Tuesday, March 29, 2022

Monday, March 28, 2022

I fixed the fan, but...

In the previous episode, the power cord on the fan that I like, that isn’t made anymore, broke. I decided to do the ecologically right thing and repair it rather than replace it. 

To make the repair I’d need a soldering iron, some solder, and some heat shrink. At least I already had some suitable wire left over from installing lights and 12-Volt outlets in the Rolling Steel Tent.

I went to the Home Depot in Pahrump NV, just down the street from where I was camping. They were all out of the $20 soldering irons, so I had to get the $30 one. Add the other items and the total came to $49. Forty-nine dollars to repair a fan I could’ve replaced for $18. Sigh. It sort of makes me hope I’ll have an opportunity to use the soldering iron several times in the future—even though I don’t want anything to need repairs.

I bypassed the plug and wired directly to the internals

It’s back in action

All is good

Just got off the video call with my radiation oncologist, Dr. Chin. Everything on the scan continues to look good. Yay!

Thursday, March 24, 2022

The fan is dead. Long live the fan.

This fan has served me well for nearly nine years. The 12V plug disassembled itself last year and I replaced it. But when I tried to use the fan today (90-something degrees in the Mojave Desert) I discovered the other end of the cord was damaged. And the socket inside the fan had come loose.

I like this fan because of its magnetic mounting ability. I have the perfect location for it. But O2Cool stopped making this model several years ago.

So, do I toss the fan because of the cord? Or do I try to wire up a different cord, eliminating the whole plug and socket thing? If the latter, can I disassemble the fan, or is it glued together? Stay tuned.

Monday, March 21, 2022

It’s a gas gas gas

It was time to complete my schlep to Los Angeles. A little over 160 miles from the south entrance of Joshua Tree National Park to UCLA Health. I had about three-quarters of a tank of $3.87 Arizona gasoline. More than enough to get to LA. Not enough to get back.

I kept my speed down, following a big rig that was doing between 55 and 60 miles per hour. The truck also helped punch a hole in the strong headwind.

In my mind, the leg of the trip from Joshua Tree and on through the Indio-Palm Springs sprawl is just a ten or fifteen mile coast downhill and then a quick squeeze through the pass to Cabazon. But it’s sixty miles. No matter how many times I’ve driven it I’m still surprised it’s that far. 

The needle on the Rolling Steel Tent’s gas gauge moves faster as the fuel level drops. So half a tank on the gauge is something less than half, and a quarter is as good as empty. At least it feels that way. I watched the gauge and did sloppy calculations in my head about actual range. Well, I knew I would have to fill up in California sometime, and better too soon than too late, so I pulled into Banning.

If the question is, “Al, how much would you pay to know you’re either still cancer-free or something’s growing in you again,” the answer would certainly be more than a couple of hundred dollars. So even though it was shocking to see $100.00 ring up on the pump, I knew I wasn’t buying just gasoline. I was buying knowledge, peace of mind, and maybe an early warning.

Friday, March 18, 2022

Can ya dig it?

 I violated one of my own rules: Stay off loose dirt and sand. But, you know, there were other tire tracks, so I followed. Like a good sheep. Or lemming.

Most of the camping spots outside the south entrance to Joshua Tree National Park were taken or too close together, so I hunted for less likely spots. And ended up stuck about a van length from hard pack. The driver side got buried to the hub, the bottom of the shock absorber was scraping, and the differential was touching the ground. Sigh.

Fortunately, I carry an honest-to-goodness shovel. I started digging. And digging. I couldn’t get the shovel under the differential. I dug by hand. I jabbed at the ground with my tire iron and pried up a large stone. This was going to take a while, but I had all day.

There was enough room under the passenger side of the axle to slip the scissor jack in. It seems counterintuitive to jack up the high side, but it gave me more room to dig around the differential. 

Back on the driver side there was still no room under the axle for the jack, and jacking the chassis would raise the wheel last of all as it sagged on the spring. Hmmm, the spring… I dug out a spot large enough for the jack and a flat rock to set it on. Thousands of cranks of the jack later, I had the tire high enough to fit some flat stones underneath. I laid more stones along the bottom of the exit ramp I had dug. Good thing there were rocks mixed in the gritty sand.

As I was executing my inelegant desperation engineering, I kept thinking about how open differentials work. They transfer power to the wheel with the least traction. Since the van was leaning toward the driver side, that should mean less traction on the passenger side. That wasn’t the wheel that needed power if I had any hope of driving out of the hole.

But weight and traction bias must have been sufficiently in my favor. The driver side tire slipped a little, caught traction on the stones and, as you can see, I got out.

The irony of this misadventure is that next month I’ll be interviewing an off-road recovery/search & rescue guy for and article on the Cheap RV Living website about how nomads can avoid getting stuck.

Tuesday, March 15, 2022

Daylight Saving Time isn't the only change

I’ve been running my dual-fuel stove on propane the past few months for two reasons: it’s cheaper and it burns better in cold weather. However, there are more steps to using it. Get out the hose. Connect the hose. Get out the tank. Connect the tank. Disconnect the tank when I’m done. Put the tank away. Disconnect the hose. Put the hose away. It’s not a burden, just extra steps.

Oh, and there’s a third reason. I was out of butane. And so were the stores. But yesterday, ta-da!

I don’t think I’ve ever seen that many cans of butane on a Walmart shelf. They must’ve just opened a carton. So I grabbed some.

Later, back in the Rolling Steel Tent, the propane bottle I had been using ran dry in the middle of cooking dinner. So I switched to one of my new butane cans. Ooooo, slick and easy. Just load in the can and flip the lever. No messing with the hose. And the canister can stay in the stove when I put it away. The best part, though, is that cold weather isn’t an issue. Yippee! Shorts—and butane—season again!

Wednesday, March 9, 2022

I'm having a South American dinner tonight

Not fun

It started with head and body aches, then exhaustion, then some gastrointestinal distress. 

I flopped into bed before sundown. More exhaustion, now mixed with a little dizziness.

I wanted to sleep but couldn’t get comfortable. Everything my joints touched—even my super soft mattress—was annoying.

Then the dreams started.

Whenever I get sick my brain starts feeding me boring, frustrating, repetitive dreams. This time it was about how if I could decode the entries on a spread sheet I would finally feel comfortable and be able to sleep without interruption.

I woke up, thinking it must be about 3 AM. It was 9:34 PM. It was going to be a long long night. 

I kept waking every hour or so, cranky, frustrated, not wanting to move but unable to find comfort. 

Sometime after midnight my bowels sent out an urgent message. Aaaaaaaahhh, that helped. I came to the untrained conclusion I had given myself food poisoning. Some leftovers might have been too left over.

The sun finally rose and I debated myself. Would I feel better getting up and moving around, or should I stay put and slowly turn into a mattress? The fact I wrote this tells you what I decided. Not feeling too bad.

Monday, March 7, 2022

Ugh, planning

I have a PET scan appointment March 22 in Los Angeles. I want to go to Pahrump NV to report on the Homes On Wheels Alliance “Bring Your Own Vehicle” event. It starts April 4 and runs to the end of the month.

So, how can I best use the two weeks between the scan and BYOV without wandering too far out of the region?

I’d love to hang out at various Southern California beaches, but all the campgrounds are booked solid pretty much until the end of time. Stealth camping is essentially illegal all along the coast, however I know people who get away with it. The last time I did it I never rested calmly. The cops kicked me out of Imperial Beach.

The National Forests in the San Gabriel, San Bernardino and San Jasinto Mountains will probably still be cold at night and snow covered. So will the southern Sierras. And if they’re not, they will most likely be crowded.

That leaves the desert. I think I’ve had my fill of it for now. I need to dig deeper into possible options.

Friday, March 4, 2022


I met Deni three years ago on the set of Nomadland. We kept in touch and tried several times to cross paths again. First I got sick. Then she got sick. Then her van broke down. Then COVID. But we managed to pull it off this time.