Wednesday, November 29, 2023

Hello again, California

So here I am, back at my usual winter hangout in the southeast corner of California. 

Did laundry and got groceries in Yuma on my way here, so I'm all set for a while. I feel good.

Monday, November 27, 2023

So long New Mexico

Here's my home for a couple of days. National Monument land in Vekol Valley, south of I-8, about 20 miles east of Gila Bend AZ. Plenty of room, excellent cell signal, 70°F weather. I'm starting to feel normal again.

Sunday, November 26, 2023


 Perhaps the end of Thanksgiving weekend — the reverse of over the river and through the woods to Grandmother's house — isn't the best time to be out on the highways. Lots of traffic. And a wreck in Tucson had us stopped for a while. Maybe an overdose of tryptophan had a driver dozing off.

Backwards world

I was loading my stuff into the van this morning when I noticed the thermometer. I'd be warmer in the refrigerator. Such is life at 6,000 feet at the end of November. In a hour or so I'll be on my way to lower, warmer elevations. With the heater on.

Saturday, November 25, 2023

Oh brrrrrrrrr...

My refrigerator and the insulated box I built for it are mounted where the passenger seat once was. I needed to remove it so the mechanic could get the engine cover out of the way and reach the top transmission bolts. 

I went out this morning, a little after 9:00, to reinstall the fridge and, whoo, an icy wind out of the north made things bone-chilling cold out there. I'll procrastinate on that task until it warms up a little this afternoon. In the meantime I'll get the house in order. One of the best things about a tiny house is there's not much to clean. And, thanks to living alone, there's not much mess in the first place.

UPDATE: It clouded over and a bit water started falling from the sky at about 11:15 and there was no telling if it would get worse or how long it would last. So when there was a break in the drizzle I resigned myself to being miserable, went out and reinstalled the fridge and loaded some things I had stored in the shop. Now it's time for a run to the waste transfer station.

Friday, November 24, 2023

Third time's the charm. Maybe.

Richard and Michael (shown above reattaching a heat shield to the new transmission) finished up the job today. They test drove the van. I test drove the van. We agreed everything was good. So tomorrow I'll load the Rolling Steel Tent and clean up the house. Then Sunday I'll head out on my third attempt at returning to nomadic life.

The problem with the first replacement transmission had nothing to do with Michael and Richard. They do excellent work. It was the transmission. Expert installation can't keep junk from being junk.

As an example of how seriously these guys take their jobs, here are the notes Richard made of everything he did to swap out the bad transmission and install the replacement. Documentation, man.

There were also a couple of Post-It notes to himself reminding him where he had left off the day before and what he had to do next. Far more organized than me.

The next post will be from somewhere in Arizona — hopefully not broken down at the side of the road.

Thursday, November 16, 2023

Looks like it's going to happen

The new transmission is at the mechanic's shop. I saw it with my own eyes, complete with a fancy shipping crate. I was so delighted I forgot to take a picture. The mechanic says we're on for Monday. I can only write in short declarative sentences.

Thursday, November 9, 2023

Progress. I hope.

The mechanic called and said the remanufactured transmission was in El Paso and should be here by tomorrow. Yay!

However, the shop will be closed next week for some sort of preplanned reason. (Deer hunting, I suspect.) But he promises to jump right on the swap job Monday the 20th and have it done before Thanksgiving.

So, fingers and toes crossed.

Thursday, November 2, 2023

A treat for the feet

A few years back I realized I needed shoes with a wide toe box. So I got some Keen semi-sandals. Perfect. 

Then I got some Keen hiking shoes. Excellent. No blisters or callouses on the sides of my feet. In fact, there was room to spread out, which my feet gladly did. That made meant my sneakers were now too narrow, even though my wide feet had stretched them a little. So I went searching for wide toe box sneakers.

Fellow van dweller, Scott, praised Altra shoes because of their wide toe box and zero-drop heel. I bought a pair and, though the zero-drop heel took some getting used to, they’re my shoes. They feel like the moccasins I wore when I was nine years old.

Scott is into the barefoot philosophy of shoes somewhat. I’m into the protect my feet from pokey things philosophy. The Altra soles are a little too thin and flexible for me. Gravel, sharp stones, thorns, twigs and other stuff on the desert floor aren’t very comfortable. I found myself wishing the soles had a layer similar to the fibers inside tires—flexible yet able to spread the impact of pointy things over a broader area.

Then, in answer to my wishes, I discovered Altra made some inserts they called Stoneguards. They aren’t made of Kevlar, titanium or other high tech substance, but I assumed they had done some testing and determined they helped. And they were only twenty bucks. Worth a try.

The Stoneguards arrived today. I trimmed them to size and tried a side-by-side comparison. I walked around with only one of them inserted and… Yeah, I felt a difference. Was it only because there was an additional thin layer of rubbery stuff between my feet and the gravel? I don’t know. But they help.