Friday, March 30, 2012

Note To Long Time Readers

I don't want this offer to show up on the internet search engines. Hoping to make this offer to long time readers and lurkers before going internet wide. Perhaps reading between the lines and recalling my travels, it may become apparent what I am selling.

As a member of a camp group (TT), the original investment was a good decision. I've been ahead for all these years. However, considering my travels this year and the planned travels in the next two to three years, it is time to sell the membership to another. I will not be able to break even on the annual fees.

If there is an interest, send me an email and I will respond with the details for you to decide. $600 is the purchase price and xfer fee of $1000.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Turn Off The Noise

Walking along the Wind Cave trail in Usery Park, I could hear the definite sounds of something resembling music. Soon around the next bend, two girls (no more than 20) were heading toward me. One had a very small sound device attached to her collar and that was the thing that was sending out the poor quality music that they could both enjoy and irritate me. I usually acknowledge other hikers on the trail. These two. NO WAY.

Turn off the radio. Did you hear the gila woodpecker. Hear the sound of your shoes on the gravel. Look for the lizard. Be aware of the world around you. Don't block it out. How about hearing the rattlesnake. Look up to see the soaring hawk. Look around to see the saguaros across the slopes of the mountain. Didn't you notice that the ocotillo are blooming, but the stems have no leaves. Don't you wonder why that is. You aren't even talking to each other.

Go to the athletic club where all that noise is acceptable and encouraged. When out on the trails, be aware of the natural world and leave that other world at home.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Hazards Of Curiosity

The Fishhook Barrel Cactus has bright yellow fruit. My first taste check was several years ago. On the recent Tucson hikes, there were opportunities to share the taste with fellow hikers. Most were reluctant, but a few overcame their fear of something that wasn't found at the grocer. To me the taste was like kiwi-apple. However, I have noted variations from one to another. In the most recent tasting, it was more apple taste. That was the consensus of those who took the taste test.


On another hike, I decided that I would check out the fruit of the Jumping Cholla. Some -- incorrectly -- call it the Chain Fruit Cholla. Nothing fruity about it. Being curious what it might taste like, I looked carefully at some of the "fruit" dangling at the end. Making sure (without my reading glasses) there were no spines, I pulled off the end fruit. There were no large spines, but some invisible spines did manage to embed in my finger tips. That was enough to keep me from a taste. Couldn't see the spines in the finger tips, but they were there. Once at home, an emery board was used to abrade the skin of finger tips where those spines could be felt. That resolved that problem.


Resolved never to taste Cholla again. Don't say never.

Hiking a trail in Usery Mtn Park, I found several older gentlemen (older than me by perhaps a decade) closely examining a Jumping Cholla. One of those gentleman said they were edible. I said, "Not". At that point one of the guys pulled off a very small end fruit, handled it and offered to his buddies. All refused and then offered to me. After a brief examination, I took a very small bite. Looked and tasted like gelatinous green. After relating my taste impressions, they hiked away. I headed in the opposite direction, and realized that bite was not going to get any smaller. Spitting it out, I realized there were some spines in my lip. No emery in my pocket and a long time before I was home, I ran my tongue back and forth over the lip as I continued my hike. Not sure why that worked, but eventually the spines were no longer felt.

Did those guys put something over on this youngster. Did they know. For me it was learning experience. Curiosity can be hazardous.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Breaking A Habit -- Follow Up

It is now three months later that gluten is out of my diet. It is great not having acid indigestion, heart burn or acid reflux. Once cutting out the grains, there has been one episode of acid indigestion. That was after consuming a hot dog (without the bun) at a farmers market. Pinto beans and salsa were the toppings. Could find nothing else I ate that day that could have caused the indigestion. Could there have been wheat flour filler in those hot dogs. Note to self: hot dogs are not range fed beef.

Three months later, a welcome side effect was an additional small weight loss. A year ago I was 20 pounds heavier. At that time, I cut back on breads and other carbo loaded foods. That resulted in a 10 to 15 pound loss -- depending on the date of a weigh-in. Since I eliminated the grains from the diet three months ago, today (this morning) I weighed in at 145. It has been decades since I last weighed 145. To lose weight was not the reason to cut grains from the diet. It was a 30 day test to find out how I felt. Less than 30 days later, no more indigestion. With that incentive, it was easy to continue a diet without grains. The positive "side effect" was that I lost additional weight. Another side effect is the lack of hunger cravings -- for the bread and the cookies.

Dining out is not that tough. There are plenty of items to choose from most menus that do not include wheat flour. Of course, that would not include breads or pastas -- or desserts. Salads or meats are a safe choice. Avoid the soups and sauces. There is no way to know what may have been used as a thickener.

With the positive experience behind me, I have become an evangelist encouraging others to start a 30 day trial without grains in their diets. I understand how difficult it can be. Breads and all the other wheat flour products taste good. I was there. All I recommend is to try it for 30 days. In addition to how you may feel, two objective measures may help in the analysis of before and after: weight and detailed blood work. It's only 30 days. It's not the rest of your life.

It was time to thank a "mentor". After rewriting my Breaking A Habit post of two months ago, I sent my success story to the author of The Primal Blueprint -- Mark Sisson at Marks Daily Apple. Two days ago, my Life Is Great story was posted at his site.

After breaking a habit, life is great.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Unusual Saguaro

After several unusual saguaro sightings and photos from my Tucson stay, I said there would be no more until another unusual saguaro was found. Here it is.

Doesn't look so unusual. Parked in the dry camping area at the Usery Mtn Park entrance waiting for a space to open, this saguaro is enclosed in a concrete wall adjacent to the parking lot. That saguaro doesn't look that unusual until a closer inspection reveals that it is too perfect. With binoculars it becomes real obvious that it has no thorns and the Gila woodpecker hole is really just paint.

Headed over to the entry station to ask. It is a Verizon cell tower.

When I first arrived here, I could get a 4G signal for a few minutes and then it went to 3G. Sometimes it became so confused that the air card had to be restarted. The Wilson truckers antenna is stored right next to the air card. Plugged in the truckers antenna. Made no difference. This was before I realized that phony saguaro was a cell tower.

Took the truckers antenna outside and mounted it atop a mast. Now it was outside and extended about three feet above the top of Wandrin Wagon. Access was 4G consistently. After this experiment is when I found that phony saguaro.

Sometimes things are not what they appear to be -- including a saguaro.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Long Pants Weather

Dag Nab It. It's Cold Here! Well. How cold is it. Glad you asked. It is so cold (high 40s) I had to find a pair of long pants.

Finally gave up on the temps trying to get into the 50 degree range. At 10:30 I donned the long pants. Needed to hang out with the herd so I headed to the suburbs of Tucson to have some tea at Starbucks. Came out about an hour later to rain/snow/ice precipitation. The ice cubes lowered the air temperature a bit more. Sure glad I wore long pants.

As I drove back home, there were occasional breaks in the clouds to allow sight of snow on the Catalina Mountains. Good place for the stuff.

Upon a return to Wandrin Wagon in the early afternoon, Tucson temperature at Wandrin Wagon was 49 degrees. That was colder than Denver -- or Green Bay.

Used to be able to tolerate cold much better. The circulation in this old body just isn't what it once was. Or could it be the 15-20 pounds of insulating fat that I lost over the past year. Sorry. No details here. That is a subject for a future blog entry.

Original plan was to hitch up this morning and move to the next stop near Phoenix. Since I don't tow Wandrin Wagon in the rain, it is at least one more day awaiting a sunny tomorrow.

The RV spaces in my immediate area of the park are all empty. They have been empty for a week and more. Guess they decided to head back north where it is warmer than here. When I arrived last December just two of the neighboring spaces were occupied. Three months later, they are all vacated.

Three months... Wow. That time went fast. There are a few items left on the exploring list that I never did get around to. Perhaps next year on a return visit, I can complete the Tucson exploring.

During the three months of my stay, RVer Steve led hikes from the park twice a week. Usually there was an additional hike each week -- sometimes with friends passing through Tucson. Other days disappeared with exploring Tucson sites including multiple visits to the Desert Museum. Then there are those tasks that are essential to living: laundry, grocery shopping, farmers markets, Silver Slug maintenance, etc.

Thanks for the visits with acquaintances, friends and relatives for lunches: Jerry and Marilyn, Duane, Stella and Frank, Boonie, Linda and Earl, Jaimie and George, Jim B, Flora and Phil, and several other Saguaro SKP park residents that were in Tucson on more than one occasion. Long time friend and hiking buddy Rich from Colorado stayed for a week of exploring. After three months, I hope I didn't forget anyone for that list.

Not to be forgotten were the many new acquaintances made with the park hikers and the social hour that followed each hike. Looking forward to a re-meeting next winter.

It was a pleasant three months. Already considering a longer stay for the winter season of 2012-2013. Returning next year just to experience some days without sunshine when the temps don't get into the 50s. Looking forward to it so I can wear long pants.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Taxing Cold Day

This morning it was raining. Cold and not a good day to do any exploring. Yesterday it was in the low eighties. Today. Not so nice. Since it was cold and the predicted high was in the 50s, it seemed like a good day to make chili. On second thought leftover chicken chili verde will be a great meal.

With the cold weather, I was confined to Wandrin Wagon. Might be a good time to do the taxes. TurboTax makes it easier than reading the IRS forms. However, there are times I had to guess at the answers. Don't know if I guessed right or wrong. After a couple of hours, the taxes were done and a refund is due. E-filed the paper work and it was accepted by the IRS. According to the TurboTax software, the refund amount will be in my checking account in 7-10 days. Can't wait to spend it. Oops. Not enough for the new iPad.

Did I mention it was a cold day. The temperature crept into the 50 degree range for a short while before heading back to the 40s later this afternoon. This was the view of the cloud draped Tucson Mountains shortly before lunch. 

Scheduled departure from Justins Diamond J was tomorrow. However, since another cold and rainy day is in the forecast, I am going to hang around for a warmer day. It appears that Tuesday will be the day to hitch up.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Pricing Of eBooks

I started buying eBooks from Amazon a long time for the Kindle. Long before the iPad, I was paying $9.99 for the eBooks. Always wondered how that amount was divided among the publisher, the author, connectivity through Sprint and Amazon profit. Since there was no book manufacturing costs, it still seemed like a lot of money and more than a sufficient amount to go around.

Then one day I noted that eBook titles were $12.99 -- at both Amazon -- and -- Barnes and Noble. Turns out that was early 2010. I understand pricing going up a little at a time, but the three dollar jump turned me off and I bought few books after that unless they were available at the old $9.99 model.

Turns out it was greed to make easy money for Apple. "When Apple came out with the iPad, it allowed publishers to set book prices as long as Apple got a 30 percent cut and publishers offered their lowest prices through Apple." Quoted from a Bloomberg article: U.S. Said to Prepare Apple Lawsuit Over E-Book Price-Fixing

The Wall Street Journal article U.S. Warns Apple, Publishers paraphrases material from the Isaacson's bio of Jobs. (Near the end of the piece.) The whole thing was a Jobs idea. It appears the real goal was to eliminate Amazon competition.

Will the prices change. Wondering. Before the Justice Department files suit, all parties will settle the thing for a fine and none will admit any collusion. They will just pay the fine and go on with business. Just another example of big business greed.

Enter the world of self publishing eBooks. No doubt the future of book publishing will look very different. With that, book stores will probably go the way of record stores.

At the Authors Guild, a Letter from Scott Turow: Grim News is in response to the planned Justice Department filing. Scott Turow is an author and president of the Authors Guild

Additional comments by John Scalzi in The Collusion Case Against Publishers


Thanks to all who tested the DISQUS widget for comments. However, after discovering some issues with its handling at Safari and Opera, it was removed.

Decided to go back to blogger comments without the captcha requirement. What that means is that I will moderate all comments once again. Yuch. I'll see how long that lasts until I tire of it.

A future approach may be to have all register to be able to comment. That may be the next solution if I tire of the moderating routine.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Comments and Captchas

Those captchas are a pain. When trying to comment on other blogs, it takes at least two tries for me to find something I can read and then enter into the little box. Getting notes from some readers who would comment and have the same issue, I decided to do something drastic. I have implemented DISQUS as a widget for comments. I believe it has been installed correctly. Not sure just yet. May take a day before I know for sure.

What does this mean to those who wish to comment on my blog. Not sure I entirely understand the process. I've done a little testing from a couple of different browsers. Clicking on the "comments" word, will bring up a menu to register or login. There are choices other than the DISQUS. I chose DISQUS to register my Yahoo email address. After I did that I was able to make my comment without having to enter captchas.

Once registered, subsequent comments will be easier since it will know who you are. 

This will continue to be a test of the new system. In this process -- you the reader and -- I am in the same situation. We will be learning as we go.

Don't want to comment here, send me an email. Click on the "email me" icon and shoot me your thoughts or experience with the new comment system.

Don't get a whole lot of comments now. With this new program, I may get even less. That's okay.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Natural Wrinkle Remover

The destination was the bee hive in the desert behind the RV park. Another good day for a hike. A previous hike to the bee hive was on January 10th. That is when this photo was taken. The grotto is about ten feet up on the north side of a wash. No activity on January 10th. Too cold.

Not so on this recent hike. My plan was to get some photos of the bees coming and going. Well. Those guys were not in a mood to be photoed. No sooner was I focused, when the hive sent out a kamikaze bee who headed straight for me. Saw him coming. He stung me right above the eye. I slapped at my forehead and moved down the wash. Way down the wash. The other hikers never moved and were ignored.

Still wanted a photo of the active bees. Headed back and stood among the other hikers. No sooner was I standing there, and another bee headed straight for me. The message was clear. Wandrin Lloyd had to go. Other hikers could stay. C'mon. What did I do.

Headed down the wash away from the hive and looked for arrow heads, pot shards or any unusual rock. That was when I spotted a thunderegg. Only about an inch across. Was it really a thunderegg. Well. It was. It wasn't hollow, but the smash of the almost sphere displayed an interior of crystals of some sort. Sorry no photo. But thanks to the bees, it was a great find.

Now that the bee sting has had two days to mature, those wrinkles above the left eye aren't as noticeable. Cheaper than botox.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

An Observation

The Tucson Festival of Books was held this past weekend. Roaming around the mall area stopping at a few of the many booths, I stopped at the University of Arizona Alumni tent. With the large crowd standing around, it must be interesting. It was. The alumnus (don't recall his name) was an illustrator for an Arizona paper (don't recall that either). He was funny.

During the course of his chat and drawing of charicatures, as a segue to another subject, he asked the audience how many Republicans in the audience. About five hands went up. How many Democrats. About 25 hands went up. How many Independents. About 15 hands admitted their independence. The total hands raised was no where equal to the size of the audience.

From that showing of hands, the conclusions from this unscientific observation:
  • Showing of hands reflects the political makeup of Tucson.
  • Republicans read only one book -- The Book.
  • Most Republicans don't come to book fairs because they don't read.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Almost A New iPad

After a hike in Madera canyon in the Santa Ritas with Boonie, we headed down to the nearest coffee shop -- ten miles distant. There, Boonie with coffee and Wandrin Lloyd with tea, we continued our trail conversations of things and issues. The iPad was with me just in case we needed to get on the internet for answers. You just never know.

After an hour, it was time to move along. Outside the coffee shop in the parking lot was a farmers' market. I needed some nourishment (Boonie had a muffin at the coffee shop). Hot dog would work. Okay. Probably not grass fed. But I was hungry. So a hotdog it was without the bun. With extra onions and salsa, I was good to go. That was when Boonie pointed out the booth selling grass fed beef.

Holding the iPad in one hand and eating the hot dog with the other, it was darned near impossible to get my wallet out to buy some grass fed beef. Couldn't buy too much since the two cubic foot freezer was almost full. Paid the man for the purchase and went on my way with grass fed beef in a bag and the hot dog in the other hand.

Almost back home when I realized that I had left the iPad on the table at the grass fed beef vendor's booth. Pulled off the road at the first opportunity. Not a phone number on the package of meat. So I continued my drive home to get on the internet to find a phone number.

Before I arrived home, I made up end games for the loss of the iPad. A new one. Perhaps. Since the New iPad was out, I could certainly spring for an iPad2 at $100 off. Is there a way to register a lost/stolen iPad's serial number so that it could not be used again. Of course, there are probably hackers out there that could get around that little issue for a fee. Would I be able to restore from the backup of my iPad1 to a new iPad. Those are just the kind of thoughts that cause stress.

Got home. On the internet. Two phone calls. Soon I was talking to the guy who manned the booth. A short while later I was back on the road to where the guy was parked about twenty minutes away in Tucson.

The thought of a new iPad evaporated. Not that I really wanted one. Just what did the new iPad have. A camera. (There's always a camera with me.) Better resolution. That's all the new iPad offers. Not a very good reason to upgrade. My iPad is most frequently used as an eReader. In lieu of a morning newspaper, my news source is via iPad news apps. That usage certainly does not require an upgrade.

Whew. Escaped the purchase of a new iPad.

Epilogue... Many times I thought of pasting my fun card to the inside of the iPad cover. Never happened. Experience is a good teacher. That fun card is now there. If the card had been there when I left it on the table at the farmers market, the phone call might have beat me to the freeway.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Travel Is My Life

As that day draws near when I hitch up and move on, I have mixed feelings about moving on. If the predictions of rain next weekend become actuality, I will stay a couple of extra days. Since there is no place I must be, I will just hunker down until a sunny day reappears.

It appears that travel has become my life. These three months will be the longest I have stayed in one place in these past ten plus years. There is something comforting about stopping for an extended period of time. I know where the grocery store is. I've found the less expensive fuel stops. I figure out the less congested routes around town. I can receive UPS shipments. That sounds like permanent living. I can actually give directions to other travelers. That may be the sign that I've been here too long.

After three months, there is a strong itch to hitch up and explore new areas. Or even explore some missed stops on routes traveled before.

Staying camped in Tucson is an attractive thought. The weather will continue to warm. Blooming of cactus and wild flowers will become more colorful each week. There will be time to visit some of those other unexplored Tucson stops. Just a repeat visit to the Sonora Desert Museum would be nice.

Staying camped might have happened If I didn't have to renew the drivers license this summer. It's the 2012 commitment. Lots of miles and exploring to be done between Tucson and Rapid City, South Dakota. If I didn't enjoy the exploring and travel, it would be less expensive and quicker just to get on an airplane and return two days later. Where is the fun in that.

However, my curiosity and exploring itch wins. My 2012 travels begin in about a week.

Where does the road go. Great scenery along the way. Interesting stories and people. Yes. Travel is my life.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Book: 52 Loaves by William Alexander

The complete title is 52 Loaves: One Man's Relentless Pursuit of Truth, Meaning, and a Perfect Crust

Alexander is the author of a previous read -- The $64 Tomato (my mini Review). Taking an obsession to a new level, Alexander tries to reproduce at home a bread that he had in a restaurant. Every week it is a new loaf with changes somewhere in the process from the mix of ingredients, the bread rise times or the baking. With the fanatic search under way, he manages to purchase numerous recipe books on bread baking. He attends bread baking classes. He grows his own wheat to use in his bread. He was obsessed.

Alexander does a great job of poking fun of himself in his year long obsession. For me the learning is always a draw and read with interest the history of wheat and the endless varieties, yeast and its manufacture, and the bread recipes found in ancient texts.

52 Loaves is an easy read that is fast moving and entertaining with a frequent laugh out loud.

If the taste for the perfect bread peaks your interest, bread recipes are included so you don't have to experiment for 52 weeks. 

A personal footnote on bread....

Unfortunately, breads can no longer be in my diet due to gluten intolerance. But when I could handle the gluten, bread was a part of the diet. Especially with lots of butter.

About 20 years ago, I had one of those bread machines. (Today you can find them at the thrift store.) Raisin bread and rye bread were my favorites. Really a loaf of bread was too much for one guy. The loaf was rarely finished. Decided to share the extra bread with the squirrels and birds in my back yard. Worked fine. The loaf was finished off. However, the next time I was baking bread with the screen door open the aromas called the squirrels to look through the door. This was not going to work. Decided to stop feeding the local wild life after that. 

Another memory is of my mother baking bread. Along with the laundry (wringer washer and hung on the clothes line and ironing every piece of the laundry including the underwear), the daily cooking (no fast food and no microwave), and farm chores (milking cows twice a day), she also made four to five loaves of bread every week. No doubt punching and kneading the bread contributed to her shoulder problems later in life.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Where Is Home

When I said "... when I get home", I was shocked to realize that may have been the first time I have used that phrase when referring to the home on wheels in which I live. My usual responses were: "...when I get to where Wandrin Wagon is parked"; "... where I am parked"; "...back to the campground" etc. Obviously it was a conscious choice of words instead of using the word "home".

I've lived in Wandrin Wagon for over ten years. It certainly would qualify as home. Why not refer to it as home. Good question.

Many of the RVers I meet along the road do have permanent homes and travel part of the year in their RVs. Others have rented out their homes while they travel. Relatives may live in the homes of others. None of them refer to their RV on the road as home. When they say home, they mean the permanent sticks and bricks building even if they haven't lived there in a while.

No doubt home means different things to many people. Is a definition of home a result of childhood experiences. Does a home imply a rooted existence -- a place to go back to. Or is a home where you shower, sleep and a place to make meals.

There is the bumper sticker "HOME IS WHERE I PARK IT". That can be seen on the rear of many RVs. Then there is that old cliche "Home Is Where The Heart Is". Might both apply to any nomadic person whether living in a five slide fifth wheel home or living out of the trunk of a car. Essentially, home is where you are living.

In the future, "...if I remember where Wandrin Wagon was parked, I can always find home." And that place will be called "home".

Friday, March 2, 2012

A Closer Look

Scenic photos have their place and can be interesting. In this photo, I've included my companion hikers on the trail below. With that saguaro right in the center of the photo, this shot would not be included in the scenic post card rack. The photo needs some balance. Oops. There is that word again. Okay. The photo lacks symmetry.

Much of hiking these rocky trails is paying the attention to the placement of your hiking boot on the trail. Lots of loose rock. Don't take that loose rock for granite. Those small rocks are the size of marbles and you may end up on your butt.

When not admiring the scenery in the distance, the wild flowers along the trail catch the hikers eye in much the same way that color will draw a honey bee or other insect to assist in pollination. This is the sight as the honey bee makes a landing on the brittle brush blossom.

My ability to identify wild flowers is limited. This small blue flower cluster is one of those. After searching through my wild flower guide, I've come to the conclusion that it will remain my original identification as a LBFC -- little blue flower cluster. Each flower is about a half inch across.

Perhaps not as showy as a wild flower, but just as important in the ecology of the environment are the lichen that decorate many of the rock surfaces.

Insects are also present. This tarantula hawk managed to stay still long enough for me to get a photo. Didn't know what it was at the time I took the photo. That identification was later searching the internet. Wikipedia is the source for this description of the tarantula hawk which hunts tarantulas as food for its larvae.

Distant scenery is great, but there are times to take a close look of the world at your feet. A very different view is seen at hiking boot level.