Showing posts with label cargoTrailerConversion. Show all posts
Showing posts with label cargoTrailerConversion. Show all posts

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. 

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!

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. 

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Can I Benefit from a Setback with my Trailer?

Care is needed in writing about a practical problem. But it can be an enjoyable challenge to the writer, who must keep thinking about the general reader, and avoid too many messy, picayune details.

The broken main leaf on my trailer, in the center of photo. The axle and wheel are to the left; the bow is to the right. The break is 3.5" aft of the fore shackle (in "front" of the wheel). Ignore the horizontal steel bar along the bottom --it is tow truck hardware.

The main top leaf broke at the point where leaf #2 touches it from underneath.  The bow of the trailer is towards the right in the photo.

One of the leaf springs broke on my single-axle trailer. Fortunately this occurred at walking speed, after bumping into a partially submerged rock. So no damage was done to me or the frame or axle.

But what if this happened to a single axle trailer at high speeds? I always worried about single axle trailers just for this reason. Perhaps I was right all along.

One could argue that it would be preferable to have rubber torsion axles that don't have leaf springs, and therefore don't break. From experience I know that you can permanently bend rubber torsion axles (such as the Dexter "Torflex"). But that's a lot better than breaking something loose; you can still drive the trailer to a repair shop. On the other hand repairs are more expensive than for leaf springs.

So once I get back on the road, what shall I do to ensure this doesn't happen again?  When I bent the rubber torsion axles of my first trailer, I replaced them with heavier duty axles/springs. The problem never happened again. Should I try this for my current trailer with its leaf springs?


How can this setback be used to advantage?  Clearly, I need to take some weight out of trailer, even though it is just under the nominal rating. [1] You can't remove significant weight by winnowing the socks or underwear drawer. You must attack water, canned goods, books, tools, and BATTERIES.

Nothing shakes up the slovenly habits of daily life like reducing the number of batteries. I will probably reduce the four batteries to two, for a weight reduction of 150 pounds. After all, computers and LED lights use less energy today than years ago, when I resigned myself to needing four batteries. 

Indeed, this experiment is turning positive. I had gotten into the terrible habit of watching DVDs at night, and during the night, as a sleeping pill. I have switched to soothing background music as my sleeping pill, because it uses less electrical power, and even better, I wake up in the morning feeling more refreshed.

Of course, the biggest energy draw is the DC compressor refrigerator. The best way to reduce its energy draw at night is to keep it full of water, and turn it down to near freezing in the late afternoon, before the solar panels shut down. I will also experiment with raising the temperature set-point at night.

[1] The trailer with all my stuff in it weighs 2900 pounds. The Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR) is 3000 pounds. But that is with the 4" drop axle from the factory. I had that axle replaced with a straight axle.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

The Ultimate Cliff Dwelling

Last episode I talked about camping near a pseudo-cliff-dwelling. Imagine finding a perfect one! The opening would face southeast, I guess. In the winter the low angle of the sun would warm up your mornings. In the summer you would stay cool. And you would be sheltered from the northwest wind in the winter.

But wait -- don't I already have a cliff dwelling? One that can be repositioned as required? One could argue that that is the ultimate cliff dwelling.

Not sure that mudstone is the ideal building material for a comfortable cliff dwelling.

Here is my improved version:

The low and bright winter sun toasts the inside of my portable cliff dwelling.The magnetic closure makes the screen dog-friendly.

The low and bright winter sun toasts the inside of my portable cliff dwelling

Granted, the cargo trailer was not sacred to the Native Americans. But it has everything else going for it. Laying down on the bed, my body is being warmed by the sun, but my face is shielded from direct sunlight. The west and northwest wind can't hurt me. There are screens across the entire back of the trailer, but you hardly need them at this time of year.

It is almost embarrassing to me how much pleasure I get from this. How can this be explained? Long-suffering readers are used to me praising the skin as our largest and most under-rated sensory organ. But there is more to it than being 'freeze-toasted' on my bed. 

Archive photo of winter ice and New Mexican sun.

Is there such a thing as 'sweat equity' in our appreciation of natural pleasures like this? It did take me two months of working sunrise to sunset to do the cargo trailer conversion.

Or is the appreciation enhanced by thinking independently? It means that I'm alive, and that's actually a little scary for anybody in a culture like ours. 

Not sure. But it is important to see the patterns of what causes intense gratification, in order to reproduce it in new applications.