Tuesday, August 31, 2010

The Ojo Escape

Who ya gonna call?

"Only trouble is, gee whiz,
I’m dreamin’ my life away."
-- The Everly Brothers

Ojo Caliente is the name of the town and the spa, about 35 miles south of Tres Piedras.  A little nearer to Espanola.  The name translates as "Hot Spring", and I gave it the hot eye indeed when I saw it on the map.  I was drawn irresistibly.  I spent two nights there, in lieu of the rest of my life.  I've discovered there's something besides air conditioning that will make me pull into a commercial campground, and that is the prospect of soaking in a hot spring.  The campground was $20 per night, about par, with water, electricity, and a dump station.  I thought I had a full hookup site, but it turned out the sewage line was clogged with what looked like...well... mud?  Other than a couple of tenters, there was no one else there.

The Daze at rest.

As for the spa itself, I made the mistake of arriving on a Sunday, when prices nearly double. Folks from Los Alamos, Albuquerque, and parts farther afield (some were speaking Russian) pay good money for a weekend of what is advertised as "the Ojo Escape".  And despite my native cynicism, it was that for me as well.  What they have here in abundance, besides the expensive restaurant and "cottages" that go for $199 a night, is something money can't buy.

They sell it anyway.  It's peace.

The "whisper zone".

This place should have been an ashram.  If you are staying at the hotel, you are issued long robes, which many people never seem to get out of except to descend into some pool.  Some robes are creamy white, and some golden.  I never did figure out the spiritual pecking order in that, but there is no denying that there's something in the dry air and the quiet here in these caliche hills that just unwinds you right back to zero.  Reboot.  Add in a couple hours soaking in a hot pool, and you are apt to come away woozy and wobbly and wanting a nap.

The naps here are glorious, like drifting on a warm cloud.  Whatever it costs, it has to be worth the money.

But as an RVer, the cost was minimal, at least as spas go.  Twenty bucks for the campsite and $17 for all day at the spa.  I defy you to use more than 3 hours of that.  You'd turn into silly putty, and flow off into the hills.  Speaking of which, I had my first experience with a mud bath. This is a matter of dipping both hands in a fine clay mud emulsion and rubbing it all over your body, after which you lay back in a lounge chair and let it dry and crackle and crinch up your skin.  They say it is good for you.  It certainly is interesting, and I can't say it did me any harm. The mud gives your skin a blue tinge, and the effect is of a bunch of B movie zombies, lazing about between takes.  After you are effectively baked en croute, you wash it off in a pool, followed by a warm shower.  It washes off easily.

There are 8 or 9 pools, not counting the "private" ones.  I made the rounds of all that were open to me.  My favorite was one of the hottest, with a pea gravel bottom that gave a good imitation of shiatsu massage.  I think they called it the "iron pool".  All the pools are named after various minerals, but I couldn't tell the difference between them, other than temperature.  They do tell you not to drink the stuff.

In the Iron Pool, I got to talking to a Taos Indian who told me if I liked it here I ought to memorize the Taos zip code, as there was a big discount for locals.  He filled me in on some of the intransigent local politics as well.  He used a curious phrase to refer to crazy stuff going on off the Pueblo.  You know, where the rest of us live. "The other side of the cattle guard."  I told him that would make a swell title for a book.  He tilted his head, looked up at the sky, and nodded.  "Yes it would," he said dreamily.

The best seat in the house.

They don't allow cell phones on the grounds, other than in the rooms, but they do have WIFI. Sitting on the big wide porch of the hotel in the long afternoon, trying to stay awake while sipping a pricy beer, I got in touch with Andy Baird, whose Lazy Daze was recently struck by lightning at El Vado State Park, a little north of here.  We arranged to meet in a campground in the Colorado mountains north of Chama, where he was waiting for an insurance adjuster to show up.  So, after two days, I managed to leave just before I gave up all worldly goods and began chanting in some two-tone warbling Tibetan dialect.  I loved every minute of it, but I didn't want to sleep away the whole summer.  I'm not sure why.

I drove back up to Tres Piedras, and then west over the mountains toward Tierra Amarilla.  I just love these Spanish place names.  They are so multisyllabically musical.  They all sound a little like the start of a love song.   All that loveliness leaches right out when you say it in English.  I mean, "Three Rocks"?  And "Yellow Earth"?  Instead of a caress, you get a mugging.

I spent the night up in the pass, with a view of forever.

And slept like a stone.


Sunday, August 29, 2010

Daze of Wine and Roses

When I increase my elevation, activity seems to increase as well.  I get highper, and look for things to do.  I suppose if I ever made it to space, I'd just explode.  Well, of course I would.

I spent the night at a rest area above the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge.  They give you 24 hours here before confiscating your rig, or so the sign says.  One could do a lot worse than throw down a portable chair and spend your evening here.

But before the sun went down, I got a lot done.  I dismantled all the vents in the Daze and cleaned the screens.  Then I started to dismantle the heater and work on a squeaky fan, but backed off when I realized the night was apt to be cold cold cold before I finished.  Sometimes the squeaky fan just doesn't get the grease.

So I turned to the passenger chair.  This is just wasted space for me, and even worse the back is hyperextended somewhat into the door area, where it got stuck when a previous owner wanted more leg room.  Over the years the cable that controls the ratchet of the seat recliner stretched out until the little lever in the arm no longer engaged.  So it was left that way, partially blocking the coach door.  I invented a little Latin dance number to avoid it, but it nagged at me.

When I took the control apart, I saw the problem and went fishing in my junk drawer for a washer.  Then I threaded it over the end knob, as below, and bent it double to make a spacer that wouldn't come off.

Success!  While I was testing it out, looking under the chair at the track, I saw a control I'd never used, which seems to swivel the chair toward the door so that elderly people like I'm slowly turning into can shift themselves out more easily.  Idly, I played with it.  Wait a minute!  This chair goes right on around!  Well, except for hitting the seat belt mechanism.  And the laptop table.  Two bolts later the seat belt was off.  A moment later, the table.  Wow.


It feels like the Daze is 10% bigger inside.  The chair reclines back into the dash, and daylight pours over my shoulders.  I am not fighting that seat back anymore.  The toilet door completely opens.  I can sit back and view the world outside the passenger door window.  No, not from the toilet.  I can roll the passenger window down if I like, and catch the breeze.  The couch is a comfy reading place, but nothing like this!  And I can reach the stereo without bending over.

It is well taken that all old motorhomes have secrets.  That is not usually a cause for joy.  But this!

Of course nobody can sit there while the vehicle is in motion.  No seat belts.  But then again, nobody's trying.  Besides, it only takes 5 minutes to turn it back around and reinstall the belt, now that I know how.  And there's seatbelts back at the couch, for quick trips.  The newly unburied original drink holder, which was holding up the laptop table, perfectly holds Mini-Me. The netbook's battery bump extends over the rear and locks it in place.  The laptop table has regained its former life as a cutting board.  And now - drum roll please! - I can actually for the first time stop the Daze, stand up, and walk to the rear without going outside!

Blow, north wind!  Do your worst, wretched weather!  Wreak wrack and thunder!

O, it's the Daze of Wine and Roses! Gentlemen may retire to the Front Reading Room for brandy and cigars!  Ladies will be served sherbet and smiles in the Rear Lounge!

Bob G., feeling Giddy.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Gasp! Errors Found in Blog!

The Evil Twins, HP and Mini-Me, who actually write the Blog.  That's Mini-Me doing the lap dance.

I have been informed by people who check on these things that the Honda EU1000 has a 0.6 gallon tank.  Which is about 5 pints, not 1 pint, as I erroneously averred.  Perhaps I will correct the former post, when I get a chance.  I was relying on a distant memory of the first one I owned, back in 2003.

Bad memory!  Bad! Bad! Bad!

You can look it up.  I could have looked it up.  I apologize.  I have no wish to misinform anybody, and will gladly correct any mistakes that are pointed out to me.  But I am still impressed.  Honda claims 8.3 hours for the tank of 0.6 gallons.  When I get 4 or 5 hours to the tank (I am nothing if not imprecise), at an hour a day, that is fuel use in the range of a pint a day, or a little less than 4 gallons a month.  ("Just to show I can do simple math," he claimed overconfidently.)

Maybe 11 bucks.  For all the electricity I can use.  Can you do that at home?

Let me tell you about this blog.  When one sets sail upon a sea of words, as I have, sometimes the only way to make progress through the doldrums is to leave pride behind.  It's mostly bilge anyway.  This blog will always be a continuous draft.

Perhaps it is my mind and my habits that are on a shakedown cruise, rather than poor Daze.

There is some evidence I am slowly improving by dint of effort, much as she is.  For instance, when I first made acquaintance with Herself, she got 7 mpg, just pulling her own weight.  When pulling two motorcycles and a pair of large brothers around the Ouachita National Forest in Arkansas back in June, and even on the Interstate coming back to Texas (what was I thinking?), she got 6 mpg.  I now realize that is because I was trying to go 70 mph and impress the truckers, instead of being content with 50.

Just last week, in the Panhandle of Texas?   The Daze outdid herself:  7.9 mpg, pulling 1700 lb. of trailer with the Beast.

Okay, then, since I wasn't able to distract you, how have I improved?  By schooling myself to not need the Internet.  Of course a Blog is nothing without it, but there is no need to insist on writing only while actually on line, as I have been doing.  Errors will creep in, when I cannot check on facts the second I commit them to pixels.  Too bad.

Ben Franklin famously suggested that moral perfection is simply a matter of system and application.  I guess I'll never know.  Much of the time, given my penchant for sleeping in the high woods, there is internet service only when I pass through a large town, usually on the Beast, snatching a few minutes in some place serving ridiculously expensive coffee, or even outside sitting on the back of the Beast.  This is not a climate suitable for extensive revision.

You know the routine from the soaps.  Looking for Mr. Perfect?  Or Mr. Perfect Right Now?

O, it's all such a sad story.  When I AM fortunate enough to find an internet cafe, I am usually under time pressure, as I drove 30 miles to get there, and it's getting dark, and my back hurts, and the conversation people are having next to me is so much more interesting than what I am writing anyway, etc.

You get the drift.  Any excuse will do.

The improvement part is that I'm trying to do a little editing before posting.  Gasp.  And then a little more.  With patience.  And that means I should not be in such a hurry to get every cherished nugget immediately into cyberspace.  A few extra days won't kill anybody.  Many an idle thought is best left unblurted.  It's ready when it's ready.

I fear nothing will clear away every error.  It was only a short while ago that I was just a bush ape, hoo-hawing through the trees.  Now I am Homo Intelensis, Data Man.

But I miss the old hoohaw, now and then.

Bob, doing more than he is writing.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Bob and The Beast Take A Ride

Damn.  It's been a long time, boss!

The Beast is a Kawasaki Vulcan 900.  He is NOT on steroids, like some of his brothers, but he weighs in at over 600 lb., and will travel all day at 70 mph.  That suits me fine, though in truth I seldom spend much time over 50, since anything reasonably nearby is just a blur past that point, and I'm here to see what there is to see.

The Beast is all about muscle.  He has tremendous torque, and accelerates smoothly in 5th gear from about 35 to somewhere north of 90.  There are many faster bikes, and heavier, and more powerful, but for all around touring in the range of 300 miles, I like the 900.  It is an essential part of my RV strategy.

The Daze is a house on wheels.  As such, at 22 feet, she is actually rather dainty.  Her 350 V8 proceeds at a dignified pace, and while pulling the trailer gets around 6 mpg.  She has a first gear that will go straight up at 25 mph and never flag.  But her top end is around 70, and she is most comfortable cruising at 50.  There are many crowded or narrow places she would rather not go, because of her...ah... bulk.

That's okay.  That's not her job.

The Beast is nimble and quick, and will travel practically anywhere there is pavement.  He's a little top heavy for soft dirt, mud, or sand, but he will complacently proceed up any reasonably hard packed dirt road.  And he will get 45 mpg while doing so.

The Daze is Home.  The Beast is an Explorer.  The Daze will get us comfortably near where we want to go.  The Beast will then check out every nook and cranny for hundreds of miles around.  With any luck, he'll let me tag along.

After enjoying a morning of cool weather near Sipapu,  the Beast insisted on being let out.  He was a little dusty, which surprised me, as I had thought the trailer was tight.  A few pails of river water and a quick toweling took care of that.   The Flipzilla camcorder leaped onto the handlebar, and we went back over the mountain to Mora, and explored Morrie Lake.

The little camcorder did its best to commemorate the event with a movie, but the beast vibrates quite a bit on bumpy roads.  It helps if I hold it steady with one hand, but that sort of blows the ride for me.  We are going to work on that process, and see if we can upload something to YouTube.  So far, however, I haven't found a single wifi access point that will transmit a 5 minute video in less than an hour.  And that figure is pure projection.  Most of the time I'm just thrown off in mid-try.

I am aware there are helmet cams and such that threaten to do a better job of damping.  I may explore those possibilities.  Meanwhile, you will probably have to wait for these movies until we get back to Texas.

On Thursday we decided to motor over what is called The High Road To Taos, which is a ride from Taos up NM518, down 75 through Penasco, down 76 past Santa Cruz Lake to 503, and on to Nambe, Espanola, and back up Hwy 68 to Taos.  The high part is spectacular desert country, and even US 68 is pretty along the Rio Grande coming back, once you have left Espanola.  Espanola is a long strip town with heavy traffic, and reminds me of what Gertrude Stein said of Los Angeles in the 1920s: "There's no there there."

Fortunately Espanola is a lot smaller than LA.

The best part of the enterprise was simply Riding the Beast.  That's hard to portray in still pictures, which can only show where we stopped.  Here's some highlights:

A plastered tire fence in Penasco

A roadside shrine 

There are many crosses along the road, usually marking where somebody died in a car crash.  This one was more substantial, and had no name on it.

A roadside church

Santa Cruz Lake

Santa Cruz Lake again, from above

El Sanctuario de Chimayo

This is Penitente country, known for it's deep and somewhat weird Catholicism, particularly the processions of flagellantes during Lent.


On a lighter note:

A Volkswagen Busette?  BugBus?

I passed this beauty at 70 on Hwy 68.  I did a double take, roared up the highway far enough to give me time to get off and get out the camera, and got this picture of it going by at 55.  Apparently he cut down the body of a Bus, and bolted it to the frame of a Bug.  It was the cutest thing.  I followed him for a while, wanting to talk about it, but he turned onto private land.  Probably thought I was a stalker.  Which I was.

A long but satisfying day on the Beast.  After spending an hour at an internet cafe in Taos, I got caught by nightfall on the 30 mile climb back up to the Daze.  Gets cold quick up here in the shadows.  After a couple of beers and some jazz, I turned in and slept 10 hours.

I think this scheme is going to work out.


Thursday, August 26, 2010

RV Alone Yet?

These places can cost you a fortune...

"No, you can't always get what you want
You can't always get what you want
You can't always get what you want
But if you try sometimes you find
You get what you need."

--Rolling Stones

I've been a loner all my life.  I do not brag.  I consider it an affliction, and would start up a chapter of Loners Anonymous, if I thought anybody would show up.

No offence intended.  I like you just fine.  It's all those other people.

I do get crowded easily.  Like in grocery checkout lines.  It's a kind of mental pressure, a sort of high internal heebie jeebie.  I guess that's really what I have against Television.  It's not just the lack of quality, though there is that.  Nor the incessant vapid insulting commercials.  The real problem is that having a TV on is like having an instant crowd right there with you.  Too many voices.  It's bad enough just with the ones I can't turn off.

 I am pretty much already a crowd of one.  I can't spare the room.

O, I enjoy the company of people well enough one or two at a time, in conversation, or over a beer.  Three is kinda iffy.  Half a dozen and I tend to bolt.

Bolting is another name for RVing.  You spend enough money to do this stuff, and you somehow pass from being crazy to merely eccentric.  This enterprise gives license to us misanthropes to be ourselves.  I am sure that when I started out, I had grand ideas about "independence" and "freedom" and "finding the inner Bob".

Bullshit.  It's just bolting.

Yesterday, on the way back from biking the High Road to Taos, near Espanola, in splendid isolation, I had the bright idea that the Oh-Kay Casino would almost certainly have internet access for their patrons.  Just inside the door I abruptly encountered a vivid vision of Hell:  hundreds of people, circling the slots as though going round the Black Stone of Mecca, lined up 6 deep at the ATM machines, eyes absent, slump shouldered, evasive, either lost in dreams or afraid to be recognized.

They were actually LINING UP to give away their money. These people didn't need Access.  They needed Escape!

Have you ever suddenly happened on something that made you physically levitate, as though magnetically repelled or bouncing off an invisible barrier?  That was me, repelled before I actually even understood what I was seeing.  I just knew there were TOO MANY PEOPLE IN THIS ROOM.

So I adopted the backwards facing motorcycle posture, and used the pillion seat of the Kawasaki as a desk for the Mini-me, my netbook.  And sure enough, they didn't have free internet.  So the place was Hell without benefit of Purgatory.  The pure thing.  Dante would be proud.

I know, I know.  "Such a kidder, always complaining."  After all, being alone has objective benefits.  I'm sure I'll think of one in a minute.  O, ya, it's "empowering".  It "lifts you out of the day to day", and "lets you see the essentials of life."

But it's not a matter of profit and loss.  There is no balance sheet.

I am reminded of a fan who asked Steven King why he only wrote horror stories.  He just looked at her and said, "What makes you think I have a choice?".

There you go.  I RV alone, and seem to be fairly happy doing so.  This is my life.  I got what I wanted, and it ain't so bad.  It's a socially acceptable, even admired way to get the hell away from people.  And there are many days I can actually hear myself thinking.

Or someone thinking.  The voices in my head are a varied lot, and most usually seem to wish me well.  They ought to like the hell out of me, what with the cheap rent and all.  So on those evenings, like this one, when I get a little too satisfied with things as they are, me and the Daze and the road ahead, they often supply a sly rejoinder.

"Psst!  Hey, Slacker!  That's right, you, Genius!  Have you ever considered that all this hard won heroic isolation may be one of those games where only the winners can lose?  And that real success is a graceful failure?  Just a thought.  Have a nice day."

If you see me somewhere along the road, don't hesitate to knock.  I could probably use the company.  And I am likely to be there, even if I don't answer right away.

You see, a traveler is always at home.


Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Living In A Daze

The world outside my door.

"A Jug of Wine, a Loaf of Bread--and Thou
Beside me singing in the Wilderness--"
-- Omar Khayyam

It may not be a wilderness, but it's sure a whole 'nother world up here than down in Torrid Texas.  I'm now above Taos, on NM 518.  On the road to Mora.  Just your typical paradise, without a thou but with plenty of bread and wine.  By a babbling brook.  Or maybe I'm the one babbling.

The river is more of a low roar, but easy to sleep to.  Last night I got up about 3 AM and stuck my head and the IR thermometer out the door.  39 degrees F.  Man, that moon was bright.  It bleached out the stones till they looked like soft snow, and veiled the ghostly conifers in silver and black.

Mirkwood with a motorhome.  NOW you're tolkien!

The weather cooled off the moment I entered New Mexico, but I was dead set on COLD, so I didn't stop except briefly at Las Vegas, where I turned in at the Spic n Span Bakery for a sopapilla stuffed with carne adovada.  Mmmmm.

When I came out, I looked up and down the street and got a case of deja voodoo.  My memory could be playing tricks on me.  Or maybe it was the psychedelic effect of New Mexican cooking.  Yeah, I used to come this way with the kids years ago on the way to Taos for skiing, but that wasn't it.  Wasn't this street once filled with Russian tanks?  In the movies?  In "Red Dawn"?  The high school heroes were looking down on the invasion from a hill that doesn't actually exist.

Well, I can't prove it.  But S&S had some fresh beef empanadas in the bakery case, so I picked up three with a side of red chile for later.  That's a memory you can count on.  In fact, I can share:

I cooked them myself.  Yeah, right.

There's leftovers, and then there's LEFTOVERS!

After several days, I'm gradually getting adjusted to living in the Daze.  The way you adjust a pillow by punching it into shape.  Try this, try that, until you get it right.

For a couple of nights I slept in the overhead.  The bed was made.  It seemed like the logical thing.

But to heck with crawling up into that crevice, and to heck with not being able to sit up without bonking my head, and begone to risking a broken ankle climbing up and down in the night.  I've now settled permanently on a low bed made from one of the couches.  Not every couch you find may be comfortable, but these are about 8 inches thick and made from three pieces of variable density foam.

I sleep the sleep of the just.  Which is surprising.

The couch bed is not quite as long as up top, but long enough, and offers a splendid view of the stars out the surrounding windows at night, as well as the slow shock of sunlight rolling liquid down the trees at dawn.  That alone is more than worth the move.  I thought it would be a lot of trouble to make up the bed every night, but it only takes about 5 minutes, and maybe less to roll up the bedding in the morning and stash it in the overhead.  That's really what the overhead is good for.  That and discouraging visitors.

I also sort of like not having to get out of bed to turn on the heater.

Here again is a picture of the Low Bed from that last warm night in Texas.  I guess I could leave it down all the time, since I have the other couch for sitting.  But it just seems so much more virtuous and moral to make it up every day.  I don't know why.  Can't be the amount of effort involved.

It's just more civilized.  Hoo hoo hah hah hah hah.  I'm not a young monkey anymore.

I really appreciate whoever installed the faux wood flooring in this thing.  A quick sweep in the morning keeps it clean.  I did put in a couple of throw rugs, but they are also easy to remove and shake out.  In case of mud, which hasn't happened yet, I think I could wipe down the entire visible floor with Windex and paper towels in about 2 minutes.  I don't know why people put in carpet.

To collect the sacred dirt of all 50 states, I suppose.

Well, that's all for now.  I'm going out by the river and read.

Uh oh.  Not much reading getting done here...


Tuesday, August 24, 2010

A Few Loose Tools

Here's a few items I find handy along the road.  With me, at times, it's a pretty primitive road. This is an incomplete list.  No doubt there will be followups.

I have mentioned these before, in passing.  The item on the left is a Hawking 8WDD WIFI antenna.  Point the little dish in the right direction, and you can sometimes park a block away from a public wifi source and get a usable signal.  Without it, nada.  Also useful in commercial campgrounds whose wifi setup was installed by the owner's cousin.

On the right we have a Range Star portable cell phone antenna.  It, or something like it, will often give you 3 or 4 bars when without you have zip.  Both these devices have been replaced by models supposedly even better.  Good luck.  Also note low in the back window a little rectangular combo indoor-outdoor thermometer, clock, and voltage meter from the folks at Radio Shack.  Here's what I use for that up front:

Some people perfer all the bells and whistles of a multimeter, shown on the left below, but for a casual daily check I like to keep it simple.  The item on the right below will do that for AC circuits.  I just leave it plugged in.  If it says something is wrong, then I have to consult the manual and decide if it is worth moving.

A couple of years ago I picked up an IR Thermometer on sale at Radio Shack for 12 bucks.  It has been incredibly useful, more than I expected.  For one thing, it tells you how your freezer and fridge are doing.  Then if one of your tires is running hot, it tells you that.  If you wonder if it's freezing outside, just crack the window and thumb the button.  I have checked it against bulb thermometers, and I now trust it implicity.  You can even tell if a stream is too cold for the trout to bite.  Highly Recommended.

Believe it or not, there are folks who could care less for web access, email, even phone service. But even they need something to plant dreams in their heads.  So here's something Santa Bob has for them:

I put together this handy splitter kit at Walmart.  I like it because I can use it sitting down, and split logs up to a couple of feet in diameter.  Just tap, tap, tap, bonk.  It takes a while, but it gets the job done.  Forget Paul Bunyan and his mighty maul.  Of couse the electric chain saw requires a generator.  Besides firewood, I used it once to clear away a large Aspen that had fallen across the road.

Which brings us to generators.  I hate the Onan that came with the Daze.  It's loud as all get-out.  It's hard to imagine a situation where I might be induced to endure it.  Certainly I couldn't sleep through that racket.  Maybe to run the chainsaw.  I have a Honda EU3000 at home that I'd love to fit in that space, but I don't think it will.  In the picture is an EU1000, which is just powerful enough to run some lights, small tools, and the rig's 45 Amp Progressive Intellipower converter/battery charger.  It is whisper quiet.  You can hold a normal conversation standing right next to it.  It only weighs about  30 lb., and I get about 4 hours of use on the 5 pints of gas the tank holds.

That's pretty eco-friendly.  Honda claims 7 hours, but that's when it's not doing anything, just idling along and polluting the air to no purpose.

I carry it inside the rig, because the gas tank has a storage setting on the cap that seals the fumes in completely.  An hour's use a day keeps all five batteries topped off no matter what I'm likely to be doing with them.  If the Fridge is on auto, you have to change it manually to gas, or the electric element inside will overwhelm 1000W, and the generator will disconnect itself.  Just about any electric heat source will do the same, including your water heater.  Turn them off or switch them to gas while using the generator.

But what about that huge gas can beside it?  Isn't that dangerous to carry?

That is not a gas can.  That is a water can.  Walmart used to sell blue 5 gallon water containers in this form factor for little or nothing, but they've gone to a big square thing now that won't fit through my rig's compartment doors.  So I bought the right size gas can, washed it out, and store it empty in the Daze against the eventuality that every now and then I will find myself in a forest campground where I can not get my rig within hose reach of the water source.  Just in case, as happens rarely these days, that water source is a hand pump, I also carry a small collapsible bucket.  Yes, it's an onerous mess, but the shower is worth it.  And of course, if I really, really need to hitchhike somewhere and get 5 gallons of gas, well, there it is.  If I allow that to happen, you may nominate me for idiot of the year.

So how do I carry gas for that little generator?  And what about feeding the Beast, if I am fool enough to let him get Huuungry?

Well, here's where things start getting dangerous, liability-wise.  The conventional answer is a tightly sealed unvented 1 gallon gas can, carefully stored rigidly upright in a vented outside compartment.  But I noticed when I got the Daze that the Obnoxious Onan was furnished with a gas feed line from the 30 gallon tank that serves the engine, terminating right there in a handy place.  So I came up with this:

The valve is a standard boat part, used to transfer the fuel feed from one dual tank to another.  I just plumbed it backwards.  It works on the Daze, and furnishes gas one bulb-squeeze at a time.  Tedious but effective, and I don't have to have cheap leaking plastic Chinese gas cans lying about.

That's about all I and my buddy Forrest have to say about that, except the following:


I do NOT suggest you try this.  It is illustrated here for humorous purposes only.  At the very least it will probably void your warranty.  Perhaps your insurance.  I did it, but I'm crazy.  If you go ahead and try it, against my advice, I will NOT be responsible for the result.  If you get gas everywhere, blow yourself up, need decades of therapy, burn down the whole town, or your engine's fuel system doesn't work right afterward, I WARNED YOU NOT TO DO IT!

And by the way, DARWIN WAS RIGHT!


That said, I doubt you'll find anybody to do it for you.  Life is unfair.  Have a nice day.


A Message from the Daze

Not long ago I ventured certain indelicate and unnecessary opinions about the intimate interior proportions of the Daze, taken from an unfortunate and entirely selfish perspective.  Today I received a curt message from Herself.  Here it is in its entirety:

"We are not Amused."

O dear.


Dark Decisions

There are those who see travel as a great evil.  It disrupts the painfully gathered sureties of existence, and stirs up primitive anxieties.  Will there be room at the Inn?  What will we have to eat?  Loaves and fishes?  Will we be able to sleep?

Or, as a stubbornly practical non-traveler told me, "When the urge strikes, I want to be sitting on my own pot."

An RV traveller has answers for all these questions, but the habits of a sedentary lifetime often rise up unbidden and shake his confidence.  Will we find a campground?  Will there be electricity?  Will we have air conditioning?

That last question was on my mind as I left Lubbock, the Houston of the High Plains.  It was around 9 o'clock, and I was driving into darkness, with a distant but spectacular thunderstorm in the offing.  In fact, I was heading right into it, like Linda Hamilton at the end of Terminator.  It had been over 100 degrees all day, the cab AC barely keeping up with it, and I was not looking forward to a sweltering night.  But with the sun gone, the land seemed to be cooling, and there was a bit of a breeze when I got out to pump gas.

I had a decision to make.  Looking for a campground this late stirred unpleasant memories of late night dashes from one none-too-clean cheap motel to another, looking for a temporary and bogus salvation.  I'll bet I've not stayed in a commercial campground a dozen times in as many years because of that memory, and every time it involved a need for air conditioning.

Do I seek shelter?  Do I drive on?  Do I dare to eat a peach?

What the heck.  There's something to be said for tradition, even a fairly recent one.  Besides, I'm an intrepid Rver.  I laugh at danger.

The night was young.  I wasn't tired.  I was listening to Benny Carter on the stereo.  It was cozy in the cab, just me and Benny and the dim cool lights from the dash.  Fifty mph, which had irked me earlier as the blazing sun ran round the sky, didn't seem so slow in the enveloping darkness.

In fact it was just about right.  I let the miles roll by.  Nothing nagged at me.  It was the best part of the day.

Y'know, I saw where one RVer was embarrassed to admit that after a few years it felt like they were just "driving in circles".  Don't we all?  If you've ever been involved in a lasting relationship, you know what it is to go round and round.  And then the earth spins round the sun, the year through the seasons.  Dust to dust.  You may think all that simple minded, but step back. Deep in the blood, we are all Lunatics, responding to the ebb and flow of tides.  The only way any of us can manage to think of ourselves as going in a straight line is by flattening the whole of life and cutting it up into tiny slivers.  It's like looking at a Mercator Projection of the World and believing those proportions are about right.

Circularity in life is not a problem, it's a relief.  It makes a few things still dependable.

At any rate, late at night, cruising down a two lane highway in the panhandle of Texas, it was easy to imagine that in some sense I wasn't really moving at all, though the moonlit world rushed by my door.  There was a stillness to my passage, because I was at home.

After a couple of hours I pulled into a rest area just short of Farwell and the New Mexico border. The high plains had cooled further, to a humid 79 degrees.  I could live with that, but not in the overhead bed.  Not enough air.  So I made up a sort of instant sleeping porch on one of the couches, and opened both windows and the vent above for ventilation.  I have something like a Fantastic Fan up there, very quiet, with a rain sensor on the cover.  It's a different brand, though.  Shurflo, I think.

I found some really handy red and blue flannel sleeping bags at Walmart for 10 bucks apiece. They can even be zippered together to make a double.  I just spread them out flat, because the flannel grips the upholstery and won't ball up and crawl around like cotton sheets do.  They have elastic bands on the ends, and roll up into handy little neck cushions that sit on the back of the couch.  If they get dirty, you just throw them in the wash.  Or at that price, buy a couple more.  Come to think of it, plain flat flannel sheets would work nearly as well.

If you ever sleep where the truckers do, on the side of the road, there's something else you will need:  ear plugs.  The highway is right there, a railroad track even closer, and big trucks will rumble in and circle round occasionally in the night.  But nothing woke me up, the next morning was mild and wet, and stayed that way all the way to Santa Rosa.  I didn't need the A/C at all.


If The Shoe Fits, Buy It

I only got about 50 miles north on 183 when my brother nearly caused the swift demise of this experiment.  Not to mention me.  He called me.

Well, I suppose it was a leetle bit my fault.

You see, the Daze is a van.  A very pretty, gussied up van, just in case she's listening, but a van nonetheless.   And if you are hardwired to drive a pickup, like I am, that can lead to trouble.  When I reached for the phone, all those wires hanging off it got caught on the table, and the armrest, and each other, and I had to lean over to free it up.  And promptly swerved into the left hand lane.  At exactly the moment a big tanker truck full of gasoline was attempting to pass me.  As you can imagine, I dropped the phone toot suite.

Fate gave me a pass, the truck slowed down, and I got my butt back in the right hand lane.

All Class C's are like this.  They are squirrelly as hell.  They are, after all, vans.  I mean, you are sitting right on top of the steering box, and any little pressure on the wheel makes you careen off in unexpected directions, lickety split.  There's very little forebearance.  All I did was look to the right, and give the wires a flip, and in my truck that evolution would have been nothing.  But in a van it was nearly suicide.

I need to have that printed on my forehead.  When you drive a van, you pay attention to what you are doing.  You don't fiddle with things on the seat, you don't try to write your memoirs, you don't even talk with your hands.  If you drop something it's just gone until you can pull over.  And God help you if try to pick out a new CD or sort through the million plus channels on Sirius Radio.

When you are driving, you drive.  Got it?  Yeah, I got it.

And while I'm finding fault with Her Majesty, I might as well let it all out.  If you are 6 feet 4, as I am, you are going to be cramped.  There's the engine hump on the right, and the door on the left, and a diminishing cone of darkness into which you may put your size 13s.  It's not quite as bad as trying to drive an MG Midget, but you are going to be playing footsie with yourself, and over time you are going to get stiff, and when you get out after a couple of hundred miles you are going to have kids point at you and say "Mommy, why is that man walking funny?"

None of this is the Daze's fault, I know.  It's what I get for outgrowing just about everything in Christendom, including my hair.

This shouldn't be a surprise.  I noticed it when I was trying out the Daze, of course.  But I thought it was just an upper body problem.  "Ted," I said, "I'm not going to be able to drive this thing comfortably.  I'm backed up right against the toilet, and I can't get far enough from the pedals to tell which is which, and that speaker is rubbing a hole in my knee....blah, blah, blah."

Ted just looked over behind my shoulder and said "I can fix that."

Sure, I thought.  And pigs have wings.

This was on a Monday.  On Wednesday he called me and said I ought to come by and take another look.  Here's what I saw:

Now that may look to you like the Clampetts have gone and built themselves a car, but it seemed to work.  I took it for a test drive, and it's amazing how much more comfortable it is just to be able to lean back a little.  He had me.  After that, I had to buy it.  I mean, how many people have their RV custom tailored to their personal physique?

A pair of boots is one thing, but a motorhome?


Monday, August 23, 2010

Does Brownwood Ever Cross Your Mind?

Workin' on it...

By the time I got to Brownwood, TX, I was feeling a bit peckish.  Nearly getting run over by a tanker truck can do that to you.  As I started out of town on 84 towards Coleman, I decided to pull into the Gomez Cafe.

To call this place a Mexican Food Cafe fails to give it its due.  It is that, of course, with a decor heavy on the sombreros, but in addition it is square in middle of a fine old tradition of Texas Roadhouse Vittles.  Redneck soul food.  Steaks, chops, chicken - o my, they have fried chicken livers!  That's a menu item well on it's way to the endangered edibles list.

I had to have it.

On the way in, I managed to circumnavigate a man mountain perched on a quivering chair that completely disappeared beneath him.  This guy was probably called "Tiny" in the seventh grade, but seldom since.  He was 600 lb. if he was a stone.  He surrounded a table all to himself, loaded down with platters.  I couldn't help thinking that if he keels over into that mountain of fries, they'll have to take out a wall to drag him away.

Such reflections did nothing to kill my appetite.  My appetite is the only part of me that still thinks I'm going to live forever.

The Gomez is truly an old fashioned kind of place.  Good food, lots of it, and don't spare the gravy.  The sort of place where they leave a pitcher of ice water and a squirt bottle of salad dressing resting permanently on your table, and the big red plastic water glasses advertise a local used car lot.  People don't take off their ball caps when they eat here, and excessive conversation is apparently considered an insult to the cook.

It's a place for serious eating.  Show a little respect.  If you can talk, your mouth ain't full, and why the hell not?

There were voices, though, floating down from the speakers above as from Heaven Itself.  I fully expected to hear the ghost of Paul Harvey muttering about "the rest of the story."  Not quite.  He must have been busy.

But Hank Williams, Jr., was definitely in residence:

"Why do you drink?
Why do you dope smoke?
Why must you live out the songs that you wrote?"

O Man.  Eatin' greasy food and feeling sorry for yourself.  Does life get any better than this?  Well, there could be Beer.  I blame the local Baptists for holding back perfection.

To prime the pump, the waitress, who had perfected the persona of everybody's no-nonsense Aunt, brought out a big gratis basket of tortilla chips straight from the fryer, and an entire decanter of hot sauce, just so you don't run out.

When the livers came quickly behind, gliding in on a tray crowded with six other platters, it was a rare monument to engineering.  I picked up one of those home made french fries - the sort with the bark still on it - and a big crunchy liver fell off the plate and skittered across the table.  I caught it.

That platter redefined the concept of "full".  It was a balancing act, with the food arranged not side by side but in layers:  on bottom two large pieces of "Texas Toast", followed by a dozen or so large livers crowding a substantial salad toward and maybe a bit over the edge, and on top of everything was piled what looked like a half pound of french fries.  And don't forget the gravy, which well deserved a bowl unto itsownself.

O Man.  I did my best, but I couldn't eat it all.  As I happily stood at the door and paid my 8 bucks, another plaintive voice  descended softly from the radio:  "Does Ft. Worth ever cross your mind?"

Well, uh, no.  But Brownwood certainly does.

Burp.  Er... I mean


Le Getaway

I have a superpower. Something I can do better than anyone in the world. It borders on the supernatural. No, it's not procrastination. I'm only approaching genius level at that. And no, I can't fly, though that would be nice. I wouldn't need a motorhome.

What I CAN do, beyond any other mortal, is lose things that are right in front of me. Which makes it tough to make my getaway. Maybe when Alzheimer's finally sets in, it will be a blessing. Not only won't I remember where I put things FIVE MINUTES AGO, but I won't remember that I even needed them. Which I probably didn't. Smiles all around.

In the meantime, I end up buying two of almost everything. Well, there's only one Daze.

I have discovered there is some appetite among the congnoscenti for endless pictures of the most mundane aspects of the Daze. She is something of a celebrity, and I have become merely her manager. So here are some of the latest pics taken by the persistent and annoying Bobarazzi. Stay behind the rope, please.

At the top of the page is Her Grandiloquence, moments before setting out on her whirlwind tour.

Below, her lowly manager's quarters, with a rat's nest of necessary wires. I'm not sure how to clean that up. It all has to stay loose, so I can grab the phone when pestered by her adoring fans. There's also connections for a cell phone attenna, cell phone charger, netbook, and GPS receiver. Ain't we connected, though?

Here's a closeup of two handy items that Daze recommends. The item on the left is a WIFI signal booster. And on the right is that portable cell phone antenna. Both items are of a certain age, but then so is the Daze. They all still manage to get the job done.

The Daze is nothing if not...ah...commodious.

Here is Le Pantry:

Le Office:

Le Closet:

Les Potznpans:

Le Auxiliary Power Center:

Le Boudoir:

And let's not forget the absolute necessities, manager-wise. Coffee pot, paper plates, tabasco. Ahhhh. And sometimes you feel like a nut.

Against Her Splendor's emphatic instructions, I attempted a pic of the bath, but it's too close in there to get one. It's quite a large shower, but I just can't get far enough away to focus on the whole room. My other camera has a macro lens. Would you like a full page spread of the soap dish?

Well, that's lenough of lecraplikethat. We are off and away. Next missive from Le Road.

Le Bob