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Showing posts with the label weather

The Sky Gods, Incarnate

What pompous fools most intellectuals are! They think they are accomplishing something by cogitating over the Big Questions, and burying everybody under a mountain of vague verbiage.

Once again, the afternoon sky had come alive and threatening. What a show it is!...this noisy blustering of the Indo-European male sky gods, strutting across the sky, high over our 'sagebrush sea.'

As the Sky built up to its climax, a young man and his dog mountain biked by my campsite. On the ascent the dog finally got the better of the biker, and spurted ahead. My dog ran out to check the dog out. This gave us a chance to talk. We had to communicate quickly because the biker was afraid of cold rain, lightning, or hail.

(It was like that scene at the beginning of the "Wizard of Oz", when Dorothy and Toto are on the run, and you wonder if they are going to get home before the twister hits.)

The dog had a pair of doggie saddlebags on, which carried water, a collapsible water dish, and sna…

Mother Nature's Song

Never again will I allow anyone to use the phrase 'nice sunny day' in my presence without an argument. How much sunlight do you need for life? What life really needs is Water.

This winter and spring are turning out to be more blessed than any year I can remember.

At this time of year (June) the sky is supposed to be hopeless: a blue-white glare, utterly cloudless, uninteresting, and enervating. You can barely step outside in mid-day without an aluminum umbrella. But it is different this year.

 I hope it snows on the Fourth of July.

But of all the Life brought forth this spring, the best is represented by Greta, a 10-week-old golden retriever pup, who wandered by my campsite the other day.

 She was fearless around big dogs:

Let's see, how did that little jingle in Gilbert & Sullivan's Pirates of Penzance (?) go? Remember the "Three Little Maids from School?" Wasn't it...'Life is a joke that's just begun...'

It took only seconds for her to reduce m…

Caption Contest for Mothers' Day

Who was responsible for setting Mother's Day on the second Sunday of May? Whoever they were, they loved their mother, because that time of year usually has excellent weather in most of the USA.

And then there is Colorado.

If we made a photo caption contest out of this, my offering would be, "Gee, Pops, where are all the customers?"

I guess this means that the tourist trade is headed straight for the crapper this weekend.

Mud Therapy

It is strange that the really great things in nature are never talked about. Nobody praises cold rain and mud.

It was finally a good day to go mountain biking. I had to cross two wet streams to get to the 'trailhead.' I didn't even know there were dry washes there. But now enough water was flowing that I was forced to stop and study the situation. Recall the old "Do Not Cross When Flooded" signs.

But I did cross because I knew the bottom was gravel. What a glorious thing it is to see water flowing!

After the ride we found ourselves at a local coffee shop, unaccustomed as we are to places like that. Normally I would look up at any kind of shade cloth or viney pergola and admire it.

But today I deliberately chose a sunny table! 

But exulting is cheap if it is just verbal -- let's do something real to celebrate the occasion, such as putting my anti-postcard policies on vacation, briefly.

And one has to break in a new camera somehow.

A Chiaroscuro for the Skin

Has another warm winter made me soft? Apparently it has.

Last night I finally used the warmer sleeping bag, purchased recently. (It's nominal rating is -25 F.) In the morning I deigned to heat up water for a bladder, and to insert it into my parka. But it wasn't that cold inside the camper -- 38 F is nothing extreme. (I refuse to use propane heat.)

But once the sun came up, I was lured into another mountain bike ride -- this time to town for a visit to the coffee shop, and a few errands.

Later in the afternoon I sat in a chair on the south side of the trailer and faced the sun. Sunlight was reflecting off a small piece of broken glass lying on the desert pavement. It was so bright that I could only look at it with my eyes mostly closed.

Normally this would be unpleasant. But under the circumstances it felt wonderful. I moved my chair closer to the leeward side of the white trailer. It felt like a warm oven.

How utterly perfect it was to balance the recent cold air with a warm effus…

Drinking the Desert Air

I almost didn't go for a mountain bike ride today. The excuse was that it was too windy and cool. But my 12+ year old dog didn't feel the same way. She was insistent, as if she were still a wild puppy girl.

I'm glad she won the argument. In fact it wasn't too cool. The wind was moderated by some of the gullies and hills I rode through. Actually the air felt wonderful on the skin. You must try to appreciate how rare this is, in the desert Southwest.

What great timing! I am camera-less right now, and having little luck in finding a new camera. But why not try to turn that to advantage? 

Didn't Shakespeare say something like, 'A young man falls in love with his eyes, rather than his heart...'  Travelers have the same problem: they can't reach out to nature except through their eyeballs. The ubiquity of digital cameras, social media, and blogs has worsened the disease: nothing is worth appreciating unless it makes a purty postcard (and brings applause from …

Miracles in the Desert

If there were ever any doubt in your mind that the 'medium is the message,' consider the air right now in snowbird Arizona.  We have been experiencing a couple quiet miracles lately. But even somebody who isn't a standard tourist/snowbird must make an effort to appreciate them.

We have had some decent rains. A faint green 'lawn' is appearing across the desert. 

That should take your breath away, right there! But if you need more...this morning there were small droplets of water flocculating on this green lawn. In some parts of the world they belittle this miracle by calling it 'dew'.

The air is moist. It feels so gentle against the skin. Do you know what if feels like for your skin -- the largest organ in the human body -- not to be at war with its environment!

These are small miracles in the desert.  And then people want to show postcards of saguaros or palm trees against a red sunset. (aaarrgh!)

Attitudes Toward Drought

It is strange the way weather reports, especially on television, talk about a "40% chance of rain" as if it were life-threatening. This is so common it is easy to not even notice it. But it is a perfect example of how modern life is separated from nature and even physical reality.

I can't help thinking about that as we finally get a spot of light rain here in Colorado, after a dud monsoon season. How tiresome hot sun can get! Sunny mornings are still enjoyable, but in mid-day, the sun simply makes me stay indoors. I can't face it anymore.

But the tourist/camper still thinks that rain is the enemy, and that a sunny sky is something to feel happy about.

What a fraud the modern citified 'nature lover' is! 'Nature' doesn't mean anything to them other than a chance to gawk at freakish scenery of some kind. 

What if they actually had to grow something or hunt something to live? 

"Zero Visibility Possible"

Normally I don't drive my rig on windy days. But I was doing it today, with the excuse being that I had a tail wind. A brown cloud was visible in the sky over towards the infamous Willcox AZ playa.

But I was already downwind of that, so why not keep going east to New Mexico? Soon there were the famous signs along Interstate-10 warning of  "Zero Visibility Possible." I have seen these for many years, and always had a good chuckle over them.

The first indication of something unusual coming up were state police cars, with their lights flashing. Then the sky ahead looked murky -- but more of a dirty white color than the brown you would expect.

As traffic slowed, the semi-truck ahead of me looked 'weird.' I could see down the entire 'port' (left) side of it, even though I was directly behind, with no turns in the road. Apparently the wind from 'port' was 'quarter aft', and it caused the trailer of the semi-truck to blow into an angle that made it …

A Strange Forgotten Substance Falls From the Sky

Light rain hits my trailer. How odd that I can't remember the last time it rained. I wish to hold on to the moment. But how?

The true significance of this rain in undermined by modern comfort and security: it is too easy to buy or get water!

Maybe there are novelists who have done an artful job of relating the experience of rain, but I haven't read enough fiction to know of them. Extra credit points for any reader who offers a fine example from books or movies.

Bringing a Cliché to Life

Why do certain phrases annoy, in a vague sort of way? For instance, 'scudding clouds.'  'Scudding' is an interesting word.

Currently I disport on a mountain bike in the sage hills near Gunnison, CO. The monsoons have survived until now. Sometimes this area is hit with showers and wind on these open, sagebrush-covered hills. Once again I thought of 'scudding clouds.'

I wanted to be inspired by the phrase, but it still seemed flat. What was I missing? Perhaps I needed to stop worrying about beauty, and think about ugliness, instead. Some of that was readily available: power lines bisected this area.

But are these power lines really ugly? One could think of the power lines and towers as noble pieces of triangular architecture, like the ropes and masts on a ship at sea. This area, with its lonely rock skerries in the midst of a 'sagebrush sea,' (another cliché!) brings to mind the place where 'scudding clouds' is typically used. The mountain bike bec…

Fire and Ice

Now and then, I catch myself bragging about setting a 'personal best' when camping. Last week the temperature insidethe camper hit 27 F. 

Of course I have a heater, but refuse to use it. Usually I try to joke my way out of it. A better explanation would be to point at the movie, "The Red Violin." 

Chilly dry air, in contrast with sunlight at sunrise, seems like perfection to me. With a Platonic and pseudo-religious attitude, I pop my trailer door open to the east, and let the glorious sun come into the trailer. It feels warmer instantly, and irresistibly cheerful. If there is a better way to start a day, let me know what it is.

Nevertheless, consider this an exception to the rule. You will not have to read many advertisements for 'the ideal' or 'perfection' on this blog. Experience has taught me that the enemy of the Good is not the Bad, as you would expect. The enemy of the Good is the Ideal.

One of the Greatest Pleasures Outdoors

This May and June we have actually had clouds in the sky, and a bit of rain. There are no fire restrictions yet, despite being into the second week of June.

Sometimes I just sit out in a chair in the afternoon and marvel at how magnificent it is to have clouds and shade in mid-day. If the wind blows, it actually feels cool. Truly, this must be one of the greatest pleasures an outdoorsman ever experiences.

I'm so glad I started years ago at trying to appreciate the Agony of Dry Heat, and the Ecstasy of moderate humidity and the southwestern monsoons. It isn't the obvious tourist-like approach. Perhaps it was just snobbishness on my part.

At any rate, taking that approach has paid off. Last night, for the first time in a long time, I left the outer door open all night.

Another Attempt at Being an Outdoors Fashionista

My last attempt at being a fashionista was under-appreciated by the readership. But I will just try harder...

The topic is timely, now that Arizona is boiling hot in early spring! As I've explained a hundred times, 90% of staying comfortable in the western states is about staying cool, that is, defeating Dry Heat. The latest revolution in form and function is a wide-brimmed visor that fits over a bicycle helmet. In order for you to appreciate how good this innovative product is, let's talk a little about how I used to do it. 

Years ago I saw a mountain biker near Flagstaff with a classic cotton bandana underneath his helmet. This was inexpensive, but it offered poor coverage for the nose. It was hot too, unless you could find enough water to wet it down. (And there ain't no water in the Southwest.)

I have used baseball caps. They are great for the nose. If you get the kind that lack a "crown", they will be cool. But they mess up the fit of your helmet. They provide …

The Ultimate Heater for Winter Camping

Winter campers might argue about what the best kind of heater is, but frankly, I don't like using a heater at all -- for the obvious reasons of fuel cost, safety, and condensation. Besides, it seems wimpy.

There is another approach to winter heating. I owe this success to a camping neighbor. He doesn't buy expensive leather outfits for riding his Harley, but instead wears insulated bib overalls from Walmart. Well of course, that is what mechanics, construction workers, and oilfield workers wear in the winter. 

(I love having useful conversations with camping neighbors. Especially when they mention some trick-of-the-trade that I have overlooked. These conversations are so much more valuable than the usual small talk, long-winded stories about the past, personality salesmanship, etc.)

I have never owned bib overalls. But I took his advice and bought a pair of Walls brand from Walmart for $70. The insulation is not really thick, but they aren't supposed to be a snowmobile sui…

Escape From the Jurassic Mudpits of Moab

You would think that a lot of experience at camping would toughen a fellow up, considerably. But rain and mud have a way of humbling me. Nevertheless, for the fourth time in two days, I narrowly escaped getting stuck in the mud, thanks in part to actually taking advice from a local expert about mud on certain roads in the Moab area.

It sounds so simple, doesn't it? Taking advice. It is certainly good news to become a 'wise old man' who is willing to finally do so. And yet, it is hard to break the changes down that happen to a person who becomes 'older and wiser.' Perhaps a person becomes humbler and more cautious with each misadventure that happens in life. It finally seems inconvenient, expensive, and stupid to have to learn everything the hard way. Misadventures have lost their romantic charm.

There was another reason for my narrow and successful escapes. I had a pair of rubber-bottomed boots in my van. Rather than rashly bulling my way through the mud, I put the b…

Worshiping the Wind

Perhaps one of the readers is up-to-date on El Niño and this remarkable summer in the Southwest, a summer of monsoons starting in May instead of July. The result has been the absence of wildfires, and an explosion of greenery and flowers. And bugs. This has been the first summer in years when I applied bug spray before going out on a mountain bike ride. Well it's about time I was made to appreciate how little I normally think of flying insects.  

The appreciation of something else goes up, too: a nice breeze to keep the bugs off. It's a miracle drug. Normally I praise the breeze in passing on to another subject in these posts. For once, let me talk only about the wind.

It's odd that so many people dislike breezy days. I used to, too, earlier in life. Some of these preferences are explainable: people with allergies are not helped any by the wind. 

Also, many people don't wear hats, which is too bad, considering how well the right hat desensitizes you to wind, sun, and rain…

Calming the Beast in the Cabin

I'm weakening. I hate camping underneath a thunderstorm. But the mud will dry up tomorrow.

There must be readers who are sick of my praise for wet snow and cold mud in May in the American Southwest. They are probably thinking, "Put up or shut up. Move to Puget Sound if you think wetness is so great."

My sermons are an echo of the ones from William James, presented in the page-tab at the top of your screen, Summiting: Ideals and Suffering. In trying to benefit from suffering, the key word is 'non-routine.' Over the long run, suffering loses its charm. In order to be stimulated, you must somehow idealize it, and that is hard to do to something routine. The weather the Southwest is having right now is definitely non-routine.

I'm not just opining and theorizing. My bouts with cabin fever have done me some good, and hopefully for the long term.

I was forced to do things that are easy to neglect: a book that was supposed to be re-read, but somehow wasn't; cleaning …

The Healthiness of Being Stuck in the Muck... an appetizer for Lust for the Dust.

There are people who move to the American Southwest for "nice, warm" weather. I am not one of them. I never fled the Cold of mainstream Gringo-ville; I fled what goes along with the cold.

During the recent spring storm in upper Arizona, I was socked in for 48 hours. Surprisingly, the solar panels (480 Watts, nominal) did a half-decent job of charging the batteries. But without a generator, it was necessary to supplement the struggling solar panels by running the tow vehicle's engine. It would be undesirable to do much of that of course. After turning the engine on, the dog and I went for a walk, and tried to make the best of it.

How wholesome and healthy-minded this experience was! May and June are the crisis-months when I take to dreading Dry Heat. They are the months of disintegrating fingernails, nose-bleeds, cracked heels, paranoid parking with the dog in the van, fire closures in the forest, and wildfire evacuations.

When the mo…

Uses for a Cold Day in a Yuma Igloo

Was it a waste of time to read some of the non-famous-novels of Tolstoy and a biography of Gandhi, "Gandhi Before India." by Ramachandra Guha? Today most people see the "prophet" Tolstoy as a prudish, anti-sex crusader and a romanticizer of Russian peasants. Gandhi was obsessed with diet and holiness even back in his student days in London.

Perhaps, instead, I should read about their actions and ideas that make them remembered as great men, rather than as oddballs and cranks. But maybe it is not that simple. Recall that Isaac Newton wrote more theology than mathematical physics. Was he not earnest in both endeavours? How could the same mind and personality be brilliant in one field and a forgettable crank in the other?

Perhaps we fail to read between the lines in their crank endeavors. More imagination might be needed to spot the great man in the fields where they did not shine.

At any rate I usually mock asceticism until it gets cold. Then I start acting like a holy …