Friday, October 28, 2011

Hiking High

Not in elevation. But I do get a "high" when I am hiking. Alone. Time moves quickly.

Today my hike in the Coachella Preserve was no different. Perfect weather with a lot of elevation changes. Soon my mind was resolving very complex issues. As issues came to mind, I thought about how some would be good blog posts. The words and ideas flowed as each subject came to mind; the intro words; the text; the points to be made; the clever sentences. There were also some very clever post titles.

Sitting at the keyboard this evening, I have no recollection of those great thoughts -- or the wisdom. Would have been great to share.

However, the hike was a good workout. Even required an afternoon nap. Okay. So there is an afternoon nap many days. However, today I had an excuse.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Strike Two

That "super committee" made up of Federal legislators is doomed to fail. Everyone knows that they will not be able to agree -- let alone make some possible suggestions. Previous non partisan recommendations have failed.

No doubt there are big expenditures to be addressed. However, there are some small expenses that could be addressed. One of the suggestions by the committee was to stop the printing of dollar bills and use dollar coins. The life of a dollar bill is about 40 months. The coins will outlive the legislators.

Guess what. Follow the money. When the commitee made the recommendation for dollar coins instead of paper, immediately a Senate bill was introduced by Senators Kerry and Brown of Massachusetts to block the abandonment of paper dollars. Turns out that the cotton paper supply for paper money is provided by a Massachusetts company.

In a previous Speaking Of Budget post I had recommended getting the penny out of circulation to eliminate some needless spending. That won't happen either because the zinc miners appear to have a strong lobby.

If the legislators are serious about reducing government expenses, these are just two very minor items where some savings could be had. It's not going to happen. Not even one of the two.

My lonely promotion to get the penny out of circulation seems to be going no where.

Thanks to a recommendation from friend Phil of Tucson, there now are dollar coins in my pocket at all times instead of pennies. The dollar coins are great tip money. The bad part is finding banks who have rolls of dollar coins. When I happen across a bank with rolls, I buy several to keep me going until I run low once again.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Close Call

Whew. That was close. Got out of Colorado just in time. Snowing in Denver this morning. Six inches in some Front Range cities north of Denver.

No snow here in Palm Springs. Nor is snow visible on nearby Mt. San Jacinto. Like it that way. Another day of shorts and Hawaiian shirts weather. However, the temps did cool down to the seventies for a few days.

Okay. So my last stay in Colorado was in early September. I managed to leave early to avoid getting caught in the first snow of the season. That happened in 2009. There is no desire to repeat that cold and miserable experience.

Monday, October 24, 2011

A Man Thing

Sure looked like a "man thing" when wandering the car show in Lake Havasu City last weekend. There were hundreds of cars on the rough of the golf course where the event was held. Polishing and dusting the cars was a fulltime job for these owners on the dusty course. With tent gazebos set up and a cooler of liquid refreshment (that would be beer), the owners and their wives were watching the wanderers such as my self. Don't touch. Just admire.

Just as the owners were much older (my age plus or minus a decade), the wanderers were of a similar age bracket. The wanderers were 95% male with an occasion female wanderer. Did she really care about the cars -- or was the couple still in the dating stage. Did this cynic just write that.

No doubt there are ladies that restore cars, but it wasn't obvious from my exploring. When I did read the name of the owner, it was a man's name or a couple. Never did see one with just a lady's name. Autos and engines appears to be another of those traditional compartmentizing of males and females. Could this change in the 21st century.

There were cars of all vintages from the 1920s to the muscle cars of the 1960s -- including restored stock cars, art pieces, restored trucks, a Metropolitan, a 1965 RV on a Dodge chassis, some low rider art pieces, etc. The hoods were open on those where the engine wasn't stock or was chromed or painted some day glow color. Some times there were several males of the species standing around the engine getting the details about the engine from the owner.

Restorers of cars appear to be another of those subcultures of the USA population -- like the RVing subculture. In my strolling, I overheard conversations that were sharing information with others about the car restoring process, where to get the parts -- and one conversation was about his current 1956 project and he didn't know whether it was going to be stock or not.

Want a restored car. Many were for sale. Want to create your own. Rusting hulks were also for sale.

With lots of time and lots of money, soon you can have a restored car -- or an art piece. Blue is a good color. All chrome parts were stripped and everthing is blue on what appears to have been a late 1940s coupe. A low rider without a door handle.

Yup. Baby blue is a man thing.

It was a long walk a couple of times around to make sure I didn't miss anything. Fortunately, I had "sole protection" for my feet. Note these goat heads on the soles of my sandals.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Lake Havasu

Build it and they will come.

Lake Havasu was created when the Parker Dam was built in the late 1930s. That brought the fishermen to the lake that was created. That created a fishing camp at the current location of Lake Havasu City. In 1964 it was incorporated.

The centerpiece and the tourist draw is the London Bridge built in 1971. The bridge was dismantled and moved across the Atlantic Ocean rock by rock from London and now spans a channel in Lake Havasu. Not that I have ever been to London, but I doubt this desert terrain in any way resembles London. More likely, fog would have been a usual feature.

People have been coming and building a life (or vacation home) at Lake Havasu City for the past 40 years. Recreation is the draw. On the water with jet skis and high powered jet boats. On the nearby desert hills can be found the four wheelers and the ATVs. Lots of those.

With large open expanses of water, warnings are required to mark the land forms that may prove hazardous to boats. Time to build a lighthouse. This one third size replica of the Split Rock lighthouse at Two Harbors Minnesota was built by the Lake Havasu Lighthouse Club.

The warm days and clear skies have been a daily occurrence with the exception of one day. Time to capture the sunset. Not a great sunset. So with Topaz plugins and Photoshop, this is an artist's (that would be me) representation of the end of the day on the east shore of Lake Havasu.

From the curmudgeon... When did Halloween turn into a major holiday. Halloween cards. Candy by the bushel. Pumpkins by the ton. Ready made costumes. Deserted retail space becomes a Halloween shopping bonanza for one month. Then there was the pumpkin carving kit. Huh.

Monday, October 17, 2011

A Dog Story

When browsing Amazon looking for free books, the title of one caught my eye: Alaska Days With John Muir. The author was S. Hall Young. That name sounded familiar. Checked my "recommended to read" lists and there was the name. The note said to also read Stickeen by John Muir.

The recommendation ended on the list several years ago. Happened when I was waiting for a water tour of the Wisconsin Dells, I was in a conversation with the couple next to me. How the conversation got to her relative S. Hall Young in Alaska I don't recall. Young had a dog in Alaska name of Stickeen; the reason for the Muir book recommendation.

Alaska Days With John Muir by Young is about the Alaskan inside passage journeys Muir and he shared. Muir was exploring and observing the flora and fauna and mapping the area and its glaciers. On these same journeys, Young was bringing the white man's religion to the Indian tribes. Muir gets top billing in the book. However, not far behind is Stickeen playing a best supporting role.

Stickeen is a short story of one day in 1880 when Stickeen joined Muir on a cold and snowy day to traverse and explore a nearby glacier. With little fear, Muir challenges forbidding weather and a glacial terrain when most would have stayed in camp. The journey and including the hazardous return across glacial crevasses provide Muir with observations about the very unusual Stickeen.

Both books can be found as free eBooks on several internet sites.

Over the years, I've read several dog stories. The stories about Stickeen remind me of the book Merle's Door by Ted Kerasote. My mini review.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Leather Aroma

From the North Ranch SKP park, Wickenburg is down the road a few miles. Wickenburg is the home to the Desert Caballeros Western Museum. Pretty hard for me to pass up a museum about the west. However, I had visited the museum in my previous visit to Wickenburg.

So I continued my walk along the mostly western themed downtown.

Walking by Ben's Saddle Shop, the distinctive aroma of leather was in the air. Couldn't resist the fragrance of that smell. Had to get a closer whiff.

Soon I was in a conversation with Hawaiian shirt attired owner. Seems a bit out of place in a saddlery store. No. He doesn't wear Hawaiian when a horse.

Boots, hats, saddles, riding gear are among other items in the small store. Saddles were plain to ornately tooled leather.

Yeah. He could make saddles, and decorate them. However, there is better return on his time making repairs for shoes, boots, saddles and other leather goods.

Also less expensive to repair the old. New saddles are expensive. Hay is expensive. Beef cattle prices are high. Leather prices are high as a result. Asking the question of the guy why hay was expensive. He said that the hay was being exported to Saudi Arabia. Really!

Checked the internet and found that hay was being exported from the U.S. to many other countries in addition to Saudi Arabia. Southeast Asia is the largest importer of hay from the US. Much of it is shipped from southern California.

Asking if saddles were imported. Yup. It's all about cheap. They are imported by the container load from China and India. Do they fit the horse. Maybe. Hope I never find myself in a saddle with the imprint "Made In China". For me, it just hurts the mythical image of the American western cowboy.

American made saddles are expensive by comparison. In addition to the high price of beef, there are few leather tanning operations left in the US. My interviewee said there was only one U.S. operation that tanned leather for saddles. Today with chemicals hazardous to the enviroment and humans, US regs make it a difficult business. Other countries with fewer environmental and worker safety regs now tan and prepare leather for usage in leather products. Of course the product is also created before import to the US.

Nothing like the aromatic odor of leather to invite me in for the learning experience about exporting hay and importing saddles.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Reading Chinese

...or is it Japanese. One of my Hawaiian shirts has characters as part of the pattern. Are these Chinese or Japanese? The tag on the shirt says, "Made in Bangladesh". However, those characters are not Bangladesh writing.

A couple of years ago -- wearing that shirt -- I was standing in line. As we waited, I started a conversation with the guy behind me. Surprise that I would do that. :) As we chatted, he commented that he liked my my shirt. I said that I had always wondered what it said. Without missing a beat he said, "Made in China".

This is detail of the three sets of characters that repeat throughout the shirt.

Didn't know what those characters say. One day without anything better to do, I Googled "common Chinese characters" and "common Japanese characters". The characters looked more Chinese to this uneducated eye. Looking at the Chinese characters and reading the meaning, it appeared that there was some possibility that those characters did say something to the effect, "Made in China".

In case you are wondering, the wrinkles are part of my wardrobe.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Still Hot Here

South So Soon? was a post by Boonie. That would be me. Describes my recent journeys from southwestern Colorado to the shores of the Colorado River.

Arrived today on the east shore of the Colorado River at Lake Havasu City. Bit warm. Some would say hot. The thermometer (in the shade) on Wandrin Wagon shows 95 degrees at 2:00p.m. Yeah. That's warm. Sorry. Hot.

The temperatures will be around 90 degrees for the next ten days and then cooler temps are predicted with 80 degree days. Not too many days ago I was at 5000 feet at Prescott Arizona where the night time temps were in the 30s and the day times struggled to get into the 50s. Compared to that, I prefer the heat. Also a lot more comfortable in my usual shorts and Hawaiian shirts.

If it weren't for air conditioning, I wouldn't be here. Without air conditioning, Lake Havasu City would not be here -- strung out along the Colorado River.

Pretty quiet here since the Snowbirds have yet to arrive. Early Snowbird arrivals are few. From past observations, the first wave of Snowbirds arrive about the first of December -- right after Thanksgiving. The next wave (much larger) begins just a few days after Christmas and continues into the first week of January. January and February are peak occupancy. On March 1st, the Snowbirds begin their northward migration. By April first, the RV parks are quiet once again.

Whatever. Glad to be here and enjoy life -- the hot times and the cool times. Not the cold times! That is why there are tires under Wandrin Wagon.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Testing Wilson Sleek

The Wilson Sleek was reviewed in a previous post. That test was done in trees with times where there was no signal. Testing the Sleek under those compromised conditions may not have been fair. Since that test, I have been trying to find remote (poor signal) locations to repeat the test.

Today was the lucky day as I traveled the remote sections of highway 10 between Prescott and Skull Valley. Pulled off the road atop a ridge with not a tree or hill to block the Verizon cell tower digital signal -- where ever it may be coming from.

For this test, I used the four inch high antenna supplied with the Sleek. The antenna was placed on the roof of Silver Slug and attached to the Sleek. The Sleek was plugged into 12 volt power and the test began.

The cell phone.... The cell phone showed it had a 1X signal, but no bars. Put the cell phone in the Sleek. Still 1X, but one bar appeared. No phone call was made.

The Verizon MiFi card.... The MiFi display showed signal strength of no bars. Placed the MiFi card into the Sleek. One bar appeared. To continue the test, I turned on the iPad connected to the MiFi. Pointed the Safari browser to my Google Reader page. At 1X speeds it takes a while, but eventually the page was displayed.

As I wrote that, I realized I should have tested the MIFi and iPad without the Sleek. Oh well. What did you expect from a retired software guy.

If there was a Verizon EVDO signal, no doubt the testing results would have been similar -- except for faster loading of the page from the internet. When I find a situation with poor EVDO signal, more tests will be run.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

The Lure of Stuff

Walking downtown Prescott and with nothing better to do, I wandered in and out of antique stores. Lots of stuff. Jewelery. Coins. Commemorative items. Dishware of all kinds. Toys. Stuff from the past. It was all there. For me it was more about nostalgia from my childhood. Didn't want or need any of it.

There was already stuff in Wandrin Wagon that had not been used (or seen) in many years. Sleeping bag. Wood carving/burning materials. Music CDs. Food blender. Microwave. Etc.

Yes. A microwave. After six years on the road, there was a weak moment when I was passing through Wal-Mart and noted the $49 microwave. The financial justification took about a minute. It would be great for last minute thawing; heating tea water; reheat soups rather than dirtying up a pan -- and -- a soup bowl. Unfortunately, I didn't ask myself how often I had soup.

Two years later the microwave is ballast. (A rock as ballast would provide more enjoyment.) That microwave is not plugged in. The easiest thing would be to donate it to a thrift store. Not so easy. It appears that I have placed some illogical value on it. Unfortunately, there is space to keep it.

Then there are the Hawaiian shirts. How many shirts do I really need. A personal wardrobe does not require 30 shirts. A wardrobe would be complete with a half dozen shirts. Couple of shorts. Underwear and socks. Launder once a week and the entire wardrobe can be quite small.

The accumulation of stuff happens so very slowly. How does this happen? Many RVers subscribe to the mantra, "When something comes into the RV, something else has to go." It's a good line, but in reality the latest acquisition always finds room.

Ten years ago when I became a nomadic explorer, I downsized from a 900 square foot home to Wandrin Wagon's 200 square feet. 98% of the stuff went to TJ, Vanita, thrift stores and the Denver library. Once I had gotten rid of all the stuff, I realized that I really didn't own any of it. It owned me. The stuff required maintenance. It was a freeing experience that I was no longer responsible for the stuff.

Why is stuff so alluring. Some TV or magazine ad told you that you needed it. Life would be much better with the new item. Note the shills in the ads. Before the purchase of the item, they are sad and talk depressed. After the new product is in their lives, they smile. Every other person in the ad is also smiling and having a good time. Doesn't matter what the product may be. Better larger TV (they didn't tell you the manufacturer will announce a larger one next month). New kitchen appliance to make life easier (they didn't tell you it clutters the counter). New music system with fantastic bass (annoys the neighbors). Household furniture from beds to recliners will make life great (incomplete without a dozen colorful pillows). Did you know you needed this stuff before you saw the ad.

No doubt I was lured in by the ads. That was then. Today however, I am a "recovering stuff purchaser".

There are exceptions. Shopping for Hawaiian shirts continues. It's an inexpensive vice that will be continued at thrift stores.

Buy experiences -- not things. You will remember the experiences. Things end at garage sales and thrift stores.

Wandrin Wagon is my storage. No renting space or shed for me. If I will need it, it travels with me.

Ever think about The Outrageous Cost of Storing Stuff

Or a Slate article: Storing More Stuff Than Ever

Or a TED video Less Stuff, More Happiness

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Car Show

When arriving in a new town, one of my first tasks is to get on the internet and search for "what to do in X town". Also search for "X town calendar of events". There will be many matches for both. The hits will also be covered with ads of where to stay and eat. However, I ignore all those ads and struggle to get the information. Going to a couple different sites, eventually I arrive at things I want to explore.

That is what I did when I arrived in the Prescott area. This weekend was a car show and art fair on the square in downtown Prescott. The art fair had the usual booths -- some of the same vendors were at Sedona at the last art fair I visited. Photography and wood carvers are the draw for me at art fairs. The plan is to get ideas for photography. A little chatting and compliments for artists and then I move on.

After the art fair, it was time to check out autos at the car show. Very few of the cars were stock. In many cases, it would be difficult to determine the original make. Seems many of the cars were turned into an art piece for the owner. Most of those cars did not come in those colors -- let alone the pin striping. Many of those art pieces are displayed with the hood open to show the frequently non-stock engine.

Trying to get photos of cars without people in the way is difficult. Requires lots of patience. Of which I have little.

Here is one of the few vehicles that was stock -- a 1959 Ford. Color seems a little bright for 1959, but I don't really know. (Some of that brightness was caused by a Topaz Photoshop plugin.)

Then there was the 1936 Ford towing sleeping accommodations. That would be a step up from tent camping. No sleeping on the ground for these folk.

After touring the car show and walking through the art fair one more time, I headed to some of the side streets in search of more photo ops.

How about this truck. This Ford was not part of the car show --- and it was stock. 1970's vintage?

Several motorcycle riders were walking the car show and art fair. If leathers can be called a uniform, most were in uniform. Then I saw this uniform. Don't think he was a motorcycle rider. Looks more like a cavalry man. With a crop in his right hand and a sword under his left arm, wonder if his horse was parked nearby.

Great day for a walk around the square. It warmed up today -- all the way into the 60s and no rain.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Apple IIe to iPad

The Apple IIe was the first of many personal computers over the past 30 plus years.

Today, it is Steve Jobs' iPad. The iPad is my most used gadget -- internet access, eReader, portable photo album, etc. Without a TV and getting my news from the internet, it was no surprise that it was on the iPad that I first read/heard of Steve Jobs' death. Doubt that I was the only one that received the news through that device.

I've always been fascinated with Steve Jobs. Several years ago, I became aware of Steve Jobs' commencement address given at Stanford in 2005. It was worth a reread at this time. For insight and philosophy of life and living, view the video at Ted or read the transcript of the address.

Wonder what Jobs envisioned after the iPad.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Sky Of Clouds

Monsoon weather has filled the sky with the ever changing, billowing and colorful clouds. No camera can catch the millions of color shades that appear . The narrower focus of the camera also doesn't capture the ability of the eye to see 180 degrees. However, that doesn't stop me from sharing some cloud photos taken these past couple of days.

Time to admire and capture cloud scenery while there. Clear skies and warmer temperatures are predicted two days out.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Historical Sign

On the hill above the Verde Valley TT park is National Forest land with 14 day camping. Good location with great views to the Red Rocks of Sedona in the distance, good cell phone coverage and hiking. Before my TT membership and on weeks out of the park, I have dry camped there.

Even though I have hiked the area numerous times in previous visits to TT or parked there, I always manage to find something new. This time it was historical evidence of a one time "Stock Driveway".

Curiosity is what drives me. What does that sign mean. After decades of weather wear, the sign was hard to read. With the help of Photoshop and Topaz plugins, it was easier to read. The sign reads "BOUNDARY STOCK DRIVEWAY  SIGNS FACE TRAIL". The National Forest logo appears on the lower part of the sign.

Then it was onto the internet to research the story. There were stock driveways all across mountain west. Found several "Stock Driveways" identified on those searches. Today the few "driveways" that remain are used for biking, hiking and horse riding. Why was this one named "Boundary". I thought Boundary defined the boundaries of the trail. Not so. It was the name of this stock driveway.

Many years ago, unfenced land was usually forest service or BLM land. To control access across the lands,  the signs were erected. There may have been similar wording in some Federal law creating the sign I saw. Here is an exerpt from Alaska Administrative Code that define the reason for the signs: "In the event that an individual with livestock must cross the grazing lease of another, the livestock must be kept within the bounds of the stock driveway. The stock driveway will be adequately marked on both exterior boundaries."

Wondering how wide the defined trail was, I searched in the other direction for more signs to mark the other side of the driveway. No luck. Based on the location of the found signs, the driveway would lead over the escarpment and down arroyos to the Verde River below. Does it cross or follow the river. Don't know.

The found historic references about stock (sheep and cattle) driveways indicated that most were used into the 1930 to the 1950s. The Magdelena Stock Driveway appears to be the last used in 1970. The source for the story is from an enjoyable read: The Dave Farr Oral History -- The Magdalena Stock Driveway (PDF file).

Cattle and sheep drives are part of the west's agrarian past when the world seemed to move slower. Today, the stock is herded onto a truck and at market or the new pastures in just a few hours.

Hope you enjoyed the background for the found historical sign.