Friday, February 25, 2022

Lessons remembered

My design schooling and career in advertising taught me about our psychological reactions to color, shape, branding, pricing and a bunch of other things that influence our purchasing habits. Despite that, I’m just as susceptible to manipulation as anyone. I prefer products in attractive packaging. I’m wary of lesser brands. Even though I know better.

So, the other day I was shopping in a discount grocery that specializes in overstock items, dented cans, crushed packages, and such. There on the shelf, sort of alone, was a can of chili. I hadn’t been looking for chili. To me, most of it tastes like mud with a metallic aftertaste. But this can had three things going for it. It didn’t have beans, it had a handy pull tab top, and it was only 75¢. Hmmm, I had some leftover sausage I could add to it. But it was a brand I’d never heard of. And the label wasn’t very appealing, except for the price sticker. What the heck. If I wanted stylish I wouldn’t be shopping here. And I’m not obliged to eat it all if I don’t like it.

And… it was pretty good. Some actual flavor and no metallic aftertaste. Adding the sausage made it even better. And the part of my brain that knew better said, “See.” 

Sunday, February 20, 2022

We might have a solution

Knowing of my cold feet plight and my quest for a solution, Lou sent me a pair of socks. Not just ordinary socks. Not old fashioned wool socks. No no. These are rocket science super socks! Aerospace fabric! Thermal looping technology! Soft-touch aluminized threads that reflect and distribute natural radiant heat! And thick, plush, never-want-to-take-them-off synth-fleece lining! So claims the maker, 35° Below, in a video that seems to have been made by the Veg-A-Matic, Pocket Fisherman folks.

The copper colored flecks are the aluminized threads. They're long and hanging loose inside, I guess to draw heat from your skin.

What the heck, don’t look a gift sock in the, uh, toes. I gave them a try. The weather had warmed some since I tried the heat pad and hot water bottle, so the test wasn’t as rigorous. Certainly not down to -35 degrees. Nonetheless, I award the socks the RST Seal of Approval.

They are comfy, despite the aluminized plastic threads. And unlike other serious socks I have, the tops aren’t too tight on my legs. I can wear them without being annoyingly conscious I have socks on. 

With the heat pad and hot water bottle I needed to keep my feet near the heat source. But since the socks follow my feet I can move freely in bed.

The 35° Below video features people happily frolicking in the snow and slush. They are obviously insane. But if one were to wear these outside, they’d need shoes a couple of sizes larger. These socks are thick. Try to squeeze all that thermal looping and cozy fleece into your regular sized mukluks and you’ll probably cut off circulation in your lower extremities. Good thing I’m smart enough to stay holed up in freezing weather.

But, yeah, thank you Lou for thinking of my feet. They’re happy now.

UPDATE: Lou got some of these for himself, so now we’re sock twins.

Thursday, February 17, 2022

Gimme power!

My job as editor of the Cheap RV Living site came with a new laptop. A 13-inch MacBook Pro. Boy howdy! But there’s a small problem. My old 400-Watt DC-to-AC inverter isn’t powerful enough to charge it. It took me a few days to figure that out.

I’ve ordered a 1,000-Watt inverter but, things being the way they are, it’ll be a couple of weeks before it arrives. In the meantime, I’ll have to sneak good old AC power where I can. Today that was in the truckers’ waiting room at a Flying J. The cartoon show on the TV was annoying but the chairs were comfortable.

Tuesday, February 15, 2022


The wind in these parts usually blows out of the north. And it was blowing hard today. When I pulled into my camp this afternoon I aimed the Rolling Steel Tent northward to minimize the buffeting.

After I had been settled in the van for a while, I realized the wind was coming from the west. That’s odd. So I repositioned.

Now, a few hours later, after dinner, shoes off, reclined into reading position, the wind has decided to mess with my peaceful evening by returning to its usual northerly direction.

So on with the shoes, out into the dust and sand laden air to move the van again.

I suspect the wind will move again sometime during the night.

Saturday, February 12, 2022

Forget the biscuits

Ladies and gentlemen, I present the guacaritto. Avocado, veg “bacon” bits, salt, pepper, Tajin and fried onions.

Thursday, February 10, 2022

The desert is just desolate, right?

Yesterday’s hike

From my campsite near Ajo AZ I can see a small mountain/large hill with a large stone pillar separated from the side. It looked like a suitable destination for a hike. And the weather was perfect for it.

The first half was along a dirt road. Not that interesting or demanding, but then I cut into open desert and picked my way through cacti and creosote, in and out of washes, sometimes following animal trails, sometimes not, until I reached the base of the mountain.

Progress from there required a little scrambling over scree and boulders. Scrambling back down is always trickier, but I would deal with that later.

Once I got to the pillar I saw a faint trail leading along the face of the mountain to a more gradual, less bouldery descent. Ah, that’s better than the way I had come. The route also revealed a small arch (or hole) behind the pillar.

After working my way off the slope and back through the cacti and creosote it was an easy but boring walk back along the road. I was grateful, though, that ATVs weren’t ripping around the place. At that time. My only human encounter was with a bicyclist wanting to know if I was Scott or Jeff or if I knew where they were camped. I did not.

According to the distance measuring feature of Google Maps, my little trek was about 3.7 miles. Maybe four if I counted all the zigging and zagging as I bushwhacked (chollawhacked, ocotillowhacked, saguarowhacked, organpipewhacked?) my way across open terrain. Nice day.

Monday, February 7, 2022

Avoiding the draft

 I’ve suspected for a while that I have a draft at the rear doors. I’ve been meaning to do something about it besides wearing a wool cap to bed. Today, on my way to Ajo, I stopped at a Lowe’s and got some weatherstripping. 

In case that doesn’t solve the problem, I also got some spray foam. I suspect the cellulose insulation I stuffed in the doors eight years ago has settled. Air might be infiltrating via the recessed license plate or the door handle.

We shall see. And feel.

Saturday, February 5, 2022

Workin’ the night shift

I think I’ve written before about how when we’re separated from all the outside forces imposing schedules on us, we humans tend to go into a pattern of a few hours sleep, a period of wakefulness, then a few more hours of sleep. Some cultures embrace this and use the wakeful period to read, socialize, do simple chores and what not.

Well, in a way, my new responsibilities running the Cheap RV Living site have imposed that schedule upon me. You see, I want to update the site, add articles, or shuffle things on the home page when no one is trying to use the site. That means the middle of the night— when the only traffic is Russian and Chinese spammers sending “comments.”

So, whereas I used to wake in the middle of the night to pee, then go right back to sleep (usually), now I’m fiddling with the site for a while. That gets my brain functioning to a higher degree. Then it doesn’t want to shut down and sleep. So I spend another hour or so thinking about site management or other stuff. I eventually nod off and the next thing I know it’s 8:30.

Now my naps have become very necessary.

Friday, February 4, 2022

The day is saved

I thought I was losing my mind. I knew I had just unlocked the side door of the Rolling Steel Tent, yet it was still locked. 

I unlocked it again, there was the clunk of the latch, but it remained locked. 

Turn the key counterclockwise to open. Clunk. Still locked. 

With the next attempt, I heard the unlocking clunk, but also a quieter clunk when turned the key to the neutral position to remove the key. Did it just relock?

So on the next try I left the key turned counterclockwise and, the door opened. 

I watched the inside lock lever as I turned the key back and forth. Yup, the latch kept clicking to locked position when I tried to remove the key. So I tried holding the lever as I turned the key. I could remove the key, but as soon as I let go the latch flipped to the locked position. Ergh.

I worked the key and lever through several cycles to see if things would loosen up and act normally. No.

Okay, before I order up a new locking mechanism and tear the door apart to replace it, let's try good old WD-40.

I sprayed it in the lock, in the latch, in the lever and any hole or crack in the general area of the lock. And... it worked. All hail WD-40!

Wednesday, February 2, 2022

If this van‘s a-rockin’

I knew the strong winds were coming. I knew I had the Rolling Steel Tent positioned crosswise to the likely direction of the wind. And I also knew from experience it would be better to point the van’s nose into the wind to minimize jostling all night long.

“I’ll do it later,” I told myself. “After I finish with this other stuff I’m doing.” Then, of course, I forgot about it until I was already in bed. 

That’s when I started rationalizing. “Eh, the buffeting isn’t so bad. Even if it gets worse, I’ve ridden it out before. I’ll eventually get used to it, or fatigue will conquer annoyance.” Because getting out of a warm bed, putting on pants and shoes, moving things out of the driver seat, and going outside to bring in the step (so I don’t run over it for the sixth time) is far more unpleasant and inconvenient than being shaken in my sleep.