Archive for the ‘Camping’ Category

Autumn, leaves

September 25, 2021

The third and best season is upon us.

The autumnal equinox seemed an auspicious occasion for the flushing out of headgear.

I hadn’t left the confines of Bernalillo County since October 2019, and the walls of El Rancho Pendejo had passed the time by slowly creeping inward. Most people wouldn’t notice. But I am a Professional Journalist and know a hoodoo when I see one (our mantra is hoodoo, what, when, where, and why).

So I got out of Dodge. Threw too much camping gear into Sue Baroo the Fearsome Furster, left the MacBook Pro where it sat, and sputtered off to see if all my long-neglected outdoorsy stuff still worked. Just in case something didn’t, I planned to be gone for not too long, to nowhere too remote, and not too far away. I favor multiple redundancy systems, but still, just because you’re paranoid, etc., et al., and so on and so forth.

Hoodat?

The great thing about car camping is you can overpack without flattening your tires, feet, and/or spinal column. So I took two sleeping pads (Therm-a-Rest BaseCamp and ProLite Plus), and I layered them sumbitches between me, the tent floor, and the ground, just because I could.

You wouldn’t want to backpack that BaseCamp, which goes about 3.6 elbees in the large model, but it is the shit for car camping.

I didn’t double up on tents, going with one Big Agnes Fly Creek UL2. Big Agnes says you can fit two people in there, but not if one of them is me. The voices in my head take up a lot of square footage when they come out at night. But what a great one-person tent. Sets up fast, comes down even faster. Just the thing for that third season, which is my favorite.

The bag was a Marmot Elite 30, which is plenty toasty for a hot sleeper like Your Humble Narrator, but a tad on the snug side. It’s kind of like wearing a puffy coat with a hood, but in a duster length.

For a backpack, I chose the Gregory Stout 45. If I need to carry any more gear than fits in a Stout 45, I ain’t going. I may be a jackass, but I ain’t no burro. This is one comfortable pack for traveling fast and light (or for fetching your gear from the car to the campsite to minimize the back-and-forth).

However, since I was car camping, not backpacking, I brought along two items that didn’t fit in the Gregory: a camp chair from L.L. Bean and my elderly Coleman two-burner propane stove.

Now, I have had more than a few camp stoves over the years, from an MSR RapidFire isobutane burner that for years was my main road-trip rest-area stove, to itty-bitty bikepacking boogers like the Soto Micro Regulator, which fits with its canister in a Snow Peak Trek 700 titanium pot. But man, that old Coleman does the business. It was our backup cooker for when the utilities went south up Weirdcliffe way.

Like everything and everyone else, the Coleman two-burner has been through some changes over the years — my old model has a piezo igniter — but it’s still getting rave reviews, and it’s still as cheap as the dirt you’ll sleep on.

And the Subie? Glad you asked. Seventeen years old and she’s still kickin’. If I don’t drive like the Road Warrior, she won’t set me afoot in the desert. That’s the deal we struck, and so far so good. But sometimes I take a bicycle along just in case (see paranoid, above).

An ominous rattle developed on the return trip, but it turned out to be coming from the plastic garage-door opener clipped to the driver’s side visor.

They say you can’t go home again, but it opened the door for me just like always, so in I went.

Hello, sunshine.

Could be worse. …

August 2, 2021

August slipped in wearing its gray flannel suit.

Sixty-four degrees at 8 a.m., with a monochromatic sky and a forecast that would have Noah muttering, “Not again,” as he reached wearily for the red phone next to his spyglass and Mae West.

“Hello, San Diego Zoo? Two of everything, please, chop-chop. No, no delivery necessary. I’ll pick ’em up. Just truck ’em up to Hot Springs Mountain and keep a sharp lookout for a real big boat.”

Welcome to August.

It’s not what I expected, frankly. With The Visitation on hiatus and my calendar remarkably free of to-do items I had been pondering a brief escape from the sodden Duke City to air-dry the old brain-case.

Fewer deer, more roses.

But the weather is proving uncooperative, and it seems silly to drive somewhere else to watch it rain when I can do that right here at home.

Especially since travel involves either a cheerless motel room that was no bargain before the daily rent shot into the mid-two-hundies (plus you can’t find one anyway), or pitching a tent in a flaming puddle full of vampire bugs, shape-shifting cooties, and hobos who wish all these slumming hipster dickheads would just dig into their Hilton points and piss off so they could enjoy their mulligan stew and squeeze in peace.

Masque of the Dread Breath

Well, at least we’re back to the face panties again, hey? Some of us, anyway. The checker was not up for casual banter as I hit the Sprouts to replenish the larder, possibly because The Great Remasking seemed to be a few faces short of a full team effort at 9:30 on a gloomy Sunday morning.

I had noted some diamonds on my windshield during the drive to the grocery and was hoping the actual tears from heaven would hold off long enough for me to sneak in a quick ride without fenders or jacket.

Sure, we need the moisture. And no desert dweller should bitch about rain, unless he parks his shopping cart in an arroyo. But I’m just enough of a hipster dickhead to need the ride, too.

With the deer rustling their own grub up in the hills we were getting a rerun of roses in the yard, so, yay. But the murky mornings and low ceilings recalled Corvallis, Oregon, the only place I’ve ever lived without a bicycle.

The clouds sagged all the way down to the ground in that burg. The moist walls of my tiny apartment closed in around me like hungry freegans swarming a Whole Paycheck Dumpster and the firewood steamed before it burned in the cheap tin wood stove.

A neighbor’s ducks loved that climate, quacking contentedly outside my bedroom window. I drank a lot.

Horses for courses

Back home, with the groceries put away, I took another glance at the sky and decided to go for it. I used to race cyclocross, I thought. I’ve covered school-board meetings. I can do anything for an hour.

I felt another drizzle tuning up as I approached the base of the short climb to the tram. So I swung around and headed back south, weaving Tramway and a network of foothills avenues into a rolling 20-miler. It was just the ticket. Smoove like butter and dry as a good martini.

Today — eh, not so much. The rain started before I even left the house.

I thought about taking the day off, but I ride with a small group of graybeards on Mondays and Wednesdays, and had already committed to the meetup. I had a feeling they’d be out in it, and it was unfortunate that I had mentioned my fondness for cyclocross in their presence.

So I left the New Albion Privateer parked and pulled a Steelman Eurocross down from its hook. A cyclocross bike for cyclocross weather. A man must carry on.

Sharp-dressed man

I stuffed a jacket into a jersey pocket to make sure the rain stopped, but it didn’t work. Didn’t matter, either. The rain continued, but never turned into a frog-strangler; it was barely even chilly, though I kept my arm warmers on. The jacket stayed in its pocket.

And yes, the geezers were all there. And yes, the Steelman drew many admiring glances. So yes, I’ve fooled ’em again.

At one point as we took shelter under a tree there was a short discussion about cutting a climb and subsequent descent from the usual route. It ended when one of us (not me) observed, “Well, we’re already wet, so. …”

So on we rode, taking the downs along with the ups.

It made me wonder what I’d been missing by not riding a bicycle in Oregon. I mean, I was gonna get wet anyway.

Smokey the Bore

June 2, 2021

No, those are not smoke signals.

The National Holiday Road Trip© is finally in the rear-view mirror, and here in New Mexico we seem to have escaped with one forest fire caused by some shitbird’s abandoned campfire. ’Ray for us.

There’s never a killer drone around when you need one, it seems.

“The good news is [the fire] did not grow since yesterday,” said Julie Anne Overton of the U.S. Forest Service.

If that’s the best you can do, we’ll take it. But next time, unleash the flying murderbots, please. We gotta thin the dumbass herd most ricky-tick. Roast their little weenies for them. It’s barely June, f’chrissakes.

Road hard, or my home really is on the range

February 15, 2021

Welcome to the Hotel Tacoma.

Some of us want to hit the road; others are compelled to.

I’ve been both over the years, rambling from Maine to Spokane and Bisbee to Bellingham, occasionally by thumb, a time or two by bus, but most often behind the wheel of a Japanese pickup truck with a camper shell and all the fixin’s for a bit of home away from home.

Trucks with beds and friends with couches saw me through my rambling, gambling years, as I rolled the dice with one newspaper after another. I eventually came up winners by leaving the business altogether.

Marrying well didn’t hurt, either.

And while I have kipped in the beds of trucks since, I have done so as a tourist, not an honest-to-Steinbeck nomad like the people in Jessica Bruder’s non-fiction book “Nomadland,” which has been reimagined by Chloé Zhao as a fictionalized film set to debut Feb. 19 on Hulu.

It’s challenging to make a go of it when your house has wheels. Finding a spot to camp, a shower, or an unguarded Internet connection is a lot like that job of work you don’t have anymore. It’s a whole lot easier when you’re only doing it for funsies and can splurge on an occasional visit to Starbucks or Holiday Inn Express.

The people in “Nomadland” are not posers. They swallowed their fears, and their pride, and jumped into that endless asphalt river.

And speaking of jumps, it’s time for another great leap forward … into the latest episode of Radio Free Dogpatch.

P L A Y    R A D I O    F R E E    D O G P A T C H

• Technical notes: I went back to the Comedy Closet to record this one, using a Shure MV7 mic and Zoom H5 Handy Recorder. Editing was in Apple’s GarageBand, with a sonic bump from Auphonic. Music and sound effects courtesy of Zapsplat. Special guest appearances by The Firesign Theatre (“Temporarily Humboldt County”) and Mel Henke (“See the USA in Your Chevrolet”). I usually saw the USA in a Toy-o-TA, but to each his own.

Travels with Frances

February 6, 2021

I want to see this movie.

Surprise, surprise, hey? The guy whose Motel 6 of choice used to be a Toyota pickup with a six-foot bed and a topper wants to see a movie about people who live in their vehicles.

Well, for your information, wiseguys, I read the book of the same name, by Jessica Bruder, and it was excellent. And furthermore, I would watch a flick about paint drying if Frances McDermond were in it.

So, yeah. You can find me with a big box of popcorn in front of the TV on Feb. 19 when “Nomadland” comes to Hulu. But queueing up for a gig at Amazon’s new fulfillment center on the west side? Not this old rubber tramp.

Remember, I read the book. Anyway, I don’t have a Toyota pickup anymore.

Get OUT!

August 4, 2020

Getting away from it all in 2010, when the Adventure Cycling Association’s Southern Arizona Road Adventure spent a day in Bisbee.

It’s not just bikes that are as rare as hen’s teeth, rocking-horse shit, and integrity in the nation’s capital.

Now it’s everything outdoorsy, from camping equipment to boats and birding binoculars.

Pretty soon “getting away from it all” will mean “going home.”

Go Man Van Gogh

July 3, 2020

Get thee behind me.

The Fourth of July holiday weekend is upon us, we are urged to park our bad selves at home, and here comes The New York Times to torment us with an article headlined “The #Vanlife Business Is Booming.”

Because of course it is. If you have a few hundred thou’ burning a hole in your skinny jeans, that is.

The hoi polloi may find the Mercedes Metris conversion more their style (or the lack thereof, ho ho ho). You can get one of those for under a hundred large.

Or you can just knucklehead it on the cheap. Throw a surplus pup tent, a Coleman bag, and an Igloo full of PBR and weenies into the Wagoneer, break down a gate at some national forest, and shoot the ol’ AK until you can’t hear the voices in your head anymore.

Anyone tells you to knock it off, or asks where your face mask’s at, tell the sumbitch he’s gonna wish he was wearing a catcher’s mask and give ’im the butt in the beezer.

Murka, baybee! USA! USA! USA! Land of the Free*!

* Some restrictions may apply.

Car camping

June 24, 2020

My lodging for Interbike 1999. While I was en route, anyway.

Two distinctly different takes on the ancient and honorable practice of kipping in the car, the first from Adventure Journal and the second from NPR.

I’ve spent many a night racked out in my rides, starting with a 1974 Datsun pickup that had an aluminum topper. The two ’83 Toyota longbeds were an upgrade (more space for me and the dog(s). The ’98 Tacoma? A little less so; that truck was too pretty for stealth camping.

One of the best ever was Herself’s Subaru Legacy Brighton wagon, acquired sometime in the mid-Nineties. Fast, decent fuel economy, AWD, long enough for a 6-footer to sleep in, and no icy water dripping on the sleeping bag on rainy/snowy nights (all truck toppers leak eventually, especially if you bounce them along the indifferently maintained dirt roads of Crusty County for a few years).

Of course, the best thing about kipping in all these vehicles was the certainty that it was both temporary and voluntary. Even a Motel 666 in Dipstick, Idaho, looks pretty good after a couple-three nights spent roadside in your ride.

A van, down by the river

April 13, 2020

“Down by the river … I parked my Chevy. …”

You (OK, I) might have been thinking to yourself (or myself): “Man, a van, down by the river. That would be the thing right about now. Fresh air, solitude, no cootie-carrying COVID Charlies popping in and out, sneezing on everything. Get tired of this place, move to that place. Living the dream, baby.”

Not so much, it seems. Kylie Mohr chatted up a few van-life types and found that this livin’ off the road is gettin’ kinda old given current conditions.

Says full-time van-lifer Matthew Tufts:

“While thinking I’m living quite independently, I’m actually reliant on far more public places than the person with a home who fulfills a lot of those little daily tasks and activities from their residence. It sounds idyllic to weather this storm in rural locales and on the road, as if mobile living makes you immune to the issues currently plaguing most of society. But in reality, living on the road isn’t in the best interest of the greater population. …”

Happily, as in other corners of society, the nomads are taking care of each other, providing parking spaces, spare rooms, even apartments. Says one good Samaritan, Aileen Gardner:

“I definitely feel like we had a responsibility to take care of the people who are currently living on the road. The van-life community is honestly half the reason why people do van life. We take care of each other.”

Going nowhere fast

October 19, 2019

The leaves are changing faster than what remains of Il Douche’s mind.

Ever been stuck in the mud, or the snow?

You get out of your rig to evaluate the situation, consider your options, and compute the probabilities. Eventually you arrive at a conclusion.

“Well, shit.”

Everyone else is motoring gaily along and yet here you are, mired to the hubs in a mess of your own making.

“Well, hell.”

And, no, I’m not talking about our national political quagmire, though, yeah, that too.

“Well, fuck.”

This was simply a matter of me taking my eye off the seasonal ball for a second, and suddenly, boom, here it is, half past October and I haven’t ventured beyond the city limits more than a couple of times all year.

Thus there was something of a piling on, envy-wise, this week.

Old Town Bike Shop’s John Crandall and his wife, Kathy, rolled through town on a short motor tour of the Southwest. The neighbors headed north for a weekend in Taos. And Herself, a confirmed non-camper, sallied forth with a friend to overnight with the Sierra Club at Chaco Culture National Historical Park before Il Douche’s pals decide to strip-mine, drill, or otherwise frack the place all to hell and gone.

“Well, goddamnit all anyway.”

This last was particularly irksome. The Chaco junket had come up in casual conversation some time back, but I have the memory of a Mac 128K and some data gets overwritten in fairly short order.

Suddenly the trip got scrawled on the calendar in the kitchen and I found myself pressed into service as quartermaster officer, furiously inspecting, rejecting, and selecting neglected bits of this, that and the other. Camp stoves and cookware; sleeping pads and bags; and various creature comforts of our modern age (the BioLite PowerLight is a charming little torch/lantern/charger combo, particularly so when paired with SiteLights.)

All for a trip that I was not taking.

You know how your dog looks at you when you’re loading up for a car trip? Imagine my expression as we muscled all this gear into the companion’s Honda CR-V. Things they thought they needed and things I thought they needed — including two bicycles, because of course they were taking bicycles too and there was no bike carrier on this auto.

Like Rufo’s little black box in Heinlein’s “Glory Road,” the thing had to be bigger on the inside than the outside. I should’ve taken a picture. Sardines in a can have more elbow room.

The spartan Camp Dog, featuring the North Face Expedition-25, at McDowell Mountain Regional Park, circa 2016.

I was not consulted as regards the tent, and when I caught a glimpse of the companion’s eight-person (!) tent in its sack, I knew immediately what Private Pyle’s body bag must have looked like. Especially if they stuffed Gunny Hartmann in there with him.

There was no time to dig out the old North Face Expedition-25 and provide instruction on setup and takedown, so I kept my lips zipped. But I’ll bet that cavernous sonofabitch got cold last night.

Me, I was toasty in the old king-size with a couple of unauthorized cats. Today is shaping up to be sunny and warm, and I have a new review bike to ride, a Cannondale Topstone 105.

But I’ll be riding it on the same old roads, and you what they say about familiarity.