Saturday, February 27, 2021

Adventures in Adventure Food: Peak Refuel Sweet Pork & Rice

The package does not lie. In fact, it’s a warning. This stuff is sweet. Sweeter than most barbecue sauce. Candied Pork & Rice would be a more accurate name. Candied Pork & Rice with Really Hard Black Beans Unless You Soak It Longer Than the Specified 10 Minutes would be the most accurate. But I ate it all. I probably wouldn’t buy it again. Unless my sweet tooth overruled me.

Thursday, February 25, 2021

Whiney the Poo and the Blustery Day

Perfect, gorgeous weather yesterday. 

Until sunset. 

Then howling, moaning, blow-you-on-your-ass wind started. And kept up all night. And continues this morning. 

I didn’t sleep well. (Did I sleep at all?) 

Even though the Rolling Steel Tent was pointed pretty much into the wind (the direction kept shifting) the van bounced, swayed and shook me awake.

It’s not horrible being cooped up in the van. Just boring. But I need to hit the highway later. The stretch of I-10 through Indio and Palm Springs and over San Gorgonio Pass is notoriously windy under “normal” conditions. That’s why they put hundreds of wind generators there. It’ll me, um, challenging today.

Wednesday, February 24, 2021

Poking around Joshua Tree again

For some reason, this area is called Split Rock Trail

Taking a break. Work gloves are perfect protection from the rough rocks.

Tuesday, February 23, 2021

Beginning the trek

I have an appointment Friday afternoon at UCLA Health for a followup PET scan. Rather than drive from the eastern edge of California to the western edge all in one day (which I have done several times before), I decided to break it up into shorter hops. 

So I left my campsite along Ogilby Road this morning, drove over the dunes at Glamis, got a shower at the Flying J in Brawley, took Highway 111 along the Salton Sea, turned up Box Canyon at Mecca, and now I’m camped at the south entrance of Joshua Tree National Park. I’ll spend Wednesday in the park then Thursday, sometime between morning and evening commute traffic, I’ll make the slog to LA. 

It’s not the straightest route, but it's where the paved roads go, And it’s more scenic and relaxed than I-10 from Blythe.

I got a hotel room within walking distance of the medical center. The tricky part was finding one that didn’t have low-clearance underground parking. The Rolling Steel Tent needs its headroom. Don’t wanna go scraping the solar panel off the roof.

Adventures in Adventure Food: Mountain House Spicy Southwest Style Skillet

It’s hard to go wrong with shredded potatoes, corn, black beans, beef and green chiles. The question was how spicy it would actually be. By whose standards?

Well, by my standards (which are the only ones that count, since I’m the one doing the eating), it was good and spicy, not formulated for those who believe blandness is a virtue. And there was flavor, not just heat. At no time was I conscious of it being rehydrated freeze-dried food. Two thumbs up.

However, this stuff could leave you craving copious amounts of beverage (or bread, or sugar) to cleanse your mouth. But is that a bad thing?

Monday, February 22, 2021

Upcoming: Adventures in Adventure Food

On impulse, I ducked into a sporting goods store with the idea of checking out their day packs. I have one, but it’s a little large. The selection was small, unless I wanted camo. The store caters more to hunters and anglers than to hikers. But I saw a stuff sack that would be good for my weighted blanket.

The next aisle over I discovered the freeze-dried meals. I had never tried any. So, sure, why not? I’ll be reporting my impressions over the next few days. It won’t be a scientifically sound apples to apples (or chili mac to chili mac) comparison. I wanted variety. That means the question will be whether they’re decent versions of what they claim to be. I love pad thai, so that will be the biggest taste challenge. The likelihood of disappointment is high.

Sunday, February 21, 2021

Everything happens for a reason

I’ve been making my YouTube videos primarily for my own satisfaction. I knew I was never going to have a big audience or make any money at it because I don’t do things the YouTube way. Nonetheless, I have a couple hundred followers.

Then, the past two weeks, I’ve gained a new subscriber each day. Kind of lame by YouTube standards but exceptional for me. 

So I checked to see which videos were getting the most new traffic. Ah-ha. There was my answer. The two most popular videos are of Jessica Bruder, author of Nomadland, and Swankie, who became a supporting actor in the movie inspired by the book. Looks like Hollywood buzz has rubbed off on me. 

UPDATE: 3 March — The number of subscribers has doubled since the original post. The views of Swankie's video have quadrupled.

Saturday, February 20, 2021

Blow hard

A calm day turned into a very windy evening. As I repositioned the Rolling Steel Tent to face into the wind to minimize rocking, I realized the job would be easier and more precise if I had a wind sock mounted to the van’s nose. Or maybe a hood ornament weather vane.

Meanwhile, in a respectable store

I love raspberries. Would I love the freeze-dried raspberries I stumbled upon at Target? Only one way to find out.

Very good, but not as great as fresh raspberries, or frozen raspberries mixed into high-butterfat vanilla bean ice cream. Almost nothing is better than that.

Thursday, February 18, 2021

See above

I decided it was time for a new photo, which was taken at the Alvord Desert in southeast Oregon, and a new tagline, which will eventually be available as some merch.

Eating respectably

Back when I made Respectable Money at a Respectable Job, lived in a Respectable Neighborhood, drove a Respectable Car and owned all that other Respectable Stuff, I also shopped only at Respectable Stores. 

The prices were higher at the Respectable Stores, but so was my self-esteem. “Look at me, I can buy the good stuff at the good places and not even look at the prices, because I make Respectable Money.” 

I avoided the less new, less shiny, less well-stocked stores because I didn’t want to feel poor. And because I was a bit of a snob.

Now I am poor. Not as poor as some, not Federal Poverty Level poor, but my Social Security benefit is a fraction of my former Respectable Income. So I’ve done the Respectable Thing and adjusted my shopping preferences. (My past posts about cheap foods are evidence of that.) 

Respectable Stores have become my last choice instead of my first. I check dollar stores and outlets first. Sometimes I’m disappointed, but often I’m surprised and delighted. Take yesterday, for example.

Green Trees Grocery Outlet has two stores in Yuma. After visiting the downtown location I tried the one on the east side of town for comparison, and because it was on my way. Here’s a tour.

The selection of goods varies greatly, depending on what they could get a deal on. But I can usually find at least a couple of things I want. 

Yesterday’s big score was a pork tenderloin. Just a dollar. A dollar! And I grabbed some burritos, too. Since these purchases were frozen solid, they do double duty as ice, minimizing the electricity demands of my refrigerator.

Once the tenderloin thaws I'll cut it into slices—or as the Respectable Restaurants call them, medallions. I can get five or six meals out of a buck’s worth of meat.

You’re supposed to microwave the burritos. Instead, I do sort of a chimichanga number on them, slowly heating them in a pan, like our ancient pre-microwave ancestors would’ve done.

Wednesday, February 17, 2021

Let there be light

I was wandering through the 99¢ Only Store when this light caught my attention. Two bucks ninety-nine, choice of several colors, a loop to hang it if you want, takes three AA batteries (not included), simple push button operation, and has three levels of brightness. Yeah, why not?

Low, medium and high

It’s not bright enough for reading, but it’s more than bright enough to keep from fumbling around in the dark.

Tiny house on a big street

I saw this structure rolling down 4th Avenue in Yuma this morning. It’s neither your typical travel trailer nor typical tiny house. 

Most tiny house builders tend toward variations on the Victorian cottage. A few go for the Mid-century Modern look. This one is sort of a blend of the two. A New England salt box with a Modernist inverted roof.

Thanks to the URL painted on the rear, I learned Little Blue on the Move is owned by Katie and Paul.

Over 5 years ago Paul and I had to re-imagine our future when we realized building a family was not in the cards for us. We realized what was most important to us was to get to travel, enjoy life on our own terms and be debt free. We decided to go tiny! Over the period of 5 years we talked over plans and designs, bought a trailer and built our dream. We moved into our home on June 1st. Our goal is to travel the U.S. for a year. We hope that you enjoy sharing our journey with us.

I also learned the tiny house is for sale. They want something smaller. Would you like to move up to something bigger? 

Tuesday, February 16, 2021

True grittiness

My counter is only large enough to prepare a meal’s ingredients, so I cook on the floor. I set the butane/propane stove atop its case to bring it a little closer. This arrangement works fine, except the hard plastic stove feet like to slip on the hard plastic case. No accidents so far, but I knew it was just a matter of time before chili ended up on the rug and the rug ended up in a dumpster.

But I had an idea.

I bought a sheet of 80 grit sandpaper ($1.00) from a gem and mineral tools vendor in Quartzsite. Then I retrieved the spray adhesive from a bin under my bed, trimmed the sandpaper to size, sprayed the adhesive and, presto! A non-slip surface on the case. 

Not only does the sandpaper provide grippiness, it’s also heat resistant, so I’m less likely to melt the case. 

I’m so proud of myself. Until some future screwup.

Sunday, February 14, 2021

Desert wildlife

At first glance it looked like the shuttle dweller down the way was tripping on some kind of psychoactive medication or rehearsing for his grant application with the Ministry of Silly Walks.

But since I used to live in San Francisco and worked near Chinatown, I recognized he was doing tai chi. (Not to be confused with chai tea.)

Saturday, February 13, 2021

Adventures in dollar store foods: jerk chicken pasties

Is that krust golden enough for ya?

I rarely see Jamaican packaged foods in this part of the country. Or anywhere else, actually. So imagine my surprise, delight and skepticism when I saw these among the Dollar Tree frozen foods, way down at the very bottom. I haven’t had jerk chicken since a roadside stand in Negril about twenty years ago. It was delicious. Could I say the same for this offering from Golden Krust (more about this company)? What the hell, it’s only a buck.

You’re supposed to nuke these. I don’t have a microwave, so I improvised. Flame set to almost off, covered with a pot lid (not to be confused with a lid of pot, though that would’ve made it extra Jamaican). The “golden” crust got scorched, but a little carbon now and then is good for you. It filters out toxins, or something.

I’ll take their word that’s chicken

And the taste? Yeah, pretty good. Not as wonderful as my memory of that chicken in Jamaica, but certainly a dollar’s worth of flavor. And way better than Hot Pockets.

Thursday, February 11, 2021

Where oh where?

First order of business today was picking up eyeglasses in Los Algodones. 

Second order of business was……… Go back to my camp along Ogilby Road? Eh, I could, but there are other choices.

Go to Quartzsite and await the arrival of a package next week? Mmmmaybe. But that’s longer than I’d want to be there.

What about going east? Ajo? Buenos Aires NWR? Ironwood Forest? Yeah, but I’d need to come back to Quartzsite for that package.

Maybe Shea Road near Parker? Could be.

What about the BLM land south of Lake Havasu City? It’s a thought.

So I decided to head to Quartzsite and see how I felt once I got there.

I felt like continuing on.

At Parker I made a quick stop at Walmart, and continued on.

Man, there sure are a lot of people at The Steps.

So here I am, near Lake Havasu City, camped in a serviceable-but-not-fantastic spot, thinking about going to Oatman tomorrow. Or not. 

There’s something I could get at Lowe’s or Home Depot to make a small modification to the Rolling Steel Tent. Or I could do it after Oatman. Or not at all.

There are some things I should be writing instead of spending my time driving. My current location isn’t conducive to that. Where would be? Maybe I’ll know in the morning.

Wednesday, February 10, 2021

Winter afternoon routine

1. Reposition the Rolling Steel Tent so the tilted solar panel faces west

2. Replenish beverages, if necessary, so the fridge has time to cool them before sunset, thus avoiding overtaxing the batteries

3. Charge up the laptop and hotspot so they have enough power to last until I call it a day around, oh, midnight.

Sometimes I forget to do these things, like when I get lost in an afternoon nap (see previous post) and don’t wake up until evening. Oops.

Conflict of interest

During winter I want to experience as much of the lessened daylight as possible. Up with the sun, and all that. The weather the past few days has been absolutely perfect, making the daylight even better.

However, this weather is also perfect for afternoon naps. Doors and windows open. Clean, dry air, light breeze, and… Mmmmm, I’ll just lie back and soak some of it in. 

Down down down I go into deep, delicious, decadent sleep. Yesssssssssssss… What a wonderful drug.

And, bing, a couple of hours of precious daylight is gone. Oh well. It’s better than missing daylight because I’m stuck inside at some odious job. 

Monday, February 8, 2021

Random fan

I was leaving the laundromat as another vandwelling boomer guy entered. “Hey,” he said, “I like your videos.”

I hadn’t been expecting him (or anyone else) to talk to me, so I intelligently, suavely replied, “Huh?”

“We’ve never met, but I watch your short YouTube videos. I enjoy them.”

Now that I knew he was talking to me, and that he wasn't someone I was supposed to recognize, I dialed up my social graces to eleven and answered, “Uh, oh... thanks.”

It wasn’t until I was down the street that I started wondering how he knew who I was. Or had he thought I was someone else? Oh well, a little break in the routine.

Friday, February 5, 2021

Coming or going?

I stopped by Bombay Beach on my way back from Joshua Tree to see what art had been added or subtracted. This water slide-ish thing and the concrete/steel/razor wire star weren’t there the last time. And I don’t know whether they were in the process of being erected or demolished. Maybe that is the point.

Another adventure with salmon

Today’s new-to-me food is from a large supermarket. And it costs about six times as much as the dollar store salmon filet I had Sunday. But, hey, it’s for the advancement of gustatory research and all that.

I had heard of salmon jerky but it never seemed appetizing enough to try. I knew dried fish had been a staple for much of human existence, but there must have been a reason it became less popular once other options became available. (Hurray for refrigeration!) I imagine Epic Provisions had done some market research and learned salmon jerky wasn’t as tempting as salmon bites. Hey, it tempted me.

I opened the package and, well, it smelled like fish. In a good way. And the first taste was sort of… neutral. It wasn’t offensive but it wasn’t delicious. As I chewed (it requires some serious chewing, like most jerky) the flavor moved up a little on the positive end of the scale. Okay. I tried another piece. And another. I had soon eaten half the package. Whoa, I guess I liked the stuff. Or I was hungrier than I thought.

Thursday, February 4, 2021


These leaves weren’t there the other day

I know I grumble about rain. I know it’s a good thing. Last week’s wet weather allowed the ocotillos to leaf out and start to bloom. 

So, yes, more rain please. My inconvenience is nothing compared to the suffering of plants and wildlife. 

Spur of the moment decision

I had driven from Yuma to Quartzsite to pick up a package at my mail forwarder. Then I had a shower at the Flying J in Ehrenberg. Afterward, at the roundabout, where I could got east, north or west, I suddenly decided to go to Joshua Tree rather than return to Yuma. Decisions like that are easy when you already have all your stuff with you. A couple of hours later I was climbing around an outcropping, enjoying the perfect weather.

Tuesday, February 2, 2021

Open house

It’s winter. Absolute frozen-to-your-bones winter in some places. But not here. Not today. After a coolish and wet spell that made buying a puffer jacket seem like a good idea, the currents have shifted. The forecast predicts very pleasant mid-to-upper 70s for the next few days in the greater Yuma area. So the doors and windows are open to let in that springlike wonderfulness. I don’t know what the groundhog predicted for the rest of the country, but I would gladly take six more weeks of this.