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Showing posts from November, 2013

Getting Your Butt Kicked by 70-year-olds

Yuma, AZ. Before I lose track of the theme of last post, I want to use a tangible -- and even life-and-death -- example to pound the nail home. Novelists and moral philosophers need to give more emphasis to distinguishing the Tactical and the Strategic in a person's life. The world is more regulated than it used to be. Therefore, on a daily basis, a powerless individual must follow all the rules and be outwardly conventional. Rather than write off the modern world as a glorified prison, a non-defeatist must imagine how Strategic independence can thrive, like mushrooms, even when growing in the muck of conformity. On the way back home on today's bicycle ride, the Old Boyz were kicking my butt pretty good. This is a good thing, all in all. Two miles from the end we had to turn left at a stoplight on a busy federal highway. Despite the advantages to road-cycling in a group, there are still pitfalls, such as handling an intersection based on how the other cyclists handled it.

A Serious Traveler in His Own Country

I used to believe it just wasn't practical or possible for me to be a real traveler (as opposed to a sightseeing tourist). By that I mean somebody who visits different cultures, notices everything, asks fundamental questions, learns a language, takes on a part-time job, and shops locally. Expense was the first limitation, but there are others such as personal safety, health, and having to leave my dog at home. Many of the most enriching experiences would require the traveler to have a gregarious personality that could instantly charm a stranger's socks off. Therefore it was a pleasant surprise to accidentally stumble onto the practice of performing at least some of that in my own country. The USA is not just one country. There is a rural/metropolitan split that is huge. When a camper goes out and disperse-camps, he even becomes more separated from the mainstream metropolitan-suburban culture of the USA. And that sets up quite an opportunity for the camper when he comes in

Rethinking the Tribal Dance

Normally I'm not as slow in finding some significance to an outdoor trip as in the last post. I did mention that it was the best group event in 16 years of full-time RVing, and that the little spring was the first gurgling of water that I had ever seen in the desert. But now I want to try harder. There was a similarity between the ebullience of the dogs and gurgling of the water out of the side of the arroyo. Think of the 'irrepressibility of life.' I know, it sounds a little corny. But it's true. Perhaps it only seems like corny overstatement because we live in an age when we can take water, the stuff of life, for granted. The early explorers or settlers in the Southwest would not have needed convincing. They would have fallen to the muddy ground at the foot of the spring's trickle and prayed. If we can't appreciate something as fundamental as water, isn't it likely that we are handicapped in general when it comes to experiencing anything authentic in

'Best in Show:' Wild Canids in the Canyon

The reader might be familiar with the semi-recent movie, "Best in Show." The spine of the plot is a dog show, but it is not really a 'dog movie.' Rather, it's a comedic mockumentary about their neurotic human owners. Today's hike in Zion country (southwestern Utah) turned out the opposite: it was the humans who were acting sensibly, and the dogs who were nuts. We had five dogs in our party, eight humanoid-companion-units, and a neighborhood dawg, Blue, who tends to join any frolic taking place on her BLM land. As we drove up, I thought my kelpie, Coffee Girl, was going to crash through the windshield with excitement when she saw all these playmates. All of the dogs, no two alike and weighing from 10 to 80 pounds, got along beautifully. I get really charged up by the frantic synergy of dogs. You could think of this walk as a linear-BLM-version of a dog park. Vertical wall of a red sandstone arroyo. What could cause such a weird bend in the whitish laye

Whose Voice Could Be Out There?

Is that who I think it is? I heard what I thought was Mark's voice. My dog, Coffee Girl, perked up her ears. She too caught it. But where were they? We were resting at the high spot of a dirt road that our friends were taking from their RV park (blush) in Virgin, UT. We had biked from the other end of the road, where we were dispersed camping. It was dead calm, so maybe a human voice really could carry through all that hum-drum Zion scenery. You can see the road in the left semi-foreground of the photo. And here they come: Jim & Gayle , Bobbie , and Mark , raring to summit on this road.  It was fun to watch the gang coming to us on the summit. Better yet, the "incompatibility" of boondockers (me) versus RV-parkers (them) has been turned into an advantage.  I was promising to take them down a secret canyon, and back to the main road. It would be the first time for me, too. But I cheated a little the previous sunset, and had walked up the canyon from my

Fabian Lifestyle Improvement

Once again it is winter, daylight-wise.  A precise solar calendar of cliff and grassland. Just walk to the same spot every day. And that means that this camper is once again fighting the Early Bedtime Syndrome. This is no laughing matter, at least for some of us. Nothing degrades the quality of sleep like going to bed too early. What if I could make a lousy two minutes of improvement per day? Just think, an hour per month! In working on this project, you can't help but appreciate how general this issue is. Once I was biking up Snow Canyon (St. George, UT) and passed a mother who was towing a baby trailer behind her bike. In it was a 25 pound youngster. I kidded her about persisting with this hill-climb over the next year, and getting stronger and stronger as the child gained weight. She smiled and referred to some folk tale (or fable) about carrying a calf when it was young, and continuing with this habit until it was a cow. Five points of extra credit to any reader who

A Seasonal Travel Style "Perfected"

Every traveler is prone to romanticism. Thus it is hard to admit that I have "arrived" as a full-time traveler, that is, reached a final "destination." I don't mean geographic location; I mean lifestyle arrangement. Nine months of travel -- emphasizing dispersed camping and mountain biking -- is complemented beautifully by three months of gravel-lot rental in Yuma.  There are other types of complementarity: when traveling, I am alone, which is not the best lifestyle. During the winter sabbatical from travel, I get to enjoy my (road) cycling with as many as fifty friendly acquaintances. I also get to switch from mountain biking to road cycling -- these are really rather distinct, although you might not think so, if cycling isn't your thing. After three months of non-traveling, the appetite comes back. This is both a positive attraction to travel and a repulsion from the downside of living in a boring suburb outside Yuma, the traffic, the train noise, etc.

The Patience of Rockhounds

When we were camped in the wash near Moab recently, a half-dozen trucks drove by one morning. It took a few minutes before I could tell what they were up to. They were rockhounds. How strange it seemed for somebody to be pursuing an inexpensive and, may I say, old-fashioned activity. The outdoor sports around Moab are usually more flamboyant. It's as if each tourist is locked in competition to out-glamor every other tourist, in a frenetic orgy of adrenaline and dollars. Since I feel drawn to just about anything that is out-of-step with modern times, these rockhounds started me thinking... What fraction of the time does a rockhound come up with anything interesting? How can anyone be so patient? Perhaps their patience isn't so unique. A dog sniffs for a rabbit, and chases across the field with all the hope in the world; and it usually comes away empty-jawed. How many times does a professional salesman hear, "Maybe. I'll think about it," before he actually

The Case of the Purloined (camping) Playmate

A couple posts ago I was celebrating having camping playmates who actually mountain bike. That's the first time I've been that lucky in 16 years of full time RVing. And they could even dispersed camp! Sigh. The gods punish men who look too happy, lest they get cocky. My playmates have been lured over to the emoluments of an RV park. So goeth the Way of all Flesh. (Or at least married flesh.) And what is the big attraction? Showers. Bottomless hot water tanks for taking a shower. At least I have the satisfaction on this pulpit of rejecting the extremism of both the False Prophets of the Desert (aka, the Ascetics ), as well as the mainstream Sybarites. Few things are more sensible than a navy-style shower with hot water.   Effective and non-wasteful. One gallon is enough. It is helpful to visualize a simple graph of Benefits versus Gallons. Remember that one of the quiet, but profound, satisfactions of RV camping is the daily discipline of looking at what you consume, and