Strolling Amok

Pops goes on tour.

An Unusual Day


Yup, that’s sleet on the truck bed in the photo above. It looks like it’s going to top out at about 50 degrees today, which will make for a pleasant afternoon inside the Mighty Defiant because of the ceramic propane heater in here. I’ll likely have to keep it idling overnight, since the prediction is for a 23-degree low, and once it approaches 30, the “temperate weather only” limitation mentioned in the Gulf Stream manual starts kicking in. But don’t worry, I’ve got plenty of propane because when one of my two 20# heater tanks ran out last night, I filled it up today at the infamous Grand Canyon Village RV Park in town today for $24 and change, which is about twice the cost of anywhere else. Unfortunately, around here, there is no anywhere else for propane refills, and I do not adore the thought of running out of heat when it’s most needed. That’s just me. I asked at the visitor center in the Grand Canyon.

Notice those orange cones? A crew of fit-looking people came by in two pickups and an ATV to drop them off. Seems there’s going to be a 12-mile marathon tomorrow morning, and those mark the path the runners should take. And no, I’m not going to move them. They are taking the same way around that

I did the other day on the Aurora e-bike, and I can’t imagine a more demanding running path. At first I assumed they were marking off my campsite as a biohazard area, which kind of makes sense if you’ve even seen my housekeeping style inside the trailer. Duly informed of the plan and with the punishing bike ride still in my memory, I told one of them, “It should be cold enough to cause some lung issues. Those rocks are going to be a little tough on the feet, aren’t they?” He replied, “Yeah, we generally have a few twisted ankles each time.” A hardy few, these folks.

This must be the same bunch of runners I noticed last, year, except then, it happened to be a little toasty, and several at the end were looking like medical intervention would not be far off. I had no idea then that this rugged trail was what they had disappeared into when they reemerged and were barely huffing it down the sidewalk in town. But at least they were the lucky ones, with two operative ankles!

I started the day by loading up the Tankmin’s waste tank and heading for Mather Campground in the Grand Canyon to hit the free dump station there. There were a couple of RV’s there ahead of me, but nobody’s on a tight schedule in my world. It’s a single-island affair with double lanes, but there’s a notable side-tilt to the pavement, making it pretty much a choice of one lane if you want your tank to completely empty. The Tankmin’s drain hose is on the passenger side, which would normally have been great here, since the left lane was empty. But the Tankmin must also empty completely, or it’ll clog on the next go-around, and that pavement tilt was going the wrong way to drain. What the right lane also had going for it was that only it had a faucet with a threaded hose fitting, which is the preferred way to fill the Tankmin’s freshwater hold. My TT camper tank inlet would love the handy, island-mounted valved hoses there, but filling the Tankmin with them involves climbing onto a rear tire and leaning over the tank to get at and unscrew a breather in the center. That’s fun, if you’re twenty.

What all this means is that I joined the line for the right lane and had to be in line facing backwards, so that the drain would be toward the island. It looks challenged, and this is far from the first time I’ve had to go in backwards. This year, I even had one lady in the Winterhaven (Yuma) LTVA wander around her motorhome to ask, “Have you been here before?” I wittily retorted, “Ugh, yeah..?” To which she advised with that you’re an idiot tone, “You’re supposed to be facing the other way.” I then had to explain that while this older dumpsite was set up to accommodate only the traditional left-side RV waste location, that my waste outlet was on the right side (pointing to the hose and valve at my feet) which made me have to enter the dump area facing backwards.

She remained silent but understood, which is more than I can say for the volunteer “Ranger helper” that preceded her by a year. He insisted that my facing the wrong way, regardless of having entered the station from the proper direction, was a violation of regulations, and that I faced losing my camping permit should he catch me again. He suggested that I modify the tank in some way. (I could use a longer drain hose and throw it under the vehicle to the other side, but given the clogging issues that the Tankmin still suffers, the unclogging procedure would make a rather spectacular mess of the station. I’m talking maybe YouTube quality.)

But this post is about today. I was nicely backed in, eventually in position and filling my freshwater tank via the spigot and my hose at full blast. The TT owner directly ahead of me was pulled forward, draining his trailer’s tanks into the sole dump receptacle. That delight was next for me, in it’s own good time. There was a titanic fifth-wheel in back of me, long enough that his overhang was blocking traffic lanes to get to the laundromat/showers. He could have pulled up further, but chose not to. A Class-C motorhome waited patiently behind him in-lane.

So I was feeling a new and unfamiliar branch of deja-vu when the 5-owner walked up and asked indignantly, “Do you know that this is a dump station?? This is for RVs to drop off their waste!” Translation: “You are not belong here, earthling. You have no place here. Cease being.” I was not quite as cooly unconcerned as I would have liked to have been, since instead of merely inferring the usual “dullard” assertions, this guy was saying that I was being thoughtless enough to misuse the facility and hold up those more qualified citizens who were waiting with patient but legitimate long-suffering.

Apparently, he was no fan of the bizarre, and was unaware of any unconventional setups, so I told him that right now I was filling my freshwater tank, and that as soon as that guy over there was all done, I also had some 60 gallons of wastewater to put into that little hole right over where he is. Mr. Indignant simply spun around, got in his tow vehicle, and waited. “That guy has lost sight of why we camp,” the TT owner called over. While the various liquids churned, he wandered over to look at the Tankmin, assuming that it was one big water-holding tank. Wrongo! And the 65-70 gallon capacity for each half surprised him. It’s big, but does not look that big. At any rate, a couple of minutes later he was yanking his hose out of the drain, and five seconds after that, the breather on the Tankmin freshwater section spouted its overflow like Moby Dick. Boom! I moved forward backward as he pulled out, the Tankmin chose to empty like a champ (this time), and I went on my way.

I decided to hit the Visitor Center next, to ask about a propane source in the park. The answer was disappointing, but the Visitor Center interior and the buildings around it are pretty spectacular. It’s a must-see. They must have 300 rental bicycles outside there, all accounted for since it was beginning to snow just then. Some 30% of the building’s power needs are supplied by solar panels on-site. Seems to me that if the person who rents out the bikes has a power outlet or two available, this would be a notable marketing exposure for Evelo’s e-bikes, as well as more PR for the park’s rather serious green efforts and promotion. I mean, a prototype riverboat tour e-boat hybrid just made its shakedown run on the Colorado river through the canyon, some 255 miles. Hey, I’d drop off an Evelo brochure and a discount card at the desk, but that’s not the person to talk to about working a few e-bikes into the rental offering in a promotional co-project. Know what I mean, Mr. Mordkovich? There may be liability insurance issues with people completely unfamiliar with e-bikes, but it’s something to think about – before someone else does. That place was almost crowded despite the spitting, cold weather. Think of the value of a small wall poster alone!

After that was grocery shopping at the Plaza, and the General Store is quite impressive in its selection. Unlike most grocery stores, the hardware aisle has USB and phone accessories galore, all kinds of lubes, sealing compounds and other products that are surprising in their variety. Oddly, the majority of the groceries I got were bargains, and not past-date bargains, either. Produce was both good and cheap, yet canned stuff like chili was nearly $4 a can. Go figure. Bacon was cheap! The imported Kerrygold butter was not cheap, but it’s one of those things that’s recommended to try and you can’t find it anywhere. It was here, small and large. Lots of unusual-for-here foods, but being stocked in quantity in eight flavors, they’re usual somewere in the world.


Speaking if inclement weather and having to stay indoors, I’ve always disliked having to maintain things. And I’ve come to appreciate the strides made in some areas, like automobiles, paints, upholstery, metallurgy, and so on. Some things don’t last as long as they used to, like hard drives on computers. Yet despite my persistent laziness, I’ve slowed down enough at this point to actually enjoy a very few maintenance chores that most people don’t even face anymore.

Tobacco pipes don’t take much at all to properly maintain, but they certainly don’t do well when ignored, either. I hover around the $25-$30 price bracket on pipes, which is real close to the bottom end. I hang out there because I can then afford to overheat and crack them, watch them come apart, or not worry about careless lighting that discolors the top lip of the bowl. I have just one very good pipe, a meerschaum (soft stone) pipe which was a thoughtful gift from my ex. I seldom smoke it, but that’s from fear of abusing it like I do my cheapies. That’s not one you abuse and toss. The lack of humidity in the Great Southwest is a boon to pipe smoking, since it eliminates the need to pay rigorous attention to how you use your pipe, and when. It seems to me to be a great potential hobby for obsessive-compulsives, as everything must be just so if it is to work properly. It takes kind of a routine for preparation and then clean-up afterward, and that’s enjoyable in its own way.

The other thing I appreciate is using a truly sharp knife, instead of sawing through with much force and damage to whatever you’re trying to slice. Therefore, I don’t mind the effort to keep them that way, since it makes such a difference in how they perform. A dull knife is quite a bit riskier to use than a sharp one, be it in the kitchen or while opening cartons. I never had much luck with those sharpening rods that you see chefs use, so I got a belt-sander gizmo that does a really nice job. It figures that once I had that for a few years, I finally got the knack of succeeding with the rod. I know, I know, how complex is a sharpening rod? Knives now don’t need sharpening very often, and in turn are more resistant to sharpening. In the case of serrated knives, those seem to last forever, but that’s good because they are impractical to sharpen anyway. My favorite is actually an old carbon steel long blade that must be kept clean and dry to avoid rust, and by today’s standards doesn’t stay sharp very long. I suppose that sharpening knives gives that gratification of “fixing” something and having it immediately work better. It’s a simple pleasure.

Lastly, leather care. Not too many folks out this way have much leather, least of all shoes for everyday wear. I got ’em. In fact, I may not need shoes for another twenty years. I gots army boots that are almost comfortable but heavy. Cowboy boots – two pair. Yeehaa. One pair of Naots that are supremely comfortable and that I hope will never wear out. If they do, I have quite a few pairs of leftover work shoes, as in office work. I’m confident enough in my stockpile that I doubt I’ll ever get down to my dress wingtips on the Arizona Trail. What, you say, buy shoes when you need them and chuck the stupid work shoes? Maybe when I find out that they don’t work so well for long walks. Let me find that out first. Have you priced decent shoes lately? – And I’m excluding Wal-Mart in that, thanks.

Anyway, I get my leather stuff dusty and scuffed, whatever I wear. I have very good leather belts, and a couple not so good but pretty. Got a leather western vest. Got other leather goods that need to be kept clean and free from drying out and cracking. The products to use on leather seem to change radically depending on who you ask, but that’s because not everyone appreciates the different characteristics that leather is supposed to have for different tasks. Upholstery, clothing and boots are one thing. A baseball mitt is another, and a holster is another still. Use the same type of care product on all three, and somebody’s going to be forced to throw their item away before long, complaining that leather doesn’t last. For some functions, leather is not the overall best way to go any more. For others, it is. I’m just old-school enough to prefer it when it’s a toss-up, and when wet weather or extreme humidity are not factors. It can usually work well, and of late I like setting aside some time now and then to keep what I have in good condition and looking as good as it can, considering the beating I give it. I used to view this as a chore. Now, it’s more like an “occasional hobby”. And, like sharpening a knife, you finish with the feeling that you just accomplished something small but good. Considering the cost of leather in general, maybe it’s not so small a thing.

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2 thoughts on “An Unusual Day

  1. Linda Sand on said:

    You made me flash back to the days when I spit-shined my then new husband’s combat boots. Based on my observations last time I was on a post, they don’t even wear that type of boot anymore.

    • You’re right, Linda. Mine were acquired in 1971, and who knows when they were manufactured? Not the best for living with during hot and humid weather, and not warm in cold, they do fine in between. I believe that the modern issue boots are divided into two temperature zones now, but are still both largely cattle hide, albeit rough-side out. No more spit-shining for you! Who still uses 45-year-old boots? On rocky, ankle-twisting ground, they’re the best I’ve got, and are nicely protective. Thanks for commenting!

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