Skip to main content

Posts

Showing posts from 2018

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 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?
_______________________________

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'…

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.
______________________________________

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…