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Improving Conversation, as a Campground Host

Being a campground host is not just about cleaning restrooms. There are some thought-provoking moments, as well. For instance the host gets a lot of practice in reading people quickly, and adapting his speech to the other person's needs or interests. I wish I had gotten good at this 40 years ago.

Consider this quote from Boswell's classic "Life of Johnson:"


JOHNSON. 'Well, Sir, Ramsay gave us a splendid dinner. I love Ramsay. You will not find a man in whose conversation there is more instruction, more information, and more elegance, than in Ramsay's.' 

BOSWELL. 'What I admire in Ramsay, is his continuing to be so young.' 
JOHNSON. 'Why, yes, Sir, it is to be admired. I value myself upon this, that there is nothing of the old man in my conversation. I am now sixty-eight, and I have no more of it than at twenty-eight.'
This is certainly something to think about when the host is older than most of the campers. Some of my desire to avoid 'old …

Switch in Political Affiliation?

Could the experience of being a campground host change a person's political orientation? Perhaps it is worth generalizing this to: will working with the general public change your political views?

I am inclined to answer, Yes. I seem to be switching from libertarian to MRAG, that is, Mildly Repressive Authoritarian Regimes.

This switch does not please me. But there is a big caveat: seeing tourists all day is like teaching second grade. The tourist is not really an adult. Implicit in the libertarian viewpoint is the idea that you are dealing with adults who are responsible for their actions.

The child or adolescent gives little concern for the long term consequences of its actions. And it gives no concern for the effect on other people.



Society as a whole has become progressively more adolescent over the last hundred years. The welfare state deserves its share of the credit for this. But even more, the culture of consumer debt has enabled a childish "Gimme it now" mindset tha…

Why Are Jeeps So Wide?

The other day my dog and I were starting our descent from near treeline. We encountered a couple Jeep Wranglers coming up the mountain road. The Jeeps were barely inching forward, and rightly so: they were so wide that they barely fit on the alpine road.

At first I thought it was some kind of optical illusion. After all, it is just common sense to keep a "4WD" (four wheeler's) machine narrow so it can fit between boulders. 


But there is a simple historical explanation for this bit of motorsport silliness: back in the 1990s, when soccer moms started using Jeeps as daily drivers to their cubicle or grocery store, a few of them flipped over on freeway exits. Of course they did -- a narrow wheelbase and high center-of-gravity should do that. That is why you shouldn't take freeway exit ramps at 70 mph in this type of vehicle.

Then the media made a big deal about it, which brought in the safety regulators. So, today we have Jeeps as wide as full-size pickup trucks.

Is there a …

Tourists, and the Brains God Gave a Goose

A couple hundred cows (and a couple bulls) came through the campground recently. Therefore there was a huge up-spike in the average IQ of the campground. Do you think I am exaggerating?

Once I tried to suggest alternatives to driving long distances to merely snack on pretty scenery. I argued that a vacation would cost less money and be more relaxing if people went to a luxury lodge of the other side of the metropolis, watched a movie, ordered pizza for the kids, took the wife to an elegant restaurant or "nice" shops, and hung out at the pool.

Additionally, the pretty scenery can be gotten just as well from high-resolution video or photographs on the internet. And it is virtually free.

But I don't think anyone was persuaded. They are still showing up in the middle of the night at my campground, slamming car doors for an hour while pitching their tent in the rain, listening to someone snore in a tent 30 feet away from theirs, sleeping through the perfect weather of a Southwes…

Bringing a History Book to Life

Every time it happens, it delights me: how a book becomes more interesting if it overlaps with some observation or experience in real life. For instance, I am nearing the end of David Irving's, "Hitler's War."  Although my interest in the book was waning, it perked up when I talked to a couple tourists in a huge German tourist tank, who had invaded our campground, and rejected it.

Consider Germany's debacle when they invaded Russia in 1941. How could one of the most "advanced" nations of the world fail to conquer a backward, third-world nation like the USSR? It's not that I disagree with the explanations offered by historians, but thinking of that type pulls you away from the reality of how personalities actually think.


Consider the German tourists today who drove in with one of those huge military-like, "Outdoor Expo" RVs that outweigh three Panzer tanks of World War II. I joked that he shouldn't have any trouble crossing the little mou…

The Orogeny of Maturity

Lately I have wanted to write about things I have slowly developed an appreciation for. Many times, the rest of the world has seemingly under-rated these things.

For instance, it is not easy to enjoy books on geology, even if you are in locations where the topography screams at you. Now I have basically finished the book, "Earth," by Richard Fortey.

The book has inspired me to think that Shakespeare was mistaken when he compared the seasons of a man's life to performances on stage. It would be better to compare life to the topography of the earth; to see the drama in the lifting up of the sea into high arid plateaus; and to watch the slow and uneven erosion of its heights.

When we admire topography, we aren't really looking at 'erosion.'  Rather, we are looking at an original 'lifting up,' followed by differential rates of erosion. In geology, this occurs in one direction, because gravity and time run in one direction.

But in a human life, what is to stop…

Unheralded Success Stories

For whatever reason, it has become easier over the years to appreciate success stories of various kinds, such as books, personal behavior under stress, music, independent thinking, etc.

But what is most astounding about these success stories is how quiet and unheralded they are. (And why should that be?)

For instance I usually fail to stay interested in reading geology books. And what a shame!, when a fellow spends so much time around land that exudes geology.

Currently I am reading a popular geology book by Richard Fortey called "Earth." Many times I have marveled at what an interesting writer he is. 
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I have always deplored how uxorious the average American male is, resulting in women who are spoiled beyond reason. My only experience outside America was in Mexico, where the non-slavishness of Mexican men towards their women made a favorable impression on me.

Perhaps that is why it has seemed like a small miracle to watch a character in the o…

Western Nostalgia in A Ruined State

We were doing our morning rounds, riding up through the sagebrush hills, when we saw three horsemen coming our way. I made sure my dog was on the leash. I pulled off the dirt road just so I could relax and admire the horses.

A man, a horse, and a dog. It just doesn't get any better than that, and I told them so.

The music of Victor Young came to mind, and the images of the opening of the classic 1953 movie, Shane. Nostalgia might seem like a result of old age; but strictly speaking, nostalgia results from a consciousness of loss. Of course the more years you have lived, the more you come to appreciate what has been lost.



This is especially poignant in a state like Colorado. No longer a western state in any sense of the word, other than scenery,  the state has become unbelievably expensive and crowded.

But let's not think about any of that. Let's just look at the pretty horses and remember: 
...the man who rode into our little valley out of the heart of the great glowing W…

Plato Wrestles With a Do It Yourself Project

It was high time to improve the shower "stall" in my trailer. The curtain was fine, but I needed a bigger tub to stand in, and hold the water.

The plastic box (tub) was simply too small. I have put up with it for four years. That seems strange doesn't it? Every time you go into a big box store you see plastic boxes of every description. It seemed obvious that if I was just patient enough I would eventually stumble onto a plastic box of the right size and shape. (24" by 24" by 10" high)

Nope.

How could something so simple be so frustrating?! Is it proof of the profound truth of Murphy's Law?  Believe it or not, I think Murphy's Law is over-rated. It is lazy thinking to blame things on Murphy's Law too quickly.

There is a better explanation for why plastic boxes are seldom more than 18" in their smallest dimension: it is the width of most shelves in big box stores!

So what else could I do? Many do-it-yourself type people are more comfortable work…

Projecting the Right Image

And you thought I was a pessimist! Last post I wondered when the UTV industry was going to mount equipment on their machines that made them look even more militaristic.

It wasn't long before the world complied. Today I saw a long object mounted on the top of a UTV, using the roll cage as a platform. It took awhile to guess what the horizontal object was.

I believe it was a paddle board, an interesting sport that has become more popular on lakes and rivers, the last couple years.

But I doubt if the UTVer actually plans on using the paddle board on water. More likely, it was chosen to help the UTVer feel 'cool', that is, more like one of the "heroes" destroying some country in the Mideast. From a distance, and at first glance, the board looked like some kind of cruise missile mounted on the UTV.

Second Attempt at Explaining UTV Popularity

I am not satisfied with the last post's analysis of the UTV industry. The question remains: why would such an un-fun "sport" be so popular, given the expense of buying it, the hassle of putting it on a trailer to take it anywhere, and the hot, confining body armor you are supposed to wear?

Let's look at this photo again:


When trying to explain how other people think, it is necessary to set aside my own approach towards nature, with the skin being my main sensory organ, and look at it from other people's perspective.

For most people (and virtually all tourists), eyes are the main sensory organ. What do their eyes see in that photo?

They see a military-like machine, exuding power, violence, and destruction in the desert Mideast. Support the Troops!!! After all, many Americans virtually worship the U.S. military, and many tourists in Colorado come from the Bible states to the east, with a mutated form of Christianity that pines for Israel, war, and the Rapture. 

Surely …

UTVs: Another Insane Industry

I am at it again: questioning the sanity of a large industry. But this time, at least, I heard similar thoughts from other people.

I recently took a training course on handling a UTV (or ROHV) safely. (Those are the car-like "ATVs", typically with side-by-side seating.)

For the life of me, I can't understand why anyone would waste their money on something that just isn't that much fun. Fast motion is fun for a human being -- but for how long?

Because of accidents, regulators have now smothered the machines in safety equipment. I felt panic when I first put that damn full-face helmet on. In fairness, that went away pretty quickly, and it was not as hot as first thought.

But my prescription bifocal sunglasses could not sit on my head right, because of that bloody helmet. The bifocal line obscured my vision. (Only a government safety regulator could design something that ruins your vision, and then call it "safety" equipment.) 

Almost every aspect of this infernal …

When 'Lust in the Dust' Becomes 'Rage in the Sage'

What do you know?! I actually sold something on Craigslist. I still have yet to buy something on Craigslist. Actually the whole process was confidence-inspiring. My "old" bike (10 months old) took a month of patience to finally sell.

The next day I went to the bike store and surrendered to my basest instincts. That is, I bought a new Trek Full Stache. It is sometimes called the monster truck of mountain bikes.


Big tires roll over stuff easily. It is that simple. I smiled and almost giggled as I took this monster on a test ride, and deliberately chose bad "lines" through rocky obstacles, and felt the bike shrug it off.

It was gratifying to be rewarded for ignoring much of the nonsense on the internet. Unless you understand what the reviewer's agenda or perspective is, you simply don't know whether to believe them or not. 

Young male reviewers are almost always full of crap. They are not shrewd consumers. And their prose is unreadable! They make a show of techno-…

Make Wilderness Good for More Americans

It is not often that something cheerful happens in the arena of public lands management. Normally I avoid the topic because it is just too discouraging.

But there is a bill in Congress that empowers public land managers to regulate mountain bikes in Wilderness areas, instead of just the blanket ban that has existed in the past, probably from some judge's decision.

I consider this good news because Americans need more access to the huge blocks of land set aside as Wilderness areas. Go to a trailhead outside a Wilderness and you might see two cars parked. Backpackers. That is just too much land for one sport.

But look how crowded the non-Wilderness areas are getting! America is getting over-populated, after all.

Only a tiny fraction of Wilderness areas would be affected by the legislation.  Most of that type of land is simply too rugged for a human-powered, wheeled machine.


And yet the Greenie groups will oppose this legislation. There is no way to argue with religious emotion: to ask th…

There is "the Cloud", and There Is the Real Thing

Have you noticed how tourism/travel literature always shows blue skies in its postcards?

Who the hell wants blue skies all the time! It is that time of year again, when aridity and blue skies and sunlight become oppressive.  

But this morning there were clouds, merciful clouds. Granted they were not the picturesque clouds that the Southwest gets during the summer monsoon season.




But don't think I'm complaining. It is worth suffering through the wildfire season, when your skin and fingernails slough off your body, and your hair turns to dry straw, just to experience the bliss of the monsoons.


Strictly speaking, it wasn't the clouds that were so glorious, it was the shade. In June I would rhapsodize over shade caused by anything.

Dogs agree with this opinion!

Pyroclastic Flow at Sunset

This summer, readers are likely to hear me rhapsodize over soft sagebrush hills and their shadows at dawn and dusk. And more times than they need. It didn't even take one day to start mooning and swooning.


But shifting my view to the forested top of a high hill, it was easy to be almost troubled by it. The green forest seemed to be slowly sloughing off the top of the hill, causing it to invade my sagebrush hills.

It is strange to think of a forest on the march. Oh sure, Macbeth reminds us, "Fear not, till Birnam Wood do come to Dunsinane." Or maybe it was the news and photos of the creeping malevolence of lava on the Big Island of Hawaii.

It was certainly a reminder of how important it is for the observer to properly prepared, in order to be strongly affected by "beauty", which would in fact become boring rather quickly, otherwise. 

Earlier in the day my dog and I had slowly seeped up that 1500 feet or so of hill, on the mountain bike. At sunset, some of that still…

Has Pat Buchanan Turned Protestant?

Recently I wrote about James Howard Kunstler surprising me with some of his opinions. Another long-standing and well-known pundit is doing the same thing. Pat Buchanan recently wrote a post that makes him sound so disgusted with the current pope that he is searching for an alternative to Roman Catholicism.

He rhetorically asks whether the pope has the power to change the eternal verities of the Catholic religion. My short answer is, yes, the pope does.


When Buchanan talks about the eternal verities of the religion, doesn't he really mean the values and ideas that he got used to as a Catholic boy in the 1940s? Does he really think that his religion should be static?

If so, he never belonged to the right religion in the first place. In fact he has overlooked a great advantage and strength of the Catholic church. 

All religions say that they worship "God", but strictly speaking, they either worship 1) a church hierarchy, or 2) a holy book.

Catholics, Orthodox, Mormons, Jacobins,…

The Agony and Ecstasy of Internet Forums

One of the stump speeches on this blog is that Suffering is under-rated -- not so much for the sake of itself, but for what it can lead to. I ran into an extreme example of that recently.

For instance, reading forums on the internet can be depended on to deliver exquisite suffering to anyone with half a brain. After reading them, one can only scream, "So this is what we get for hundreds of billions of dollars spent on public education in this country!"

The younger and more macho the commenters are, the more idiotic. Try a mountain bike forum if you don't believe me. You don't need a list of their favorite instruments of torture.



Let's be brave and face up to the suffering. In fact, let's even wallow in it a bit. And then, when you least expect it, you run into a comment like this:
Reading this thread is like watching a toddler learn to walk- it keeps looking like it's going to fall flat on it's face and you start to wince and look away, but it's lit…

What Has Happened to Kunstler?

There is an art to choosing which pundit to read.  A reader seeking comfort can read a pundit that they always agree with. Inevitably, this turns into disappointment. Soon you can anticipate everything the pundit will say, and you've heard it all before.

On the other hand, if you disagree with everything they are about to say, you have the same problems as above, with the added benefit of being made angry.



And so, the middle ground is best. You must be relieved and delighted when he agrees with you. These moments also predispose you to give him the benefit of the doubt when he disagrees with you. At least you stay good-natured about the disagreement. 

That is why I have read James Howard Kunstler over the years. He has come a long way from his roots as a New York Jewish Democrat/Bolshevik (grin). His latest essay was mildly shocking -- and enjoyable. 

For a moment there I thought the essay was written by Fred Reed.

Wanted: a Decent Photographer for Internet Shopping

I'll bet you know someone who has wanted to reach across the counter at a store and choke the employee, when they answered your "Have you got a..." question with a sweet smile and a response of, "I could order it for you..."

You could order it for me? Well hell, man, I could order it myself off Amazon! What do I need you for? I came in here to look at the physical object itself, and then walk out with it today.

Sigh. Shopping just isn't my favorite activity, be it brick-and-mortar or online. I'm not complaining so much as wondering how business works.



For instance, the world tells us that online shopping is taking over everything. There is so much noise about it, and so much praise for internet 'technology.'

Forgive me for not being impressed. The photographs are so bad when you shop online. I can't discern any of the nitty-gritty details. Maybe that is what they want. After all, an experienced consumer can see the booby traps built into a produ…

Why Doesn't McDonald's Take Over the Laundromat?

Once upon a time in America long ago, inventors and famous businessmen were held up to schoolchildren as great benefactors of mankind. I wonder if that is still true today.

Businesspersons still become celebrities today, but the nature of their success is different than in the past. Can you really compare Facebook to the Model T Ford? Industrializing agriculture, transforming electricity and magnetism into motion, building an electrical grid, inventing countless products out of petroleum -- all of these triumphs seem so much more important than the latest buzz in tech-fashions or social media trends.

Even a great modern success like Amazon doesn't really contain much that is new compared to a Sears Roebuck wish-book, drooled over on the porch of a farmhouse in the 1890s.


Surely there are still many innovative businesses being born today. But they may be small enough or mundane enough that they haven't become household words.

I would like to suggest a mega-success that is sorely ne…

Why Did the Rattlesnake Cross the Road?

This time last year, I had a rather grisly encounter with the first snake of the season. I felt rather bad about killing one of the good guys, a bull snake.

While mountain biking this morning, I got a momentary glimpse of something looking out of its hole in ground, but I laughed this off as excessive cowardice.

Later in the day, a short 18" rattlesnake slithered his way across the dirt road in front of a couple campers. The rattles were clearly visible, but the snake didn't make any noise with them. Maybe it was too immature to rattle?


At any rate, I called the campers over to have a look and take a photo.  As usual, my dog doesn't seem to even notice snakes. 

Campground hosts get asked questions that I don't have a perfect answer for. Imagine a tourist from, say, Wichita Falls, Texas. They walk up to the host, and ask, "Do you got any buh-buh-b-b-b-bears here?"

Meanwhile, back home in Wichita Falls, they had an F4 tornado rip through a trailer park, the week be…

Lust in the Dust, II: Craigslist Ad For My Mountain Bike

Here is my first Craigslist ad ever! Nor have I ever bought anything through Craigslist, although I have looked plenty of times. Don't miss photo #2!


They have me worried about the right way to accept payment. What is wrong with meeting the buyer, and going to his bank with him, if one is available in the area, and having the bank employee make out a cashier's check to me?

Some Surprises in 1950's Television

Many people have a negative stereotype of 1950's television: too conservative, sexist, etc. In watching a classic show from this era, "Wagon Train," several things have surprised me.

For instance, the writers' treatment of the military was different than I thought. After all, it was only a decade after "The Good War." Weren't all the "boys" heroes? Think of that iconic photograph from Life magazine of the sailor stepping into the leaning, tango-like position of the nurse. And 9 months later, the baby boom took off like a rocket.

So why was the television writing so disdainful of the military? The martinets, the mickey-mouse rules, the glory-hounds, the civilians who were on the losing side. Didn't that offend the "heroes" sitting in their living rooms?
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Although it may seem like I am breaking the continuity of this post, the explanation of the above may be buried in a wonderful recent essay from Fred Re…

Smartphone Map Apps Versus Hansel and Gretel

Nothing convinces you how blind you normally are, outdoors, like getting lost on a disappearing trail. Until the moment of panic hits, the process is fascinating: it is a paradigm for outdoor experiences in general.

As the trail starts petering out, you need to become more and more observant. At some point, it really seems like you are imagining mere hints of a trail, and that is such a magical point!

I got frustrated trying to use a mapping app on my smartphone today, mainly because I lost the internet signal occasionally, and then the app didn't work right. Therefore I 'sorta' got lost.

These mapping apps are not designed for outdoorsmen, by outdoorsmen. They are cooked up by city boys -- cubicle rats -- at some software company. If the app works in their parking lot, they think they have succeeded. They are proud of all the features they have built into the app -- but that just means a more complicated menu. 

Could anyone really use all those features when the sun is too br…

A Joey in My Jammies

Being a propagandist or proselytizer is not one of my core skills, apparently. No matter how hard I have tried to talk my fellow campers out of their evil ways, they still put furnaces in their rigs, and then go on, hypocritically, to praising the usual pieties of Frugality and Simplicity.

Still, it is worth praising an approach that has become very satisfying. Earlier I gave an advertisement for camping with insulated bib overalls. 

These are even more effective with a bladder of heated water inside. I used this technique again last night. What satisfaction! Since I sleep in those insulated bib overalls,  I call them my "camping jammies."

When you put the bladder of heated water inside the jammies, you can think of yourself as a:

Lust in the Dust: Selling My 27.5 X 3" Full Suspension Mountain Bike

What has happened to me? It's bad enough, resorting to putting cat pictures on the internet,


...but resorting to shameless commerce, too?!

Less than a year after stepping up in mountain bikes to a full suspension with 27.5" wheels and 3" wide tires -- a so-called "plus" bike -- I have fallen into lust for a 29 inch bike with 3" wide tires. The reviewers call it "a monster truck" of a mountain bike. Sounds like the ultimate machine for crashing over whatever gets in the way.

So consider this post just a probe into the issue of selling my current bike, a model year 2017 Cannondale Bad Habit 2,  size Large, all aluminum:


It was purchased in August 2017 from REI. Here is their spec sheet for it.

The bike I am selling has a few upgrades not on the spec sheet: the biggest being the Specialized Command dropper seat post. These extra goodies add up to about $600.

The list price of this bike, without the upgrade goodies, was $2600.

I would like to see if there i…

The Internet Scold Syndrome

If it weren't hurting so many people, it would be funny: this hypocritical indignation by the warmongers of the West that 40 Syrians were killed by chemicals! This from the people who have killed a million people in the Mideast since the first Persian Gulf War.

Of course TNT and gunpowder aren't 'chemicals'; and they and embargoes (of necessary things) are not 'weapons of mass destruction'. 

But why even talk about it? Americans don't care how much suffering their government causes in foreign countries. To even talk about it just reduces a blogger to a crank, or even worse, an unpopular scold.

I ran across a phrase, in "The Closing of the American Mind" by Allan Bloom, attributed to Saul Bellow. And it really made me flutter my eyelashes, as metaphors are prone to do.

Let's paraphrase it by saying that the internet allows someone a chance to turn a blog 'into a kind of ghost town, into which anyone can move and declare themselves sheriff'.…

The Puppy-Girl of Pie Town

After all these years I finally had a chance to visit the famous "toaster house" of Pie Town, NM. People doing the Great Divide mountain bike ride love to stop in here. Thanks to some good luck, I walked in on the proprietor who was checking up on things. She filled me in on the history of the toaster house: she had raised four kids in that house, before turning it into a donation-only hostel.

Thanks to the riders' blogs I knew where to go for wifi. And let me tell you, getting on the internet is a challenge in this town. I -- or rather, my dog -- was noticed by a family of campers. After a certain amount of observation, their little girl insisted on making friends with my dog.

I was then surprised and delighted to have a one hour conversation with this little girl, age 4. She was so well spoken. A cynic might say that her skill at adding inflections and nuances to her statements was just a mimetic skill, gotten from observing her parents. Still, it amazed me. 



This is the …

The Songbird in the Grocery Store

(Click on the three short parallel lines in the upper right hand corner for information that used to be in the margin.)

I only had to wait for one customer in the line at the grocery store today, just before I left town. Oddly enough, he started singing quietly as the checkout lady worked through his items. He accompanied a pop music song that was playing over the store's speakers.

At one point he teased the checkout lady about how slow she was, but she joked that she didn't want to finish before the song did. So he went back to his singing. He wasn't showing off. It was quiet and natural singing, and he had a good voice.

When it became my turn, the checkout lady told me I could take over now; but I said I couldn't sing the way that the other fellow did. I am glad that he could probably hear us talk about him.



This is the first time I ever heard a man singing in the checkout line before. Why so? I wonder what an experienced world traveler would say. I'll bet it isn'…