one pot meals, virtual choir, wingin’ it, the winds,
way too many porker carts, an evil god,
and shootin’ the boss

Well, back in the dog days of summer. Know where that phrase came from? It’s the period between early July and early September when Sirius, aka the Dog Star, rises and falls with the sun. Unfortunately, so do the temperatures. Oh well, winter’s coming.

A thought on preparing meals—keep it short and simple. I no longer like to cook, let alone spend half an hour or more preparing a meal. I also have my main meal of the day midmorning, after I’m done with giving thanks. Since I get up at 5:00 for most of the year, I’m definitely hungry by 9 or 10:00. The rest of the day I’ll generally just snack. Most of my meals are prepared in one pot. Since I’m generally off the grid, water conservation is always a factor (I still only use 2 gallons a day). I eat a lot of spaghetti, buying different kinds when I can: brown rice, spinach, whole wheat (Bionaturae is great), whatever. As the water heats to a boil and the spaghetti is cooking, I’m mincing one or two jalapenos, cloves of garlic or shredding a carrot into the bowl I will be eating out of (saves washing another bowl) and getting other stuff out. Often, three minutes before the spaghetti is done, I’ll break an egg into the water so it can cook. I’ll then drain most of the water and add a big scoop of TVP to soak up the rest. From then on it varies: frozen or fresh vegetables, sunflower or sesame seeds, canned olives or black beans, canned jalapenos, Mexican style tomatoes, tofu, tepines (couldn’t live with tepines), minced onion, nutritional yeast, vegetable bouillon cube, cayenne, olive oil, balsamic vinegar, whey protein, whatever. So I start with spaghetti but it ends up tasting different. Sometimes it’s more vegetables than spaghetti. I rarely use spaghetti sauce and parmesan so it’s not like I’m having ‘spaghetti’ all the time. Just as often, I use cous-cous or quinoa. I get 2 or 3 pounds of it from the bulk bins whenever I come across a natural food store. And yep, most of it gets stored in the fresh water holding tank (Feb ’08‘useful items to have along for off-the-grid vagabonds living in small rigs’). Easy cleanup—one pan, a wooden bowl, and three utensils. It’s just one aspect of being present, living simply and paring my life to its essentials.

A few months ago I sent a link to some friends and they enjoyed the video so I’ll share it here. Some of you will have come across Eric Whitacre’s virtual choir on youtube but this link gives you the background. It’s a pleasure to watch Whitacre’s presentation. You can see he totally enjoys telling the story.

I topped my roughest road yet, by far (not that I wanted to), pulling the casita down a forest road off rt550 south of Silverton, CO, very, very rocky. We crept along taking 20 minutes to go less than two miles and the casita was really gettin’ hammered and of course, no possible place to turn around. One of those roads where the rear table bounces up off one of the legs. Someone at the natural food store in Durango had said to access this road from the north end because the south end was really rough. Good grief, the north end was REALLY rough, can’t imagine what the south end is like. Finally found a place on a short spur road and pulled in. To make the experience even more unpleasant, the ground was covered with powdered dirt. M&M LOVE rolling in powdered dirt. I HATE M&M rolling in powdered dirt. No way are they allowed in the casita lookin’ like dirtballs—baby wipes (a LOT of baby wipes!) and a wet micro-fiber towel to clean them up each time they wanted in. I never leave the cat door open in areas where they can easily get so dirty. The packed-in water lasts noticeably longer if we avoid powdered dirt and sand but some really nice spots have it. This was not an overly nice spot, however. Not bad but not worth the drive in. To make it all par for the course, mosquitoes descended and made setting up camp a real joy. After a breeze came up, I took M&M on a walk down the spur road and found out how short it was. Felt kinda boxed in here. Stayed two nights since I didn’t want to do that road two days in a row.
My rig now measures 37’ with a terrible turning radius and it’s affecting my lifestyle. Not good.

Sure am glad I got a V8 while down in Bisbee. Drove over two 10,000’ passes and one 11,000’. The Cherokee would not have been likin’ it. Colorado wasn’t working for me. The mountainous areas I was driving through offered limited forest roads and many of the ones I checked out on the maps, noticing the contour lines, looked too steep for pulling the trailer and most of the ones I tried were pretty rough with limited places to turn around and very few spur roads. I need more elbow room to get out in the sticks so the area limited my type of camping. For those who do campgrounds, it’s an absolutely stellar state to explore. But in the steep areas, even the campgrounds are right along the road; it’s not like there is an option. So—off to Wyoming. I just need to find a Wyoming DeLorme or I’m screwed. RVers and many campers get by with state road maps. I could never live my lifestyle with those. I need a DeLorme for each state. I need to know where the forest roads are. I need to read the contour lines. They help me decide routes to take and places to explore. I need to see where BLM and state land is. Nope, state maps don’t do it for me.
I felt much better once I decided to bag Colorado. I was having a tough time finding the kind of places I like and I was getting kind of bummed. This lifestyle is all about freedom and spontaneity. Can’t see how most pretty much stick to itineraries, schedules, and lists of sights-to-see. When I pulled out of Chama, I didn’t know if I was going to leave town heading west or north until the day before. It didn’t much matter. When I pull into some isolated spot, I rarely know where I will go next until I pull out the DeLorme. Different strokes. I can’t see how RVers can have any sense of adventure when they lay everything out before hand. Just sounds like a common road trip to me. Then again, I live in the west. Don’t know if I would have even thought about doing something like this if I still lived back east. Since I would not have been able to live this lifestyle back there, I might not have realized there are areas of the country where it’s not only possible, but easy. Guess I’m kinda wingin’ it at this stage of my life. Feels pretty good.

After a horrendous time of trying to give thanks while outside one morning, I stopped and picked up a screen tent. Never had one. The gnats were WAY too aggressive. Reminded me of black flies when I lived back in Lake Placid. The tent is not what I would have gotten if I had a chance to look around on the web but I figured I needed one NOW. The screen tent measures 9’x13’ and the instructions called for two people for assembly. Don’t think so. I thought 9’x13’ would be too big. Once again, I was wrong. It’s a good size for exercises and cardio circuits. For Tai Chi, it’s a joke. I keep having to insert steps to give me room. At least I can work on individual movements and transitions. My six foot table fits in there fine when I need it. Maybe this summer I will finally see if the two jigsaw puzzles I picked up at a thrift store have all their pieces. So far Meadow has only ripped two holes in the screen. One day a stiff wind came up just prior to a rainstorm and a guideline tab ripped out. That led to a broken roof pole. Once again, I thanked the gods for providing us with duct tape. After a month’s use, it is still holding up. Not bad for $40.

When I reached Wyoming, I picked up a DeLorme. Oh man, the current editions are worthless for the kind of camping I do. They don’t show nearly as many forest roads as the older editions. Luckily I have ‘90’s editions for the states I generally travel through. When I get someplace where I’ll be for a while, I’ll try to find a 90’s edition on eBay or some similar site. If one is just going to do national forest campgrounds, DeLorme is still the best thing going. Those annual RV campground guides cater to RVs (well, duh), so if you are into camping, don’t bother with them.
I’m more of less winging it here in the Wind River range. I go up a dirt road a ways, set up camp and the next day or so go off exploring on my mountain bike looking for other places to set up camp, preferably down narrow spur roads.

One secluded spot was at the end of a road with only one BIG rock to maneuver over (no way to get around it). Don’t know what the Dodge is going to look like after a couple years of this kind of stuff. The site had a strong running stream less than 50’ away. I sure do like camping with that sound. Lots of mosquitoes, though. Glad I picked up a screen tent. This spot isn’t as bad as it looks. I’m not set up that close to a road; it ends right there. One evening M&M and I were out walkin’ along the stream. I was looking over at some lingering patches of snow and when I looked back, there was a pronghorn up ahead. Way cool. I don’t see all that many while out exploring, only while driving. Another time I was working at my bench in the casita and I heard some large animal sounds that I wasn’t familiar with. M&M sat up and looked out the window. Two young moose were briskly walking past the casita, not 40’ from us. I am so thankful for all these little occurrences that bring a smile to my face. Not a bad life.

After a couple weeks, I drove into Lander for supplies. I stopped at the Sleeping Bear RV park and campground for propane. The lady also let me use their laundromat, fill my Reliance water jugs and exchange some books. For an RV park, it was not all that bad, pretty laid back and the owner was very helpful and had answers for all my questions. Then I hit the new library in town for web access. Possibly the friendliest library I’ve been in. Afterwards I checked out Wild Iris mountain sports on Main St. My kind of place. Purchased a map of the Wind River range that showed a good deal more forest roads than the new (worthless) DeLorme. After picking up groceries and more wine, it was back to the mountains and a new camping spot.

So far the day had gone well. Now it no longer did. I had come across a neat spot while out mountain biking. It was back in less than two miles but pretty rocky in spots, with some steep dips, and a stream to cross. I drove in, digging trenches with the hitch jack in four or five places and bending the rear stabilizers and the angle iron that supports the holding tanks some more, keeping in low 4-wheel drive. Make a guess here? Yep, someone was in the spot. There was not anything else in the area that looked good to me so I drove back out, with more trenching and bending.

There was another spot a few miles away I had come across while out bikin’ so I drove there and stayed a couple weeks. I don’t like camping so near a road but it ended 100 yards farther along with a tight turn around at the border of the national forest. No vehicles came by other than a few porker carts. It had some good trails for running and biking. Well, there was at first. The second week a group of RVers set up a half mile back down the road. They spent a good deal of time out on the trails on their ATVs. The next time I went mountain biking, the hills were covered in loose rocks that they had churned up and turned the dirt to dust. That was fine in that it made the climbs more challenging but it looked like shi*t.
A couple of mornings I biked farther up the mountain looking for other camping spots and came across a few that would work but nothing stellar. There sure were a lot of vacant RVs parked out and about. It kind of rots when you find a nice spot out in a national forest and find a rig parked there and the owners only coming up on the weekends. Never been anywhere where it’s so prevalent.

There are way too many RVs dry camping up in the Wind River area. I came across quite a few clusters similar to this. One thing that’s good is that they don’t venture far in so they are not going to be in the places I like to camp. However, most of them have porker carts with them so they will be driving by my sites on their ATVs. Wonder if there will ever be an open season on them. These people have no idea of why campers go off to spend time in the Outdoors.

An evil god named Tabata came up with a way to make mere humans huff-and-puff and sweat. He used intervals consisting of 20 seconds of maximum intensity exercise, followed by 10 seconds of rest. This cycle is repeated 8 times for a total of 4 minutes. And oh man, do they work. I use two various compound body-weight exercises (the more muscles and joints involved in a movement, the more caloric expenditure) for an 8 minute workout. It’s harder for me to do an 8-minute tabata than run for an hour and a half in the mountains. I try to do two during a workout. I’m working towards using 3 exercises for a 12-minute tabata and if I keep with it, maybe 4 for a 16-minute tabata, but that is probably beyond me. It’s hard to believe how effective this technique is for toning and limbering up and trimming down (and beatin’ the cr*p out of you). Cardio exercise, in general, is the best way to lose fat. The first few days that I tried tabata circuits with various exercises was SO discouraging but near the end of the second week I felt that, ‘Maybe I can do this.’
My first timed runs while in Chama this summer, on two favorite, pretty much constant uphill sections, were about 2 minutes and 5 minutes off last summer’s times. I was in Chama, running in the mountains for only a third of the time I was there last summer. After a couple weeks of tabata circuits, I beat my best times on running up these two hill stretches in the middle of my runs (one roughly 20 minutes and the other about 40 minutes). The tabata technique is a keeper.
There’s also, a nasty little device called the Gymboss. It was developed to prevent nice, gentle, fun-loving people from saying, “It can’t be 10 seconds already! I’ll wait a few more seconds before starting the ‘work’ phase of the cycle.” It’s a great unit that can be set for 2 intervals, work and rest, with a loud multiple beep or vibration going off after each. It can also be set for the number of cycles. After a couple days, I placed my Gymboss on a stump, backed off and shot it. I later came to realize I was being a wimp and ordered another one; they’re cheap. (^_^)

Meadow is always up for our daily walk. Even if she is inside sleeping, I’ll say, ‘Meadow, up for a walk?’ She’ll perk up, stretch, and come outside. Mesa also knows what the offer means but he doesn’t always want to go. He’ll tend to either stay and hang around the campsite or tag along for a while, then turn around and head back. He’ll be there when we wrap up our loop. It’s a treat when he chooses to go the whole way with us. He’ll always go the first couple times at a new spot to check it out, but then it’s like, been-there-done-that.

Presently I’m back in the Lander library posting this entry and doin’ the town thing. Then it’s back for another week in the Winds and on to Idaho with probably a resupply in Jackson. At least I have a ‘90’s edition of DeLorme for Idaho.

‘You have brains in your head, and feet in your shoes.
You can steer yourself any direction you choose.’ Dr. Seuss

RVwest article ‘Following a Free Spirit’


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