Travels With Oso con Migo

Odyssey In America

OAE On The Road Again -- The End of Summer Nude Sunbathers Ahead

Greetings Virtual Travellers:

10/6 Mad Hatter's Tea Party

Carolyn wrote yesterday that she "leaves tomorrow" to go "home" to Nawlins, a.k.a. NOLA, and find what is growing in her fridge:

> My place did not flood, but I don't know if there's hurricane damage or
> leaking.  I'm prepared with disinfectant, rubber gloves, masks and safety
> glasses to tackle my putrid refrigerator.  I haven't really thought beyond
> that.  There is now electricity; I'm hauling water and a solar shower; the gas
> isn't hooked up, but I have my trusty propane stove. At this point I don't
> have a job and don't know how long it'll take for the clinic to rehire me or
> to find something else.
I don't know what to say. It's not like she had a big investment there, Do you know: Did she once upon a long ago live in that city long enough to grow roots? Or is it that she feels the life she only just started there is not yet complete and needs another chance? I asked her those questions and I have the feeling that if I were living in her style and had to start over I'd probly just as well start over elsewhere. But then again perhaps if I felt I had a mission to accomplish I would probly return as she is. That's what I mean: I don't know what to say.

Eldo Bare-B-Que Pot Luck Last SupperYesterday was 10/6 you know, the Mad Hatter's Tea Party, but it wasn't much of a party without you and her, not to mention all the old farts that are here now. Everyone is bent on such a course of restructuring and getting out that there seems little enough gaiety. Maybe that is only my perception cos I am in such a hurry to go nowhere and so much to do to be ready to leave. Somewhen along in here we also had The Eldo Bare-B-Que Pot Luck Last Supper.  Good time had by all, especially Denali who spent some time with a seriously sharp knife carving up the filling for a pumpkin pie.

It doesn't help that the smokers and the clothes-minded are taking over the place already. I canna believe how gagging-bad those people stink after I've been living so long with only the smell of clean Humans. Even in this open space of the "office" when one of them walks through there is a bubble of stench around them.

I suppose I had better get used to it...

The score is four nudes to three clothed and as likely as not there are ashes on the desk along with the chads from the Frequent Soaker Cards. Bill would be tearing out his hair if he had any.

The boards are 3.5 inches wide.Friday the 14th...

Go west old man, go west. Every day I take another load of stuff to La Casa Blanca, two lots over, where I will be squatting for the coming Winter. I am looking forward to building things for a season, instead of fixing them. I am looking forward to a season of not dealing with the public. Perhaps I will yet find some worthwhile individuals to absorb some of my time. In the meanwhile a big fat rattlesnake was apprehended trying to slither into the Sunset Tub. In the picture the fence boards are 3.5 inches wide. The black and white bands on the snakes tail must be racing stripes.

The well drillers have arrived and set up their smelly noisy contraption. CyB have been busy opening up the "back yard" between La Casa Blanca and the Labyrinth. Looks nice. When the big trucks get out of there then we will start fencing out the clothes-minded world and creating a nude enclave. Looks to be a nice place to spend a Winter.

2005october17monday, That Time Flies is a Relative Thing

Wicked neat thunderstorm woke me at oh-dark-thirty. A quarter of an inch of rain means I will not have to irrigate this my day off. I'll stay inside and write letters instead.

Time flies.  Does that mean we are having fun? I've been too busy with all the packing and moving to notice. Where is all the fun?

When I was a wee lad and anxiously awaiting some event my mother would tell me time would pass fast enough, to enjoy it while I could because someday it would speed by too fast for me to keep up. Now I am an old man and I realise it must be something indigenous to mothers; I have read that other mothers have said exactly the same thing. Time does go by faster and faster.

Einstein said it was the law of relatives except he wrote his laws as algebraic formulae with Greek letters and nobody could understand them. I will translate this one: The younger you are the more relatives you have older than you and so time goes slowly, then, later, the older you are the more relatives you have younger than you and so the faster time goes. He also said, by way of a corollary, that the relative who travels ages slower than the relative who stays at home. So I guess that makes me not so old as my younger brother?

Betty writes on the subject of typing and typographical errors:

When my hands are cold, I cannot type.  And when it is too warm, and hands are sweaty, I hit wrong keys because fingers slip.  And when the weather is neither too hot, nor too cold, I am distracted by the perfect magnificence of nature and my thoughts whirl faster than my fingers.

Saturday Almost Halloween

Denali Cleaning the PumpkinGetting close to the end. It is pathetic how the new owners are so afraid of a nude person. Several of them came yesterday to meet with CyB and two actually wacked through bushes to get into the venue at Lily Pond and avoid confronting the nude person at the desk. I am truly sorry such people are taking over here.

Into my heart an air that kills
From yon far country blows:
What are those blue remembered hills,
What spires, what farms are those?

That is the land of lost content,
I see it shining plain,
The happy highways where I went
And cannot come again.

From A Shropshire Lad XL, A.E.Housman, 1896

Jack-o-lantern Artist at WorkSamhain is not in my dictionary

 Fifty-two here just at dawn now. Today is the day. Move it. Even if I cannot find room to pack, everything has to be moved. I will not be sitting here another night. The first thing on the list is the Internet satellite connexion.

Got to find that bird before I can go off in search of the turkey.

I've moved from the hot spring where I have basically been living in hot water for about four years; a fantasy land of hard work and almost no laundry. Next door at La Casa Blanca there is enough work renovating it to keep me busy for another while and then some. The new well is functional tho not completely plumbed. Water at the wellhead is measured at 118f. We need to get a tub or two set up right away. There is so much to do.

And I need to get away for a visit to the beach and the mountains. I do wish that some of you could be along for the ride. I'll be looking out for someone else who needs a grandfather-for-rent. and a ride to Never Land.

Whilst I am on the road there is no satellite-internet access. Messages move via the shortwave Ham radio at about 700baud and I am permitted only 30minutes a day. Pages and pictures such as this will wait until I'm wired again.

2005nov3rd, Wenzday Was Red Hat Day

The water from the new well has a distinct blueish cast. Camilla said the water at Eldo was like that in the early days and she figures that eventually it runs more clear when the copper is gone. I've noted from time to time at Eldo that the water in certain of the porcelain tubs would have that bluish cast but it seemed to have more to do with the sunlight and shadow. In any case the water is HOT. Too hot right out of the well for soaking. 118f!

And the well sings! It was first noticed yesterday morning just after the sky clouded over. A complex chord of fluting notes that one can play by fingers covering various of the bolt holes in the cover of the wellhead. There is a considerable flow of air coming from down the hole.

Perhaps the well pierces a subterranean cavern? The sound went on for hours. After a while I stopped listening and went on to other tasks.

The satellite network antenna had to be relocated. Small wiring changes to the well pump to make the very temporary lashup a tiny bit more safe.

And at The Cat Drag'd Inn, a lot more cleaning and packing to get ready for the road. All the throw rugs out to beat on the line, vacuum, dishes left over from three days, cat-box, rubbish... I never did get to washing the windows; that has to be done afore I can drive or I'll not see to stay on the road. Sara(h) has also been busy, patrolling her new digs, returning now and again to see if The Cat Drag'd Inn is where she left it.

As to the mystery of the singing well? Camilla thought it might be some Earth Spirit, a friendly one I hope, happy to be released; Bill finally called someone and they said that it is caused by the differential air pressure resulting from a lowering in the barometer which is also bringing on the cloudy weather. When the barometer turns round and goes up the well will suck in air but it may not sing then. I more prefer Camilla's idea.

Invoking the spells of higher numerical arcana I reason that there are 81,430 cubic inches of air in the well. Short of measuring the outflow what can one assume about the rate? It is dependent upon the size of the holes and the differential pressure. The well is not whistling now. Perhaps next time we will arrange an aeolian harp...

Much Later, Gila Bend, New Moon at Sunset

It was a bad news-good news beginning at Casa Blanca. Had a nice soak for starters and sent some last minute mail. Washed the windows. Last minute packing. All set? And then the engine would not crank. Main battery seemed rather down. It has been behaving as if it were on its last charge for a few days now; is this the end? A jump to the house battery got the motor running and the battery took a healthy charge for quite a few miles down the road toward the battery store. But they did not have the 8D size in Maintenance Free. Nor did the next place. So I gave up on that and went shopping for ice cream instead.

Sara(h) went to the vet for her annual inoculation. She weighs in at nine pounds four ounces. I went to a bank with a tote bag in hand. I changed twenty-five twenties into five hundred dollar coins. A mix of Sacajawea dollars and Susan B. Anthony's or "gold dollars" and "eagles" for those of us whose syllabicity is challenged. Counting them out is going to make paying for fuel and groceries more meaningful.

We'll spend this Thursday night at the Elks Lodge in Gila Bend and continue west in the morning.

In The Morning...2005nov4friday, Gila Bend

Sara(h) La Gata conMigo is not at all happy with the change of environment that greeted her nose. Perhaps it is only the pea-stone park or the smell of the nearby railroad but she did not make her usual foray before breky. Fifty-four degrees and clear at dawn. The Cat Drag'd Inn is well and the motor started. On The Road Again...

In The Morning...2005nov5saturday, Dateland

Not too many miles yesterday, 54 is all, including a little to the side to look for a cache that was there the last time I travelled through here. Arrived Dateland late morning to visit Linda & John, one of the Ham Radio people I chat with. Flat here, more flat than around Tonopah it seems; but then one doesn't see the flatness through the bamboo wall that encloses El Dorado. We talked about flatness and floods and went for the nickel tour around the neighborhood. One item is the monument to the soldiers of Camp Horn, 81st Infantry, 1943.

On the road with a date shake. The local joke is that this is likely the only date one is going to get in Dateland. I didn't know there were so many different kinds of dates.

Stopped at Telegraph Pass for a little walk. Stopped in Yuma for fuel. Price is not as high as in Tonopah. Fifty gallons, one hundred forty-five dollars. I was expecting to take on half again more than that; looks like the main fuel tank gauge is reading nearly half a tank low. I suppose that is better than it reading too high but it still means something else to fix.

 Over the sand dunes and through the washes looking for Five Palms Hot Spring. The road in the guide book is nearly impassable unless you have four wheel drive. The Cat Drag'd Inn has six wheels and got stuck anyhow. I'll spare you the details.

Playing in the sand with blocks of concrete.The road that is passable doesn't go in the right direction. We'll try again tomorrow. For now I have a nice flat spot and it is almost dark despite the extra hour of daylight presented me at the CAlifornia State Line.

Sunday Morning.

I've decided to relate the gory details anyhow. It is another of those times when I neglected to get any pictures so writing a thousand words might be some sort of penance.

East of where the Highland Canal intersects CA78 there are two gravel roads to the south. It is the second one that the Hot Spring Guide Book says goes to Five Palms. Approaching from the east, from Yuma, westbound along CA78, I missed that turn, and made the other one, the first road east of the canal. Nice road. Wide turn, two lane road, very dusty hard gravel, but wrong road. Turned around in a wide spot and went back to CA78 to find the correct road. Ahh! There it is, between those bushes, one lane, rutted, sandy.

About twenty feet in there was a narrow wash of soft sand. I could feel the front wheels sink as they rolled through but they were back on hard pan before the rear wheels rolled in and bogged down. One back and forth and The...Inn rolled free. I made a mental note to hit that one a little faster on the way out and continued south. There were a couple of other soft spots in the first half mile or so, however I did not see them as bad omens. Then I came to a point at which the road ahead dropped away, a gentle slope, very sandy and rutted. It was apparent from the looks of it others had been stuck there and I was sure that this bus would sink. So I thought to turn around while I was still on the hard surface, find a wide spot to park, and maybe walk in to the spring.

The first point of the turn, forward, dropped the front wheels off the edge. That should have been enough of a warning but I guess I was too busy thinking to pay attention to the facts. The bus backed out of that ok as the rear wheels were still on the hard surface. Then I didn't stop fast enough and the rear wheels rolled out onto the soft verge. I'd gotten out and walked around out there before I started this turn-around and thought it firm enough but it wasn't. I tried some back and forth but right from the start she was in too deep. Stuck sideways across the road at N32° 57.869' W115° 17.339'

Just as I was getting out my AAA card to call for help a big SUV whose fat knobby wheels were as wide as my duals came by and stopped. He agreed to have a go at pulling out The...Inn and got out a wide flat cargo strap that already had a couple of knots in its length. I tied my end to the front axle and he tied his end to his trailer hitch. We tried several pulls and succeeded in getting my rear wheels up to the the edge of the hard surface but they were so far sunk in that they couldn't roll up. We also broke the tow line so now it had another knot. I shovelled out some of edge of the road to make more of a ramp and he let some air out of his great knobby tyres since they had been digging holes in the road and after two more pulls and adding another knot to the tow line The...Inn was up on the hard surface.

My bowline around the front axle came apart with some effort but his knot around his trailer hitch had to be cut away. I showed him how to tie a bowline and gave him a roll of those dollar coins to buy a new cargo strap. Then he guided me through the rest of the turn-around, three more points, before waving goodbye. And when I got out to the start of this awful road I remembered to roll faster through the first sandy spot back to the pavement.

This is not 5 Palms but looks about the same.2005nov7monday, Camping with Flies

 Notes leftover from yesterday afternoon. I can smell a feedlot somewhere west of here. The flies are thick on the side of the bus.

 Five Palms Hot Well is a sandy bottomed puddle of tepid water about thirty feet across, surrounded by several more than five palms. Perhaps as many as twenty not counting all the sprouts. There is a wall of cattails around the north side and a spillway framed by small rounded stones and two sandbags. In the middle floats the cover from an old cooler chest. This cover serves a dual purpose. Its shape keeps it in place over the flow of warm artesian water and mutes the sound of the water in order that soakers might converse without yelling. The cover's other purpose is that of a floating table for beverages.

According to other soakers the well was drilled by General Patton in the early 1940's to provide water for nearby army training camps. Today water is still rushing out of the old well casing.

You can't see all the trash here.Today's adventure was a propane leak. Seems I remember smelling propane yesterday or the day before but didn't put much stock in it. This morning it bothered me enough so I got out my propane leak detector and hunted around where the smell was. Ah yes, looks like the regulator has failed; there is gas leaking from the seal around the first stage. Now this is a high priority problem. Short of building a fire by the side of the road there will be no hot water for a cup of tea until the regulator is replaced.

The Sanitarium Geocache, Highline Hot Well, and three parts stores in El Centro later the time is now 15h30 PST and I am having tea in a rest stop by the side of I-8. Chula Vista is still two and a half hours away. This rest area is 42 feet below sea level, near the western edge of the basin that contains the Salton Sea. The pass through the mountains ahead of me in the Cleveland National Forest is 4100 feet above sea level.

2005nov8tuesday, The City of Lights

Driving into the sun yesterday afternoon, westward from that nameless "safety rest stop--8 hour parking limit" was nothing like driving into the environs of San Diego Country. Coming down from the hills, where there was space to think between cars, to the city of El Cajon where it was dark, 4,000 feet in 22 miles, was like driving into a "Red Giant" to use an astronomical term. A turbulent sea of red light, waves and cross currents, twinkling, blinking, red light. I've not driven in such dense traffic, especially at night, for a long while; it was good to be reminded why I don't like it--The rudeness of some drivers is surpassed only by the stupidity of some soakers who bathe with their clothes on.

Now it is early Tuesday morning in Chula Vista and I've a bread pudding about to come out of the oven. Yum! Sara(h) La Gata conMigo just came in for her nap. Today I will sit still by this grassy lawn in front of Jim's house and think about who next to visit.

2005nov10thursday, writing in the rain

Jim and Stoker live in a small house in a compact neighborhood thick with kids and cars. Jim is a programmer by vocation and a tutor by trade; Stoker in the meanwhile stays at home preening his feathers and cracking nuts. We shared some meals and I was able to get online to catch up with a Brazilion messages piled up in my primary email host.

Sara(h) La Gata had a good time climbing trees and turning over the soil in Jim's flower bed.

On Wenzday morning I relocated The Cat Drag'd Inn to the San Diego Yacht Club where she felt right at home berthed along side the Brazilion or so medium-tall ships in their slips. We were here to visit the Ham Radio Station known as W6IM which is one of the hosts for my on the road email.

Rod, w6mwb, was good enough to show me the station and invite me to lunch. One thing Ham Radio people do periodically is gather round a particular frequency to tell each other where they are and what they are doing. Usually when I check in there are people I know, sort of like a neighborhood or club of folks with similar interests, but never anyone I am actually looking for so it was especially neat that w6mwb answered when I asked the Net Control Station if he'd checked in yet. Rod drove down to where I was parked and took me to the Ham Shack. After that visiting we went to the fish shack for lunch and met several other Hams. Lots of old-timers with storeys to tell and an appreciative audience. It was all a great day for me.

After lunch I took some time for a nap and a bit of vehicle maintenance. The right-side driving light had been moved from its mounting frame by some encounter with an irresistible force and was dangling by the wires. After that little repair we relocated again. Now I am only a few miles north of the downtown area visiting OAE friends. Old Antarctic Explorers is what we call anyone who survives their first Winter on The Ice. Some folks are gluttons for punishment and go back for more. Jeff described his reason for being one of 28 to Winter Over at South Pole as a profound need to experience 100 degrees below zero. Salmon with Teriyaki was the main course. Yum!

2005nov11, Drinking Wine With Veterans

I have been sitting on one street for the past two nights, soon to be three nights, breaking bread and sipping wine with Jeff and Ann and several other assorted humans. Jeff is a veteran of McMurdo and South Pole so we have some Winter-Overs in common there. Angie is another OAE who was at McMurdo for a Winter. We've been putting together an old computer to help me upgrade to the New World, and we have gone after four geocaches within walking distance of their house here on Appleton Street.

Also accomplished a couple of showers, a laundry, some minor fixes, and a cleaning of Sara(h)'s cat box. All this visiting is taking more time than I expected. But actually should take more time yet for best results.

12november, Sleepless in San Diego

There has been an on-going problem with the Ham Radio Airmail-WinLink system in that it disallows the use of the BCC Field for eddressing transmissions. Each time I sent out a letter with eddresses in the BCC Field there would be returned one error message saying the first eddress was invalid. The rest of the list would fail but I didn't learn that until after sending daily letters for the first week of this journey. It took a visit to the operator of the San Diego station, supra, to sort out the reason my mail was being returned and the reason why BCC is disallowed: SPAM. Precisely the reason I don't like to put lists in the TO field to start with. Oh Well...

Only two of the list of my alleged correspondents replied to my entreaty concerning this matter to say they did not mind sharing my TO: field. At least so far anyhow. I am wallowing in some sort of self-pity when I wonder if others I thought I was writing to might someday wake up and wonder why they've not read from me for so many miles.

In the meanwhile, here with Ann and Jeff, it has been party-party-party with several of Ann's friends visiting as well as me. Good times!

This morning I get on the road again. 700 miles to the next visitations in Durham and Paradise.

Later on the 12th, Atascadero. The Longest Day: 334 miles.

Longest day so far. Ventura Highway, in the sun; highway 101. Words to a song? All the beaches I passed looked nice but not very inviting. Crowded parking, peopled with Tex Tyler's friends and relatives. Just as well. I am a lot further along now.

Monday, 14th November, Triskaidekaphobia Strikes Again

I remember bits of a beach yesterday, and 77 gallons of fuel and a shower at a truck stop somewhere, but little else. Two hundred seventy-seven miles the odometer indicates, and now the GPS tells me The Cat is Drag'd Inn at a SafeWay in Fairfield. Another thing I remember from last night is finally paying attention to my senses and reacting in a timely manner when the telltale wave of brake lights give a clew that a traffic jam was about to occur. Jumping off at the exit close to hand and following the GPS to get around the jam and watching to see all the traffic bottled up on the freeway.

The beach was something special and I will have to return somewhen to wrest full enjoyment out of it. Shark's Tooth Cove is the place to look for. Just in case you chance upon the section of CAlifornia Highway One a few miles north of Santa Cruz but not quite all the way to Davenport. It is a steep rocky coast along here and the sea has carved fantastic shapes and grand sandy-bottomed caves where you could well be nicely isolated when the tide comes in.

Fairfield is not so special. Hard to find a place to park. Another of these planned communities where the plan is to make life difficult, if not downright miserable. The first shopping circus I tried to get into had a rejection patrol on my tail the moment I came in the gate. Moments after I shut down the motor and commenced to clean up the mess of two hours of washboard interstate this guy was blinking his lights and telling me with professional politeness that overnight parking is out of the question.

The second place I tried, a SafeWay in a little cluster of small shops, is perhaps not making enough profit to squander it in such manner; but the carpark, flat and inviting tho it may be, is fraught with low trees, tight corners, and little traffic control islands. But Sara(h) likes the trees and I am too tired to continue and so we stayed.

And Stayed And Stayed And Stayed Some More.

Let me tell you a little more about yesterday. Let's see... It started at dawn when the Alarum Cat went off. Saying that yesterday started at dawn is sort of like saying, of someone you really like the looks of, that their "legs went all the way down to the ground".  Nonetheless, the Alarum Cat has no snooze button.

It took me several tries to give up on sending mail so I wrote some more in my journal. Somewhen along there it occurred to me that one of my credit card bills is usually due about this time so I wrote a cheque and prepared it for posting to a letter drop if ever I found one. Then I noted, through some convoluted chain of events more visual than aural or writeable, that the bottom of the overhead cupboard above the library shelf was falling away from its hanger. The poorly maintained CrApelfornia highway system was wreaking havoc on my home. Driving in this state is like enduring the effect of a sustained earthquake. Perhaps the locals are inured to it.

Upon this unnerving discovery all plans for the morning were shelved, so to speak; it was instead, time for a cup of tea and a slice of rhubarb pie. Then, with dunnage and broom stick I jacked the cupboard back into place and fashioned a wrap-around fix, a splint for the joint where the screws had pulled loose. I knew there was some good reason for hauling that old broomstick all this Way.

By now the UPS store was open. It is the subject of another diatribe of course but has anyone else noticed how there are more UPS stores located in convenient locations than there are United States Postal Service offices? After that visit then grocery shopping at the friendly SafeWay which has been so nice as to host me for the night. Finally, about nooning, I am ready to relocate to the nearby NAPA store.

Two mechanical problems are ongoing. One, new in the past week, involved the air dryer and compressor. I am still looking and listening for advice about that one. The other goes back more than a year but is now getting bad enough to warrant some serious attention. The fuel gauge on the main diesel tank has become more and more erratic. Sometimes it bounces between a quarter tank and a half a tank, it never reads full and usually when the gauge says the tank is empty there is still some in it. But I am never sure. Somehow I am now motivated to do something about it.

Like millions of other Americans I am sure, I have been collecting the State Quarters and paw through my change every time seeking the latest issue. On occasion I find a New Hampshire Quarter. I save those too. They are special. New Hampshire may not be the "Live Free or Die" state any longer now that Emissions Testing on your chainsaw is creeping into the backwoods communities of the North Country and the "Old Man of The Mountains" has left town, but the NH Quarter is still the only "two headed" coin. You can't loose a tossup with that one. I never know the date of each new issue but I redouble my efforts whenever I hear other folks mention that they've just found a new one. Kansas is the object of search these days.

So off to the NAPA store and surprise of surprises they did in fact have two fuel tank sending unit kits on the shelf. One kit included the gauge whilst the other was built by Stewart-Warner to automotive industry standards. Both sending units had a about a two-inch mounting flange with five screw holes. I had yet to uncover the location of the sending unit in the bus's main tank but was fairly convinced that was the point of failure. The top of the tank is covered with a layer of dirt thick enough to grow mushrooms if it were not for the fuel. I purchased the S-W kit and removed the bus around back of the NAPA place where a store-front Baptist Church had a suitable carpark and the adjoining stubble field would double as a catpark.

Tools out, box to sit upon, bungee cord to hold open the fuel-fill access door, drop light redirecting the solar insolation into the mushroom-growing darkness. All set, ready to get dirty. I shovelled my way down to the top of the sending unit and swept the area clean. There were six screws. And the flange was nearly an inch larger than the replacement under consideration. Well, I'm this close so I removed the old unit anyhow, just for the look-see. Inspection accomplished, all buttoned up, back through the list of light, cord, box, tools, and return the S-W sending unit to the NAPA store. And there, in the change of my refund, were two bright shiny new Kansas Quarters! Ahh! See? There is a purpose to everything.

Now we're through to half past mid-day and I still have miles to go before I sleep. Durham is the goal, to break bread and visit with OAE friend cmdr Mark. Been several years since I was a revenant at his farm.

Once north of the urban sprawl that stretches from San Francisco through Sacramento the land opens up flat and farms of nut trees alternate with rice paddies. Far to the north, through openings in low hills, I can espy a pair of snow-capped mountains. Mount (Peter) Lassen (13 thousand feet) is the southern-most volcano of the Cascades.

Mark lives with several brothers, wives, and kids, among their nut orchards. I learnt that English Walnuts are the ones we eat. An English Walnut scion is grafted onto a Black Walnut stump because the black walnut tree has a stronger root. There are also pecans growing here. The rice paddies grow California white rice primarily for export to Japan--at least this country is exporting something to Japan.

2005november17, Up The Hill in Paradise

Ducking Thru the Brier.These people in Paradise are a neat couple. He paints (artist) and she cooks (YUM!) Frank was another of those 12y.o.once upon a long ago in my group and was an artist even then. Now, as a "starving artist", he makes a pretty good living at it. Last time I visited this family they lived in Vermont when their son was 10; now he is thirty something and married with dog. Frank and I had a good time last night reminding each other of the old days. He has a lot of storeys of events I remember differently--or not at all. Things happened a different way in his eyes and some parts I was never aware of at the time they took place.

Some of the things we/they--him and his cohort--did in those days we would never get away with in today's social climate.

I have to wonder what has taken the place of the adventurous spirit of too many of the youth of today.

18nov2005 Friday, Stray Cats

Sara(h) and the other cat went off for a tour of the neighborhood just as did Frank and I. Sometimes she, Sara(h), gets beyond the end of her rope and I find my Self with an unplanned delay. Time to write another letter, have an unexpected conversation. So it was this morning.

Saturday, Visiting in Paradise and along the Way to Reno.

Toni and Frank live in such a fine and dandy location. I hope the Wal-Mart Syndrome does not encroach too close and no high rise apartments grow into their view across the canyon. It would be awful if Frank's paintings started sprouting ugly rectangular blocks of smoking cinder along the skylines and moonscapes he does so well.

We did four geocaches! Two were an easy walk from their house, tho extremely difficult for a skinwalker in a residential neighborhood. Two others were out along SR70 where Frank took me for a little preview of what the drive would be when I departed to continue my race with the Thanksgiving Turkey. It is always more fun for me to share such little adventures. It is always more fun to share these big adventures too. At least I am happy that you, Gentle Readers, may be engaged in your own.

First order of business on The Road to Reno was to fill the main propane tank. The furnace has been running a lot as I climb into colder altitudes. There was no propane to be had at the first little store. I had not shut down the motor cos it didn't look too inviting right there by the tank and when I went to look for the proprietor a woman came out and said: You're not gonna be happy and neither am I.

I guess she was expecting a big sale for such a big bus. Oh Well. Next stop was Quincy. None there either. I did find Diesel for 2.75 so that was Ok but the Suburban Propane dealer across the street from the eat-here-and-get-gas place has closed up shop and moved to Nevada. Sure would have been nice if they'd have put a big CLOSED sign in the window. No other propane seen anywhere along the route as yet. This would be a good time to have a wood stove in here.

Now I am writing from Sierra Hot Spring at SierraVille where the temperature on the outside at Oh-Dark-Thirty is 22-25f depending upon which thermometer I peruse. They were both at 23 a while ago. The bus is warm enough inside but Sara(h) is not at all happy with the conditions nor am I. Hard to type letters whilst wearing mittens. It is a good morning for some Red River cereal with a little Cream of Wheat added.

The spring here is sulphurous. Not good for silver spoons, nor silver bracelets and silver chains. But that aside, it was just the right temperature after the chilly walk from where The...Inn is parked. Seems strange to be paying for soaking, to be on the other side of the desk...

Smokey El Oso meets Sara(h) La GataThe drive across SR70 was arduous to say the least. Some of those edges, those outside curves, especially where no guardrail exists, are very much more scary from the height of this driver's seat than from the front seat of Frank's little car. In a car so close to the surface one does not see over the edge as much as from up in this bus with no bonnet to distance one's Self from the edge.

Many fine skinnydipping pools along the Feather River and the several tributaries that feed it. Rock Creek is one of them but the construction had the access completely obstructed, one way traffic across the bridge, no place to park, no way to get through the line of waiting traffic. Too cold anyhow; just one more reason to make a return engagement.

The bus did well over all. It took me three hours to drive the 52 miles to Quincy, including a short break for lunch, and another two hours for the 41 miles as far as SierraVille. The navaid programme time for that distance is two and a half hours but it fails to take account of the hills and extreme curvenicity of the road. Quite a drive; truly the scenic route. Now it is early on the 19th and I am parked in the hot spring's "quick exit" RV slip waiting for the hot cereal to cook. It is taking over-long, perhaps due to the altitude. Or the coldness of the water to start with. Ice on the puddles outside The Cat Drag'd Inn.

Got to go for another soak before I try to start the motor.

2005nov20, 5500'MSL Ketchup Hazard at Spencer

Smokey in the forest.Now I'm really a day late. The late start from Sierraville and all that fooling around in Reno looking for propane cost me too many hours. Not sure what the problem with propane is. The usual cutbacks in trained personnel, the closure of local gas company outlets... I canna believe it is cause of not enough profit. No propane at the two truck stops in downtown Reno, the gas company is closed... Finally with the help of my handy radio I was able to get directions to Baldini's Plaza, on the northwest corner of Freeport & Rock, south of i80x17. Baldini's is a fair sized casino with acres of parking and includes a fuel stop with car wash and propane.

Coming down out of the hills west of the city was a dramatic change from the tall tree forests to the open desert. The road east of Reno is wide and flat until it changes from i80 to U.S.50. The Loneliest Highway in America, complete with the Loneliest Telephone in America (near Sand Mountain  N39° 16.48' W118° 24.51') is much more hilly and curvy. The (or "a") Pony Express route went along this way. As evening wore on the temperature dropped and the cold air settled so as I went up and down over the various passes the temperature went up and down as well. Eventually, with Spencer Hot Spring still an hour ahead I was tired enough to give up and park. The Mount Airy Pass was home for Saturday night.

Not so bare bear at Spencer Hot SpringOn the east side of Reno, overlooking the interstate as you drive eastbound, there is a large billboard signed by Bureau of Land Management with the message:

Hot Springs on Public Lands
Stay Out of the Water
And Stay Alive!

...What about hot springs on private land?...

You know those upside down ketchup bottles one sees nowadays? Beware! Opening one after sufficient increase in altitude can result in a hazardous expectoration of ketchup.

 Smoke TB ready to hibernate in the cacheMechanically the bus is mostly behaving. Leaks in the air system--for brakes, steering, horn--are exacerbated in these cold temperatures. May be that one of the check valves is misbehaving as well. Fuel mileage numbers: 9, 9, 7, in the three fill ups so far.

Spencer Hot Spring is as I remember it from previous visits. I found one of the tubs I didn't find last time and had to share the main soaking area with a herd of cows and a bear. The area was also remarkably clean compared to past visits. There used to be a cache near there: up the road towards the Toquema Cave, something about the first tree on the right. Bicycled up, six miles along a lumpy road and 1,000 feet gain in altitude; that was an ordeal, I am woefully out of shape. Under the tree, all that I found was the empty cache container. Started it over with the Smokey TravelBug, a lightstick, NH quarter, and Geocache pin. I moved the cache to a somewhat less conspicuous location on the sunny side of the tree. The cache needs a logbook and a "Geocache Letter".

Today Is Monday--Utah! Innuendo and Out the Other

I thought I might try to get all the way across in one drive, non-stop. Can't stay awake that long. U.S.50 has lots of ups and downs and early in the morning the temperature follows. Varying from a low of 15f in some of the little dips and valleys to as much as 40f at the 7000' passes.

At Scipio I saw diesel marked a full dollar more than regular. OFR!

Stopping for a bite to eat. Mileage so far today: 483 by the odo, 400 by the navaid. One of these days I must find a longish measured mile(s) section and drive it to and fro several times...

2005november23wenzday, Cold Start at Hooper ColOrado

Tuesday whizzed past, mile after mile, some of them very scenic in the canyons of old U.S.50, some of them dark now there is no daylight to save. I've been along most of U.S.50, by motorcycle in about '91, but I don't recall this part through the canyon of Gunnison River and Tomichi Creek. Something else to add to the do-over list. Keeping in mind all the lessons of Wolf Creek Pass (10,550) and the admonitions of Young Master Ian, The Cat Drag'd over Monarch Pass (11,312) in fine shape. First time the altitude meter has had its thousands dial all the way round in a long long while.

Along this drive over and around the mountains, many with snowy tops and flanks--I even saw one snowplow cleaning the edge of the road at Monarch--I have been listening to _Touching My Father's Face by Jamling Tenzing Norgay. Talking books are just the thing for these long drives with Virtual Companions. This book I am going to have to read tho. There is much in it, especially at the beginning, that I want to study more closely.

Stopped at Mineral Hot Springs for a bit of a soak and some conversation with real people. The water is not as nice as that at El Dorado nor can one see the stars. They keep the place bright so the attendants can come round to read the temperature of the water and make sure everyone is properly attired. No nudes is bad news.

Now it is dawn of Wenzday and both thermometers say 10f when I crank the motor and it leaps into life. This is the last leg of the race and I think I am going to win.

Thanksgiving Day 2005, Alamosa

Warfful breky and traditional--but for no cranberry sauce--dinner. Stuffed as one is expected to be on this day. Now it is time for a nap. Perhaps tomorrow we'll get back to fixing things.

Black Friday is the name of this morning. I wonder if all the days of the year have specific names. Seems to me another silly concept that the shopping done or not on one day can make or break the annual profit of a business. What fools these mortals be.

Frosty The Morning, Hardworking The Furnace.Ten degrees of temperature in Alamosa this morning where The Cat [is] Drag'd Inn to the back yard of Char and Fred, OAE from Palmer and other stations. There is frost on my windows and the furnace is making up for a life of indolence in AridZona. Sara(h) is not at all happy about the conditions outside where a yard cat has to sleep in a bed of leaves under the deck whilst she shares my down comforter and flannel sheets. But from her inscrutable countenance I cannot tell if her feeling is one of pity or smugness.

Now it is a matter of writing about Thanksgiving Leftovers. I have beaten my Way across several states to be here with Char and Fred and umpteen members of the various sides of their family. Kids from this ex- and grand kids from grandparents twice removed. We had a Thanksgiving breakfast with some and a Thanksgiving Dinner with some others. Today we will have soup and twice-baked bread pudding if anything at all. (I am trying out a new recipe where you take the leftover stuffing and throw in some eggs and sugar and milk and bake it again. It worked once before when I had a lot of crusty baked rice leftover from a dinner for twenty. Added raisins &c and baked it into a pudding. Yum!)

Today I must raise the winter windows on The...Inn and put some special non-toxic anti-freeze in the holding tank...

Sunday, 27 November, 2005, Ojo Caliente, Around The Horn

Fred & Char along The Rio Grande.Time to catch up with these notes. I've been rambling in more ways than on the road.

South from Alamosa with, Thanks to Char and Fred, a fridge full of leftovers and a tank full of fuel. The weather had been nice, albeit cold, for the previous days of this visit, but now the forecast was for snow. Fred was leaning towards a real nasty storm. I wanted to get to "The Land of Enchantment" before the roads became hazardous to my health. Just over the line was a geocache in a wide spot by the side of the road; it made a good first stop. Cup of tea and find the cache. And just then the snow caught up to me. Hard for a SkinWalker to properly play this game in such adverse conditions.

Ojo Caliente is very much an upscale resort. Fifty dollars just to park overnight and that does not include the soaking. This place takes you for a soaking even before you have a chance to get in the water. Not my kind of place but I had to find out first hand.

Now it is Monday Morning (coming down...) at a truck stop west of ABQ. A strong tailwind followed me south from Ojo Caliente Sunday afternoon and when I turned west at "The Big Eye" it became an even stronger crosswind. The...Inn was all over the road. Driving was a chore of hazardous proportions and the wind advisory forecast worse. At Oh-Dark-Thirty the conditions look a lot better so I'll get started here shortly. Pie Town next.

Elk View Cache in the snow.Does anyone know where hematite (Fe2O3) beads come from? Another item imported from Taiwan or China? Yesterday afternoon, when I was sitting here composing the previous entry, an Indian-looking man approached with a hand full of hematite necklaces. His storey was to the effect that these necklaces sell in the local gift shops for upwards of 25-30 dollars. His people make them, he said. They buy the hematite beads--my dictionary says the mineral is also called Bloodstone--but he didn't seem to know from where. His people string the beads, sometimes with other semi-precious stones such as agate or turquoise, to sell to the waśicun. They make great gifts, he said, and things being as they are he is selling them wholesale in truck stops. Four for twenty dollars. I looked at a few. They might make nice presents. How about six for twenty-five dollars, I said. Well, he said, seeing as it is so cold out here, sure. So I picked out six and gave him twenty-five of those dollar coins I've been hauling around.

2005nov29tuesday, Dead In The Snow at Pie Town

Sara(h) at the end of her rope.This has got to be one of my favourite small towns. Situated on the Continental Divide at about 7,000'MSL ("It's All Down Hill from Here") with a campable park across the street from the one room Post Office, the town is not even a crossroads and certainly not an eat-here-and-get-gas kind of place. There's not a fuel stop in 20 miles, and that depends on which day it is. The focus of the two restaurants in town is on pie of course; full meals, set tables, wood stoves, even live music at the Pie-O-Neer. No drive-up windows. Michael says: One man's booger is another man's tutti-frutti

Some might say The Cat Drag'd Inn was "dead in the water" however at 16f it is too cold for that allegory. The white stuff is two inches deep at the Daily Pie Cafe. I made the mistake of ignoring the possibilities and slept through the insistent dreams of the motor not starting, the generator not starting, the nearest AAA being all the way back to ABQ. At least I had not ignored Michael's invitation to stay in the yard instead of going on to the Last Rest Area in the Land of Enchantment. So at Oh-Dark-Thirty when the motor went RRR-rrr-r... I was able to plug in the block heater and the charger to the side of his restaurant. Now the only question I have is: How did she start so nice at 10f last week in Colorado and not now at 16f? Perhaps cos she's been off longer overnight this time is the only explanation I can come up with. Aside from that the galley sink drain is frozen. Everything else seems to be Ok.

Wenzday, 30nov2005, Smoke in the Cabin

Ian will remember this experience albeit this time it was not so bad nor scary. Coming along the Mogollon Rim towards Payson and smoke began to drift forward in the cabin. The last time this happened it was fast, thick, acrid, and had resulted from the exhaust pipe coming loose from the turbine. This time, after several stops and airings out, and as much of an inspection as I could make with the motor still hot, it seems that a panel of the firewall insulation has come loose and is resting on top of the turbine. There is more than one hole in the firewall and the smoke from the insulation is finding its way through. Something else to fix. On top of that the air leak in the exhaust brake has gotten so bad that the compressor is hard put to keep up so I've had to cut off the supply to that appliance. Fortunately I'm down on the smoggy flats of Phoenix and won't need compression braking for a while.

This morning I'm writing from Fry's carpark. Spending as much on computer parts as I have on fuel for the whole trip to get here. So much for sponsoring Gopu's next year at school.

Thursday, 1 December, 2005, Flying-J Truck Stop, PHX

I'm afraid to add up what yesterday cost. Not that it matters much other than the big hole in my moneybag. Lots of niggling issues sort of came to a boil one right after another. One of the annoying oil leaks suddenly got bad enough to pinpoint its source: The hose going to the high pressure side of the tranny hydraulic oil filter has been wet for a long while. I never saw it leaking until yesterday when I happened to be under the bus dealing with another aspect of the main battery failure issue. Fluid was pissing out of the swaged fitting at the filter base, making a most annoying puddle on the street around the corner from Virginia's home. At US$26/gallon that puddle was worth at least a cup of Starbucks finest. So off to the tranny store to have a new hose made.

Even the cacti are wearing tuques.None of these projects ever take as long as advertised. Everything takes longer. And no matter what I think I have to take apart there is always something other to move out of the way first. So from late afternoon until well after dark I sat in the front lot of the Williams-Allison dealer doing a half hour hose R&R. The top end of the hose is only accessible by removing the transmission. Or by going down through the deck of First Class Berthing. Getting down to the deck means taking apart the bed, rolling back the rug and soundproofing, and prying up the glued in place access hatch.

After all that was back together again--except for the glue--there was still the matter of the main battery. For some reason an 8-D heavy duty cranking battery has, since the last time I bought one, become hard to find. But this place had one so there went another hundred and some. All told, these two jobs took another year off of Gopu's education fund. But at least I was able to do all the work my Self.

Oh yes. And then there was the fuel. An hundred gallons at 2.26... Plus 18 gallons of propane at 1.70... There goes yet another year of Gopu's education. Oh Well... At least the fuel prices have come down somewhat in the past few weeks. Now that I am almost "home" The...Inn is mostly all fixed up and ready for the road. Where next?

It is my plan, such as plans are, to head east in the Spring. Ready or not, afford it or not, whether or not anyone cares, I have been away from my sisters for long enough. They are going to suffer through my visitation until I am satisfied they realise I am still alive. And along the way 'twixt here and there I will visit my Self upon as many friends as cannot hide fast enough from news of my arrival.

Be Well, Do Good, and Please Write.

Love, ajo

I do not know what I may appear to the world; but to myself I seem to have been only like a boy playing on the seashore, and diverting myself in now and then finding a smoother pebble or a prettier shell than ordinary, whilst the great ocean of truth lay all undiscovered before me. --Sir Isaac Newton

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Copyright © 2005, A.J.Oxton, The Cat Drag'd Inn , Tonopah AridZona 85354-0313.