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Showing posts from April, 2015

Choosing Great Land for Mountain Biking and Camping

One of the great advantages of any sport is being able to do it anywhere. Not literally, of course. But if your sport fits a wide variety of landscapes, roads, and trails, then you have chosen well.

For instance, the sport of hiking needs trails in dense forests or gnarly chaparral. This may cause you to overlap with people you don't want to be around, especially if you are a dog-lover. But in short grasslands, ponderosa forests, and most deserts you can get off the trail.

Mountain biking benefits from the right topography, but it doesn't really need official trails. (This post is about mountain bikes that you pedal.) Many parts of the country are criss-crossed with dirt roads that are great fun to mountain bike on. It's true that the motorsport crowd will be on those roads on summer holiday weekends. Sometimes there will be more traffic than you want even on Saturdays. But by Sunday noon, the weekend warriors will decamp for the long drive back to the metropolitan hell-hole…

The Healthiness of Being Stuck in the Muck...

...as an appetizer for Lust for the Dust.

There are people who move to the American Southwest for "nice, warm" weather. I am not one of them. I never fled the Cold of mainstream Gringo-ville; I fled what goes along with the cold.

During the recent spring storm in upper Arizona, I was socked in for 48 hours. Surprisingly, the solar panels (480 Watts, nominal) did a half-decent job of charging the batteries. But without a generator, it was necessary to supplement the struggling solar panels by running the tow vehicle's engine. It would be undesirable to do much of that of course. After turning the engine on, the dog and I went for a walk, and tried to make the best of it.

How wholesome and healthy-minded this experience was! May and June are the crisis-months when I take to dreading Dry Heat. They are the months of disintegrating fingernails, nose-bleeds, cracked heels, paranoid parking with the dog in the van, fire closures in the forest, and wildfire evacuations.

When the mo…

A Spurt of Appreciation for Living Geology

In a Star Trek episode in Season 3, some aliens moved at extremely accelerated speeds, so fast in fact that the Enterprise crew couldn't even see them. They could only hear an insect-like buzz when the aliens went by. It also worked in reverse: to the aliens, the Enterprise crew were frozen, static.

That captures the disconnect between a human observer and geology. I have always wanted to be more knowledgeable and interested in geology, but something got in the way.

While camped on the edge of the ponderosa forest near Springerville AZ, recently, I was lured to the road that climbed a large volcanic knoll (aka, cinder cone). It was an easy hike. What a grand view you can get from a few minutes of hiking and a couple hundred feet of elevation gain! That is especially true near some kind of boundary, in this case the ponderosa forest/grasslands boundary at 7500 feet.

From my cinder cone I could see 15 more cinder cones in the Springerville volcanic field. Since they were in the grassl…

The Ideal Tow Vehicle Fantasy

I actually went for a test drive, the other day, of a 2014 Nissan Frontier pickup truck. Much to my surprise I was allowed to put my mountain bike in the cargo bed, and learned that the short (5 foot) beds of the more popular crew cab models are not long enough for a mountain bike with a front bag. Good grief -- what could you use a 5 foot bed for? The 6 foot beds of the non-crew-cab models would work for a mountain bike, but only 10% of the used Frontier markeplace is non-crew-cab.

Still, it was worth having this experience just to savor the fantasy of my ideal pickup: it would actually be a van built on a small or medium pickup platform. That is,
rear wheel drive with 6000 pounds of towing capacity.no direct fuel injection and no turbos.high ground clearance and big tires. a non-open rear differential, be it a traction control system that applies brakes to the slipping wheel, or locking or limited slip (mechanical) differential.six drive gears or more, and I don't mean with 2 of t…

Composing Music at a Noisy Fast-Food Outlet

From time to time I fantasize dropping my over-priced wireless internet plan. It is the sort of fantasy that soon melts under the heat of rational scrutiny. Why, all one has to do is consider the cost-shifting from "expensive" internet in my trailer to more expensive driving-to and snacking-in the places that offer "free" wi-fi internet.

Here I am, in a fast food outlet, sucking down senior coffee and "free" wi-fi. I probably shouldn't complain: there is no raucous pop music blaring out of speakers over my head, nor is there the increasingly-common giant television playing some news channel.

But there is another source of noise pollution. There always is, in a city. A couple tables away, a man helps a woman fill out some routine application. He has been talking non-stop for a half hour now. How I am starting to hate the sound of his voice!

What is it about him that makes me want to go over there and strangle him? Besides being non-stop, his voice is effe…

Cost of Converting a Cargo Trailer into a Travel Trailer

So, can you save a fortune by converting an enclosed cargo trailer into a travel trailer, rather than buying a travel trailer from the dealer? The answer may be 'yes' if you put minimal improvements into the cargo trailer, and use it merely as a hard-walled tent for camping a few weekends per year.

The answer is vaguer if you add enough to the cargo trailer to make it practical for most (non-extremist) full time RVers. 

If you browse around on the internet, you will encounter low-ball estimates for how much it costs to convert an enclosed cargo trailer into a full-functional, self-contained travel trailer. There are several reasons for this:
Sloppy accounting. After all, it isn't fun to save all the receipts. The mind gloms onto a couple of the big-ticket items that are easy to remember; then it is easy to claim that that is the cost of converting a cargo trailer. Nonsense! In fact you are eaten alive by a thousand-and-one small expenses.Lifestyle cheerleading. W…