Monday, April 29, 2019

Much happiness

A corner of the floor and insulation had been on hold until the bathroom plumbing could be hooked into the existing pipes and roughed in. John the plumber came today and got ‘er done. Now it’s time to wait for the inspector.

Meanwhile, I’m happy I don't own a house anymore. So much happiness in one place.

Sunday, April 28, 2019

More wandering

About noon yesterday I told Lou, “I’m gonna go wander around for a couple of hours.” I had no plan other than to drive and explore. I headed to Silver City and… oh… kept going on US180, north, toward, oh, some of the stuff that’s up that way. Through rolling grasslands, past cottonwood-lined creeks, up into coniferous forests. The west side of the Gila Mountains.

I turned east on highway 12 to Reserve, got some gasoline. The free Apache Creek campground was twelve miles down the highway. I called Lou to tell him I was staying the night, that I’d be back the next day.

I was at Apache Creek in April of 2014, but I didn’t stay. Rain and fear of flooding chased me away. But this time the sky was clear and the forecast was good. No problem.

In the morning I contemplated my route options. I could go back the way I came, but that would be less interesting.

I could continue clockwise around the Gila Mountains, but that would be twice as far, and I had been that way before, too.

I could do the semi-crazy thing and go northwest to Alpine AZ, then south through the highest, twistiest, slowest section of US191, then connect back to US180. I’d get to mark off another section of 191—a part I missed when I abandoned my Border-to-Border-On-191 quest last summer in order to go to a friend’s retirement party in California. Hey, I’m semi-crazy, so…

The road gets serious

I don’t know about other times of the year, but on this particular early Sunday morning at the end of April the highway was practically deserted. And beautiful. I saw a herd of elk, a flock of turkeys, and about a dozen clusters of deer. Taking that route wasn’t the crazy thing after all. What’s crazy is not having gone that way several times before. And stayed a while. I’ll be back.

Something new

I’ve started a video series about my approach to van living. There are many ways to do it and I’m not saying my way is best. I’m just presenting what works for me. That’s why the videos aren’t titled  “How Everyone Should Do It.”

Saturday, April 27, 2019


The construction holdups are over and now it’s floor insulation time.

Friday, April 26, 2019


This part of New Mexico has a nice variety of cloud formations compared to the Sonoran and Mojave deserts where I spend the winter. Yesterday we had the setting sun lighting up the underside of some rainclouds.

Sit a spell

This answers a question I didn't have

Question: How grippy is the edge of half an old roll of Scotch painters’ tape?

Answer: Enough to stay on the roof of a van from Mimbres to Silver City and back.

Thursday, April 25, 2019

Taking precautions

Lou was having a frustrating day on the phone with suppliers and the bank. He donned this helmet to protect the rest of us in case his head exploded. Luckily for everyone, it was unnecessary.

Up on the r-o-o-o-o-f

Back when I took the big leap and cut a 14-inch hole in the Rolling Steel Tent’s roof so I could install a vent fan, the conventional wisdom included sealing the screw holes and hood edges with the same stuff the RV industry used. Dicor self-leveling sealant. Or Dyco C-10 self-leveling sealant. I chose C-10 because someone on a forum said something bad about Dicor.


A couple of years later the ravages of UV rays had cause the C-10 to dry and crack—which was what Dicor had been accused of doing. There had been no leaks, but better safe than sorry. So I applied another coat of C-10. And repeated the process the next year.

When it was time to refresh the sealant again, a friend gave me a tube of Dicor. Oh, a comparison test. Science! Eh, same results.

A few months ago, another forum guy highly recommended 3M 4200 Marine Adhesive/Sealant. Superior UV resistance, he said. Okay.

Unlike self-leveling sealant, 3M 4200 is thick and gummy, so it’s harder to apply elegantly—especially when you’re on a ladder, stretching to the middle of the roof. But I used an old business card to spread the adhesive/sealant around and cover all the critical points. We’ll see how things are next year.


We had some weather

It was sunny in the morning then started clouding up. Then it got gloomy. Then wet. Rain. Hail. Rain. Then it cleared up. Then it rained some more. Then there was a rainbow. Yesterday’s weather was sort of a metaphor for life.

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Furry beggar

Rick (or Ricky, or even Riki, since we don’t know whether it’s male or female) is one of the bolder critters on Lou’s property. I suspect Rick considers it his property since he was here first.

I had spilled some granola this morning and cleaned up most of it, but some crumbs remained in the rug. Rick caught scent of it. He’s my personal DustBuster.

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

No longer a clunker

If you’ve been following the story of clunking noises from the Rolling Steel Tent’s front suspension, you might remember the replacement of the pitman and idler arms and the recent replacement of the tie rod ends. Those two fixes reduced the noise a little, but I still felt like my steering components might fly off at any moment.

I had gotten to the point where I was willing to have all the remaining front suspension parts replaced. I had money saved up. So I was ready for a worst-case situation when I went to Hilltop Service in Silver City.

The owner and two mechanics put it on the rack and started wiggling and prying in various diagnostic ways. They seemed perplexed. Then one of them shook the anti-sway bar. Rattle rattle rattle. It wasn’t supposed to make that noise. The four of us said simultaneously, “Worn bushings.”

I thought I would need to come back after the new bushings arrived. The owner asked, “Want me to replace these?”

“You mean right now?”

“Yeah.” He happened to have the needed parts.


One of the new bushings, in designer blue

I was out of there in fifteen minutes. Parts and labor, $75.00.

Best of all, NO. MORE. CLUNKING! The Rolling Steel Tent sounded like new.

I’ve really become a fan of small repair shops in small towns.

Let’s get wet

Boiled to perfect tenderness

I took a vacation from my carpenter’s assistant gig and drove down the highway to Faywood Hotsprings. It’s my third or fourth time here. There’s a particular pool I like that’s nice and deep and the perfect temperature for me—about 104°. And the water isn’t sulfur-ish. Also, there’s always hot water in the showers.

Camping is $20/night with unlimited soaking. I wanted to get in the tub under the stars, but a thunderstorm was passing through. I like my water hot, not electrically charged. The storm had moved on when I woke at 5:00, so I had a pre-dawn soak instead. Mmmmmm, wonderful.

Sunday, April 21, 2019

Happiness is just down the road

The cell signal at Lou’s place is sporadic because the Verizon tower is blocked by a ridge. Sometimes I get two bars of 4G LTE, sometimes five bars of 3G, and sometimes no signal at all. And despite having a 4G signal, sometimes I still can't connect to the interwebs. Ah, the whims of the cosmos and wireless technology.

But I can get a great signal if I drive a little way down the road, even without my directional antenna and booster. That’s why I can post this.


A frequent topic among nomads is how to create more living space. (As opposed to dying space?) But the thing is, no matter how you rearrange X cubic feet of stuff within Y cubic feet of space, you still end up with the same amount of empty room, just shaped differently.

Some shapes work better than others. Better utilization of existing space is the best we can hope for unless we decrease X or increase Y. Less stuff or a larger place to contain it. Or both.

When nomads talk about living space they usually mean within their vehicle. But there’s tons of living space outside. As the saying goes, don’t live in a van, live out of one.

I think what most nomads are talking about is not feeling crowded, not being overwhelmed by the close quarters, having the luxury of our own blank space. They want to feel like they did when they lived in a building.

Building life (unless you lived in a studio apartment) conditioned us to expect different rooms for different purposes. Living room, dining room, kitchen, bathroom, bedroom, utility room… But vehicle life is a one-room thing. One tiny multipurpose room. You sleep in the kitchen, cook in the bathroom. All the space in the vehicle—every cubic millimeter of it—is living space. Even the space consumed by stuff.

To get all pseudo-philosophical, we aren’t really separate from our stuff. Our stuff is chosen by us for reasons that are within us. It’s used or not used by us, which says something about us. Our stuff enables or limits us. So make peace with it, with ourselves. Or change X and Y.

Saturday, April 20, 2019

Hitting bottom

Lou’s goal is to make his new casa as insulated and airtight as practicable to minimize heating and cooling expenditures. So today we closed off the bottoms of the floor joists. First they were glued into place and nailed, next the edges will be sealed with spray foam before the insulation is dropped in.

Friday, April 19, 2019

Parallel, square and level

The floor joists are in place. Next step is insulation.

The guys who’ll be connecting the building to electricity, water and septic have come by to consult with Lou, and a neighbor has offered the loan of his backhoe. Lou is much more relaxed now.

Thursday, April 18, 2019

All present and accounted for

Electrical, water and septic have been found. Like many of life’s answers, it just took some more digging.

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Holes and hangers

So far, today, a hole has been dug to locate the water and electrical line. The exact location of the sewer line is yet to be determined.

Meanwhile joist hangers have been installed.

And the supervisors make sure we don't mess up too badly.

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

From past wandering

Back in December 1985 the airline People Express launched non-stop service between San Francisco (where I lived at the time) and Brussels with a special $99 fare. A group of friends decided it was too good of a deal to pass up. From Brussels we’d take the train to Paris.

The rubber doll in the photo was a running gag in my office. We called it Baby (Always pronounced in a mock adoring, drawn out Baaay-beeee.) It would get slipped into briefcases, hidden in the freezer, stuffed into the copier paper tray…

I took it with me and photographed it at various sites, trying to do something other than the usual tourist pictures.

I’ve seen Notre Dame live, up close and personal a couple of times. The fire makes me sad, as does the destruction of anything of beauty, including humans.

Today's view

Saturday, April 13, 2019

It's all my fault

Me and my meteorological optimism. I had put away most of my long-sleeved shirts, gotten out the shorts, packed away the down quilt and swapped in a lighter blanket.

So it’s no wonder Nature smacked me down when I brought my Spring-at-last attitude up from the lower desert to 6,000-foot Silver City and Mimbres. “Fool,” Nature muttered. “Take some of this gloomy, drizzly days with sub-freezing nights. Bundle up, kid.”

Of course, in order to make it uncomfortable for me, Nature had to bomb the Rockies and Midwest with more show and ice. My sincerest apologies.

Friday, April 12, 2019

Man cave

Unlike me, Lou didn’t get rid of everything when he became a nomad. He kept all his tools and shop equipment stored in Oregon. When he leased a space at Coyote Howls in Arizona he got a shed and moved some of the tools there.

All the tools are reunited now that Lou has ten acres of land—land that included an insulated forty-foot shipping container. The shop makes him a very happy man.

Medicate and wait

I don’t want to turn this into a blog about my health, but here’s the latest.

I’m in New Mexico now and will be for a while as I help Lou build his home. I went to the clinic in Silver City to see what a different medical professional had to say. I gave him the story so far, he did some peeking and poking and agreed with me it was an infection. Not a goiter. Not GERD. He said the amoxicillin I was prescribed before is a rather weak antibiotic, and prescribed ten days of clindamycin (which I should take with yogurt because it sometimes causes diarrhea) and five days of the steroid prednisone.

So now I do that and see what happens.

When I picked up the meds, the clerk had a concerned look on her face. “Do you have coverage for this.”

“No, just Medicare parts A and B.”

She paused, looking at the paperwork stapled to the envelope. “Do you want me to see if there’s a coupon?”

“Um, sure.”

Before I could ask how much it was she went to fiddle with a different computer, and I’m wondering if the clindamycin is one of those outrageously expensive drugs. Did I see something like $575 on the upside down paperwork? Well, the day before was my Social Security payday so I’m “rich” at the moment, and I won’t be burning much gas while I’m at Lou’s place, so I guess I could swing it.

She returned, looking happier, and I asked, “How much?”

“It was $19.00 before, but I got it down to $15.00.”

New Mexico is one of the poorest states, so I guess everyone is cost conscious. Hey, four bucks’ll get me a Lotaburger at Blake’s. Or five yogurts at Walmart to go with the clindamycin.

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

That orange stuff in the sky again

Fame, no fortune

Marianne Edwards is the author of the Frugal Shunpiker series of boondocking guidebooks. I bought most of them back when I was a greenhorn nomad. They were very helpful then, but I haven’t thought about them for years.

Monday, my friend Michel emailed me.
Did u see Marianne Edwards commends your blog in her note announcing the Calif boondocking guide update?
Oh? Well that’s cool. I was one of four listed as “inspiring people.” The question is whether I’m inspiring them in a good way.

Tuesday, April 9, 2019

Less warmth, please

You might recall I replaced my great old down quilt this winter. The new down quilt has been serving me well. But now that the weather is heating up, the down quilt keeps me too warm.

So I found this thin quilt today. About twenty-five bucks. One of the big selling points was its lack of a floral pattern. Hurray for a simple solid color! (Yes, gray is a color.)

It’s supposed to be in the low fifties tonight. That should be good for a Goldilocks test. Will the blanket keep me too cold, too warm, or just right? (No porridge, thank you.)

UPDATE: It was just right.

No dumping

This abandoned service station on I-8 not only has some interesting colors, it evidently has a problem with people trying to use it as a restroom. Ug. People.

Sunday, April 7, 2019

Look closer next time

So, I would be heading east on I-8 again. Yuma to Gila Bend, to the junction with I-10 and on through Tucson. I wondered if there was a way to change up that well-traveled route, to see a new place.

I checked the map. Hmmmm, the Sonoran Desert National Monument. State route 238. Is there something more interesting that way than along I-8? Something worth the extra miles at a slower speed? I won’t know if I don’t go.

And there are a couple of towns along the way. Shawmut. Mobile. Maricopa. Probably just wide spots in the road. Maricopa is a junction, so maybe there’s a gas station, cafe, farm equipment repair shop, a boarded up business. A tiny village hanging on by its fingernails. I mean, it’s out in the middle of nowhere. Farmland surrounded by desert. And its name on the map is small.

I was wrong. Turns out Maricopa is a modern, sprawling upper-middle class suburb with a golf course and all that. If I had thought to zoom in on the satellite view I would’ve known. Oh well. It just meant the expected brief roll through an impending ghost town would actually be a crawl from frustratingly timed traffic light to frustratingly timed traffic light down the main Lexus-choked boulevard, past Starbucks and all that.

Saturday, April 6, 2019

Las Cienegas

I checked and learned I had been here about the same time last year. That was a surprise. I thought it had been longer. The difference, though, was last year I was nearly alone, and this year I got the last available spot. Maybe that’s because it’s the weekend. Maybe it’s because the weather has finally warmed up and dried out. Maybe it’s just that there are a lot more nomads.


Punctuation is important

Friday, April 5, 2019

Good news, in a way

I got the thyroid test results today. The levels of whatever it was they tested are within the normal range. The ultrasound showed a couple of small nodules about one centimeter in diameter on the thyroid. They said to follow up in a year. So, no goiter, no messed up thyroid, no need to panic.

But that doesn’t solve my problem.

Since I’m on my way to spend most of the spring and summer helping Lou build shelter, I'll find a clinic there and see if they can do a better job of diagnosing me. And curing me, too, of course.

UPDATE: I'm near Silver City, New Mexico, now and went to a clinic there for another opinion. They agree it’s an infection and not GERD. They prescribed a stronger antibiotic.

Next services 32 miles

I’ve passed this place a dozen times or more and each time I swore I’d stop the next time. When I’m driving long stretches of Interstate I get some of that highway hypnosis and, doh, I passed the exit again. But not today.

Monday, April 1, 2019

Pain in the neck

You may recall I went to an urgent care facility in February to see about an infection raging in my throat, sinuses and ears. I took the prescribed antibiotics and waited for an improvement. It never really came.

So I returned today to see if there was something else that could be done. A different nurse practitioner checked me over this time. She thought the problem might be my thyroid. Specifically, a goiter. Hmmm, okay, that area of my neck is tender. So she set me up for lab work and an ultrasound on Wednesday. I went to the Mayo Clinic website to read up on thyroid problems.

At one end of the spectrum is a minor issue that can be corrected with medication. At the other is cancer, with surgery, maybe chemotherapy, maybe radiation. I, of course, am hoping it’s something on the easy side of the scale.

So, instead of just a quick stop in Yuma before heading elsewhere, I’m stuck here until Wednesday afternoon.

It’s 88°F/31°C in the van right now. The doors and windows are open. It’s tolerable, but it’ll make the wait less pleasant.

And thank you, Medicare. Everyone should have it.