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Showing posts from September, 2019

Pulling a Trick on the Tourists

There was a time, not so many years ago, when you could camp all by yourself on public lands. But it has gotten a lot harder to do this, thanks to several trends: more people, #vanlife, solar panels, better internet in rural areas, and -- my least favorite -- the blabbermouths on social media and internet blogs.

So you must get more shrewd and ruthless in order to avoid the noisy, tourist masses. I seem to be succeeding at this, at the moment. 

It helps to put yourself into the mindset of the big-city weekend warrior and mass tourist, and then deliberately develop proclivities quite the opposite of them. For instance, mass tourists from the East or the Northwest want land to be green. (What philistines!) They are easy for me to avoid. I like parched, brown/grey BLM land, rather than green forests.

Mass tourists ooh and ahh over red rocks. Red is a nice color, but really!, is it necessary for outdoors fun?

Mass tourists ooh and ahh over large and freakish verticalities. But a mountain bike…

Autumn Pleasures

A person could write forever about how wonderful autumn is. One of its understated virtues is its scratchy, dry texture. This is visually evident in tawny grass seedheads. 


On today's ride I brought my real camera (an Olympus TG-5) to look for sunflowers. They were found. It took a lot of looking but I am pleased I found a camera that has an adjustable aperture just by turning a knob, instead of the usual stepping through a complex menu that is virtually invisible in bright sunlight. I love blurry backgrounds.

Real "Fall Colors" For a Change

This is the time of year for "leaf peepers," that is, tourists who drive around and gawk at yellow aspen leaves, while rhapsodizing about fall colors, plural.

I envy people back East at this time of year: old barns, real trees with leaves, a true variety of colors, apple cider, and crisper mornings.

But guess what?!  My friend and I went prospecting for a new campsite today, and we found something unexpected. I made him stop in the shade, at a stream crossing. There were maple leaves on one side of the road, and oak leaves on the other.


 And we found two streams that had a little water flowing.

Three miracles of nature on one day is all the excitement that I can take!

Exploring Versus Outdoor Exercise

Since I was not mobile this summer, certain experiences are coming back to me as if they are new, but of course, they aren't really new.

For instance, on a couple mountain bike rides I got to re-experience how fun it is to start off with minimal information, and then bumble and stumble my way through the route. 

Relatively small surprises can become puffed up into "discoveries" when you don't start off knowing what the answer is. Does the road connect with anything? If it starts rough, will it get better? The flowers were past their prime on a nearby road, but they were peak on this road, for some reason.


The scenery was excellent along this route, but that is not my point of emphasis. It consistently works better if I choose an area with mild expectations about the scenery, and then let Mother Nature surprise me on the upside.

So it is time to just admit that I think more like my dog than like the prevailing mountain bike culture, where people love dangerous acrobatics …

Soulmates in the Outdoors

For several good reasons I don't talk to women when I cross paths with them on a trail or on the street in town. But the other day I might have overdone this: a runner crossed paths with me on a narrow dirt road, and I didn't even exchange brief pleasantries with her, make eye contact, or otherwise acknowledge her existence.

Soon I got back to my van and found her vehicle parked next to mine. I was appalled!


A black truck! With the windshield facing south! It was perfectly clean -- how does she do that?, by spending money every three days at the car wash? Good heavens, she lives in a world of scalding sunlight and blowing dust. How could she be an outdoorswoman and be so detached from physical reality?

Meanwhile, a higher order of female, my dog, became quite accomplished this summer at digging 'spoons' in the dirt. They probably felt cool. She shaped them to the contours of her body. She located most of them on the leeward side of a sagebrush, for protection against the …

Solar Tailwinds

A summer in one place gets a guy out of shape when it comes to driving. Still, I like driving better now than when I was young. Perhaps it was the impatience back then?

Nothing is better than driving early in the day, with the sun at your back. (Especially true for un-air-conditioned vehicles like mine.) Why, this is more important than having a tailwind for a cyclist or sailor. 

My goodness, I drove over 100 miles today! When I got into Price, UT, I was hot and cranky. I even yelled at my dog.

But then I went uphill onto the land that I love. It only took 15 minutes of exploration on some BLM land before I was feeling happy. There was real drama to it, considering how vile I felt down in the hot parking lot.

It is easy to stand somewhat outside yourself and watch the magic take over in just a few minutes, despite it happening many times in the past. 

Now I am cooler, and have an almost 180 degree view of Book Cliffs. My (current) dog's life started with me because my first dog disapp…

To Utah, Faster

The last post showed a rig that had some nostalgic appeal, as in Ward Bond and Robert Horton.  But progress was slow.

So I upgraded to this RV:

Towards Utah

It's hard to believe I was a host for three and a half months! The gig is finally up, and the timing is perfect. It's "Wagons, Ho-o-o-o-o-o!", this morning.

Towards Utah.

Art Students at Work

For the first time I encountered (ten) art students drawing something or other on a road that my dog and I were biking on this morning. I tried to be quiet and non-intrusive. I wonder what objects they were drawing.

The area has an austere attractiveness, rather than the "postcard prettiness" that you'd expect to attract an art class. That's why it started me thinking. Were they there for the variety?

What if somebody had walked up to the teacher and asked, "Have any of your students chosen to draw the sheer terror of a ground squirrel, scurrying for his life, with a hawk circling in the background?"


She might have liked the idea. Or do they draw only pretty things? And what if they did draw something more out of Darwin or Jack London than out of the tourism industry -- would they automatically get a poor grade in this art class, regardless of how effective their drawing was at transferring emotion to the viewer? I don't really know.

The Shadows of September

Talk about 'a watched pot never boils...'

A couple weeks ago I started obsessing over the length of the noon shadow, as created by my camper. In early summer I got so little shade that I spent the entire mid-day inside. Then in mid-August, improvement was noticeable: I could actually sit outside in my chair if it was backed up against the camper.


Then I forgot about it, for a week. Today I was astonished to see the luxuriousness of that shade. A September day might be nearly as warm as mid-summer. But you can find shade in September, which is what really counts in the American Southwest.

This might seem a self-inflicted problem, since I have no awning on my camper. But in the Southwest, mid-day winds are over 30 mph.

Thus the long disease of summer is over, regardless of the temperature, although it is cooling as well. For the next six months I can stop fantasizing about moving to Spitzbergen or Jan Mayen Island. 

It brings to mind a term I don't use frequently: Grace. WordWe…

An Over-aged Skateboard Punk

I've seen guys like this several times, especially in this college town: a skateboard punk, self-consciously looking the part, except that something stood out...something was wrong. He was too old to play the part.

With more practice a person might be able to silence their smartphone quickly enough to remain unobtrusive. So far, I haven't been able to do this, so I can only take a photo from the internet. But it doesn't really express how pathetic these over-aged skateboarders look.


Teenage-fad clothing, dreadlocks, tattoos, body piercings, etc. In a couple years he might start losing his hair. What will he think of his dreadlocks, then? Maybe he will cover his head with a baseball cap, worn backwards, of course.

At this guy's age, our parents were already married and starting a family. Was this guy still a college student, or was he one of those permanent students who hangs around a collegetown and adds one useless diploma (in some soft subject) to another? 

He was the p…