Skip to main content


Showing posts from April, 2023

I Hate Shopping!

  Ahh dear.  It was my own fault.  I didn't use the restraining cord, so the Little Cute One's water bottle popped onto the ground somewhere, on a mountain bike ride.  Well, I could replace it with the most common and inexpensive bicycle water bottle.  I dropped into Walmart.  Nope.  I can't believe how often the modern Walmart disappoints me. I tried several other stores.  Nope.  All the water bottles have gotten so fancy.  And they usually have Yeti written on them. Then I panicked and went to food stores and a Dollar Store, and looked for a disposable water bottle, filled with colored sugar water that could be poured on the ground.  None of them had the groove around the equator that helps hold the bottle in place on a bike.  And the screw-on lids will be lost in a week.  (Actually, you'd be surprised how quickly the thin plastic cracks on this type of bottle.) I was desperate by now.  So I waited half the morning until a bicycle shop opened at 10 a.m., according to

Gods With Feet of Clay

 Go back in time a few years, and you would never have believed what the Democratic Party was about to become.  Who would have predicted the Democrats becoming the War Party or embracing censorship, be it direct or indirect?  Not only are the principles of the US Constitution being overthrown, but it is as if Western Civilization is out to reverse the era of Enlightenment. Maybe we shouldn't be so shocked by this.  After all, is the mindset of Enlightenment inheritable and cumulative in the same way as scientific knowledge and technical expertise? The era of Enlightenment was a process -- a struggle --  that took a century.  There was nothing easy, obvious, or inevitable about it.  How can a modern person "inherit" the experience they had then?  They were reacting against the era of religious wars, the Inquisition, a parasitic clerical establishment, and the crude superstitions of earlier times. All it takes is some new new form of certainty, secular religion, promised ut

Punching Through the Great Mother of All Reefs

It starting getting colder as we neared the top of our ride through the reef.  I had to stop and fumble around with re-attaching the sleeves on my windbreaker jacket.  Of course, the Little Cute One was comfortable and untired.  She really is quite athletic.  This junction at the high end seemed like a good place to turn around and coast back down through the reef and down to river level. We made it!  It's snack and water time.   Nine miles and 1730 feet uphill.  Not bad for 20 pounds of fluff.  I probably wouldn't have taken the ride this far if she weren't so tireless.  Visually, the most dramatic section was when the road penetrated the reef, proper, nearer the beginning of the ride.  The cold dark canyon walls made it seem like dawn.  At times I really felt trapped in the belly of the Beast.  How much crazier is it going to get? It was almost a relief to get back to camp.  She got a snack on the ride, but I didn't: She never complains about being cold.  She is not o

Seeing Versus Looking

  I have always like walking or biking on ground that is half-mouldering leaves.  I don't know why.  Perhaps it is because so many years in western states has turned leaves into exotic, hard-to-find miracles of nature. But what about the opposite: when dirt becomes leaves?  You could almost think of crypto-biotic soil as an example of that.  But I was thinking of the paper-thin lamellas of sedimentary rock that are found where I am currently camping in central Utah. Here is one that is living dangerously: Let's look at one without the dog: At times you see thin layers somewhat earlier in their natural history. (Not really.  But it is fun to think so.) Look for the diving board in the right-center of the photo. Maybe this sort of things seems interesting because it stimulates a human being to imagine the inorganic as organic, the  static as the moving,  the lifeless as the living.  After all, how much looking at stuff does a human being need?  At some point they must "see&q

Enraptured With Reefs

  (Central Utah.)  I took the Little Cute One on an off-leash romp yesterday.   She howls when she sees a rabbit.  She acts like a little hound dog, instead of a miniature poodle mix.  It took a few minutes, but I realized we were walking around on a reef-wannabe or baby reef.  Reefs seem more interesting than most geologic structures. In contrast, think of sedimentary layers being deposited at the bottom of an ocean, unimaginably slowly.  It is hard to get interested in that.  We want geology to be a movie, not a "stasis." And maybe that is why reefs are so interesting:  extend your fingers on both hands, and ram the fingertips of both hands together.  The fingers crumple upwards.  That is how reefs formed.  Even if the reef is only 30 feet high, when you walk around on it, you imagine motion.

Avoiding Geographic Ruts

  It is funny how geographical gaps can get established in patterns of travel, even when travelers fancy themselves as having enormous freedom of choice.  And these gaps can stubbornly persist for years. One of the mistakes I tend to make every migration season is to try to visit every place along a certain seasonal loop.  But one spot is low, while the next spot down the road is 2000 feet higher.  This spring, I am going to switch to low-altitude spots only.   This will send me north earlier, of course.  

How To Avoid Photo Clichés at John Ford's Monument Valley

  How did I end up driving almost 400 miles yesterday?  Simple: once you enter the big 'rez' in northeastern Arizona, you are almost committed to driving all the way through it.  US-191 almost made me seasick. I thought I would stay just north of the San Juan River and enjoy looking at a distant view of Monument Valley.  But rain was predicted and the highway sign said "Roads Impassable When Wet".  And in Utah, when they say that, they mean it.  So I fled. Long-suffering readers will probably see right through me.  They suspect the 'wet road' excuse is just a cover for the real reason: anti-tourist snobbery.  But actually I am not anti-tourist.  I just can't get into the mood I want to be in, when surrounded by lots of scenery tourists.  Frustration, then, causes me to lash out at tourists, more than I should. Anyway, I drove toward higher altitudes and a more practical supply town.  I was still looking for camping near sunset when I threw the tourist play

Some Nice Surprises With Canyons and Flowers

 (Southwestern New Mexico.)  I seem to remember driving across this river last year, when it was completely dry!   "Are you sure about this, Pops?" "I ain't no water dog, and I ain't doin' it." We biked upland, away from the river.  The ground and grass seemed like ordinary NM ranch country.  It was harshly tawny -- mostly dry grass with a few stickery things.  But just under the surface was lava/basalt.   Then we rode by a surprisingly dramatic little canyon, with vertical rocky walls.  I'm not sure what the name is, or whether it even has one.  Did a stream carve this 100 foot deep slot through the basalt, or was there a crack in the basalt layer that the stream found an easy attack through? I had to bring the bike and the Little Cute One down to the edge of the gorge to see if the noise I heard was wind or flowing water.  It was water falling over a small waterfall.  I was looking down into a private micro-paradise, with a waterfall, sycamores, an

The Sleeping Season is Over

 Why do most people sleep so much better in cold weather?  From time to time, I preach about not confusing humble pleasures with lackluster ones.  Good, cold weather sleeping is one of those pleasures, humble in the sense that we seem to share it with critters.  I'm sorry the sleeping-season is mostly over. To extend this season, it is important to keep the feet cold.  I love burrowing under a thick sleeping bag, and only allowing a couple inches around the nose to go uncovered. The best part of the snuggle season is when the Little Cute One jumps into my bed, because her doggie bed on the floor is too cold.  This usually happens at Snuggle o'clock, 3 a.m.  I feel sorry for people who haven't experienced the bliss of hugging a freshly-laundered poodle in a cold bed. But we've had good sleeping weather since October -- a half a year.  So I'm not complaining or being ungrateful.  Besides, Mother Nature usually compensates when she takes away one goodie.  It is so plea

What Do You Do After 'Perfect?'

In the last post, I was quite serious about appreciating the perfection of camping with the trailer door facing east, in order to expose yourself to cold air and warm sun in the morning.  But I had a funny reaction to that perfection.  How do you top it?  What is the next project?  Is perfection interesting forever?   One thing you could do is to look for other examples of perfection.  For instance, when I take a pseudo-nap after a good mountain bike ride, the relaxation is perfect, in part because I am conscious of it when it is happening.  It has always been a favorite thing to do.  So looking for more examples of outdoor-experience-perfection is a worthwhile project. But more examples don't really answer the question about the permanence of perfection.  This issue comes up in another situation: stick-and-brick people will typically ask a full-time RVer if they have found their Shangi-La -- the perfect, undiscovered mountain or beach boutique town where they will live for the re

Wrapping Up A Great Winter

The Little Cute One and I were walking up a steep two-track, as we finished a walk down to a mild canyon.  There was nothing spectacular there, but I love the oak trees and grass.  But we were getting hot on the way back up the road. Ah well, I wanted to be a good sport about it.  After the best winter in years, horrid Southwestern heat was long overdue.  And it was finally arriving in just a couple days.  My departure would be timed perfectly. On the last few steps up to the top of the road, a cool breeze came over the ridge.  What an effect that can have on the 'soul'.  Sailors must experience something similar.  Or, more locally, certain birds must feel it.  Think of the birds that play with ridge lift: swallows, ravens, or raptors.

The Glory of the Equinox-Season

Most of the year, there is a special pleasure when a camper faces his door towards the morning sun.  At sunrise he can open the door and let the sunlight blast in, drowning him in warmth, while the air is still trying to freeze him!  If there is a little bit of wind, it is from the west, so the eastward-facing door is protected. I love playing this game with sunrise, and will go to considerable trouble to get the trailer door facing east.  This pleasure is not unlike the one that swimmers get when jumping into chilly water, something I have never liked.  Perhaps the swimmer can see past the immediate shock.  They know it will work out, so they can exult in the immediate shock. The equinox is the time of year when this game is especially pleasurable, perhaps because of the near perfect balance between opposite horrors: cold air and bright sun.