Monday, April 30, 2012

Update -- RV Quest for Community Caravan on a Hairpin

San Lorenzo, NM. We found a cool, breezy ridge to boondock on, and it had 3 or 4 bar wireless internet service. (Damn, I'm good.)

We had a 360 degree view.

Our departure was less worrisome than our arrival. Familiarity helps a lot. It will be a long time before I am foolish enough to arrive on a road like this at dusk!

The van served as our minesweeper or cow-catcher. There definitely were sections that would not have allowed oncoming traffic to pass.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Big D in Dog, Little d in Death

I led my little poodle, 17 years old in a couple weeks, back into an animal shelter. As if the reason for going there weren't grim enough, it was wounding to think that he was completely innocent of that reason.  I don't like having such power over another creature.

I didn't bring him in to euthanize him, but just to break the ice with that eventuality. The people who work in the animal shelter must be experienced with knowing when it is time to put an animal down, whereas I had no such experience, the little poodle being my first dog. He made it out of the animal shelter (with a pulse) and back to the rest of his life.
Flashback from his youth, exploring Valley of Fire near Mesquite NV
Let's step back from the Here and the Now, and ask how our grandparents' generation would have ended their pet's life. Would they have just taken the old pet back behind the barn when the kids were at school, shot it, and then buried it? Or would they have asked a relative or neighbor to do the honors? Drowning the old pet would have been crueler. But without a gun, one must do things the modern way: fill out a form and pay money.

There is a grim gallows humor to the cost of euthanizing a pet. The high costs that I feared turned out to be a chimera. Euthanasia and no-questions-asked disposal of the body were inexpensive. Ahh but there were premium services offered as well. As a man with a bourgeois background, my eyes should have lit up at the mere mention of that. The high end was "community cremation", whatever that is.

When Socrates was nearing his execution he requested his friends and disciples make his carcass available to the beasts of the field, so that he might be of use to somebody. But his friends and disciples told him they would not comply. I'm sure there is a coyote or a turkey vulture that would appreciate the meat of my little poodle, but I too will not comply. In fact a coyote just barely missed his chance a couple years ago.

In leading your pet to the animal shelter, let's be honest about what we see. Look at his wobbling, slowness, and painful limping. In fact his overall behavior makes him unrecognizable from the little beast that you loved for so many years. Can you deny that Time is as real as his body? Consider how subversive this thought is. Our era is prone to considering Reality as material. But Time is not a material

It can be argued that the Time of the little beast's life is just as real as his fur or his pulse. In that case, death is highly exaggerated, since 98+ percent of his time is over now, regardless of whether he is breathing and has a pulse. 

This is a consolation only if it is taken seriously. But it's easy to make this argument and then hear a little voice in the back of the head say that this is just intellectual and metaphysical bullshit that won't mean squat as far as how you feel when the time comes. 

But this isn't just an exercise in Reason versus Emotion, because more than one emotion is involved and it is Reason that will adjudicate. Implicit in this blog's theme of early retirement is the idea that Time is just as real and important as the stuff that is bought with time: career, marriage, children, house, cars, and dozens of other toys and status symbols. If this notion is correct, and I'm vehement about it, then maybe I really can get genuine consolation from thinking of his Time as already being over -- dead -- and therefore why exaggerate the moment when his breathing and pulse stop?

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Mountain 2, Kodger 0

San Lorenzo, NM. I'd found a little slice of -- actually a big slice of -- camping paradise, but I didn't expect the Caravan of the Kodgers to come up here, since the state parks really are more comfortable as long as you have an air conditioner.

It might be true that boondockers are real campers because they own dogs who want to be real dogs; and you can't be that in a campground on a leash. Another reason why a camper might like my current setting is the mountain biking. The road splits and follows dry creeks through canyons cooled with ponderosas and decorated with lupines. On top of that, the dirt roads were maintained by the county, and were rather smooth.

Of course those two roads would be fun to drive with a nice "towed" like the Honda CR-V that many motorhomers have. But the motorhome never would have made it to this campsite in the first place.
There are other reasons for being a boondocker, such as noise or an appreciation for nature. But I'm beginning to think that dogs and mountain bikes are so concrete that somebody who is guilty of both counts is doomed to lonely boondocking.  Like I said, I didn't expect the Caravan to show up here.

But they did. Of course it helps to know the answer, but they still had a difficult time snaking up the 7 miles of narrow dirt road. One RVer, Lyn, acquitted herself admirably in her class B motorhome (customized van). 

Then there's the King of the Kodgers, himself. In a word, shameful (grin). It took him a second attempt to surmount one of hills a few miles back in ranch country. (It was so mild that I don't even remember it.) There was one big hill just after entering the national forest. I drove down in my van to see how the Caravan was doing.

The Kodger was walking up the hill to size it up. He was gushing excuses for quitting and for just camping at the bottom, if that was close enough to visit the rest of us. Maybe his GMC Sonoma pickup truck is under-matched to his 4500 pound ultralight trailer; or the clearance is low; or the 8 foot width is a big handicap in doing tight turns; or "P" tires (instead of "LT" tires) are not a good idea on pickup trucks.

Whatever the reason, what transpired next is almost too shameful to describe. (But I will anyway.) I got out my tow rope and finally found a spot on his truck to attach it to. The Kodger kept sniffling and whining about how this wouldn't work. But two vehicles connected by a rope are functionally the same as four-wheel drive with a bigger engine, as long as the two drivers coordinate things well.

Up we went, and with little difficulty. Finally getting over the hill, the Kodger then widened the "driveway" to our campsite, thanks to his 8 foot width. But no real damage was done, except "to his pride."

Good news: Lyn has a 9-week-old Corgie who is remarkably calm for a little bundle of soft, warm squirm. She's as cute as the little darlin' who was turkey hunting the other day.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Premature Mother's Day Oration

Maurice Chevalier was right, in Gigi: Thank heavens for little girls. 

There is a barrier protecting my boondocking site in a national forest near City of Rocks State Park (Silver City, NM): an inconvenient location and 7 miles of a narrow gravel road. Thus I have seen absolutely nobody out here.

Yesterday I was surprised to encounter a small SUV, carrying Dad and a little darlin', maybe 4 years old. They were looking for wild turkeys. We talked about the road and mining shacks for a couple minutes. The cutie pie said she liked my dog, Coffee Girl.

Perhaps Dad is imprinting a love of the outdoors on this little girl. Twenty years from now she might turn out to be a "camping mom", a horsewoman, or maybe even a mountain biker!  Her husband will be fortunate in this regard, at least.

I have no way of knowing whether they found their wild turkeys, but Coffee Girl and I did, the next day. Those things are huge! It was down in a slightly-wet creek right alongside the dirt road. We got within 20 feet of it. It scrambled off, climbing up a steep hillside.

If this blog still has any flowerologists in the readership, help me with this one:

Monday, April 23, 2012

Camping at Dusk on a Narrow Road

San Lorenzo, New Mexico. And to think that a reader/commenter thought that I was a coward for avoiding hiking, biking, or traveling near sunset! It has always been a good policy. But sometimes a camper has to push the envelope a little. I'm not advertising recklessness. But there's such a thing as going into the Unknown simply because you must. Although risks are unavoidable, they are not being pursued for the sake of themselves. It builds character to get yourself in a bit of trouble, fight to stay calm, and work your way out of the hole by solving one problem at a time. But even more fundamental than that is backing off before it's too late.

In general the Benchmark state atlas shows RV-friendly dirt roads as heavy dashed red lines, and they have names. In general there is a big turnaround once you get into a national forest; big enough for pickup trucks pulling horse trailers, or for firefighting trucks. My Ford Econoline van and 7 foot wide X 21 foot long trailer turn around better than those other vehicles.

Armed with those excuses I decided to push through the 7 miles of dirt road before hitting the national forest. It was dusk now. The road wasn't steep or rough, but it was narrow. I dreaded another vehicle coming the opposite way. And if it got dark, could I get camped without backing into a tree or boulder?

If only the terrain would open up, with wide pull-offs along the road! Anyone pulling a trailer -- even a small one -- should feel claustrophobic about getting trapped in a canyon. In a worst case scenario, I would simply pull over to the side of the dirt road and "camp" for the night. But the dirt road kept getting narrower and narrower, and dusk got darker.

Finally I started to feel the survival instinct of the Experienced: don't make things worse! Stop while there is still time! So I parked on a flat spot right in the middle of the road, grabbed the four D cell Maglite flashlight, and walked the last half mile to the national forest gate. As always, dogs love moments like this. They get so charged up. They perceive no risk -- just fun.

And there it was! The canonical turnaround at the cattle gate. Beyond that, the road went up a ridge that might offer line-of-sight to the Verizon tower that was 5 miles to our west. Mountains, not so good; canyons, very bad; ridges and mesas, good.

I was terribly relieved, and walked back to the rig to bring it up to the turnaround. By now the flashlight needed to be turned on. Then a weird mechanical sound make me jump a foot off the ground! Geesh, that was only the second rattlesnake that ever rattled at me in all these years. There's nothing subtle about that warning. He was lying out in the middle of the dirt road, soaking up the warmth left over from a hot day. Thank goodness Coffee Girl was on a short leash. The gods just won't let a guy gloat at all, before smiting or at least humbling him.

We finally got camped with no more excitement. This is an example of how Comfort and the spoon-feeding of information to campers are not what make RV camping fun and rewarding. This blog will remain silent on geographical details such as specific roads and locations.

The next morning I found boondocker heaven, further up the road: spacious, no people, no rangers, 6700 feet of altitude, and 3 bars out of 4 of Verizon internet signal. I love ridges!

On a mountain bike ride up the canyon, I smiled when the ponderosa pines started at 7000 feet. It was cool and dark along the creek bottom. I found some old mining buildings:

It was a surprise to find a real residence out there  -- the only one on the whole road. The gate was locked and a warning sign made it clear that the hermit/troll was not looking for company. Where is the Kodger Incorrigible when you need him? I wonder if he would have enough guts to ring the "doorbell" just outside the hostile gate -- clang, clang, clang! -- and get the "story" from whatever weirdo lives here.

What sort of guy lives out here all by himself? An urban drop-out? An old hippie or Greenie? My reluctance to bang the bell was due to the fear that his entire mental life consists of listening to talk radio or preachers on AM radio.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Update on Upcoming Duel with Fellow Blogger

I don't want readers or the other blogger to think that it was an empty challenge when I challenged him to find the best essay in the substantial archives of Fred on Everything. It looks like I'll be done with the 500+ essays by the end of April, as originally estimated.

But limiting myself to one essay will prove more difficult than expected. Normally I find Fred's pearls of wisdom sitting in a single paragraph or sentence, rather than in an entire two-screen essay. For instance one of the essays today says:
Much of the unpleasantness of modern life occurs because we will say "no" to almost nothing.

Why does this happen?

It happens because, instead of deriving law from morality, we now derive morality from law. In a healthy society, laws enforce morality; they do not dictate it. In America today, the opposite is true.
By untying law from the anchor of morality, we give up control over our lives.
That is the kind of thought you don't get from the politically-correct, lame stream media. You could take off into the mountains or desert and think about these sentences for a week or two. Nevertheless a duel is a duel and I will honor our agreement at the end of April by choosing a single essay.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Two Travelers, Two Trails

An old RV buddy and I got together for a hike up Red Mountain, which overlooks Patagonia, AZ. He isn't an RVer anymore. Long-time RVers like me are used to seeing people drop out. Normally I can tell before they can. RVing is just a transitional state for most people.

He thought RVers were nice folks who sat around too much, and that the so-called RV Dream consisted mostly of dreaming of the next potluck. I don't know how he got that idea, but he did. Also he wasn't too handy with maintaining his motorhome and never made a serious hobby out of it.

He was diagnosed with the Thin Man syndrome, and it appears terminal. You know the type -- gnarly, wiry old guys who refuse to blimp out in middle age or old age, like a decent person should. If the world were fair there would be a support group for men like this. Women seem to be mercifully free of it.

He had another affliction; he was single. Boys will be boys and he hoped to meet a woman with a vestige of a feminine figure despite being in her sixties. (Is that really a realistic expectation?)

So he moved to Tucson, joined a large hiking club, and went on a couple hikes per week. Eventually he met such a woman and moved into a pile of sticks and bricks.

We used to have friendly arguments about the pro-s and con-s of RVing versus local-yokelism. He made his decision and happily it has worked out pretty well for him.

After a couple years of solitary boondocking and RV travel I wanted more companionship. So I rented by the month at RV parks in town, but not for the companionship at the RV park, obviously. Then I would bicycle with the local club, several times per week. It worked reasonably well.

How well does something have to work before we pronounce it a success? Samuel Johnson, one of the great quotables of history, once said something like, "As I get older, I am willing to call a man a good man on easier terms." I think that applies to situations as well as people.

But not too "easy." Eventually, impersonating a townie got to me. I was always doing things the rat-racer's way. Our values were completely different outside the sport of cycling. Actually I was more lonely in town than by myself, out in the desert or forest, bicycling with my dog. On top of that, camping in town was expensive and poor quality, especially for a dog owner.

Different value systems: it might be subtle but eventually it makes you want to secede from the tribe. I wearied of having my lifestyle dismissed with a smirk; I was their licensed lunatic, you know, who they just knew would get through this phase eventually and go back to living like a normal person. (Like them.) I never real told them my opinion of their lifestyle since "different" people are usually liked and tolerated only to the extent that they are jolly and harmless. Perhaps the townies were perceptive enough to see a barely-controlled hostility in my attitude. After a few years of this schizophrenic existence I went back to solitary RV boondocking.

I'm glad that I get a chance to see my old buddy once per year when I'm in the Tucson area. It's too bad we don't overlap more, but at least things have worked out pretty well for both of us.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Camping in Wind and Snow

Let's hope this is the last spring storm.

Maybe I've always misunderstood what was meant by a "windy day." Didn't it mean high average speed? But that certainly isn't what happened the other night. 

The average speed wasn't unusual, but the gusts were violent and a little scary actually. Since air is a compressible fluid it shouldn't be able to produce the hydraulic hammering that my RV experienced. Sleep became impossible. And wouldn't you know it: the "ship" was parked abeam the west wind. What happened to sailors pointing the ship directly into the face of the storm?

I was camped alone at the northeastern mouth of the Chiricahua mountains, where these vertiginous mountains debouch onto the lonesome horizontalness of high desert. Hmmm... sudden elevation changes seem like they could make large pressure gradients, i.e., wind.

What does a camper do when wind becomes a hateful nuisance, besides staying indoors that is? I headed up into the Burro mountains between Lordsburg and Silver City, NM. It sounds stupid doesn't it? The day was cold enough as it was. Why make it worse by gaining altitude?

But it helped. Forests really knock those gusts down to size. But then it started snowing...

It must seem silly to mainstream RVers to camp like this, instead of parking in a nice, tidy, small, rectangular spot in an RV park, sucking down 50 amps of electricity to heat the RV to 72 F, and following the storm on the Weather Channel. You can buy large-screen televisions these days at a pretty good price, and then fill an entire slide-out with the monster. And the picture is so clear -- why, it's almost like being there.

Friday, April 13, 2012

An Incorrigible Kodger in Bisbee

Maybe Wayne was right the other day about beauty being available even in towns and cities. For instance the Mobile Kodger and I were walking through Bisbee AZ yesterday on our sojourn to New Mexico. Old mining towns -- even if they are tourist traps -- put me in a good mood regarding towns, cities, and -- dare I say -- even people. And I needed the advantage since I was walking through a funky town with the inimitable and incorrigible Kodger.

Those who have never had this experience might have difficulty imagining it. It took a few blocks for the Kodger to reach his stride. We started downtown, in the high-rent district: art galleries, gewgaws, baubles, trinkets, and bourgeois matrons. There really is a sad and noble beauty to the silent suffering of  any husband who is in tow in a place like this. The most humane and sensible matrons leave their suffering saints at home and do Bisbee with "the girls". In fact it might be a good idea for any man who is seriously considering marriage to take Honey Buns through Bisbee. If they are still on speaking-terms after an hour or two, the marriage might stand a chance.

Unlike the Kodger I was indifferent to people, and preferred old buildings and architecture. There were a couple times when my heart started palpitating and my eyelashes began fluttering. This was probably amusing to him. As we walked away from downtown the buildings looked more dilapidated, eclectic, and funky. One old wreck of a house seemed to be built out of the same rocks that were used in a multi-level terrace.

As a cyclist I perked up when I saw this store:

In case you didn't click it to enlarge it, it says "Bisbee Bicycle Brothel."

Each block up the hill and towards the canyon, the Kodger became bolder about getting the "story" from total strangers. I hung back and either blushed or acted annoyed and impatient. Was he just exercising a skill that he knew he was good at? Another scalp on his belt? Or was it actually beneficial to him or his interviewee? Maybe the interviewee just felt important; if that's all it was, the whole thing seemed manipulative, as everything in the social science racket is.

And yet, the Kodger is fundamentally correct in making an effort to see human beings as a valuable resource. One reason I'm involved with his experiment this summer is that it takes straight aim at the mistaken notion that boondocking and hermit-like behavior are inextricably linked.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

A Sage and the City

It's the music in the grocery store that brings it on. My city nausea, that is. When finishing a long stay on raw land and heading into the city (Sierra Vista, AZ), it makes sense to see it as an opportunity for a mental adventure. Pretend that you are seeing city-ways for the first time. Take nothing for granted. Why not let yourself be astounded and amused by it all?

Anyway, that's what I try to do. Then I walked into a grocery store and had my central nervous system attacked by unusually loud and conventionally ugly music. More than anything else it's the ugliness of popular music that makes me think this society is doomed -- or at least, that I want it to be doomed, so that something better replaces it. 

Does real camping get a person so used to quietness that noise pollution seems worse back in the hive? It's possible. Then again, this is a military town, so maybe noise levels are higher with all the young bucks around.

A Stoic sage would come back to the city and maintain an imperturbability about the insanity of modern life. A flunkie sage has to fight to maintain his mental independence from an ugly culture that just isn't worth being a member of. Stubbornness of this kind is fatiguing. Carried to extreme this would result in grouchiness and hostility, which would be foolish. But surrender is not an option.

Monday, April 9, 2012

The Trouble with Solitary Traveling

It might seem like a minor achievement to anybody else, but sleeping to dawn -- and even to sunrise! -- made me think my visitors were miracle workers. It's been a year since I visited these two mobile scoundrels. Glenn of and the Mobile Kodger are here, sharing a zillion acre campsite with me. We sit out at night under the stars and solve the world's problems, after which we move on to explaining the riddles of the universe, the meaning of life, and the best rig design. A later bedtime makes for delicious sleep to dawn. 

Back when I was a newbie I was actually camped at one of those dreadful Escapees' parks. I went to an evening campfire, which surprisingly wasn't against municipal code or against the RULES or something else, and an older camper came out and joined in. He said that evening campfires used to be a really big thing with RV campers, but then satellite television came along. These evening conversations with Glenn and the Kodger are really bringing this memory back.

They also help me realize how much I've missed by camping alone all these years, instead of with like-minded travel companions. There really aren't good mechanisms for finding compatible campers amongst mainstream RV groups. The vast majority of RVers are so conventional and uninteresting. Perhaps I should stretch myself and join the Kodger's camping group this summer at New Mexico state parks.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Travelers' Schedules

"My wife and I have been planning on becoming full time RVers. What's been your greatest challenge?" That's what the solo bicycle tourer asked. He was resting at the coffee shop in Patagonia AZ, tweaking his fully-loaded touring bicycle. The answer was easy: "demographics." Since he was a married man, the brutally truthful answer to his question would have been, "Your wife." But I wasn't in the mood for being that brutal with a pleasant stranger.

Then I tried to pry him away from his pre-planned route along sometimes-shoulderless highways and tempt him into riding on dirt roads through magnificent high grasslands. Of course there was a disadvantage: it would put him behind schedule. I don't do "schedule." I doubt that he followed this advice. It's a good reason why I could never really relate to the culture of long distance bicycle touring.
I have a penchant for latching onto these soloists.

In Baja once, I met a young man who bicycled all the way down to the tip with his girlfriend, put her on a plane, and was cycling back to the USA alone. His rear wheel was falling apart. There were no real bicycle shops within hundreds of miles.

I had an unnecessary extra wheel (not just the tire) that was just taking up space in the van. I offered it to him for $10 or for a good letter explaining the art of bicycling in Baja, as he preferred.

He seemed taken aback by my offer, the way a wise child should refuse free candy from an older stranger. Peter was poor, idealistic, young, and proud. He was a struggling artist and a bit of a hippie, at least on the surface. He graciously declined and went back to his tent.

The next morning he relented and accepted the rear wheel on the terms offered. He brought over some bread baked in a wood oven at a locally famous baker, that had pulled him over to this spot in the first place. It was fine. Peter thought it was important not to commit to too many miles per day; he needed the flexibility to run into interesting places.

And off he rode. I never really expected to hear from him again. I watched him ride off like the old carnie watched Dorothy of Oz walk off with little Toto just before the twister hit and thought, "Poor kid--I hope he makes it."

A month later I was in this cute little town named Patagonia AZ, for this first time. I had just gotten a letter from Peter back in the USA (Bishop, CA) explaining the art of bicycling in Baja. It was literally the first day of spring and it had snowed here, 19 miles from the Mexican border.

That was a long time ago. What has happened to that young man? Has he married the girlfriend? Is he up to his eyeballs in debt and domestic trivia? Recall Tolstoy's famous comment in War and Peace, about how marriage and domestic trivia destroy all that is noble in a man's life.

Did he give up his painting? Oh probably so. He is a grown-up by now, you know. I never saw one of his paintings. If I had, they probably wouldn't have meant much to me, since art of that type never does. But how I admired his art of living.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Idle, Idyllic, and Idols in Patagonia

Every day the same three guys sit in chairs under the canopy of the old-fashioned gas station. And since this is Patagonia, it still is a gas station. I giggle at this sight because they are so reminiscent of the old boys hanging out at the gas station on the Andy Griffith show of olden times. In fact that is one way to think of this town: Mayberry for hippies.

The best way to tour Patagonia is to ignore the art galleries and walk through the alleys to gawk at backyards. The normal bland suburb would have codes and ordinances against half of this town. Patagonia is a lower Leadville.

It is ironic. Most of the towns in America more interesting than Gopher Prairie or Levittown are old mining towns. So is Patagonia; yet, the locals are raising hell about a copper strip mine being developed in the area. Actually there is a second layer of irony: an environmentalist's favorite utopian dream is a nation running on all-electric Obamamobiles. How many pounds of copper windings would there be in each of these? Where does the copper come from? Perhaps the typical American of the post-industrial age thinks that an electric car is really an "electronic" car run by silicon chips "made by" Apple.

But back to the backyards of Patagonia. They are the kind of art I can appreciate; art that develops slowly over time, just as the topography of the Colorado Plateau does.

Many houses and sheds had corrugated galvanized metal roofs. When the sun catches them just right they rip the eyes right out of your head. There is a beauty to intensity that is usually overlooked as artists try to make everything effeminately pretty. I love these roofs most when they are partly rusted.  

Most Anglo-Americans implicitly subscribe to the Whig Interpretation of History. How do travelers reconcile this general perspective with their concrete experiences of returning to towns that they love after a year or two? Are they not afraid that something will have changed, and that most change means decline? Or do people worship the false idol of Progress so blindly that they don't see the increased sprawl, noise, prices, traffic, architectural blandness, and rules and regulations?

On one of these returns I immediately hit the town coffee shop, which also serves as the "Chatterbox Cafe" a la Garrison Keillor. My first impression came from the young senorita barista, who had the sort of skin that a gringo with northern European genes has to be in awe of.  Ahh, all was going to be well this year, I thought.

Every year, before Tucson has its first heat wave, I move the ol' wagon up to summer pastures near Sonoita and Patagonia. It is a seasonal idyll that lasts a couple weeks. There's a dog in this shadow:

I don't know how Patagonia got its name. The only time I've ever paid any attention to the name was a book mentioned in William James's Varieties of Religious Experience. The book was Hudson's, "Idle Days in Patagonia." He was an Argentinian of English heritage. Those who have depleted the great open pit mine of Thoreau and would like to find a similar author would do well to consider this book.

By a curious coincidence I remember once seeing a dilapidated windmill in this area, with barely legible labeling as usual. It was made in Argentina.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Annual Pilgrimage to Patagonia

In March I usually stay interested in the area south of Tucson, for a month. This year it looks like it will be closer to two months. The main attractions are the high grasslands and the Santa Rita mountains. The grasslands go up to 5000 feet, so you can stay comfortable almost to May.

Several years ago my standard (ammonia/hydrogen) RV frig went kaput when I was here. It turned out to be an interesting experiment to junk it and replace it with a homemade, super-insulated ice chest. It took three dreadful days in Lowe's and Walmart parking lots to finish the job.

I don't recommend the ice chest as a permanent solution, primarily because of the inconvenience and cost of block ice, but it's nice to know that it works well as a stopgap. After putting up with it for a couple years I bought a Whynter 12 volt refrigerator, with the high-efficiency compressor. It has worked well the last six months on a full time basis, and appears to be the permanent solution.

Just a few miles south of Tucson is the Helvetia mining area. You do find some good rockhounding in the arroyos around there. It's no surprise why; you are just on the other side of the valley from the giant Pima copper mine.

Full time RVers are supposed to be rootless vagabonds. How then can you explain my sappy sentimentalism when I revisit one of my little valentines, like Patagonia? Why do I always choose towns where I don't fit? Everybody here is foo-foo New Age, Democrat, Green, has a butterfly garden promoting world peace, eats organic food, etc. I can't believe there are that many people who need to buy useless trinkets art, or pay for yoga or pilates instruction. Most people in town are broke, but housing is expensive and the hippie organic food boutique charges confiscatory prices. I can identify with the birders a little, and would do so even more if they would just eschew those Tilley hats.

For some reason I overlook all that. Patagonia makes me feel human; this can be felt most sweetly after a few days in Tucson. Maybe it is the same feeling that I had rockhounding close to that huge mine.
Recall that Thoreau once walked across Manhattan and reported that he hadn't met one man who was actually alive.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Challenging a Blogger to a Duel

Near Patagonia AZ. These days another blogger, Ed Frey, claims that he is reading the entire archive of Fred on Everything, start to finish. So am I. I'm not sure if he influenced me to do this or vice versa. But it honks me off to think that somebody else came up with my brilliant idea before I did.

There is only one way to settle this honorably. I must demand "satisfaction". That's right, I am publicly challenging this idea-robber to a duel: after a couple more weeks of reading he is invited to join me on the field of polemical battle, if he's valiant enough.

The rules of the duel are simple enough: I propose that we each select one of Fred's essays as the "best" or most important, and then explain why it is so. A substantial number of quotes from the essay will be permitted.

How about the end of April, Mr. Frey? My factor will call on your factor: