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Showing posts from July, 2015

How Do You Tow a Van and Trailer BACKWARDS?

I was headed up the mountain for a favorite dispersed campsite of mine, in my van and small cargo trailer. Naturally I was nervous about a certain muddy rutted area, an area that has been touch-and-go in the past. But it was unusually dry there last night, so I plunged in confidently. Over-confidently as it turned out. And you think hubris is an ancient superstition? 1. Don't make it any worse. When you start spinning, you might as well stop. If ground clearance is a problem, you don't want to let air out of your tires. 2. Be patient, be calm; which was more difficult here because there was no cellphone service. Wait for a local person to show up. In fact, they did. But I had to spend a night camping in muddy holes. Actually it was pretty flat, and absolutely quiet. I slept well. Try to see a disaster as an adventure. 3. I was essentially on a one-lane deadend road . No tow truck could get in front of me to pull me forward, the usual way of being pulled out. 4. Can you be

Failure to Summit

It is quite a balancing act to find the perfect topography for mountain biking: mountains and canyons that are fun to look at, but are not so harshly vertical to make pedaling a wheeled machine impossible. There is a beauty to land that is felt rather than seen; felt from the pressure in your feet, butt, and legs. When steering, shifting gears, or leaning your weight, you feel the land like a wind surfer or sea-kayaker feels the surf of the sea. On the way back we passed a group of hikers who were getting out of their motor vehicles (their most important outdoor equipment, after all) and getting organized to climb the nondescript mountain in the photo, above. There was something un-stereotypical about them that pulled me in. Perhaps it was the high dog/hiker ratio. Maybe it was the vehicles: not a single Honda CR-V or Subaru Forester in the bunch. And everybody was wearing long pants, long-sleeve shirts, and broad brimmed hats. (They were from Arizona.) They were attempting t

Can Old People Still Learn?

It is funny how a somewhat vague idea can grab you sometimes. But you suspect that there is something valuable hiding in that vagueness, so you wrestle with it on a blog. It might be one of the better reasons for blogging. Currently I'm on a 'learning counter-intuitive habits' kick. I am beginning to see the development of new habits and capabilities as an example of learning at its best. Think how far it is above the learning of a mere factoid. But this is not a sermon for developing sheer willpower, like some crazed Puritan, and forcing yourself to develop a new habit which actually repels you, but which you have come to believe is 'good for you.' Rather, it is about the exquisite tipping point, half-way from habit A to habit B, as if you were trapped in a Escher print.   ______________________________________ Wasn't it Edward Abbey's "Desert Solitaire" that described the transition of Arches National Park into an over-improved tourist

Counter-intuitive Habit #2: Navy Showers

Well, thank goodness that last post is over. It doesn't happen very often: this blogger flipping into "prophet" mode, and coming down from the mountain top with stone tablets, full of warnings and proscriptions to the Children of the Wheel. So let's just reiterate the bottom line: Counter-intuitive habit #1 = Learning to start an outing going downhill, when it makes sense. At the moment I am trying to entice a friend to come up and camp with me. She has the most perfect rig I have ever seen for hook-up-free camping, down dirt roads, on public land. And coming from me, that is worth something. It is a "Tiger." In fact, considering how illogical most people's rig-choices are, it might make sense to say that choosing a Tiger is on our official list of counter-intuitive camping habits. Let's let that stew awhile... Unfortunately I suspect that she is still a slave of "real" showers, as one gets at New Mexico's state parks. My serm

Developing Counter-intuitive Habits When Camping

I just got back from an unusual mountain bike ride, that is, one in which I was successfully miserable. It started going downhill. Oh what a sinking feeling that is, literally and figuratively! It is so easy to dig a hole for yourself so deep that digging out of it will be pure misery. The same could be said of hiking down into a canyon at the beginning of a hike. Consider for a moment how unnatural it is: when you were a child, your mother trained you to finish off your carrots and peas first -- bleah! -- before you earned dessert. That is the feeling you get starting a mountain bike uphill. You can get so addicted to the rhythm of depleting yourself on the ascent and to the smug satisfaction of resting at a scenic high spot, before turning around and whooping it up on the descent. Now consider the opposite: descending at the beginning, and being chilly. When you turnaround now, it is later in the morning, and you are digging out of your hole in warmer air. That is just plain perv

Why Isn't Heating Your Home Free?

The forests in Colorado are no longer merely worrisome. They are well on the way to complete destruction. Here's an example of what I saw near Little Texas #1: I asked the visitor's center if the Rio Grande national forest was the worst. Surprisingly he said that it was worse elsewhere. Bark beetles. Believe it or not, there is something good to talk about. I saw pickup trucks going up my road everyday to cut up and haul out a load of firewood. They are my heroes.  I asked one about the catalytic converters in the chimney of wood stoves. His experience was bad. In fact he removed it. But catalytic heaters, oxygen sensors, and computer-based control of automobile engines are pretty reliable. So why couldn't the same be true of wood stoves. (Please don't complain about the cost. Wood stove customers will squander an extra thousand dollars for a stove that is nostalgic or fashionable, so what is wrong with a few hundred dollars for something that works?) Why doe

The Flag Controversy and the Meaning of Travel

Somehow I have gotten sucked into the thankless and unpopular task of shaming reforming the travel blogosphere. After a thousand-and-one microscopic how-to details, somebody needs to ask What is the Point of travel? What does it mean? What are the fundamental benefits? In fact it has long been recognized that 'travel broadens your perspective.' That's an interesting word, perspective. So let's light one candle rather than curse the darkness when it comes to the Confederate flag controversy that has been raging the last couple weeks.  As a young man I spent some time in the South. My background was that of a typical, smug, brainwashed yankee -- from the Land of Lincoln, no less. I had a part-time job at a Holiday Inn as a bus boy. Many of the cooks and waitresses were negroes, the first negroes that I had ever been around. One night, a pretty young negro waitress pulled me over with "...kaBLOOnie, I have a friend who would be just perfect for you..."  A

A Camping Neighbor, of All Things

It has been a long time since an impudent camper had the effrontery to move in on my dispersed campsite. My campsite. I took an instant dislike to the guy and to his large wide-jawed dog. But he was a real camper, and you have to admire that. All his junk was in the back of a regular cab pickup truck. No cap. In no time he had his tent and tarp set up. He used a shovel to dig a drainage ditch to empty out some of the puddles that were threatening to trap us. (So I'm not the only person who does silly things like that.) The campsite was at 10,000 ft. It was raining day and night, as it is prone to do in the Colorado high country. Coffee Girl sneaked away from me and went over to see his rather intimidating dog. But he was young and playful, and soon they were wrestling and frolicking to their hearts' content. He had an amazing ability to spot elk on a ridge above tree-line, maybe 2000 feet above us. With his naked eye! He got out his snooper scope, and it was all I could

Historical Picture for the Modern Fourth of July?

Will internet search engines ever get better? They are supposed to be so good now, but I don't believe it. All they do is match keywords, buzzwords.  And then use your search as the input to an advertising algorithm. They don't respond to thoughts or ideas. For instance, we are on the eve of  "our" most obscene national holiday. A more optimistic person would have merely said "most ludicrous and hypocritical" holiday. I have trained myself to tune it out, rather than dwell on it with sourness, and then lash out at what America has become. But it would be better to find something more constructive. What if internet search engines were actually good, and I came to them with a thought instead of a keyword? What history books or novels could I read that would inform on the situation an American finds them-self in, today?  Who else has experienced pride in their country when they were young, and then grew to despise their country? Was it only grouchy old me