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Showing posts from April, 2021

A Cello at Apache Creek

  A day has to be a good day in Arizona if there was 0.10" of precipitation over night. We even had the slightest touch of snow flurries -- and it is almost May! The ground was definitely damp in the morning, and the imagination could puff up some spots into a puddle. The residual moisture in the air made for euphonious puffy clouds in the normally-mono tonous blueness. It is hard to be "blue" on an Arizona day like this.  And I must surrender to this. The morning and evening walks with my older dog are turning from andantes to allegros , but under conditions so fine, allegro need only mean slow and beautiful. It was project day: time to add another solar panel to the roof. After brainstorming with another RVer, this approach seemed the least complex and expensive way to camp in deeper shade this summer, despite it sounding ironic. With untinted glasses on, I felt woozy standing on a ladder and looking at the ghastly Arizona sun bouncing off the white roof. And scali

From the Ridiculous to the Sublime

You can see some extreme things out on the road, but what I saw yesterday certainly took the prize. It was a tricked-out Toyota pickup pulling a tricked-out "overlander" trailer, with tricked-out motorcycles inside. The two fellows had an interesting job. They drove this monstrosity around the country to appear at public events of various kinds. "Their" rig was essentially an advertising billboard for a motorcycle manufacturer.  They were friendly guys and I had a nice conversation with them. The ridiculousness of their rig didn't seem to bother me -- nothing surprises me in this world of ours. And besides, was their rig any more ridiculous than some of the things seen in my sport's culture? Do "roadies" still wear those tight, uncomfortable, shiny plastic, Italian cycling shoes ($250) with exposed cleats on them? They make it so hard for the cyclist to even get off at a coffee shop and walk around like a normal human being. What a nice concrete ex

The Opposite of Cattle Rustling

What a strange little animal! The calf ran over to my van like a dog welcoming his human home. He actually came up to the driver's door. What did the crazy little maverick want?  He took off in front of the van in the direction I wanted to drive. He hogged the road and wouldn't let me pass, although I came close a half dozen times. I was afraid to run over him. Finally I stopped, he stopped, and I threw rocks at him. This was getting strange. He was a half mile from mommy. What on earth is the rancher feeding these animals? _____________________________________ Last night my dog and I went on our sunset walk. As a dog gets older each minute of quality time gets more precious. Three more neighbors came up to visit, but they stayed on their side of the cattle gate. Tall, noble, beautiful. The horses graze in a lower pasture, about a half mile from camp. ______________________________________ On this morning's ride, I saw some pretty odd cattle. I can't remember ever seein

Making Bicycling More Pleasurable

I was shocked -- shocked! -- when he told me that he mountain biked with boxer shorts under loose fitting biking shorts, instead of the industry-standard $40 padded underwear or $100 padded spandex sausage shorts. Wasn't it Chesterton who reminded us to be 'frugal with our heresies?' And I have been: despite being skeptical about many of the trends that have come along in the bicycle industry, I have been conventional regarding bike-liners-underwear, the last few years. But it was not always so. Years ago I had two pairs of loose-fitting nylon shorts, with a thin, loose, and cool liner inside. I kept those shorts alive for 15 years, taking them to various seamstresses to resew -- and you know how hard it is to find a seamstress when you are on the road! Finally they were dead. But REI didn't sell them anymore. They were only selling the over-priced, thick, hot, overly long, overly busy mountain bike shorts that made you look like an urban rap singer. I refused. That pu

The Neighborhood Comes to Visit

The best travelers in the world are those who can meet people with interesting lives and talk to them. It must help to have an irrepressibly jovial disposition, be non-threatening, and have the right physical appearance and age. But even if these things aren't perfect, you still get a chance to meet the neighbors, every now and then. First it was the cows and their calves. Then "Hondo" paid call. That really was his name! What a great name for a real Western ranch dog, a workin' dog.   What a lifestyle Hondo must have! But it isn't all fun and games. He has 75 cows to fuss over. Of course he doesn't have to do it all alone. He delegates a certain amount of the workload to his human partner, who drives the ATV. She is recovering from shoulder surgery -- otherwise she would be driving her horse. Hondo even delegated a certain amount of work to me: he assigned me the job of checking on cows and their calves at a local wallow hole. The bottom is glutinous mud, and

Re-imagining Shangri-La

I was surprised to see the sharp cut in the volcanic surface. It was visible from the road. After camping close to it, there were plenty of opportunities to do dog-walks into this canyon, if that is what you should call this humble slot in the black volcanic rock. The one thing that seemed certain was that the canyon was small, but sharply cornered at its top. But I didn't know what else to expect. How nice! A few trees were decorating the canyon with the marvelous light greenness of new leaves. Unleafed-out sycamores stood out with their white bark.  The canyon bottom was strewn with large round rocks -- the product of water flow apparently. All of this was such a glaring, but pleasing, contrast with the sharp-cornered top edge of the canyon. It was hard to imagine how a canyon like this could have been formed. Was there some kind of discontinuity in the lava surface where water flow got started, way back when? I guessed right about the depth of the canyon. Usually the sidewal

Problems With the 'Net'

What a morning! It was getting pretty late, 830 or so, and yet it was still dead calm. I liked how the mountain bike ride started off, but then again, there was nothing in particular to focus on. Hmmm... Except these spider webs. Thirty of them were catching the glancing morning light.     Typically there was a one inch diameter hole underneath the spider web. It seemed like the perfect size for a mouse. But how did the mouse get through the spider web without tearing it up? Could the hole be the residence of the spider itself? A tarantula needs a residence that big. Do tarantulas weave webs, too? Think how big the fiber would have to be to support their weight! There is so much about nature that I need to learn. But I had to chuckle when I realized why these spider webs grabbed my eyes, besides the glancing light: the last few posts have been about adapting to summer, by several means. Among them is switching from sleeping on thermal insulators to sleeping on screen/mesh/netting. The

Life Finds a Way

Was I just imagining the New Mexican landscape as more barren than usual in spring? At any rate it certainly affected me. If a thesaurus were handy, what would the perfect adjective be? 'Disconsolate' might do, although it sounds a bit odd when applied to a landscape. But why fight it? It was impossible to look at this landscape and not sink into hopelessness. We turned a corner and lost some altitude as we approached the mighty river of this area. I couldn't believe what I was seeing: an effusion of light-greenness from the leaves of cottonwood trees that lined the river. Is the green of young leaves special to their newness, or is it just that the brain hasn't seen anything but grey and brown for the last six months? I wanted to scream with relief. Soon we crossed the mighty river, all of four inches deep and four feet wide, and yet it must be responsible for that marvelous verdancy.  It would be interesting to use an auger to drill down 10 feet or so, and then point

Finding a Non-insulating Bed for Summer Camping

Gringos, that is, people from a northern European culture, have no appreciation for architecture in warm climates. I learned that when I went to Mexico a couple times in my RV, where I just loved the interior courtyards, high ceilings, bougainvilleas growing over a cheap wooden lattice overhead, etc.  Or think of a languidly rotating ceiling fan in a dark room with high ceilings and protected with bug or solar screens, while a dusky maiden in a loose and gauzy dress, with a tropical flower in her hair, pours a chilled drink for you. (Eyelash-fluttering emojis are needed!) More generally, the Gringo is totally mal-adapted to hot, sunny climates. Their clothing, their sleeping in the cool mornings, and their high activity levels in mid-day... They are even so stupid as to deliberately expose that delicate white skin of theirs to the Western sun.  The garment industry has outdoorsmen -- bicyclists especially -- brainwashed into buying tight-fitting, plasticey garments that are torture cha

Pop Quiz on Summer Camping

  It has been a long time since I popped a quiz on the readers. I suspect they've been getting soft. One hint: this photo pertains to "thermal management" for summer camping, that is, how to stay cool when camping in summer. Gladiator cargo net for holding loose loads down in a pickup truck. All kidding aside, I am really excited about the possibilities of this. It is not cheating to go to the link for a better photo. Perhaps my questions are too obscure. Very well then, here is another hint: Polyester mesh installment by gulfcoastalaluminum,com

The Ultimate Solar Air Conditioner for Summer Camping

When camping in the summer, Mother Nature can be coaxed into giving us shade, breezes, low humidity, and cool evenings. We can adjust our active hours to mornings and take siestas after lunch. We can dress in a manner that fits the weather, rather than society. We can switch from hot sports like hiking to biking, surfing, or kayaking. Beyond these practicalities we can feel a nostalgia for the summers of childhood. School break; the summer reading program at the public library; playing kick-the-can at dusk; waiting for different fruits to ripen and climbing trees to get it; spending half the day on a bicycle with air blowing through your flip-flops; trips to "the Lake"; eating ice cream and lemonade and watermelon; and visiting the grandparents on the farm. At least some baby boomers can do that. If you can't generate these pleasant notions from personal experience, try it vicariously by reading Henry Adams's "The Education of Henry Adams," particularly the

Watery Dreams of Summer

I have frequently called summer a long disease that has to be suffered through -- and I meant it. But I do like the challenge of escaping scorching sunlight and summer heat.  It is perverse how a person can be pulled in the direction of solving their problems by spending money on gadgets. It's true -- you could get lucky and the gadget might function a year or more, before it heads to the landfill. But what are the alternatives to such uninspiring problem-solving? Most people suffer most from heat at night. Remember what it is like in bed in summer: your skin tries to avoid contact with other skin and with the bedsheets. I resent skin-to-pillow contact, and will sometimes sleep pillowless on my back. Would it help to use a "water pillow?" I don't know if anybody makes something actually called that, but there are plenty of flexible water bladders sold in the sporting goods industry, made by Camelbak and others. If ambient temperature water was put into these bladders

Making Peace With Summer

A camper needs some sort of project to work on. Mine is to tolerate summer better than in the past. 1. Let's start with the easier improvements: hats. Baseball hats are OK, but they provide sun protection only on the face. Barmah hats have been popular; their dark leather brim is surprisingly hot.  The breakthrough was the Henschel Australian Breezer, with the widest brim provided. The crown is mesh. Besides all that, women like to look admiringly at that hat. 2. As a beginner I used to smear my arms and face with sunscreen in order to mountain bike in the western sun. Basically OK -- but that greasy glop distracted me at the desk, after the ride. You are forced to take too many showers. Then I started wearing Da Brim over the bicycle helmet. It does not restrict air flow to the slots in the helmet, so it is much cooler than a baseball hat or cotton bandana under the helmet. They make Da Brim for horse people's helmets, too. I am surprised more bicyclists don't wear Da Bri


It isn't worth taking siestas in winter -- the daylight hours are too short to waste any of them. But now another summer is coming on. I hate summer. Therefore it benefits me to concentrate on the pleasure of siestas which I only experience in summer. A siesta is best after a morning mountain bike ride and lunch. I am astonished how something so simple can be almost intensely pleasurable. The real trick is not to fall asleep, but to simply let your voltage sag from 14.3 Volts DC to about 12.2 Volts DC, and then snap back into alertness. I have written about this before. Why does a blogger think they must apologize for any post that isn't new? How much newness is there on so-called news programs, weather reports, the president said this or that, movies or TV shows, etc? Why is newness of such great importance, anyway? A quote came to mind, but I wasn't able to find it in those lists of famous quotes, as usual. It went something like, 'True wit is but nature dressed, wha

Are Reading and Writing Obsolete?

When listening to audio books, I can't help but wonder what a map of the brain would like, right at that moment. How does it compare to a brain-map when reading a book? It is strange to think that both modes lead to a similar comprehension. But which mode is "best"? Language came before writing, historically. Human physiology has evolved to make it possible. Although it is true that vision is a big part of the brain, no evolution in the brain is necessary to read an alphabet. Let's avoid the temptation to use the silly term 'natural' and say that language is more visceral than writing. from Writing/reading had the great advantage of not requiring the two communicators to stand a few steps apart at the same moment. Writing/reading was mobile, recordable, and replayable.  But what about today, when smartphones and digital cameras make it easy to record the voice, and transport it instantly around the world. Doesn't that make writing obsole

Phony Pragmatism

It was my own fault: sometimes I click on some RV or van-building nomad's YouTube channel, and all they do is piss me off. There should be some upper limit to how stupid and how phony these people can be! You would think that people in this line of work would 'march to the beat of a different drummer,' but in fact they are just selling the old foolishness of over-spending for entertainment or to raise the customer's self-esteem. These You Tube charlatans are helping to destroy a good lifestyle with their money-making propaganda. Let's talk about a positive agenda: it is a fine thing to think of ways to get comfort and functionality without getting sucked into all these expensive gimmicky products. Imagine possessions that are inexpensive, mass-produced things available at big box stores, anywhere. Imagine them with maximum versatility. Adapt them. Why roll up your sleeves immediately with D-I-Y projects. First ask yourself 'why', not 'how.'  Maybe th