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Showing posts from January, 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 dra…

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?:
Anthracite coal.Gold.Athabascan tar sand petroleum.Cobre, copper.Garlic.

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.

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 pre…

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 p…

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 my…

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 we…

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 tu…

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.

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, dip…

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:

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 s…

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 Archi…

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 …

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.

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 do…

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 …

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 ge…