Thursday, December 31, 2020

One size fits two

I use this stabilizer ring when I connect good old green propane bottles to my dual-fuel stove. As I reported a while back, I also have a couple of propane bottles intended for use with blowtorches. They’re taller and narrower, so more prone to tipping over, right? Hmmmm…

The stabilizer was already out and in position because the green bottle had just run out. I connected the blue bottle and plopped it into the stabilizer because it was where there was room. 

Surprise, surprise. It fit nice and snugly. Because there was an inner ring the correct size. Some industrial designer knew there would be someone using different sized bottles. Maybe he had a vision. “I see an old fart in a van in the desert, about to cook breakfast…”

Monday, December 28, 2020

Deconstructed breakfast burrito

I exercised amazing restraint and ate only half of the carne asada burrito I got yesterday. Okay, what to do with the remaining half? Ordinarily, I’d treat it like leftover pizza and just eat it the next day, cold. Not bad, but I could do better.

First, I disassembled the burrito, cut the tortilla into strips and deep fried them.

Then I reheated the meat, adding a little Salsa Huichol for extra kick.

Next, I fried up a couple of eggs in clarified butter.

Finally, I assembled my repurposed creation and topped it with the last of the salsa verde that came with the burrito. Much better than cold, even with extra pans and dishes to wash.

Sunday, December 27, 2020

Down for the count

I’m a big believer in the siesta. Since retirement I’ve become almost religious about it. Mmmm, yes-s-s-s-s-z-z-z-z-z-z-z-z…

However, I hadn’t napped the past few days. Maybe it was because I didn’t want to miss any of the limited daylight. 

Then, this afternoon, after doing laundry, getting water and butane and a carne asada burrito from Diego’s, after doing some house cleaning and rearranging in the Rolling Steel Tent, I laid back to read and… whoosh, I was deeply, deeply out. For two hours. I guess I was making up for missed naps.

Hit me with your best shot

Just like our human joints get stiff with age, so do some of the Rolling Steel Tent’s parts.

The sliding door has latches at both ends. The rearward one has started sticking, despite several treatments with cleaners and lubricants. But a smack on the door does the trick.

There’s a vendor in Quartzsite who makes custom vinyl stickers. So, because I’m a weird guy, I had him make this:

Bit o' desert

Tuesday, December 22, 2020

Friday, December 18, 2020

Fortunate one

There’s no question I’ve been lucky in many ways. All my life. I didn’t realize it when I was young (do we really realize anything when we’re kids?) but now I know I’m lucky.

Lately I’ve been thinking about how fortunate I am to be 68 years old with a body that functions fairly well. Yeah, there was the throat cancer, and infectious hepatitis in my twenties, but other than that I’ve been okay. Cross my fingers and knock on wood.

So far I’ve been spared the medical problems common to people my age. My heart, lungs and nervous system are fine. My back and joints are good. I have no chronic illnesses. I haven’t even had appendicitis or a broken bone. Amazing.

There were years I was terribly out of shape, but that was because of my habits, not a malfunctioning body. Now it looks like by systems have weathered the abuse much better than I had any right to expect. Thank you, genes.

My heart goes out to those who struggle, who suffer. That’ll be me someday.

Wednesday, December 16, 2020

It weighs heavily upon me

After using my weighted blanket a few nights, I’ve decided I like it. A lot. I tried using it several ways and have settled on folding it double and covering only my torso. Then the other bedding goes on top, as usual.

I wake up fewer times during the night, and although it’s too soon to tell if there’s a pattern, my dreams have been more pleasant.

What the weighted blanket doesn’t do, though, is make me warmer. Ceramic beads aren’t good insulators. I hope this means I’ll be able to use the blanket in warm weather.

Mind games

When I woke up last night to pee it was 43°F/6°C in the Rolling Steel Tent. By the time I finished my chore the bedding had lost all its warmth. 


So I tried a mental trick. I imagined it was summer and the bed was air conditioned. 


It’s good I’m so easy to fool.

Friday, December 11, 2020

Weightlifting while sleeping

When I first heard about weighted blankets I thought, “Hell yeah! I love sleeping under piles of bedding.” But I was uncertain. Some things sound too good to be true. What if I spent the money on a blanket but didn’t actually enjoy it? So I continued on with the bedding I had.

Then the other day I happened to see weighted blankets in Walmart at a price I was willing to risk. But before committing to it I asked my social media friends and family if they had any experience with weighted blankets. Several did, and their reviews were positive. I took the leap.

Yeah, I like it. Not exactly what I imagined, but very nice. I tend to move around in bed a lot before finally falling asleep, and that has become a workout with the weighted blanket. Yet building muscles isn’t listed as a benefit. Go to sleep flabby, wake up toned!

Thursday, December 10, 2020

My moment of non-fame

I was an extra in the Nomadland movie. The Rolling Steel Tent was a prop. It got paid more. 

There was also a scene where several of us improvised lines. I was curious to know whether that bit made the final cut. I finally saw the movie and, alas, no stardom for me.

However, both the van and I can claim to have shared the screen with Frances McDormand. Or did she share it with us?

The Rolling Steel Tent with directional cell antenna erected

Me in my plaid jacket and black hat

It's official

Sunday, December 6, 2020

Man cannot live by worm jerky alone

Back in July, when I was in central Montana, I wrote about Mexican roasted and seasoned grasshoppers called chapulines. Yum. So when I saw Newport Jerky Company also offered a mix of grasshoppers and crickets I added them to my order.

Alas, these are seasoned only with a little salt, so they aren’t as tasty as chapulines. They’re still nice, though. Sort of like slightly wilted cheese puffs—without the cheese—and a little more chewy at the end. They’d be good sprinkled on a salad. Mmmmmm, orthoptera croutons.

Friday, December 4, 2020

No. Yes. No.

 As I’ve written before, part of me is ready to settle into my usual wintering area and part of me doesn’t want to do that yet. 

So I thought about making another visit to Joshua Tree, the Mojave Preserve and Death Valley. Yeah, that sounded good. I checked the forecast. Nights in the upper 30s, days only in the low 60s. Eh, no. I wouldn’t be a happy camper.

But I couldn’t shake the idea. Today I checked the forecast again. Oh, highs in the 70s, lows in the 40s. That’s actually nice. I could head out after the weekend.

This evening I looked at the LA Times. There’s a new stay-at-home order and travel restrictions in California. Rats.

Stop traveling, the governor says.

With the “regional stay-at-home” order issued Thursday and likely to be triggered in coming days, Gov. Gavin Newsom is imploring Californians to stay home for at least the next three weeks and cinching already tight restrictions in areas where the COVID-19 pandemic has hospitals under the heaviest pressure.

Outlining the new restrictions, which include new capacity limits for retailers and other changes, state officials said hotels and other lodgings will be allowed “to open for critical infrastructure support only.” But in the immediate aftermath of the governor’s announcement Thursday afternoon, details of the new travel restrictions remained unclear.

…Dr. Mark Ghaly, the state’s secretary of Health and Human Services, said the state is, in effect, telling, not asking, Californians to stop all nonessential travel. That includes canceling holiday travel plans, he added.

However, he and Newsom also said that parks and beaches would remain open and that Californians could boost their mental health by hiking, running, fishing, practicing yoga, skiing, snowboarding and otherwise savoring outdoor activities.

…In a widely circulated letter to industry professionals, Visit California President and Chief Executive Caroline Beteta wrote that in regions where the order takes effect, “hotels can remain open, although the order announced today bans non-essential travel statewide.”

…California State Parks did not respond to questions about how the governor’s order would affect its campgrounds.

…Other details of the state’s plan for enforcing the tighter limits remained unclear Thursday afternoon.

…Officials have said the status of the state’s nine national parks depends on consultation with county health officials and could take several days to sort out.

On Nov. 13, the state Public Health Department issued an advisory urging that anyone entering California on a nonessential trip — whether they are outsiders arriving or Californians returning from elsewhere — “should practice self-quarantine for 14 days after arrival.” During quarantine, that advisory said, “these persons should limit their interactions to their immediate household.”

I don’t know if this means I’ll have to leave my preferred boondocking area in far southeast California and stick to Arizona until who knows when.

Wednesday, December 2, 2020

Know thyself

A homesteading friend was outfitting a one-room cabin. She imagined her small abode being heated by a wood stove and even found a previously owned one. Three hundred pounds of cast iron and steel. But the cabin’s interior walls needed to be finished before the stove could be installed.

Meanwhile, she observed her wood-stove-using neighbor and started rethinking her heating plans. “A wood stove is a lot of work. She’s out there every day splitting wood! I realized I’m not that type of person. You really need to be honest about yourself when you’re making decisions like that.”

So, if you’re on the cusp of diving into the nomadic life, you might pause and reflect. Has the glamorous allure of #vanlife obscured some of the realities? Are you really that type of person?

What type of person is that? (If you have to ask, then maybe you’re not.) Here’s an excerpt from a November 2016 post:

...I've assembled a list of attributes that, from my experience, are shared by happy, successful nomads. I think a lot of the attributes also apply to the building-dwelling life. (No doubt there are more things that could be on my list. Feel free to add your own.) Rate yourself on a no–somewhat–yes scale. Obviously, more yeses are better.

I have an independent nature 

I'm self-sufficient 

I'm self-directed and self-motivated 

I always have a back-up plan 

I'm not tied to a location 

I'm not tied to a culture 

I'm not tied to the past 

I look forward to new experiences 

I can entertain myself 

I'm curious 

I'm alert 

I like solving problems and have a good track record at it 

I'm good at finding answers 

I have a good bullshit detector 

I adapt easily to changing situations 

I'm usually calm 

I can distinguish between the essential and inconsequential 

I'm comfortable with tools 

I'm not afraid of getting dirty 

I know generally how vehicles and gizmos work 

I can change a flat tire 

I know what to do in emergencies 

I enjoy camping 

I have an adequate sense of direction 

I like myself

If you didn't score many yeses or somewhats, you might want to think more deeply about this whole nomad thing. You might do some work on yourself. Is your temperament changeable? Your personality? Some psychology professionals say yes. Some of the skills on the list can be learned. Knowledge can be gained.

My intent isn't to talk a lot of people out of their nomad plans. It's to prepare them. I try not to say, "Hey gang! Come be a full time nomad! It's perfect for everyone!" Because it isn't. I don't want to see frustrated, anxious, stumbling, unhappy campers. I don't want anyone to regret their decision. I don't want anyone to crash and burn. I want them to have the life that works great for them. For you. 

Tuesday, December 1, 2020

Because why not?

In one town I lived in, it was common on rainy days (or when people forgot to turn off their sprinklers) for the worm population to avoid drowning by crawling out of lawns and gardens and onto the nearest pavement. I guess there weren’t enough hungry birds to gobble up all the worms, so hundreds, maybe thousands, of the crawlers covered the sidewalks. If you wanted to walk anywhere during those times you either had to find ways around the worms or just step on them. 

I had a girlfriend in those days who would refuse to go out when there were worms on the sidewalks. It wasn’t that she worried about squashing them. Worms just gave her the creeps. Simply saying worms made her skin crawl, which I guess is appropriate since worms are essentially crawling skin.

Some of the worms would fail to make their way back underground before the sun came out and turned them into jerky. I’m fairly certain that’s not how my latest food experiment was made.

Earthworm jerky from the Newport Jerky Company is grilled earthworms marinated in sugar, lime powder, smoked paprika, garlic powder, onion powder, red chili, vinegar, salt and MSG. What’s not to love? You could probably marinate a skunk’s scent gland in that mixture and it would be yummy.

I was disappointed by the small amount of jerked worms in the package, but not by their taste. Very nice. I imagine the company’s other jerky products (which include alligator, octopus and shark) taste pretty much the same. Jerky is jerky. Some varieties just come with mental baggage. 

As for texture, or what the food industry calls mouth feel, worm jerky starts out something like a slip of marinated and dried paper but becomes surprisingly chewy.

For the sake of the planet, we protein craving carnivores need to find alternatives to beef, pork, chicken and fish. (Insert vegan proselytizing here.) Worms—at least in jerky form—are ridiculously expensive for anything but some oooh-look-I’m-eating-worms entertainment value. (Hundreds of dollars per pound. Plus shipping. And you thought waygu beef was spendy.) But scaled up production would bring prices way down. Better yet, you can have a your own vermiculture operation in just a box of dirt. With maybe a little sidewalk in there for the times you overwater.