Saturday, December 24, 2016

Cognitive Dissonance at Christmas

While flying for the first time in 20 years, I certainly saw the convenience of smartphones, compared to the clumsy laptop I was dragging around. It was a good example of 'cognitive dissonance.' But this Christmas I experienced an extreme example of cognitive dissonance. 

Let's shift a little bit first: I congratulate anybody who makes it through life without having to clean up the ghastly mess left by a relative who has died recently. So much of the mess was avoidable. But we all tend to ignore our own mortality, so a bit of orderliness doesn't get a chance.

The cognitive dissonance comes in when the relative's death occurs near Christmas. Look at all the maniac shoppers driving around, stressed out of their minds, crashing into each other in the parking lots. Yesterday I actually saw a pickup truck turn a road's shoulder into a driving lane by jumping his right-hand wheels over the curb, and up onto a sidewalk.

It would never occur to these shoppers that their precious 'bargains' (and fun luxuries) are headed to next year's yard sale. Or maybe they won't. Maybe they will just pile up in basements and closets. And then the 'lucky' relatives will get to rent a payloader and dispose of all that crap when the shopper dies.

Think of the Indian tradition of putting a carcass on a funeral pyre, and then lighting the match. Maybe that is a good idea for material detritus.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Navigating by Feeling the Topography

Do you suppose there are people in this racket (RVing) who aren't map/geography nerds? Anything is possible I suppose. At any rate, such a person would not like this post.

I had to drive from Quartzsite to Havasu to find a veterinarian to remove some infected cactus spines from my dog. The job was successful, so I was in a good mood driving home. Perhaps that had something to do with my sudden appreciation for the road design in that town.

Yes I know: it's not something that you think too much about, or would deem worthy to write about. But I tend to write about things that seem unusual; and enjoying the 'town planning' of any place is unusual, especially after disliking the road layout of Havasu in the past.

The road system was a grid of approximately orthogonal lines: one set of streets went roughly uphill, along the steepest gradient, away from the Colorado River. The orthogonal set of streets ran along isoclines, more or less, which eventually fell back down to the main highway.

Believe it or not, it was fun to drive through town, completely unaided by maps or GPS help, and 'feel' my way back to the main highway by looking at the topography. (It goes without saying that using GPS gadgets is only for the unmanly traveler.)

Now I understand why I had disliked Havasu in the past. A sailor or a midwestern landlubber thinks in terms of latitude and longitude, and any other type of grid seems barbaric and random to him. But Havasu's grid isn't random: it was laid out relative a noticeable ramp away from the Colorado River and towards the mountains in the east.

Many 'old towns' were laid out parallel/perpendicular to the river which created the town in the first place. In such a place, you would only confuse each other giving directions in terms of north, south...  

Rather, you say "away" from the river or towards it; upstream or downstream.

When I was a young navigator there was a small town nearby whose streets were cock-eyed. I didn't see how anybody could live in such a place. But once again, the street design was set up with respect to the 45 degree railroad track that founded the town back in the 1800's.

Even the longitude/latitude thinking of the sailor/midwesterner is 'topographically' based. It's just that there is no topography there except the shape of the globe and its spinning.

Long-term camping near Quartzsite.

This line of thinking hits paydirt -- literally -- when getting perplexed by the plexus of ATV trails that lead from my trailer door, into the surrounding lunar-scape of Quartzsite. The layout seems random at first, and I haven't been able to repeat a circumnavigation around Dome Rock without getting 'lost.' But I love getting lost on my mountain bike, with trails and trails...

...steering by insinuating my body into the canyons and saddles between the lunar mountains; and looking for a gap, a passage. I wouldn't take a map along if you paid me.

A philosopher would say, 'All topography is in one of two categories: convex or concave.'  Then he would yawn or sigh something like, 'All is vanity...'

But a human animal, who wants to survive, looks at the individualities of terrain. He cares for distinguishable differences, not commonalities or broad categories. Thus the land stays interesting to him for a long time.

If you'd like, you can crawl on top of this sturdy mine-shaft-guard, look down the vertical shaft with a flashlight, and drop a pebble in. Not me!

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Making Peace With Quartzsite

A big part of an independent lifestyle is being able to appreciate things. Now and then I see a sudden jump-up in my appreciation of something -- many times a location. The more general question is what is holding me back? But let's consider a tangible example.

I have always found Quartzsite AZ difficult to appreciate. Most of the junk for sale isn't such a great bargain. Besides, what is so great about a clutter of miscellanea and detritus?

On the other hand, it has been easy to appreciate the fine winter weather: cool dry air with no insects. Quartzsite is not too crowded in December. Library privileges are offered to visitors.

This year I have made better use of the plexus of ATV trails that one of the camping areas has. Mornings are cool, so the motorhead crowd waits until afternoon. (And even then, it still ain't bad.) That makes these trails excellent in the mornings for mountain biking with my dog. 

I don't know why I overlooked this advantage, in the past. Perhaps the highway noise bothered me. Noise from an interstate highway is rather steady after all, so I could have tried harder to think of it as white noise. Besides, it drowns out the neighbor's generator.

With wider tires, a mountain biker can adapt to the rocky trails. And you would never have to worry about mud! I pedal along, fantasizing about bigger and wider tires. Ah well, that's OK. Delayed gratification is fun. 

(People who still have 26" wheels are starting to feel like losers. Even better than a standard 29" wheel, would be a 29er bike with the wider "Boost" hubs. These bikes accept a 27.5" X 2.8" wide tire, as well as a standard width 29" tire. They also eliminate the front derailleur by using 1 X 11 gearing.

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Epilogue: I take it all back! Quartzsite lost its veterinarian. Now it's a long drive to Havasu or Yuma. A grand total of one in Blythe. Imagine the problems with getting in to see a vet in January when the dashboard dog population spikes!

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

UPDATE: Hope for the Generator Ghettoes During Winter

There is a tendency to be discouraged by the noise pollution when camping in the winter. Don't be. Things are improving. Solar panels and high quality generators are becoming more common.

And yet some people still buy one of those yellow P.o.S generators from China just to save $600. What fraction is that of their total rig expense? For many RVers, it is less than 1%. Hell, that's round-off error.

For those who are burdened by the $600, consider the alternative I posted about in the tab "Almost Needing a Generator," at the top of the screen.

Regardless of the noisiness of your neighbor's generator, most of its 'on-hours' would simply disappear if he put $200 into a proper "three stage" charger, such as Iota, Xantrex, Blue Sea, Samlex, etc.

But instead, your neighbor simply pulls the electrical power cord out of the hole in the side of the RV, just as he would in an RV park, sticks an adapter on the end, and plugs it into his generator.

Then what happens?! The AC power goes from the generator to his rig's "converter/charger", which powers the DC circuits and slowly charges the rig's battery at 13.5 Volts. You can't charge a battery quickly unless you get up to 14.4--14.8 Volts, which is what would happen with a proper three stage charger. Thus most of his generator hours are wasted. 

Does anyone know what fraction of RVs come from the factory with crappy "converter/chargers" that only put out 13.5 Volts DC to the batteries? After writing this post, I bumped into an answer. See the Epilogue below.

For instance I bought a 30 Amp charger from Samlex for $200. I charge my two 6-volt GC2 "golf cart" batteries this way, on a cloudy day.  I will run it 30 minutes, and be optimistic that the solar panels will get lucky later in the day.

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Epilogue. Quartzsite is a good place to learn about these things. I was pleased to learn that the standard RV supplier of converter/chargers, Progressive Dynamics, sells a $30 optional module, with a cable and connector, that upgrades the Intelli-power 9100 series into a 4 stage charger. You just mount the little "Charge Wizard" module to a hole in a wooden panel, connect it, and push the button to go into 4 stage charging.

Hooray for them! This would be a good way for your neighbor to cut down on his hours of generator usage.

Check out the Series 9200 of Intellipower converter/chargers. It might have the Charge Wizard already built into it.