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Showing posts from July, 2014

Living History

The Great War started 100 years ago. Besides being of enormous importance to the world over this past century, it is an uncanny illustration of the old adage, 'the more things change, the more they stay the same.' An incident -- the assassination in Sarajevo -- was turned into the opportunity to kill millions by the blundering politicians and emperors that the sheeple stayed loyal to. A couple years later a suspicious or misinterpreted incident, the sinking of the Lusitania, was used to suck the USA into an unnecessary war. Consider such things in light of what has been going on in Ukraine the last week. And yet the general public learns nothing about how politicians use incidents to start wars. It is not easy finding good histories of the Great War. Oh sure, I've read Barbara Tuchman, Niall Ferguson, and Martin Gilbert. The difficulty is in finding a book not written from the British or American-interventionist angle. I had almost lost hope until Thomas Fleming's

Is Ice the Best "Battery" for Mobile Living?

Since the last post ended with a bit of a downer, let's see if we can crawl out of the slough of despair today. Let me be a good sport and admit that I am temporarily stymied in finding an economical, high-ground-clearance tow vehicle for pulling my 3000 pound converted cargo trailer/travel trailer and storing two bicycles inside. Usually when a problem has you temporarily beaten, it is best to put it aside and work on something else.  So let's get to work on reducing the weight of camping gear and personal possessions. One way or another, lighter loads will pay off when it comes time to select a new tow vehicle, whatever it is. After water -- be it clean, grey, or black -- batteries are the heaviest factor that an RVer has any control over. I am using four 6-volt, golf cart, flooded, lead acid batteries: model GC-2, made by Interstate. With cables, clamps and boxes, let's round off their weight to 70 pounds each. Downsizing from 4 to 2 such batteries reduces the we

Update: Tow Vehicle Shopping the Old-fashioned Way

There must be people out there who are ten times better than me at internet searching. I don't even like buying things on the internet, other than music.  Today I dropped in on the local car dealer in Gunnison CO just to kick some tires. I was suspicious that my internet searches were at a dead end. As luck would have it, this dealer had recent models of all the categories I polemicized about, last post. It was uncanny. What an amazing difference there is between seeing something real and merely reading about it. Just think how good those reviewers made the Dodge Durango and Chevy Traverse sound. One glance at them and I chopped them off the list. They had those annoyingly-low, plastic, front-bumper skirts (air dams) that hang down to about 4 inches from the ground. Ridiculous! You couldn't even get close to a concrete curbstone with one of those suburban mommie-mobiles. The Subaru Outback had a high and clean undercarriage, but it didn't look like a real hitch could

Taking Nominations for a Lightweight Tow Vehicle

It is easy to overlook things when you think alone, so I might benefit from readers' ideas about choosing a tow vehicle to pull my converted cargo trailer: 2900 pounds loaded, 6 foot wide, 350 pounds of tongue weight. But before getting concrete, let's reflect on the temptations in thinking that I can tow this trailer with 'almost anything.' Wasn't it Oscar Wilde who said something like 'A cynic is someone who knows the price of everything, but the value of nothing?' Well, 'brevity is the soul of wit' and that aphorism is brief, pithy, and easy to remember. But is it actually informative about what makes a cynic? I think not. A cynic is not a "negative" person. Rather, he is someone who has been undisciplined with his expectations about new situations and people. He has the bad habit of expecting too much, and therefore, he is usually disappointed, if not completely disillusioned, by how things turn out. He then reacts to that disappoin

Small Tribes and Sleepwalking up a Steep Hill

Yet another summer visit, sponging up the remarkable hospitality of a couple in Ouray, CO. In case I needed any more proof how important people were to an interesting travel lifestyle, I certainly got it.  There is a real advantage to a migrational loop that is approximately the same every year: it seems necessary to help friendships get beyond the 'two ships passing in the night' syndrome that some people prefer.  Short-term acquaintances seem uninteresting and frivolous to me. There is the tediousness and predictability of playing 20 Questions with them; the struggle to charm each other's socks off; adding another scalp to your belt, for whatever that is worth; and then you never see them again. Then on to Gunnison CO to meet up with a friend from Patagonia AZ, and her friend. It was a real pleasure to talk around a campfire with other people. I gave up campfires years ago, partly because of the labor and fire safety, but mainly because you need a little tribe of p

Dealing with Disappointment on the Trail

Can eyeballs 'smack' in anticipation, like lips? I think they can. At least that's what mine were doing the other day on a mountain bike ride on the Unc, as one commenter calls the Uncompahgre Plateau in western Colorado. I have a special fondness for wild roses, especially when I notice them for the first time, usually in mid-June. I am fond of the seasonal ritual. But the first sighting of this June disappointed me. The roses were waning and withering. Too late. Oh certainly, this is just a minor disappointment along the trail, but it seems valuable as a simple and quintessential representative of an entire class of disappointments.  It is important to decide what attitude we should have about these disappointments. It caused me to recall something said by a bicycle tourer. It was one of those statements that sticks with you because it stands out from commonplace chatter. He said that he only remembered the little disasters and misadventures that occurred on his t

Optimism about the Country that used to be America

For the first time since the Fourth of July was officially declaimed (by me) as the most idiotic national holiday, I feel optimistic about America, or what remains of it.  1. Many Americans seem to be at a tipping point: they are abandoning their passive acceptance of the neo-con dream of permanent war (mostly in the Mideast.) Republicans are catching on to the fact that today is not the day after 9-11, and that endless militarism is not the ticket to electoral success. 2. It's not impossible that Rand Paul will be the Republican candidate for president, rather than some senile warmonger like McCain or some low IQ Bahbll Christian. 3. No matter what your politics most people know that at least two healthy parties are necessary for a healthy democracy. Until the Republicans free themselves of the neo-con, Rapture Christian, Israeli-lobby doctrine of Permanent War, the Republican party is doomed. Is it just wishful thinking or are they actually starting to free themselves of th