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Showing posts from March, 2016

Real Life Showing Itself in the Do-it-Yourself Syndrome

I don't know where you come down on the Do-It-Yourself question: whether it is a trap, a moral sickness, or a great part of life? Depends on the situation.  

Consider the long overdue improvements I've been making to my mountain bike, as the season cranks up again. 'Cool' mountain bikers never put a bag on the handlebar. They also spend $4000 on a bike that only holds one water bottle. Then they load up their back with a hot, sweaty Camelbak pack. No way! I have had every brand of front handlebar bag made. Last autumn in Moab I went over the handlebar, broke the plastic bracket of the bag, and got scratched up.

This has been going on for decades! Handlebar bags are expensive, protrude too far in front, rotate (fall) downwards, and make your bike harder to store. Or they are cheap, floppy things. And they can't hold something as simple as a jacket regardless of price. 

It seems like you should be able to dig through the toy box, find an old fanny pack, and then loop it…

What Nomadism Really Means

Mid-February was so warm that I said goodbye to the hiking season and hello to the mountain biking season for the next 10 months or so. I was biking down a dirt/gravel road in southeastern Arizona. Suddenly I felt misty-eyed.


How strange! I am not one of those modern 'sensitive' men who acts weepie and huggie because he has been told to do so. In fact, in all the years (19) that I've been in this racket, this is the first time this happened.

(Long-suffering readers of this blog know the formula by now: observe something odd or experience something unusually affecting, and then try to explain it by walking my way to the general and timeless.)

Perhaps I was affected by southeastern Arizona having some of my favorite balanced scenery, that is, grasslands in the foreground and mountains in the background. Andoak trees! In contrast I have little interest in the pine monocultures that cover most of the mountains in the West.

Or maybe it was the realization that I come here every yea…

Body Language

Perhaps every dog owner is a bit like the parents of a human: they want their offspring to succeed where they failed, or at least, missed their opportunities. That must be the explanation why I get so much pleasure from sitting in the shade in front of the 'Chatterbox Cafe', in Mayberry-for-Hippies, AZ. My dog has become the official 'meet and greet' dog, as befits her name, Coffee Girl.

Try to imagine being a computer-graphics expert who works for Pixar and writes software code for the physiognomy of the face. Imagine doing that for a dog who is immensely popular: an open mouth, a wagging tail, stamping paws, and other gyrations of the body.

But if I were really wise, I would practice that on myself. She is popular, while I never have been. (Perhaps I need to look less serious and professorial, and relax the permanent scowl in the ligatures of my facial muscles.)

The actual geometry and mechanics might be simpler for a human than for a dog. But it was not always so. Rece…

Turning Election Ugliness into Intellectual Pleasure

It is hard to settle on an attitude toward these ghastly presidential elections that satisfies me. The easy thing is to say, "Just ignore it. Why make yourself depressed or angry when you don't have to be?"

But this approach is too facile. We do, after all, live under a system of self-government. Something better than mere avoidance is called for. But don't worry: I'm not about to give you a pep talk that belongs in school civics class.

Rather, I want to be candid about how hopeless the USA is, and face up to the fact that we are looking into an abyss. Don't avert your eyes from it. Wallow in it a bit -- not for the mere sake of misery of course, but for the sake of moving on to something better.




For instance, lately I have been on a streak of books about Muslim history. Think how narrow public discourse is about Muslims as 'terrorists'. Does anyone ever define what a terrorist is? Isn't it just an example of asymmetrical warfare? Does anyone ever di…

The Clumsy Coatimundi

Sometimes I think my dog, Coffee Girl, is too cosseted. For instance I usually let her off-leash on mountain bike rides unless the road has faster traffic, or she is bothering free-range cattle. On the return trips later in the morning, she also gets snapped back on, since she doesn't care by then. When it is over 75 F and the rattlesnake risk is higher, she also gets snapped on, whether she likes it or not.

(By the way, the best way to control a dog when mountain biking, is to put a carabiner on the end of her lease, and snap it to a belt around your waist.)

A couple mornings ago, we were riding and running on an enjoyable, recently-graded road. Then a long-tailed animal darted across the road about 50 yards ahead of us. I recognized it as a coatimundi, a type of raccoon with a long monkey-tail. It was only the second one that I've ever seen. Naturally Coffee Girl threw all caution to the wind and took off after the coatimundi.

Wikipedia has an interesting article on the coati. …

Another Attempt at Being an Outdoors Fashionista

My last attempt at being a fashionista was under-appreciated by the readership. But I will just try harder...

The topic is timely, now that Arizona is boiling hot in early spring! As I've explained a hundred times, 90% of staying comfortable in the western states is about staying cool, that is, defeating Dry Heat. The latest revolution in form and function is a wide-brimmed visor that fits over a bicycle helmet. In order for you to appreciate how good this innovative product is, let's talk a little about how I used to do it. 

Years ago I saw a mountain biker near Flagstaff with a classic cotton bandana underneath his helmet. This was inexpensive, but it offered poor coverage for the nose. It was hot too, unless you could find enough water to wet it down. (And there ain't no water in the Southwest.)

I have used baseball caps. They are great for the nose. If you get the kind that lack a "crown", they will be cool. But they mess up the fit of your helmet. They provide …

John Wayne's "Advice" to Travelers

Some time ago I mentioned that I had little appreciation for John Wayne's performances, other than as Rooster Cogburn in "True Grit". A commenter or two agreed.

Perhaps it was the roles and the writing more than his acting. To me, he merely had some mannerisms, such as the funny walk, and verbal trademarks: "Tryin' don't get it done, Mister!", "Ready? I was born ready", "Sorry don't get it done", etc.

So it came as quite a surprise when I watched his "Hondo", and saw him actually doing something useful. He was working as a ferrier, getting the coals and horseshoes hot, and banging the horseshoes on an anvil. He appeared quite expert at these operation, too, not that I could really tell. But it was gratifying to at least see him pretending to make a living as a cowboy, instead of just looking tall in the saddle, having shoot-outs, and talking macho.

This seemed important. I've been at this full-time RV lifestyle for 19 …