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.


Anonymous said...

just as everything had been getting worse but going well, at the very last climb the road decides to do that to you... outright cruel i tell you!

better get a replacement for mini-me soon, electronics get grumpy when they don’t get their regular lap dances.

out of curiosity, are there practical reasons why you had a 5th wheel but don’t anymore? i’m seriously considering getting one and would greatly appreciate your opinion if there are drawbacks when compared to daze.


Anonymous said...

Well, Brother,
It was real nice of you to think of spreading my ashes to an early grave by blameing me of your mishap. What a kind thought it was by wanting to check out the disposal area to be sure it was good enough for me. Please be sure that you don't try taking my urn up on the back of the beast. I would hate to think that the beast would crush my metal and short out my screen.
Regards, I think!
Brother Mike

jr cline said...

Great adventure story. Thanks for sharing it.

akaMike said...

Shades of Tioga George storytelling, Bob!

Bob Giddings said...

Dan, I just got tired of the fifth wheel. I lived in it for most of 4 years, and traveled in it longer.

Speaking of longer, that was the principal problem. It and the truck combined to make a 42 foot length. I wanted something smaller, like the 22 foot Daze. But then I added the 16 foot Beast Garage. But that's still only 38 feet, and there may be trips when I leave the Beast behind.

The fifth wheel is the most house for the money, and is easy to back up and maneuver compared to bumper pull trailers. I'm glad I went that way at first, and it may be I'll go back.

In addition, there was the money. I put about $45K into the new truck and trailer. I've got about $20K in the Daze, Beast, and Trailer.

But the bottom line was, the trailer was 10 years old and it was time for a change. I just got bored with it.

But I've still got that great truck.


Ed said...

"But there's something deeply wrong with the idea of motorhomes. You lose symmetry. Your house and your car are the same thing."

Bob, I don't think of my motorhome as my house and my car.I think of it ONLY as home. There are times that I use it as a car also but do not think of it in those terms. I think I'm living in a home that I can move easily from place to place but I'm living Car-less.
Once before I lived Car-less for about 6 1/2 years and discovered that there is very little shame in being Homeless in our society but to be Car-less is almost unforgivable.
So, I'm Car-less once again but I have lived through it and have some idea of what to expect.
You have it great! You have your home, which can be moved, that pulls your garage that carries your Beast which allows you to participate in our society.

Anonymous said...

i think i got 'ya - choice a, choice b; pros/cons... i'm impressed that your current tools of the trade all come in at under 20k! have a great and SAFE weekend Bob :)


Anonymous said...

Hi, Bob, -- Suzanne from Atlanta here.

As one who dreams of living the nomadic life one day soon, I have often thought of asking you to compare and contrast the 5th wheel versus your on again / off again love Daze. I have long thought I would want a travel trailer or 5th wheel and had eliminated the thought of a motor home altogether. However, after following yours and Jennifer's compelling blogs, I have started to be swayed. So thank you for expounding on the differences and preferences.

I sure do hope you and Jennifer go easy on yourselves trying to tame your respective Beasts, because I sure do enjoy reading your blogs!

This weekend is Atlanta's annual RV show, so I am off to spend the day exploring and dreaming!

Take care,

Bob Giddings said...

Suzanne, what is best for you depends on how you are going to use it. There are lots of factors, but the simplest test is this: if you are going to be moving a lot, the motor home makes more sense. If you are going to be traveling to destinations where you park and stay for weeks at a time, and travel out from, then the fifth wheel is most convenient, both because you have a good "car" and because fifth wheels give you the most "home" for the money in any specific length. That's my experience.

But it is also a fact that many people like whatever gets them up and out.