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(Revised) Starting the New Year as a "Dear Abby" Columnist

Once a friend told me that she/he never quite knew what I would blog on, next week. I considered that a fine compliment --the kind that all bloggers should aim for. Very well then, a new year is starting, so let's start off in a new direction: giving "personal" advice.

But first let's dismiss the reader's objection that my credentials are not in order, when it comes to being a relationship columnist. Since when are credentials an issue on the internet? I thought that was half the reason for having an internet. If bloggers only blogged about subjects they actually knew something about, of what use would semi-unlimited data limits be on the internet?

Since my friends don't even know have I have a blog, let alone read it; and since I don't blabbermouth names or places on the internet, I should be able to discuss their "case" without invading their privacy.

I listened to he/she discuss the personality and behavior defects of their other half. Thank goo…

Sinking into a Surprise

Of all the advantages of a fatter tire on a mountain bike, not the least is being able to go down dry washes, arroyos. Arroyos are the most natural highways, with ridgelines coming in for second prize.

I was doing so, the other day. Thank goodness I chose a route that descended that arroyo, and finished the loop by coming back on a smoother dirt road.

What was it about this arroyo? It certainly wasn't pretty. But it was impressive on some level, if only I could figure out what that level was. The arroyo had gotten a small bit of ATV traffic; thus the gravel was packed down just enough for me to keep moving on the mountain bike.  So neglected -- and yet it was only a couple miles from where masses of RVers hang out in the winter.

Downward it went, always sinking closer to the Colorado River. There is something creepy about that, in the pit of the stomach, and not just because I had to dig out of the hole on the second half of the loop.

Maybe it was analogous to aging and death. At any …

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 …

Payback For Not Blabbermouthing Boondocking Sites

Ordinarily it is not a source of pleasure to find that an interloper has discovered your own secret dispersed camp site. So why did that happen here? It was in an arroyo somewhere in southern Nevada. 

Years ago, when this lifestyle was new to me, I happened upon a rocky overhang in the side of a cliff, which was redolent of an Indian cliff dwelling. It wasn't perfect -- it opened to the north, instead of to the south. How gloriously comfortable it would have been if it had faced south.

Still, it was tall and provided good protection. Back then, I was more impressionable. I positively fluttered my eyelashes over this spot. So I dragged my trailer to it, almost getting stuck in the process. And I had a campfire under the rocky overhang. It was fun to act like a kid, by projecting shadows of my hands onto the roof. 

But now I noticed somebody else had at least had a campfire there. Maybe they had slept there, too? Instead of being angry about the intrusion I felt strangely good-natured …

Nietzsche and Desert Tortoise Fences

The other day I noticed fences, intended to protect desert tortoises. (Or some other species. It hardly matters to the rest of this post.) The fences seemed so elaborate and expensive. Common sense asserted itself to make me think, "You've got to be kidding..."

By luck I happened to be reading Mencken's book on the "Philosophy of Nietzsche." Imagine Nietzsche pulled though a time machine to modern America. I don't think he would be an angry white man about what he saw.  More likely he would just sneer at modern culture and say something like, "I knew it would be bad, but I didn't think it would be this bad!"

The limiting case for his sneering may be these fences. What could more perfectly embody the "slave morality" of the masses than treating endangered animal species as though they were so precious. Nietzsche would have thought it was just fine that a superior species, such as homo sapiens, could wipe out an inferior species like…

Building Character in a Canyon

I had a rematch with a complex canyon system recently. Would it still be interesting -- even after hitting it pretty hard the last few years? Proceeding through the canyon, the experience became more subjective and internalized. What could I do differently from the past? Or should I forget about myself and "externalize?"

Indeed, something was quite new this year: instead of walking the canyon, I was mountain biking it on my new bike, with 3 inch wide tires. These "plus" tires do quite well on the rubble and sand. I highly recommend that anybody in the market for a new bicycle go with 3 inch tires.

The experience also seemed new because biking is faster and cooler than walking. Walking is so slow that it almost numbs the mind. And it is warm.

The canyon has a badlands type appearance because much of it is rather soft and easily eroded.

The trick is to focus on it qualitatively rather than quantitatively. Think about the variety of interesting shapes, and how they got th…

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…

Always a Sucker for Analogies

One of these days I will outgrow my susceptibility to analogies. Until then I will be charmed by quotes like this, coming from Chris Whalen:

The idea of the Greenspan Put was that lower interest rates would cure the market’s woes. Unfortunately, the FOMC has since fallen into a pattern whereby longer periods of low or even zero interest rates are used to address yesterday’s errors, but this action also leads us into tomorrow’s financial excess. As one observer on Twitter noted in an exchange with Minneapolis Fed President Neel Kashkari: “Central Bankers are much like the US Forest Service of old. Always trying to manage ‘nature’ and put out the little brush fires of the capitalist system, while they seem incapable of recognizing they are the root cause of major conflagrations as a result.”

A traveler in the western states gets to experience a real forest fire every now and then.

A Moral Quandary at the McDonald's Kiosk

This wasn't the first kiosk at McDonald's that I had ever seen. But the first time, it had been optional to use it. Rest assured that I ordered and paid the old-fashioned way.

But today I wasn't even given the choice. The young punk was loud and aggressive about it. I dutifully walked over to the kiosk. But then something deep-within began to express itself.  I starting digging in my heels. Of course he thought that a stupid old man just couldn't figure the thing out, so, before my moral protest had time to get properly organized, he came over, asked the usual questions, and pushed the appropriate buttons.

So why couldn't he have done all that at the cash register -- the old-fashioned way? His final question was, "Pay with your card here, or with cash?" I actually paused and started to get curt. But he assured me that paying cash was still an option, although we had to walk to a special cash register to do it. Why couldn't we have done that right from t…

Family Values in Utah

Towards the end of a mountain bike ride, when I am feeling my best, I saw this family enjoying a ride together in Utah. I don't think a vision of a family ever seemed more appealing.

The boy was even wilder and more spirited than the border collie. His parents were wise to let him go first so he wouldn't always be struggling to keep up with them, and becoming discouraged. The bike was too large for him, but no doubt he was looking forward to growing into it -- and as soon as possible!

Appreciating Stylishness

There are even mountain bikers who ride with a certain stylishness, although they are not as stylish as horsemen. There is no need to watch a video of myself on a bike -- it can simply be assumed that I ride with no stylishness whatsoever.

This topic interests me perhaps because an appreciation of stylishness has developed so late in life. It snuck up on me.  Blame the horse opera DVDs I watch at night as a sleeping pill. They make everybody and every horse look so glamorous.

A female rider always has long hair streaming behind her, blowing in the wind.  Male riders are prone to high jumping onto the horse, without bothering with the stirrups. Or they ride with their upper body canted at a slight angle, to make them look more jaunty and confident.

The limiting case of this is Gary Clarke ("Steve"), one of the stars of the first couple years of "The Virginian." He would jump up vertically from the ground, and somehow insert his boot into the stirrup on the way up. I wo…

The Death of Europe

Long-suffering readers of this blog are used to me praising moldy old books, while ignoring or even denigrating modern books. I am happy to be proven wrong. I have finished reading 2/3 of "The Strange Death of Europe," by Douglas Murray.

It's an "anti-mass-immigration" book by an Englishman, or rather, a Euro-person located on the island of Great Britain. It is uniformily calm and rational throughout.

To give you a flavor of the book, 2/3 of the way through the book he might have hit the essence of the problem:
The problem is one that is easier to feel than it is to prove, but it runs something like this: that life in modern liberal democracies is to some extent thin or shallow and that life in modern Western Europe in particular has lost its sense of purpose.That statement made quite an impact on me, in part because I was simultaneously reading a book by the famous Catholic historian, Hilaire Belloc, "The Great Heresies." In his chapter on Islam, he re…

A New Cultural Low on the Internet

Like many travelers I am happy that eBooks exist. Boxes of dead-tree books are heavy and space-consuming. And how many times per year can a traveler get to a decent bookstore?

Therefore I was in a good mood -- and a grateful mood -- when downloading an Amazon Kindle book today. But I noticed something new: in subtle, almost subliminal, markings, the eBook told you where other people had highlighted sentences in the book. For instance, it would say, "438 readers highlighted this."

Infuriating! Who the bleep cares what other people highlight? Am I not supposed to think for myself when reading a book? We don't need the equivalent of television's Nielsen ratings in a book! 

To think that reading a book is degenerating to the watching of television, or looking at "thumbs-up Likes" on social media! This would be a new low for modern culture.

I was so angry that it took me a long time to figure out how to eliminate "popular highlights" in a Kindle eBook. At…

Blog Spin-off Happens

In the old days, successful television shows occasionally featured guest stars who took off on their own shows. With that pattern as our inspiration, I am advertising a link to a discussion thread I started on , a mountain biking forum.

Its intention is to foster a sort of traveling club of mountain biking RV/van campers. We are trying to be rig-agnostic, that is, we welcome people in any rig. Where they camp is their business. (My cycling compadre and I disperse camp.)

The theme of the autumn and winter Romp is Utah and Arizona. Obviously we will follow the weather, as we head to lower altitudes and latitudes, approximately down the Colorado River. 

We have not advertised on RV forums. Perhaps we should. I don't know where the right place is.  

Ten Year Anniversary

Has it really been ten years? I checked. It has. It was ten years ago, and right here in the Book Cliffs/Grand Junction area, that I adopted my sweetheart.

She doesn't look much different today. You never quite know what a canine-American person is thinking, but she probably thinks she has had a pretty good life since then.