Monday, May 31, 2010

Tanker Reflection

This is a photo op that I've hoped to get for many years. Here it is: an image of Silver Slug with Wandrin Wagon in tow appearing on the rear convex surface of a tanker truck. Most times the tankers move too fast. Fortunately, this up hill climb on I-17 heading toward Flagstaff gave me the chance to get closer than usual. In a convex mirror, objects are closer than they appear. Yup. Silver Slug and Wandrin Wagon are closer than they appear. Too close even though moving at 35 miles an hour. Besides taking a photo with one hand and driving with the other was really taxing my multi-programming abilities.

I'm hoping for the day when one of these tankers pulls off the main road and stops. Then I can pull up right behind the tanker for a really special photo. Still waiting for that to happen.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Books: Some recently read

Dreaming of Jupiter by Ted Simon... The author traveled around the world in the early seventies on a motorcycle and wrote the book Jupiter's Travels (read a couple of years ago). At the age of seventy, he decides to reprise the ride around the world once again -- and again on a motorcycle. Retracing most of his earlier journey, he meets some acquaintances from his previous journey. Not surprising, he also finds things and places along his route had changed. In some cases nothing was the same and other places had not changed at all -- especially in the stretch through Africa. Frequently the author compares his younger self to his older self on the journey -- the wisdom of age and acceptance. The events of 9/11 and the ensuing war overlay much of his ride around the world. The author observes and comments on the effects of that in his travels. Most refreshing and quotable are his personal philosophical riffs and observations of the world today versus 30 years earlier.

Among The Cannibals by Paul Raffaele.... Following historical research of the subject, the author travels to some countries to get first hand accounts of those who practiced cannibalism. In some the case of some of these primitive tribes, there is evidence and first hand comments to ensure that it is still practiced. The most disturbing part of the book was finding about the 21st century Ugandan rebel forces making cannibalism part of the initiation into their army. A desensitization of humanity at its worst.

Let's Get Lost by Craig Nelson... subtitled "adventures in the great wide open". This is truly a journey to all the out of the way places around the world. Few places on the tourist paths. This author seems to have a need for a large dose of adrenalin to keep going as he travels where few have gone before to visit way off the path where some tribes live as their ancestors lived 1000 years ago.

Continental Drifter by Elliott Hester... With the downsizing of the airline industry post 9/11, the author gives up his flight attendant position, breaks the lease on an apartment and travels around the world. He visits all those places where he landed at the airport and never saw more than the airport and the hotel where he rested to get back on the plane. Traveling on the edge and taking a few chances, the author relates -- with lots of humor -- the life of traveling the world out of a suitcase.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Awe Inspiring

Looking at the mile deep Grand Canyon, I wondered where the drinking water comes from for the Grand Canyon Village perched on the south rim – almost a mile above the Colorado River below. A visit to the Park's HQ provided the answer. Today, the water is piped from Roaring Springs on the north side of the canyon. For those early 20th century tourists, Santa Fe Railroad hauled the water in from 100 miles away until 1932. Over the next forty years until a reliable system was built from Roaring Springs, the park periodically resorted to hauling water to the Village – for its residents and tourists.

(Note: The village of Tusayan just south of the park with its complex of hotels and restaurants has two water systems each with a well over 3000 feet deep.)

One morning when I arrived at the park earlier than usual, I was passing the mule corral as the riders were being given the talk about riding mules. A couple of wranglers were sitting on a stone wall waiting for that moment when they would assist riders in boarding the mules. I sat down and started conversation with an older cowboy with a weather beaten and sweat stained hat. With ice blue eyes and a beard that was fading from red to gray, he politely answered my questions. First season as a dude wrangler and first at the Grand Canyon. For forty years, he was a cowboy all over the west from the Canadian border to Mexico – mostly following cows. Our conversation ended far too quickly as the head wrangler had completed his words to the dudes who would soon be atop the mules.

As I walked away capturing a few more photos, I noted the cowboy had a cell phone in his hand and was obviously reading a text message. Cowboy and a cell phone. Time warp to be sure.

The park's guests arrive from dawn to dusk. They arrive by RV, by train, by car, by tour bus, by motorcycle and at least one bicycle (I saw one). One day I made the mistake to be in the Village at mid day. It was difficult walking with all the posing for photos in front of the Canyon. Rather than fighting the crowds, my offer to take the photos of couples or families was gladly received.

Over three days, I walked most every section of the Rim Trail. There were several sections where my acrophobia had me hugging the inside of the trail. Okay. So I wasn't going to fall over the edge. My real concern was that a gust of wind might throw me off balance -- and over the edge.

Frequently, there were people standing right on the edge of the canyon. Then there were others with youth and testosterone raging in their bodies who were on the rock outcrops in the canyon. As I watched people challenging gravity, my thought was a book that I had read about a year ago: Over The Edge: Death In Grand Canyon. (The book documents the deaths in the Grand Canyon over the past 100 years. The high level review of the various categories is fascinating, but the book bogs down in details of individual deaths.)

One of the CCC projects during the 1930s was the construction of a knee high stone wall for most of the distance in front of the Village. Most of the rock consists of sandstone and limestone slabs with an occasional non square specimen of rock – like this heart shape. It would be nice to meet the stone mason that placed that rock there and what were his thoughts as he set that rock in mortar. (Sounds like a plot for a love story.)

Each time I visit the Grand Canyon, I am awed by my insignificant and short life on this planet.

So with that, it is time to head out and do more exploring to satisfy my ever curious nature.

For more photos, check out the Grand Canyon gallery.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Book: Queen Of The Road by Doreen Orion

Mid life crisis is what the author called it when her husband and she headed out in bus conversion to RV around the US. This was a year long adventure visiting and exploring and observing. The author tells a great story with humor of living in a bus -- from some one who wasn't too much into the idea of "downsizing" to a home on wheels. With their professional careers left behind for a year, the author makes observations about another world to which they had not been exposed. It turns out to be an enriching experience for all.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Wupatki National Monument

Wuptaki National Monument is just north of Sunset Crater. Following the road from the crater north along the park road, there are several pueblos dating to 800 to 1000 years ago. The pueblos have been reconstructed to preserve and interpret the history of the peoples who once resided and raised crops in this desolate dry land.

When the construction of some pueblos included the use of the volcanic rock that overlaid the sandstone, it helps to date these constructions to be after Sunset Crater erupted about 1000 years ago.

The Wupatki Pueblo has been extensively preserved.

In this complex is a restored ball court -- the arena of the day for groups to play and compete.

Once getting all warmed up, there was a blow hole just a few feet from the ball court. That was the place to cool off. At my feet is the grated opening to the cavern. As I stood there the air was blowing upward to cool the warmth my body acquired as I took photos in the ball court.

How does the blow hole work.... According to the sign: There is a large underground cavern that has been created through volcanic action and water erosion. The actual blowhole can actually either exhale or inhale air depending upon the difference between air temperature and atmospheric pressure on the surface and the conditions inside the cavities. If the air outside is cooler than inside, air will rush into the hole because the air outside is more dense. The air will blow out of the hole if the air outside is hotter than inside because the air outside is less dense. High and low pressure weather systems will also have the same effect.

Enough geology for today. Time to head out and explore...

Ten-X NF Campground

Grand Canyon -- south rim. The reason for this stop.

Lots of spaces in the trees -- mostly pine, ponderosa and juniper. Looking for a site with more sun for the solar panels meant circling looking for an optimum site. There were few occupied spaces so there were choices. In the end, the sunniest space in the park may be number 58.

Verizon signal is strong and no problem using the Palm Pre or my air card. The reason for the strong signal is that this campground is less than three miles from the air port and the hotel complex at Tusayan.

$5 per day with the geezer card.

Monday, May 24, 2010


Not a good day for outdoor exploring yesterday (too windy -- again), so I headed to downtown Flagstaff once again. Decided to take a recent accumulation of tree based books to Bookmans. There I would trade those for more reading material.

Surprise. No Bookmans. Sign on a temporary fence in front of what once was a building said that Bookmans will be back in the fall of 2010. From there I headed over to Barnes and Noble to access their WiFi with my iPad. Searching the internet, I found that the roof on Bookmans collapsed due to the weight of snow last January. Guess I will have to drag those books around till next winter when I return to Arizona.

After a couple of hours on B&N's WiFi and having a Chai Latte at Starbucks, I browsed the "three for two books" sale table. Fell for that one. Found three books that were on my list of "should reads". More ballast for Wandrin Wagon.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Less Wind This Morning

Fortunately, the wind has died down somewhat. The Verizon signal via the air card/amplifier/antenna is pretty consistent. There is an occasional burst of wind, but it hasn't interfered with the signal this morning.

Considering the force of some of those gusts yesterday and early last evening, it appears Wandrin Wagon was located right on the edge of the low and high pressure areas.

Exploring Sunset Crater

Parked conveniently at the Bonita Campground at the entrance to Sunset Crater Volcano NM, exploring the extinct volcano would be a good way to learn about the volcanoes and what things look like a thousand years after the eruption. Starting at the visitor center, I refreshed my memories of volcanoes and geology 101 from University days.

Throughout the campground and the park, the evidence of volcanic ash is at your feet. When it isn't cinders at your feet it is the solidified remains of a 1000 year old lava flow. The lava flows reminded me of visits to other volcanic sites through out the US including Hawaii. Considering that it has been 1000 years since the Sunset volcanic eruption and lava flows, it takes Nature a long time to create a layer of top soil for grasses and shallow rooted plants to become established. The pine trees struggle but are more successful as they send their roots deep into the earth.

Sunset Crater in the background is the cinder cone. The foreground is lava flow that oozed from the base of the volcano. That lava flow is not something to walk through. Great way to hurt yourself. 1000 years of weathering hasn't softened those edges of the lava flow.

Look the other direction and the San Francisco Peaks are other one time volcanoes of the area.

Trees that have died and with weathering they become great sentry trees. With some imagination, it easy to envision Snoopy perched on one of those branches.

No doubt with some time in Photoshop, I could perch myself on one of those branches. That might be something to do when I am trying to put balance in my life.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Wind Rocks

Wandrin Wagon is rocking. Has been for over a day and it will continue for another day. Kind of like sleeping on a rocking boat. Was that water sloshing in the fresh water tanks. Hope so. The wind noise in the trees never stops. Sometimes it sounds like a train passing through the campground. Soon after Wandrin Wagon is rocking in the breeze. Tornado like winds. Easily hitting 50MPH. Hope those trees stay standing. Especially since there are two huge pine trees right next to the door. That could be a test for the strength of these New Horizons fifth wheels. Rather not test that.

The wind also seems to affect the Verizon signal. It wavers from there to not there. Is it possible that digital signals are affected by wind. LOL. Sure would seem that way. Probably another reason. Like trees blocking the signal.

Since the Verizon signal is flaky, I headed to Barnes and Noble in Flagstaff to use their WiFi to post today, I am using the iPad using BlogPress to send the post to my blog. At least that is what it supposed to happen.

Looking forward to light breezes and warmer days. Balance out the cold and wind.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Friday, May 21, 2010

Glad For the Antenna -- and Signal Amp

Parked at the Bonita Campground at the entrance to Sunset Crater and my cell phone (the Palm Pre) gets no signal. It had a roaming signal yesterday when I set up Wandrin Wagon for a couple of days stay.

With no signal for the Palm Pre, I was sure I was going to have to head closer to Flagstaff to satiate my internet addiction. That would be my first real test for the iPad (updating my blog and saving some internet pages for later reading). The desktop iMac is not portable. I could take the iPad down the road closer to Flagstaff where I could get a signal for the Palm Pre. Then I could use it as the Wi-Fi hot spot to use the iPad to access the internet.

That was the thought as I decided to set up the iMac and the USB760 air card. The air card is always connected to a Wilson truckers antenna that it inside the Wandrin Wagon. Hooked everything up and I was getting a signal -- the flag said there was a signal. Took the truckers antenna outside and put it on a mast to get the antenna about six feet over the top of Wandrin Wagon. Back in and there was a single bar for signal strength. The antenna was then plugged into the antenna signal amplifier. That resulted in two bars.

That was great. No need to go searching for a Verizon signal closer to town.

This experience with low signal strength corroborates that decision to purchase the external antenna capable USB760. That purchase was instead of the Mi-Fi unit which I really wanted. However it had no capability for an external antenna.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Walk at Red Rock Crossing

Tomorrow, it is time to hitch up and move north. Heading to 7000 feet, it will also be cooler at Flagstaff. Considering they had snow just last week, I hope to bring warm weather with me.

With that prospect of leaving tomorrow, today was the last chance for a hike in the Sedona area. The selected trail was at Red Rock Crossing. The trail is easily accessible without contending with Sedona traffic.

Speaking of snow... Whew. Just cotton from the cottonwood trees.

Walking along the trail there was a buzzing in my ear. Turned out it was carpenter bees on this flowering shrub. Took several shots and finally got a photo of one. How can those little wings support that big body -- as they hover going back and forth.

At about 4000 feet at Sedona, spring is here as witnessed by blossoms along the trail.

Balance is demonstrated in the many stacked rocks. They are on the ground, on boulders, middle of the river and ... tree trunks. Yup. Enjoying life is a matter of balance. I added a few rocks to prove my skills at balancing rocks to defy gravity.

The trail climbs from the river to the base of Cathedral Rock. This is another of the vortex sites around Sedona. Can't say that I felt any different -- other than a nagging hunger pang. Satisfied that with a ClifBar.

This lone juniper was a lot more attractive with its existence on this bare rock.

In a previous post I wrote about blue lichen. Perhaps I missed it in previous hikes since I found it all along the trail. The lichen also happen to be artists. Check out the cartoon face on the left.

Back at the parking lot, there were two RVs with German plates. In Europe they are called caravans. Wonder where they found the bridge to get here.

Thanks for dropping by...

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

1950s Service Station

The subject is a one time service station in Cottonwood Arizona that is right out of the 1950s. Today it is diner with an interior retro look. The scene is a perfect photo op. Since I wasn't pleased with the strident reds within the photo, I used the Topaz plugins in Photoshop to create a different result.

The original untouched photo followed by several alternatives:

The black and white rendering may be most appropriate for photos taken in the 1950s decade.  However, my preference is the second to the last rendition.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Neighborhood Walk

The neighborhood around the Thousand Trails is National Forest or BLM land. There is a tree here and there. Really it is desert with the Verde River running through creating a riparian area for a bird population that manages to be making noise at five in the morning when I really am not done sleeping. The noisiest seem to be the doves.

As the doves were doing the morning serenade, I finally got out of bed and looked out to see a great blue heron in the middle of the RV campground. It was a perfect photo op. Put the camera through the open window and snapped a few shots. Then I headed out of Wandrin Wagon to get closer. The heron took flight three times with me going after for more photos. Soon the heron tired of the game and flew over the trees and back to the river.

There is great boon docking atop the mesa just out side the TT park. It is National Forest area with space for lots of rigs of all sizes. There have been times I've parked there -- before my Thousand Trails membership.  Some Thousand Trails members spend their one week out of the park on the mesa. Great views to see the red hills of Sedona far off in north.

In my previous visits to this TT, my hikes through the boon docking area found road acquaintances  parked there. There were only six rigs parked there as I hiked through and didn't recognize any of them. That didn't stop me from stopping to chat with one gentleman. He was parked there on his one week out of the TT park. His winter stop is the Yuma Foothills, but it was getting too hot so he headed here for his summer hang out.

My hike continued and captured the desert flora (Prickly Poppy and Hedgehog Cactus), the views and some fauna in the case of the lady bug.

As I continued my walk and watching my steps I spotted some blue lichen on a rock. That was a first. The colors and varieties of lichen on rock often make great photos. On my explore, I found several instances of this blue lichen. Each time it seemed to be the same variety of rock. Perhaps it was, but my geology is very rusty.

So I will just enjoy the marvel and beauty of Nature and keep these memories with me in the form of photos.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Scenery From The Train

Some days are just about looking at the scenery. That is what the Verde Valley Train is all about. Following the Verde River from Clarkdale to Perkinsville and then a return. For most of the journey I stood in one of the open cars listening to naturalist/geologist talk of the geologic history to the human history of the valley, the one time Indians who lived in cliff dwellings above the river, the ranching, the mining and why this railroad was built.

Cottonwoods had already leafed out. The acacia were just beginning to green out. Cactus blooms, the red blooms of ocotilla, several varieties of wild flowers provided color along the railroad tracks.

Per the naturalist, along the 20 mile route that we traveled were two nesting pairs of bald eagles. On the return an eagle was sighted in a tree top on the cliff over the train. There was a nagging suspicion in my mind that it was a Disney creation and just as the train neared the area, it was hoisted to the position so the train riders could say they saw a bald eagle. :-)

There were plenty of opportunities for me to chat up some of my fellow passengers. There was the couple from the San Francisco Bay area taking lots of photos and commented they would have lots to delete. There was the gentleman my age from Pennsylvania on his first visit to the west and Arizona after going to Florida for many years. His impressions were quite positive and would certainly return. There was a younger couple from Boston who were equally enthused with the scenery of the west. The scenery was visible in Arizona because there weren't all those scenery hiding trees which are very common in the East.

Then a scene shortly before the end of the journey back to Clarkdale.

Okay. So it was scenery overload. Regardless. It was enjoyable.

Friday, May 14, 2010

New Home for Wandrin Blogging

Enjoying Life is a Matter of Balance...

Time to live the mantra and make the change. Serendipity blogging software worked at the previous blog, but there were problems and more effort than I would like to expend to accomplish the task.

With age goes maturity and Blogger software has matured along with the times.

Just a few of the entries from the previous blog were moved. That was for personal training with Blogger software and capabilities. It also took a few days to get close to duplicating what was previously done at the previous blog location. A link to past Wandrin entries is in the sidebar.

Welcome to Wandrin's new blog location. Bookmark the page or subscribe via the RSS icon in the sidebar.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Largest Things

Driving across the country, I've frequently encountered superlative words on a sign or billboard describing something in terms of biggest, world's largest, rated best, must see, etc. This time it was the "World's Largest Kokopelli" found in a strip shopping center at Campe Verde just off I-17 at AZ Hwy 260. The image of the Kokopelli is used throughout Arizona and beyond on trinkets to businesses.

Checking the Guinness World Record site, there was no match for Kokopelli. Does the claim on the base of this statue make it true. ;-)


Speaking of records in terms of largest or most. Today when I was laundering a portion of my Hawaiian shirt collection, I realized that I might have the largest collection of Hawaiian shirts in a Recreational Vehicle. There are 34 cotton Hawaiian shirts in the current rotation. There are an additional six in silk.

Sure sounds like an addiction. Perhaps there is a twelve step program for me. Hey. Wandrin Lloyd. How about not taking that first step into a thrift store.

When I do find another for the collection (after exiting the thrift store), I tell myself that one in the collection will go. Doesn't seem to work. How do I decide. Sure there are some that are not favored for one reason or another. The most frequent reason is that some launder poorly -- lots of wrinkles. Poor laundry results combined with a poor look and they are donated to the thrift store on the next visit. There's that first step problem again. :-)

Sunday, May 9, 2010

No Hardware Store Trip


Why that window in the door of trailers. Provides light through the patterned glass. No one can see in nor can anyone see out. So what is the point of the glass. That doesn't stop the heat of the sun from sending solar energy into Wandrin Wagon. Time to do something about that issue. Put up with that for too many years.

Purchased a remnant of solar screen fabric. This was going to be an easy job. Or so I thought. I removed the screws of the frame on the inside. Cut and fit the solar screen over the window. Now put the frame back and... Oops. The outside part of the frame didn't stay. The whole thing -- frame, glass, solar screen -- fell to the ground. Wow. And the glass didn't break. So far so good.

After another hour of screwing the frame to the door and silicone glue, the project was finally complete. The solar screen was doing its job. It was cutting down the solar by 90%. The same thing could have been accomplished by painting the outside of the window with white paint.

Regardless. For me it was declared a success. There were no trips to the hardware store to finish the job. :-)

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Desert Hike

The desert terrain is deceptively beautiful. The spring time greening, cactus flowering and reptile action made for beautiful walks in Usery Park near Mesa, Arizona. Several morning hikes provide this small sampling of photos that were taken. Some photo ops were missed. Before the camera could be drawn from its holster, a missed shot was of the deformed lizard. On closer inspection, it was two lizards -- coupling.

Finding large sticks on a desert trail is ---. Whoa. That is not a stick. Once aware of my presence, the rattles started and continued until I retreated and took a path off trail and beyond the rattlesnake.

Too much water makes the saguaro top heavy and a little wind becomes dangerous. There were several of these monsters lying flat on the desert floor as nature recycled for another generation of desert plants.

A few varieties of cholla and a cactus that make this desert their home.

Walking in the desert getting that perfect photo of a blooming cactus or cholla does have its negatives. Removing my boots and socks after my hike, souvenirs of the desert were found attached firmly on my leg. This was painless compared to a years ago experience with the "jumping cholla".