Friday, March 17, 2023

It feels very strange

I’m back at Lou’s. I'll be here getting things ready for an estate sale and preparation for putting the rancho on the market.

Everything is just like we left it six weeks ago. The tiny house, the cargo trailer and the shop are filled with things that were important to Lou but are now unneeded by us friends. I felt like I was violating something as I packed away his clothing and hung a few of my things in his place. Will a charity take six pairs of well worn shoes? There are framed photos and art on the walls. What’ll we do with that? So much of this will end up in a landfill. At least this is a one-room place, not a four-bedroom house Granny has spent her adult life filling with things she was going to hand down to the grandchildren. And at least there’s no family fighting over it.

Perhaps the weirdest thing so far was sleeping in Lou’s bed. The deathbed. I could’ve slept in the van, but it’s still chilly here and it’s more comfortable in the house. I could’ve swapped my mattress for his, but it was raining.

And the sad part is Lou not being here to ask him, “What do you want to do with this?”

Saturday, March 11, 2023

A history lesson from friends

After Geronimo was captured for the last time in 1885 he was imprisoned in Florida. To exploit his fame, he was occasionally loaned out by the federal government as a prop for parades and exhibitions, sometimes being promoted as a scary savage, sometimes being shown to have become all civilized and shit. But the central message was the same: We white people had broken and tamed the Indians. We are in control.

This photo of Geronimo in a top hat at the wheel of a car was one of those setups. Although the car is a Locomobile, the photo has come to be called “Geronimo’s Cadillac.” The picture is somewhat infamous, but I had been completely unaware of it and Geronimo’s life in captivity until I visited my friends Hawk and Sky at their summer camp in the Coyote Howls RV park. They’ve leased the same spot for several years and decorated it with all sorts of things gathered from the surrounding desert. As their chosen noms de guerre reflect, Hawk and Sky revere nature and indigenous culture.

Hawk asked, “Have you seen our version of Geronimo’s Cadillac?” He led me to the back of their lot, giving a synopsis of the Geronimo story. “We saw this old wrecked car up the wash there, and some friends and I hauled it here. That fender came loose, so we set it up to look like the cactus grew through it.”

It’s not known how Geronimo felt about being exhibited like a trained animal. Some accounts say he was cooperative, but was it because he was merely submitting to those who controlled his life? Was it a break from imprisonment? His thoughts were never recorded because, well, the red man’s opinions didn’t matter, right?

After seeing the photo, singer-songwriter Michael Martin Murphey wrote and recorded “Geronimo’s Cadillac.” The song expresses sadness about the way Native people were mistreated by the government. It paints a picture of Geronimo driving across the desert, the wind in his hair and sun on his skin, a free spirit, living on his own terms, the Caddy a symbol of his refusal to be tamed. The song had become an anthem of Native resistance and pride.

Here’s Hoty Axton’s cover of the song.

It’s that time

There’s that brief, wonderful period that’s only a few days long, when the desert is green from the winter storms; when the wind has calmed down; when the temperature is just right and you can leave the doors and windows open and your don’t need outerwear; when the wildflowers are starting to bloom but not so heavily that they trigger allergies; when the bugs and snakes aren’t out yet; when the snowbirds have started their migrations home, leaving more space. Aaaaaaaaaaahhhh...

It’s also a good time to try out a new-to-me boondocking area that has a nice washboard-free access road and a great cell signal.

Saturday, March 4, 2023


I do better with destination oriented hikes than with let’s-walk-a-few-miles-this-way-and-back hikes. And this rock formation looked like a good goal. I couldn’t really tell how far or large it was, so I’d go find out. And I’d walk there as straight as I could, without a trail.

It was about a mile across stony, gravely ground; over hills and down into washes and back out; finding the way between Saguaros, ocotillos, cholla, mesquite, and creosote bushes. The ground at the base of the formation was steep an loose, and the formation walls were essentially vertical, so there was no going farther. At least for me.

Friday, March 3, 2023

And no one else in sight

My favorite camping spot in Ajo was crowded so I had to search the area for an alternative. I think this will work very well. The silence is wonderful.

Tuesday, February 21, 2023

Earlier today

Gotta keep the Rolling Steel Tent rolling. Oil change and transmission fluid flushed/replaced. The fluid was brownish instead of pink when I checked it, and a little low, so...

Dinner time

How might someone turn soup into the main (or only) course? I don't know about you, but I added dehydrated vegetable mix to chicken corn chowder. Also pepper, because I like some kick. And oyster crackers, of course. It was very good.

Monday, February 20, 2023

Farther down the coast

Sunrise in Oceanside, California, where you can pay to overnight in a parking lot at the beach. So I did. Again.

Sunday, February 12, 2023

Your name in stone

I learned of the Valley of the Names a few years ago, but all the info I had found advised that four wheel drive was required. So even though I’ve spent several winters about ten as-the-crow-flys miles from Valley of Names, I never went — particularly in the wetter times.

But I finally saw video of the road there. Oh, I can do that. 

No doubt there would be washboard. I mentally prepared myself for that. As I drove I kept thinking a passenger car, with its soft suspension, would be a better vehicle choice for the drive than something with stiff springs, like my van. The contents of the Rolling Steel Tent got rearranged a little, but high ground clearance wasn’t necessary.

Originally called Graffiti Mesa, the names began as the work of soldiers training in the area. After WWII the names became less about leaving your own name and more about memorializing the names of fallen comrades. But since it’s all unsupervised folk art, many of the names are now about departed friends and family, John + Mary true love forever, and personal I-was-here ego gratification.

Whether the original name has become more apropos than Valley of the Names, I still have to give a nod to the work put into collecting and transporting all those rocks.

Sunday, February 5, 2023

Another post about a road

In 1912, Arizona had just been made a state and it looked like Phoenix was going to be a bigger deal. People on the West Coast thought, “Hey, we could be doing more business with that miserable desert outpost if only it were easier to get there. And back. Alive. ”

Automobiles were still in their infancy, but a road could be built and operational a lot faster and cheaper than a railroad. At the time, the state and federal attitude regarding road building was essentially, “If you want one so much, build it yourself.”

Business and civic leaders in Los Angeles and San Diego wanted in on the Phoenix trade, so the push to become the fist of them to establish a quick route to Phoenix turned into an actual contest.

In October of 1912, San Diego businessman Ed Fletcher raced a representative of the Los Angeles Examiner (whose name has disappeared into the dustbin of history, because loser) from their respective cities. Fletcher gave the Examiner driver a 24-hour head start but still got to Phoenix ten hours sooner.

Fletcher’s more direct route required crossing the Imperial Dunes (sometimes called the Algodones Dunes). Since dune buggies hadn’t been invented yet, Fletcher had his car towed through the sand by a team of horses.

Having convinced backers the route was feasible, Fletcher set about finding a more workable solution for the dune problem. And the Plank Road was born.

Timbers held together by iron bands were laid across 6.5 miles of sand, the first sections being placed in February 1915. Double width sections here and there allowed vehicles to pass. An improved version was built in 1916 and was in operation for another ten years.

After being abandoned for nearly 50 years, most of the Plank Road had been buried under windblown sand. Some timbers had been hauled away for use in local mines and construction projects. Some were used for fuel. In 1973, a few of the road sections were rescued and reassembled into a 1,500 foot facsimile within spittin’ distance of I-8. That’s where I was today.

Wednesday, February 1, 2023

Hurray for infrastructure projects

(Big exhale)

I’m back on the road. Back to my normal life. My vagabond life. And it feels a little weird to have a totally open agenda. No appointments, no routine, no one with whom I must mesh my existence. I don’t need to hurry back from a short trip to help anyone out. I’m gone for good — well, except for a brief return to clear out Lou’s shop and sell his truck.

(Big exhale again)

So… Yesterday I got as far as Ironwood Forest National Monument outside Tucson. I’ve been there several times before but now something was different — other than my state of mind. The last couple of miles of road before the turnoff to a camping area had been utter crap. A layer of asphalt had been coming up in chunks. It was so bad people had been driving on the much smoother dirt shoulder. But now:

The new paving is a surprise since this is just a lightly traveled road out in the boonies, not some high-priority thoroughfare in town. Maybe it’s a sign for me. Or just a sign of public works working.

Thursday, January 26, 2023

My best friend is gone

After two years of fighting cancer and heart problems, and with the inability to do the things that gave his life joy and meaning, Lou Brochetti availed himself of New Mexico’s End-of-Life Options law and departed this existence today on his own terms, in his own home, among loving friends. There was crying and laughing and lots of hugging. This good man has left a big hole in many lives.