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Showing posts with the label travelStyle

An Old Boondocker Goes Out in a Blaze of Glory

One of the sadder chapters in a traveler's career is when they announce that it is time to 'turn in the keys.' Sometimes an outsider can see them sneak into it before they can: for instance, they buy a lot at one of the Yoostabees RV Club parks (aka, the Escapees). Then they stop kidding themselves and backslide completely into bourgeois normalcy, that is, sticks and bricks, a Sears Kenmore riding lawnmower, a Lazy Boy recliner, and discussions of window treatments. The luckier ones get to -- or choose to -- go out in a 'blaze of glory.'

I finally saw on the street today what I knew was coming...

That's right, it is the long-promised Jeep pickup truck. Is it even worth reading any of the usual automobile review websites to learn about this model? The only such website I like is, and it has been blacklisted by the Higher Powers at Google. Besides, he hasn't reviewed the Jeep "Gladiator" yet.

It took a small miracle, but I found one…

Maybe Laughter Really Is the Best Medicine

Long-suffering readers don't need to hear me go on another rant about the foolishness of mountain bike culture. Suffice it to say that I let myself get sucked into a bit of that culture the other day, and paid the price by going over the handlebars and smacking onto desert gravel. That was better than rocks! But the camera paid the ultimate price.

I was hurting more than I ever had, from a bicycle accident. But bruises are better than broken bones. The bruises were concentrated on the chest/ribs and the hip.

A couple nights later I was watching an episode from the third season of Wagon Train, with Mickey Rooney as the guest star. The title was "The Greenhorn." Rooney plays a newbie in Missouri getting outfitted for the western journey. Of course he did all the things a greenhorn should do: overloading his wagon and overdressing.

Although the episode was only mildly humorous, the context of Quartzsite made it hilarious! Just think of all those RV newbies over there a few mil…

Best Reason For Not Attending Mass RV Rallies in Quartzsite

I can't remember whether I attended Quartzsite mass events more the twice. Naturally it was at the beginning of my career. The reasons for avoiding them ever since should be obvious, but the most important reason takes more thought.

As the sub-title of this blog says, this blog is about travel from the point of view of an early retiree -- despite the fact that I am now the standard retirement age.

An early retiree used to take some pride in 'marching to the tune of a different drummer.' There was some uncertainty in what he was attempting to do. Would he use his time well? Would the lifestyle be admirable, or would it just be an extended scenery vacation? It was an adventure -- and one that had to be worked out on a personal level. 

But when you attend mass RV rallies, you see the industry reduce the lifestyle to a stereotype. The adventure has become a formula. It no longer has to be worked out on an individual basis.

The newbie just has to go to discussion forums, blogs, and…

Making RV Travel More Adventuresome

Two reasons make this topic timely. I just read another adventure history by Samuel E. Morison, called "The Great Explorers." Books like this always rub a modern fellow's nose in his own weakness and non-adventuresomeness. Compare Magellan to a modern traveler -- the latter doesn't even rate as an earthworm!

Secondly I am camped near large groups of RVers hitting the Quartzsite scene in January. It is truly amazing how serious and worried these people are about the microscopic practical details of their rigs. Don't they understand how easy and comfortable it has become?

But maybe there is a good reason for their constant and obsessive worrying: as a culture we are not so many generations removed from when travel was physically difficult and dangerous. So the tradition lives on...

At least one commenter on this blog would argue that we should just put physical adventure aside, as a thing of the past; and that we should move on to social, psychological, or aesthetic a…

Life Exists During the Christmas Shopping Season

It has been awhile since I offered extra credit points to the reader who can supply the right information: in this case, the name of the essay in which Thoreau said (more or less) that he had walked all the way across Manhattan and hadn't seen one person who was actually alive.

That is a useful thought to keep in mind if you find yourself in a busy shopping area in the USA near Christmas. There are softies out there who will tell me that that is not a "nice" thought. But it was actually...

I walked into a Walmart recently in an Arizona desert town, and the quote from Thoreau came to mind. But something I saw relieved this otherwise gloomy thought: a little dog was walking around next to a touring bicycle, fully loaded, and leaning against the side of the building.

Why wasn't the little dog on a leash? Where was the owner? I considered guarding the little dog, but maybe I too wasn't really alive. Instead, I continued into the store to do some routine shopping.

When I …

Quality Travel Experiences

Strangely, a certain coffee shop near St. George, UT, has been the location of a couple different experiences for me, memorable because there was something to them, other than scenery.

The coffee shop was located in an affluent housing development, at the foot of red cliffs. Until recently the coffee shop had a gift shop built into it -- the gift shop was trying to look like an Indian 'kiva.'  (Presumably the gift shop was "inspired" by the small Indian reservation, nearby.) 

It always seemed ironic and thought-provoking that Native American culture appeared so upscale and glamorous in the gift shop, with the expensive coffee table books, hand-carved wooden flutes, music, books, etc.; and yet, the genuine Indian reservation a mile down the road was a slum. (I rode my bicycle through this irony when I rode with a local club.)

But this year the kiva-gift-shop had been converted to an expensive restaurant. Presumably the menu featured items 'sacred to the Native Ameri…

Returning to the Womb in Winter

Last post, I was having fun re-inventing the water bottle. But today I'd like to be completely non-facetious, because it really was profoundly satisfying to take that hot water bottle to bed with me. Isn't profound satisfaction worthy of a post?

The old saying about 'hunger is the best sauce,' is certainly true, and that no doubt gets a lot of the credit. 

But there is something else. Insulating a camper, wearing the right clothes, and toughening-up are all valuable activities. But they smell too much like 'living without.' That is, they are negative approaches. ('Negative' should not be thought of as a synonym for 'bad.')

There is something in human nature that is frustrated by emptiness, that is, 'living without.'  Using fewer gigabytes of data on your internet plan, eating less, spending less, being celibate, showering less, stifling yourself in conversations, sleeping less, etc. At some point you rebel against these constant, nagging co…

The RV Boondocking Blabbermouth Syndrome

No doubt, over the years, many ex-readers noticed that this blog just wasn't what they hoped for. It wasn't helpful to beginners. It wouldn't wallow in practical details. It didn't even give google map screenshots or GPS coordinates of boondocking sites.

The disappointed reader probably thought, "What a selfish fellow! He wants to suppress information that would benefit his fellow RVers. To hell with him then, I'll just read a nicer person's blog.  They have more pretty pictures anyway, and I won't have to keep looking up words..."

The disappointed reader is certainly right about one thing: there are other blogs to go to that will give them want they are asking for. But what if they eventually decide that the easy and popular approach is destructive in a subtle way?

Wouldn't it be more constructive to look at the philosophical significance of the Boondocking Blabbermouth Syndrome?Romanticism and escapism motivate most people to travel. There is n…

The Pleasure of Meeting Intelligent People

What do people think of when they first think about intelligent people? Is it somebody with little personality who grinds away at their career all the time? Or is it somebody who appears superficially polite, but actually is snide and supercilious?

I'll bet they don't think of the pleasure an intelligent person can give to other people. Let me give you a little anecdote about being on the receiving end of this. But first you must bear the set up.

I was in Cortez Colorado, looking to buy a new Utah atlas, either the DeLorme or Benchmark version. This area caters to tourists, and it is the closest small city to the Four Corners. So you would expect it to be easy to buy an atlas for any of the four states.

Wrong. I failed to find these atlases in a half dozen places. The frustration was worsened by driving from place to place while pulling my trailer. Towing a trailer is a terrible way to knock off errands in a city.

If a sensible person were replacing a hardware or mechanical part, …

Island Hopping Across a Sagebrush Sea

Yes, 'sagebrush sea' is a bit of a cliché. But it's a good one. Strunk & White do not approve of burying readers under too many metaphors. Indeed, we have all been readers on the receiving end of a writer who was a metaphor drunk. And yet, how can writers suppress themselves when something wonderful has put them into an expansive mood? At such times, the mind naturally seeks out analogies with other good things.

Every year I spend my canonical fourteen-days visiting my favorite mountain biking area, near Gunnison, CO. The topography, geology, altitude, town, and BLM management philosophy are responsible for making it a success. And every year I praise decomposed granite as geology's greatest hit.

To make it even better, I ride downhill on singletracks, and then 'recharge the gravitational battery' by riding uphill on the roads, to complete the loop.

Falling into one of those generous and expansive moods, I can't avoid comparing this experience to sailing c…

A New Team Sport: Talk-Walking

During the recent 14 days with the Band of Boondockers, we had enjoyable, non-athletic walks up the road, twice a day. It was more like conversational sauntering than hiking.

Some people would consider it pretentious to compare our conversational sauntering to the walks in the garden that the philosophers of ancient Greece took with each other, but an indulgence of this type is useful if it helps bring back a long-neglected, yet wonderful custom. To appreciate conversational sauntering to the fullest, compare it to the new cultural atrocity of people sitting down to a meal at the same table, with one eye on the people they are there to talk to, and the other eye on their damn smartphone.

Consider how the mere act of walking naturally overcomes some of the defects of conversations. Those prone to over-intellectualizing (aka, building sand castles in the sky) might be affected by the physicality of walking: they are reminded that human beings have bodies, and that moods sometime depend m…

Traveling Down the Path of Righteousness

As I approach my canonical 14 day limit at a location that has internet, a sense of setback is understandable. I had been on a roll of internet-free living, before I backslid into sin, here. Let's back up a step and look at the Big Picture.

This all starts from the premise that there are few better ways to spend the end of your life than inpursuing Moral Perfection, a la Ben Franklin. I'm afraid the results of this project have been disappointing, so far.

Rather than merely dwelling on "Thou shalt not...", the positive agenda is to be more light-hearted when reading real books off-line, and to break my concentration whenever possible. In doing so I can co-opt the cheap trick that the internet uses to sink its hooks into its victims.

Another positive approach is to dwell on the geographical freedom I gain when camping in places where the internet is not available. Tomorrow I have a chance to put this into practice. Ah dear me, let's hope this doesn't lapse into s…

Renewing a Travel Lifestyle

Normally, when a person embarks on a big project, they shouldn't expect an instant pay-off. Surprisingly I am getting one on this "camping without the internet" project I am embarked on.

For years I have driven by some land on the west side of Colorado's San Luis valley that I fluttered my eyelashes at. But I never camped there because there was no internet signal. This year I stopped.

Since my camera broke recently, I can't show a photograph of the land. Perhaps it wouldn't be that impressive in a postcard. But who cares? It starts off as high rolling (BLM) pastures. Wave after wave of ascending green curves. Mountain biking up through it reminded me of some of Wagner's orchestral overtures, back in the day when I was first exposed to them.

It was a big deal when I reached the first tree. The boundary between forest and sagebrush/grasslands was irregular and indented, like an interesting shoreline with many bays and islands.

The topology changed. My heart s…

Withdrawing From "Fellow" RV Travelers

An old man in a van is camped a few hundred yards from me. He hasn't come over to visit. I haven't tried to visit him. That seems a little defeatist, considering that I might have visited with him when we overlapped on a road a couple days ago, and he appeared lucid and non-senile. (Which is better than average, let me tell you...)

This is just one example of a more general trend I seem to be settling into: a withdrawal from "fellow" RVers. I'm not really sure I am doing the right thing. It's not a hard-core, cynical attitude. It's more a matter of being tired of disappointment and frustration. The path of least resistance seems to be minding my own business.

Thinking back over the years of ineffectivenessat this issue, it seems that most encounters hadsomething in common: we only had something in common, superficially. In fact they were pursuing a completely different paradigm than me. There is nothing wrong with their paradigms, if it works for them. I ju…

Metaphors with a Life of Their Own

Hopefully I will continue to do certain things right on this blog: not over-selling travel, and not over-emphasizing books. Carried to extreme, both of these things are more than merely ridiculous. They are vices.

But combine two things that don't appear to be all that related, and some magic happens. Maybe that is what thinking is all about. When travel and books are combined, some memorable pleasure can happen. It won't happen often.

'Be careful what you wish for...' is an old adage that must be in many people's Top Ten list. During the fire season in late May and June in the Southwest, I yearn almost obsessively for higher humidity, clouds, and rain. Well, we got some all right. Over the holiday weekend I spent a day or two holed up in my little camper-trailer, unable to do much of anything outdoors. Actually, what is there to do indoors, other than read books? (I had no internet connection.)

The good news is that I had an awfully good bo…

Extremism as the Route to Celebrity-hood

I waylaid an RV buddy this morning at a cafe. His and my dog both went berserk. By the time breakfast was over, we had the world pretty straightened out. We also talked about couch surfing, a topic that was new to me.

In fact a European friend and I had just finished a week of informal couchsurfing, with them in my van, and me in the trailer that is pulled by the van. It worked. I am curious about doing more of it. At the very least it is one more reason to own a van as the tow vehicle, instead of a pickup truck.

Restaurant noise bothers me more than it used to. To escape, we went outside to finish our coffee. Up walks a woman backpacker, who my friend had seen hitchhiking a few miles back. Oh sure, we all know about the cultural fad of backpacking across the country in 1969, by young hippies. But people still do this? Women?

And she had done some couchsurfing, too. As my friend left, he suggested that I have a conversation with this woman, who was eating alone. But I didn't. 

Why not…

Economics 101 When a Town Barely Has a Pulse

It's been a long time since I took an economics course. All I remember about it is that they don't call it the "dismal science" for nuttin'. Let me suggest another approach to the subject. Forget about the hectic noise of the big city, the stop-and-go traffic, and the endless running around to buy crap, most of which is superfluous.

Imagine taking it all away. Simplicity, bliss? Not so fast. Your first couple hours in a really small town pound it into you how difficult it is to get anything done. What if you have something as trivial as a flat tire? Will you have to call your towing service and get towed 200 miles to Phoenix or Albuquerque?

Are any of their stores serious about doing business? Maybe they are just tax write-offs. Except that the place doesn't look high-income-enough to need tax write-offs.

Can you find a business that is open the same hours two days in a row? I actually bring a pen and clipboard to write down the complex schedule of hours when th…

The Rite of Spring in the Travel Blogosphere

It is my favorite time of year as a reader of travel blogs. Bicycle touring blogs, that is. In the winter "Crazy Guy on a Bike" goes into semi-dormancy because even the "Southern Tier" route across the USA is not that popular. That leaves the southern hemisphere, which is a rather small place and expensive to get to. 

In particular it's worth keeping an eye out for the blogs about the GDMBR, the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route, which goes from the Mexican border to the Canadian, while staying pretty close to the physical continental divide. Since it consists of dirt roads on public lands for the most part, a dog lover could at least fantasize biking it with their best friend. Not so, with the road cycling routes of course.

But I still give the roadie blogs a glance. Once in a great while, one of these is quite enjoyable. So why not celebrate the occasion? Recently that happened with "Looking for America", by Dan Schmiedt.  I have only read half of his…

My Next Life as a World Traveler

Is it just procrastination, or is it a dislike that I'm not willing to face up to, that causes me to postpone bicycle touring to my next life? Perhaps the romance of this kind of travel wouldn't hold up to three days of reality.

Cycling on highways is no pleasure. But that might be gotten around by using dirt roads and mountain bikes, or by going to civilized countries outside North America that actually have bicycle paths. Of course, the dog would have to stay home (sniffle!).

But the biggest turn-off is looking for accommodations each night. In first-world countries, motels are outrageously expensive and sterile. In third world countries, you would be lucky to get a toilet that flushes or a shower that puts out any hot water. In any country, there is only a couple sheets of plywood or drywall between your space and the noisy clowns next door. Of course you could always tent-camp 50 feet from a highway.

The question of 'where to sleep' is handled best by sleeping in my o…