Monday, September 30, 2019

Lunch and shopping

In the course of familiarizing himself with his new community, Lou discovered the senior citizens’ center and its two-buck lunches. Today’s menu: chicken, mashed potatoes, gravy, green beans, a biscuit, peaches and an apple.

After enjoying some solid food I checked out the thrift shop where I discovered this excellent rayon camp shirt. Also two bucks. Thank you to whichever fashionable resident of the Mimbres Valley donated this fine garment.

Laundry is not for the meek

Sunday, September 29, 2019

People, places or things

An odd thing happened when I was finally free to return to the road. You can see it in my blog posts the past couple of weeks. They’re less about the places I went or the scenery I saw and more about the people I met up with.

Damn, I’ve become sociable.

Maybe it’s because Nature, in its disinterested way, hadn’t shown concern for my wellbeing this summer. No mountains wished me luck in my treatment, no bodies of water offered encouragement, no sunsets shared kind thoughts. But people did.

My priority has been to see family and friends. Like a normal person. The landscapes will still be there afterward.

The Other Alan arrived yesterday at Rancho Lou. It was good to see him again. Yay! People!

Friday, September 27, 2019

Ring of fire

Stock butane burner

I like my butane stove. Easy to light, good temperature control. However, the thing the pots and pans sit on (someone give me the proper name for that) doesn’t work well with my tiny one-egg pan. The points are too far apart so the pan can’t sit level.

With the thingamabob added

So I got a filler/reducer thingamabob from Amazon. I had looked at several and thought I had ordered a cast iron one. What I got was stamped steel. Um, okay, my fault. The way it was stamped, though, made its prongs point slightly upward. That meant the pan was trying to sit on top of a pyramid. But I managed to bend the prongs downward to solve that problem. Time to cook.

Happy, stable little pan

Well, whatever the black coating is, it started smoking and fuming. Open the door, turn on the fan, wait for it to quit. Okay, there we go. Everything from there on went just fine. And the bacon & eggs were tasty.


Shave and a haircut, $12, by Tom at Silver Clipper Barber Shop, Silver City, New Mexico. There was no bleeding.

The last time I was reclined and a guy was working on me with something sharp, I was having a tracheostomy. This was more pleasant.


When Lou left me in the hospital in Tucson, he believed he might never see me again. We are both thrilled he was wrong.

I’m back at Lou’s place and my plan is to hang around until it gets too cold for me.

Thursday, September 26, 2019


I was hungry. I was approaching Socorro. I wanted something other than a burger or pizza (neither of which I was certain I could eat anyway). I wanted something local, not a chain. The parking lot of the El Camino Family Restaurant was full, which is a good indicator, but who could resist that Jetsons sign?

The “seniors and children” menu had spaghetti for six bucks, including garlic bread. It was pretty good, though it could’ve been a little wetter.

In real life

Four years ago I read this article about a guy boondocking with a Geo Metro. I wrote a blog post about it. A little later, the man in the article and in my post, Michel Herrmann, started commenting on this blog. So I started reading his blog.Then we started exchanging email.

One day, totally unplanned, our wanderings had us passing just feet from each other. I was camped at Buckeye Hills Regional Park (back when you could do that) and he was looking for a spot. (By then he had exchanged the Metro for a Tracker.) He didn’t stop because, I learned later, he was experiencing extreme intestinal distress and needed to, um, be alone.

He has been temporarily housed in Albuquerque while his rig undergoes repairs. When he learned I was in New Mexico, he invited me to visit and discuss weighty topics.

There are risks bringing people from the virtual world into one’s real world, but I had a good feeling about Michael. So I was there last night.

He took me to dinner at an Albuquerque institution, the Frontier Restaurant across from UNM. I had a carne adovada burrito (thumbs up) and he had a breakfast burrito, wet. And we talked.

This morning we talked some more, about life, death, cancer, aging, purpose, meaning, therapy, validation, opera, espionage, lies, love, sex, careers, contentment, heater cores and a lot of other stuff. It was fun and enlightening. I still have good feelings about Michael.

Wednesday, September 25, 2019

Three amigos

Linda May is the thread that winds through Jessica Bruder’s Nomadland. A well educated, multi-skilled woman, yet the work she was able to find paid poorly or didn’t last long, making survival difficult.

Francis McDormand bought the movie rights to Nomadland and chose ChloĆ© Zhou to direct. Zhou likes to use the actual people in her reality-based films, and Linda May was asked to play herself. With the money she was paid, she bought some land near Taos, New Mexico, where she hopes to build an off-grid earth ship and grow much of her own food. There’s room on her acreage for her children and their families, plus nomadic friends who need a place to crash.

When Linda May learned I was back on the road after cancer treatment, and that I was heading to New Mexico, she invited me to visit. Of course!

When fellow nomad Debra Dickinson heard I was going to visit Linda May, she reversed course so she could join us. Debra was the victim of a vicious beating that left her with Traumatic Brain Injury. Despite various symptoms that make day-to-day living difficult, Debra has built an independent and rewarding life.

So there we were, three people overcoming adversity yet happy and feeling rich.

(Oh, and I worked as an extra in the movie. And the Rolling Steel Tent worked as a prop. The RST got paid more.)

Tuesday, September 24, 2019

Coat and hat of many colors

Sporting my chemotherapy happiness jacket again, with the addition of a cap I’ve had for decades. This photo reminds me of one from a few years back:

Monday, September 23, 2019


Near Taos, New Mexico, at about 8,000 feet. An extra blanket last night, the heater turned on this morning, and a jacket until 11:00. Such are the signs of the beginning of autumn. Where did my summer go?

Oh. Yeah.

UPDATE: Clouded over, cold wind blowing in, jacket back on at 1:15.

Saturday, September 21, 2019

Rough job

My friend Forrest is the caretaker for a 2,200 acre ranch in the San Juan mountains of southwest Colorado. The owners are in the East and rarely come here. He invited me to visit. This is the view from the house.

At dusk the elk come down to drink. There were about 30 of them this time.

Friday, September 20, 2019

What will you see?

We got an early start, when it was still chilly

This morning we hiked Grand Wash, from bottom to top. A gradual climb through a dramatic chasm. One of my favorite places.

A guy my age was hiking from the other end. He asked, “How much farther?”

“You’re about a third of the way through.”

“Is it all like this?”

“The Narrows start just around that bend.”

“What’s at the end? A view or something?”

I wanted to reply, “You’re in the view, man. Look around.” But instead I just gave him the facts. “It ends at the highway.”

He harrumphed and said, “Then I’ll just see the Narrows and turn around.”

Sometimes we get conditioned to expect the grand vista, the holy-cow view, as if that’s the whole point of visiting national parks. I’m as guilty as anyone. But I’ve learned the joys of going down into the view, of being swallowed up in it, of being part of it, not just an observer.

Connie becomes part of the view

Thursday, September 19, 2019

Meet the kin

My sister Connie and brother-in-law Kent came down from Salt Lake City. We hiked the Hickman Bridge trail. Or part of it, until my body gave out. I’m not as recovered as I’d hoped. We’ll hike again tomorrow. On a flatter trail. Right, guys?

Resting my weary ass by the Fremont River

Afternoon stroll

Deep, narrow, rock-faced canyons are one of my favorite environments. This is Capitol Gorge in Capitol Reef National Park. An easy one for those of us recovering from cancer.

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Cache and carry

I know modern nomads who carry large quantities of supplies with them. Enough to last months. Boxes, bins and bags of it, with a little space for themselves tucked in between. Or they haul a trailer of provisions. They are of the pack train school of thought.

I can’t live like that. I gotta travel light. I’m more like the old trappers who would leave caches of supplies in strategic locations. Except my caches are called markets. I let them hang onto all that stuff for me. I let the stores store my stores.

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Hi from the sky

Skydiving has been on my list ever since I learned there was such a thing. Tandem skydiving put it within reach. And surviving cancer made it a priority. Time to celebrate! Time to thumb my nose at death.

The video I had to watch beforehand, and the liability waiver I had to sign in multiple places, made it clear there was a possibility of disaster. But I figured the guy I was strapped to wanted to survive unhurt just as much as I did.

I was calm as the plane climbed, as my partner gave final instructions. I was going to step out into thin air. I was going to fall at 138 miles per hour. Cool. And if I were to hit the ground at that speed? Shrug. I’ve had a good life.

Flying/falling above Arches and Canyonlands national parks provides great views of some amazing scenery. Much better than some pasture somewhere.

The door opened, I got in position and… Wow! Much more violent than anticipated. But unlike the short mayhem of bungee jumping (which I did back in 1995) there was time to adjust to the sensations and be in the moment. Very cool. Too bad the freefall wasn’t a little longer. That’s a metaphor for life. It can be more violent than expected, but adjust to it, be in the moment, and in the end, wish it was longer.

Monday, September 16, 2019

Hoodoo you love?

I made a quick return visit to Goblin Valley State Park on my way to Moab. The place was in the news a few years ago because some Boy Scout leaders pushed over one of the rock formations. I left all the goblins alone. Scout’s honor.

At the crack of

Even though it was quite chilly this morning, I wasn’t the only one who got up before dawn to be at Sunrise Point in Bryce Canyon National Park.

Sunday, September 15, 2019

Hello Utah

I know better than to go to a very popular destination on a weekend when the weather is nice. I went to Zion National Park anyway, even though the signs said the parking lots were full. Because I also know a few places to park and hike and get away from the crowds, see some less seen things, meditate a little. Besides, it would be just a short visit on the way elsewhere. Didn’t want to make a big production of it.

Saturday, September 14, 2019

More desert art

I’m not a huge fan of Ugo Rodinone’s Seven Magic Mountains art installation south of Las Vegas. But I don’t loathe it, like some (many?) people. I say give art a chance. It sure beats, oh, a borax processing plant, casino billboard, or other manmade structure you’re likely to see along I-15.
Mediating between geological formations and abstract compositions, Rodinone’s Seven Magic Mountains consists of locally-sourced limestone boulders stacked vertically in groups…(yadda yadda yadda) The artwork extends Rodinone’s long-running interest in natural phenomena and their reformulation in art. Inspired by naturally occurring hoodoos and balancing rock formations, the stacks also evoke the art of meditative rock balancing…(yadda yadda yadda)
So says the plaque at the site. I prefer not to read what way-to-serious people write about art. It’s like when Frank Zappa said writing about music is like dancing about architecture. I think music and art are most meaningful and personal when it’s just experienced, without explanations.

But at the end of the tedious artspeak is a phrase that hits my nail on the head:
…offering a contemporary critique of the simulacra in nearby Las Vegas.
Yes, imitation and garishness rising out of the desert.

Whatever the artistic merit of Seven Magic Mountains, it’s certainly beloved by Instagrammers and drone videographers.

Out of LA, into a glass forest

“You know, you can only have so many campfires and grill so many hot dogs and marshmallows before you get bored.” —Elmer Long

There’s something about the desert that causes some people to amass collections of what others consider junk, then turn those collections into quirky art. Maybe it’s the space to do it in. Maybe it’s the lack of distractions. And maybe it’s something in the air. Or the blood.

Elmer Long grew up camping in the Mojave where he and his father discovered old trash dumps. The father spent 30 years gathering items—especially bottles—and in 2000 Elmer started turning those treasures into the Bottle Tree Ranch, on old Route 66 near Oro Grande, California.

Sadly, Elmer passed away this June. I never got to meet him. He seemed like a cool guy. But Josh of California Through My Lens got this interview.

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Field trip

Ceebs and I went to The Broad (pronounced Brode) art museum in downtown Los Angeles. It’s free but you need to reserve a time slot.

We’re both big fans of Jean-Michel Basquiat. I first learned of him when I was in New York on business and had some time to kill. I went to the Whitney Museum where they happened to have a huge Basquiat exhibit. The Broad has several of his works.

Andy Warhol gave Basquiat’s career a little bump, so it was nice to see him hanging at the gallery.

And it’s always a party when Michael and Bubbles are there.

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Am I going insane?

A weird idea has been forming in my head the past couple of days: intentionally go somewhere seriously cold this winter. Not for long, just a few days or something. Bundle up. Get out in the snow and icy air. Break with winter routine. I don’t have a particular place in mind. There are so many options.

I’d need to get some serious winter outerwear, though. At least a parka. And maybe get a real heater again for the Rolling Steel Tent so I don’t become cryogenically preserved in my sleep.

But maybe I’ll come to my senses at the first hint of chilly weather. I hope I do.

Monday, September 9, 2019

A nomad in the media

My friend and fellow nomad LaVonne had an opinion piece published in the Los Angeles Times today. Too bad they didn’t give her several more pages. Since LaVonne’s piece is behind a pay wall, here, with the permission of the Times, is the whole thing.
I’m 73 and I live in a van. It feels like there’s no place for me in California anymore 
I wake up early these days, when morning light outlines the blackout curtains and floods the skylight above my bed. After washing up with baby wipes and donning clean clothes, I slide open a curtain to reveal the front seats and windshield of the van that is my home, and check the back one last time to make sure everything is secure. Then I crawl into the driver’s seat and turn the key. 
As soon as possible every morning, I move from my night spot. It’s important — I don’t want to draw police attention. Living in a vehicle is against the law in San Diego and a growing number of cities, including Los Angeles. Since the San Diego law took effect in May, RVers and van dwellers like me have been on edge, constantly asking each other what they know about the rules, where they park, have they heard that anything might change? No one seems to have a sure answer. 
I’ve already received a warning in an Ocean Beach park that several other rigs also used. As I was pulling out, I looked back and saw the cop working his way down the line. I wondered where those people would go. Now that I’m in the system, a ticket may be next. I can’t risk having to pay a fine. 
The officer gave me a flier with information about “safe” parking lots where I could stay overnight — as long as I enroll for social services leading to permanent housing. I consider signing up, until I hear from someone who did. He tells me a murder was recently committed across the street from the lot where he parks. I don’t sign up. 
The government has classified me and other RV and van dwellers as homeless, but that’s not how I see myself. When I started this journey nearly six years ago, the goal was to see America. But on my Social Security check, I couldn’t afford to both travel and pay rent. I chose travel. 
I’m 73. I want to be on the road as long as my health holds out. I would travel more if I could stretch that monthly check further, which is one reason I keep coming back to San Diego. I have family here and a history, nearly 20 years as a resident of a traditional “sticks and bricks” apartment. I like knowing my way around, and the ocean breeze is cool in the summer. But each time I return, the vibe is a little less welcoming, a little more hostile. 
I speak to a disabled vet who’s around my age and lives in a rusty extended Dodge Ram with a black tarp duct-taped to the leaky roof. He is a fixture in a little park near the water. He tells me he’s been given several tickets so far. The last time, he was warned that his van will be towed away if he stays overnight again. He says he now sneaks into a nearby private lot for the night. So far no one has bothered him. I decide to follow his lead. 
This is how things are now, in more and more cities in the U.S. Homeowners see the growing influx of people living in vehicles and feel threatened. Not all of those people are respectful and clean, which colors how we are viewed, and laws get passed to keep us at bay. Otherwise law-abiding people like the disabled veteran and me are left with nowhere to go. 
I understand the frustration of homeowners. You see what you consider unsavory people in your neighborhood, and you just want them to go away. Aging vans and crumbling RVs are taking over your public spaces. You don’t care how that happens, or why they’re there in the first place. So you complain to the police and politicians, and they come up with a law that makes the way thousands of people live illegal. 
How does that solve the problem? 
Rents are skyrocketing while income stagnates, and evictions are epidemic, according to Matthew Desmond, author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning book “Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City.” More and more families, seniors and people with disabilities are moving into their vehicles. 
For many of us, vehicle habitation is not a problem — it’s a solution. 
I’ll be back on the road soon, to visit friends and camp in nature. But many city-van dwellers don’t share my affinity for travel and are afraid to leave, fearing their vehicles will break down. 
Those RVs and vans that litter your view aren’t going away, not until the people who live in them can find homes without wheels that are within their reach. 
LaVonne Ellis is a former correspondent for ABC Radio News Networks.

Look what followed Ceebs home

Ceebs pulled in last night after a mad dash to Portland to pick up her new custom made Aero Teardrops trailer. She’s far from becoming a nomad, but she wants to get out and see more of the country. We might meet up out there occasionally. Heck, you might cross her path.

Sunday, September 8, 2019

Down the hatch

My journey into cancer and back started with a raw throat. It hurt to swallow. And it got worse.

So it was a delight when I realized this morning I can now swallow without pain. WOO!


Lou goes beyond mere function with his bathroom sink

Saturday, September 7, 2019

What is my outlook?

I don’t remember when I first considered myself a pessimist—or at least inclined toward the pessimistic end of the scale. My life experiences taught me to not get my hopes up, not to count on help, not to expect miracles. I learned a positive attitude rarely made good things happen. I learned pessimism led to fewer disappointments. And required less of a personal investment. Detachment is cheap.

My pessimism might have mellowed into pragmatism. Withhold judgment going into a situation and see what happens. Or try to have an informed opinion beforehand. What should I reasonably expect? What are the odds it will go well or go south? My pragmatism still edges closer to pessimism than optimism. Because it seems more realistic.

So I’m taken aback when people comment how I’ve had such a positive attitude during cancer treatment. I have? I thought I was being very wait-and-see. I’m pretty certain I mentioned good things only after they happened. I know I wasn’t one of those hyper-optimistic I’m-gonna-kick-cancer’s-ass cheerleader types.

Is it just that I haven’t whined much, that I just report the side effects and setbacks without drama? Is that what passes for a positive attitude these days? Do people think I’m optimistic because I haven’t dragged them down with my self-pity?

I don’t know.

But I do know I’m glad things have gone as well as they have. Because I wasn’t expecting it.