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Showing posts from March, 2012

Smugglers on Red Mountain

I never miss a chance to praise radio tower mountains and roads as one of the most under-rated hiking opportunities. (Sometimes they are mountain bike-able.) Yesterday it was time to go up Red Mountain, near Patagonia AZ. There is a lot to be said for a road that does a 360 around a mountain and has several saddles on it. The viewscape changed radically about five times on the way up. On the descent I noticed an expensive white SUV, with darkly tinted windows, driving up the road that we were descending. Was it Border Patrol? If so, why wasn't it marked with the usual green band? Then I saw three young men in dark clothes walk around a rocky outcropping. From my spot on that steep road I could see everything towards the main road. But they were walking slowly; maybe they were just locals on a hike. Who was I kidding? A minute later I saw a second, more dispersed, group of young men fly through the juniper-covered, rocky terrain. There were four of them, running faster than

Appreciation Versus Craving and Ownership

There must be many a man who is surprised by how his career as a girl-watcher develops as he ages. Most young men probably think that age rots the pleasure of girl-watching. Are they ever wrong! They come to this erroneous conclusion because they confuse sex-drive with pleasure, and craving with appreciation.  Something similar happens with "owning a house". The more experienced man realizes that the house owns him more than vice versa. But that isn't to say that he can't be fond of looking at old buildings, ruins, foreign architecture, etc.  A third example of the same principle is enjoying funky, artsy, old mining towns in beautiful locations. What a pleasure they are to visit . But I don't envy those who live here. How general is this tendency for us to outgrow ownership -- with all its irony and self-impalement -- and replace it with an appreciation that is sincere, flexible, and unbinding? And why not? We don't really own Life; we're just rentin

Living at Home Beautiful

Southeast of Tucson. Every now and then a full-time RVer gets an opportunity to house and dog-sit. Normally it is during the "off" season, when the homeowner and everybody else wants to get out of town because of the dreadful weather. The ranch was drop-dead gorgeous. It was my favorite land: rolling grasslands, with an occasional mesquite or live oak tree, and a great view of the Santa Rita mountains, only seven miles away. It was amusing to watch the culture gap between normal, house-obsessed women and an RV boondocker/camper like myself. I was hoping for some shade to park my trailer under. It was surprising to learn that an entire guest house was available to me. It looked like something that belonged on the front cover of a glossy magazine, Fine Ranch Living Today , or some such thing. I was only concerned about heat, happy dogs, and good bicycling. After I surprised the women by showing no interest in even walking up six steps to inspect bedrooms and bathro

Mountain Biking with Johannes Brahms

A few miles south of Tucson. A friend had camped here recently and warned me how rough the Madera mountain bike trail is. How typical! I've yet to enjoy any "official" mountain bike trail. If there's a sign calling it an official trail, or if it's listed in some book ("Top Ten Mountain Bike Trails in the XYZ Mountains"), you are almost guaranteed to find a rocky single track that will make you worry about falling, instead of enjoying the ride. But you are guaranteed a nice hiking trail as long as mountain bikers aren't using it at the same time. The "too rough to ride" syndrome is almost universal. So why doesn't the world catch on? Do people believe every brown sign or everything in print? Of course if you had world-class technical riding skills, you might feel differently. But most people don't have such skills. Why not just ride dirt roads? There are many thousands of miles of such roads on public lands. Occasionally the

Free Therapy in Dog Parks

Since I normally pound away at government and politicians on this blog, it is a refreshing change to praise one of the rare success stories of local governments, the dog park. Whose idea was it originally, where did it get started, and how did it achieve critical mass? Dog parks are almost as big a success for people as they are for dogs. How much friendly interaction (between strangers) is there in the average public setting, such as the city park, festivals, restaurants and bars, etc.? Even "fellow" hikers on a hiking trail can be neutral or icy to each other. In a dog park the human owners trust each other and give compliments to the other owners for the appearance and comportment of their dogs. Coffee Girl just finished up a workout at a dog park south of Tucson. This is the third time we've been there, so it almost saddens me to leave the area. It is the best dog park I have seen yet; I'm not referring to the physical facility. It's the critical mass

Slovenly Campers from the Big City

How many place in the world are clean, and why are they so? I'd like to ask an experienced world traveler about that. My guess is that Japan and northern/Germanic Europe (and her colonies) are clean, while most of the world stomps around in its own litter and excrement. Consider this attempt at philosophizing to be an exercise in "anger management". I am camped outside a (fee-ed and over-managed) recreational area run by the forest service. Essentially it is a "metro park" for the ghastly conurbation of Tucson. Since my boondocking area is outside the "high rent" district, it is free 14-day camping, although the campsites are numbered. There is no campground host and no facilities. I've been here almost a week and haven't seen a ranger yet. It almost seemed too good to be true. And you know what they say about that... After about a week of complete solitude some yahoos came in to camp on the weekend. You should see how the slobs leave

Aesthetics Bend Under Strain

Some types of outdoor enjoyments are easier than others. Getting a kick out of desert poppies takes little effort. But experiences of that type don't stick with you very long either. Appreciating geology is far more difficult. Geology is huge and fundamental. Despite being able to see it raw and exposed in arid lands, such as the American West, it is difficult to actually enjoy it in the normal sense of the word. For one thing it doesn't move, except in the case of active volcanoes. It is also hard to pronounce all the scientific terminology. The whole thing can be off-putting because it seems cold and technical. Go for a hike or a mountain bike ride through the mountains and you will occasionally see some impressive folds . Sometimes they're just little guys at road cuts. And yet something keeps you from doing backflips about them. How could hard, strong, brittle rocks be permanently deformed? Bent into arcs. When possible, I try to anthropomorphize "uni

Fred Reed's Link Added

Every internet junkie gets in a rut now and then. At that point some friendly help is needed. I got some recently from fellow blogger, Ed Frey , who brought Fred Reed's website to my attention. I was familiar with Fred Reed as a writer, but the website is a new discovery. Fred has the proper attitude toward contemporary American culture and politics: sheer disdain and curmudgeonly wit. I put his link in the link section of my blog. There are too many juicy quotes to begin listing them all, but just to give you a brief slice of the flavor of Fred's blog: "Things change, usually for the worse, and always against the innocent. (This truth is a principle of curmudgeonry.)"

A Cowardly Camper

One day a huge, expensive police SUV (not border patrol) dropped in at my campsite near the Santa Rita mountains, south of Tucson.  Out jumped two large cops, dressed head-to-toe in black. They had belts loaded up with so much armament it's a wonder then can sit down in their patrol car and buckle their seat belts. They were friendly enough and even enjoyed the antics of my Australian kelpie, Coffee Girl. But it bothered me the way one officer kept his hand on his gun the entire time he talked to me, while the other one snooped around my trailer. They said they were just doing a routine patrol, and wondered if I had seen any suspicious activities. I hadn't, so off they went. The next day I was stretching my legs by walking up to the top of a small volcanic knoll. I saw a dense cluster of bright red blinking lights nearby. What could they be?  Safety lights on a piece of construction equipment? Binoculars didn't help because they wiggled too much in the wind. Of cou

Zest When Camping

It was a record morning for camping this winter: 34 F inside the trailer. (Oh sure, I have a catalytic propane heater, but it would have been unsporting to use it.) As I learned long ago you simply cannot get warm by putting on more clothes; you must move your body some, even if it means flapping your arms. But I had to keep reminding myself how glorious this discomfort was, or would be, once the sun starting cooking the opened trailer. What interested me was that it actually took effort to "suffer" a few minutes of chill in order to glory in the warm sun that I knew was coming momentarily. Was it just my weakness or was it the old idolatry of Comfort sneaking into the mind of an experienced camper who should know better? Long-suffering readers are familiar with my standard stump speech against bourgeois idols such as Comfort , so let's not repeat all that. But since this was the best experience of this type in some time, let's honor the occasion by loo

How Long Will the World Tolerate the YHWH Cult?

The world as a whole is a remarkable practitioner of Jesus's instruction to 'turn the other cheek' when it comes to putting up with the YHWH cult in its three main manifestations: Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. It angered me to see President Hope-and-Change groveling in front of AIPAC, the most powerful Israeli lobby in the USA. This isn't a partisan attack against the Democrats; a Republican president would probably already be bombing Iran. Won't some leader get up and say that the YHWH cult has long outlived its use to the world, if indeed it ever had any!? And that the rest of the world is sick of the violence and economic hardship that this ridiculous superstition is inflicting. Where are Tom Paine and French Revolutionaries when you need them? Which of the three main branches of the YHWH cult is most bizarre and dangerous? Most people would probably answer, Islam, because of the enormous publicity given to terrorists. But how many people have terror

Wallowing in Repetitive Perfection

At first it felt silly to include this photograph since it is similar to recent ones. But wait a minute -- why must a blogger try to be brilliantly original? Why can't he just wallow in something he loves, even at the expense of being repetitive? The sky around here takes on a strange yellow color when the wind is only moderately strong. Perhaps it is due to the large open-pit copper mine nearby. (The photo is not sauced up by any editing-software.) Something that is somewhat new is the seasonal adjustment to my camping style. There are plenty of reasons to stay out of RV parks, but one reason that can get overlooked is how much a camper gains by facing the screen door towards the right direction, depending on the season. In mid-winter the screen door needs to face south, in order to glory in that warm Arizona sun.  In summer, the door must face north or you couldn't stand to open it all day; you develop an obsessive lust for the shade; and as summer wanes in late Au

Back in the Big City

It probably helps your fuel economy some to blow into town riding a 30 mph tailwind. Thus it was the day I showed up in Arizona's megabarriopolis #2, Tucson. After camping in the desert for several weeks, will the big city be different than I remember? More entertaining or just more noisy and annoying? With the strong west wind, the big city had remarkably clear air -- almost as if a big city weren't even there. It's challenging and fun to imagine the geographical setting of a big city before the big city came to be. Imagine how pleasant the land around the Old Pueblo was: a large mountain range just to the north that provided escape from the summer heat; the lushest examples of Sonoran desert vegetation, on opposite sides of town; grasslands and chaparral in the higher elevations to the southeast.  There are probably a few people still alive who remember the Old Pueblo when it was small. I wonder what decade it was when Tucson started undergoing cancerous growth -

Navigation Before GPS

It seemed prudent to drive to the nearest Department of Motor Vehicles in New Mexico to update my mail forwarding  address, lest there be complications with a speeding ticket from the Tucson reconnaissance-camera reich . After several nights of noisy, parking-lot boondocking my nerves were pretty frayed. Anybody who thinks that that style of camping is a quixotic, dreamy, escapist, full of holy Simplicity, Socrates and Thoreau-approved way of life has been sold a false bill of goods. Thankfully I'm back on public lands near the Santa Rita mountains, south of Tucson. It's always a little surprising to see certain topographic features stand out so clearly, clear enough to serve as a navigational tool. In the Tucson area Baboquivari Peak serves that purpose. I like to call it "Babo".