Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Fixin' Things Up

Err.... I got it in a knife fight.  You oughta see the other guy.

Well, I got back on Friday, just in time to mow a month's worth of grass on one of the last sweltering days of the summer.

There is also some news on the Save Bob From Himself front:

1.  Remember my shock that I'd lost 4 inches in my waist?  The warnings that unexplained weight loss was a sign of dire things to come?  The inches are still off, but the weight loss was only 13 pounds.  That must have been all in the waist.  I can't explain it.  My brother may have been right about motorcycles being good for your waistline.

2.  The operation on my left hand for a spot of skin cancer was entirely successful.  The surgeon had drawings to go by, or she might not have found the spot.  Pathologist says there's nothing there, and the wound is healing nicely, though it is problematic to touch type.

3.  I had my left leg X-rayed where I hit a rock while bouncing down a mountain road.  Just a bone bruise, which will heal completely in time.

So far, so good.

The only bad news is that Le Daze got an owie when the suction cups that held the cell phone antenna to the back window let go unexpectedly and the darn thing fell and hit a bit of plastic trim:

Ping!  Ouch!

Le Daze is in very good shape for her age.  But the fact is that plastic trim dries up and becomes brittle over 18 to 20 years.  It still looks good, but it is no longer flexible enough to take a sharp blow.  I think this example can be cured with Superglue, but I really have to watch it.  There is plastic trim everywhere, and it may be hard to find replacements at this remove in time.

That's the news from central Texas.  Back in the house again.  Catching up on "Mad Men".  As soon as the bandages come off my hand, I hope to begin some of those Andy Baird inspired improvements to my travel gear.

Happy Trails till next time, buckaroos!


Friday, September 24, 2010


Double Rainbow in New Mexico - no pot, though, and no gold...

All right.  Let's start out with a few cliches.  You ought to be used to this by now :

"Be it ever so humble, there's no place like home."  - J. H. Payne

"Home is the place where, when you have to go there, they have to take you in."  - Robert Frost

"A man's home is wherever he prospers."  -  Aristophanes

"Home is where you can say anything you like because nobody is listening to you anyway."  - Anonymous

Ah.  I like that last one best, since it describes this blog so well.  When I am here I am at home.  Anyway, favorites are a matter of reciprocal loyalty.  And judging from the comments section,  Anonymous is by far my most faithful Reader.

Home.  Today I am writing in one of them about driving one of them back to another one of them.  Texas.  Though were it not for a doctor's appointment for surgery on my hand, I might wander further west, toward that ocean inappropriately called the Pacific, along the shore of which there is every chance I might prosper.

That would be another.

When you buy an RV, you become a man of many homes, and returning eventually seems much like setting out.  You may also become chronically confused about where you "belong".

Like most people, I settle for thumb rules.

Today I staggered out of bed with my eyes glued shut, reached around blindly and yet easily found my glasses, managed to get coffee started without fully waking up.  Then I took a short walk - crunch, crunch, crunch - out into the nearby desert to take a whiz in the full bare sunlit glory of boxer shorts and sandals, without getting snakebit or freaking out any neighbors.  A place where you can get away with all that is a rough definition of home.

It'll do for me.

But I have promises to keep, so it's back to Texas.  Naturally I prefer the scenic route.  I saw a place on the map called "Natural Bridges", and nearby the "Valley of the Gods".  How could I resist?

South of Monticello I ran into fog and rain.  Clouds actually floating just a few feet off the ground.  The sky was inauspicious.

Natural Bridges National Monument is a small place, with a narrow one way road running round to the various sights.  Limited parking at view points.  The campground was designed for tenters, but was stuffed full of small RVs.  I barely got through there in my 22 foot Daze and 16 foot trailer.  All in all, not a place for big rigs.  Be warned.

Speaking of which, the Ranger there warned me away from the road south to Muley Point.  It was a good paved road, he said, except for about 3 miles of gravel switchbacks.  "Right along there it is only nominally a two lane road.  And the drop is spectacular."  But I have been many close places in the Daze, so I was confident we could make it.  Only 3 miles of it.  Besides, I like the sound of "spectacular".

When we got there it started raining hard.  There was a "last chance" turnout.  I hesitated there a while.

The Valley of the Gods?

Then I started down, hoping not to meet another fool like me.  The drop was sheer.  The road was wet.  I was very aware of the weight of the brakeless trailer behind me.  Half way down I made a shaky stop to take another picture.

Whew.  Made it.  No gods encountered on the way down, either.  Nor in the muddy valley below.

I can live with that.


Thursday, September 23, 2010

Desert Daze

I liked the night so well, I decided to sit right here and sample the following day.  This is the busy season at the park campground, because in late September it is finally cool enough to bear being here.  In the height of summer this place is a frying pan, and at noon even today it was 90 degrees in the sun, but only 72 in the shade.

So I stayed in the shade.

I read all morning, evading the sun as it wound around the Daze, moving on when it caught up with me.  The Daze makes a serviceable sundial.  And I am the photophobic minute hand.  I spent the day quite literally close to home, circling the Daze in this way, thinking long thoughts about short subjects.

Hoodoo, Hoodoo, who do you think you're foolin' ?

This is, I suppose, about as green as it gets around here.  Lots of rain lately.  The largest vegetation is the Juniper, which dots the near distance with green.  The brightest color comes from the tiny yellow buds of the rabbitbrush.  The bees seem to like that stuff, though there is a strange dearth of rabbits.  I suppose they come and go in cycles.

Then of course there is the ubiquitous fragrant sagebrush.  Also a green and black plant called Russian thistle, which when dry is known to all as tumbleweed.  It says here that this iconic plant of Western movies is actually a Russian invader, first introduced into North Dakota back in the late19th century.  Immigrated out of Asia sans papers by hitching a ride alongside bundles of imported rapeseed.

The real Old West never had the stuff.  Once it got here, though, it made itself to home, thriving in niches native plants couldn't be bothered with.  It is sort of the kudzu of the high desert.

There's a lot of daily activity in this supposedly empty country.  A small silver and black butterfly is flopping around amid the bees above the rabbitbrush.  Ants ignore me, intent on their toil.  Some sort of black beetle flits and buzzes above them, occasionally striking down and raising a bit of dust.  I can't tell if it is eating the ants, or just annoying them.

Some sort of small peeping bird continuously claims the juniper the owl occupied last night, making patrol from branch to branch.  A large crow went cawing by, but didn't dispute her ownership.  While I was sitting behind the trailer, the wind picked up a small reddish torus of dust and played with it, which I thought entertaining until it turned on me and filled my ear with sand.

Not to mention my coffee.

A light green lizard whipped his long tail, skittering lightly over a warm expanse of rock.  When he reached shade he stopped a bit to regard me soberly, then moved on.  I am too big to be breakfast, and too small to be God.

Not much good for anything, then.

All these animals seem dignified, aware, and purposeful, busy getting on with their lives.  Only I am on vacation.  Only I am retired.  Only I am idle.  I understand there are authorities who claim that animals are conscious of everything but themselves, and humans of little but themselves.  The only thing I know for sure is that out here in the desert consciousness requires lots and lots of water.

Whenever I quit drinking, I fall asleep.


Wednesday, September 22, 2010


The view from here...

I didn't have any place to be today, so I went out looking for one.  I ended up in Utah.

The Beehive State

Lately I have not been into seeing things so much as being places.  Less schedule and more staying.  For my sins, I have been resisting this urge to always be going forward. Serendipity cannot bear too much planning.  The desert west of Monticello, Utah, seemed like a good place to subvert travel and merely sit.

I didn't plan to be here.  I simply arrived.

I arrived late, of course.  Towards dark, 65 miles down a slow road, I found myself entering the Needles District of Canyonlands National Park, staring at a sign that said the campground was full.  I had to go back 5 miles or so and find what rough comfort I could in the surrounding BLM land.  That effort led to one of the best nights in a long time.

Didn't look like much at first.  Red rock and sand.  Dry.  Flat.  Quiet.  Empty.  But somebody left a jumble of a fire ring and a bit of wood.  And then the moon came out.

Colors slowly deepened toward purple, then black.  And the stars.  My God, the stars.  They took my breath away.  Later, high clouds like fingers played hide and seek with the moon.

From a juniper nearby, an owl interrogated me.  I built a fire and cooked a steak.  After that, the only sound was what I made myself.

Perhaps I have been cooped up by the short horizons of mountains for too long.  Everything is different down here.  Without the thin brittle social varnish of modern technology, it would be easy to lose track of everything in these canyons, forget where you came from, your home, your job, your friends, yourself.  And then perhaps in a year or two someone finds your bones, and wonders idly who you were.

Even people who thought they knew you might wonder that.

Not everyone is the dying type.  Some dry up into seeds of themselves, waiting for some damp violence to bring them to thorny life again.  You can see that sort of weathered waiting in a few faces down in Monticello.

Odd that such an empty place should people my imagination with spooks and nightjars.  The wind has a lonesome feeling, but it is not cold.  It does dessicate.  I attenuate by the hour, turning transparent.  It's an anorexia of the spirit, exhalting and frightening in equal measure.

Or maybe I just need an aspirin, and a good long drink of water.  Moonlit thoughts on a moonlit evening, down in the canyonlands.

Bob, off to bed.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

A Reverie Runs Through It

"Suzanne takes you down
To a place by the river...."

- Leonard Cohen

I have been lazy today, after the Big Ride.  Spent most of it down by the Dolores River behind my campsite, letting the sound of water carry my cares away.  A few fishermen passed through, but mostly they left me alone.

And yet I didn't feel alone.

Not like being watched, exactly, but rather in good company, granted the sort of benign neglect fishermen allow each other, each content to pursue their own folly in their own space.  Eerie to feel that sort of presence in the company of inanimate objects.  But not scary.   There was friendliness in the broad sunshine.  Familiarity in the rippling water.  Good humor floating on the breeze.  

I went down there with a book, but didn't get much reading done.  Just bearing witness seemed like plenty to do.  Something kept winking at me, at the very edge of vision.  Ah. Only light on the water.

Occasionally I moved my chair to stay in the shade.  Tough job, this, but somebody has to do it.

Off and on I dreamed of Suzanne Langer.  Ages ago, back in school, I ran across a book of hers, called "Philosophy in a New Key".  The part I remember now is this: Music is an analog of thought.

Music has rhythm and order and change, challenge and response.  It mimics our interior life. Music is mere sound taking the form of Mind.  When we hear it, we recognize the familiar shape of ourselves.  We see our shadow.  That's why it appeals to us.

But what of the music of nature?  All day long I kept returning here to sit by the river, listening to the whisper of wind in the trees, the mutter of water on stone.  A dance of order and rhythm and change, going on and on.

O, sometimes Nature can break us in two.  Bat us aside.  Even hold us to account.  But then, sometimes, we just get a bye.  On a day like today, we can occasionally, unaccountably, be allowed the illusion of thinking, even deep thinking, without the unpleasant rigor of thinking anything in particular.  Let alone coming to a conclusion.

Sitting by the river on a soft summer's day can be a bit like watching a campfire deep into the night.  Flicker and flow, shiver and glow, but where does it go?

It goes where we cannot follow.  Or maybe the other way around.

Ahhh.  A lazy and undeserved pleasure it is to be alive.  Like the gift of Grace without the worry of good works.  Adam in Eden must have felt this way.  And like Adam in Eden, I dabbled all day in the naming of things.  I had this sense there was something important for me to hear, or perhaps to say, and yet when darkness finally fell all I could manage to salvage were a few cliches.  I put them aside for later.

Cheap thrills.  Perhaps that's all it was, sitting there hour after hour, completely content to loll about in the loose grip and grace of something that seemed greater, more complicated, more complete, more benign than myself.

There it is again.  Dang.  Missed it.  Wait.  There.  Can you hear that?  The band is still playing.


Saturday, September 18, 2010

Silver Bob's Scenic Byway

"So put me on a highway
And show me a sign
And take it to the limit one more time."

 - Eagles, suggested by JG

When you have a Beast, every road is a Scenic Byway.  But most of today's ride was actually marked so on the official state map.  I strung several of them together for a Super Scenic Byway, most of which had "Silver" somewhere in the name.  

Call it Silver Bob's Scenic Byway.  I like the sound of that.

The ultimate reach was the Colorado National Monument at Grand Junction, and the "Rim Road" in the mountains above the city.  I started off at 10 am, about 20 miles north of Dolores on 145.  The road runs along the Dolores River up into Lizard Head Pass, and down the San Miguel on the other side.  I think "Dolores" translates as "Sorrows", which is an odd thing to call such a beautiful bit of rushing water.  Spanish is a romantic language.

Or maybe it's ironic, like calling a fat kid "Tiny".  Or the next town up "Rico".  

Rico may have been rich once, but that was long long ago.  In particular it is poor in places to get breakfast, which was my first concern.  I tried the hotel.  One Chinese girl folding towels inside.  She didn't seem to understand complete English sentences.  I tried monosyllables.


"Ah!", she replied, nodding her head up and down.  "No.  Cafe.  Down street."  She pointed.  I had already been there.  It was closed.

Lots of buildings with some reference to food on their weathered signs, but they were all closed.  After circling a bit, I went back to the edge of town and found a coffee shack behind the only business that looked open, a filling station.  There was a sign that advertised coffee.  And breakfast tacos.  It was open.  When I entered, the sole occupant was cleaning a grill behind the counter.

"Man, it's hard to find breakfast in this town!"  I said.


"Are you talkin' to me?"  she says.

I looked around.  One tiny room.  Nobody else there.  "How much are your breakfast tacos?"

"Six dollars.  If I had any.  But I'm out."

"Then I guess I'll just mosey on down the road."


And so, my stomach growling, it was up and over the pass and down into Telluride. Pity the fool trying to find a handmeal in Rico.  Or a handout.  Or a job.

The road down was treacherous to motorcycles, with ruts and heaves in the road.  A car might just feel them as bumps, but some of them were wide enough to grab a motorcycle tire and send it flying.  Fortunately this morning I could see them coming. At first I took them to be the result of too many heavy trucks, or frost heaves, but then I noticed they often extended continuously lengthwise down the road for a quarter mile or more, cracks two or three inches wide bisecting the right hand lane.  Weird. Subsidence?  But they continued in my lane even when it wasn't the outside lane.  I found these things all the way down to Telluride, and then periodically west half way to Naturita.  In my lane mostly, cracks down the length of the road, running for a hundred yards or more, reappearing every few miles.  Bad base?  Poor construction?  Drunken bozo on the grader?

Bad mojo for motos.  When I could afford to look up from the road, the country was gorgeous.  I stopped in a turnout viewpoint and got my picture taken with the Beast. The old mine behind me, said the sign, was the site of the first AC electrical generating plant in the USA.  Down there somewhere among the trees.

Bob tries to restrain the Beast

"O, that's beautiful!" the lady said, as she peered through my viewfinder at the Beast and me.

"I presume you are speaking of the mountain?"  Lame but engaging, that's our Bob.  

After she attempted to laugh, she said there was a Blues Festival in Telluride.  If I didn't mind crowds I could find breakfast there.  I nodded, but when I got down to the T, turned west instead.  Given the choice between hunger and crowds, I'll put up with hunger for a while.

Finally I found some eggs over easy and hash browns for 7 bucks on the balcony of a yuppie-looking hotel in Placerville.  At noon.  That ought to hold me.  Even prosperous looking businesses like this one have "For Sale" signs on them around here.

The surrounding cliffs turned from gray to red as made my way mile after mile down the San Miguel.  There were signs warning me to slow for construction, but then I'd ride a mile or more, and no construction.  Once I even encountered a guy with a sign stopping traffic, but after we went by there was nothing again for miles ahead but one bulldozer parked riderless on the side of the road.  Finally, just before Naturita, we got out of all that construction, and the country opened up into one of the grand agricultural valleys that Colorado is famous for.  Fine vista, but impossible to capture with any lens I had.  

I turned north on 141 to stay with the river, which gradually cut farther and farther down through sandstone until I was riding along the rim of a deep canyon.  I stopped to take a picture of the remains of the San Miguel Plume.

Sticks and stones can break your bones...

See all the little boards on the bare rock below?  In 1888, this was the famous Plume, which carried water for miles down the San Miguel, gradually growing more confined and building up pressure until producing a stream powerful enough to cut the face of the cliffs themselves, revealing ... well, not much.  The Plume was a wonder.  The mine went belly up.

How would you like to be the guy who crawled out on that ledge with ropes and such to anchor those boards 120 years ago?  Amazing that there is anything left to see, after so long a time.  The past is different, and yet so much the same.  Nobody building the Plume looked up into the night sky and saw lights moving from cloud to cloud, and knew that men were up there.  But some did dream such things.  What unlikely dreams of ours will some day seem so ordinary?

Soon after the Plume, the road descended to run beside the river.  The Beast was just loping along with his usual gutteral grace, when suddenly I saw some greenery at a turnout that piqued my interest.

What's this?

Looking closer, I found a Weeping Wall, where a spring comes right out of the cliff 30 or 40 feet up, descends as just a sheen on the rock, and collects below in a rock cistern for the refreshment of travelers.  There was an iron pipe in the bottom of the rockwork where water ran out.

I tried the water.  It was clean and tasteless.  People today probably think it undrinkable without an attached treatment plant and just zoom on past this thing.  But in decades past many a dusty pilgrim must've been grateful to the unknown samaritan who took the time to build it.  After decades of mining upstream, the San Miguel was probably suspect even then, when it ran at all, but water right from the rock face comes filtered by Nature Herself.

From there on, the canyon closed in colorfully around us.

We were coming around a corner at speed when the Beast came to an abrupt halt. What's this?  A Fellow Beast beset by vandals?

A Beast in Need is a Beast Indeed.

Only one part need fail.

It was a 1982 Honda 500.  Its rider, Brian, was nearby hiding his tent and other valuables.  Brian was not having a good day.  He had ridden his Beast all the way from Minnesota, only to drop it that morning and bust the front turn signals.  Then, he thinks, he got some bad gas at Gateway, and it stranded him here.  I told him there was nothing at all for 70 miles behind me, and it would be best if I gave him a ride back to Gateway and he could call a wrecker from Grand Junction.

He looked to heaven, but was not reassured.  He said he had to be in a meeting in Phoenix at 6 pm the following evening.  "My wife let me come on this trip...."   He looked off.  He was despairing.  

So we tried some things, and spent an hour emptying his tank and his carburetors (remember those?), fed it some fresh gas, and it started, but only for a few minutes at a time.  Finally he conceded that he probably wasn't going to make his meeting. He hid the rest of his stuff, grabbed the most valuable things in a small pack, and strapped them to the back of my Beast.   

We gave him a ride 11 miles to Gateway.  I let him off in front of a hotel at 4:10 pm.  

"You're my Savior!" he said, shaking my hand.  "Not me," I said, "your Savior is the wrecker you are going to call right now, an hour before he gets off on a Friday afternoon, and who decides going to drive all the way out here to bring your bike back in to Grand Junction where you can get it fixed.  And maybe a flight to Phoenix by tomorrow night.  You'd better get to work on that right away."

He nodded, said thanks again for "just having someone to talk to out there", and disappeared into the hotel.  

An hour later I emerged from the mountains a few miles south of Grand Junction at Whitewater, where Hwy 141 meets Hwy 50.  Here's a vista from just before that, coming round the bend:

It was 5 o'clock.  If I turned north, it was Grand Junction for the night, probably in a cheap motel.  No way to ride the National Monument and get back before dark.  If I turned south, I might just make it.  I really didn't want to ride that rough road up to Lizard Head in the dark, when I couldn't see the cracks and traps ahead of me.  But I also didn't want to do the roach motel bedbug macarena.

I could probably make it.  I turned south.  The fabled Rim Road would have to wait for another day.

I admit to breaking a few speed laws on that flat broad valley highway down to Montrose, and ate quickly at a Mexican restaurant.  "Amelia's", I think it was called.  A carnita chimichanga, about a gallon of water, and a couple of margaritas.  Somewhat restored, I then roared on down to Ridgeway, where I could see the mountains I currently called home in the distance.  

Where I have been, there I am going...

I got up into the saddle of Lizard Head just as it got full dark.  You know, when you cannot tell a white thread from a black.  And it was cold.  Like a fool I didn't put on my wind pants, mistaking numbness and tingling for residual warmth.  My legs became really dead cold before I got back into camp at 9, and I got cramps later.  But I slept almost 12 hours.


That's Bob's Big Ride.  Too much for even a game geezer.  And I didn't quite get to where I was going.  374 miles, 11 hours.  Magnificent country, but I had to ride too fast on the way back.  And next time I could be the one broken down instead of Brian. So I've got to restrict my rides in future to 250 miles round trip.  That's about when it stops being fun.  

More than that, and I just need to move the Daze nearer.

And never, never, never do I ever want to be self-trapped into riding mountain roads in the dark again.  I can see far enough at 70 with my brights, but I am only safe up to maybe 45 with my dims.  All the rest is cold and darkness.  Either I am blinding and being blinded by oncoming cars, or passed at speed by those behind me.

Night riding is too much like rushing to an appointment with Fate.  At my age, just being on time seems good enough.  Or even fashionably late, as long as I have clean underwear.  

There's a good chance, at speed in the dark, of finally finding that poor wandering confused elk who has my name stamped on his rump.  An elk of that ilk would be awkward indeed.

"I am for you."  You trekkies know what I mean.


Thursday, September 16, 2010

Moving Day

I've been at Haviland Lake for 8 days.  It has been lovely, but it was time to move on.  Not a proper attitude for fulltimers, this antsiness, but then I'm not really a fulltimer.  I am on a trip. There is an appointment awaiting me back in Texas on the 27th.

O my.  Places to go, people to see, busy, busy, busy.  In an uncharacteristic dither, I determined to move one valley west to the Dolores area, and explore it in a Beastly manner.

I blew right  by Mesa Verde.  BTDT, several times.  Much has changed in Dolores since I was last here.  It seems less prosperous.  Good restaurants have closed.  The less good are still in evidence.  But nonetheless a river runs through it, as MacLean would say, so it is hard to be dispirited.

I stopped off at the McPhee Reservoir camp, but it was hot up there in the middle of the day. The prime shady spots, all three of them, were taken.  As I passed by, a large man in an undershirt lifted up from his bed to stare at me dull-eyed through the mosquito netting of his pop-up, before falling listlessly back into bed.  Somewhere a dog barked.  I slid into one place with scant shade, but when I got out I was greeted by a swarm of bees rising from a hole in a stump.  There may be honey in the rock, but this was not a good omen.  After an hour trying to reconcile my mind to the place, I gave up and moved on.

It got steadily cooler as I traveled north from Dolores on 145.  After about 20 miles I turned off and followed a good paved road to the West Dolores Campground.  This was more like it.

My well-shaded campsite:

And here's the back porch:

I have every reasonable hope that the river will lull me to sleep tonight.

Lo and behold, electricity has come to the farther Forest Service campgrounds.  About a third of the sites now have power, and I haven't seen any of the old hand pump cisterns I grew up with.  They even have threaded faucets so you can fill up your RV tanks. The new toilets look substantial and clean, but they have some kind of forced air drying system in the vaults below that will give you a thrill when you sit down for the first time.  Feels like spiders are reaching out springy-legged to feel your privates.

But it's just wind.  I think.

Problem is, according to our host, the composting toilets don't work at this altitude.  Not hot enough.  So these $65,000 toilets have to be mucked out periodically the old fashioned way, by college kids working for minimum wage, with shovel and rake.  They say it builds character.

Maybe it'll settle them down and prepare them for grad school.  Somewhere I saw a T shirt that said "Grad School - the Snooze Button for Life".  After a summer spent shoveling out the vaults, I'd be looking for a snooze button too.

Not much in the way of wildlife.  The black powder elk hunters may bear some blame in that. They are not having much luck closing on their prey, however.  Some blame the forest service, which is having a controlled burn between them and where they think the elk are.  But from the dark laughter and firelight coming over from there every night, they are having fun anyway.

The elk are escaping above the treeline while they can.  They have not yet completely adapted to the fact that they can be killed from a quarter mile away.  The high powered rifle guys will have a chance at them later.

Meanwhile the campground is idyllically empty during the day, and at night there are stories to tell.  One pickup came back smeared from one end to the other where it was thoroughly licked by a herd of cattle.  Well, why shouldn't they have a taste?  It won't be long before the herds are culled, and then all the tasting will go the other way.


Tuesday, September 14, 2010


I'm not sure that is even a word.  What do you call the opposite of a hypochondriac?  A person who keeps imagining that he is well?

Whatever it is, that's me.

There's been a couple of odd things happening to my sadly neglected body lately.  I have not mentioned them for fear they might seem too personal.  Though that never stopped me before. So if that sort of thing is Too Much Information for you, stop here.

I do not refer to the results of the Engineer Pass fiasco.  Unlike Mini-me, I've recovered from that fairly well.  It was mostly just scratches and bruises, anyway, though I do have a big knot on my left knee that remains tender to the touch.  The bump has solidity, like a piece of bone under the skin, but has not grown since the day the Beast got too big for his britches, and does not hurt if I do not push around on it.

Old joke:  "It hurts when I do this, Doc!"  "Then don't do that.  That'll be $50."  You can tell from the Doc's fee structure that the joke is conjecturally as old as I am.  As long as the bump doesn't get worse,  or otherwise interfere with my trip, I'm willing to ignore it until I get back home for my surgery on the 27th.

Speaking of which, that is Odd Thing Number One.  The quarter sized lump on the back of my left hand, which had been red and swollen and thick before I left, has now entirely disappeared.  There is no mark or substance at all to it any more.  You can't even see the suture scar from the biopsy.  If I did not know where it had been, I would not be able to pick out the spot.  It would be easier to find Waldo.

Of course, my hands are completely covered with various marks and scars and freckles and sun damage from a lifetime of using them as tools.  I always presumed that's what they were for.  Another bump or two would be easy to lose in that crowd.  So I guess I'll show up for surgery anyhow.  After all, she's a professional.  Maybe she can find it.

What can I say, Doc?  I took the RV Cure for Cancer.  You should try it on your other patients.

Where in the World is Carcinoma?

But wait, there's More!

The Other Odd Thing has to do with my belt.  I've been needing a new one for a while now, but it's hard to find a plain brown belt, especially one that will fit the brass buckle I've worn for 35 years or so.  But now I've got real incentive.  This one has mysteriously gotten entirely too big.

Since August 23rd, when I left, I've lost more than 4 inches in my waist.  I've gone from the first to the last hole in my belt.  And it's still not tight.

Of course, when I took this pic, my pants fell off.

I have no idea what I weigh right now, and seldom do, except at the doctor's office.  They are tediously insistent in their routine, so I climb on the scale.  One such visit 5 or so years ago launched my last attempt to lose weight through regular exercise, and I did get rid of 40 lbs. over several months, but it has crept back since.  I can't keep my mind on the subject for very long.  I just really don't care.

But inches!  That's serious.  That means I have to buy new jeans!  Maybe skip down two sizes. On the other hand, unlike at Ojo, my old bathing trunks fit just fine now.

It came to me gradually that something was wrong.  My pants began to fold up around the waist like a cinch sack.  Like I was wearing a Glad garbage bag.   And now my belt has run out of holes.  Hey, maybe in a few weeks I can just cut it in half and make a spare!

No ready explanation comes to mind.  I haven't consciously cut back.  I had a 12 inch pizza for supper the other night.  I even made cookies, for goodness sake, though I gave some of those away.  And yet there it is.  Or rather, isn't.  The Belt Does Not Lie.

I do sort of remember skipping a few meals, because I forgot to eat.  Apparently there are more interesting things to do around here than eat.  I'm probably not the first guy who got fat through boredom, and skinny again by having fun.

Okay, I'm not exactly skinny.  I haven't been RVing long enough.  But it's a good start.

Maybe I could turn this blog into the very next fad diet tome.  Forget curing cancer.  Diet books are where the big bucks are.

"The RV Road To A New You!"  My fortune is made.


Lessee, what else, what else?  O, Daze got the cutest neighbor.  It's called a T@B trailer:

It belongs to Mike and Mary of Durango, who came out to Haviland Lake for the weekend, just because they can.  I asked Mike how he could stand being all bent over in that thing, and he jumped inside, straightened up, and said "What do you mean?"  Mike and Mary are not as vertically impaired as I am.

Besides the personal fit, he bought it with the idea of pulling it with a small SUV waay up some local 4 wheel drive roads.  It does seem ideal for that:  big wheels, high clearance, weighs very little, a large angle of departure to avoid dragging.  The tongue wheel even has a hand brake. There's handles on the corners so you can push and pull it around to where you want it.  If you get stuck in a sharp turn or a narrowing road, you just unhook, push it to where it needs to be, drive the car around somehow, and hook it up again.  Easy.

Not for everyone.  But Mary calls it her "little luxury travel trailer".  There's a queen sized bed, a dinette, and a kitchen in there.  And they are not hard to find.


I've discovered another spa.  And this one's got a discount for us suave senior types.  It's Trimble Hot Springs in Hermosa.  A Very Civilized Place.

For $9.50 you can spend all day using an Olympic swimming pool, a warm soaking pool, a hot pool, a sauna, and a wonderful long stretch of green lawn on which to lay out in the sun with all the aplomb of a large purring cat, or maybe a lizard lazing on a flat rock.  Rotate through the Stations of the Spa.  Which I did.

They also have covered tables, where you can picnic.  Which I didn't.

You can rent towels, but who needs them?  That's for people in a hurry, which I am not.  That warm Colorado sun does a superb job of wicking you dry without benefit of terry cloth.  The dappled shadows of trees creep slowly over the grass, insolent small breezes sneak very near to lick coolly at your legs and torso, intruding into your dreams with a shiver of unexpected caress....

Whoa!  Was that a nap?

Bob, who's still fool enough to think he's getting better with time.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Lighten Up

Long ago I saw an old black and white Stepin Fetchit movie - actually it was a Will Rogers movie, but Fetchit stole the show - where some children slipped a pair of dark glasses on him while he was napping.  Then they woke him up.

"Whut?  Where?  O my God, I've gone blind!  No, wait, I must've overslept.  Where did I put that flashlight?"

He then did an extended schtick finding the flashlight, shaking it when it didn't work, pointing it this way and that, fumbling around in drawers looking for batteries, stumbling into and over things, etc.

I also have had sufficient reasons to cuss a flashlight from time to time, but I'm always buying more.  And rather than blame my glasses, or my mind's eye, I'm more than willing to blame the fact that I just don't have the right gadget yet.  Walmart is the motherlode of easy gadget solutions for me, mainly because they take back readily all the ones that don't seem to work. On this trip I've been on a quest for just the right light to shine on things, and I've had my ups and downs.

I installed a number of fluorescents in the Daze:  one large one above the Reading Room, a couple of battery units in the trailer, and a small battery powered one in place of the dim DC light in the hood above the kitchen stove.  I also found a clip-on LED number that attaches to the visor for map reading, etc.  And one of my neighbors had an LED flashlight that clipped to the bill of his ball cap, leaving his hands free.  Five dollars at Walmart.  Of course I had to have one, and ended up with the $15 model with 3 LEDs.

But the most aggravating problem with light has involved the light from inside the Daze that shines outside.  The eyes may be the window of the soul, but I don't want any souls out there in the dark watching me take a shower.  I really don't want to be responsible for what that might do to their mental health.  The usual thing is to have curtains or mini-blinds for privacy.  The Daze has efficient blackout roller shades in the rear, and they work well.  But there are mini-blinds in the kitchen, and the bath has only a vinyl curtain.  It makes for an unpleasant clutter.

In particular, I hate mini-blinds.  They are near impossible to get clean without damaging them, and to have them behind where you cook really exacerbates the problem.  And any curtain that extends into the tiny shower just cuts down on your turnaround room.  I determined to get rid of both for a utilitarian, cleaner, no-nonsense look.

I used Contac paper.  I got the "Frosty" pattern from Home Depot, which is impressed with small squares that diffuse the light, letting in plenty during the day, but making things inside completely obscure to anyone looking in during the night.

Here's the two fixtures before:

Kitchen Miniblinds

Bath Window Curtain

And here is how they look after the Frosty treatment:

The "Clean Look" Kitchen

And the same in the shower.

The view from outside is righteously obscured, even when all the inside lights are on.

I call this modification a success.  It was easy to do, the contac paper can be removed and/or replaced, and it is easily cleaned with a swipe of paper towel and Windex.  As for looking outside, all I have to do is slide open the window.  Both these windows are inconvenient to look out of anyway, and as far as I am concerned are there merely to admit light, or, in the case of the bath, ventilate.  They still readily do that.

This suggestion, which came from Andy Baird, gets the Bob Housekeeping Seal of Approval.  Your mileage may vary.

I also got a little carried away with this idea when I applied Frosty to the bottom 2/3 of the Coach entrance door window.  It did make it impossible to see in, but I didn't reflect how much I used that window in driving.  It is right behind the passenger seat.  I depend on looking around to see who is coming up to the right as I turn left, and without it would find turning into a 4 lane street a problematic thrill, like a blind corner on a mountain road.

I prefer not to run good ideas into the ground, so I took the contac paper off that window.


Friday, September 10, 2010

A Typical American Boy

The Beast, full of himself at Haviland Lake

"You're a typical American boy,
From a typical American home.
You were born with a couple of breaks,
Couldn't leave well enough alone..."

            --- Amazing Rhythm Aces

"The Man with a Plan".  Sounds masterful, doesn't it?  I always wanted to be one of those guys.  The problem is, my plans are not exactly plans.  They lack detail, for one thing.  They keep changing, for another.  Bob's plans require a certain latitude and forebearance.  Bob's plans require a serene belief in serendipity.

Or even Providence.

Take travel, for instance.  I once got so used to travel that it wasn't travel at all, but more like life.  I'd like to recover that conviction, if I can, and in aid of that I'm trying various things with the Daze and the Beast.  Including sitting still, here at Haviland Lake after two days of rain.

Now there's the real test of a full time travel plan.  What happens when you have to stop?  Do you get jittery?  Break out in hives?  Go up in smoke?  Or are you still "at home"?

When I had a truck and a fifth wheel, the world made all kinds of sense.  There was a psychological symmetry to the situation.  I had a "house", with wheels, and when it stopped I "lived" in that particular place.  I often got in the truck and traveled out from that place, but then I came back "home".  "Home" was a series of base camps from which I explored multitudinous back yards and neighborhoods.

Okay, life was just a timeshare, but that's true even when you carry a mortgage.

But there's something deeply wrong with the idea of motorhomes.

You lose symmetry.  Your house and your car are the same thing.  When you are moving, no thanks to Newton, you tend to keep moving, because you have no "place" to return to.  But when you stop, say to think about that, you can't rest.  You are then "on the street", because though you may have a place, you have no car to travel out from that place.  And if you do leave, you lose your place.

It is no real news to the Homeless that Law is asymmetrical, though they don't give a fig for Newton.  Note that it makes no difference how much money you spent on the rig, it's still just basically weird.  "My God," as Jennifer the Blogger sez, "I'm living in my car."

Man, this stuff is unsettling.  I feel like Linda Blair.  It makes my head go round and round. Which is why, in lieu of an exorcism, so many people with motorhomes soon come to buy a car to drag behind their car.  It seems redundant.  Hell, it IS redundant.  But it's better than being homeless.  And it makes your otherwise random acts resemble a plan.

I am no exception, save that I drag a Beast.  And sometimes the Beast drags me.  Today the Beast decided to drag me up a mountain.

The Beast just loped along at 60 to 80 per, as its Maker intended.  Wahoo.  Everything was fine until Silverton peaked through the pines.

Then, while I went into a BBQ place to fuel up on pulled pork, the Beast got to talking to a tough looking Taxi.

Next thing I knew, we were on our way to a little place called Animas Forks, at the end of a GRAVEL ROAD!  Now the Beast doesn't do gravel, as a rule.  But if he rides flat, and avoids lean like Jack Sprat's wife, he can handle it.  But it slows him down and crimps his style. Worse than gravel is DEEP SOFT DIRT, which came next.  Soft dirt is slippery stuff, and the Beast is a leetle topheavy for slippery stuff.  And his tires are hard, and have narrow tread.  But even that was okay until we got to the BOULDERS IN THE ROAD, where rain had actually washed away the roadbed, the up and down over which sometimes scraped his frame.  The Beast just can't quite go slow enough for this stuff.

After a while, the Beast stopped for a breather by the Animas River.

I wanted to turn back, but the Beast was excited.  It was JUST A LITTLE FURTHER, boss.  So off we went again.  And then there it was, just below Engineer Pass.  An old mining town from another time, all leaning clapboard buildings and tailing piles.

All that vibration was too much for me.  I had to go pee.  When I came back, the Beast was eyeing the switchback up into the Pass.  "No way,"  I told him.  "But Boss, it's mostly like what we just went over, only zigzagging!"

I thought about when my brother had been with me up there in the Pass, going over into Lake City, and how great it would be to call him from on top.  He once confided soberly that Engineer Pass was where he wanted his ashes scattered, as though I were going to be around to tend to that chore.  It doesn't look like much down here, where the mountains hem you in.  But up there, whole ranges of peaks sweep away from your feet.  Just...right...up...there.

I wavered.  I could always tell Mike this was all his fault.  I was merely checking out plans for his disposal.  And then we went.

We only got about 300 yards up the first switchback when I knew what was different about the road along here.  It was STEEP.  Like at a 45 degree angle.  I decided to turn back.  Which was exactly when the Beast found another soft spot and threw me down the mountain.  Bob's aging body  went ballistic, and landed on some sharp rocks, but fortunately the Joe Rocket jacket has "ballistic" inserts which did a pretty good job of taking up the shock.  And I had my helmet on.

When I got up, the Beast was laying on his left side, taking up most of the road.  Fortunately, his motor died, or he might have dug himself a hole, or skittered over the edge.  I tried to lift him up against the angle of the mountain.  And then I tried again.  And again.  Finally I got him upright.

But then I realized I could do no more.  I was holding on to the handlebar brake with my left hand, straining like Sysiphus just to keep him vertical against the pull of the mountain.  My boots were slipping on the downhill gravel.  It was like a slow strenuous treadmill walk uphill to nowhere.  There was no way I could mount.  And no way I could keep him balanced without mounting.

Right at that moment, here came a jeep around the corner, and a guy leaned out and asked "Do you need help?"

Did I?  Naw, this is the way I get my exercise.  But I actually said, through gritted teeth: "Yeah,  it weighs 600 pounds."

I got him to hold the uphill handlebar while I got on.  Some chrome yellow dirt bikes with agressive knobbies passed by while we were doing this.  They lost traction in the same place, though they didn't go over.  For some reason this made me feel better.  Then I turned Beast down the hill, and very very slowly, with Gravity as my Co-Pilot, brakes working off and on together, I inched my way wobbling and skidding to the bottom of the hill.


The Beast was untalkative on the way back to Silverton.  I was okay, but he had a dent low on the left side of his gas tank.  I tried to persuade him to consider it something like the motorcycle equivalent of a dueling scar.  It made him romantic and mysterious.  He was not convinced.

But it was on the streets of Silverton, where I stopped for a homeopathic beer, that I discovered the real casualty of our folly.  All but forgotten, Mini-Me had been riding in the left saddle bag. And the Beast had crushed her.  Actually the computer part of her personality was still operating okay, but her looks were gone.  Half the screen was rendered as a sort of collaboration between Miro and Jackson Pollack, where the metal back had broken through and shorted out the screen.  Lovely, really, in its own way.  The other half was responding to Windows, and actually attempted to show a whole screen of info in half the horizontal size.  I didn't know it could do that.  Eventually it quit trying.

Valiant effort, noble automaton!  But no cigar.

Mini-Me becomes a half-wit.
At this point the Beast wanted to limp back to Haviland.  But I was determined to have a little hair of the dog, so to speak, so we went on to Ouray.  This was the real motorcycle road, with devil-may-care curves, vertical cliffs, and hair raising dropoffs.

Tell me this road isn't made for motorcycles.
But Beast was not Himself.  He stuck to the inside of the lane, and wouldn't look over the edge. Nonetheless, I did manage to get off and click a pic of Ouray from above:

Tiny Ouray, the "Switzerland of America".
We got "home" to Haviland just about dark, a little before 8 pm.  It gets cold fast up in the shadows here.  Despite the tank bump, the Beast seems to be working fine.  I've got a blue left knee and a sore left shoulder.  I guess it could have been worse, trying to climb a mountain with a street bike.  I'm not sure the netbook can be fixed, and in any case I'm more than normally confident that being crushed by a motorcycle on the side of a mountain isn't covered by the warranty.  A replacement will probably be ordered.

O Mini-me!  Alas, poor lass, we hardly knew ye!  Next morning the Beast was contrite, and offered to do the laundry by way of amends.  But it's all short wages.  Mini-me is still a half-wit.


This whole trip started out in the spirit of a test.  I thought I was testing out the Beast and the Daze, but found out that testing goes both ways.  In any case, when faced with a particular proposition along the way, I took it as a chance to explore possibilities, rather than simply consider whether it was sensible.

I wanted to know what I could do with the equipment I had, whether it was comfortable or not. And I found out.

The thing is, though... I've got a pretty sweet deal here.  Maybe I ought to just relax and enjoy it, rather than test it to destruction.   And thanks to a sporting Providence, I may still have that chance.

Bob, who needs a new plan.