Tuesday, December 31, 2019

This is a desert?

I diverged from the usual and expected routes and routines and explored a part of Yuma I had never seen: their riverside parks.

Gateway Park is next to the old Yuma Territorial Prison and under the I-8 overpass. (I’ve driven over the park many times, but never found my way down to it.) There’s a beach, pavilions, and the beginning of a bike/pedestrian path that follows the Colorado River. It looks as if some fellow vehicle dwellers like to hang out there. Train watchers, too.

Farther downstream, with the entrance at the north end of 12th Avenue, is West Wetlands Park. Boat ramp, beach, pond, elaborate playground, pavilions and the continuation of the trail that started at Gateway Park. It doesn’t feel at all like the desert. The morning of New Year’s Eve there were only a half dozen dog walkers and some maintenance people. I imagine it’s a popular place in warmer weather. I’ll certainly spend more time there during my Yuma visits.

Sunday, December 29, 2019

Thursday, December 26, 2019

Afternoon routine

This time of year, with shorter daylight hours and occasional overcast, is a challenge for my solar power system.

Nine months a year my 208Ah of battery and 270W of solar panel are plenty to run the fridge and lights, charge my laptop, hot spot and phone, and occasional AA and AAA batteries for various devices. The other three months I need to be more aware of available solar hours and the house batteries’ state of charge. And the state of charge of my rechargeable stuff.

From dawn to dusk I keep the solar panel aimed at the sun. Since it’s mounted to the van’s roof, that means repositioning the Rolling Steel Tent a few times a day. (That’s one reason I’m not the type who sets up an outdoor living space.)

Then each afternoon I recharge my electronics so as much of the last hours of light as possible can go to charging the house battery. That’s also a good time to recharge myself with a nap. In the sun.

Wednesday, December 25, 2019

Life imitates a math problem

A mile-long train is traveling from southeast to northwest at 62 miles per hour.

Some old guy is driving a van south to north at 57 miles per hour on a highway that intersects the railroad.

The van is 1.5 miles away when the middle of the train is at the crossing.

Will the train have passed the crossing by the time the van arrives, or will the van need to stop and wait? If the latter, how long?

[All the numbers above, except the van speed, are guesses, so even if you know how to structure the equation and how to solve it, you probably won’t get the actual answer. Though you could probably start with the answer and figure out what the other actual numbers could’ve been.]

The actual, real-life answer: If there hadn’t already been two vehicles waiting at the crossing, the end of the train would’ve just passed and the gate would be going up so that the van could have continued without stopping. Just barely.

Tuesday, December 24, 2019

If Santa were to come tonight...

...and I were sufficiently nice, maybe he’d bring me one or two of these candle lanterns/heaters, all converted to work with lamp oil (as described at the end of the video and shown in depth in this followup video). There are places I’d like to go this winter that get cold at night.

Sunday, December 22, 2019

Cashing in

I ended the stay-in-one-spot experiment today. I think I could have continued, but I had reached the point where I no longer enjoyed it. The test wasn’t about torturing myself. Besides, I needed to dispose of my trash.

While I was out, I took my nearly full change jar to a CoinStar machine. Clinkity plinkity plonkity. One hundred and sixteen dollars and seventy-four cents, after they took their cut. It’s not the greatest savings plan, but it’s easy. The down side is I won’t be able to scavenge the jar the next time I do laundry or wash the van.

Friday, December 20, 2019


Tomorrow is the annual Somerton Tamale Festival and I’m usually excited. I was severely disappointed when I missed it last year, and I was grateful one of my readers reminded me this time. But, in anticipation, I had a tamal the other day and… damn.

Between my messed up taste buds and low saliva production, the masa was like flavorless sawdust. And it killed whatever joy the pork filling might’ve offered.

Now there’s no point dealing with the parking and crowds. Besides, I’m in the middle of my no-driving experiment, right?

Thursday, December 19, 2019

An experiment

I guess mainstream folks would consider my entire nomad life an experiment (if not plain insanity). If so, then I’m conducting an experiment within an experiment.

I’m going to see how many days I can stay where I am, in the desert west of Yuma, without moving the Rolling Steel Tent. I’m going to learn how long I can fight off my itch to go places. I’m going to learn whether I can enjoy it. What will happen if I don’t drive to town every couple of days just to have a change of scenery, just to be moving?

I’m 24 hours into the test. I’ll see how the next 24 go. And the 24 after that. And so on.

Met along the way

Sometimes I don’t know why I make the choices I do. Sometimes I don’t know I going to be making a choice until the instant I do. And sometimes innocuous choices leave me thinking, “Hmmmmm…”

The other day the choice was Highway 111 down the east side of the Salton Sea or Highway 86 down the west side. The roads cross each other near Mecca and rejoin at Brawley. Highway 111 is about two miles longer. A tossup.

The light at the junction was red as I approached, and I was in the left lane, so, what the hell, I turned left onto 111.

The town of Bombay Beach is on 111. It presented another choice: stop by or keep going? I’ve featured Bombay Beach on the blog before, and I did a video. Would there be any reason to go again? I wouldn’t know unless I looked.

I decided to stop. And that’s how I met fellow wanderer D. A. Pirate and his canine companion Sam.

Interesting guy. Veteran, lives and travels in a Mini, well-read, student of Aztec culture, mystic, thinks Sam might be the reincarnation of a pianist…

He wanted my opinions on various art pieces along the beach. “See that big eye down there? What do you think it means?”

“Oh, the all-seeing eye of God? The eye of enlightenment? The inner eye of the soul? Government surveillance?”

 “See that tower? What does it remind you of?”

“I don’t know why, but I’m thinking of the Manhattan Project’s first test, how they put the bomb in a tower.”

“Yeah, man, Trinity! Fat Man! And the black stones at the bottom are the destroyed Earth.”

Since my hearing isn’t very good, I had to ask Pirate several times to repeat himself. He replied, “Sorry, my voice is weak because I had throat cancer.”

“Me too.”



If I were inclined toward a mystical view of life, I might conclude there was some type of behind-the-scenes force directing my choices so that I’d end up by the sea with a fellow throat cancer survivor, talking art, reincarnation, Aztec warriors, tattoos, compasses, and the Bomb. Anyway, it’s not the day I set out to have. It was better.

Wednesday, December 18, 2019

There and back

I drove from Yuma to Quartzsite today with the intent of meeting some new people. Sort of like self-prescribed therapy for the socially awkward. The general idea was to stay at least until Christmas.

However, one of the new people I met and had a nice conversation with mentioned that it had been near freezing last night and was forecast for below freezing tonight. It had clouded over, the wind was becoming more insistent, and the temperature was already dropping. “Why did you leave Yuma? It’s warmer there.” Good question.

The answer was to pack up and return south, and to a lower elevation. I had to hustle in order to make it to my preferred boondocking site before sunset. I don’t have those super bright off-road lights, so it’s tricky seeing the turn from the highway and not ending up stuck in a wash.

I made it just before the sun dropped behind the mountains. Moments later the clouds lit up as if to say, “Welcome back.”

This is what eBay can lead to

Fred Garvitz was poking around eBay one day when he saw a collection of banana memorabilia for sale. He thought it was fun, so he bought it. That impulse purchase has grown into the International Banana Museum in Mecca, California, on the eastern shore of the Salton Sea.

I had driven past the museum several times, not knowing it was there. From the outside, it looks like one of several closed and abandoned buildings in the area, victims of a recreation and tourism boom that never happened. I wouldn’t have stopped this time if I hadn’t finally noticed the big yellow sculpture by the road. “Hey, it’s a robot. A robot that looks like… a menacing banana?” I pulled in.

That’s when I noticed the pooping banana mural.

The museum is only open on weekends, and it was Tuesday. But thanks to this video we can see the inside of the forlorn building is a mass of happy, goofy, tropical yellowness. Who knew this much banana stuff existed?

Monday, December 16, 2019

Putting a lid on it

Baseball caps, cowboy hats, panama hats, knit caps, tribal hats, faux fur hats, derbies... I’ve been through many of them. But what I’ve been searching for lately is a soft, narrow-brim fedora. Maybe a Homburg. Not a trilby or pork pie. Sort of like the one toddler Elvis wore.

The search has been complicated by the size and shape of my cranium. A long oval, about 7-5/8 or 7-3/4. Freak head.

This hat had the look I was after, and when I plopped it on my head... Ah, perfect fit. It was flexible enough to conform to my oblong shape. And it was very comfortable. The sweat band is some type of cloth rather than faux leather. I totally forget I’m wearing it. And that’s a key to wearing a hat. If you go around always conscious of this thing on your head, then the hat is wearing you.

I broke out in a cold sweat

My oncologist prescribed pilocarpine to promote saliva production. It seems to be working. He also prescribed prednisone for some residual swelling in my throat. It also seems to be working. Yay for modern chemistry.

Last night, after being in bed about a half hour, I noticed I was sweaty. Very sweaty. But I didn’t feel overheated. I traded my down quilt for a lighter blanket. That had me feeling a little chilly (it was about 45°F/7°C) in the van) but was still sweating. I traded my damp t-shirt for a dry one. Once in a while a tingling wave would wash across my torso.

Were sweating and tingles side effects of the meds? Today I looked it up. Neither was mentioned.

Was it something I ate?

Was it a combination of the drugs and food?

Was I trying to express my adoration for a woman?

Anyway, the weirdness eventually passed (replaced by my normal weirdness) and I slept well, woke up refreshed.

Saturday, December 14, 2019

Finding what I didn’t know was lost

I don’t carry much in my wallet. Driver license, debit card, insurance cards, senior discount pass for national parks, and cash. Today I was fishing one of the insurance cards from its compartment when, surprise, a hundred dollar bill.

I must have stashed it there sometime in the past few months since acquiring the new wallet. But I don’t remember doing it. I don’t even remember getting the Benjamin.

This happened once before when I discovered Ulysses S Grant had been living in my wallet for quite some time.

If this is old age forgetfulness, it’s not the worst kind. As my mind gets worse the dollar amount gets higher. I hope one day to discover a few hundred thousand bucks I forgot I hid under the mattress.

It’s open door weather in these parts

“These parts” being far southeast California

Friday, December 13, 2019

He’s got legs, he knows how to use them

The bum living in the van saves the day

I had ordered a very messy sandwich then discovered all seven of the napkin dispensers were empty. “Yeah,” said the dude behind the counter. “The delivery hasn’t arrived yet. And we’ve used up all the restroom towels, too.”

So I went out to the Rolling Steel Tent and returned with a jumbo roll of Bounty select-a-size paper towels. Strong, absorbent, etc. It’s handy having all your stuff with you wherever you go. “Happy Friday the 13th, everyone.”

Tuesday, December 10, 2019

So, how recovered are my taste buds?

Enough that I could actually enjoy this sausage-bacon-onion-corn-mushroom pizza from Pizza Studio in Blythe CA. No weird tastes, no blandness.

The cook apologized for it being “a little burned,” but I assured him I really do like it charred.

Monday, December 9, 2019

Here’s the news

The PET scan of my head, neck and torso came back clean—except for a tiny spot on one lung that may or may not be something. The doctor says we’ll check it at my next followup in March and see if anything changes.

They took a good look around my throat with an endoscope. The screen was out of my line of sight, but Ceebs got a picture. The docs were pleased with what they saw in there. I was pleased they were pleased.

It looks rather, um, gynecological in there

My epiglottis got a little beat up from the radiation, but since I can swallow properly, with no food or liquids getting into my trachea, there’s no cause for concern.

My vitals were excellent, and the bloodwork results showed only one item slightly outside the preferred ranges. The tests in August had a dozen concerning readings.

So, I’m good to go.

Though saliva production is still low, I can eat and swallow most solid foods, and my tastebuds are about 85% recovered.

I really have been feeling well—well enough to dance around on camera. I would’ve been severely bummed me out if they’d said I might feel fine, but I’m not and needed to go back into treatment.

I’m good. Life is good. I’m lucky.


A friend says he’s no longer able to post comments here. I have commenting turned on and moderation turned off, and I’ve never taken steps to block anyone.

Could some of you try commenting to this? If I get zero comments then I’ll presume there’s a wider problem.

Sunday, December 8, 2019

On the road west

It was time to head back to Los Angeles so the oncologist could give me the word on the PET scan results and do a little poking and peeking.

Though I had posed the Rolling Steel Tent at an abandoned gas station in downtown Desert Center, there was another one west of town I had never stopped at. The oval shape of the former sign makes me believe it was an Exxon/Esso/Standard/American station. The land is for sale, in case you want a place in the desert where you can watch and listen to traffic go by on the Interstate.

Since I had plenty of time, I also stopped to pay my respects to the dinosaurs in Cabazon. It’s sad, probably even angering, that the roadside attraction is now a creationist museum. But at least they’re maintaining the dinos, keeping them from extinction.

Saturday, December 7, 2019

Al in the alley

I stood in a sketchy alley behind a mostly unoccupied strip mall on the edge of a struggling desert town. I held a partially full trash bag. I had rung the buzzer, as the sign instructed, and now I was waiting, as the sign instructed. A security camera looked down at me.

I felt like I should have a code word, a high sign, and the name of my connection. “Stumpy sent me. I’m here with the goods.”

After a minute or two the latch rattled and the door opened. Instead of the armed thug I half expected, it was a pleasant woman who gladly accepted my bag and asked if I wanted a receipt.

“Nah, I’m good.”

The door was for donation drop-offs at the Sheltering Wings thrift store. The bag contained four pairs of jeans, six T-shirts, a flannel shirt, and a down vest. Clothing from before my cancer. Clothing that was now too large and had to make room for its replacement. I had no mattresses or box springs.

Wednesday, December 4, 2019

I almost broke one of my rules

I was at UCLA Health this morning having my first post-cancer-treatment PET scan. I won’t know the results until I meet with the oncologist on Monday. Rather than twiddle my thumbs in the city for four days, I headed back out to the desert.

In dry weather it’s about 3.5 hours to the boondocking area at the south entrance of Joshua Tree National Park. But the rain slowed traffic down. And a stop for a few supplies didn’t help.

Based on a couple of past experiences, one of my rules is to get settled in a campsite before dark. That’s especially important when the ground could be wet and soft and eager to trap vehicles.

The sun was setting on an already-dark day as I passed Indio, about 25 miles from my destination. Should take about 25 minutes, right? However, the grade was choked with slow semis. Not a problem if they all stayed to the right, right? But no. Big rigs insisted on trying to pass trucks going a fraction of a mile per hour slower, only to get held back by another slower truck. Or two.

Ergh. I watched the sky. I watched for my exit. I gave the finger to a couple of truckers.

But I made it a few minutes before darkness. There was a vacant spot just off the pavement. No puddles, no ruts, no sweat. And it’s below the cloud ceiling. And not actually raining. Yet.

Monday, December 2, 2019

Lubricate the pavement

An abandoned gas station in Desert Center CA looked like a good arty photo op. The still-wet fluid spill on the pavement was someone else’s disaster, not mine. The Rolling Steel Tent is behaving itself. Another quick photo and I was on my way.

Sunday, December 1, 2019

Another benefit of the abnormal life

Thanksgiving is a huge travel period with everyone and their pets going over the river and through the woods to Grandmother’s house. And just about every year—like this one—there’s a blizzard somewhere messing up air and ground travel. Even when the weather is dry there are still all those people out there trying to get somewhere else. And back.

Being a single, childless, socially inept guy, I don’t go anywhere during the holidays. That means far less travel stress. (And family stress.)

I was reminded of that yesterday when I saw westbound traffic on I-10 backed up more than a mile at the California agricultural inspection station, long lines for cheaper gas in Arizona and, I imagine, long lines at restrooms. Mmmm, no thanks. I can wait until after the weekend to resupply.