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Showing posts from May, 2012

(Updated) Armageddon Hits the Cathedral of Nature

It must be mere impressionism because it really doesn't make sense that a mountain biker would see more wildlife than a hiker, but such has been my experience. On today's ride I saw a bobcat stop in the middle of the forest road, a hundred yards ahead of Coffee Girl and me, and then do a double-take. Connected by a leash tied to my hip, we must have looked like a pretty strange animal to that bobcat. After a couple seconds it scampered off. There's no mistaking that short tail. Speaking of impressionism is it really true that the middle of a forest is as depopulated of wildlife as it seems, or do too-many-trees simply get in the way of seeing what animals are there? Wildlife biologists must know the answer to that. My version of common sense -- which could be mistaken -- is that there just isn't as much to eat in the middle of a pine tree monoculture as there is at the edge of a forest, or for that matter, in somebody's backyard on the edge of town. You'd t

Building an RV Community of Outdoorsmen-Boondockers

Long-suffering readers know that I'm not naive about utopian, pie-in-the-sky dreams about some vaunted community, especially one tainted with Age of Aquarius culture. But that's not the point. A better RV lifestyle needs to be constructed, and the term "community" expresses that goal as well as any other single word. Before theorizing and polemicizing about this project, let's keep our feet on the ground by observing some very tribal animals: our dogs. My fellow camper has two Corgis, a grandmother and her grand-daughter. Notice the moral support Grannie gives to the Pupster as she engages in community recreational activities with my dog, Coffee Girl (the larger, black dog at the bottom of the pile): Initially Coffee Girl was afraid of the Pupster. But soon she learned how to play with her with just the right amount of roughness. Clearly it has become fun for both of them. Normally their play begins with the Pupster trying to bring it on. The caption he

Mystery Musicians in a Ponderosa Forest

It's funny how you begin to hear something when somebody else mentions it. My fellow camper pointed out a funny clicking sound in a mostly ponderosa forest. It was pretty subtle. I spent the next half hour trying to figure out its cause, coming up with some pretty absurd explanations. But the sound was concentrated near one bushlike tree that was close to eye level. Here was the culprit (transferred to the animals album of my Picasa album): It's an adult cicada, about an inch long. You gotta love those transparent, veined wings. You expect to hear a loud screech from cicadas, rather than subtle clicking. Wikipedia has an interesting article on them.  Did you know that cicadas are "timpanists" rather than "violinists" such as grasshoppers or crickets? They have thin membranes on their abdomens that buckle to produce their normal screeching sound. So what's wrong with our local timpanists; why don't they make the usual screech? Cicadas are

Designing the Ultimate RV Camping Machine

This is a followup to a post a couple days back about getting a group of RVers to design the perfect rig.  Like baseball, real RV-camping (boondocking) is a 'game of inches.'   Too bad I didn't photograph the inch or two of clearance yesterday when I almost pinned my travel trailer between two ponderosa pines.  It could have been worse: I could have bought my travel trailer a few years later, after the RV industry had "progressed" from the old 7-foot-wide standard (mine) to 8 foot. (For comparison, a Ford Econoline van is 6.5 feet wide.) Once again I have benefited from traveling with a group and getting a chance to weigh the pro-s and con-s of a group of rigs. One of our party has the standard 8 foot width in his travel trailer. Bad news! The greater width will make life more comfortable when winter-camping in the desert, or on a casino or Walmart parking lot, but 8-foot is terrible in canyons, mountains, or forests. 'Nothing exceeds like excess,

Wilson Sleek Cradle Booster

I really enjoyed my stay at Glenwood, especially at their public library since it goes a long way toward wiping out the hole in the Verizon coverage there. And they allow visitors to check out books and DVDs, which encourages you to stay longer.   It's always fun to drop in on the Cat Walk again: On the drive from hot Glenwood NM to cool Luna NM we passed a classic New Mexico wreck. There was nothing special about it except that I love all such wrecks. Using my notes from the past I chose a boondocking site near Luna NM that is quite high. We just barely made it in. Then I walked over to my RV community camper, pulled a sad face, and apologized to her for only being at 7000 feet. She was gracious about it, and promised not to rub my nose in it, too bad. As it turned out, the GPS needed a little longer to find the satellites through the ponderosas. We're actually at 8250 feet. It's easy to see the hotspot of the Whitewater/Baldy/Gila f

The Cloud of Doom Threatens Little Glenwood

Sigh. I missed my calling in life as the writer of newspaper headlines in the yellow press. OK, so Glenwood NM is not really threatened. Still, it was an interesting day with the local forest fire. You would think that a forest fire would produce hazy, smeared out clouds, as well as weird orange or yellow colors in the sky at the right time of day. That's how it looked during this morning's mountain bike ride, which was chosen to go in the opposite direction from the fire. On a late afternoon walk into town I stopped dead in my tracks when I saw this cloud peeking over the nearest ridge. I had never seen such a solid and serious-looking cloud. Is this how Mt. St. Helens looked when it blew its top? A dog walker behind the library (where I go to internet) told me the official name of this kind of cloud is 'pyro-cumulus'. Presumably that is condensed water vapor at the top of the forest fire's plume. The particulate matter browns up the bottom of the cl

A Project for an RV Camping Group

Although there are boondockers who praise Solitude for the sake of itself, I disagree. Solitary camping for me is largely the result of two things:  1) most men are paired with a woman who thinks boondocking is uncomfortable and unsafe, as well as boring since it's a 5 hour drive to the nearest Coach or Nieman-Marcus.  2) most rigs are not designed for, or well adapted to, the needs of boondocking. (Point 2 is partly the result of Point 1.) Therefore if you want to boondock, young man, my advice is to stay single and get a good dog. Hence I usually had to camp alone, by necessity. But if we do manage to found a core group of boondocking outdoorsmen, it would make a great group project to "design" a suitable rig for our lifestyle. The RV industry builds rigs for a typical customer whose desires are very different from ours. There are two basic approaches: 1) Select and combine a system of mass-produced rigs/vehicles/appliances that are readily available and repairabl

Update: A Funny Smell on the Trail

Southwestern New Mexico. There is so much change in altitude in the Southwest that you can stay comfortable all year, despite your winter hangout being only a few hours drive from your summer place. Considering the price of gasoline, tires, and a new pickup truck (over $60000) -- while the narco-keynesians pay zero interest in bank accounts -- it seems advantageous to concentrate in this area, and abandon the notion of transcontinental "channel surfing with gasoline", which is how the RV lifestyle used to be seen. And so I have. But there's always pro-s and con-s. This morning I took a stab at a forest access road. I decided to hike since it seemed likely that it would get too steep for mountain biking. Everything went well. Coffee Girl had a great chance to chase squirrels, while I was delighted with trees-that-have-leaves. (Actually there isn't a technical word for that, is there?) I was a bit astonished with the grandeur of a couple of Arizona Sycamores along t

To Nail a Mockingbird

They say that coyotes can fool you into thinking there are a half a dozen yipping away, when in fact it's only a couple. I've been experiencing that with a "flock" of birds in the riparian areas around Glenwood NM.  It's so hard to write about the pleasure of hearing birds in the morning. It always sounds corny or sappy. But over the years, I notice that this pleasure is growing. I couldn't take it anymore. I just had to find out who was making all the noise in my camping area. Actually most of it was quite musical. Maybe it was just one bird who was vocally gifted. At long last I photographed the culprit. I really should learn how to record sound on my camera and present it on the blog. This fellow could make at least a half dozen distinct sounds; he would switch from one hit-tune to the next. It was hard to keep track of them all. He is a medium-sized, slender bird with a grey back, white breast, and showy white bands on the wings, which are mo

Flexibility and the Traveler

Glenwood NM. This is the first area I stopped at last August when I got back on the road. I was very mindful of being a better traveler than before. This is harder than it sounds. An experienced traveler learns that some camping situations work better than others; and some places are better than others. As you follow an annual migratory cycle, you polish your technique so that it works better and better. The trouble is that you become a successful specialist, with all the narrowness and lack of variety that that brings on.  For example we usually allow wireless internet and phone service to affect our itinerary, at least implicitly. There is a real downside to giving in to internet addiction. The Glenwood NM area is a Verizon hole. The experienced and specialized traveler might just blow through the area, and barely stop. He has really lost something. Does he even bother to discover that there is DSL in the area! That surprised me -- it means that wi-fi and the "e

Oddities in Rural Living

Glenwood, NM. What time is it? My cellphone comes on and looks for service without finding it. Thus it won't display the time. Perhaps the first lifestyle adjustment you must make when living in remote towns is turning the clock back to the day when we all wore wristwatches. Imagine how tired waitresses get (in towns like this) when outsiders make weird dietary requests. One city slicker won't eat meat; another eats nothing but meat. None of them is happy with canned goods off-loaded from the Sysco truck or Little Debbie's fine baked goods, which is all there is to rural cuisine. They must wonder if there is anything that isn't against somebody's food ideology. James Howard Kunstler would be amazed with places like Glenwood. He sees America as a dispersed and ugly strip-civilization of fast food joints and big boxes. Our suburban nation is based on cheap oil, but rural areas are even worse. It is staggering to consider how much malinvestment there is in America wh

Blogging Outdoors Under Real Leaves

Who were the first "bloggers" in the English language? Arguably they lived in the 18th century. They were fellows like Addison & Steele, Samuel Johnson, and Benjamin Franklin. They wrote with a goose quill stylus and paper instead of a laptop of course. But the term, blogger, still seems right since they wrote personal essays on a wide variety of topics. Sometimes they wrote in a hurry, as Johnson admitted to. There are advantages to both slow and fast writing. If the blogger is working on a difficult theme, the slow approach works best. But fast writing can better capture the spirit and mood of the writer. Sometimes that is the better approach, such as when a traveler arrives in town and feels a bit giddy because things are working out better than he expected. Don't let anybody tell you that concerns and worries are terrible and negative things. Without them, how could we have upside surprises? I'm having one right now -- right this minute -- in Glenwood, N

RV Caravan Becomes Reality Television

Even people who don't watch television can't help but be aware of reality TV hit-shows. Although I've never watched "Survivor", I can imagine it. It seems that our Quest-for-Community caravan is becoming the show. In fact, it looks like a 17-year-old miniature poodle is likely to be the eventual winner. So far, we've survived being towed up mountains, infected doggie sutures, possible food poisoning, cargo doors that wouldn't close, tooth infection and pain, bad U-joints, a holding tank's drain valves being smashed against a rock, and nearly stepping on a rattlesnake. To the hard-bitten realist, solving problems and surviving disasters is a better way to build a real community than rhapsodizing about dreamy platitudes in the clouds. So maybe all these problems are a blessing in disguise. The latest disaster created an educational opportunity. In cellphone service-free Glenwood NM, we were struggling to find an old fashioned public phone in order

A New Community for RV Camping Outdoorsmen

No doubt a couple people -- including myself -- have been surprised by me surviving almost three weeks in a mobile "intentional community," without being booted out. Another phrase for what we are doing is "an RV caravan with a difference." We are attempting to build a community, rather than one more routine RV group.    Normally RV Gatherings and caravans are about having a good time, i.e., potlucks, happy hour, local sightseeing, and maybe some how-to seminars. RVers -- typically newbies -- have paid dues to join some organization, and they see the gathering as a chance to recoup some of that money by plugging themselves into a standard product that is at least good for a little entertainment or education. You all arrive as amiable strangers, spend a few days playing "Ten Questions" ( Soooooo, where ya from...?) , and then depart as strangers, never expecting to see that group of bores again.    For the next few weeks I will learn what I can from o

Monastery in the Wilderness

The Continental Divide Trail, north of Silver City NM, was more rugged than the dirt roads that I usually ride. It frequently dipped down into ravines and creek crossings, which eventually took their toll. It wasn’t long before I regretted not bringing food. Why was I resting so much? Something was wrong. I was starting to feel light-headed. It was actually a little scary. Should I turn tail and head back to the van parked at the trailhead, or plod on? Hunger favored plodding onward, since there would be a small town and restaurant in just a few miles. Then I saw the Benedictine monastery peeking through the ponderosas, on the other side of a steep ravine. If only I could drag the bike across this ravine to the monastery, it would make for a huge shortcut back to the van.  The bell tower of the monastery seemed so close! I was half-crazy with hunger by now. Getting to that monastery was my best hope. But the ravine proved to be uncrossable; I had to face the grim reali

Shopping at the Nature Store

Boondocking on raw, unimproved land has a great effect on your notions of value and common sense. What does it really mean to "improve" land, such as they are said to do in national parks, monuments, and other "special" areas? Recently I was in the Tucson area where one such park is called Madera Canyon. It is a special area in the national forest in the Santa Rita mountains south of Tucson. I always go into such a place with a chip on my shoulder. Despite that, it is fair to say that the US Forest Service is doing more things right than wrong there.  I rode the mountain bike up to the summit in the canyon. At the entrance a sign warned the visitor that a list of rules and regulations was coming up soon. I tensed up. But the rules were small in number and full of common sense, of all things. These days a "park" of any kind is expected to be anti-dog, unless it's a dog park. That is the first manifestation of city-slicker culture that makes me

Onto the Field of Honour with Mr. Frey

At long last it is time for the Duel . In order to appreciate the drama of this you might consider watching the end of Barry Lyndon , where you will find more than courage and honour involved. You'll also see intricate rules and rituals being followed to the letter, whilst Schubert's excellent piano trio plays in the background. Young Lord Bullington, the step-son of Barry Lyndon, spoke to him: "Mr. Redmond Barry (aka Barry Lyndon): the last occasion on which we met you wantonly caused me injury and dishonour, in such a manner and to such an extent to which no gentleman can willingly suffer without demanding satisfaction , however much time intervenes. I have now come to claim that satisfaction."    I couldn't have said it better myself. In the original challenge I neglected to explain how the winner would be determined. Rest assured that it will be decided by a distinguished group of "seconds", as well as the head "factors" in charge