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Showing posts from May, 2016

Perfection at 'Experiencing a Book'

Perfection has never been my ideal. Not everybody thinks like that. Many people may remember Curly's (Jack Palance's) speech about the beautiful woman backlit by the sun, in "City Slickers". Or consider the climax of "The Red Violin". There are other examples of worshiping perfection as an ideal from the days of chivalry, religious devotion, or military courage.

All I can say is, they are welcome to it, if that is what they want. For my part, I will continue to believe in the semi-universal S-shaped curve for Benefits versus Costs. (Notice the 'semi'.)

But it is always fun to make an exception. My recent problems with a broken leaf spring on my trailer resulted in a perfect experience of a certain type.

It was so easy to admire the competence and usefulness of the mechanic who drove the tow truck to my trailer, and then repaired it. He knew where to get the replacement part quickly, whereas I would have bounced around on the internet for hours, spendin…

Can I Benefit from a Setback with my Trailer?

Care is needed in writing about a practical problem. But it can be an enjoyable challenge to the writer,who must keep thinking about the general reader, and avoid too many messy, picayune details.

One of the leaf springs broke on my single-axle trailer. Fortunately this occurred at walking speed, after bumping into a partially submerged rock. So no damage was done to me or the frame or axle.

But what if this happened to a single axle trailer at high speeds? I always worried about single axle trailers just for this reason. Perhaps I was right all along.

One could argue that it would be preferable to have rubber torsion axles that don't have leaf springs, and therefore don't break. From experience I know that you can permanently bend rubber torsion axles (such as the Dexter "Torflex"). But that's a lot better than breaking something loose; you can still drive the trailer to a repair shop. On the other hand repairs are more expensive than for leaf springs.

So once I ge…

Back to Marvelous Dirt Road Mountain Biking

Going back to mountain biking on dirt roads -- rather than single-track trails -- is a straightforward opportunity to think independently of the System, and to reap rewards. Surely, this is easy to preach and hard to practice.

If you limit yourself to areas with networks of single-track trails, you will tend to pin yourself down in more touristy areas. The more uncrowded areas, with the best dispersed camping, have no single track trails, but they have manyregular ol' dirt forest roads. 

New Mexico is under-rated as a place to mountain bike on dirt forest roads. The best feature is the balance between scenery and rideable topography. Look at this photo:

The cliff is pretty high and steep, and therefore fun to look at. But imagine there were a road along the top of the cliff. It would be challenging enough, but at the same time, not too steep. Those are the magic words for enjoying mountain biking, "not too steep."

The land was cooperating with me. Have you spent a little too…

Extremism as the Route to Celebrity-hood

I waylaid an RV buddy this morning at a cafe. His and my dog both went berserk. By the time breakfast was over, we had the world pretty straightened out. We also talked about couch surfing, a topic that was new to me.

In fact a European friend and I had just finished a week of informal couchsurfing, with them in my van, and me in the trailer that is pulled by the van. It worked. I am curious about doing more of it. At the very least it is one more reason to own a van as the tow vehicle, instead of a pickup truck.

Restaurant noise bothers me more than it used to. To escape, we went outside to finish our coffee. Up walks a woman backpacker, who my friend had seen hitchhiking a few miles back. Oh sure, we all know about the cultural fad of backpacking across the country in 1969, by young hippies. But people still do this? Women?

And she had done some couchsurfing, too. As my friend left, he suggested that I have a conversation with this woman, who was eating alone. But I didn't. 

Why not…

Economics 101 When a Town Barely Has a Pulse

It's been a long time since I took an economics course. All I remember about it is that they don't call it the "dismal science" for nuttin'. Let me suggest another approach to the subject. Forget about the hectic noise of the big city, the stop-and-go traffic, and the endless running around to buy crap, most of which is superfluous.

Imagine taking it all away. Simplicity, bliss? Not so fast. Your first couple hours in a really small town pound it into you how difficult it is to get anything done. What if you have something as trivial as a flat tire? Will you have to call your towing service and get towed 200 miles to Phoenix or Albuquerque?

Are any of their stores serious about doing business? Maybe they are just tax write-offs. Except that the place doesn't look high-income-enough to need tax write-offs.

Can you find a business that is open the same hours two days in a row? I actually bring a pen and clipboard to write down the complex schedule of hours when th…

The Rite of Spring in the Travel Blogosphere

It is my favorite time of year as a reader of travel blogs. Bicycle touring blogs, that is. In the winter "Crazy Guy on a Bike" goes into semi-dormancy because even the "Southern Tier" route across the USA is not that popular. That leaves the southern hemisphere, which is a rather small place and expensive to get to. 

In particular it's worth keeping an eye out for the blogs about the GDMBR, the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route, which goes from the Mexican border to the Canadian, while staying pretty close to the physical continental divide. Since it consists of dirt roads on public lands for the most part, a dog lover could at least fantasize biking it with their best friend. Not so, with the road cycling routes of course.

But I still give the roadie blogs a glance. Once in a great while, one of these is quite enjoyable. So why not celebrate the occasion? Recently that happened with "Looking for America", by Dan Schmiedt.  I have only read half of his…

The Purple Papoose, Part 2

Bounteous. It is a pretty word that doesn't get used much. It has an interesting etymology. It is the best word I can think of for a recent experience with a seamstress. That isn't where you would expect to have a memorable experience.

Consider how difficult it is for travelers, especially unmarried men, to get any garment repaired. Even if they are married, most gringas these days can barely sew; or they consider it beneath them because it is sexist and traditional, almost to the point of being neolithic.

First of all, you must find the seamstress. They tend not to have webpages or billboards. Sometimes there is a simple, hand-written card on the bulletin board in a laundromat. That is where my luck started. If the seamstress is more of a tailor, she will be busy with wedding dresses, and not have time for old-fashioned, low-cost repairs.

Woe unto you if you bring her an unclean garment for repair. That is the sort of blunder that a male neanderthal is prone to.

I drove up to he…

Hitting the Jackpot with the Service Economy

So this is what it feels like to hit the jackpot! Despite the cliché that 'America has a service economy', an experienced traveler knows how difficult it is to get a dog groomed or a car fixed. Even more frustrating is the search for a seamstress. It would be easier to schedule brain surgery than to get a zipper replaced, when you're on the road.

That is why I hit the jackpot in Silver City when I threw myself on the mercy of a dry cleaning place, the same place where I had been saved a half dozen years ago, when this same winter parka had suffered 'wardrobe malfunction'. The way things go these days, perhaps I shouldn't complain about the new metal zipper surviving heavy use for that long. (It was twice as long as the original nylon Delrin zipper.}

Back then I remember the disappointment of the best winter parka of my life failing so prematurely, and fearing that it would now be put in the dumpster. It's funny how that works: we never remember the pretty sce…