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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'…

Robinson Crusoe in New Mexico

The roads that my dog and I were biking on were excellent. I am addicted to not really knowing what the answer is, when I go on a ride. There are no websites to spoon-feed you 'practical' details about these dirt/gravel side roads and two-tracks. (Contrast this with single track riding, where some smartphone app answers everything in advance.)

There were pleasant surprises on today's ride. Granted, it doesn't take a lot to please me, as long as it is a surprise. Recently graded roads, flattish terrain, and nice grazing land with higher country in the background.

I was so contented I wondered why it had bothered me for years that I had to do all that riding by myself, or rather, with just a dog for a companion. I am now longer bothered by it. Perhaps enough years of committing the same mistake makes a guy adopt the attitude of the old horse in the movie, "Babe", who told the farm's malcontents, "The only way you are ever going to be happy is to accept t…

The Holy Man in the White Van Syndrome

The new template for this blog updates it some, but any blog that involves reading is still passé compared to the one-line quips and postcards of social media, or to the television-like experience of You Tube -- or should we call it Yoob Toob in honor of Boob Toob?

My data plan is not unlimited, so I haven't been too tempted to fall into the habit of being glued to the Yoob Toob. But what I have seen of it has been disappointing. It's not like the world really needed one more way to waste time by consuming info-tainment.

Apparently it has become quite the meme to convert vans into small RVs, and then show it off on the Yoob Toob. There are good practical reasons for that. 

But there is something strange about it, too. They seem to think they are the first person on the planet who has ever done something like this before; that the Yoob Toob viewer needs a thousand-and-one microscopic details; and that they are now some sort of celebrity.

No sooner does the guy convert his van and…

The Historian, the Photographer, and the Babushka

I've read quite a bit of Russian history the last couple years. In part, it is a rebellion against the 'Boris & Natasha' silliness in the news -- not that an attempted soft coup d'etat is silly. And there were other reasons.

By now it is reasonable to ask whether all this history-reading is time well spent. Although the odds were against it, Google helped me find some Russian photographs to complement my reading.

Take a look at this photograph from Beyond Sochi: Photos Of Russia By Russians


Would you agree that this is not a trivial postcard of the type you have seen on the internet a million times?

Doesn't it make you feel like you are right there, in the babushka's shoes?

Now think of Tolstoy's essay, "What is Art?", wherein he argues against the common notion that Art is about beauty, and instead, claims that art is the transference of feelings to the observer, by means of pictures, sounds, and words.

The photograph is an excellent example of Art…

Laundromats Are Not the Best Part of Traveling

It is strange how much 'how-to' advice there is on the internet for travelers. But genuinely useful advice is not to be found. Take laundromats. Any beginner may be displeased by the cost of doing laundry. Here's my advice: don't be too cheap. Do yourself a big favor, go to a laundromat with an attendant on duty, and pay a little more. Otherwise the place is a dump.

I was at one of America's premier laundromats the other day. I look forward to it, once or twice a year. But I had to ruin it by being greedy. The music that was playing seemed strange. It was a local station, playing what goes for "country" music, these days. 

The good news is that it wasn't the ugliest music that there is. But I wondered how the music racket works these days.  It's as if music has become an 'autonomous vehicle' for the ears and the soul.

The "country" music sounded like elevator-rock with sappy lyrics, pronounced in a 'before the Great Vowel Shift …

Yoga for Chilly Travelers

Several times I have attempted -- and pretty much failed -- to convince readers of the value of surviving winter without a furnace. Very well then... one more try and then I'll quit. I'll be a good sport by consigning the readers to the fleeting shadows of perpetual unenlightenment.

The time for 'glory' was running out for this winter. A new warming trend was starting today. Just in the nick of time, the temperature inside my trailer went below freezing -- a magical place that can seem unattainable. (Once again, compare this to the beginning of the movie, "The Right Stuff," when the Air Force was trying to break the sound barrier.) I celebrated the occasion by heating water and putting it in the flexible water bladder (Platypus brand), and then inserting it under my parka.

But the real moment of enlightenment occurred yesterday. For a couple nights I had been sleeping in my insulated bib overalls. In the morning I simply got out of bed, threw the parka over the…

"Zero Visibility Possible"

Normally I don't drive my rig on windy days. But I was doing it today, with the excuse being that I had a tail wind. A brown cloud was visible in the sky over towards the infamous Willcox AZ playa.

But I was already downwind of that, so why not keep going east to New Mexico? Soon there were the famous signs along Interstate-10 warning of  "Zero Visibility Possible." I have seen these for many years, and always had a good chuckle over them.

The first indication of something unusual coming up were state police cars, with their lights flashing. Then the sky ahead looked murky -- but more of a dirty white color than the brown you would expect.

As traffic slowed, the semi-truck ahead of me looked 'weird.' I could see down the entire 'port' (left) side of it, even though I was directly behind, with no turns in the road. Apparently the wind from 'port' was 'quarter aft', and it caused the trailer of the semi-truck to blow into an angle that made it …

The Over-Improved (D-I-Y) Van Syndrome

Notice to readers: to find the information that used to be in the margin of my old layout, click on the three parallel lines in the upper right of this page.
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I did a double-take when I biked by that van this morning. The lady of the house was resting in her bed, with the van's rear doors open to the glorious morning sun.

Rightly or wrongly, I tend to open conversations with mock-scolding about something that the other person is quite proud of. (On "paper" this approach would create an instant enemy. But in person, they can tell you are just funnin' them.)  In this case, the entire roof of a huge Mercedes Sprinter van was covered with solar panels. She got the joke, so we ended up with a nice conversation about their converted van.

It was a marvelous piece of D-I-Y work that they deserve to be proud of.  But, several times in the conversation, a yellow light started blinking in the back of my head.

I wondered how many of the converted…

Time to Switch Your Animal Species Loyalty?

Is it good or bad to declare solidarity with an animal species other than the one everybody says you belong to?

That question is unavoidable as I look out my trailer's door to see a half dozen trekkers per day on their way north on the 800 mile Arizona Trail. Of course I can't know whether they are doing the entire course.

How do you explain these people? Is it simply an ego-achievement sort of thing, like running a marathon? Or are they reinventing a religious experience in a post-Christian, secular age? If so, we should call them 'los peregrinos,' the pilgrims.

Or are they actually having fun? If they consider 800 miles of water-less, hot, blistering trudging -- plodding! -- to be fun... well, they aren't the same animal species as me!

It is so easy to understand the fun of my dog as we start off in the morning, biking slightly downhill. Soon she is blasting away at 20 mph, even though she is going on 12 years old. We have to run the gauntlet along yard after yard of…

The Most Successful Organization in America

Guns are in the news, again. There is a way to put that to constructive use, while avoiding the stuff that has been talked to death already. This is easier to do if you have no real interest in the issue of guns or their control, and that is the case with me.

Think of how alien gun culture is to the average soccer mom in the big city. Think of how out-of-date gun culture is to modern, city-centered culture, where all the money and votes are. And yet gun ownership is still alive! How do you explain the success of the gun lobby in defending their hobby?

There has got to be a lesson in their success for anybody in any organization which wants to succeed. Somebody should write a book on this. 

I do not want to talk about 'gun control.' I want to talk about how a lobby can succeed when everything seems stacked against it.

The Checkerboard of Progress

My first year with a smartphone is coming to a close. It has confirmed what I've believed for years: wait, wait, and wait some more with new technology and then give in. You win on everything.

As impressive as smartphone technology is, there is another new 'gadget' in my house that impresses me more. My new toothbrush. I am not being facetious. I actually look forward to brushing my teeth. 

It's not electric. It's the Oral B brand, and appears made with a good design and materials. You can actually notice the improvement.

This is the first premium toothbrush I have ever bought. I used to get freebies from American dentists. Maybe they just weren't that good. But Mexican dentists don't do the promotional thing, so I had to buy my own toothbrush.

It was such an odd experience to be so impressed by such a humble tool that it provoked me into thinking about Progress in general. 
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During my lifetime (born in the Fifties), most materi…

The Shame of Surrender

You gotta give humans credit for being resourceful and inventive, especially when they are rationalizing their own sinful weakness. (5 extra credit points for finding the quote in Ben Franklin's autobiography about his deviation from his youthful vegetarianism.)

I actually have an electric heater warming the inside of my trailer. The Kill-a-Watt device says that it is using only 860 Watts. I wonder if it will be running continuously at 7 tomorrow morning. 

How have the mighty fallen! Last year my unheated trailer set a personal record for hitting 28 F inside. But tonight I keep looking at the heater and telling myself that it isn't really cheating because I am mooch-docking on a friend's driveway.

Normally I mock (good-naturedly) the eremitic virtues of the hook-up-free camper, and then turn around and scold any camper who is using heat. Strange.

Not so long ago, I played with the freezing point, as if it were an unattainable achievement. I used to flirt ever so closely with 3…

Photographing a Flash Flood

A long time ago I saw my first flash flood, after years of being in the Southwest. It was pretty scrawny -- but still impressive if you think of what it represents.

Recently it happened again, except that it was even tinier. The onset of running water was only a quarter inch deep. But it was fascinating! I walked it downstream, at a rate of maybe one mile per hour.

I tried to play games with it. Could it be photographed? I looked at it from above: boring. Then I tried to get light to glance off of it: no good. Perhaps if the camera was lowered almost to the ground, and it focussed on the oncoming 'wave front', it might have looked a little bit impressive. But any still photograph would have missed the drama.

Where are the photographers when you need them?!

I played the game of guessing which way its downstream-most finger would extend. It proved impossible. That finger seemed like a sentient creature, probing, invading, and choosing its next victim.

There is such great use of this…

How Much Quoting is Cheating?

I'm not sure if I have ever pulled in a giant block quote before and just left it -- normally I try to blend it with daily experiences or observations. But this one was so good, I couldn't resist. Sorry if this is lazy of me. It was in an essay about the global warming cult:


This cult has grown to be so large and convincing for several reasons. One reason is that we are encouraged by our media organizations to emancipate ourselves from organized religion, in that we are impelled to become agnostic, or an atheist. They are just as happy with us becoming ‘spiritual’, which is either something new age or pagan, and is likely to involve crystals. The important common denominator is that we must migrate as far away from Christian tradition as possible. The majority of Americans, either at their own inclination, or at the urging of popular culture and education, have done so. So many of the self-described atheists and “casual independents” no longer feel compelled to attend…

Modest Proposal for Improving the English Language

The most obvious way to improve the English language is to make spelling and pronunciation agree with each other. Isn't that the whole point in having an alphabet?

The old excuse used to be, "But new readers won't be able to read the books published some time ago." But eventually that excuse will be obsolete, as information becomes stored digitally. 

But a more timely complaint for me is the difficulty in understanding people's questions on internet discussion forums.  Is English the poster's third language? Or maybe they just don't know how to type.

Actually, most confusion is due to one syndrome: they ask a question in sentence #1, which has three or four nouns in it. Then sentence #2 refers to "it".  It what? The reader can't tell which noun in sentence #1 the pronoun in sentence #2 is referring to. It becomes a reinvention of Abbott and Costello's classic "Who's on first?" comedy routine.

Why does it even use them? Perhaps …

A Classic Movie and the News

If you feel that you are wasting time watching too much News, here is something that might make you feel a little better: sometimes the News makes you see a classic movie in a new light. It can renew your interest in the movie. Perhaps movies or books that lend themselves to new interpretations are the very ones that become classics.

It happened to me last night, as I rewatched Billy Wilder's "Stalag 17."  At the end of the movie, William Holden identifies the German spy in the barracks of the prison camp. The spy has been tipping off the Germans, sometimes lethally.

Holden makes a short speech towards the climax of the movie. It fits in perfectly with the news about the FBI's dirty tricks. 

Machiavelli and "the Memo"

Earlier I praised reading hotheads on the internet. As long as a reader can gloss over emotional rants over their hobbyhorses, one idea in their post might be useful.

And this benefit came again, when reading about the memo. Yes, that memo. Let's not waste each other's time preaching about morality, integrity, what the 'Founding Fathers' would have thought, good versus evil, or any other irrelevancies.

Let's look at it the way Machiavelli would have: as power-seeking leaders think of things as they try to get what they want. 

Some Republican pundits were disgusted with how long it was taking to bring The Memo out, since that was giving the Democrats time to organize a counterattack. 

Have the Republicans failed to gain what they should have from this scandal?  And is sheer stoopidity the only reason for this?

Actually the Republicans had a good reason to hesitate bringing the memo out to the public. Think back to Watergate: Nixon and the Republicans had won big in 1972.…

Cooling Medicine in the Outdoors

On my first day away from the thermal hell-hole of southwestern Arizona, my dog and I "had coffee" with the famous coffee shop dogs of Patagonia. Then we went for a walk along a rail-to-trail. 



Even though it was late in the morning, it was still cool, thanks to the altitude of 4000 feet and some high clouds. I deliberately under-dressed because I was desperate to be cool.

It worked. I imagined my skin being bathed in a slow-moving miasma with healing properties. And somebody else was miraculously cured as well: my dog, Coffee Girl, had developed a limp back in the desert. I couldn't tell what the cause was. When she hit the dirt trail she was her old self, running along jauntily. 

Perhaps it was the sharp rubble back in the desert. Or the Evil Ones.

I too was getting sick of feeling rubble underneath my feet with every other step taken. 

Soon the sun burned through the high clouds. I actually felt happy to have the sun hit my face. That is the ultimate proof of restored heal…

The Desert Winter is Over

We can all admire people who suffer in silence -- but only if the suffering is unavoidable. When a snowbird/camper is too warm in Arizona in mid-winter, it is because they are following the calendar, rather than the thermometer. But I'm proud of myself for surviving through January.


Fare ye well, Desert. It's off to grassland and oaks for me.

There may be a smart-a&& commenter who wonders how this agrees with my praise of Suffering, when camping. Remember that there are two distinct types of suffering: 1) noble and voluntary suffering, and 2) the merely disgusting kind. 

Type 1 ennobles Man. He can visualize it in a way that inspires him to crawl out of the banal routines of daily existence. Type 2 is meaningless. And I would put Heat in the second kind.

Time is Running Out for a New Van

Once again I have been wasting my time shopping for a new van or pickup truck to serve as my tow vehicle. The best news is that one of the salesmen and I had a good chuckle over the list of "options": intermittent windshield wipers, clock, leather wrap for steering wheel...'fine Corinthian leather' presumably.

Alas I cannot find a Chevy Express van with a locking differential, denoted by a code, G80, on the sticker of codes in the glovebox. This confuses the salespeople to no end: it is doubtful they even know what a 'differential' is.

Think of the insanity of the automobile industry: the locking differential is a $350 option. Most of the customers would pay that much for the  #05 Premium Cupholder Convenience package, featuring simulated imported Italian marble. But it is a rare used van that will have the G80 option.


Model year 2017 is the last year for the venerable GM Vortec engine in the van.  If you are the kind of person who thinks that used trucks are so…

Achieving Lift-off in a New Organization

From time to time I revisit the metaphor in the original "Star Trek". The guest star was Joan Collins. The Enterprise boys encounter a "Time Portal", that showed images of the Past in quick succession. If they jumped through at just the right second, they would be transported back to the time and place of the images.

When fantasizing about that sort of transportation, it is easy to choose a time and place: I would go back to the very beginning of any significant mass-movement in history. They would all be fascinating. Imagine traveling with St. Paul, Mohammed, Joseph Smith, France in 1789, Lenin, or Hitler before they showed up on historians' radar screen. (I suppose Gandhi's early career is known best.)

What makes this timely enough to write about is my involvement with a couple new organizations. Real world experience may easily be more informative than a shelf of historical lumber. 

As an example consider the 1200 page book I am currently reading about the …

Patriotic Heroes in the Arizona Desert

Is this a new trend or did I just notice it for the first time, perhaps because of my biases? I noticed so many motorsports people running around the Arizona desert with American flags on the back of their machine. Sometimes they go to quite a bit of work erecting a flagpole back at camp.

Doesn't that seem strange to you? What is the point of adorning sports equipment with the American flag? Maybe fishermen should tape a little American flag to the end of their poles. That might be kind of fun to watch if they are fly fishermen. What are the 'motos' trying to say -- that their sport is more patriotic than others? And what does any sport have to do with patriotism?

Perhaps in their febrile imaginations, their Polaris Ranger -- blasting around in the Arizona desert -- is like a military Humvee, blasting around in the desert of some Mideastern country. Therefore they are 'supporting the troops, who are protecting our freedom.'

A strange game is going on in the minds of a…

The Best Development in RV Camping in 20 Years!

The old adage about 'god is in the details' applies to so many things. Nowhere is it better illustrated than in camping. The vast majority of campgrounds are terrible places to camp. Please don't tempt me to illustrate.

In America (and maybe a couple other countries?) we have been fortunate enough to have the option of "dispersed camping" outside established campgrounds, and by yourself. This is probably the best outdoor experience you could have.

But for years dispersed camping (and other types of access to public lands) has been under persistent and relentless attack by the land control organizations. But they may simply be the Effect. The Cause is likely to be laws passed by Congress, trying to burnish their environmental credentials, as well as rich lawsuit machines (aka, environmental lobbies) and their fellow-travelers sitting on the bench as federal judges.

And yet the RV industry and the RV blogosphere have done next to nothing to protect quality camping in …

500 Years of History to Size Up

Recently there has been a timely opportunity to wrestle with the Big Picture: the Protestant Reformation had its 500th birthday. Secondly a quirky election (for a Senate seat in Alabama) makes you wonder how American culture looks from the perspective of a European post-Christian. Thus there are two timely examples to think about the last 500 years of the Decline and Fall of European Christianity.

I cannot answer these issues in a brief post. But I do want to advertise them as an opportunity. Many important questions are ignored even though we know that they are important. They are big, and take too much hard work. This is how the timeliness of the news, or our outrage at news coverage, can be used to spur us on to the Difficult. It's the best use I know of.

For my part I am reading Hilaire Belloc again, in part because the English-speaking world is already saturated with the Whig Interpretation of History. I need to hear history from the Catholic viewpoint to be 'awakened from …

A Strange Forgotten Substance Falls From the Sky

Light rain hits my trailer. How odd that I can't remember the last time it rained. I wish to hold on to the moment. But how?

The true significance of this rain in undermined by modern comfort and security: it is too easy to buy or get water!

Maybe there are novelists who have done an artful job of relating the experience of rain, but I haven't read enough fiction to know of them. Extra credit points for any reader who offers a fine example from books or movies.