Strolling Amok

Pops goes on tour.

Archive for the tag “Lifestyle”

Wickenburg Trail

This tire highlights the value of having true all-terrain tires. The trip started with clean tires which quickly got an even coat of dust. Then rocks on the trail removed some of it.

Well, I left Wickenburg to stage in Congress for a quick trip to Scottsdale to see a good friend of mine.  The best part is that I suckered him into paying for lunch. The second-best part is that I managed to capture some usable video on the way out of camp. I lost nearly all of the audio however, due to my not realizing that two devices were both inadvertently set to use the same bluetooth microphone. As far as they are concerned, this is not a cooperative venture. So you’re spared both my droning, monotone commentary and the pocketa-pock of the idling Mighty Furd for 10 minutes. That’s probably good, too. My loss is your gain.

You’ll notice a lot of turning from side to side in the footage (sorry, I’m too old-school to use the term “clip”), since much time was spent dodging either bushes or rocks. This trail is really a bit narrow for a full-size vehicle, and much of the original soundtrack consisted of wiry bushes screeching their way down the truck’s length, like nails on a chalkboard. Made me wince each time I played it back. I aired down the tires for this trail so that the ride Read more…

Going to Bed

Everything must go! ...Somewhere.

Everything must go! …Somewhere.

This week was largely comprised of dealing with the Ford’s 8-foot bed. It had to be cleared, including the 140 gallons-worth of Tankmin water/waste system. The one guy who had expressed an interest in the Tankmin, on impulse, regained his senses the next day and thought better of it. No takers. Well, there were three scam artists from Craigslist, but those don’t count. So, having previously checked out whether the local landfill would take it, I cleared all the stuff out of the truck bed and got to work unbolting the Tankmin’s floor mounts. The potential problem is not the tank – it’s that I’m not a resident and therefore do not pay taxes, but that’s another debate. Part of my annual fee is for garbage removal, which winds up at the very same place.

Lessee, gotta keep this, not gonna need that...

Lessee, gotta keep this, not gonna need that…

I had envisioned a heap of frustration for this, since each bolt perforating the truck bed must be held at both top and bottom, and perhaps you may have some experience with what time and moisture do to tight fasteners. The upper freshwater section is bolted to the lower, and the lower to a couple of fabricated frames bolted to the bed. It was required to start at the top and work downward, the only significance of this being that Read more…

“All About E-Bikes” Resource Online


This is just an informational post for those of you who think of e-bikes and their variations as mysterious black boxes, making the decision of what to get or even whether to get seem overly confusing.

Evelo has recently released their Complete Electric Bike Buyers Guide online. It’s a non-gritty, informative overlook of what’s available, and why. Written for those who are non-conversant in Geek, it’s a pleasant and informative read. Naturally, being an Evelo publication, it just happens to include and explain those features which Evelo’s e-bikes have, too. And of course, by the end of the book, you’re funneled onto a page that shows off their various models. Can’t blame them for that.

With eleven short chapters, it makes for a fairly brief and complete read that I think will help people who want to know more about e-bikes in general, rather than have to gather it by rubbing up against one Google search result after another. Sure, it pushes e-bikes as the savior of mankind, but that’s because Americans are way, way behind both Europe and China in their e-bike acceptance and utilization, and always will be.

That’s because of both attitude and logistics. NYC, Evelo’s hometown, has even banned all e-bikes, in that same “magic demon” spirit with which it greeted the arrival of the horseless carriage over a century ago. Fortunately, they represent the exception rather than the vanguard of incremental urban progress. U.S. cities and towns have long chased growth in such a way as to separate and distance residences from businesses, making automobile ownership nearly mandatory for employment.

Still, some younger urbanites have made an effort to buck this trend, and have located themselves within biking distance of work or school. The American Dream of suburban home and car, along with the expenses and frustrations of same in the nightmare of commuting, have opened up a viable market for e-bikes. Between those and recreational riders, Evelo’s guide is a help to understand what the e-bike option is all about. The above link takes you to the first page in sequence, though a link at the upper right of the Guide page called “All Chapters” allows you to see an index so that you can pick through only those parts that you’re most interested in. It’s worth a look. Have fun!

No Electrons For YOU!

The only light I'm getting through the clouds is an occasional lightning strike.

The only light I’m getting through the clouds is an occasional lightning strike.

Extended overcast when camping is only significant if you’re dependent on solar power to do your work or run your toys. That’s me. It’s been partly cloudy for days now and, combined with the surrounding trees, sun exposure has been limited. Today and tomorrow are to be overcast and rain, and as of high noon, I’m reading a miserable 13.0-13.1 volts on both battery sets. As a charging voltage, that’s better than nothing, but not much. So using the desktop computer is out, if I want that pack to last. But that’s okay since I can, with limitations, post using my old iPad.

When you live mobile, weather predictions are the one thing that you both hold close and don’t trust. You can go to bed after checking tomorrow’s forecast, and get up seven hours later to find that your day’s plans need adjusting. Depending on the nature of your rig, poor weather can affect more than your planned activity outside or your power usage inside. If you’re boondocking in certain terrain, a half-inch of rain can strand you for a day or two after it’s over. That bodes ill if you dislike keeping tabs on freshwater and waste levels. It also promises issues if your happy, carefree life does not include anticipating med levels, clean laundry, or food supplies.

Sudden high wind can remove drying laundry, awnings, tire covers or solar panels. Any forewarning can be pretty handy out West – I’m not above lowering and tying down the panels, then hitching up and heading the trailer into the oncoming wind if it promises to reach highway speeds. It’s only unfortunate that the worst winds seem to register in forecasts only up to an hour before they hit locally, which makes for some intense scrambling. Heading into the wind doesn’t mean that the Defiant won’t act like a yacht in choppy water, but it does avoid the unsettling howling and heavy lurches that blustering sidewinds cause. High winds in the Great Southwest are impressive and alarmingly so at times, but at this point, I have yet to see them actually take a trailer over.

Still, all this is easier to deal with than the violent thunderstorms and minibursts that occasionally occur from Nebraska to Illinois. On the road, you look for exits and parking lots big enough to wheel into the wind. I once pulled into the empty front lot of a rural service business and aimed into the wind. That confused the owner, who came out to see what this oddball was doing in his lot. He was gracious, though. Five minutes later, we both knew it was well worth it. It hit hard, then ended after a few impressive minutes, and I could get back onto the Interstate. Encamped in a commercial RV park, about all you can do is know where the strongest building is, leave a radio on, and keep one eye on the sky. The trailer has to fend for itself. Midwest storms can and do knock travel trailers, motorhomes and big-rig trailers over.

Now, this local weather in Tusayan is not violent at all. I am keeping a casual eye out as to where lightning strikes are in relation to wind direction, but my main interest is in scheduling upcoming events in relation to weather and the resulting trail conditions. I’d normally just load up the Tankmin with waste almost a week from now, and put dirty laundry in the truck cab along with a grocery list. One multi-stop errand. Very efficient. Very Germanic.

But I became aware of something called the Overland Expo south of Flagstaff which begins on the 15th. It’s kind of a cross between legit people who like to trek across very remote and rugged areas in cross-continental trips that take months to years, and posers who like toys and have more money than they know what to do with. The displays onsite are targeted accordingly. I hope to attend a day or two merely to see displays of certain types of equipment that would not be accessible to me otherwise. With some things, the Internet displays only one-sided propaganda, and the only way to seriously research it is to see it in person, ask questions, handle it, and maybe rub up against it – unless that risks expulsion from the grounds, of course. They will have a dry camping area on site, but that means jabbering people late and night, and barking mutts. Being unfamiliar with the Mormon Lake area, I don’t know the suitability of the several approved forest roads to the Defiant’s limitations, nor how crowded they will be (this is a very well-attended event).

So, as this week wears on, I will be mentally stirring the mix of weather, when servicing and errands will be required, and how they may be timed with a departure from Tusayan in order to assure me (maybe) with a workable camping spot near Mormon Lake Lodge. That assumes that weather at that time will allow lumbering down dirt trails there. I suspect that weather will not affect the event itself much at all. Part of the excitement is that it is conceivable that I can then stay in that area long enough to reach my departure date for the long trek back to Illinois. And, part of the excitement is that I may be able to time my departure here in Tusayan to take the trailer directly to the local dump station instead of using the Tankmin as an intermediary carrier. I prefer to refer to that as a “Hot Dump”, and it’s a rarity. It’s also necessary to do now and then, since repeatedly using a macerater to drain a black tank is slow enough to encourage eventual buildup and clogs. The waste system needs that “Ba-WHOOSH” that only 35 gallons of waste charging down a 3″ hose can produce. We’ll see how it all works out – I’m not sure I can handle that much excitement!

A Tired Tire Day

This thing has been parked by the street since I've been here, for sale.

This thing has been parked by the street since I’ve been here, for sale.

I’ve been passing an old but fine Chevy K-20 pickup each time on my way to the grocery, hardware store or laundromat in West Wendover, NV. So I thought I’d post some pics. No price was posted, and it’s been there quite a while, so either he’s getting nothing but calls offering “$300 an’ my seester”, or he’s unjustifiably high on asking price. Hard to guess, because there just aren’t that many people in Wendover and West Wendover combined. By the way, the title for this post does not refer to its tires, which Read more…

Taking Cheapskate Seriously

Yowza! A customized old Toyota pickup goes streamliner for mileage, not speed.

Yowza! A customized old Toyota pickup goes streamliner for mileage, not speed.

Riding the Aurora e-bike on the way to Wendover, Utah one day, I came across a streamliner of sorts, parked at the Sinclair truck stop at the fringes of the Bonneville Salt Flats. It differs considerably from other streamliners in two respects. First, it is streetable, if impractical. Second, this streamliner is not built for speed, but for fuel mileage.

Based on an older Toyota T100 pickup truck, its owner has made serious modifications to its body. Functionally speaking, it is no longer a pickup truck, but a car. He was at Bonneville to hopefully wade through the brine and make a run on the salt, but that isn’t as exciting as it seems. Its little four-cylinder engine can, given enough distance, push this newly-slippery shape along at just over 100 MPH, if it has to. That may be fast for a stock T100 four-banger. I don’t know, but I assume it is. Pickup trucks are bluff boxes that force

Read more…

Damage Control! Report!

Solar panel #4 safely on the ground after being found hanging on one hook.

Solar panel #4 safely on the ground after being found hanging on one hook.

RVs are heavy – ask anyone at a fuel stop. But they also have a very large sail area, a trait which rarely works in their favor. They are highly subject to bad weather and, out west, there’s plenty of that to go around in the late summer.

A couple of nights ago, a very high wind came up in camp, one that wasn’t in any forecast. The forecasts said current wind was and would remain at 6 MPH. Night winds haven’t been unusual here in Wendover, blowing in well after sunset and rotating around in all directions for an hour or so. Often, it’s like throwing a switch on a fan.

Well, this one was a doozy. The good news was that it decided to blow in pretty much straight from the nose of the trailer, which poses the least threat to the Kleenex box aerodynamics of the Defiant. Wheel locks between each pair of trailer tires work quite well to resist any movement.

The wind had started in as usual, but didn’t let up this time, and I stayed up just short of midnight just to Read more…

Bonneville’s Jinx?

The new Rancho Begley. Note that the Aurora, loaded with dirty laundry, looks more at home out here than it does in a suburban area.

The new Rancho Begley. Note that the Aurora e-bike, loaded with dirty laundry, looks more at home out here than it does in a suburban area.

With the Southern California Timing Association’s Speed Week event scheduled to run August 9-15 this year, recent sprinkles had bumped the planned start by just a day, with first actual runs to start on Monday instead of Sunday. Not bad. When I arrived Friday afternoon, everything was looking promising. The short drive from I-80 to the “Y” intersection of the access road to the salt and Leppy Pass Road to the camping areas at the foot of the Silver Island Mountains was jammed with traffic and vehicles parked on the shoulder. Several BLM Rangers were directing the stream of traffic, asking each driver what they hoped to do, and then directing them as needed.

This guy is hoping to run his Cummins diesel-powered rod for a record.

This guy is hoping to run his Cummins diesel-powered rod for a record.

I made my way up toward last year’s campsite, found a workable area, and parked just long enough to yank the Evelo Aurora off the front end of the Ford. Racers are nothing if not celebratory partygoers, and although I found a Read more…

The Return of Spartan Luxury

At one time, The American Dream was being free to live in the way you wanted to, rather than being the opportunity to go from rags to riches.

At one time, The American Dream was being free to live in the way you wanted to, rather than having the opportunity to go from rags to riches.

You asked for it, and here it is: the sequel to Spartan Luxury and Update to Spartan Luxury, with additional detail provided from interviewing Charles, the owner of this surprising little rig that’s built to boondock in more remote areas. I have to admit, I figured that this quirky little trailer, being not much over six feet square, would be akin to a broom closet inside, as far as living space goes. I figured that a converted cargo van would be a mansion in comparison.

I initially thought it must be too small to do any more than weekend in.

I initially thought it must be too small to do any more than weekend in.

Wrong again. It’s quite the other way around. Yep, the exterior has a kind of ramshackle practicality that doesn’t build much expectation for the interior. Yet once the door to the inside is opened, the aura of Read more…

Update to “Spartan Luxury”


Remember this little gem? I talked to the owner!

Remember the recent post Spartan Luxury? I was biking some trash to the LTVA’s dumpsters today and found the above rig parked near the dump station, waiting for another in order to begin a trip. The owner was sitting in the Jeep and was happy to answer questions for as long as his friend was holding up the show.

A former Seabee and electrical engineer, it turns out he was disabled and in a wheelchair for 22-1/2 years. He is now ambulatory but says there’s “still more for them to do” and he occasionally uses either the wheelchair or two forearm crutches to get around.

As for the trailer, it boasts bed, A/C, catalytic propane heater, TV, satellite dish, microwave, and toaster oven. The gasoline generator can run for 13 hours on a single fill. A sink is being installed, as well as an exterior shower head that will pull and pump water from a stream or other source. His RVing friends, a couple, have eight children and he claims they were all packed into the tiny trailer yesterday to watch the TV! He said it was quite a sight. I believe him, and it must have been quite a sanity break for the parents!

The roof rack seen in the photos are now gone. Why? He’s a bit of a sun worshipper and the rack and spare wheels and tires it held were too much like a roof for him, blocking the open air and sunlight. Gone. He doesn’t even own a roof tarp any more, and drives wet or dry. He’s been to 46 of the 50 states so far with this rig, pretty much as you see it. Rain? Jeep dash switches have long since gone normal and aren’t waterproof, but he just lets things misbehave and dry out for awhile, then keeps going. (By the way, he says the best and fastest way to get an immersed cellphone dried and operational is to immediately remove the battery, then throw it all on some uncooked rice for an hour or more.) The oddest part of this story is that the rack was extremely sturdy and cost him about $300 to build. He sold the build plans to J.C.Whitney, and claims that they now offer a greatly whimpified version of it for around $900 or so.

When I pointed out the off-road orientation of his rig, he admitted that camping at the LTVA is not his usual style, but he’s waiting for some special-order tires to come in before he heads into the hills. He mentioned the black rocks that can be seen scattered all over this area, and pointed out that they are volcanic. “They will cut into a tire easier than you can believe it,” he said, “they’ll just strip the rubber right off, and these I got now are worn too thin. When I get the new ones I’ll be camping up in the hills.” It also turns out that the massive front bumper with winch is actually a lockable toolbox, too. Clever, this hardy soul. He says he’ll be back in a few days, so I’ll see if I can spot him again then. Got any questions for him?

Post Navigation