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Showing posts from 2024

Guess Who Just Won the Election?

  What an iconic image for the history books! The Democratic Party knows what this photo alone portends, as if they couldn't already predict November's election results. But not everybody is miserable.  The Permanent Regime (aka, Deep State) also knew what was coming.  Since they had run out of options on the Democrat side, they had to operate on the Republican side. They needed a good way to snatch at least a partial victory from certain defeat, although Trump's first term should have eased their fears that he was any serious threat to their power and perks.  But perhaps he would have been more confident and assertive in his second term -- it was a serious concern for them. Do you really think that somebody in the Permanent Regime is going to lose their government job or cushy pension just because they allowed a visible shooter on a rooftop with line of sight to Trump?  Oh sure, there will be an investigation that moves at a glacial pace and is so convoluted that the publi

Offering Pabulum to the Masses

Whenever America starts a new war, or when some perfectly explainable tragedy happens, politicians mention "God" in every other sentence.  Does anyone really believe that those politicians believe in God?   Apparently the politicians have to offer references to "God" as pabulum to the masses. I was surfing You Tube channels after the event in Pennsylvania where "Trump fell to floor after some loud noises were heard."  (CNN's headline.)  Whenever the You Tube channel started talking about offering our prayers or god God GOD, I just turned it off.

Fluttering Away on a Rocky Ridge

I think a commenter was right about my dud flower-identification.  Now let's move onto a likely dud butterfly-identification.     I had just relocated camp and got interested in this guy: OK I claim it is a Western Tiger Swallowtail.  While knocking around on the internet, I was delighted to learn about the Oregon Swallowtail: Wouldn't it be great to spot this species!

Dancing with the Shade

  In the winter I love taking the time to praise chilly mornings, with their glorious warming sun and with absolutely no wind.  It is impressive how perfectly opposite summer can be. A breeze is such a relief in summer.  Typically you only get it in mid-day, but that is when you really need it.  I still have to pinch myself to break out of the "wind is bad" mode of thinking.  Granted, forests tend to suppress the breeze.  At the moment I am camping at 6000' on a bald stony ridge with just a few trees.  It is necessary to keep the trailer hooked up to the van, in order to dance with the shade from those trees.  After two hours of sun on my solar panels, I chase the shade the rest of the day, with about four relocations. Maybe a summer camper should think of sailboats: they are completely dependent on a breeze.  A sailor is miserable on a calm day. The breeze held strong the entire night, last night. A "breeze" in the Southwest.

A Lazy Flower-Identifier

Perhaps the reader has known a walking-encyclopedia of flower or bird names.  I have.  Such people really are quite impressive, in a slightly obnoxious sort of way.  And yet, I have never made much of an effort to emulate them. My mind is already too full of trivia -- that is, useless and arcane knowledge  -- usually of the historical kind.  I just don't have the heart for more memorization of that kind. Still, it gives me pleasure to know that this flower is probably called a trillium: These were rather small.  I walked by them for a week, a few feet from camp, before I saw them! You hear so much about "AI" (artificial intelligence) these days.  Perhaps somebody will put AI to good use by making it easier to identify birds, flowers, and trees while you are out walking around.

Playing Around With Videos

 I am trying to keep an open mind about videos in this blog.  Is there really a need for moving pictures when hardly anything in a landscape moves?  Still, it is fun to play around with new software. The first time I saw footage from a helmet-mounted camera on a mountain biker, I was dazzled.  But after the novelty wore off, it seemed that the trail could wiggle left, wiggle right, go up, or go down.  Nowadays I never watch such videos.  But it is impossible to shoot videos from a moving bicycle with one hand on the smartphone and one on the handlebar!  As I found out.  No wonder the GoPro camera was invented There are few outdoor experiences more wonderful than a good breeze in the forest on a warm summer day.  But does a moving picture really add something better than words or a still photograph?    Despite being the end of their season, a few wild roses are still opening up: Mountains and plants aren't great subjects for a moving picture, but clouds could be if you speed up the

Success at Last at Avoiding Holiday Crowds

 A camper is doing everybody a favor to check out potential campsites before a national holiday.  It takes quite a bit of skill, experience, and luck to avoid weekend/holiday crowds.  I have put a lot of work into it on previous holidays and then seen it blow up in my face.  'No good deed goes unpunished.' There are specific criteria for making this work, but the most important idea is to put yourself into the mindset of the mass-tourist, and then multiply everything by negative one.  Avoid: 1.  Lakes. 2.  Loop roads. 3.  Iconic viewscapes of red arches, national parks, tourist name brands of any kind.  Anything with name recognition. 4.  Colorado. 5.  Proximity to huge urban hellholes such as Phoenix, Denver, Salt Lake City, Las Vegas/St.George, and Boise. But I have always done that, and still been burned.  I hope I am not jinxing myself to declare victory in eastern Oregon this year.  (And that doesn't mean Bend.) Livin' the dream!  This photo was taken many years ag

A Lifestyle About Being Interested in Things

I was reading a book the other day that used the word, wraith.  I had to look it up.  It seems that single-syllable words interest me more than they used to.  Many times they go back to Old English of Anglo-Saxon days or maybe early Middle English. The next morning I saw this: In the background is one of the rare east-west mountain ranges of North America.  "Wraith" certainly describes the clouds hanging onto gaps and wrinkles in the mountains. Some people would say that the burned trees in the foreground detract from the beauty of the mountains, but you could see the starkness of burned forests as a counterweight to the tendency of spoiled moderns to see Nature as being all about purty, purty, purty. Life outside the rat race -- the busy-ness machine -- is largely about getting up in the morning and finding something to be interested in.  And by the way, 'busy' is an Anglo-Saxon word.

Flunking Out of Stair Climbing

It is that time of year when a person can find a spot on a ridge with good visibility and look out onto a valley,   and feel wonderfully detached from the 'normal world.'  It might bring to your mind that famous scene with Orson Welles and Joseph Cotten  in "The Third Man," at the top of the Ferris Wheel.   I saw a strange effect the other day: puffy cumulus clouds were blocking the late afternoon sun.  They projected large shadows down onto the green valley.  Somehow this made the valley seem close and connected to me.  A good photographer might be able to present this in a convincing way. On another note, after showing a video of my little dog's superb cattle-gate-crossing skills, I decided to take her up a fire watchtower.  These things are usually pretty dilapidated since they aren't used anymore.  I forgot how steep the stairs are: they are halfway between normal stairs and a ladder. I guess she said, "I draw the line at vertical cattle gates!"

Historically Important Debate

Isn't it bizarre that there actually is going to be a presidential debate tonight?  Surely, Biden will be shot up with stimulants or some other drug that makes him seem more functional.  Maybe he will wear his aviator sunglasses through the entire debate. This brings up a strange Constitutional question.  Does the Constitution actually require a presidential candidate to be alive?   I probably don't remember the Constitution well enough from school Civics class to answer the question.  An online version of it might be available, but Google would probably censor parts of it. It is the last remaining prejudice -- this belief that the Living have that they are superior to the Dead.  The Living also think they should have superior rights.  Housing discrimination is illegal supposedly, but notice the extreme segregation that the Dead are subjected to: cemeteries or mausoleums.  Look at the negative stereotypes in the movies about Death.   It wouldn't be an exaggeration to say

An Attitude Toward Risk

It is that time of year when I am in bear country and wrestling with a bit of "ursa-phobia." I have knocked it down by 50%.  Black bears don't bother me anymore.  It's only the grizzlies, so I avoid the Yellowstone to Glacier corridor. There might be something that is more dangerous: leaning ponderosas. Imagine what a falling ponderosa would do to your flimsy little camper or tent!  And they do fall.  Currently I am camping on a stony ridge where, presumably, tree roots are underdeveloped.  So this kind of thing happens during windy days: But something else is happening around here.  Some of these trees were weakened by fire.  At a height of 3 feet above the ground, the tree shreds (!) and falls. So obviously I try to camp away from sick or leaning trees!  But you have to look at risk in perspective.  It is so dependent on what you are used to.  People live close to smoking volcanoes, on top of earthquake faults, or in tornado alley.  When you drive down a two-lane h

Crossing Cattle Gates

Is it fair that some dogs end up with all the girlish charm, beauty, poise, and talent?  Well, no, it ain't fair.  But that is the way it is. I am on the ragged edge of internet coverage -- worse than usual.  So I am not sure this video plays.  At least I learned how to compress the videos first with the Video Compressor app on my Android phone. Two years ago I taught my little honey to cross gates for the first time.  I should have taken a video of that.  I think I had to practically drag her across.  But she turned out to be the best crosser of all the three dogs I've had and the first two were quite good at it.  

A River Runs Through It -- and Under It

  I'll bet the reader has their favorite examples of important things that are best pursued indirectly.  For me, scenery is one of those.  The Cascade Mountains are off to my west.  I let them play peek-a-boo with me.  They pop out when I don't expect them to. Perhaps it will take a long time for me to lose a sense of wonder at seeing water actually flowing in a river!  Spending too long in the American Southwest will do that to a person. The water level on the Crooked River near Prineville OR was up to the thighs or waists of the fly fishermen, so it was not a good river for my little dog. Small streams of water can be interesting, too.  We did short dog walks away from one campsite when I finally noticed a small spring and trickle of water alongside the road.   How could I have ignored it, three or four times! There is an underground world of water that a person seldom thinks about.  It is vitally important in dry states.  We ignore it because we can't see it.  How did th

A New Visit from an Old Companion

 A traveler sees a lot of mountains and forests, canyons and cliffs.  They are enjoyable at the time, and yet, they usually don't make for a distinct long-term memory.  They blend into an anonymous pool.   Conversely, other little things make for vivid memories that last for years.  These little things might not mean much to other people.   Think of all the times I have gone a bicycle ride on dirt/gravel roads on scenic land with great weather, with one of my dogs.  I almost always enjoy myself.  But afterwards, little memory of it lives.  One of the things that does stand out is the curious behavior of butterflies, "La Mariposa", alongside the bike.  I have distinct and clear memories of La Mariposa deliberately following the bike, just a few feet away.  And not for just a couple random seconds.  It's as if this mere insect has suddenly become a sentient being, like my dog.  Does she want to join the bike club?    It happened again.  Since I am curious about editing

"...a tool-making animal."

A recent campsite featured a lot of something that I have never seen so much of, in one place.  Obsidian rock.  Every two steps on the ground, there was another piece of it, usually fist-sized.  It is quite pretty.  Fresh surfaces of it are shiny black. And speaking of fresh surfaces, isn't that how Stone Age men supposedly made tools?  But how do you strike two rocks together so that a useful tool would fracture off?  Most rocks have crystallographic axes, making them weaker in some directions than others.  But obsidian is a glass so it has no weak and strong axes.   What was the point of over-thinking this?  I grabbed two baseball-sized pieces of obsidian and gave them a glancing blow towards each other, like a musician might give to a pair of cymbals.  And I'll be damned if a large flake didn't come off.  It was quite sharp on the edge.  You could call it a stone blade since it could cut things in the kitchen.   But there is a long way to go in turning this stone blade i

Don't Be Fooled About the Scary Stories of War

 It has surprised me to hear all the worrying about escalation of the war with Russia.  Even the alt-media is joining in this hysteria.  It is easier to explain why the regime-media is talking about the scary story of nuclear confrontation with Russian. Americans are shocked at prices in the grocery store and at the gas pump.  The Biden administration doesn't want those issues on the "front page" of the news.  Nor does it want people talking about how Washington DC is losing an unnecessary war with Russia brought on by the stupid foreign policy of Obama and Biden.  If the Ukrainian military collapses this summer, that won't be 'good optics' for Biden.  Or what if Zelensky -- the new "Winston Churchill," the defender of Freedom and Democracy, according to the regime media of two years ago -- falls in a coup d'état? Scary stories about bigger war with Russia steal the oxygen from these stories.  But nothing lasts for long in political show busines

Entertaining Fantasies of "Never Summer"

Here it is, June, and I really haven't seen more than a couple warm days so far.  So, it has been a success to come north to eastern OR and western ID early in spring.  And yet, this just encourages me to get greedy and to entertain travel-fantasies about avoiding summer altogether. Fantasy #1: South America in June, July, and August.  I combine this 'never-summer' fantasy with the ocean adventures I like to read about or listen to audio books on.   Wouldn't it be great to head to the Magellan Strait during the northern summer months? It didn't take long for the weather websites to disabuse me of this notion.  I don't really want cold or winter weather.  Who wants to walk around in full-finger gloves or rainsuits?  Saying that you pine for 'never-summer' does not mean you want always-winter.  What I really want is always-September/October. But Argentina must have plenty of ranch country at a latitude of 30 degrees south that would be agreeable to me. Who

Gravel-Grinding and Belly-Dumpers

 Many people probably like camping because it helps them appreciate things they take for granted.  At the top of my list are things like window screens, refrigerated foods, a breeze in summer, and a non-breeze in winter. Another top contender is the gravel road.  You have to experience a bit of rain on an unimproved dirt road before you learn how frustrating it can be.  In the 1800s our ancestors probably experienced several months of muddy roads that were impassable to wheeled vehicles (wagons).  They probably thought mid-winter was a relief because at least the roads were passable. Recently I have witnessed a truly impressive amount of road improvement.   There is more to improving a gravel road than just smacking down some new gravel.  You need drainage ditches on both sides of the road a few feet lower than the road surface; every creek or swale needs a culvert, that is, a drainage pipe underneath the roadway; the surface needs to crowned or banked; the gravel should have sharp cor

"Unboxing a New Laptop..."

"Unboxing" this or that is a standard title for a You Tube video these days.  I am not really sure how this managed to become a standard meme on the internet.  But don't worry -- I won't jump on that bandwagon.  Still, it brought a smile to my face when I was surprised by a flower that is rare around here, right now, and I thought of a video entitled, "Unboxing a White Flower..."   Oregon Trail country in eastern Oregon is not flower country, right now at least.  But I appreciate flowers when they are rare: Goodbye to the old trail, for awhile: And hello to my new laptop.  I was amazed at how easy it was to set it up, but then jinxed myself by exulting over it in a message to a friend.  Then I hit a brick wall: it would not let me switch out of Windows 11 Home "S mode."  (This step had been easy for past computers.) You can imagine the futility of trying to get some "Support" from a company like Microsoft.  I even started looking at Chrom

Sculpting in Grass and Sand

I have been thinking about doing more videos for this blog.  There are only so many things that are actually fun to watch: a raptor dive-bombing a prairie dog, a herd of horses blasting across a grassy field, a dog running in slow-motion as in a dog food commercial, or a sexy lady walking down a sidewalk in high heels.   And yet there are certainly a lot of videos out there.  Many of them use a standard trick of the movie industry: they make the camera move to hide the fact that nothing interesting is actually happening.  Or they just give up and stick a talking head in front of the camera. That is why I appreciated a windy day recently near the Oregon Trail: the grass was only a foot or so high, but it was fine in texture, so the wave motion was lovely.  My little dog and I were revisiting her favorite sand dune.  When I saw this I had to smile: I smiled because of something Thoreau had once written, in "Walden."  Normally his mind worked like a still-photographer instead of

Ripples of Time

 More practice at posting via phone, because my laptop is dead: Another photo close to the Oregon Trail.  It pleases me that this part of history actually has an effect on me.  And perhaps that makes sense for a dispersed camper and mountain biker. But other parts of history also seemed interesting to me, but perhaps unimpressive to other people? For instance, the little dog and I were mountain biking on a rather straight dirt road, and found this old wooden bridge:  It was quite a bridge in its day, say, two generations later than the Oregon Trail itself.  Perhaps it shouldn't have surprised me so much;  after all, the name of the dirt road was 'Old Post Road.' The area had one more pleasant surprise for me, one more manifestation of the 'old historic road' idea: I ended up camping near a mile of 'old highway', shown below. I was surprised by the yellow paint.  This old highway lapsed into non-use after World War II perhaps. How can we explain the appeal of

When a Laptop Crashes in a Small Town

 Am I really going to type a post on my phone, now that my laptop died in a town where it will be hard to ship a new one in? Maybe I should just turn this into a photo blog.  After all, most of my photos are taken by the phone. Trees DO lean when lava comes to the surface, and ponderosa pine roots do not develop normally.  I was careful where I camped. Let's see if I can publish this post.

Survival in a Rural Area (Repairing a Van Door's Hinge)

Every year I become more interested in how animals 'make a living' in a land that is nothing but rock, aridity, bark, and pine needles.  There are lots of rodents to eat -- maybe that keeps the food chain going. If a city-slicker lands in a small town, and sees none of the big box retailers they are used to, they probably think they can't survive.  But then they discover there are more possibilities than they thought, initially.  Besides, these days all you need is a post office and you can buy so many things online. One thing that rural areas are good at is welding/repair shops.  Recall from a couple posts ago, how my van had a hinge/door bond fail.   Without too much trouble I found a welder.  He thought that hinge was glued to the door; was he being facetious?  Although I strengthened the bond by screwing through the hinge into a wooden block installed inside the door, something more permanent seemed desirable. Here is the welded door hinge.  Not too pretty.  If it is st

A Fresh New World-Events Channel

It is pretty easy to get tired of hearing talking heads on You Tube discussing world events, even if you respect and appreciate the talking heads.  I wish I could pull a video clip into this blog from the old TV western, "The Virginian."  A chatty cowboy tells his friend that talking is one of the great pleasures in life.  The friend jumps back with, "Yea well, listening ain't."   Maybe that is why a new channel needs to be found every now and then.  Recently I have done so.  "Useful Idiots" is a great channel, with Katie Halper and Aaron  Maté. They don't discuss world events so much as the mainstream media's spin/propaganda.  Caitlin Johnstone repeats often 'that propaganda is only effective if you don't know it is happening.'  And that is why Useful Idiots is important.  They show clips from mainstream media broadcasts and then break the words down that contain the deception. The most common giveaway of propaganda is the use of

You Can Still Get a Flat Fixed for Free?

I get tires from Walmart, not just for the low price, but because a traveler likes to get tires rotated and flats fixed for free, so the tire store needs the geographical reach of your travel habits.  But of course it takes some luck to have a Walmart tire department close to your flat tire.  How far are you going to drive to save $10 on getting a flat fixed? $10?  Who am I kidding?   Actually I expected $25 as the new price.   There was a Les Schwab in this eastern Oregon agricultural community, but didn't they stop fixing flat tires for free, several years ago? I sprayed soapy water on the tire valve and saw bubbles, and told the tire guy about it.   They did fix my leaking tire valve for free, even though it was "somebody else's" tire.  I was shocked.   Outside the grocery store, at an Oregon Trail visitor kiosk, a fellow was panhandling.  But he understood his customer: it was a rural town after all.  So his sign said, "Need Work."  I gave him the money

A Small Dog on a Big Land

What a luxury it is to look at wide open spaces, covered by green grass or herbaceous plants!   Locally there aren't too many woody-stemmed plants such as sagebrush.   My little dog can run wild and free, without impaling herself on a cactus or cholla.  If only there was a herd of wild horses rampaging across this rolling landscape!  It's too bad that cameras are unimpressed by gently rolling land. Here is a video of my little monster playing on some sand dunes along the Oregon Trail: Not so many miles away, the Oregon Trail cuts away from the Snake River.  A few miles later, it rejoins the Snake.  And then it says "farewell" forever to the Snake. Of course the pioneers went through this area in late summer when it was parched and barren.  And they described it as such, in their diaries.  How many times do I have to say it?  Get to the northwest by the first of May!

Is Writing Obsolete?

In the early days of the internet, blogs were the modern equivalent of the morning newspaper.  But ever since You Tube got big, the internet has become the television set.   The smartphone can convert your voice to text.  Presumably this capability will improve over time. Audiobooks are starting to replace paper books for me.  I have no idea how general this trend is. Taken together, these trends almost imply that writing and reading are becoming obsolete.  I have mixed feelings about that.  Do any of us have the same loyalty to the written word that we have to our spoken language? It might be true that the development of writing was one of the big steps in civilization.  (It's odd that I have never read a history book dedicated to the single topic of writing.)   Writing had advantages: it added permanence to our thoughts and communications, and it eliminated the need for face-to-face communication. There are other ways to provide these advantages.  Even before the age of modern el

The End of Pen and Paper

How often do you still use pen and paper?  I was down to one last application: my grocery list.  I have left a (5" x 8") note pad in grocery carts all over the western states.  Finally, I couldn't take it anymore!  So the notepad was replaced by a reminder app on the smartphone. You mean that damn phone is taking over one more part of life!  It has become easier to push the microphone button on the phone to add an item to the grocery list than to look for a pen and notepad.   Why was I getting so emotional about this?  For instance, how long has it been since I sent a handwritten note on a piece of paper to somebody else?  It was probably back in the 1980s when we starting using a personal computer and a printer to replace the handwritten note.  This seemed like a kind and respectful thing, since most people's handwriting is pretty bad. Then we got rid of the printer, because email came along.   These changes seemed like progress at the time.  I had no nostalgic loya

Luxuries are Important to a Camper

Lately I have been thinking how nice luxury is, to a camper.  Of course "luxury" means different things to different people.  Perhaps you can size up different lifestyles quickly just by looking at that person's idea of luxury. A dog owner in a sunny climate might feel overwhelmed by the luxury of shopping in the middle of the day with their dog in the car.  How nice it is not to worry about the dog getting hot in the car! I am currently luxuriating on green hills of grass, flowers, and sagebrush in southwestern Idaho.  Normally Benchmark Atlas differentiates improved gravel roads from unimproved dirt roads.  But they let me down on one road.  Nevertheless, I stopped at a grass-covered hill to let my little dog out for a romp.  I should have had the phone in video mode!: I can see her twenty pounds on grassy fields.  If there is too much sagebrush she becomes invisible, and therefore coyote-bait.  What a luxury it was to her to blast around the field off-leash!  And I co

The Elasticity of Appreciation

It was gratifying to cross the Snake River in the afternoon, just upriver of Hell's Canyon.  That is where the Oregon Trail pulled away from the Snake River after following it for a couple hundred miles, ever since Fort Hall in southeastern Idaho.  This morning I had been on the California Trail, near the Humboldt River in Nevada.  What would the pioneers think?! Now I can think of being in the Inland Northwest.  Exactly where had the Southwest ended?  Probably at the last Joshua Tree near Beatty, NV.  And what a way to start the Northwest -- or any place! -- it was cool and dry.  (By mid-summer Boise will be about as bad as Phoenix!)  The mountains are still pretty with snow, and the rivers are full.  It can't be repeated often enough: get to the Northwest as early as possible.  Late summer is too likely to mean wildfires and smoke.  My little dog and I are now camped at the bottom of a scenic river canyon.  The river is just a tributary of the Snake, but it flows fast, perhap

Helping "Adventure" Survive

  Some local people talked to me at camp, the other day.  I wish this kind of thing happened more often.    One fellow had an electric car that he talked about quite a bit.   I was camped on some BLM land that didn't get many visitors.  The locals were not suspicious of me -- well, maybe a little.  They seemed curious about me.  Or maybe they were flattered that their area was finally appreciated by a 'camper/tourist.' I instinctively moved away from these mountains when I was looking for a place to camp.  It is nice to stay close enough to see them, of course, but I don't want to be too close. I found a nice area of green BLM hills, and camped right at a topographic saddle, where it was flat.  The cellphone signal ended on the back side of the saddle. You can just barely see my trailer as a small white rectangle towards the center of the photo, above.  My little dog and I had walked up the two-track road that you can see in the foreground.  These hills can be big.   Si

Repairing Van Doors

Are the best RVs the most boring RVs?  I tend to think so.  It is advantageous to own a rather ordinary machine that everybody knows how to work on and needs replacement parts that are easy to get.   But not all repairs are standard, bolt-on parts like radiators, spark plugs, or alternators.  Just think of how many times the automobile's door is opened and closed!, and how high the stress is on metal parts. You have to struggle harder to get independent repair shops to work on door problems since they are considered "body parts."   They might send you to the auto dealership or to a body shop, where prices are astronomical.  I wish I knew more about getting body parts from one of the online salvage parts distributors. Anyway, after the last post's problem was solved, I got involved with the next problem: poor door-closing of the cargo ("barn doors") on the starboard side of the van.   I had ignored the problem too long.  It wasn't going to go away, by its