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Showing posts from December, 2021

Who Likes Damp Air in the Desert?

Sometimes I regret spending so little time near a coast. It is easy to say that, but in fact I don't care for extremely damp air, unless it happens to be in the desert, as is true this morning. The air felt freakish and delightful. What other conditions in different environments would have the same effect that today's damp desert air was having on me? I tried hard but couldn't think of anything.  As I drove to town, looking for something to do on a misty day, I went by a man walking his yellow lab. How long would this mist have to persist before that lab found a water puddle to splash in? And yet the dog seemed inspired by the mere dampness of the air. What an optimist!    

Real (Non-moto) Exploring in the Desert

At long last I finally had a chance to ride on a borrowed fat bike, with 4" wide tires. This was of interest because my 3" tires aren't wide enough to travel loose gravel dry washes (arroyos).  There were about five differences between the borrowed bike and my regular full-suspension mountain bike (with 3" tires). So I had to mentally screen out those differences, and try to focus on the fat tires themselves. The weight of the 4" tires did not seem like a big disadvantage.  You hear it often from reviewers that fat bikes make you feel like a 10-year-old kid again, since you have the freedom to go exploring. And it was true! Following trails, marked with brown carsonite signs, makes a person feel repressed. (That is not an advertisement for going anywhere and everywhere in the desert, and making ugly ruts.) Now I have to decide if three months per year in arroyo country justifies the expense and inconvenience of traveling with a second bicycle. There was a grou

Low-lifes Who Give Boondocking a Bad Name

It was a pleasant surprise to find that I had friendly neighbors in my camping neighborhood. Every year it seems easier to be interested in people's activities and interests, with the exception of couch-potatoing, motor-crazed yahooing, or music. But you know what they say about things that seem too good to be true... My luck had to run out on Christmas Day! I saw a camper with a rig similar to mine with one difference.  So I was curious about how it was working out for him. I never approach a camper's door. I stand 30 feet away and ask my question. If nobody comes out, it is a hint that I should move on. And so I did. But on the way out copper wire snagged up in my front bike wheel. As I paused to untangle the wire a fellow came out who perfectly fit the negative stereotype of 'boondockers', especially ones in low-cost rigs.  But I counted my blessings. He wasn't loud or threatening. He merely called me a dumbass and told me to stay on the road. Better yet, he was

The Ultimate Christmas Present for a Desert Snowbird?

  Somehow I don't think most snowbirds are enjoying Arizona today. It is windy and raining. They came here to look at palm trees or saguaros silhouetted against a red sunset, with the rest of the day being 'nice and sunny.' Well, they are not doing anything wrong by thinking like that, considering where they are coming from. But a non-tourist looks at things differently. The air was warm and damp last night. The dampness was not subtle. Therefore it was miraculous. We have already climbed into double digits! -- that is, 0.15" of rain. If Mother Nature keeps giving us Christmas presents like this, late winter will turn colorful. It has been a couple years since we had a decent flower season.  Ideally this photo would be a visual representation of freakishly soggy air.

Musical Surprises (For Me)

If you live long enough, there is no telling what you will experience. This one really amused me. My credentials as a pop music fan are pretty weak. I am old enough to remember the Beatles appearing on the Ed Sullivan show. I was underwhelmed.  From time to time I liked somebody's pop music. But then the interest died pretty quickly. Really now, how many good male pop singers have you ever heard? Pound...pound...bang the shit out of it: naturally young males like that kind of music.  I was cleaning my music files recently when I got to the folder that I mooched from an RV friend.  I had low expectations and then, amazingly enough, a good singer appeared! And I had never heard of him. Perhaps you have already guessed. I am talking about Roy Orbison. I cackle with glee when he smoothly transitions from falsetto to baritone frequencies. YouTube has a lot of live performances but the studio recordings are much better of course -- except that they don't give the camera something to

Building Back Better at the Laundromat

  Many travelers dislike going to the laundromat more than just about any other chore. The other day I went into the laundromat and feared another price increase. But that didn't happen! I wonder if old-fashioned technology is getting in the way. Just think of making physical, mechanical adjustments to the money-taker to allow the next round of inflation. How retrograde! If the owner of the laundromat had switched over to a card-reader, it would possible to inflate just by manipulating software. There is almost no limit to how many increases you can have. Then again, maybe there is a limit. Cheapo customers (like me) would probably start over-stuffing the machines, thus leading to more breakdowns. And too many breakdowns could really make the laundromat-owner miserable. Another limitation is that many laundromats are using "eco-friendly" washing machines that use very little water. In a way, I sort of like that. But I wonder how it would work with an overstuffed machine.

No More x-doodle and x-poo Dogs!

At first I thought it was cute, making poodle-mixes. But as I keep looking for my next dog, it is weird how rare full poodles are, and how prevalent poodle-mixes are.  Why is it even necessary to mix a poodle with another breed? How can you beat shedless, fun, personable, trainable, and intelligent? And poodles come in three or four sizes and colors. And most doodles are too big for RVers. This time I want a little munchkin who can fit in a basket on my mountain bike. Of course the poodle-mixes don't get Barbie-doll haircuts and cropped tails, which makes them more appealing to many people. That is understandable. So why not just stop disfiguring poodles? I tell ya, the world of dogs is completely screwed up. And it is due to screwed-up humans. Beautiful, but why should grooming dominate the lives of dogs and their owners?  

The Reality of the Desert

As I get ready to move camp in the pre-dawn hours, the moon is almost full and the desert is bright. But I still can't walk to the driver's door without tripping on loose rubble. There is no soil in this gawd-forsaken wasteland. I always think of coyotes skulking around in the middle of the night. But even with a bright moon, how do they travel through the desert without loading up with chollas in their paws? They are dogs. And look how a domestic dog acts when it picks up a cholla on its lower leg or paw! How do burros make a living in the desert when they are truly wild, instead of mooching off of tourists? A burro is a large animal. How many gallons of water does it need every day? What does it eat -- cholla? A good appreciation of the brutal reality of desert is worth working at, but the public image of "beautiful sunsets in the desert" gets in the way.  

The Notion of Camper Solitude

The other day something unusual happened at my campsite. A human being approached my campsite, while asking a practical question, and talking friendly. It has been years since this happened. I actually felt "violated." Of course I also laughed at my own reaction. Why do "boondockers" have such a wariness about their fellow campers? Most rigs are not old wrecks. The campers look like bourgeois people who have normal jobs, pay bills, and obey the laws.  I have decided to do a better job of being friendly to other campers, this winter. There is nothing sacred about solitude and yet there seems to be a romanticism about solitude perhaps based on people's notions of Thoreau's "Walden Pond." (Did any of these people actually read the book?) Humans are gregarious, social animals. It is easy to be interested in unusual skills or activities that people have. For instance  one neighbor made handmade stringed instruments (guitars, mandolins, etc.) in the back

Rejuvenating the Soul in a Winter Storm

  What should a person do when Melville's "grey November of the soul" afflicts them? Religious emotionalism, a new love affair, psychedelic drugs, or political extremism are possibilities, as are milder forms of escapism. For some people, self-help (motivational) sermons might help. But for me, a video on Trail Dogs (a Dog's Tale) is what does the trick.

Cold Canyons in Southern Nevada

I've often wondered why one person likes one type of music, while another person likes a different type. Perhaps that issue has been studied and written about. But does anybody really want the issue reduced to a "known?" The same is true for scenery. I have long maintained a strong interest in shapes and contrasts, while the usual tourist attractions are only of mild interest to me. A perennial winner for me is a highly eroded canyon system in southern Nevada.  What erosion is capable of! Interesting, twisted, bizarre, creepy shapes that keep looking different every time the viewer changes his angle.  

Out of a Spaghetti Western

This autumn has been miraculously calm. I don't do a lot of small talk about the weather on this blog, but it is worth talking about how nice it is when weeks go by without wind. The desert is usually windy one or two days per week, and it is no fun. _________________________________ One of the funnest things on a mountain bike ride is bumping into some old wreck of a building, something that reminds you of a building in a spaghetti western. That happened recently near Overton, NV.  How about this old beauty? A local called it "the tradin' post." It was a duplex residence? Notice the fireplace:  I like the 'viga', the weathered wooden lintel above the window:  Outside there were men's and women's restrooms that looked like apostrophes from above: The northern tip of Valley of Fire is visible in the background. Of course it isn't the eye candy that matters most. It was the surprise factor, and I hope I haven't ruined that for the readers.  

Putting Myself in a Snowbird's Shoes

Every now and then, in the winter, I have trouble sleeping and wonder what is wrong. Then it hits me: I am too warm. Usually this problem can be solved merely by taking socks off. Isn't it funny what a finely tuned instrument the human body can be?! Except for occasional mistakes like this, it is easy to take it for granted that sleeping is so much better in winter than summer. Do snowbirds ever give winter credit for this? They think they have found heaven because they escaped winter. They forget how badly our recent ancestors slept in summer.  And now most American consumers set the thermostat at 72F and walk around the house in the same clothes, summer or winter. The house is closed off, and you breathe the same stale air 7 and 24 and 365. One of the advantages of camping is that you are dragged out of this heating/air-conditioning bubble. Before I get accused of making a pep-talk for winter, I admit that you don't need hard-core winter to sleep well -- you only need 'sh

Adjusting to Snowbird Ghettoes

For many people, the best thing about being a snowbird in the desert is weather. For me, it is the lack of bugs. What about the worst thing? It is probably neighbors. Winter is the only time in the year when I camp with other people in my viewscape and soundscape. There has been progress over the years. Many people have solar panels but there are still Neanderthals that use generators. Even lower are the people who use old-fashioned, open-frame, construction site, non-inverter generators. (Usually they have giant fifth-wheel trailers with license plates from ID or MT.) Then they hook it to a converter/charger that puts out a steady 13.5 Volts DC, which has to run all day to charge a battery. You can thank the geniuses in the RV industry for that. Why is it so hard to explain to newbies that they need a 'three stage' battery charger? A couple posts ago I reminded myself and others how useful noise-canceling headphones are. Perhaps we neglect to use them because of a small amount

When Pedaling Downhill Is Work

A mountain range in the Mesquite NV area offers a mountain biker a welcome relief from the tourism of a few miles upstream, closer to Zion. It's not that people are doing anything wrong up there, it's just that there are so many of them. Since it is so nice around here, what keeps people from realizing it? We are protected from the Zion hordes by a simple hangup that Utah tourists are prone to. Think of the cinematography of the movie, "The Wizard of Oz". The movie starts off in Kansas in black-and-white, not unusual in 1939. But when Dorothy's house is carried off by a twister and gets plopped down in the land of Oz, everything is in color.  It is exactly the reverse of that when a Zion-tourist gets swept down through the Virgin River canyon and is deposited in the grey world of Nevada. They are disappointed. I love the shapes and shadows of Nevada mountains. Let the red, tourist-attracting colors of Utah be damned.  It was a long climb up to a radio tower on th