury. She had been staying in Los Angeles for a couple of weeks when she made the video. The nomadic TBI sufferers I’ve known seek a haven in places like the desert, where they don’t need to deal with the noise and chaos. But Kelly reacts differently.
There’s an energy here that lifts me up…  
There’s like this low energy I feel out in the desert, like everyone’s just sittin’ around, sittin’ around, gonna have a kumbaya campfire tonight.  
In the city, around Santa Monica, people are rollerblading, biking, surfing… it’s alive. There is a positive energy in LA. It’s alive! 
I totally relate. I can take only so much peace and quiet and natural beauty before I need to go get some of that big city energy.

Sunday, March 17, 2019


I was in a parking lot in Newport Beach, side door open, enjoying the weather, checking email and stuff, when a guy rode up on a bicycle. “Hey, I’m curious about your van. Can I ask some questions?”


His name is Bob and he’s almost counting the days until he can be a nomad too. He has spent a lot of time reading blogs and forums, watching videos. We talked for more than an hour.

Now I think he’s counting the seconds.

Friday, March 15, 2019

Which way?

There are mountains between Borrego Springs and Oceanside, and a choice of routes. None are very fast, and each has its pleasures and annoyances.

Google Maps recommends Highway 76, because it’s a tiny bit shorter and faster. But, I don’t know, I’ve gone that way several times before (because it’s a tiny bit shorter and faster) and I guess I was in the mood for the road less taken.

Highway 78 is the next quickest (if two-lane mountain roads can be quick in a van). But, man, I hate going through Escondido. Too much traffic, too many lights, too many turns to miss.

I was in no big hurry, so I chose Highway 79. Longer, slower. It was extra slow this time. First there was the semi loaded with produce. Then there were three spots where bridge reconstruction took traffic down to one lane. (It looked for a moment like the semi was going to get wedged between the guardrail and construction barrier.) Then the place of the slow semi was taken by a slow car. Then lunch traffic in Temecula. But I took several deep breaths and thought of the camping spot at the beach. And I thought about how great it is to live this way, how great it is to have options.

Down to the sea again

7:12 AM, Oceanside, California

Thursday, March 14, 2019

I feel like I'm killing Bambi

According to reports, there’s a huge surge in painted lady butterflies this year. What the reports don’t mention is that some of them don’t know to fly higher over highways and their migration gets cut short.

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

A proposal

Portable generators, and generators built into RVs, should have tamper-proof proximity sensors that disable said generators when they are within a half mile of me.


It’s time for the wildflower bloom in the Anza-Borrego desert (and elsewhere). The exceptionally wet winter means there should be an exceptionally abundant bloom. So even though it’s midweek, the desert equivalent of New England’s “leaf peepers” are out looking for blossoms.

That’s not what brings me here, though. First, it’s a change of location. That’s always important to me. Second, it’s a stopoff on the way to the coast. There’s a break in the chilly, rainy, beach-unfriendly weather they’ve been having most of the winter. Yay!

Oh, and third, it means some pie in Julian. I should organize a competition between all the small towns known for pie. Julian CA, Pie Town NM, and so on. I will be the only judge.

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Sick, sick people

I’ve been trying for several days to come up with adequate words to express my anger, disgust and sadness. Carolyn, of the Carolyn’s RV Life YouTube channel, has had to deal with not only the standard-issue trolls and assholes, but also death threats. Vile, graphic, lewd, detailed death threats. Death threats! Why? Pretty much simply because she’s someone on YouTube. And because there are some very, very sick people out there who need victims in order to feel powerful.

But I realized you don’t need my words, because Carolyn’s words are more than enough. You will feel what I feel. Or more.

However, the good news is that one of threat makers has been arrested.

Monday, March 11, 2019


It was mostly sunny and a pleasant temperature where I was, but the next couple of days would be rainy. About three hours away it was already raining but the next few days would be mostly sunny and pleasant.

A plan was hatched. If the rain is headed east I would drive west, into the leading edge of the front, then let the rest of the storm pass in the night.

Thursday, March 7, 2019

The choice is yours

There was never any debate between me and myself over whether I should sell the house, get rid of nearly all my stuff, and live in a van. It was an instant, “Yes!”

It’s not a simple decision for many. There are a lot of pros and cons for them to consider. And reconsider. And turn inside out and upside down.

Some folks are exceptionally good at seeing every side of a proposition and making convincing arguments for and against every alternative—which keeps them from making any choice.

Others are torn between rational and emotional reasons.

And some have reached the point where they just don’t know, where they can’t even form coherent thoughts about it anymore.

My therapist had a little trick for breaking through indecisiveness. “I’m going to ask you a question. I want you to immediately give the first answer that pops into your head. No thinking about it first. Just react. Ready? Here it is: What do you want to do?”

His theory is that you usually do know what you want. Once you’ve named the thing you want, you can examine the reasons your choice wasn’t clear, or why you resisted it. Was it because you didn’t see a way to make it happen? Would the thing you want violate your ethics or the law? Would it harm someone you care about? Focus on the real reasons. Then, if you still want that thing, turn your time and energy toward ways to make it happen.

Indecision is exhausting. Fighting yourself is exhausting. Knowing the answer then finding the way is energizing.

So, quickly, without thinking, what do you want?

Confronting the monster

I was a kid during the Cold War. We lived in fear of The Bomb. We could all die at any moment—especially since we lived in the suburbs of the prime target: Washington DC. During the Cuban Missile Crisis we had (useless) air raid drills every day. Sometimes twice a day. It was a hell of a way to grow up.

How did any of us who lived through that period come out sane? (Are we sane?)

A few years later (because The Big One hadn’t dropped and I wasn’t dead) I read about the aftermath of the destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and about how the current nuclear weapons were much more powerful. I decided if the sirens ever blew I wouldn’t run for shelter. I’d step outside and hope to be vaporized, because I wouldn’t want to live in the world that would be left.

When I found out the other day there were tours of a decommissioned Titan II missile silo outside Tucson, I thought it would be “fun” to dredge up old anxieties and revisit the concept of mutually-assured destruction. Yay, peace (or at least a stalemate) through nuclear deterrence.

I didn’t freak out.

I was impressed by the launch procedure. Double checks of double checks of double checks. It made me feel a wee bit better about our remaining nuclear arsenal. But what safeguards against accidental or malicious launch do the other nuke countries employ?

The rocket was smaller than I had imagined from photos. And it seemed odd they painted US Air Force on the side. Was there any chance of confusion whose missile was in the silo? Did they imagine the Soviets would be able to read the incoming rocket and know who was about to obliterate them? “Oh, that’s good to know. We wouldn’t want to blame the wrong country or branch of military.”

The actual warhead was also much smaller than I had imagined. About the size of a kitchen wastebasket, but powerful enough to instantly kill everything within a 35-mile radius. Even kids hunched under their desks.

Wednesday, March 6, 2019

Gas pain

I’ve done the move hundreds of times. Put the fuel nozzle in the filler neck, begin pumping gas, get the squeegee, then step over the loop of the fuel hose on my way to cleaning the windshield. No problem. Until today.

My toe barely caught on the hose, throwing me off balance. Whoa Nelly, we’re going down! Drop the squeegee! Flail those arms! Grab something!

I managed to stop short of the ground, but not before raking my wrist across the corner of the brick pillar supporting the roof. And not before pulling up part of the thumbnail of the other hand.

So, is this my life now? Banging myself up in some type of minor tumble every couple of months? I fell in January when my toe caught while stepping over a trailer I was helping to assemble. In November I ended up on the ground when my ankle buckled on a loose rock.

It makes me feel old. “Hello, I’m Mr. Clumsiness, your new companion.” Go away.

Tuesday, March 5, 2019

What this photo says

1 I’m staying in a casino parking lot. A nice one. Casino del Sol near Tucson.

2 It’s warm enough to have the door open and my shoes off even though the sun is going down.

Those two things mean I'm contented. And on the move.

Not out of my way

Some of the best bagels I’ve ever had outside New York are in a small shop in Surprise, Arizona: Hot Bagels & Deli. So whenever I’m in the greater Phoenix area I make a happy detour to W. Bell Road and Grand Avenue (US-60). In fact, there have been a couple of times I made excuses to go to Phoenix just so I could score properly made bagels.

One of their bagels is enough to hold me an entire day. However, I don’t go all that way to have just one. Sure, having two is like eating half a loaf of bread and a tub of cream cheese, but it’s not like I do it often. Though I certainly would love to. Hmmm, I just realized it’s Fat Tuesday.

Saturday, March 2, 2019

I enjoy this

I rarely saw things like this back when I lived a normal life. I would be inside most evenings, recovering from the craziness of work. But right now, even though there are other boondockers around me and the highway about a hundred yards away, it’s peaceful. I’m peaceful. I’m happy, even though my resting face of contentment doesn’t particularly look it.

Local flora