Thursday, February 29, 2024

Lost and found and found

Three things went missing the past few months. My passport, the van registration, and a fork.

Whenever this happens I’m still amazed how things can disappear in such a small space. There are only so many places a thing can be in the Rolling Steel Tent. That gets me wondering if the errant objects left the van somehow.

Also, as always, I find things when I’m not looking for them. After all, checking the most likely places is pointless when something is obviously in an unlikely place.

I found the fork while rotating my mattress head-to-toe (something I do about twice a year). The fork was wedged at the junction of the mattress, the bed platform, and the cabinet from which it had slid at some point.

The passport was a more troubling matter. I have a passport card as well, so I’ve been able to return to the US after my visits to Mexico, but still… It’s best not to have one’s passport traveling the world with someone else.

I remembered the last time I had used the passport. Afterward I had placed it in a box where I toss my wallet and key. But the box is dangerously close to the Gap of Doom. If it had fallen in there (despite the chunk of foam blocking most of the gap) retrieving it would mean a ton of disassembly and reassembly of the cabinet — or using one of those snaky cameras and a grabber thing.

But yesterday, while fiddling with the liner in my silverware drawer, there was the passport, way at the back, behind a Tupperware container. What the…?

As for the registration, I know I had it when I was pulled over for speeding in a school zone. (It was the first day of school at a time that was still summer to me: August 1. The sheriff’s deputy let me go with a caution.) Since then I had believed it was in the glove box with my proof of insurance. Well, beliefs are not facts. Was it in the door pocket? No. In the owner’s manual folder in the door pocket? No. Stuck between the map of the Big Horn Mountains and the paperwork for the engine replacement and my last two tire purchases? No. Those were likely places, therefore wrong.

Had I accidentally tossed it with some of the irrelevant and expired crap in the glove box. Maybe. Probably.

So my choices are to do the bureaucratic hokey-pokey with New Mexico Motor Vehicles or to drive flawlessly until next year’s registration comes. Or I can count on stumbling upon it while not looking for it.

Wednesday, February 28, 2024

How will new National Monuments in the desert affect boondocking?

Chuckwalla National Monument

Two new National Monuments are in the works in the deserts of California and possibly Arizona. The Chuckwalla National Monument between Joshua Tree National Park and the Salton Sea is in its final stages of implementation. The Quechan Nation and other interested parties are seeking National Monument status for part of their historical tribal lands along the southern end of the Colorado river. Both of these areas currently contain — or could contain, depending on final boundaries — popular boondocking areas.

Chuckwalla National Monument begins at the southern boundary of Joshua Tree National Park. That area is a favorite spot for folks visiting the park. I’ve stayed there six or seven times. 

BLM camping outside Joshua Tree NP

The boundaries for the proposed Kw'tsán National Monument haven’t been established beyond mention of the Picacho Peak Wilderness and Indian Pass. The Quechan Nation says: 

The Kw’tsán National Monument will provide permanent protection for our homelands, cultural objects, and sacred places that are increasingly threatened by mining exploration, natural resource extraction, harmful development, unregulated recreational use, management inadequacies, and climate change.

Picacho Peak

No doubt they would like as much area as possible protected by a National Monument. Might that area include where I’m camped right now, off Ogilby Road near American Girl Mine? And what about the areas adjacent to the Colorado River and Imperial Dam, like Senator Wash and the LTVA? It’s too early to say, but I suspect the Quechan are most interested in the mountains and not so much the flat lands at their base. I’m guessing the “unregulated recreational use”  is about off-roaders. We’ll see.

[In case you were wondering, the correct pronunciation of Quechan (a spelling imposed on the tribe) is like Kwatsaan. Hence Kw’tsán.]

Picacho Wilderness Area

But what boondocking restrictions might come with National Monument status? Well, dispersed camping, or sometimes camping in designated spots, is allowed in National Monuments. But it’s common to restrict motorized access in some areas — usually closing primitive two-track trails and virgin areas. Biologically sensitive and archeologically significant areas are also placed off limits. And some closures might be seasonal to accommodate wildlife migration and nesting.  I’ve camped in National Monuments with these limitations before and it wasn’t inconvenient at all, because I’m not the type to rip around in a 4x4, destroy resources, harass wildlife and plunder artifacts.

However, as part of the Kw’tsán proposal, the tribe would be able to set additional land use restrictions. Again, we’ll have to wait and see what happens.

Near Kw’tsán National Monument, or in it?

Monday, February 26, 2024

That’s not my job

Bob Wells asked me to proofread/edit the manuscript for his next book. It’s a collection of his blog posts. Sure, I could do that (although my various teachers, if still alive, would be shocked I had learned how to spell, punctuate, and write coherent sentences).

Bob and I share views on about 85% of things. While reading the manuscript I’d get to one of the issues where we disagree (greatly or slightly) and I’d have the urge to insert my counter argument. But that’s not what I’m there for.

This experience has given me new appreciation for professional editors. They must work on many books they think are complete garbage. 

I did suggest some changes to make the book a better reading experience, and Bob was all for it. Now if only I could fix the 15% of things I believe he’s wrong about. Because I’m always right. Right? No? Aw, come on. At least 95% right. What? Not even 50%?

Saturday, February 24, 2024

Sometimes leaving more than footprints works out

“No, see,” said some guy who was here before me, “Those aren’t ruts from thoughtlessly driving onto soft ground. They’re, um, water catchment troughs. A place for vegetation to take hold, enriching the environment and benefiting the circle of life. Yeah, that’s it.”

Monday, February 19, 2024

The roads not previously taken

The standard way to get from I-10 to I-8 when you’re west of Phoenix is to take Highway 65 from Buckeye to Gila Bend. But I’ve driven it more than a dozen times and wanted to do something different. Besides, even though that route is familiar it seems to get longer every time.

The Parker-to-Interstate 10 route had worked well, so what did Google Maps have to offer for the next leg? This:

It’s sort of taking the squiggly hypotenuse of the triangle rather than the adjacent two sides. Slightly shorter and slightly slower. That’s cool. More leisurely, fewer semis and other large vehicles (or any type of vehicle) and some new territory to see.

The big surprise was the amount of farming along the way. The Gila River runs through there. It’s usually dry (at least at the surface) when I’m in the area, but the recent storms have it looking like and actual river instead of a large dry wash.

As a bonus, it’s perfect weather for driving with the window open. And 50 to 60 miles per hour makes that much more enjoyable than 70 to 80.

I’ll spend a few days in my current boondocking east of Gila Bend before backtracking to visit friends in Why. The Gila Bend-to-Why journey also seems longer each time, and there’s no shorter way there. Oh well.

Saturday, February 17, 2024

Enough for one day

Continuing with yesterday’s story: By the time my leisurely cattle-aware drive got me to I-10 I realized I didn’t really want to drive all the way to Ajo that day. There was no schedule to keep, no rush to get there. Slow down, man. Put in fewer miles and more time just being. Yeah, sounds good.

But where to stop? Someplace with plenty of cell reception and no off-roaders. And free, of course. How about Saddle Mountain, by Tonopah (a. k. a. the other Tonopah, not the Tonopah of “I’ve been from Tucson to Tucumcari, Tehachapi to Tonopah” in Nevada, the location of the Clown Motel)? I hadn’t stopped there in, oh, eight years. I didn’t think much of it at the time. Would my opinion be different now?

Yes. Winter storms have greened the place up. I found a more pleasing camping spot. And my perceptions — and I — have probably changed. I’ll set here a spell.

Friday, February 16, 2024

Where’s the beef?

After my Walmart adventure in Parker I found pretty good boondocking spot south of town along Shea Road. But after a while two things made me decide to leave in the morning. 

The first was the realization it was the beginning of Presidents’ Day weekend. Off-road vehicles were buzzing up and down the road and more toy haulers arrived all evening. It was going to get crowded and noisy.

The second thing was that with the growing crowd the cellular bandwidth was rapidly clogging to the point of uselessness. I had come here to get away from that problem in Quartzsite. Rats.

But where would I go? The general plan, without a schedule, was to visit friends in Ajo/Why. That would be about a three hour drive. Easy peasy. And Highway 72 as a shortcut. I had never gone that way before. There, I had a plan.

Not only was that route new to me, but so were pavement markings like this. I guess the ordinary signs hadn’t been sufficient. Or were these offers of a trade?

Thursday, February 15, 2024

Check time

The Walmart in Parker, Arizona, isn’t very big. Small town, small store. But it attracts RVers from Quartzsite (35 miles away) and people with homes and houseboats along the Colorado River. So the store can get crowded, like today.

The first thing I noticed (after the nearly full parking lot) was approximately 80 percent of the shoppers were old farts like me. Then it hit me: it’s the day after Social Security checks arrive. About half of us retirees get our funds the second Wednesday of the month, which was yesterday. I’m guessing my fellow Thursday shoppers had thought, “It’ll be too crowded on Wednesday. Let’s wait a day.”

A few decades ago I had an interesting taxi ride in Chicago. Traffic lanes meant nothing. Drivers would straddle the lines, swerving back and forth into whichever lane appeared to be moving faster — often into oncoming traffic. That’s what it was like pushing my cart through this small Walmart’s narrow aisles clogged with slow people and those who had stopped to contemplate their product choices. I had to divert into the nearly deserted baby products section for a few moments in order to regain my cool. “Should’ve waited until the afternoon when a large portion of my peers are napping,” I advised myself.

Having finally gathered my seven items I headed to checkout. The line for self-checkout was nine people long (some of them blocking traffic, of course). Rats. So I looked for the shortest cashier line of people with the fewest items. I found one with a woman finishing up a fully loaded cart, and a guy with mostly liquor and cheese puffs. 

I don’t want to be agist or sexist, but holy crap, why do little old ladies always take forever to wrap up their transactions? The project manager’s axiom is that the first 90% of a job requires 90% of the effort, and the final 10% of the job requires another 90%. That’s what this was like. 

(In my head) C’mon, sister! You’re almost there! Just… just… put the card back in your purse… into the purse… into the… There, now put the purse in the cart and… in the cart… the cart… now push the… No! Don’t check in your purse now! Move out of the lane first! Move! AAAaaaarrrrrgh!!!

 I really need to put more forethought into the time I choose to shop. Ugh, people.

Wednesday, February 14, 2024

Accurate weather

I’ve been to Joshua Tree National Park enough times to know the place is uphill from the towns on its borders. So when trying to find out what the temperature is in the park (at about 5,000 feet), rather than in the town of Joshua Tree or in Twentynine Palms or Yucca Valley (at about 3,000 feet), you need to use a weather site that lets you enter coordinates, not just place names or zip codes. The National Weather Service site allows that. 

That’s how I learned that while the town of Joshua Tree will have daytime temps in the high 60s with nights in the mid 40s, the park will have days in the low-to-mid 50s and nights in the low 30s. Yeah, no. Too cold for me.

I need to give credit to my friend, Roxy, for making me curious about the forecast for JTNP. She was there last week and posted about it being cold and windy. Looks like it still is.

Tuesday, February 13, 2024

Golden hour

I’m in Quartzsite to take care of some business with my mail forwarding service. I need to do a change of address from Lou’s former place in New Mexico. The Postal Service has extra hoops to jump through when you’re changing to a mail forwarder.

Then I need to jump through the DMV’s hoops to change my license and registration. And since my debit card expires in May, when I’ll be wandering the continent, I need to deal with getting the new one.  Ah, stuff.

So, Quartzsite. It’s still high season here and that means cellular bandwidth is clogged. Even though I have two carriers it’s still hard to get usable web service. In the past I’ve waited until the middle of the night to use the Internet, but I discovered something this afternoon: apparently a lot of us old farts take post-lunch naps, freeing up enough bandwidth to post things like this.

Also, the not well known boondocking area very near town still has enough room for privacy. And quiet enough to nap in peace.