Strolling Amok

Pops goes on tour.

The Zenith of Civilization

Oooo, shiny object!

Oooo, shiny object!

Skyscrapers, medical advances, Hubble telescope, cellphones, Internet, wash and wear clothing, Hello Kitty merchandise, they all pale before mankind’s greatest triumph, the coffee percolator. The start of my day always begins with coffee, and it’s been instant coffee for as long as I’ve been on the road. Now, encamped in the wilds of Rockford, Illinois, full hookups on the Defiant have at long last afforded me the real thing.

Seems like everyone has their own preferences on how to make good-tasting coffee, but my own taste buds decidedly lean towards a General Electric heirloom handed down through the generations. This thing must be at least fifty years old, and its heating element had to be welded back into place in the nineteen eighties, to keep it going. It nearly gave me an anxiety attack when it blew out, but a sympathetic and capable machine shop foreman where I worked took it apart and fixed it. It came with internal fittings to optimize it for three cups or less, and apart from being coffee-stained, they still work fine. Try to find one just like this in Walmart today.

My Louisiana-based neighbors here in camp, upon hearing that I was relegated to drinking instant coffee, made sympathetic sounds of pity and uncondemning disapproval at the hearing, and poured a little extra water into their own percolator in order to offer me a cup of coffee heaven. That motivated me to whine to my daughter who, as keeper of the Magic Device, returned it to me for the duration of my stay. (She has other coffee options, including another modern percolator. I’m not heartless.) It’s not practical to run a percolator on solar, nor supply the copious amounts of water needed to wash it out when boondocking, but with the 120VAC power available and all the water I want here, it all came together for good. Oh yes.

Giddy, I ran out and got some Newman’s Own ground coffee beans on sale, but then quickly rediscovered the limitations in following the herd. Ground coffee today is prepped for drip coffee makers and, as such, resembles coffee dust. That’s fine for a once-through using a paper filter inside a huge tub, but in a percolator, that dust simply clogs up the drainage holes and overflows the internal drippin’ cup. You get coffee, but at the cost of a greater internal mess from the bypassed percolation. I was also ambivalent about the coffee that resulted. It had that Starbucks wallop, and I found myself adding water, subtracting coffee, and cranking down the perc time to try to compensate.

See, when I go someplace (rarely) to order breakfast and coffee, all I want is a cuppa joe. Nothing exotic, nothing violent, nothing flavored, and nothing reduced to a semi-viscous state in order to pump its caffeine levels off the meter. Since I don’t wish to chew the grounds or savor a burned taste, cowboy coffee is out, too. All I want is a cup of coffee, usually passed once through a Bunn commercial coffeemaker. That’s fine, and sometimes excellent. I have no gripes with good drip coffeemakers – I just appreciate the ability to adjust the brew. I prefer mild. My own experience with homestyle drippers has been that the coffee is good. It’s just not savory great. Your own results may vary.

A few days later, I recalled my standard, Eight O’Clock coffee. It’s usually offered as whole bean, and with a an adjustable coffee grinder at the store that can be set specifically for percolators, the result is coffee “sand” instead of coffee “dust”. Makes all the difference in flow. So, I’m in hog heaven these days.

I figured I was excessively eclectic in my perc-mania, but a few days later, my neighbor’s percolator gave up the ghost. They appropriately viewed this as a serious setback, and came home later that day with its replacement – a General Electric model that had a marked resemblance to my historic piece. Now, I’m not saying theirs will last like mine – probably not. And, it no doubt lacks the small-brew internal add-ons. But, they are enthusiastic about enjoying coffee toward the end of their day, and they once again chose a percolator. Just saying.

I’m also in hog heaven because I was able to remove rust stains at the city water hose hookup on the trailer (thanks, Matt!) using a local equivalent of Iron Out, so the Defiant has lost a bit of its unique Trailer Trash ambiance. And, I was able to effect a final roof edge seam seal before the plague of starving mosquitos moved in from all the rain we’ve been getting. No more mystery leaks during the big sky dumpers. I’ve found moments to vacuum and wipe a lot of the pure Arizona dust out, and have managed to clean out much of the grunk from counters, sinks and the range top. The toilet is now clean, and with a further effort on the linoleum flooring, I’ll have a living space that would make any woman discretely shrink from touching anything, rather than lurch back outside to fall directly into a coma. Unlimited access to water is not a bad thing, yet I still find myself automatically using as little as possible. Boondocking does that to you.

Nope, no adventures to report, at least nothing bigger than watching several Rottweilers trying figure out how best to vault a fence as I cycle past their farm on my way to town. There are two goofy Weimaraners fenced into a huge yard close by that love to spot me and dash toward the fence, but they spend most of their approach knocking each other about, since whichever is leading momentarily becomes the new object to be chased down instead of me. You can tell they think it’s joyous fun. The Rottweilers, not so much.

This camp being immediately south of the city, I did not expect the wildlife I’ve seen here. Numerous deer, and many owls hooting each night. A small fox dashed in front of the truck on my return trip home last night. Rabbits, songbirds, raccoons, you name it. And did I mention mosquitos?

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20 thoughts on “The Zenith of Civilization

  1. Doug I love coffee as you do. In our camper with solar we have a Walmart 4 cup drip coffee maker. It works great, I got a thermos type coffee carafe that I put the coffe in to keep it hot. That way the inverter just makes the coffee and doesn’t have to keep it hot. Barely a blip on the battery usage. Trick is that it comes with a screen coffee basket that let’s the water go thru too fast and also let’s too much ” mud” thru. The water doesn’t get hot enough to cook the flavor out of the coffee because it goes thru too fast. Solution is to throw the basket away and use paper disposable filters, it makes for easier clean up too. The filter slows the water down going thru. Get full size filters, the small ones spill over the top because they are too short. Hope this helps!

    Bill n Sadie plus Mic

    • Bill, you must have quite a sizable inverter, and the willingness to use it! If the coffeemaker’s brand is reputable and your water is not hot enough, you may want to consider plugging in a Kill-A-Watt meter in the inverter’s output during use, just to see if the pot’s power draw is too much for the inverter’s supply wiring or connectors. Percolators use a central post to pump water up to the small adapter basket, so adding drip-type filters requires punching a large hole at center, but that’s okay since simply getting the right coffee grind for my device type did eliminate all its issues. I won’t be percolating coffee on the road, since the Defiant’s 12V factory wiring doesn’t have a prayer of supporting 150 watts draw over 12 feet or so of wire, let alone 600 watts or more. It drops the voltage a ton.

      • Doug it’s Susans camper. It has 400 watts on the roof and 4 golf cart batteries and a whole house inverter. We makr coffee, she blows her hair dry, watch TV with the signal booster on, pop popcorn in the microwave, make my oatmeal in the microwave. Hey leftovers, bake potatos. Can’t run the AC. If it’s cloudy we conserve but usually never go below 12.4 volts and are fully charged b4 11 am. It’s wonderful to have electricity!

        Bill n Sadie plus Mic

  2. I’ll have a living space that would make any woman discretely shrink from touching anything, rather than lurch back outside to fall directly into a coma.

    Laughing uncontrollably!

  3. Ah yes! That first cup of coffee in the morning. Thats one part of civilization I must have – I can tough it out on other things – not coffee. Instant coffee still isn’t very good. When did it first appear? 1950’s? I was just a twerp – ha, ha

    • Nope, you were definitely pre-twerp, Pam. Wikipedia claims it was first invented and patented in 1890, in New Zealand. So, they’ve had some 125 years to work on it. I think by the year 2,350 or so, we’ll have it nailed, don’t you?

  4. James Brown on said:

    Everybody will have to give you their version of how to make coffee. I’m no different. Coffee is my last surviving of many vices. I have it in my will to serve coffee at my wake. I’ve devolved into the simplest of acceptable methods, the lowly single cup plastic cone filter holder, filter, and hot water. I pulled out all the stops and bought a dedicated long handled coffee spoon and a Revere Ware tea kettle. This worked very well in my previous RV life, which I hope to reenact some day, and continues to serve my more energy plentiful lifestyle today. Propane heats the water, or even a fire will do. Clean up, there is no cleanup. One quickly learns what amount is just perfect for one cup. Every cup is fresh. Ok, back to schlepping my life collection of junk on ebay so when my next RV trip avails itself I can go. Always good to hear your thoughts.

  5. Morning coffee, everybody has their own way to deal with it. Since I went from gallons all day long to just one cup (usually) in the morning and took to the road in an RV I started using the drip cone. This drip cone…

    Enjoy your coffee!

  6. Linda Sand on said:

    You remind me how glad I am to not like coffee. 🙂

  7. Faith on said:

    Oh, I do miss my coffee, even after all these years! Please have a cup of that wonderful percolated brew for me!

  8. Paul Kastriades on said:

    Doug: As a new Aurora owner, I’m curious as to how you get your rear wheel off and on the bike in order to to repair flats out on the trail. Do you flip the bike over onto the seat and bars or prop it up somehow to get the wheel off the ground? Love reading your great adventures! Take care!
    Paul K

    • Paul, welcome! Now you can see the reason for my obsession with trying to create a puncture resistant system. I would flip the bike onto its bars and seat, if possible. If the OEM bars are set so that they make a lousy support, I’d wonder if they could be temporarily rotated in the stem to get the ends to hit the dirt first, or lean the surviving wheel against a tree or bush to keep the frame up. My own cruiser bars would do this better, except they have stuff mounted that has to come off first. I have also simply removed the battery to reduce weight, unfastened the offending wheel, lifted the bike off it, and let it flop. The kickstand can be handy for easing a wheel back into place.

      For all the flats I’ve had searching for an acceptable preventative system, I’ve been most fortunate so far. Most punctures have been moderate leaks with short distances, allowing me to get to camp or an air source. Several have taken place when I was carrying a can of Fix-A-Flat or equivalent on the trailer, which let me return to camp and then change out the tube. One accidental overpressure and blowout on an old tire from lack of carrying an air gauge on board truly immobilized the bike, but this was still in town, and I was able to take a local taxi to camp (nine or so miles out) and retrieve my pickup with its bike carrier, to haul the bike and trailer back. (Place, time of day and equipment carried ruled out other options.) I have retained my crappy Swagman carrier on the Defiant’s rear bumper, which lets me hook the nose of the bike’s seat over it and hang it up to work on wheels. It makes a lousy bike stand, but does allow wheel removal and chain lubing.

      As a result of all my experiences out west, I see it all as risk management. It is much easier to avoid a puncture than it is to deal with one on a 65-pound e-bike. The additional rotating weight of armor belts and sealant becomes negligible. It all comes down to where you are and how badly you don’t want to get stranded there.

      I’m very glad that you enjoy reading about my adventures and misadventures, Paul. I appreciate people who take the time to read my scrawlings. The traveling circus begins again in a couple of months, once the medicos have sated their sadistic urges and have confirmed in writing that I am, in fact, still breathing. Enjoy your Aurora, and keep in touch!

      • Paul Kastriades on said:

        Hi Doug:
        Thanks for the prompt and very helpful reply! I’m really happy with my new Aurora. I’m a retired mechanical engineer (40+ years in USN/MSC ship Replenishment-At-Sea) now living on Fidalgo Island, WA . The various trails I ride here are pretty hilly. Without an e-bike, I doubt I could ride and enjoy them as much as I do now. The reason I was so concerned with rear wheel flat repair is the possibility of being stranded and unable to get the bike back home if I couldn’t fix it on the trail. With the info you just provided and your previous blog (Oct 2014, re rear wheel/NuVinci cable removal) that I just discovered, I now feel pretty confident that I can make the repair. I want to get some more mileage out of the stock tires and tubes, but if/when I start getting flats, I’ll upgrade to something more bullet-proof. I recently added a glycol sealant product called “Flat Attack” to both tubes. From what I’ve researched, it seems to be a pretty decent product (supposedly doesn’t dry out & need to be re-applied) & if it helps with small punctures I’ll be happy. Thanks again Doug & I wish you all the best on your great adventures. Take care!
        Paul K

        P.S. I really enjoy your coverage of motorcycles and cars. I’ve been a car/bike guy since my teens and used to race half-mile flattrack/TT at Ascot Speedway in Gardena, CA back in the 70’s (#88R).

        • Oh! I figured you had already perused the NuVinci manual that came with your bike, and were just concerned about how to flop the bike so you could get the wheel off and on! My bad. Unless you have thorns, construction sites or broken glass where you are, you could go years without a flat. It’s all location-based.

          What a life you’ve had! You would have liked my previous working endeavor, the Vintage Car Gazette. Nothing but interviews with people who own assorted vintage cars, motorcycles, aircraft, and historic race cars. That interest will leak out here, now and then.

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