Sunday, January 30, 2011

Herbie Around The World

Around the world in a 1963 VW bug towing a 1984 East Germany made travel trailer. That works for the young and intrepid couple -- Domi and Zainab. Leaving Austria in 2009, this map of their travel is posted prominently on the rear window of the VW bug.

When I left a nearby Starbucks, I noted the European license plates and the interesting and novel combination of VW bug and trailer. Time to get the full story. Thanks to Domi and Zainab for being so open in responding to my questions. Living very inexpensively, they have been able to travel the US for most of a year without paying camping fees but for one night -- at a National Forest Campground. Note those zig zag lines on the map as they have explored the US. There is no doubt they have seen more of the US than I have.

Domi is obviously a talented mechanic since he was repairing a clutch issue as I arrived. Domi didn't stop his work as I interviewed Zainab. They saved for several years. Forsaking the usual track for most people their age to acquire the "must haves" of culture, they pursued their interest in traveling the world.

The VW bug is affectionately referred to as Herbie from the movies (1968 version followed by a 2005 reprise) that featured a 1963 VW bug competing in car races -- and adorned with the number 53. Herbie is not some wimp with an air cooled engine towing the 750 pound trailer. Domi said that the heat of the deserts of the Middle East were a test to prove the air cooled engine could handle most anything.

Guessing that Zainab and Domi were in their late 20s, I was curious about their parents' reaction. Although concerned for their children's welfare, they encouraged them to live their lives. Bravo.

With no blog, Facebook or other such internet contact point, the only way to keep up with this dynamic duo is to cross their path as they travel.

To you Domi and Zainab.... Wishing you safe travels as you continue your journeys.

The Yuma Sun did more in depth piece on the couple and their travels

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

The Answer To Life

After walking the Goat Track every other day for several weeks, it was time to check out a new trail. The chosen trail begins at the Ramon dead end in Palm Springs. If the trail has a name, I was unable to figure it out.

Like many trails in the Coachella Valley, it is a steep climb from the trail head. Crumbling rock, brittle bush, creosote and an occasional palo verde were the larger plants. This grass species seems to have a jump on the other grasses.

There was little chance of losing the trail, but there were white circle blazes painted along the path. An occasional number was painted on the rocks. Lots of numbers were missing. Without an particular pattern to the numbers, I continued to puzzle for the reason for the numbers.

As I slogged and continued to gain elevation I would meet an occasional hiker. In those short conversations, I found that there was a suitable destination for this hike; a picnic area of a half dozen tables.

Arriving at the picnic tables, I wondered if there was table service for this dining location. Turned out it was "bring your own" food.

Beyond the tables was a path to a high point over Palm Springs.

Sitting on a high point rock it was a view of the south end of Palm Springs below.

When I turned around to head back to the tables is when I found "The Answer To Life".

The answer is 43.

Upon seeing the answer, I knew I had a theme for this hike. Contemplating how I would create this post, I was reminded of Douglas Adams and his The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. Science fiction was not a genre I read very often and it had been years since it was read.

Heading back to the trail head, I looked for the numbers painted on the rocks. Having found the answer 43, now I was looking for significance to the other numbers.

Once back at Wandrin Wagon and checking the internet to confirm my recollections, imagine my surprise when I discovered the correct answer was 42. Must be old age setting in. The brain synapses just aren't what they once were. 

Oh well. Don't care what Adams concluded, I am sticking with 43 as The Answer To Life.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Brittle Bush Bloom

The nearby Goat Track has been an every other day hike for several weeks. From the trail head there are lots of alternative trails and loops. From canyons to high peaks to palm oasis, there is much to explore.

The first half mile from the trail head is a steep climb requiring an occasional stop to catch a couple gulps of oxygen. Okay. So it was more than occasional. It was more like five paces and rest. On one of those stops I noted two brittle bush in bloom and several more loaded with buds. What's the rush. It's only January.

Those bushes might be on an evolutionary fast track. As I continued the hike, I checked the progress of the brittle bush along the trail. The only ones with buds and blossoms were those at that one location on the "lower" elevations of the trail.

The hike today was to the point that overlooks the one time home of Bob Hope. This was a good stop to enjoy and contemplate the views, consider living in the Coachella Valley (thanks to Joni and Rick for bragging about the area) and enjoy the solitude with my own thoughts.

There was more solitude than usual on the trails. It was one of those days where there were fewer hikers or bike riders.

The Goat Track trails do not have the usage of the Bump And Grind trail in nearby Palm Desert. That trail seems to be for those who want to be seen or those who like crowds.

By contrast the Goat Track trails are for those looking for a more tranquil and uncrowded experience. From a high point on returning to the trail head, there wasn't another person to be seen. Great solitude.

And from this point to the trail head it was all down hill -- except for those portions that were uphill. Easier breathing for this older guy.

The steepest part of the trail is where I found a bike rider walking his bike up hill to the more level terrain. Chatting for a few minutes before continuing his climb, it was refreshing to know that even some one half my age finds this uphill a serious slog.

A great day hiking and .... just Wandrin.... :)

Thursday, January 20, 2011

From The Driver's Seat -- A Story

 A story with vanity license plates... and a business name:

Hey BRNX BOB, get in MICAH -- this FEOXIDE old car -- BCL UP and I'll show you around town. With money I would be driving MY4NCAT [Jaguar] with ZOLDFOX [elderly blond] at my side. The fantasy is that her philosophy is ♥2SCHMZ and I♥EVRY1. TRANQL and a BNK4EVR, a kept man could ask for no more.

GIMEABK.... Perhaps what I really want is a boat to be a RVR RDNT. But, rivers can be crowded. How about the hills with OFFRDR and RICH4X4 and we leave WGNRUTZ in the rear view mirror. The great part about hills is LVDAGRN and the SKBLUPK.

After a long drive, a raging hunger had to be satisfied. Pulling into the parking lot was the CANDKAR -- a copper colored Cooper convertible**.

Then it was fine dining at the PAK INN BUFFET.

**Working alliterative words into the story wasn't easy.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Belief Is Easier

Mini Book review: Idiot America by Charles P. Pierce
After writing an article for Esquire in 2005, the author expands that to a book upon finding additional examples of his premise. Quoted from the author's Esquire article:

The Gut is the basis for the Great Premises of Idiot America. We hold these truths to be self-evident:
1) Any theory is valid if it sells books, soaks up ratings, or otherwise moves units.
2) Anything can be true if somebody says it on television.
3) Fact is that which enough people believe. Truth is determined by how fervently they believe it.

If that "Gut" sounds like what can be heard on talk radio, TV talking heads making millions a year, politicians running for (re)election, elected officials promoting their belief... Well you get the idea.

The author's original essay concentrated on the Creation Museum. In the book, he follows with examples of the Gut basis for belief/truth. The Gut is belief rather than anything that may have a basis in expertise, reason or science. Points of view based in something other than belief or wishes are ignored and denied credibility.

All the examples discussed in detail will be recognized by the reader since they had dominated headlines and news stories. Two examples of Idiot America: (1) Heading into the Iraq war for WMD without any evidence and ignoring all facts to the contrary; (2) Federal government writes legislation in Washington to keep Terry Shaivo's feeding tube in place.

If you are not up for reading the book, consider reading the Esquire article.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Balance Is Out

Caveat (Latin for "let him beware"): This post is nothing more than sharing what keeps me awake at night. And it isn't coffee since I don't drink the stuff. If you would rather not read the details you can head to something more interesting to read.

"Enjoying Life Is A Matter of Balance..."

That was the line at the top of my web site and blog. My email tagline was "Keep the balance". That goes back much farther. Fifteen years. Additionally, that tag line has been on my fun card for ten years as I have pursued a nomadic wandering life style.

The tagline may have been original when I started its use fifteen years ago. However, recently far too often I have been hearing and reading the variations of the phrase "... trying to achieve balance...". It seems to become trite in its frequent usage. Perhaps some of those who use the line could use more creative speech writers.

Add to that "balanced budget", "balance family and work", "finding balance in..." that can be found in the daily headlines or is a lead article in a magazine.

When I look at the tag line, "Keep The Balance...", it seems like a command. Probably not politically correct to tell people what to do.

Since the tag line is so much a part of me, it trips off my tongue quite easily. Many years ago on a hiking trail, I stopped to chat with a bike rider. After a short chat, he headed down the trail. Instead of wishing the rider a "good bye", that "Keep The Balance" just came out of my mouth. Not sure if the guy heard me, but it sure does sound sarcastic when said to a bike rider. Let's hope he took it as humor -- if he did hear it.

Balance can be a lot of things to different people -- emotional, spiritual or just living life. Physical balance is also important. Perhaps some may think that I live a balanced life. That may be true, but I'm not too good on physical balance. An inner ear problem is a minor annoyance which causes infrequent unsteadiness. At this point you are allowed to smile at the ironic humor that I am out of balance -- physically. That for a guy who has been talking balance for a long time -- and encouraging others to "keep the balance."

The tagline has outlived its usefulness. It is time for a new tag line for Wandrin Lloyd.

I have been considering alternatives to the "balance" tag for several weeks. When I had recently  exchanged fun cards with an RVer, the guy -- after noting "Keep The Balance" -- wondered if I was selling some balance gizmo at the flea markets. That comment became a serious incentive to make a change to the tag line. Although keeping balance remains a personal life philosophy, it doesn't describe Wandrin Lloyd.

Some of my first stabs at alternatives were philosophical. "Life Is A Journey" and variations. "First Day of The Rest of Life". "Today Is Living". There were lots more. At some point I decided that my philosophy of living "in the moment" is a given.

It is time for my tag line to describe Wandrin Lloyd. For many years, I have described myself as a nomadic explorer. Soon I was considering variations on that theme. "On A Nomad's Journey". "A Nomad's Journey". "A Nomadic Journey". "Nomadic Exploring". "Wandrin Nomad". Any would have probably worked and explained Wandrin Lloyd.

Without input from others or holding a contest to select one, I came to the decision that my favorite was "On A Nomadic Journey". On further sleepless nights (got to be kidding), I pondered the actual incorporation as a tag line or across the banner photo of my blog.

Why add any words to the single misspelled word for "wandering". "Wandrin" already describes my life. No more words are needed. After many solo hikes, further thoughts at my personal social hour and more sleepless nights, a decision has been reached.

Balance is out and "Wandrin" is in. With no additional words.

Just Wandrin... Lloyd

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Riding The Railroads

Mini Book Review: Rolling Nowhere by Ted Conover

Subtitled: Riding the Rails With America's Hoboes

As a graduating college student and with an instinctual wanderlust, Conover pursues a long held dream to find out about riding the rails and meet the hobos who use that mode of transport. The journey took place in 1980 followed by this book in 1981. On his first ride out of St. Louis, he follows a large circle of railroad riding to the northwest, down to southern California and ending in Denver. Like any cross section of any unique population of individuals, there are good people and bad people. Conover attempts conclusions of how the hobo hits the rails. The stories differ, but they all seem to share a huge hurt.

Along the way, Conover shares the stories of some of his traveling acquaintances, who they are, how to travel the rails, dumpster diving and the best mission and homeless shelter or food stops. Obviously, the author was dedicated to his task because most others would have given up the journey after just a few days. With squalor, danger, hunger, no community and living in all kinds of weather the life of the hobo is not the least bit romantic.

Why did Conover take on this dangerous and risky journey. The answer comes from one of Conover's more intelligent hobos, "...when you become afraid to die, you become afraid to live."

Another Conover book... Conover seems to have a penchant for telling the stories of the less advantaged in the population. For another Conover read, check out his 1987 book about illegal immigration in: Coyotes

Hobo visits the boyhood farm.... No doubt there were more hobos who came by the farm when I was a kid. However, I only remember one. There weren't too many people walking on the graveled road out in the country and I noticed it first. Told Mom. Soon the hobo carrying a very small bag was walking in our driveway. By that time Mom had us kids in the house and Dad was outside to greet our visitor.

No. Dad did not have any work to be done, but we could spare a sandwich. Mom made a sandwich. Dad sat on the bench under the willow tree with the hobo as the hobo dined. Soon he was on his way down the road. If Dad related the hobo's story, there is no memory of it.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Greening Up

Wandering up and down the hills of my favorite hiking trails, it seemed appropriate to share a "wandrin path". The recent rains and the warmth are causing grasses to create a green cast to the hillsides that were once all brown.

On my hike this morning I noted that the brittle bush has developed the green leaves of spring. Can its yellow blossoms be far behind.

Another bush (couldn't identify it) was attracting honey bees to dainty inch long flowers.

Found a contemplative moment relishing the views and enjoying the solitude.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Great Day

Another cold virus behind me. With over 200 identified rhino viruses, it appears that there will be more in my future.

This cold infection lasted about a week before I finally felt like going for a hike -- yesterday. Today I took an even longer hike since I felt so good. I could breathe. Great feeling.

The trail system didn't seem to have a name and I couldn't find one in searches of the internet. Like most trails in the Coachella Valley, it is a steep climb from the trail head. Probably got to about 1000 feet for a high point following one of the many trails that laced the area. With few hikers on the trail, it was a very pleasant hike. At one of the trail intersections was a 12-15 foot long rock art piece. It qualifies as art since it resembled a human -- although out of proportion -- with the required number of limbs. :) 

A weathered tree branch was the smile. Actually it looked like a mummified lizard. Two dimensional photography didn't produce the mummified lizard impression. You will have to trust me on this one.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Greed And Easy Money

Mini Book Review: Bailout Nation by Berry Ritholtz

Great book to review the past four/five years as the Fed government poured trillions of tax payer dollars into failing companies -- mostly financial institutions. Reading the story in a few days rather than hearing the story on a daily basis over several years made the bailouts more frustrating.

The book summarizes the US history of money, the Federal Reserve and government bailouts prior to 2008: Lockheed in 1971; Penn Central; Chrysler; Continental Illinois Bank; the S&L fiasco to the tune of ~$180 billion in costs to the taxpayer. Then in 2008, the outlay of taxpayer dollars gets serious with trillions of dollars. Each bailout made it easier for the next.

How did it happen.... The easy answer is greed and easy money. There is lots of blame to go around in the bailout and economic collapse. Ritholtz lists the players starting with the Federal Reserve. The list continues with Federal legislators and agencies, ratings agencies, huge banks, mortgage brokers, home buyers, and many others.

After most of the book describing a serious problem, the author includes in a final chapter ideas from other Wall Street talent with some possible solutions to dig out of this economic hole.

Barry Ritholtz also writes a blog at The Big Picture.

Ever wonder where all that money went that everyone lost. For an explanation check out The Invention Of Money -- the show this past weekend from This American Life.

Monday, January 10, 2011

It Was A Telephone -- Not A Camera

The telephone was on the kitchen wall of my childhood farm home. That phone's wall location existed until 1953 when the kitchen was remodeled. The phone exchange didn't change, so the telephone electronics and the crank ringer was hidden from view and a phone set without a dial rested on a kitchen counter.

With one phone in the house in the kitchen, making any calls were overheard by anyone who was nearby. Since the phone was on a party line, there could have been others listening in. Certainly could not be called privacy. It wasn't since usually my mother was frequently in the kitchen. No surprise there.

Recalling that telephone's existence at that time, I must have used that phone to make dates and set up a social life in my late teen age years. It must have happened or were some of those dates made face to face. No doubt there were others listening to those telephone conversations. I believe I survived the ordeal without any long term damage to my personality. :)

That mostly rural Wayside telephone exchange was surrounded by a world of telephone exchanges that had moved to dial phone systems decades earlier.

That crank telephone was still there when I moved to the San Francisco area in 1965. That first phone call to Mom and Dad from Santa Rosa, California was an interesting experience. Still remember the conversation. Called the operator in California to express that I wanted to call a number that could not be dialed. Long pause. Explained the whole story. I gave the operator the number 38J3 at the Wayside exchange in Wisconsin. The nearest large town was Green Bay, Wisconsin. The operator took all the information. She would call back.

About a half hour later she called back. For future calls, she gave me a series of numbers which included the phrase "ring down". The phrase "ring down" has stuck with me and describes how the operator handled that pre dial Wayside telephone system. And the phone call worked. The phone was used on rare occasions for long distance. Writing letters was the preferred method to communicate with relatives in Wisconsin. Long distance telephone calls were expensive in 1965.

When the Wayside telephone system was upgraded in the late sixties, the dial system was bypassed and the Wayside exchange installed a touch tone dial system and all the phone lines were buried. That was a technological leap into the new world.

Fast forward another 30 years and cell phones predominate in that rural community. That includes a cell tower that is in the back yard of the farm where I grew up.

I have no doubts that there are cell phone users in that farming community who take photos with their cell phone and text their friends.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Just Wondering

 ....about cell phones.... and the people that use them.

Sitting at a Starbucks recently and noted two ladies sitting at a table across from each. Not so unusual, but both were on cell phones. Not sure how long, but when I looked up again from my iPad, one was waiting for the other to ditch her cell phone. Assuming they came to chat with each other, why the cell phone conversations.

That sighting reminded me of my travels in Australia in 1998. I was seated at a cafe table at an outdoor bar. At a distant cafe table were two ladies with a champagne bottle on the table. The champagne had been poured and they were tipping the flutes. Then I noted one on a cell phone. Then the other was on a cell phone....  If the event could justify a bottle of champagne, why the cell phone interruption.

On a hillside of switch backs, a lady on the trail above me was waving her arms and talking very loud. Couldn't make out the conversation. Was it Tourettes. Nope. As I we rounded the switch back, I noted she had a BlueTooth gizmo attached to her ear.  Hands free talking is Tourettes.... My assumption: they are on a phone even when not on a hike.

Another time I had gone into a public restroom standing at a urinal when some one in a stall said "Yes". Was that directed at me. Decided that I would not respond. Finishing up and as I headed out, I heard the voice continue, "14 inch pepperoni to go. Extra cheese. I'll be there for pickup in about ten minutes...." Still wondering about that one.

My cell phone.... When I am not there or occupied, the cell phone is an answering machine.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Well Traveled Sushi

Found this article on Yahoo News: Blue fin tuna sells for $396,000.

The article reminded me of my 2004 journeys to Canada's Maritime provinces -- at Prince Edward Island. I arrived at a fishing camp marina to take photos. Taking photos, a boat arrived with a very visible large fish. Turns out it was a blue fin tuna.

The boat was moored. Lots of activity. Crane hoisted the tuna from the boat and soon the butchering began. Then the carcass was dropped into a large crate of ice. More ice was placed all around the carcass including the body cavity. Just as quick as the activity started, it ended as rapidly as the box was readied for shipment.

That is when a few of us were curious where the tuna was going. The fish buyer happened to be near by and the conversation I overheard said that this tuna did not have the fat content that he likes to see. That probably explained the disgruntled look of the ship's captain for the price he was quoted. Asked where will this tuna go, the buyer said that it will be air freighted to a fish market in Japan. One well traveled tuna.

Before I began this mobile life style in 2001, I lived in Denver just a few blocks from the Sushi Den. Ate sashimi there far too often. After dining on sashimi around the country in my travels, nothing compares to the Sushi Den. The fish there is always fresh.

Some of the fish at the Sushi Den are shipped from Japan. A brother of the owner continues to live in Japan and buys fish at the markets to air freight to Sushi Den in Denver.

As I stood at that marina on Prince Edward Island, I could see the tuna going from PEI to Japan, to Denver and the Sushi Den. No wonder sashimi is expensive with all the add-on transportation costs.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Just Wondering

Election is distant memory.... Trying to recall the election several months back. Seem to recall that the major concern of voters was the depressed economy, the high unemployment, and the national debt. So to address those major issues of the voting public, the first thing on the agenda for Congress is to repeal the health care legislation of the last congress. Huh.

Wish I could find the quote, but heard in passing a Congressional legislator saying that they want to represent the American voting public. To do that 10% would be without jobs, 10% would be without health insurance, 50% would be women, etc... You get the point.

Silver Slug is back....
on the road after a day at the clinic getting a diesel leak fixed that was causing noxious fumes to fill the cab. That was $600 and then it was the $3.49 per gallon diesel. Checked last year's expenses related to Silver Slug. Almost exactly $10,000. That is almost a third of my expenses for 2010. Settling in an urban world without a car sounds attractive. Walking and public transportation.... Hmmm.

A rhino virus (cold)....
attacked this body about three days ago. Head hurts, hacking cough and runny nose continues. This and the recent Palm Springs cold spell has kept me out of Starbucks. That is a good thing. Perhaps that is where I managed to acquire that cold.... Hmmm.

Otherwise, everything is great. This morning is a good day for a walk with predicted high 60s for the day.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Suggested Resolutions...

With the New Year, there seems to be the tradition of making resolutions. Personally, I make no resolutions. There never was a reason to wait until January 1st.

However, there are some resolutions I would recommend for others.

For those whose income is more than a million dollars a year: Resolve not to complain -- about anything.

For those newly elected Federal legislators (regardless of party affiliation): Resolve to cooperate and legislate in good faith remembering those whose votes elected you to that aristocratic office.

A corollary resolution for those same Federal legislators: Resolve to ignore the lobbyists and remember the voters.

To the sports idols with their multi million dollar salaries: Resolve to donate all endorsement money to charity.

To those celebrity shills for a product or service: Resolve to donate your shill income to charity.

To everyone listening/watching news regardless of the source: Resolve to think and be skeptical of a speakers point of view. Check for another point of view.

A suggested resolution for all:
Live fully each day of your life.
Love the life you live.
Live your love in all you do.

Finally....  Don't get too serious. Laugh a lot.

Oops. Almost forgot... Wishing you a great year 2011