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Showing posts from April, 2024

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

Dodging the Dust Devils and other Near Wrecks

Normally dust devils are mere curiosities.  On this warm spring day east of Reno NV,    I can see four dust devils at the same time.  The largest one is 50 feet in diameter.  One blew past my trailer a few minutes ago.  It was actually a little scary. Recently I have come close to getting smacked in more ways than one.  Have you ever thought about what would happen to you and other people if you were driving at high speeds in multi-lane traffic in some gawd-awful city, and your engine suddenly died electrically? I was in a safe place recently, when my van suddenly went electrically dead, but a few minutes earlier I had been on multi-lane Interstate 80 on the east side of Reno.  With no electricity in the van,  I would have started slowing down in a middle lane, with just enough strength to steer.  But where would I have steered to?!  After all, without electrical power you cannot  run the brake lights, emergency hazard lights, or blinkers.  And I was pulling a trailer!  A bad acciden

Basin and Range

There is nothing in this old world of ours that beats chilly morning air, dry, sunny, and calm.   But wait!  There is something better: add basin-and-range scenery with snowy mountain tops and snow-free lowlands. That is what I am experiencing right now on this early spring trip through Nevada.  In the past I think I underestimated this state because the north-south mountain ranges are steep with poor road access.  That makes for poor camping and mountain biking, if you like biking on land where you get to use lots of gears. So just use the mountain ranges for eye-candy, and then camp and bike on the lowlands, which can be flattish.  Maybe this should have been obvious, but if you make the mistake of staying in the Southwest too long into spring, the lowlands (4500 feet altitude) of Nevada are too hot by the time you get to them. Prices are confiscatory away from the handful of Walmart towns.  So far, I haven't figured out how to beat the system in that regard.  Perhaps it is best

Hobo Shoestring, One of Civilization's Discontents

People on You Tube are raising the alarm about the unexplained disappearance of a unique traveler, named Hobo Shoestring.  He travels across North America by hopping freight trains.  Somebody else told me about him a year ago, and I became a fan of his. Let's hope his disappearance comes to a happy ending, and that all is well.  But even if the worst has happened, his travels can still be considered a success.  It helps to see it this way if you look at how other travel-styles have evolved over time. Hobo Shoestring tied into a piece of Americana.  There has long been a romance about trains.  The Coen brothers' movie, "O Brother, Where Are Thou?", featured a scene at the beginning of the movie about the main characters hopping a freight train.  They saw other hobos on the train.  What a collection of faces that was! In the 1960s, one of the episodes of the "Virginian" featured a humorous encounter between the Virginian and a young woman who was seeking adven