Sunday, November 29, 2020

Checking in

I haven’t had much to blog about lately. No travels or adventures. And it’s like my brain has decided to power down for the season. At least the deep thoughts and wry observations part of it.

I’m in Quartzite to pick up a package that should arrive at my mail forwarder tomorrow. The contents of that package will be good for a couple of posts.

Being here is also an opportunity to load up on stuff from the overstock/off brand/past-freshness-date stores where almost everything is a dollar. Nutrition bars are ten for a buck. And one place was giving away red potatoes.

Part of the haul

Then it’s back to Yuma where the nights are a little warmer. Although Yuma is a much larger city it feels less crowded than Quartzsite because everyone’s not trying to use the same handful of shops and services. And Yuma is more pleasant to me because it isn’t a monoculture of RVers.

Monday, November 23, 2020

Was that a hike?

A reinactment

Where’s the line between a walk and a hike? They both consist of covering ground by repeatedly putting one foot in front of the other without falling down. 

Is it a matter of where you walk? We don’t say we hike around the block. 

Is it the distance? Would circling the block all day turn it into a hike?

Is it about difficulty? Is a trail up a mountain hike-ier than a trail across flat land? Even if the latter is longer?

Is it about the pace? There’s no ambling, no moseying, no lallygagging in hiking, right? 

Is it the degree of remoteness? Do we need to be out in the boonies before that one-foot-in-front-of-the-other thing can be called a hike?

Is it about the gear you take—or don’t take—with you? If you don’t have special shoes, a pack, water, food, a first aid kit, maps, GPS, and trekking poles, are you simply on a walk or just insufficiently unprepared for a hike?

Maybe it boils down to intent. When I stepped out of the Rolling Steel Tent this afternoon I was just going to wander in the desert a bit. Get some easy exercise. Just, you know, go for a walk. I had covered about three miles by the time I got back. There were some hike-ish aspects to the walk—going in and out of washes, sidestepping minor obstacles, pushing through some vegetation—but mostly I just walked across the gravely alluvial plain. At an energetic, but not cardio-stressing, pace. Since I’ve been living in this particular patch of desert for about a week, I guess you could say I went for a walk around the neighborhood. Or a hike. 

Today’s desert treasures

Saturday, November 21, 2020

Toasty toes

Circulation in my old man feet ain’t what it used to be. So I took a friend’s tip and got these thermal booties for lounging about the Rolling Steel Tent in cold weather. Their happy redness compensates for their bloated Michelin Man shape. The temperatures don’t require them yet, but I had to show them off.

Thursday, November 19, 2020

Alternate fuel

There’s a shortage right now of those green 1-pound propane bottles. I’m guessing it’s a combination of it being high-demand season in the region and a supply chain messed up by the pandemic. I had no luck finding them at three Walmarts, a Lowe’s and a Home Depot. But then I had an idea. I checked the blowtorch section at Home Depot and, ah-ha!

Propane is propane

They’re 14.1 ounces rather than 16. I bought two of them at $3.97 each, which is in the range of the green bottles—which I haven’t found. Having some at not the ideal price or format is better than none.

Tuesday, November 17, 2020

Joshua Tree rocks (flickering light warning)

Seven changes and one thing that’s the same

— The Park Service at Joshua Tree is out of the newsprint flyer that contained a trail guide. They have a laminated version at the visitor center and recommend you take a photo of it with your phone.

— About half the dryers are out of order at Country Wash, my heretofore preferred laundromat in Blythe. At least they have nice long tables for folding your stuff.

— La Paloma, my favorite Mexican restaurant in Blythe, featuring huge and hugely delicious burritos, is not only closed but also boarded up.

— They’re doing some remodeling of the driver lounge/laundry/showers at the Flying J in Ehrenberg. The showers are still in service and still satisfying.

— Ken’s Market, in Quartzsite, where everything is a dollar, used to have piles of single-serving cherry flavored Craisens, five for a buck. Perfect for oatmeal. There are none now. It’s always a matter of what overstocked, out-of-date stuff they can get a deal on. 

— The other Quartzsite everything-a-dollar grocery still has cans of pork and beef, but there were none of my favorite nutrition bars (six for a dollar) hiding in the heap of various brands and flavors. They were giving away donuts.

— The host at the Hi Jolly dispersed camping area is the same guy as the previous three years.

UPDATE: It turns out La Paloma is still around, just in a new location on Lovekin Blvd, near McDonalds. Yay!

Monday, November 16, 2020

A mobile society

Some people choose to live their entire lives in pretty much the same place. It makes them happy but it would make me crazy (or crazier). 

But a good portion of the population moves to a different state, different region, different culture. Some do it several times. So I’m fascinated by the graphs at this link showing where people tended to relocate. Some folks crossed the country, some just went to a neighboring state. I like to imagine the stories behind it all. College? Jobs? Marriage? Cost of living? Chasing a dream? Witness relocation?

Meanwhile, there are those who wonder how/why people like me are happy drifting around with no home base. I answer, “There are too many other places to be.”

Sunday, November 15, 2020

I continue to social distance

More sun, please

I woke up this morning and realized we’re already halfway through November. Besides it being one of those my-how-time-flies old people moments, it also means we’re closer to the winter solstice. And that means a reversal of this decreasing daylight hours crap. Sure, January and February are no picnic for a winter hater like me, but at least those months offer hope with a little more light each day.

Saturday, November 14, 2020

A return to the Slot

Clockwise instead of counterclockwise

A change of direction. Instead of Yuma to Quartzsite to Joshua Tree to Anza-Borrego, I decided to do it the other way around. Because.

My previous visits to Anza-Borrego have been to the northern part of the park. I thought I’d check out some of the southern part this time. It’s very similar.

I found a campsite at Blair Valley, which seems to be the state’s version of a designated boondocking area. I cleaned up a previous camper’s debris. Evidently they disassembled a folding camp chair, leaving fittings and screws scattered about. I suppose there’s a story behind that.

Wednesday, November 11, 2020

A plan is forming

I’ve stayed put for a week but realized I’m not quite ready to settle in for the winter. So I think Monday I’ll go to Quartzsite to pick up a package that should be arriving at my mail forwarder, then head to Joshua Tree for a couple of days to do some hiking. As always, plans are subject to change. Especially after announcing them.

Tuesday, November 10, 2020

How to conceal a knife

A few years ago my friend Forrest got a special deal on some simple sheath knives and gave one to me. I’ve never been a blade guy, except for kitchen knives, but this one has become my go-to tool for opening packages, removing bottle seals and such. It lives in a particular spot in the Rolling Steel Tent, next to the scissors and hand sanitizer.

Then it wasn’t there. I had used it the day before, but now…? I searched all over, including inside crates stowed under the bed. No luck. Had someone broken into the van, taken only the knife, left everything else undisturbed, and relocked the door? Not likely.

I searched again. Still no luck. Oh well. Maybe it ran off to join the table knife that disappeared a few years ago.

Then, as it often goes, I found it while looking for something else. It was under a couple of washcloths, next to some pill bottles, in a cloth bag of odds and ends, inside one of the mailboxes I use for overhead storage. Why had I ever put it there? Or had the afore mentioned intruder hidden it just to mess with me? No. It was only my old man brain spazzing out. Again.

Monday, November 9, 2020

Why here?

To people in the greener parts of the world, the desert is rather bleak. And where I am now is bleak even by desert standards. A gravely alluvial plain with little vegetation. Modest mountains to the east and north, dunes to the west, the border to the south. The last trickle of the Colorado River contained in concrete channels. A mine in the hills. Active railroad tracks over that way. Occasional Marine aircraft overhead. Not paradise.

But, for reasons I don’t fully understand, I like it here.

Sure, it’s free and legal boondocking where even the rangers ignore the 14-day limit. Access is easy and the ground is level. There’s a strong cell signal. All the resources I need are just a few minutes away. And for the next couple of weeks there’s almost no one around. Are those benefits reason enough to like the place as much as I do? 

Nah, there’s something intangible. I’ll have plenty of time to figure it out.

Sunday, November 8, 2020

Just one of those days

Sleep in a little… Check the Internet… Have a light breakfast… Do some cleaning and straightening up… More reading… Get dressed… Drive into town… Pick up some supplies… Get a carnitas burrito… Return to the desert… Move to a slightly better spot… Put away the supplies… Enjoy the burrito… More reading… Check the weather forecast… Take a nap… Do some research… Watch some videos… Watch the sunset… Have a couple of dark chocolate Oreos… Re-aim the van into the wind… Twiddle my thumbs… Write a blog post.

Friday, November 6, 2020

Seasonal migration

I’m back in my usual winter range, near Yuma AZ, ahead of a cold and wet front sweeping across the West. I’m a little earlier than usual, but that means it’s less crowded. That’ll change come Thanksgiving when the OHV folks swarm over Imperial Dunes and when the snowbird season semi-officially starts.

Sunday, November 1, 2020

Feeding the multitude

The day before yesterday I deposited about a quarter cup of leftover cornbread batter next to a bush.

Yesterday the batter was dry and covered with ants.

Today the batter is gone.

Busy ants. Ants with extra food stored away. Or ants craving some chili to go with the cornbread.