Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Battling the Early Bedtime Syndrome

Going to bed too early can destroy the quality of a night's sleep for some of us. Sleep is a big part of life, so this problem can't be laughed off as a small annoyance. It probably afflicts RV boondockers worse than other lifestyles, since using fewer lights and gadgets tends to shut a person down at night. The Early Bedtime Syndrome is a nexus for several lifestyle issues.

An RV friend, 15 years older than me, once said that he went to bed at 8 pm, and "why not?; it was perfectly natural with the early sunsets in winter". The trouble with that argument is that it's also natural to wake up at 2 or 3 in the morning.

Going to bed too early when camping in town is a dreadful mess, since stores and traffic are still roaring late into the evening, and since you hear everything in an RV.

How did this problem get started in the first place? Blame success. Traffic, wind, dry heat, monsoonal thunderstorms, and wildlife viewing are all good reasons why mornings are drastically better than afternoons for outdoor excursions. As an outdoorsy RVer I learned to make an art out of enjoying morning, years ago. And it worked beautifully, too many days to count. In fact it gradually became an integral part of my lifestyle and self-identity.

That's where the good news ends. After waking up from a brief semi-conscious siesta, my day went downhill all afternoon. By 8 pm I was frustrated, bored, and grouchy. When going to bed early I was already looking forward to starting the next day early in the morning, and as an optimist.

Since I'd showered by noon the dogs never got the serious romp near sunset that most crepuscular animals want. But something clicked when I read a post by one of the blogosphere's most notorious teachers of False Doctrines: bibliophilia, campground sybaritism, iShackle iDolatry, and if that's not bad enough, inappropriate wardrobes.

But there was another reason for not being outdoorsy at sunset: I didn't want to have an emergency as darkness came on! It matters. More next time.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Mining Engineer Qualifying Exam

For 10 points answer the following question on today's pop quiz. Theses photo were taken in southern Arizona, somewhere near Ajo.

If you were going to open up a mine here, what kind of mine would it be?:
  1. Anthracite coal.
  2. Gold.
  3. Athabascan tar sand petroleum.
  4. Cobre, copper.
  5. Garlic.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

The Garrulous Grackle?

During one of our quotidian rides to the bakery and coffee shop, these noisy birds caught my attention. So did their silhouette. Subscription prices and advertising income are a bit low for this blog, so I can't keep a paid birder on staff. If anybody has a guesses about what kind of birds they are, please speak up.

The garrulity of birds is always fun to capture "on film". It makes them look more sentient and intelligent. It's also satisfying to use the camera to invoke the feel of other senses, such as sound in this case.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

A Tale of Two Lifestyles

Recently I had visitors from Arizona's Ant Hill #2, Tucson, who I was supposed to coach on the RV lifestyle. (They had a rental RV and were considering buying one.) I did a poor job of it despite being well qualified for the job.

Their main concern was in assessing the comfort and practicality of their mid-sized Class C motorhome. How can an experienced camper be useful when the other person's basic philosophical orientation is wrong? (I'm still searching for that wonderful quote from Aristotle about the tiniest mistake at the beginning of a project having the largest consequences.)

For instance, they thought that living in an RV was supposed to be just like living in a little house. The tiniest adjustments to their daily habits were purely negative aspects of RVing to them: partial proof  their experiment had failed.

Certainly RV living is similar to house living, in ways. But not identical. The difference is subtle but important. They just don't get it: RVing has pretty much the same comforts as a house, but only after you work at it; and that has the effect of making you consciously enjoy those comforts. Eight units of consciously-enjoyed comfort add more pleasure to your life than eighty units of comfort taken for granted.

There is so much phoniness in the conventional middle-class notion of pragmatism. Their worship of comfort leads to hollow victories. Competitive status-seeking poisons everything they do. But a general sermon on this topic is best left to a book. My style is the short essay, the philosophical vignette.

Coffee Girl and I were coming back to camp from a long walk in the Sonoran Desert when I saw an unusual white object on the rocks just behind my campsite.

Since a pickup was parked nearby, I thought the white object was somebody's tee-shirt or windbreaker. But it wasn't. It was the white breast of a raptor that was just too big to be real. My gawd I just had to get a photo of this magnificent beast, whatever it was. I tried to be as stealthy as possible in photographing it. In the next photo I was "hiding" between two saguaro cacti. Raptors usually show an amused look on their face at this point in the "hunt", as if to say, "What sort of nonsense is this? Who does this impudent wingless two-legger think he's fooling!"

As it turned out, the mystery bird was just a red-tailed hawk of the type I've seen before.

After some amateurish imitations of ravens or owls I finally annoyed him enough to fly off.

I got so nervous trying to get that photo that I moved the camera too much and it's a little blurry. Well, my bubble was now burst. But with enough endorphins in the bloodstream it was easy to be a good sport about it. It was still delightful to see that big, white, raptor chest, warming itself in the morning sun. How bold and brazen he was!

But how could I explain to my friends from the ant hill the value of this experience? So I saw a hawk; big deal. Back in Ant Hill #2 they could drive (through 35 traffic lights) to a famous desert wildlife museum and see dozens of interesting animals (looking bored in their cages). There's an admission price and a busy parking lot at the museum -- proof that it has value. So what (!) if my encounter with the hawk was serendipitous and right outside my bedroom? Its specialness was important only to me. There was no money changing hands. From their point of view value and money-price are the same thing.

Or they could smash and bash their way through late rush-hour traffic to an evening lecture about raptors, by a famous wildlife expert at the university. Even if the value of that lecture didn't come from a monetary charge, the gravitas and dignity of the occasion would be established by the wine and brie served before the lecture, and by the sheer size of its well-educated audience.

The weekend with my visitors from the ant hill really brought out something that I barely notice most of the time: that a camper derives value from subjective experiences. He cares for it -- whatever 'it' is -- and consciously notices it, suffers its absence, and revels in its presence. He puts 'it' to use. He creates value just by effort and conscious caring, rather than by rushing around town to buy crap or using a crowd of people to establish value. The camper is simultaneously radically-subjective and radically-objective with the idea of value.

The cynical reader might say, "Well, Boonie, it's all well and good that you are enjoying your own little mental playground out there in the desert. But don't most insane people function that way?" In order to "prove" their anthill is more sane than me, they need only say that more people agree with their point of view. Naturally King Number determines all.

One of the modern classics is the book by Richard M. Weaver, Ideas Have Consequences. From chapter 2:
The average man of the present age has a metaphysic in the form of a conception known as "progress"...
But since his metaphysic calls only for magnitude and number, since it is becoming without a goal, it is not a source of distinctions of value. It is a system of quantitative comparison.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

The Moral Equivalent of Quartzsite

A recent commenter was profoundly correct when he praised camaraderie as the best reason for going to that gawd-awful mess at Quartzsite in January. Recently I had a chance to go for a short, pleasant walk in the desert with three bloggers and their dogs, "somewhere in the Ajo" area. The Bayfield Bunch, Ed Frey, and I weren't doing anything difficult; it could be done almost any day. But that's just the thing. I can't remember doing anything like this before with other RVers!

But why? Let's avoid my standard whine about RV culture and stick to the subject of what gets in the way of boondockers socializing with each other more. One possibility is the stereotypical image of RV boondockers as solitude-seekers: latter day Henry David Thoreaus or St. Simeon Stylites. I remember reading Walden, carefully, and was a bit scandalized to learn that Thoreau had to put up with a railroad track nearby. He also had neighbors and visited with them occasionally. There is a popular misconception that Thoreau was a dedicated hermit. But he didn't go to Walden for the sake of solitude per se; he went, as he said, to "live deliberately," which is quite a different thing.

The other part of the boondocker stereotype is that they are impoverished, socially maladjusted, and sour. They hate other people and want to be left alone. Granted, there are half-cracked old guys boondocking in the winter desert and summer forests that you should avoid. They usually habitate in a rusted-out van, wear camouflage clothing, listen to talk radio all day, and have a vicious cur that snarls at anyone who gets within a quarter mile of their hovel. But when another boondocker looks lucid and un-cracked, it is a shame to be estranged from them. It's not as if every unit of human conversation comes at the expense of a unit of holy communing with "nature." Human beings are part of nature too.

Perhaps if boondockers were more sociable, a pent-up demand for human contact wouldn't slowly develop over the course of a year until it finally gets so bad they must do something desperate to overcome it, like go to Quartzsite.

Monday, January 23, 2012

The Churchill and "Good War" Cults

The favorite war of most Americans is World War II. In fact it is part of their mental furniture that World War II was the Good War fought by the Greatest Generation; that it was Churchill's finest hour and that He was the man of the century; that Hitler was the Devil incarnate; and that Stalin... well we won't talk about Stalin.

I just finished reading an excellent book by Patrick Buchanan, Churchill, Hitler, and the Unnecessary War. Some people wouldn't consider reading the book because Buchanan was a speech writer for Nixon. That's too bad, because the book doesn't concern itself with partisan politics. Also, Buchanan writes clearly.

What a relief it was to find that the first 100 pages of this 400 page book were dedicated to the Great War, World War I. Any discussion of World War II that ignores WWI is seriously flawed. To a large extent they were the same war, interrupted by a 20 year armistice.

Let's take just one example from our standard World War II myth and morality fable: Hitler's grab of Czechoslovakia and Poland was proof positive that he intended to take over the world. If land grabs are so awful, what does that say of the USA and czarist Russia in the 1800s? What does it say of the British Empire? And what does it say of most Americans' favorite foreign country, Israel?

Any German or Austrian of Hitler's generation was used to the idea of "Czech-Slovakia" being part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Poland had been dominated by Prussia or Russia for centuries. Most historians acknowledge that Hitler didn't want war with Great Britain.

I won't comment on the validity of Buchanan's argument about how unnecessary the Western Front war was. What interests me is how mindlessly accepted the Good War morality tale is in the USA. Where is the healthy skepticism and free discussion? Why has there been so little mention of Churchill continuing the starvation blockade of Germany during the negotiation of the Versailles Treaty? We look at the war with no more balance and perspicuity than children in Baptist Sunday School learn about God and the Devil.

In case all of this sounds like water-under-the-bridge, keep in mind that every time there is an expansion in America's War on Terror, metaphors and the "lessons of history" are dragged up about Churchill, Hitler, the Holocaust, appeasement, etc. Every time the usual suspects are salivating over a new war, they need only show a television clip of Chamberlain waving his paper, after returning from the Munich conference about Czechoslovakia. Each new disaster starts with the leader of some Muslim country (that most Americans can't locate on a globe) being compared to Hitler.

Every American president of either party would see a good crisis going to waste unless he assumes mock-Churchillian poses in front of the television cameras. Regardless of which party you vote for, doesn't it seem healthy to have foreign policy discussions that are open and real, instead of on auto-pilot? It is time Americans stopped being slaves of the Good War morality fable.

Friday, January 20, 2012

To Motorhome Midnight...and Beyond

Anybody who really expects to reach one of his Resolutions for a new year would probably be wise to choose something halfway achievable. Otherwise he will laugh it off by the middle of January. I was beginning to feel that way about my #1 goal for 2012: pushing the Sandman of the BLM desert back to 9 pm. Amongst RV boondockers 9 pm is the witching hour known as "motorhome midnight."

Legends have grown up around the winter campfires of desert tribesmen on Arizona BLM land about what lies on the other side; 901 pm has always been an 'undiscovered country from which none returns.' Doctrines of the post-9 pm world have never been universally agreed upon, but they usually offer the vague threat of a shadowy netherworld.

You can probably guess why this goal was chosen, not least of which is that it made me feel like I belonged in a nursing home. Old folks have a hard enough time sleeping through the night without sabotaging it by going to bed too early.

The first couple weeks saw no progress. At 745 pm I would start checking the time, while almost groaning with weariness. Then I would watch what seemed like a third of the movie, and check the time again: 752 pm. It was hopeless. When the sun goes down in the winter, I really would just as soon cave in.

The whole thing was like the beginning of the movie, The Right Stuff. There was a mystique about breaking the sound barrier in a jet plane. Some engineers said it couldn't be done; the plane would destabilize and crash. Even the most fearless pilots were intimidated; a few died trying to break it. And then Chuck Yeager walked into the movie...

The truth is that I had given up on this noble quest and was inventing excuses for defeat. Then a lucky break came from an unlikely source. The public library at Ajo renewed my Pima County (Tucson) library card, despite being a non-resident. A little thing like that can add a lot to the camping experience. It had a movie I hadn't seen in a long time: Billy Wilder's The Apartment, starring Jack Lemmon, Shirley MacLaine, and Fred MacMurray. Hollywood has had very few directors who produced "talky" movies -- that is, movies with interesting dialogue between intelligent adults. Virtually all directors are camera worshipers; a lot of good that does me when my eyes are closed.

With Wilder's help I achieved the impossible dream: I blasted through 9 pm and was still going strong at 930, when prudence dictated that I avoid hubris and consolidate my gains.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

A Quartzsite Refuse-nik

Near Quartzsite AZ a couple winters ago. A cynic might say that the big RV gathering in Quartzsite every January is a testament to herd-like behavior in human beings more than anything else. Still, it probably makes sense for any RVer to go there once, at least for a reason that might sound snide or facetious at first: the experience of Quartzsite will enhance your appreciation of camping somewhere -- anywhere -- else, in January.

After all aren't you always making a comparison of some kind when you appreciate the goodness or badness of any place? The comparison might be silent or implicit, but it's still there and it colors the whole situation. Your appreciation of anywhere-but-Quartzsite can be quite intense after experiencing that dreadful mess once.

The dogs and I had an especially good example of that a couple years ago. We boondocked a few dozen miles east of Quartzsite, with world-class hiking and scenery, a good wireless internet signal, and complete privacy. We were tucked in pretty close to a small "sky island", one of those small mountain ranges that rises abruptly from the flat desert plain. There is something personal and intimate about having your own little mountain range. It was small enough to mountain bike around in one day. 

Compared to the noise and congestion over at Quartzsite a few miles to the west, this place makes you feel like a don of the Spanish West or a gringo cattle baron of the late 1800s.

A large, stand-alone Rock, about 500 feet tall, stands in our front yard. It had a noble look.

Naturally our first long hike was clockwise 'round the rock. Every few minutes the rock's shape morphed into something unrecognizable. You begin to doubt if you will ever be able to get completely around some "thing" if the thing keeps changing. 

Coming around the back I kept choosing the main dry wash as we climbed to a saddle. Then we could drop into the watershed of yesterday's hike and walk a dry wash right back to the trailer. Although the watershed of each dry wash was only a few acres, they were deep, with dry waterfalls and eroded banks. The dry waterfalls were worn as smooth as children's playground equipment.

Saddles are great fun to reach. In just a few steps you realize you've come to a new watershed, a new viewscape, and in a humble way a new chapter in your life. But that didn't happen here. The dry washes of the two, oppositely-draining watersheds mingled in an interdigitated fashion. At times it all seemed topologically impossible. I probably walked for a minute on the far side of the saddle before realizing it.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Songbird of the Sonoran Desert

It's been a couple years since I've had a chance to enjoy the musical talent of the curved bill thrasher. And if that's not enough, it's quite the looker too, with that bill and orange eyes. What luck it was to maneuver a shadow into the background: the primal satisfaction of a successful hunt and kill.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Down with the Ship?

Are we supposed to be shocked or are we supposed to giggle about the "charges" that the Italian captain of the wrecked cruise ship was unmanly enough to get into a lifeboat with other passengers instead of going down with the ship? From one point of view this storyline is charming and nostalgic. It conjures up chivalrous images of an era long-gone, when a gentleman was expected to give up his life preserver and place on the lifeboat to a lady and her two small children.

It's hard to believe that modern culture still believes in romantic atavisms like a captain being the last off his ship. Perhaps the Media is just desperate for a story: disasters have a way of becoming yesterday's news so quickly; but scandals and controversies can be milked for weeks or months.

Imagine you were on that ship as it began listing. Shouldn't your behavior mirror the norms of society in general? For decades the Federal government has been running a Ponzi scheme regarding housing, diplomas, and senior medical care. Since 2008, trillions of dollars of debt has been taken on. Nobody asks if it is fundamentally immoral to dump these obligations on the younger generation. Therefore, it is perfectly sensible for an aging baby-boomer, who has already lived most of his life, to shove a child out of the way so that the boomer can get the last seat on the lifeboat.

And if a male boomer  considers giving up his seat to a young mother, well, what could be more sexist and politically incorrect than that! He should be more up-to-date: just shove her out of the way.

This Italian sea captain on the cruise liner simply did literally what central bankers, megabankers, and politicians have done metaphorically to their countries' economies. But none of them will lose their jobs, their government pensions, or their million dollar bonuses. We are told that's the way it must be, in order for large complex organizations not to lose Top Talent.

Well, the cruise liner corporation needs to hold on to its Top Talent, too. And yet everybody is out to lynch the Italian sea captain. I'm actually starting to feel sorry for the guy.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Gila Woodpecker?

Perhaps I'll have a chance to enjoy one of the bird preserves in Arizona before I take flight in April. Until then there will be only occasional opportunities. In my current campsite in the Sonoran desert I can hear a pretty good symphony in the morning. How nice that is compared to the 7 and 24 noise pollution of camping in a city. It's more fun to hear than see them. (Some campers couldn't be bothered by any of this; they'd have to wake up in the morning-- grin.)

I've warned readers that -- unlike my opinions on sex, politics, and religion -- my bird identifications are prone to error. But I think this little devil is a Gila woodpecker:

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Morning Glory

There are some oddities in life that I'm happy not to explain: for instance, a perfect morning. How impoverished life would be without mornings! And yet there are people who sleep through them. I'm experiencing day after day of morning perfection while camping in the Sonoran desert outside Ajo. It's a miracle that six toy-haulers don't move in next to me, so I'd better enjoy this while I can.

There is nothing better in this old world of ours than a mountain bike ride to town for a good cup of joe and a muffin at a high-quality bakery, especially when the dirt road is virtually noise-mobile free. When I leave at just the right time, the air is still chilly, especially in the dips at arroyo crossings. Also, the sun hasn't yet cleared the small mountains. I need gloves but I deliberately leave them off  to feel the contrast of cold fingers and sunlight that will explode any minute now.

Coffee Girl is leashed to my waist belt. Her attitude is different than when she frolics off-leash, chasing rabbits; here she acts like she has a serious job to do. How could a dog run in a straight line and keep away from the wheels? (It helps to adjust the leash to the right length; she must not get out in front of the bike because she needs to see the front wheel in her peripheral vision.)

Ahh goodie, there are Morning Glory muffins available today. I always eat outside, which is kind of a shame because I can't talk to the customers inside. But there is no air in there. Every third customer stops by outside and plays with Coffee Girl and gushes about how pretty and friendly she is. Here is where we hang out:

Monday, January 9, 2012

Mocking Religion on the Football Field

One needn't be religious to appreciate the importance of the religious imagination to history and to an individual's mental ecology. We have a capability and tendency to construct an internal mental world which is more congenial than the objective world. This also explains the importance of poetry, comedy, sentimentalism, romanticism, or art in general. Wishful thinking is a big part of what we are. It can be a constructive thing if managed carefully.

So regardless of your religious or atheistic views, how do you feel about Tebow and other athletes pointing towards heaven or publicly praying at sporting events? I find it distasteful. How could a so-called religious person trivialize his own Faith like that?

Imagine some parents praying and carrying on like fools before their son's pee-wee hockey team hits the ice. Did it ever occur to them that somebody on the opposite team has the same faith as they do? If so, whose team is the Deity, the Author of the Universe, the Architect of the Cosmos, supposed to wave his pom-poms for?

As degrading as this type of behavior is to people's professed Faith, it is easy to explain: God and Country. God is behind our Army. The Devil sticks for the Enemy. Despite building a political-economic structure based on Permanent War, some Americans still need the outlet of Mock War, sports, to give them an adequate chance to make idiots of themselves.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Managing Comfort

Ajo, AZ. This has been a remarkable autumn and early winter. The weather didn't become nice and snowbird-friendly until late December. Since then it has been postcard-perfect.  It was fun to enjoy calm, sunny, and warm days. Of course a yellow light starts blinking in the back of my head when I start to feel comfortable. You can't help but feel that you are becoming soft.

This morning a cold wind is blowing. How are the nearby tent campers liking this? Seeing them reminds me how much I disliked tent camping way back when, and how valuable it is to have a hard-walled box to hide from cold wind. Talking to these tent campers yesterday, and visiting with my house-bound friends a couple days ago, I am reminded how carefully comfort-and-discomfort must be managed in order to make life both sensible and tasty.

To the human animal, comfort is delightful prey that becomes a boring meal. The trick with comfort is learning how to consciously experience it. The best way I know of is to stay on the contested boundary of discomfort and comfort. The right sort of camping can help a person experience that.

It's best to be frugal enough to avoid getting suckered into automatic comfort, gotten by high fixed costs and wasteful overhead. In a house, you just throw a switch, dial in the thermostat, and pay outrageous sums of money for it all, and then you feel nothing (about the comfort per se). Working all through your healthy adulthood in some frustrating or disappointing job to gain the "good things of life" and then feeling nothing when you get them -- that's a real definition of progress for you.

Friday, January 6, 2012

A Lost Love in Mining Town Funkiness

I hope to never outgrow an eyelash-fluttering susceptibility to dilapidated or funky buildings as seen in mining and desert rat towns. One of the best was a decaying stucco dump next to the bakery in Ajo. The friendly baker told me that it had been razed because it was 'ugly, dilapidated, and unsafe'. Yea well, So What, lady.

Who wouldn't love ocotillo-reinforced adobe? Ugly indeed! (But say one word in criticism of the bourgeois mindset that wants to destroy beauty, and readers will dismiss the blogger as a "cynical curmudgeon.")
Fortunately I've been finding some new dumps to replace this lost love. This one is certainly unique:

I didn't even know that corrugated tubes for under-road culverts came that big. Hopefully they've got some insulation in there! Perhaps the local building codes and ordinances limit culvert-housing to flat lots.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Discontented Canadians near the Border

In Ajo the other day I noticed a nice-sized fifth-wheel (small but practical) and I complimented the owners on it. As it turned out, they were from British Columbia. One thing that you notice on the Snowbird Trail is a type of prejudice that could be called "longitudinalism". People migrate as efficiently south-ish as possible, with little veering to the east or west. Some of this is to save fuel, but much of it is geographical and cultural affinity. There are cultural differences between the Left Coast and the so-called Hinterlands or Fly-over states. From the point of view of the former, the Great Lakes and the Texas coast are still isolated in the hinterlands, despite being accessible to ocean-going vessels.

But the prejudice works in both directions. For instance, "BC" is not my favorite province. Too many trees. In the winter most of the Canadian ex-pats in Mexico are from BC. They are stereotypical left-wingers, whose praise of Mexican culture really comes down to the fact that Mexicans aren't Americans.

But the BC couple in Ajo was headed into the hinterlands of Mexico, the high plateau in the center, away from the warm air and palm trees on the coast. The husband loved getting away from the over-regulation and micro-management of Canada. (I used to think of Canada as being 20% worse than the USA in this regard, but 9-11 might have made the USA worse.)

After he vented on this topic awhile I confessed to him that I had RVed in Canada only once, and had always felt on the edge of getting in trouble with common things, such as parking, camping, driving, throwing a little bag of trash away, or walking my dog. Imagine a sign telling you that dogs must be on a leash no longer than 1.82 meters, but my non-metric dog leash turned out to be 0.008804 meters too long, since it's a 6 foot leash intended to comply with the latest California nanny-state regulations. It wouldn't have surprised me to see Sergeant Preston jump out from behind a spruce or birch tree, whip out a laser-based measuring tape, and give me a stiff fine.

I never went back to that country, and always felt bad about that. Had I practiced "confirmation bias" in Canada? That is, had I carried a prejudice into the country and then consciously noticed only those things that confirmed my already-formed opinion? Perhaps. But my recent conversation with the fellow from BC shows that some people in Canada feel the same way.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Mystery Truck

Life has become a social whirl for the dogs and me here in Ajo, AZ. We had a reunion with Ed Frey and the new gal in his life, Patches. I was a bit nervous about my Coffee Girl (kelpie) meeting a muscular American Staffordshire bull terrier, but it went OK after the first couple minutes. Soon we were walking off leash on a small patch of BLM land near town. It is a rare treat for me to become acquainted with an RVer who likes long walks, especially with a dog. I predict great success between Ed and Patches.

Ed has an interesting and practical RV lifestyle. He travels full-time in a moderate-sized Class C motorhome, with no small-towed-car behind it. He'll live in an RV park for one month, pay a reasonable monthly rate, and then move on. For entertainment and exercise, he is a walker, not a hiker; he simply begins walking from his own front door. A dog along will make his walks much more fun.

Then I went on a couple hikes with an old RV friend who dropped out to become a townie in Tucson. He met a gal (the two-legged kind) in the huge hiking club there. In the summer they like to volunteer at national parks or monuments, but it was always hard to find housing since the park service has such an easy time getting volunteers who have their own RVs. After fighting the system for a couple years, they are considering getting a Class C motorhome, so they were renting one for this weekend to get a feel for it.

It might amuse the reader to imagine ol' Boonie hosting a couple RV newbies, and answering all their questions. I tried to be helpful rather than impatient, but I'm sure they heard a lot of "No, that's not the way to think about it" from my mouth.

On our hike around Ajo Peak we encountered this weird old truck.

It was on a private patch of land. The oddest thing was that the tires were pumped up. Surely this ol' thing couldn't still be used?

One thing for sure is that the warm sunny weather wore Coffee Girl out. But she was happy about it:

Sunday, January 1, 2012

2012 Resolution: Radical Consumerism

Recently I got my mountain bike serviced in Phoenix. When picking it up I walked into the wrenching end of the shop and spoke to the young mechanic. He seemed proud of improvising on the bracket, thus relieving me of staying in the Phoenix area for a long time while waiting for a special order to come in. I was happy to stand there and be his appreciative audience.

He also installed a new chain. They don't last as long as they used to, in part because they are narrower and thinner and cocked at weird angles to accommodate the 10 (!) gears in the back; with the 3 in the front, it makes for a 30 speed bike. We commiserated about faster wear and tear, and more finicky adjustments. 

No sooner did 30-speed bicycles become obligatory for any serious cyclist than a hot new trend arose: single speed bikes with no derailleurs whatsoever. Only really tough, cool guys bought these, and it was for practical reasons, if you were to listen to them. How and why did consumers allow themselves to get sucked into extraneous expenses and hassles, all for the sake of some phony progress?!

Later I was at a Walmart. Both their stores and their website are starting to lower the number of regular DVD movies available. They are trying to railroad the saps (aka, the customers) into buying more expensive blu-ray players and disks. I hope they fail; maybe we'll know by the end of 2012.

These are only two examples of the same process that eats up a human life. We are just members of an anonymous tribe/horde of mindless consumers who are swept along by whatever trend is supposed to be hot. Why don't we get angry about it and resist? Whose money is it, anyway?!

As we look forward to 2012, peering into the future a little bit, let's be hopeful that the consumers (and voters) will start to rebel.