Wednesday, August 31, 2011

The "Rubato" of the Open Road

We have witnessed new categories of communication arise the last few years, and none of us were schooled to use them effectively. For instance, wouldn't it be nice if people wrote concise stand-alone email messages that pertained to just one action item?

DVD movies are a big industry; most have a commentary track. It's easy to tell that the people making the track don't know what kind of information is desirable.

That is why I was pleasantly surprised to be listening to the commentary track of Love Actually and hear an informative and non-self-absorbed comment by Hugh Grant.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Not Green


In ten days I've gone from southwestern New Mexico to southwestern Colorado. The daily weather pattern is the same, since it's the monsoon season. Not so much has changed regarding altitude. A bit more has changed with latitude and temperature.

One of the most noticeable changes is the presence of more running water. It is the highlight of any hike to see my dog stop at a creek crossing and lap up clear stream water against the rocks.

But the biggest change has been in the color green. New Mexico had been greening up by its standards. But here in Ouray forests, greenness overwhelms me. There's just too much of it! Whenever my eyes latch onto something not green, such as in the photo, I stop and gawk at it.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

A Town for Walking

It was a pleasant surprise to learn that Ouray CO had such an extensive trail system that could be reached right from town. (Torching off a half a tank of gasoline just to get to a trailhead is not my favorite part of the sport of hiking.) It adds so much to a town or city to have recreational trails, greenways, etc. I'm not sure what a town is good for, if you take that away. Household drudgery, job, commute, traffic, big box stores, noise; that's about it.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Horse Buggies and RVs

Ouray CO. The other day Box Canyon Blogger and I were talking about how stereotypical RVers were, as exemplified by dozens of "me too" blogs on hitchitch.com. Perhaps that was a bit unfair. After all, you sometimes you see an old bus or Class C motorhome painted up in wild designs, proclaiming God, love, peace, etc. Of course after you've seen just a couple of those, you realize that they are just large versions of the VW hippie bus, circa 1968; which reduces it to a stereotype.

After finishing the Perimeter Trail around Ouray yesterday, Coffee Girl and I were relaxing on a bench downtown enjoying one of the killer cookies, recommended by Mark and Bobbie, when a noisy old motorhome ground its way up the main drag. A young woman was half-hanging out of one of its windows, gawking with delight at the mountains or cliffs on the perimeter of Ouray. She wore a bonnet of the style worn by Amish or Mennonites. My eyes went quickly to the driver; sure enough, he had a beard with a shaved upper lip.

I have no commentary on this, except that this doesn't fit any RV stereotypes that I know. It's doubtful that they even have their own BOF group in the Escapees club.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Decline and Fall of Walmart?

It is a Rip van Winkle experience to live a car-free existence for three years and then start traveling again. For one thing it makes you realize how much inflation there has been, despite what the government statisticians tell us. But I was even more shocked to discover that our local Walmart just doesn't sell many of the things it used to. The employees are surly. Apparently the space has been allocated to clothes, cheap household stuff, wider aisles, and other things that I don't care about.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Streaming Music at Silverton CO

Silverton CO. One of the hangups an RV Boondocker has to get over is the exaggerated fear of breaking some petty rule or ordinance that is seldom enforced. You aren't going to get a ticket or hauled off to the hoosegow. (Well maybe in California, Manhattan, or Massachusetts.) The average Amerikan is so docile or fearful that they won't push the envelope a little.

But I'm rusty, having just gotten back on the road after three years in an RV park. So it took a little effort, but I did find a dead end road by a washed out bridge that seemed like it would be OK. (Dead end roads are favorites of mine.) I was camped a few steps from a stream that was quite, uh, animated. Oh, by the way, the Verizon signal had four bars out of four.

This was the kind of experience I had been yearning for: beautiful white noise to wake up to instead of roaring traffic, boom-cars, or the neighbor's subwoofers.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Summoned to the San Juans

Farmington, NM. Apparently my driveway security services really are in demand, so I'm on the way to Ouray, CO to hold down the driveway for old buddy Mark at Box Canyon Blog. It was enjoyable getting back onto the Colorado Plateau, with its characteristic mesa, butte, and cliff look. It was quite noticeable north of Quemado NM.

Noon, Silverton CO. It's fun to hear the train whistle again. It's been several years. I wonder if I should have a rematch with the Bunkhouse?

5 pm, it's nice to see the mountains again. But I appreciate the flowers and running water even more. I found a deadend gravel road to walk the dogs on. We had to cross a small stream. The water wasn't that cold; this is probably the only time of year when you can say that at 9500 feet. I had to carry my little poodle across -- with his vision and scarediness he might have been washed away!

Monday, August 22, 2011

Conquering Summer

Datil NM, 7200 feet. Normally late August is a time of jubilation. There are signs of beating another summer. Most people are eager for autumn. But today I had mixed feelings about digging out a winter stocking hat for the dawn dog walk. The memory returned of surviving sub-zero temperatures in my trailer last winter in Silver City.

Not this winter.

It's funny how important a stocking hat is to a camper. Sometimes I take emergency supplies on my mountain bike; the stocking hat and an emergency rain poncho are the first things I take.

But seeing summer temperatures peak and head down is still good news since there are many more places to choose from, at mediocre altitudes.

Surprise on Snake Hill

The dogs and I went exploring the Plains of San Agustin. Wikipedia tells us that it is a graben, like Death Valley. Graben means ditch in German; have some fun ggrrrowling the word out. It is a block of land that sinks between two parallel faults or cracks. Supposedly San Agustin sank 4000 feet, and then filled halfway in with sediment from the nearby mountains.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Bernanke and the Rural Economy

It's interesting to watch my own habits changing, now that I can't walk five minutes to a grocery store. But at the moment I'm more interested in what effect Bernanke's intentional debasement of the dollar is having on people who live in places an hour drive from the nearest real grocery store. Here in Datil NM we are 60 miles from the nearest one.

And yet people still talk about how they drove to the big city last weekend, even though it is 150 miles away. So much of the rural lifestyle involves driving long distances in giant pickup trucks. It's true they do more of the maintenance on vehicles themselves; that helps some, but the nearest real auto parts store is still far away. One tire shop told me he made a run into the big city one day per week to load up on tires. So maybe that's how a lot of survival takes place: you renounce the idea that everything must be available every day of the week.

Say, maybe I should do that with the internet.

I wonder if rural people follow business and economic news much. Maybe they blame inflation on "them Arabs" instead of villains far closer to home.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

A Classic Western Theme

Datil, NM. We crossed the first cattle gate in the national forest this morning and immediately had good luck: a good old boy on an ATV rolled up, with five happy dogs running along side. After disporting with the locals Coffee Girl and I headed off on our first mountain bike ride in this new chapter of our RV camping life.

As satisfying as it might have been to successfully adjust to routine rides in Silver City NM, it really is more fun to explore while cycling, that is, to ride where you don't already know the "answer". Now, it was happening again. We followed an informal ATV track uphill; at first it wasn't particularly interesting. Of course it wasn't really supposed to be. There were no brown signs leading us to some official tourist site.

But then we found this flower, which grabbed my attention because blue flowers are rare. (The blue is true; no software tricks.) As usual, I want to know it's name, but am too lazy to research it. If a reader knows, please comment.



Friday, August 19, 2011

Streaming Water Music in Mogollon NM

Whatever you do, don't try to drive a large trailer or Class A motorhome to the old mining town of Mogollon NM. You might possibly make the 9 mile climb of a couple thousand feet, but only if nobody is coming the opposite direction. I made it because it was Thursday and the two businesses in the town were closed, so nobody did come down when I was going up.

Once again this shows the advantage of small RVs; I can't wait until mine is less than forty feet long, combined.

What a marvelous first impression the old place made. It's in a ravine that wasn't too tight, fortunately. Greenery, running water, and butterflies are everywhere. It would be nice to know some names of these beautiful insects, but when something sounds like a big project it gets put off.

This guy looks like a mountain biker doing an end-over:


The next impression was just as pleasant: a small, fast-moving stream ran right down Main Street. A small RV could squat overnight on a gravel turnoff at the edge of town and listen to that stream at night, and wake up to it in the morning, instead of to roaring pickup trucks and boom cars.  

A couple dozen people do live in the town. Some of them had to walk over the little stream just to get to their house.


The town certainly had funky people and houses:



That last one was especially strange. It was sheet metal sided.

This was a great time to contemplate the difference between the unplugged-in lifestyle and the more typical frantic madness and noise of a city. Next time, maybe.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

The Boonie Reborn

Well, it didn't take some people very long to adjust to traveling again. Neither dog will permit me to stuff him in the trailer; they insist on being in the van, where the big windows are, this despite the fact that the little poodle (age 16.3) is 90% blind.

When we took off this morning, heading through High Lonesome ranch country, it looked great to see how green everything was! Coffee Girl (my Australian kelpie) stuffed her nose into the dashboard vent every few seconds; then she quickly switched over to the window where she shoved half her body out, for yet more exciting new aromas. With great satisfaction, I watched her do this time after time.

Off

It is a good idea to go off on short trips before a long one. Since I haven't done enough of that and since the trailer has barely moved in three years, I feel a bit nervous. But preparation can get a bit tiresome after awhile. At some point you just have to jump in and hang on.

Off we go, to the north, through Glenwood. It's hot there, so there won't be any stopping until Reserve, NM. Got to stay above 6000 feet, and 7000 would be more like it. Maybe Datil or Pie Town tonight.

So, I'll jerk the cord out of the utility post, and off we go...

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Nostalgia for Leadville

A cycling website that I visit frequently mentioned the results of the Leadville 100 mountain bike race. Sigh. Just hearing of Leadville (use Search this Blog on the left) brought back some powerful memories for me. For the first time I started getting emotional about getting back on the road; until now it was hard to believe that I was really leaving tomorrow.

A week after the Leadville race, still in the mid-August, I used to notice Leadville (10,200 feet high) getting cooler and foggier. Summer was on the wane, and it was time to start a slow retreat towards winter camp. Many high places in Colorado would still be good until late September. No matter how many years I was traveling, the autumn migration kept bringing a lump to my throat.

And now I'm "migrating" north in mid-August? Everything is upside-down.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

The Boonie goes Broadband

Here is my first post back on the Verizon network. Gee, I remember it being faster when I dropped the service three years ago. My campground's WiFi is actually twice as fast, even though it is all coming through a 3 Mbps DSL line, and then sharing that signal amongst all the users in the campground.

Readying for the Road

Straws and camels' backs, indeed. August is not the month when the migrational sap runs in my blood, but when I learned that my boom-da-boom-thud-boom neighbor might renew for another month, the decision became easy. I leave on 18 August. There's nothing wrong with how people live here, if that's what they like. But I have nothing in common with them. Any unpleasantness is my own fault for being in a place I shouldn't be.

My 1995 Ford cargo van is all cleaned and waxed up -- beautiful. After three years of weathering in the New Mexican sun, the paint had turned dull and chalky, leaving the water bucket looking like a pail of milk.


These cargo vans work so well as towing and storage machines that I wonder why more people don't use them: there are four bicycles and a BOB trailer in there -- and how could a human being live on less?! It has also swallowed up 33 gallons of water, a generator, a wall of supplies in shelves, and it's half empty! Granted, most bourgeois wives wouldn't be caught dead in one.


Sunday, August 14, 2011

Verizon Wireless for an RV Camping Lifestyle?

The only expense and chore remaining is to start up a wireless data plan with Verizon. I already have a MiFi gadget to use, thanks to the generosity of an RV friend.

In Chapter 1 of my RV lifestyle the Verizon plan worked quite well. Trying to get by on free WiFi would have been false economy since it entails extra driving and temptation to buy expensive coffee and food at the "free" WiFi spot.

Actually I made a game out of spotting cell towers and then camping in the forest or on BLM land where the topography gave me coverage. Nevertheless, getting wireless coverage did restrict my camping locations quite a bit. It is easy to resent that.

It's natural to want Chapter 2 to be better or at least different from Chapter 1. Won't starting up a Verizon plan inevitably pull my camping lifestyle in the same direction as before? The satellite alternative doesn't appeal to me because of equipment cost, set up, and maintenance.

And yet I have 18 hours per day to fill. A full time RV lifestyle is a reality, not a brief romance.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

An RV Travel Wannabee, version 2.0

It seemed odd that my resuscitation of the old van had not yet involved a drive out of town at highway speeds, so I used a tire purchase as my excuse to drive out of the Little Pueblo, down to the torrid high desert town of Deming, NM. It brought back some memories.

For one thing, I remembered how much I would actually like driving the van and, yes, looking out the windshield, if the world would just let me drive at 45--55 mph. Call me heartless if you wish, but I don't really give a damn if the people who pass me end up in the ditch. But I don't want that to happen to an innocent motorist in the opposing lane, so I end up driving the speed limit instead of the leisurely pace I prefer.

The other fact that came back with a vengeance was how different it is to drive south -- downhill and into the sun -- than north. My dog would heartily agree with that one. This was a reminder that an RV camper will find Dry Heat in the summer to be the source of 90% of his annual discomfort. Once in Deming, parking in the shade to keep my dog cool became my obsession; that pattern came back into my mind as a Way of Life, not just a specific action.

There was an RV park in Deming right on the busy highway, with tiny sites. Not everybody was air-conditioned. How can you look on an existence like that except with horror and disgust? But maybe some of those lowly wretches consider that existence OK; or all they just trapped there?

Maybe somebody is asking the same question about my existence in an RV park in the Little Pueblo. Something has clicked lately: I have started to see people as local yokels again.


Thursday, August 11, 2011

America's Biggest Company

Financial turmoil is a serious business, so it's with comic relief that I read about Apple's market capitalization becoming bigger than Exxon's for the first time. 'Who has the biggest market capitalization' is a far cry from being the official 'most important' company; still, it does say something about the financial zeitgeist in a loose and unscientific sort of way.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Information Age Hooey

Perhaps you are spending a lot of time these days reading financial websites. Today I have been drowning in informational trivia; maybe it's my fault for not choosing better websites. Why is it so hard for business writers, in the opening paragraph, to compare the relative sizes of Lehman (September 2008) and the current sickies, Bank of America and SocGen in France? That would let the reader quickly assess the risk and importance of the current mess with one already experienced.

Sure, there are many facets to a comparison of SocGen and Lehman. But American news sources underestimate the importance of anything outside the USA; they are famously parochial. A simple numerical comparison might help their readers overcome some of this.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Standard and Poor's

It is strange that Geitner, Obama, Wall Street liquidity junkies, and the usual cabal of narco-Keynesians would be so upset by Standard and Poor's downgrade of US government debt. Why don't they just nationalize Standard and Poor's, that is, literally make it a branch of the US government?

Now, you might think I'm being facetious because that would result in the US government rating itself. To old-fashioned people, that might sound like a conflict of interest. They might even say it makes a farce out of ratings. But ratings are already a farce.

Many people have gotten used to the idea that the budget deficit can be "funded" by the Federal Reserve buying US Treasury bonds. So why not take this sort of incestuous arrangement to the next logical step?

Saturday, August 6, 2011

A Sponge for Electrons

Yesterday was the day for the last big ticket items needed to get back on the road: I bought four new Interstate (GC-2) golf cart batteries; these are the conventional 6 volt, flooded, lead-acid batteries that lose water gradually and give off trace amounts of hydrogen when charging.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Political Tail Wags Economic Dog

One of the difficulties of writing about financial markets these days is that it's hard to tell where politics ends and real markets begin. Many times it seems as though the stock market is just the tail of the Federal Reserve dog.

Yesterday's market was down big enough to make mainstream news. Wall Street is desperately hoping that Bernanke's helicopter will come to the rescue, perhaps playing Wagner's Ride of the Valkyries, like in the movie, Apocalypse Now.  This scenario is playing out as I sketched in an earlier post.

Obama must be nervous about Bernanke being too quick with QE3. There is a tremendous opportunity for him here if Bernanke doesn't blow it. If Obama wants to get reelected, the bloodletting in the job and stock markets needs a chance to look more desperate.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

The Wow Factor

How many times have you bought something and experienced a real Wow! ?  In my case the first digital camera had that effect; so did the first GPS gadget. More times than not, I find new gadgets and appliances to be overblown; the ownership experience is disappointing or even embittering at times, and for good reasons. No gadget is better than its battery or its weakest connector or its cheapo plastic battery case lid. Typically the plastic display scratches up the first day.

Yesterday I experienced a Wow from a homemade gadget: a trailer brake and light tester. Knowing how cheesy the connector is between the tow vehicle and the travel trailer, and how amateurish the wiring is near the trailer brakes, a driver can feel a vague dread in the back of his mind when he is driving down the road with many tons of stuff under his "command".