Showing posts with label camping. Show all posts
Showing posts with label camping. Show all posts

Saturday, September 30, 2017

Campers Who Arrive After Dark

Well, well, I seem to have gotten quite good at this. I actually like walking through the campground early in the morning and busting people. It is usually campers who arrived after dark the previous evening. I nailed three of the little bastards this morning. Busting stealth campers gives me the greatest pleasure.

There is an element of grim humor to it. A movie metaphor always comes to mind, from "Apocalypse Now." Remember Robert Duvall's "I love the smell of napalm in the morning."

It is so important not to be a marshmallow and not to be a rule-nazi (or a Barney Fife.) Yes, the agency wants their camping fee. But busting one camper doesn't bring in that much money if it is only one night's fee. 

It is accomplishing something subtle to win over the camper by hitting just the right balance of firmness, friendliness, and explanations of the realities of a campground. Long term, that is worth a lot more money.

In a lot of ways, a campground host is like a school teacher: constantly dealing with kiddies who don't like to do what they are supposed to do. The teacher has to learn not to get upset about it, and adopt a professional attitude that steadily pushes the kids in the right direction, so that progress is made long term. In the short term, kiddies will be far from perfect. Especially late night arrivals.

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Soggy Tent Campers Making the Best Out of It

Oh no, here it goes again. What will it be this time? Hail, a slow all-night rain, or a monsoonal downpour. But the campground is full, mostly with tents or tent trailers. What do people see in this activity?

They have told me stories of how wet they get. But many people seem so good-natured about it. Some people are well prepared with tarps strung up between trees. Their gazebo-shelter-canopies sometimes protect an entire picnic table. Life seems to go on pretty smoothly at the picnic table.

So I want to admire how people make the best of it. I am held back only by the seditious thought that these people are crazy, and should be doing something else on vacations with their hard-earned money.

But they see something I don't. Think of this as a small example of how hard it would be to be a good novelist, who must crawl into the heads of the characters. 

I have better luck using a historical imagination. The other day a Brit was telling me about Scottish weather. Think of life in the winter in medieval Scotland. These people at their protected picnic sites help me imagine it.

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Busting my First Stealth Camper

What is the right attitude -- the fair attitude -- towards a certain category of campers? I refer to 'stealth' van tramps. There is something about them that makes me want to bust them, in my job as a campground host.

Is it their impudence? They think they can outsmart the system. Maybe what really pisses me off is they think they can outsmart me with their little games.  There is a grim humor in this: think of the old Roadrunner and Coyote cartoon. But I'm not thinking about the fun when trying to bust them, even when they do no apparent harm to anyone, including me.

Some of their scheming for free camping makes no economic sense. For instance, last night we had a new-ish, $50000 Mercedes van trying to play the stealth trick. The camping fee was $5. That is a ratio of 10,000 -- ten thousand. We have vehicles with $20,000 of all-carbon mountain bikes in the back of a $50,000 pickup. And they act so wronged and victimized to pay any fee at all. Our fee would barely pay for a cup of coffee in town, after tax and tip.

The rules that apply to everybody else don't apply to themselves. Why not? It's as if they have all been programmed by some internet blogs to play this game. (I could give you a list...) Regardless of the bloggers' intentions, they are not doing their readers much of a favor.  

Although van tramps purport to be self-contained in their rigs, I have yet to meet one that I considered truly self-contained. They don't have the space for storing trash or poop, so they need public facilities; but they don't think they should have to pay anything for the convenience.

Still, the real explanation of my aversion to van tramps almost sneaked in to the opening sentence of this post by way of Freudian slip. I almost said "a certain class of camper," instead of "category." 

"There he goes again," says the long-suffering reader of this blog, "Making a piñata out of yet another group of people." OK, let's give a constructive alternative: people who are desperate for free camping would be better off asking for advice from hosts and rangers, rather than trying to trick them. They would be wise to maintain a perfectly clean campsite, avoid building fire pits, and having campfires.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

The Best and the Worst Tents

The other day I was walking by a campsite on the river...and stopped dead in my tracks. That has never happened before. I had to stop and admire a large screen house tent that was lording over the river. What a great view they had in that tent! It seemed that a person could live there.

After all, a tent is physical shelter -- a temporary abode. How can something seem livable unless you can stand up in it? No wonder I disliked tent camping when I was young: I would buy those backpacker-style tents that you couldn't even sit up in, or put your pants on, let alone stand up in. The average coffin has more space for its resident.

Somebody else had a screen house, with their pickup truck parked nearby. During the day they painted and lived their lives in the screen house. Imagine trying to paint if you were swatting bugs. Then at night, they slept in the back of the pickup cap, with some protection from bears.

So far, I've seen a couple big name brands, but haven't yet seen the famous Clam brand of screen house that is supposed to pop up in a minute.

At the other end of the 'brilliant' spectrum we have the roof top tent. It seems that every young hipster from the big city has one of these. I can't imagine a stupider tent.

They can't be serious!
Studying these tents has laid out something rather fundamental. Consider what a big deal shopping/consumerism is, in this country. And yet, how often does a new product really impress or please you that much?

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Testing One's Mettle Over the Fourth of July

Campground hosting over the Fourth of July, in a popular tourist area? It should be the ultimate test of one's moral fiber.

Alas, it was a bit of an anti-climax. The campers are no longer the young hooligans of the past. Perhaps because the campground now has fees, it has acquired an outdoorsy family clientele. On top of that, the area does not cater to motorheads or party-at-the-lake types.

Thus I was disappointed: no test for me. But a woman came to my door halfway through the weekend, with a story she was quite upset about. Apparently she had been meditating by the river, when some loose dogs chased a fawn. She wasn't sure how badly it was injured.

Long-suffering readers of this blog expect me to have rolled my eyes and launched into a standard stump speech. But I sensed the opportunity to make a test out of this. So I took her sincerity and discomfort seriously.

There wasn't anything I could actually do. But it seemed to be accomplishing something to just listen to her and put myself in her shoes, as difficult as that was, for me. In its own way, this was the 'test of my moral fiber' that had been missing.

Today a woman asked where the best place to cross the river was. I told her, and added, "Just stay 20 feet downstream of that spot." She asked, "This way downstream?"

Naturally I gave some boorish male retort, like, "Lady, how many ways downstream do you think a river has?" She wouldn't speak to me after that. Back to my old ways.

Friday, June 30, 2017

A Better Way to Spend Your Holidays

Addendum: A Honda Element just had a contest with a snow-melt-engorged tributary of the Gunnison River. Which one do you think won?

I missed the show, but I heard about it. Perhaps the Crossover Utility Vehicle (CUV) driver had heard (incorrectly) that there was free camping on the far side of the river, from one of those lists of free campsites on the internet -- that are obsolete the microsecond they are published. Then he took the chance of trashing his vehicle, all for the sake of saving 5 or 10 dollars.
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It is time once again to put out an advertisement for a better way to spend your holidays than camping. Just a few years ago, "stay-cations" were talked about as an alternative to travel-oriented vacations. Has that new buzzword already receded from public thinking?

I hope not, because it is a great idea. Think of how much fun people could have by going to a nearby luxurious hotel, resort, or casino. Let the kids go to a real movie or a water slide. Let Mom and Dad treat themselves to a candlelight dinner at a great restaurant. There would be little packing and unpacking. Little driving. They may even have time to relax. [1]

That is just the opposite of what they are doing by driving long distances to the mountains or the shore, where they fight crowds and bugs. 

This proposal seems obvious to me, but why won't other people jump on the bandwagon? Is it the high cost of the 'stay-cation' at the nearby resort?

I'll bet that is mostly perception rather than economic fact. It's all about sloppy accounting systems that people carry around in their heads. Consider the people who resent paying a couple dollars at my campground, where it had always been free before. 

But they have thousands of dollars tied up in mountain bikes, kayaks, ATVs, UTVs, motorbikes, Goretex hiking boots, climbing equipment, generators, miscellaneous camping junk, driving costs, RVs and trailers, $60,000 four wheel drive vehicles, etc. Oh, and then the storage costs.

And how many days a year is all that crap used?
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[1]  I asked the mother of one family of campers how long it had taken to pack all of their detritus, back home. She said she had been packing the entire week.

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Three Different Types of Campers

I looked out the window and couldn't believe the trailer coming into camp. Most of our sites are built for car campers and tents. Smaller motorhomes and trailers get by. But this thing!

Besides, the campground was almost full. I went along with him to help, as a tugboat does when an oil tanker needs to dock. You've got to give him credit for guts. He made it. But it was close. 

They were newbies. I tried to think of something helpful to say, but it was difficult. They did not want to hear, "Ya got the wrong trailer." I finally decided to encourage them to camp in flatter, more open land; and to avoid going right up into the mountains proper, with their narrow roads and cramped forest campgrounds.

Later, we joked about the movie of Lucille Ball and Desi, "The Long, Long Trailer." As it turned out, he was a young lad at some state or national park in California when they were filming that movie!
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A backpacker walked up. He was doing the Continental Divide Trail, but was veering off of it from time to time to escape the snow. Thus he was using the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route, which is at lower altitude, and is seldom single track.

Talk about a minimalist! He did have an ice axe, though. Sunset was coming on, so he needed to camped soon. But I could tell he really wanted to keep talking to somebody. I get a kick out of chatting with people like him, and I usually treat them like celebrities. But once the novelty and entertainment value of their extremism wears off, one is left with the dreariness of crappy food, sleeping in a tent every night, and nobody to talk to. 

Have they never heard of the 'point of diminishing returns?'  What is so interesting about doing one and only one thing all day, every day? You see a lot of outdoor extremism in Colorado, such as 24 hour races and the like. Well, they see something worthwhile, so good luck to them. But I have no desire to emulate.
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Did I mention that the other weekend I was just 'in love' with my camping neighbors? They were two families, with children, dogs, and bicycles. The kids climbed around on the rocks like the baboons of Gibraltar. The dogs were friendly and always frolicking. The mothers were young and pretty. It's funny how a young man sees a mother as "old, boring, unsexy," but eventually he sees fertility as attractive and reassuring. What confidence in the future it implies!

At night they had a campfire. And I kid you not: somebody was strumming a guitar at the campfire. Talk about 'old school!' Imagine what an impression that could have made on the solitary backpacker. What if he had been trudging along all day with nobody to talk to, and then, quite unexpectedly, he had come up to a campfire with some singing and laughter?

Actually this family seemed like the ultimate in 'being in harmony with nature.'

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

How to Croak Alone in the Woods, Without Killing Your Pet

The marketing department here at the Institute for Advanced Recreational Studies barely approved of this post. "This isn't the topic to increase clicks," they tried to explain.

Still, the problem remains for a solo camper who wants their pet to survive their sudden and unexpected demise while camping alone. Just imagine the situation for a ranger or emergency personnel: they must bust into a rig, and what do they find? Pet urine and feces, and probably vomit. The pet might still be alive. They also encounter a partially eaten human carcass. If your pet is a dog, it would have actually felt bad about that. But what choice did it have?

Presumably, this would not look good on your pet's adoption resumé at an animal rescue organization. Then again, a clever worker there might advertise, "Fluffie has shown herself to be self-reliant and resourceful..."

There is a solution available: a doggie door. Few products in this price range have improved the lives of owners and pets so much. The typical customer works long hours and doesn't want their poor dog to have to 'hold it' for 10 hours per day.  

I saw one of these doors in action at a friend's house. It was impressive how much her dog depended on it -- and liked it. Doggie doors are available at Lowe's, Home Depot, pet stores, online, etc. I bought the Ruff Weather model by Ideal Pet Products. 

Campers with cargo trailers have an advantage in installing a doggie door. But most campers have wives, who wouldn't be caught dead (oops) in such an unfashionable rig. But most conventional camper-trailers have flat surfaces, at least on the sides. All but the largest doggie doors would fit between the 16 inch studs of any conventional camper trailer, if you could find the studs. 

Rigs such as vans or Airstreams have curved surfaces that would complicate the installation of a doggie door. Perhaps thick enough weather stripping or even a curved board would accommodate the curve.

But does my Coffee Girl appreciate this improvement?  


Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Fire and Ice

Now and then, I catch myself bragging about setting a 'personal best' when camping. Last week the temperature inside the camper hit 27 F. 

Of course I have a heater, but refuse to use it. Usually I try to joke my way out of it. A better explanation would be to point at the movie, "The Red Violin." 

Chilly dry air, in contrast with sunlight at sunrise, seems like perfection to me. With a Platonic and pseudo-religious attitude, I pop my trailer door open to the east, and let the glorious sun come into the trailer. It feels warmer instantly, and irresistibly cheerful. If there is a better way to start a day, let me know what it is.


Nevertheless, consider this an exception to the rule. You will not have to read many advertisements for 'the ideal' or 'perfection' on this blog. Experience has taught me that the enemy of the Good is not the Bad, as you would expect. The enemy of the Good is the Ideal.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

What If I Were a Car Camper?

Every day I travel by a solitary car camper. Sometimes I feel like walking up and introducing myself. But I never have.

Is this just bourgeois prejudice, looking at somebody who appears to be a low-life? It could be, but it could also be reasonable caution. How am I supposed to know which topic lights the guy up like a firecracker? And how will I escape his rant, gracefully?

Another motive is self-protection. His situation seems sad, and I don't really want to wallow in it. The other day was a big day for him. I saw him walking around his car a little bit. At one point, he bent down and tied his shoes. That is the most action he has had in a week. The rest of the day, he just sits in his car and looks out the windshield.

There could be some genuine drama happening in that car. But who would know? Who could be affected by it vicariously, if everybody is afraid of him?

I always feel ashamed of myself when I go by him. Are he and I in the same category -- desert rat boondockers?
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In contrast, walking by a female car-camper makes me feel rather good. She is a talented musician and a dog lover -- she might have four or five of them in her tent and jeep.  She is always doing something. I have talked to her a couple times when her dogs came out to say hello to mine, as we biked by.

Perhaps the contrast comes from the vibrations she gives off that seem to say she only does this seasonally, and it makes no practical sense to buy a regular RV for a short stint in the desert.

At first, I rolled my eyes and thought, "Four dogs. What do they use for common sense?" But the more accustomed to her I became, the more it seemed like she was offering an authentic, anthropological performance that befits the human female. I like to think of people as a type of wildlife. 

Previously I had complained that I couldn't see any positive role for female campers. Most of them seem not only useless, but to be outright liabilities. In contrast, this woman was doing what they have always done: staying busy with three things at once, providing existence, survival, comfort, security, and pleasure to the other creatures in her life.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Thoughts for a Rainy Day in Arizona

The woman at the bakery was quite serious when she complained about Quartzsite business being down this year. Well, I was certainly doing my part to help, considering how many times I have been into the bakery. Perhaps she should stay open more than four days per week? And really, being closed on Saturday! But what do I know about running a successful business?

Still, perhaps we should all do our part, and try to come up with fresh business ideas to bring the crowds back to Quartzsite. The only sure winner I can think of is ... drum roll... clip-on dreadlocks. Why should millennial hitchhikers from California get all the babes? Old guys need a chance, too.
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A hard rain last night. How strange that I felt so resentful. There is supposed to be a secondary rainy season in the Sonoran Desert in mid-winter. And after all, I appreciate green ocotillo stalks and spring wildflowers. Since I prudently stayed camped on desert pavement, there was little chance of getting stuck in the mud.

So I should have enjoyed the rain. Perhaps I am no better than the tourists (from cities) who I usually poke fun at, as nature-frauds. Or I could take the easy way out and blame it on "genes." White people have usually lived in dismal climates of cold, clouds, and mud. It is hard for us to believe that we can get too much sunlight.

Still, it is strange how difficult it is to follow along with what makes sense.

Friday, January 6, 2017

George Orwell Camps in Quartzsite

Rereading some essays of George Orwell, I really appreciate how much the world lost when he died so young. Why has it been so enjoyable to read him?  It isn't just for his opinions.

Much of the credit goes to his adventuresome life of poverty, suffering, war, and wide travel. He is like Jack London in that sense. There is a manliness to a writer who hasn't spent all of his life in a parlor, drinking tea with dowagers and maiden aunts; in the bubble of a college town, writing research grants to the Ministry of Culture; or at a desk job, stamping paper with "Approved!" Such a life is necessary in order to write about life instead of books, and things (processes and actions) instead of words.

The refreshment that the reader feels may result from the healthy balance in Orwell's writing. Although he aims his pen at interesting experiences in the real world, he never drowns in the minutiae of concreteness. Each observation seems well-chosen and pregnant with a wider significance. His writing is at its best when he holds back from explicitly pounding at this wider significance, but instead, unselfishly allows the reader to finish the job. 
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Let's take an apparent digression from Orwell, before returning to him. Currently I am camping in a lightly regulated area. All in all, I love this feature. But of course it means the accretion of an unsavory clientele.



At such a place once, a fellow camper and I had a laugh at how prejudiced a camper can be against a rig different from their own. The prejudice works in both directions, but it is especially aimed at a less expensive rig. 

For instance, I feel "creepie" every time I drive by two car-campers in my area, despite them being quiet and unobtrusive. Seldom does it occur to me that people in expensive motorhomes feel the same when they see my converted cargo trailer!
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Orwell wrote about an experience he had as a young man, staying at a Salvation Army-like mission with a bunch of smelly bums. ("The Spike", 1931.)

To occupy the time I talked with a rather superior tramp, a young carpenter who wore a collar and tie, and was on the road, he said, for lack of a set of tools. He kept a little aloof from the other tramps, and held himself more like a free man than a casual. He had literary tastes, too, and carried one of Scott's novels on all his wanderings. He told me he never entered a spike [a shelter for the bums] unless driven there by hunger, sleeping under hedges and behind ricks in preference.
This is exactly what I was experiencing, so it gave me a good laugh. It also brought to mind the odd rigs and 'rubber tramps' who hang out in Quartzsite at this time of year.
We talked of life on the road. He criticized the system which makes a tramp spend fourteen hours a day in the spike, and the other ten in walking and dodging the police...

...and at that he changed his tune immediately. I saw that I had awakened the pew-renter who sleeps in every English workman. Though he had been famished, along with the rest, he at once saw reasons why the food should have been thrown away rather than given to the tramps. He admonished me quite severely.
'You don't want to have any pity on these tramps--scum, they are. You don't want to judge them by the same standards as men like you and me. They're scum, just scum.'

It was interesting to see how subtly he disassociated himself from his fellow tramps. He has been on the road six months, but in the sight of God, he seemed to imply, he was not a tramp. His body might be in the spike, but his spirit soared far away, in the pure aether of the middle classes.
I cackled with glee when I read this. Here I was, a genteel tramp living in a converted cargo trailer, turning up his nose at 'van tramps' and car-campers! It is delightful to read a classic book and then get lucky at applying it to my own life. 

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.   

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Finally Appreciating the Female Camper

Permission to speak freely? I have never envied men who camped with women. It's not that I don't appreciate women, it's just that the female camper usually seems like a proverbial 'fish out of water.' When I camped with a small band of RV campers this past summer, it really hit me that I had never considered this topic before, despite its importance to the human condition.

Imagine the poor devil camping in the desert in winter, and having to listen to the lawnmower-like scream of a vacuum cleaner for hours a day. Think of all the electricity it wastes. And yet, the crazed woman never thinks things are clean enough. She fancies herself a nature-lover (aka, a scenery snacker). Yet she thinks dust blowing in the desert wind is unnatural. This is one of the many examples of a woman-camper being a liability to the poor fellow. But who wants to give up on half the human race that easily?

Last summer my best conclusions about why women disliked camping were:
  1. They lack sports and activities that are done outdoors. Many of these primal satisfactions are enjoyed by the mighty male hunter/warriors of the tribe, but not by them.
  2. Their crucial importance in the cycle of life and physical survival has been downgraded as we have developed a cash economy. The home doesn't produce anything anymore. Now it's all about running to the store to satisfy one's needs, and the camper is usually far away from decent shopping. 
Well, it was just my first stab at it. So what should women-campers do? Let us put that aside, and go back to world of experience and observation before coming back to this issue.
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These days I have switched over to watching "Wagon Train" DVDs. Now how is that for a classic television western, aimed at the RV lifestyle?

In the first season, an episode started off with a woman in the wagon train singing a child to sleep. It may have been an old spiritual song, but she sang it like a lullaby, and with no accompaniment. (The actress was Shelley Winters, who sang well enough for roles in Broadway musicals.) This had a powerful effect on me.

Many people have vague memories from their childhood of a woman's voice, humming or singing around the house. It is the sort of primal satisfaction that I like to experience, or at least be reminded of, when camping.
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This experience gave me what I was looking for: a way to appreciate a woman-camper above and beyond mere existence and survival. She has a way of creating a 'reality distortion field' around her house, which makes life for everybody seem better than what it actually is, if 'is' just refers to material conditions.

Those conditions have been austere and grim for most people of our species for virtually all of its lifespan. Isn't it incredible that evolution has equipped women with the hardware and firmware to make life not just possible, but also worth living?

Saturday, November 26, 2016

How to Raise an RV Grasshopper

One of black squares in my checkered past is a brief stint at teaching. I say "black" because I was aware I wasn't very good at it. This seemed unfair, because my father was an excellent teacher. Perhaps that is why I am enjoying mentoring Grasshopper as he hooks up the solar panels, battery charger, and inverter on his new Nash trailer.

When he called up on the phone to buy my first trailer a couple years ago, I didn't think he showed much promise. He said that he had no house-handyman or technical experience. Worse yet, he didn't seem to desire overcoming that handicap. Any RVer who intends to camp outside RV parks and their hookups has to be a little bit willing to get involved with their RV.

Buying my boondocking trailer from me was a deft move by him, because all that solar/battery/charger/inverter stuff was done. Even better, it was visible, because I treated the trailer as a cargo trailer wannabee. And he asked questions from time to time.

Before getting back to Grasshopper, I must pontificate on how bad most RV 'how to' blogs are. Sure, they mean well. And they are pretty knowledgeable. But I suspect one eye is always on their link-bait or Google income. Sometimes they bury the newbie under mountains of extraneous details. Why so? Their game can be guessed at -- but let's skip it.

Whatever happened to the old proverb about 'give a man a fish and you feed him for one day...teach him how to fish, and you feed him for life?' It is astonishing to see these blowhards on the internet spoon-feeding newbies with endless snippets of 'practical' details.

I am here to tell you that solarizing a rig is not rocket science. Rather than going on and on about minutiae, the newbies' main challenge is to simply adjust their attitude: stop thinking like a wasteful and conventional suburbanite. 

How many RVers think that the only way to heat a cup of tea is to turn on a 2000 Watt microwave oven [*]? 

Don't they know how well an old-fashioned pressure cooker works -- on a propane stove -- for cooking a variety of foods?

No, they don't need a 1000 Watt Mr. Coffee gadget for making a cup of coffee. Can't they see that their thinking-patterns are merely inherited from their shameful past in a stick-and-brick house?! If they try real hard, they might convince themselves that water in a metal pan can be heated on a propane stove.

Pulled into a morass of details, the newbies aren't even taught the basic ideas and principles and categories: you use propane for high-power devices, and electricity for low-power devices.

There are other examples of "technical" problems that really just show an unwillingness to adjust mentally: 
  1. Why are they using a 50" television in a van? 
  2. Why are they still using an obsolete 17" laptop instead of something that uses lower power? 
  3. Would it kill them not to have toast for breakfast? How much electricity does a WASA cracker take? 
  4. Why do they waste propane on a water heater that runs 24 hours a day, when they could just heat water in a pan on the propane stove, and take a navy shower?
  5. Why do they dress the same way they used to, in their stick-and-brick house, instead of adopting a practical style for winter weather?

Well, this rant has pulled me away from my original mentoring story. Later.

[*] Most people who have just bought a $60,000 pickup to pull a $70,000 16,000 pound fifth-wheel can probably afford a $25 Kill-a-Watt meter to measure their energy hogs.

Sunday, November 6, 2016

The Longest Day...in Frog Hollow

It is quite something how popular 24-hour races have become over the last few years. But why should that matter to anybody other than extreme athletes? 

That was the challenge before me, as I camped in "Frogtown" and volunteered at the "longest 24 hour race in the world," so called because it goes from 10 am Saturday to 10 am Sunday, over the end of Daylight Savings Time. Thus it is 25 hours long in real time, and Frog-Time.

Some "typical" scenery, mountain biking in central Utah.

Practical benefit: I learned how some 29 inch mountain bikes will accommodate the 27.5 inch (aka, '650') wheels with 'plus' sized (wide) tires.  I was leaning to the 650 Plus bikes for my next mountain bike.

Additional benefit: having my nose rubbed in the obsolete-ness of my 26 inch mountain bike. Will I even be able to buy tires for it five years from now?

When roaming free range over a wide group of people, it is so easy to begin categorizing creatures. Otherwise the human mind drowns in minute and fractured details. Here is a list of my favorite categories, stepping down to least favorite:

1. Dogs. Surprisingly my favorite was an uncropped male Doberman pinscher. I praised the owner to his face for allowing his friendly pooch to remain au naturel. 

2. Cute little girls.

3. Pretty young mothers.

Then there is a huge gap in the likability ranking.

Negative infinity plus 2. Old crones who cackle.

Negative infinity plus 1. Young boy monsters. (These may be promoted one notch, depending on the upcoming election)

Negative infinity. Males 16--30, who speak half-intelligible English, composed of the latest slang; and who wear their testosterone-crazed egos on their shirt sleeve. My goodness, how did young women ever put up with us, back then?

The difficulty of riding all night cannot be fully appreciated until you remember how deeply a younger person sleeps. They are really affected by sleep patterns that are disturbed.

Although mountain biking at night sounds semi-suicidal, remember that all riders had two powerful headlights. These have become remarkably good the last couple years.

Perhaps this experience is like that of soldiers in combat. Visualizing it thusly, and trying to put yourself into the shoes of the participants, may be the trick to making the experience interesting for a non-extreme athlete, who would otherwise laugh off the race as useless. Perhaps William James himself would have appreciated races like this as the "moral equivalent of war."

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Real and Imaginary Loneliness When Camping

Yesterday I had a nice visit with the fellow who bought my first trailer from me. He bought my trailer for $1800, camped full time in it for two years, and then sold it for $20oo. The bastard!

I tend to treat him as my "grasshopper." So when the topic of loneliness came up, I was a bit disappointed to hear him endorse the "sacred solitude" paradigm of RV boondocking. But he didn't outright deny experiencing loneliness as some solitary campers do.
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Let's take an indirect approach to this issue of the loneliness of campers, by experiencing the human tribe at its best, during a festival. Currently I am camping near, and volunteering for, a mountain bike race in southwestern Utah.


1. Racing. The festival is predicated on the idea that racing is supposed to be exciting. Observing the crowd's behavior, this appears to be true. But it is strange how any human endeavor must be turned into a competition.

Consider the expense of these bicycles, let alone the risk of injury.

Is there nothing about the activity itself that is intrinsically interesting and rewarding? Must everything be about ego-gratification?

2. The sardine can. Consider the automatic tendency of many people to deliberately choose to camp unnecessarily close to other people, despite having the freedom to do otherwise.

3. The "beam." There are people who are like the two dogs I've had: they can easily and quickly win over just about any new acquaintance. They have a "charm-beam" like a bright LED flashlight: all they have to do is point it at their next conquest to light them up.

But calm people don't get noticed too much. Even worse are serious-looking people, who look nerdy and scholarly. Lepers would be more popular.

It is easy to observe people's impatience with other people.   

4. Mis-managed expansiveness. Watch people roll in to camp in their cars. After turning off the engines, they pop all the doors open and spew music all over the camping area. What is going through their heads? 

Give them a little freedom, and they instantly convert it into noise pollution. Paraphrasing the classic speech about television in the original "Manchurian Candidate," we could say that 'there are two distinct types of people in the world: people who go to the Great Outdoors to get away from noise, and a second group that goes there to make noise.'

But from their point of view they are doing something harmless or even positive that expresses a momentary feeling of expansiveness. The same might be said of dog owners whose expansiveness takes the form of giving their dog freedom around other people. 

It's a good thing, is it not?, for freedom, cheerfulness, and expansiveness to be linked. Both the music-sharers and the dog-sharers are not evil; they are just forgetting to look at it from other people's perspective.
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But the reader might say that I could try harder to 'think positive' about human behavior. They're right. But one could also try harder to think positive about solitude. Therefore, how positive or negative one wants to be, cancels out of both sides of the equation.

The point here is not to force yourself into a deliberately positive or negative attitude, but rather, to observe human behavior as it really is -- not as you want it to be. The result is an ambivalence about being around human beings. This ambivalence should keep your annoyances mild when around people, and your loneliness mild when alone.

Anybody who says that solitary camping can't get lonely is simply in denial. Rather than deny, let's manage loneliness, instead. This consists largely of restraining yourself from exacerbating loneliness by fantasizing about ideal human beings. 

Secondly, it involves going back and forth between solitude and group events of whatever kind, in order to restore your ambivalence and equipoise. Notice I did not say 'indifference.'