Tuesday, April 30, 2024

Back to actual spring

The snow is almost all gone, the carpet of pine needles is dry, and it’s warm enough to wander in the forest without a jacket. So off I went.

Sunday, April 28, 2024

Now it gets messy

It warmed up enough today for most of the snow to melt. That leaves us with slush and muddy wet patches. I try walking on the snow because it’s cleaner, but the places I step — like outside the van door — just become mud sooner.

Everything is going to refreeze during the night then thaw again. Freeze thaw freeze thaw freeze thaw until it get’s warm enough to dry things up.

The good news is that the ground under the thin mud layer is hard enough to drive on. You can see tire tracks in the photo. So I should be okay to drive the short distance to the highway in case I need to leave before everything is dry.

Saturday, April 27, 2024

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas

The previous snowfall had melted down to almost nothing but we knew a bigger storm was coming. It started sometime during Friday night and by the time I woke up Saturday morning there was a brand new coating about eight inches deep.

Although I have plenty of battery power, and I wasn’t running anything during the night, I was down to about half capacity because the battery was using power to heat itself.

That meant I needed to clear snow off the solar panels. That meant I needed to go outside. Sigh. Okay. Boots, coat, hat, gloves. Now, what do I use to clear the snow? The best I could come up with was my umbrella, still rolled up, of course. The shovel probably would have done too much scratching. It got the job done somewhat adequately even though I pulled snow down onto myself a few times.

It’s almost 10 AM and it has warmed up enough that clumps pf snow are beginning to fall off the trees, but there’s light snow falling and it might turn into heavier snow. But, hey, it’s an adventure, a story to tell.

Monday, April 22, 2024

Not my original plan

The goal for today had been to camp in the forested mountains on the south side of Prescott, Arizona. It would be a change from the last several months in the Sonoran Desert. Cooler at about 6,000 feet. Shadier with big trees. Yes, gimme some of that.

I had researched potential camping spots. I learned camping in that National Forest is in designated dispersed campsites only. That severely limits the number of spots. But since it was no longer the weekend my odds of snagging a vacant campsite were better.

After doing my laundry and stocking up on supplies I headed into the hills. It didn’t take long to discover nearly every designated campsite was occupied. The two vacant ones were awful. Also, instead of being one of those lush forests with a bed of pine needles over rich soil, this forest was dry, dusty, stony and brittle. Even the most inviting campsites looked harsh. So, what to do instead?

A friend has invited people to her campsite near Flagstaff. She’s one of my favorite people but the freezing nights there (still) are not my favorite conditions. I can bundle up and turn on the stove. If it get’s too unpleasant I can give my regrets and move on.

So I headed north from Prescott and found a bit of National Forest along the way. Forest that wasn’t pretending to be a picture book forest. A forest that wasn’t filled with other campers. Just me and an occasional train in the distance.

Less sand here and more volcanic ejecta

Sunday, April 21, 2024

Unpleasant visitor

Mr. Paranoia stopped by the Rolling Steel Tent this afternoon. He wanted to know why I was here, what I was doing, and who was paying me to do it. He pointed to my cellular antenna and claimed I was monitoring him and/or jamming his signals. He went on and on about being a law-abiding guy with never so much as a traffic ticket. So why were they after him? And again, why was I here, of all places, near him. He wasn’t buying my story. He took my picture. I couldn’t tell if there was tin foil beneath his ball cap. But I think I heard a few loose screws rattling in there as he rode away on his minibike.

UPDATE: I had already planned on leaving tomorrow, but I decided it was wiser to move along today. Irrational people are capable of doing irrational things.

The new location 20 miles away

Screw it

Things shift around in moving vehicles This is particularly true when driving lumpy roads that have you pitching this way and that.

Such was the case of my silverware divider. It wasn’t a serious problem since the divider is contained within a drawer that is held closed with a bungee cord. Nothing was going to go flying around the Rolling Steel Tent. But it meant I had to put things back into position even if I had made an ordinary left turn.

It was only a minor annoyance, so it was way down on my list of priorities. But I was finally annoyed enough yesterday to take care of it, and a simple solution had popped into my head: screw the divider to the drawer bottom.

I rummaged through my collection of fasteners and found a bolt and matching nut just the right size. The only hard part was digging the drill out of its place under the thing that’s behind the other thing in a cramped space. The actual drilling and bolting took only a few seconds. I love simple fixes.

As the manly men say after anchoring something, “That ain’t goin’ nowhere.”

Saturday, April 20, 2024

Pretty but mean

I like chollas. I like the ecosystem they grow in. But that cute fuzzy glow is actually thousands of barbed spines. You can avoid brushing against the live chollas but those prickly bulbs fall off, turn brown and blend with the ground where they wait to attack. If you’re lucky only your shoes get stabbed and not your body.

Although I watch my step around cholla I get stuck now and then. Like yesterday. I didn’t notice I had picked up this hitchhiker until I was back at the Rolling Steel Tent.

DO NOT USE YOUR FINGERS to remove these death balls. The simplest method is with a very common tool: a fork. Slip the tines between the spines and flip it — in a safe direction. Then, if there are any remaining spines, use pliers to pull them out. If I were the smartly prepared Boy Scout type I would have a fork and pliers with me at all times in cholla country. Or a Swiss Army knife. But I’m a foolish old man with a false sense of invincibility.

Friday, April 19, 2024

Excellent second-hand recommendation

I’ve never met Tristan of the SUV RVing channel, but after watching a bunch of his videos I feel like we’re friends. Or could be. Nice guy.

Tristan also has a pay site with info about his adventures, including an interactive map featuring the places he boondocked. He prefers to get away from it all. So I checked to see if he offered anything between Alamo Lake and, say, Prescott AZ. He did—a location he was told about by a local fellow. That means I was taking the recommendation of a guy who took the recommendation of a guy.

I was concerned when I studied the map. Although Tristan said it was BLM land, I knew at least part of the area off the highway was Arizona State Trust land. I had camped there twice before and was chased away by the sheriff the second time because I didn’t have a permit. I bought the permit this year but hadn’t gotten around to printing it out. I decided to give it a try anyway. Tristan’s spot could be beyond the state land.

The dirt road was rutted and lumpy, pitching the Rolling Steel Tent left and right. It was slow going, with lots of little washouts crossing this way and that. Like speed bumps and dips all the way. Three miles felt like twenty. I kept telling myself, “At least there won’t be a lot of big RVs down this way.” But I saw the reassuring BLM road number posts. Okay. No hassles from authorities.

When I finally got to the site, hell yeah, it was worth the drive!

The white dot in the distance is the Rolling Steel Tent

Tuesday, April 16, 2024

Not on the way to anywhere

I spent the night in nearly deserted Quartzsite after picking up my package and mail. But where to go next? I studied maps, forecasts, boondocking resources, blogs and all that. I had only one for-certain destination: Vancouver Island in July to take Lou’s ashes out to sea. There are a lot of ways to get there in the next two and a half months. Some of the ways are, eh, way too familiar, even boring. Are there routes that are new to me, or that I haven’t taken in many years? Where the nights aren’t still freezing or where the unpaved areas aren’t mud? I continued my research.

I haven’t been in southeastern Utah in a while, and there’s still so much of it I haven’t seen. And the weather there is now in that zone between too cold and too hot. So I’ll be drifting northeast before heading to the Northwest. 

What’s on the way besides Sedona, Flagstaff and Grand Canyon? How about the mountains south of Prescott? Yeah. I drove through there once but didn’t camp. And what about the mountains between Prescott and Sedona? Okay.

But what’s between here and there? I used to think nothing of driving eight to ten hours a day, and I think I could still do it if I had a short schedule to keep. But I’ve come to enjoy a slower pace. Shorter drives, longer stays.

Then I saw something on the map that had been on my mental list: Alamo Lake. It’s not really “on the way.” It’s in the middle of a Quartzsite-Wickenburg-Kingman triangle with access via one 30-mile paved road from US-60. So it’s a considerable detour, not a convenient waypoint. There’s a dirt road from the Lake to Wickenburg, but it could be a washboard hell. So I’ll be taking the paved road back.

And it’s a nice road through totally unpopulated, undeveloped land. A section goes through some saguaro-studded hills. The pavement is good, the scenery was  nice, it was perfect open window weather, and this particular Tuesday morning I wasn’t another soul around. Aaaaaaahhh…

Alamo Lake is a state park, but there’s BLM land adjacent. There are a few dozen other campers here, most in fifth-wheel trailers. But I found a spot a comfortable distance from the others. And except for a couple of OHVs driving sedately by, and a dog that barked for a few seconds, it has been very quiet. If I had a smaller vehicle with 4-wheel drive I could access tiny campsites down by the water. I can walk down there instead.

A friend I call The Other Alan once wrote a blog post about how he avoids camping by water, because that’s where the bugs are. There was a healthy enough breeze today to keep the flies and such grounded. So I had the doors and windows open. Very refreshing in the Rolling Steel Tent. However, the air got still after sunset and swarms of tiny things were attracted to the formerly nonfunctional light. Can’t have everything perfect.

I see the light

Last week I was in bed reading when the recessed LED light over the counter blinked off. Rats.

My first assumption was the light had reached the end of its life. Since the lights came in a four-pack and I had used only three, I should have a spare — unless it was one of the things I purged during my last reworking of the Rolling Steel Tent. After searching all my boxes, yep, I no longer had it. So I spent twenty bucks on another four-pack from Amazon. If one light had died then the remaining two were likely to go sometime.

While awaiting that delivery I discovered the roof vent fan also didn’t work. It’s tied into the same line as the light. Ah-ha! Maybe it’s a fuse. I started with the one built into the vent. It was still good. I checked all the fuses in my junction box. All of them, because I hadn’t labeled the circuits. They were good.

Maybe it was something in the wiring. That would be a pain to check since most of it is behind paneling. Ergh. I procrastinated until today, because the new lights had arrived. 

I was about to dig out my multimeter and tools when, out of habit, I flicked the light switch. And it came on! Oh, okay. Won’t be needing the new light at this time. The fan worked too. And then they both went off.


Why did this happen? What was different? What had I done?

Ah-ha, maybe… 

Earlier I had fished out a section of the wiring in preparation for testing it. And I had jiggled the connection. I giggled the wire again and the light and fan came back on. As the old farts around the shop say, “Well there’s yer problem.”

Basically, I hadn’t melted the solder in the connectors

So I fixed the connections, stuffed the wires back into place, and sat back to marvel at my amazing deductive powers — and luck.

Monday, April 1, 2024

Perfect procrastination

First day of the month. I decided it was a good day to do laundry. I had plenty of clean clothes, but the full-ish laundry bag was getting difficult to squeeze back under the bed. 

I could go early, but a lot of people go then. Besides, I had also told myself it was a good day to mow back the beard. 

Then there was breakfast. I hadn’t done an actual breakfast the past week or so. Chorizo and eggs. Yum. Then do the dishes.

Then check email, social media, the news, the humor. Watch two YouTubers I subscribe to. Fall down a rabbit hole about John Adams.

Rest my eyes. Try not to turn it into a nap. Think about the laundry. Decide which laundromat to use.

It’s nearly lunchtime, and though I’m not having any, everyone in Yuma will be. That means traffic. I’ll wait a bit.

On the way to town I think about how I’m familiar with how crowded laundromats usually are in the morning but how I don’t really have any data regarding post-lunch use. Fingers crossed.

The place is busy but there are washers available. I’m surprised a majority of the patrons are blue-collar men and old farts like me. I load the washer then go back to the Rolling Steel Tent to relax.

By the time my alarm chirped there only half as many people and plenty of dryers. Lightweight things in one dryer, heavier things in another. Back to the van.

The number of customers had grown by the time my things were dry, but there were still two vacant folding tables. I grabbed one. (One reason I like this laundromat is the sufficiently roomy folding tables.)

There were even more people by the time I finished folding. Looks like I had slipped into the perfect time slot. For this particular day, anyway. If I hadn’t dawdled just right I would’ve hit one of the busier periods. Hurray for luck!