Tuesday, January 30, 2024

Proper distancing

Unless I’m camped with friends, this is what I consider a proper amount of space between me and other folks boondocking in a popular area.

Tortilla sadness

The wonderful tortillas I get a Food City contain a bit of potassium sorbate as a preservative. However, I learned that isn’t enough to keep away mold after two weeks. That’s one of the down sides of a single guy buying a family’s worth of tortillas. But a 24 pack was all they offered. I suppose they’d last longer in the fridge, but it’s already full of other things, like burrito filling and cheese. So a dozen tortillas into the trash. Such are my trials.

[Potassium sorbate occurs naturally in the berries of the rowan tree, also known as the mountain ash. The berries have been used for centuries in traditional medicine and food preservation. Today, potassium sorbate is more commonly produced synthetically through a fermentation process involving sorbic acid and potassium hydroxide. This method creates a chemically identical product to the one found in nature, but in much larger quantities and at a lower cost.]

Friday, January 26, 2024

Another propane buying experience

I didn’t know how much propane I had left, but since I was in town anyway I decided to get my tank topped off. I didn’t want to go back to U-Haul, and the other locations Google Maps offered were out of my way. Eighth Street has proved to have necessary services without unnecessary hassles, so I drove along looking for propane dealers.

I spotted the familiar giant white wiener at an unexpected but very convenient place: a corner liquor store. (northwest corner of 8th Street and Avenue B) Not the usual combination of products, but who cares?

As soon as I walked in the amiable clerk asked, “Propane?”  Why yes. Maybe that’s the bulk of their business. As he hooked up my 1-gallon tank he commented, “We don’t get many of these small ones, but this is the third so far today.” 

The tank took a half gallon. “Just tell the guy inside point-five.”  The guy inside had no problems with taking my cash. All so easy.

There’s a water kiosk on the other side of the liquor store, but even better is the Desert Water Store on the southeast corner of 8th and Avenue B. It looks kind of shabby (except for the mural on the Avenue B side). They’re set up to handle anything from gallon jugs (me) to RV tanks (my friend Jason who clued me in on the place). Just tell the clerk inside how much you’re going to get, pay her, then pump away.

So, tortillas and marinaded beef or pork at Food City; laundry across the street; a car wash a couple of blocks away with catwalks for tall vehicles; water; propane; a number of Mexican restaurants; and a mini Walmart — all in one easy fuel saving trip on Eighth Street.

UPDATE: I was in the neighborhood of the water place today and decided to top off my two half-empty gallon jugs and the five-gallon bottle. Different clerk this time. When I told him I needed a couple of gallons or so he asked, “Like the small jugs?” I nodded. He smiled, rolled his eyes, and waved my money away. “Just take it. And have a nice day.” So I did. And I did.

Monday, January 22, 2024

Soggy afternoon

I got back from town just in time. There had been some scattered sprinkling, but all the signs pointed to some actual rain. I dropped off groceries and water for a sick friend and settled into my camping spot nearby. And then…

Here’s what it looked like a few minutes later. Those streams weren’t there before.

What we got here, near Yuma, was the tail end of a storm that caused landslides and flooding in San Diego. The mountains between there and here saved us from the worst of it.

Rain is good (except when it causes damage) but it makes me feel trapped in the Rolling Steel Tent, even if I didn’t have any plans to be outside. It’s a reason I’m not a big fan of the wetter parts of the country. But I’ve “suffered” through rain many times during the past ten years on the road. I can cope.

The sky started to clear at about 4:00, so I went outside to assess the situation. The top layer of rocks — desert pavement — usually keeps the ground rather firm. B-u-u-u-t… it was squishy. I had to learn a new physical skill: taking off my shoes just inside the door, standing on the step, so I didn’t get mud on the rug. Then, um, where do I set the shoes until I can wipe the mud off? Uh, yeah, the wastebasket.

Since I’m all stocked up on food and water I can stay put until the ground gets good and dry. Patience is better than getting stuck. And I have nowhere else I need to be. Besides, it looks like this now, thanks to the rain.

Friday, January 19, 2024

Walk around

I went for a little exercise this morning, heading south from camp and making my way overland without a trail, the small mountain ridge being my destination. The weather was perfect, about 68 degrees, thin cloud cover, no wind. An outcropping provided a place to sit and a view of the Imperial Sand Dunes five miles away. And there was a gnarly old tree along the way, a desert survivor.

Monday, January 15, 2024


I made a run to Yuma today for laundry and supplies. The 8th Street Laundromat was kind of crowded. There was a lot of jockeying around, trying to get things in and out of washers and dryers without colliding with other patrons. And the place could use more counter space for folding laundry. But the machines are rather new, and there were enough of them that I didn’t need to wait. It’s also right across the street from Food City. So I picked up more of their perfect tortillas.

Then it was Walmart for most of my stuff, with a stop at Fry’s for some dense, moist, triple chocolate brownies.

I have a couple more things I need to do in town tomorrow, so to save myself a trip out to the desert and back, I decided to pay to camp at the Paradise Casino just across the Colorado River from the old Yuma Territorial Prison (which also served as the high school for a while). The camping ain’t fancy, just a hard packed dirt lot with graded rows, but it’s convenient and relatively quiet, particularly where I’m parked in the far corner of the lot. I suppose I could have found somewhere in town to stealth camp, but I don’t rest well in that situation. Am I okay here? Will I get the knock? Will there be troublemakers? I figure my peace of mind is worth ten bucks. Besides, there are dumpsters.

Saturday, January 13, 2024

Space invaders

I’ve been camped in a nearly perfect spot in far southeastern California. A wide area between two converging washes. Only one way in. Sort of a cul-de-sac, even though I have ranted against them in the past. The closest neighbors are about two football fields away. My reclusive self was happy.

Until yesterday.

A little before sunset a truck pulling a toy hauler drove within feet of the Rolling Steel Tent. Then there was another. And another. And another. Then a truck with a flatbed trailer carrying two ATVs/OHVs/side-by-sides or whatever they call them these days. And an SUV. I thought they would discover the dead end and turn around. No, they were setting up camp, about 20 yards away, with a certainty of movement that conveyed it had been their plan from the beginning.


So, as they unloaded their ATVs/OHVs/side-by-sides or whatever they call them these days and started revving the engines, I secured a few onboard items and climbed into the driver seat. (My habit of not setting up outdoor living space allows for quick getaways.) There was plenty of other space I could move to. Plenty of other space the group could’ve moved to when (if) they saw I was already occupying the area. (Heck, I had even peed a few times around my territory. I guess that only works with critters.)

A group showing up on a Friday evening is probably weekenders. It has been my experience weekenders — particularly those with ATVs/OHVs/side-by-sides or whatever they call them these days — operate with different rules of camping etiquette. Or with none at all. C’est la vie nomade. Let it go, and go elsewhere. While giving them the stink eye.

UPDATE: Yup, weekenders. They left Sunday morning. Maybe they had planned on staying through the afternoon but my stink eye chased them off.

Monday, January 8, 2024

Adult content

I met up with part time nomads and full time wonderful people, Pam and Russell, in Los Algodones today. We had fish tacos, pozole, and cervezas, and caught up on the news. Then we stopped in a liquor store so Russell could buy a bottle of tequila. While he decided, Pam and I wandered around and spotted some… uh… shall we say interesting bottles. (For the record, it was Pam who pointed out the, um, connection.)

One for men and one for women? If so, which is for whom? ¿Quién es capaz de decir?

Friday, January 5, 2024


When I was a Boy Scout, they spent a lot of time teaching first aid, with many sessions of improvising bandages, making splints, crutches and stretchers, and learning the proper way to use tourniquets. Because, you know, Be Prepared.

All this left me with the impression that one or more of us (I hoped not me) would be seriously injured each time we ventured into the woods. Billy or Johnny would manage to find a cliff to fall from, leaving him broken and bleeding.

But we never had occasion to deal with compound fractures or severed arteries. Just cuts, scrapes, blisters, sunburn, insect bites, and the occasional twisted ankle—not even a proper sprain.

“Are you sure you don’t need us to bind that up with your neckerchief?”

“Nah, I’ll just walk it off.”

“How about a crutch? It would give us an excuse to chop up a branch. Maybe pad it with a neckerchief?”

“Nah, I feel much better already.”

“You’ve been scratching that mosquito bite a lot. We should bandage it with a neckerchief.”

“Leave me alone!”

So, why has Boy Scout first aid been on my mind?

Snagged my finger on a sharp bit of something in the toolbox. In my years out here on the road, where the building dwellers warn us it’s so dangerous, I haven’t needed much in the way of bandaging. Just some booboos now and then, mostly cuts. The worst was probably scraping some outer flesh from my shin when I lost footing in some rocks. And it was nowhere near a cliff. But I still have a bunch of bandaids and medical tape on hand. Maybe I should get a neckerchief or two, because Be Prepared, man.

Wednesday, January 3, 2024

Two propane buying experiences

My propane ran out this morning while making pancakes. Well, one flapjack is better than none. So I went into Yuma to refill the tank and pick up other items. Like perfect flour tortillas.

When I’m up in Quartzsite I get propane at Patty’s RV Park & Propane. It’s seldom busy and it’s a quick and simple process. I give the guy the tank, he hooks it up and pumps the ‘pane, I give him the money, he gives me the change, thanks are exchanged and I’m on my way. Maybe to make pancakes.

I’ve never bought propane in Yuma before, but I saw a U-Haul place on my way to the store. Getting a refill there was quite different, more formal. The guy started by inspecting my tank. Then he took a photo of the serial number. Then he asked my name and recorded it. Then he told me to stand on the other side of the barrier. The actual filling of the tank was the same as anywhere else. I imagine all these extra steps are to cover U-Haul’s ass. “If you gas yourself, catch on fire, or blow something up with a different tank, don’t come suing us.”

When I proffered my money, the guy rolled his eyes like I was giving something disgusting. He called the cashier and said, “He’s paying with cash.” I went into the office to pay, and the cashier gave me a stack of ones for my change, probably to show his distain. I think I’ll get my propane somewhere else next time.

Tuesday, January 2, 2024

Harina harina, tortillas más finas

I’ve been on the hunt for what I consider perfect flour tortillas. First of all, they need to be “soft taco size” so they’ll fit in my pan. That’s the easy part. 

What has been hard is finding thin ones. It seems someone has decided the world wants only thick tortillas. Nah, I’m not making sandwiches. I just want to wrap the filling and add a bit of charred flavor.

I’ve found thin flour tortillas a few times in the past, but when I go back for more, poof, they’re not around. But today I found what I think will be a reliable source: the house brand at Food City. They warmed up and toasted quickly, puffed up, and had that gluteny elasticity that’s perfect for rolling burritos.

So what’s in these burritos? A mix of ground beef, chorizo al pastor, refried beans, corn, and dehydrated hash browns, all cooked in chipotle sauce, and some cheese. ¡Muy sabroso!