Strolling Amok

Pops goes on tour.

Archive for the tag “Reflections”

And So It Begins

Oh, the humanity... The Mighty Furd jams awkwardly in between the normal cars like a bratwurst among franks.

Oh, the humanity… The Mighty Furd jams awkwardly in between the normal cars like a bratwurst among franks.

Day two of the cross-country trip, putting in an easy couple of hours after hurting myself at the Thanksgiving dinner table with family. The Comfort Suites I stopped at in Normal, Illinois at end of day was nearly a clone of the Comfort Inn in Crystal Lake. Today’s 6-hour drive took me to Kearney, Missouri and an Econo Lodge Motel. No pool or fitness room here, but it’s more Read more…

Smile of the Day

My friend Matt found this photo online and put it on his Facebook page. I liberated it. No end of amusement here.

My friend Matt found this photo online and put it on his Facebook page. I liberated it. No end of amusement here.


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!

Reviews As Viewpoints of Life


In my quest to preplan a stay in Parker, AZ to get the Mighty Furd worked on, I was researching both free boondocking possibilities and commercial campsites in the area that were within striking distance of the Ford dealership in town. That’s just in case I had to leave the Ford there, waiting for parts, or whatever. You know how that goes. The Defiant would be stranded for several days in such a case, maybe without being able to deploy its solar panels.

One option is the Blue Water RV Park, located as part of a casino just outside of town. What struck me was reading three contrasting reviews, and I find such contrasts often. Sometimes gripes are legitimate, and sometimes, it’s the pot calling the kettle black. But the three reviews that I found notable seemed to reflect Read more…

Friendly Fire

Barnyard Commandos toy from the 1980s. It was a flop.

Barnyard Commandos toy from the 1980s. It was a flop.

In reviewing the thread of my life over the years, I’ve discovered that I’m the kind of person who prefers to find common ground in relationships, and to work in harmony in order to reach common goals. It’s not unlike how daily employment or work is supposed to be. Cooperative relationships, common goals. All else are details that must not detract from the whole, or eventual disaster follows. Notice that I said “supposed to be”.

When you have friends, you accept that they may not share all of your convictions or viewpoints, but you mutually gravitate toward relating to each other on the remaining common ground and take it from there. Thus you can have relationships with many different kinds of people who are not “in your camp” on some basic issue or other, but who are intimates of some degree nonetheless. You affect others not like you, and allow their lives to affect yours.

This can be dicey ground in reality, but in principle, the differences serve merely to allow you to learn things you hadn’t considered, question your own convictions, and to either reinforce your own views or make you reconsider them. At times, I’ve had to widen my views of things considerably after playing Read more…

How Goes the Battle?

The lowest edge of the Silver Island Mountains, where I'm camped.

The lowest edge of the Silver Island Mountains, where I’m camped.

Camping at the foot of the Silver Island Mountains in August has been interesting so far. The heat each day has been predicted to be around 90, which is well above my comfort zone. Actually, the predicted highs are pure air temperatures, and may be correct. But as is common in desert areas, you’re actually camping in radiated heat as well, which comes off of vehicles as well as the ground. That bumps shaded thermometer temperatures up another 5 degrees at least, a perceptible difference when you stand in an open doorway or in front of a window. It’s predicted to hit 93 today and 94 tomorrow before dropping into the high 80s. That means I’ll be enjoying close to 100 degree heat until the break. Needless to say, I’m taking it easy for now!

The camper’s old Dometic refrigerator is not particularly happy about it, either. Even running at full throttle on propane, temps in the lower section have been edging up to 50 during the daytime, prompting me to clear its propane burner and stow purchased ice inside it in an attempt to help it out. It does help, but not as much as I’d hoped. I’d like to mount a tarp or other sunscreen in front of the unit’s exterior wall, but a good way to mount it without blowing away or stressing the solar panel hardware is not popping up, and the sole hardware store here in Wendover is not outfitted well at all, and that’s putting it politely.

The Vermin Battle has had mixed results. Last year, at a location about a quarter mile away, the camper was eventually overrun with mice, and the flies were incredible. I actually had multiple fly strips hanging from the ceiling then. This year, the fly count is minimal, and I’ve had no mouse intrusions. The new Tri-Level Vermin Defensive System (TVDS) appears to be holding so far. That system consists of two or three ultrasonic repellers inside, as well as baited snap traps in key locations. Outside, a Victor Tin Cat mass trap acts as a lure away from the trailer. It has caught two mice so far, apparently intercepting them before they could get to the trailer.

What I hadn’t expected were chipmunks. Active, cheery little creatures that scamper about in amazing quantity here. Larger than mice and more agile, the openings in the Tin Cat pose no threat to them. None have tried to come into the camper, so they have been of no concern – until I heard one methodically tearing the felt-like lining out of the trailer’s white tire covers. Then I noticed one disappear up into the front end of the Ford. Uh-oh. Opening the hood revealed a nest the size of a hat on top of one of the two batteries, and an annoyed chipmunk peering out of a fenderwell opening to see who the big dumb intruder was. The nest was made entirely from dark insulation, which prompted me to wonder what this insulation had been stripped out of. It wasn’t from the tire covers. It wasn’t the camper’s fiberglass. My guess was that they were stripping the Ford out.

How long before they started idly chewing through wiring insulation, potentially disabling it? I’d once returned from a week-long vacation to find that my ’58 GMC pickup wouldn’t start, the result of a woodchuck eating away all the insulation around the ignition wires. Never again, I had grimly determined, never again. Now, here was the Ford, a virtual electronic minefield.

As Bugs Bunny liked to say before his cartoons were deemed too violent for children and taken off the air, “Of course you realize, this means war!” I went back into the trailer to figure out how to best protect the Ford. In the meantime, the chipmunks joyfully frolicked outside, and one even took to seeing how far he could climb up the screen door. Three times. Whenever I would go outside they would scamper away and leave me in peace for a half-hour. Then they’d return as boldly as before.

I decided as a result that two approaches would be required to defend the Defiant’s Power Module from further attack. First, one ultrasonic speaker would be deployed under the hood, powered by the Ford’s batteries via a 50-watt inverter that I have. A 7.5-watt solar panel I have was added to keep the constant power drain from affecting them. Should that fail, a baited snap trap was placed on each battery. That was Phase One.

I reluctantly determined that a Phase Two would be necessary as well. I was often seeing 4 or 5 chipmunks at a time, and that was just around the Ford only. I had to aggressively scale down their sense of ownership of my campsite, and end their perception that the area was fair game. They needed to perceive a threat. I managed to set aside my mental legacy of the Disney Syndrome, where all small creatures talk to each other in their matching little hats and vests, and break out my ancient Crosman Model 130 air-pump .22 pistol.

It was a pitched battle from the start as I confined my shots toward the front end of the Mighty Furd, some 30 feet away from the trailer door. If it’s any consolation, I missed far, far more than I hit. The end result at this point has been no apparent further intrusion into the Ford’s engine bay, and only occasional area visits by one chipmunk at a time. The party is apparently over, the danger has been perceived, and target practice is at most once a day now. The scattering gravel at least lets them know that the area is still risky to be in. Lest you think this is an inordinately cruel solution, note that I also unhappily discovered that these chipmunks are eagerly cannibalistic, and the small, limping badger in the area carries away what’s left when I’m away from camp. Not the happiest post I’ve ever written, but it’s real. Now and then, in between the magnificent vistas and the interesting people, you get this. A sweaty, death-dealing desperado!

The Delusion of Grandeur

The HMS Surprise.

The HMS Surprise.

I’m departing Sandwich, Illinois today for points West, and will likely take just over a week to get to northwest Utah. Unlike previous trips, I won’t be posting day-by-day travelogs since I intend to route my trip along stopping points I’ve used earlier. So, I will post only if I find something uniquely notable along the way.

The departure itself will be as the opportunity presents itself: thunderstorms and frequent rains will hopefully present me with a window of opportunity for one last commune with the dump station a little later. Travel is limited to empty waste tanks only, as the Innsbruck’s frame rails are already bent quite enough from travel with full tanks, apparently. If I can’t dump those tanks, I won’t travel. Since Wunderground Weather at the moment says I’m enjoying clear skies and 3 MPH breezes, it may be entirely up to me to seize any opportunity, since actually it’s pouring both heavy rain and hail in a wind stiff enough that the trailer is bobbing about. That wouldn’t be notable except that the wind is coming in straight from the nose of the trailer. This patch of turf gets pretty soggy with rain, so I may use the Mighty Furd’s 4WD to ease out, just to avoid unnecessarily tearing up the grass.

Having always been a homebody, I’ve found it surprising that I’ve recently felt a growing impatience to get back out west. The quiet urge is not to get back on the road per se, since the peculiar  Read more…

Two Little Surprises

I didn't do time-elapse shots, just snaps. That's a campground light to the right.

I didn’t do time-elapse shots, just snaps. That’s a campground light to the right.

Camping in Sandwich, Illinois does have its unexpected moments. I’ll describe both of the most recent ones out of order, the first being that people in and around Sandwich are seriously into Independence Day fireworks. The night of Friday the 4th was met with homeowners and surrounding farmers setting off their own ware. That’s not so surprising. What was surprising was the Boom Factor. These people don’t settle for the pathetic, fizzing state-approved sparklers, nor the stacato popping of illegal firecrackers. I heard rounds of those maybe twice all night.

No, these folks go for rounds that sound for all the world like an artillery barrage prior to the Read more…

Wickenburg Textures

Some desert areas are nearly barren, while others aren't.

Some desert areas are nearly barren, while others aren’t.

This post could just as easily be titled “A Farewell to Wickenburg”, because it’s definitely getting toasty here, and higher altitudes beckon. So, today I hope to be packing up, hitching up, and reluctantly moving on.

I’ll miss this area not only for it’s beauty and equine orientation, but I’ll even miss that long climb from downtown up the four miles to camp. Kinda, anyway. Whatever day I’d bike on an errand to town, I’d see at least one cyclist on a road bike working their way uphill. They use this thing to keep in shape. Naturally, they weren’t Read more…

A Farwell to Arms?

What's wrong with this picture?

What’s wrong with this picture?

Ever notice something minor that just seems to bother you out of all proportion to its physical significance? I bought a DVD at a local second-hand shop, a two-disc pack with three early Gary Cooper movies and a promotional short. Gary Cooper was a popular Academy Award-winning actor with a unique “everyman” style, and who eventually hit a few out of the park, like the classic High Noon. This set included A Farewell to Arms, Ernest Hemingway’s depressive look at love in the midst of the opposing traits of mankind. Except for the breakthrough cinematography, it’s a workman-like effort that deserves some respect – especially for Gary Cooper, who’s the reason for the DVD’s issuance by Genius Entertainment, a division of Genius Products.

Now, a lot of DVDs have misspellings on the electronic disc identification, something only the device will see so it hardly matters. This is the first time I’ve seen a DVD menu muffed with a “don’t care” attitude. It’s not so much the slept-through-that-class miscreant who screwed it up, as the lack of any second set of eyeballs to make sure the DVD was good to go before it went into production. Not a soul in the Genius hierarchy nor AMC bothered to expose it to anyone above a party-animal intern or minimum wage go-fer once the lowest-price graphics house puked up their sloppy work. This tends to kick me right into the standard “and this is what’s wrong in this country today” tirade in regard to business practices, but you get the picture, so to speak. For some outfits, the most effective way to promote themselves is to emphasize cost, and not let anyone see their past work.

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