A Traveler and his Cat exploring America.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

The Little Things That Lift My Spirit

    This morning was a hike at Sonoma Mountain Regional Park down the road. Things have changed a lot since last there on Father's day. There are very few wildflowers left and the grasses are dry and brown. Yet this red thistle caught my attention.
   Yesterday was a mountain bike ride in Annadel at the east end of the park. Now that I have a car I can explore new trails without having to ride 5 miles or so on roads to get to them. Even though I was on my way by 9 am in order to beat the heat, it was still hot. The first two miles were all up, on a narrow rocky trail, and out in the sun for the most part. Near the top I was wet with sweat as if soaked by a water hose, which by the way would have been nice. Not feeling too good I rested in the shade for awhile after testing my cell phone calling home just to see if I could be rescued should the occasion arise. Just wondering. Not much further the track leveled out and I began to have fun. There are those times I wonder if I have any business doing these things...at my age. And then there is the running.
   At one time in my life I loved running, but when you finally admit to yourself you dread going out, then the love is not there. This is how its been for me ever since I started getting back into it. A couple weeks ago I came across a woman running in the neighborhood. She looked fit, and like a serious runner moving along at a good clip. When she reached me (I was out for my morning walk) she slowed to a walk. I made a comment as to "that's what I should be doing" referring to her running, but I think she didn't hear me exactly. She said that she mixes it up with runs and walks as "I've found it to be a lot less stressful". I thought about that for the rest of the day. Now, the last several times out for a run, I've thrown in a couple of short walks and it is once again fun to run.
   After today's hike of only 2.5 miles I felt like I had done twice as much. I'm thinking its all about doing too much nevertheless I'm a bit disappointed when we returned home. When my wife got out of the car, the irritating rattle (not her) I've had in the car ever since I got it grew louder. "Is that noise from outside?" All this time I thought it was under the dash and I had no ambition to tear the dash out in order to find it. "Yes, it sounds like right here" she said pointing to the hood. Cool, I can fix that! It turned out to be a loose bolt connecting the fender-well to the front cross piece. The noise is gone and the squealing front brake remains quiet after working with that last week, so no matter how the run, hike or bike tries to change things with me, I'm a happy guy today.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

The Cactus Garden

For the last three days I've been working on the cactus garden. I only stay out there until noon when the sun hits it fully, that's why it took three days. Even at that my back was sore each evening. The main object was to dig a trench along the sidewalk then level it back some. Along the sidewalk I placed the slabs of rock I backpacked down from the hill a few weeks ago. Last winter the rains washed some of the material out onto the sidewalk due to the slope of the property, so I will see how this goes come winter. After removing all the rocks and artifacts collected over the years I planted some more cactus that were still in pots. When we moved in a year ago I kind of just threw everything in there and now I have the time I can finish the job correctly. Next was to spread three kitty litter containers full of desert and playa dirt around, and finally replace the rock and all. It looks good now but when fall comes all the leaves from the trees across the street will blow in there. Groan. And then comes the rain. Hopefully the trench and larger slabs of stone will stem the flow and the playa dirt will help cement it all together.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010


I sold the little Honda 90 trail bike. I have mixed feelings about this.

I parked it out along the golf course side of the house over father’s day weekend. As the golfers cross the street from the 13th hole to the 14th tee they cannot help but see it. Men and motorcycles, it got a lot of attention and I could hear comments throughout the day while they were waiting to tee off.

One guy (not a golfer) who was working in the neighborhood stopped by and started asking questions most of which were offers hundreds less than my price. Despite the fact I stated over and over that my price was firm and I didn’t care if I sold it or not he kept at it. Then he wanted to ride it. Figuring this guy wasn’t serious I let him ride it anyway. I couldn’t really be rude and say no in the remote case he was serious. He came back and started in some more trying to gyp me down on the price. Now he’s wasting my time. “Show me the money.” I reaffirmed my price adding that I just may raise it if he didn’t relent, and sent him on his way.

I really didn’t want to sell it to this guy for I feared the scooter would not be well taken care of. It would get thrashed, trashed, wrecked, left out in the weather and generally abused and not cared for as the last three owners have. But on the other hand if I sold it to him I wouldn’t have to deal with Craigslist flakes or resort to eBay, not knowing if or when it would sell in either venue.

I was surprised when the next day he was back. Now I had to decide. He tried once more to bicker me down a hundred. If he were someone I felt would appreciate the bike and care for it I would have met his offer just to avoid listing it on Craigslist or eBay. But now he is beginning to piss me off. Just before I was ready to tell him to buzz off he says he will buy it for my price. Then he starts in on another whole routine. Would I hold it for him; he’ll give me half now and half when he picks it up tomorrow or the next day when he returns with a trailer. I just don’t trust this clown figuring he’ll continue playing his games, so I tell him I don’t want his money. “You come back with your trailer, and then you can pay me. I’ll hold the bike till Wednesday.” He said he would come after work the next day. He seemed mystified as to me not wanting half his money now, as if no one had ever refused that from him before. If I had part of his money he could have milked out the final deal for however long. Having none of his money I wasn’t obligated to him for anything and could immediately sell it to someone else come Wednesday. Advantage mine and he knew it.

The next day he showed up when he said. I went over the details of the motorcycle with him…again…and we set to do the paperwork. Before I put pen to title I made him lay out his money. Deal done, I then had to advise him how best to secure it in his trailer for he was at a loss and asked what I thought. It was then I stressed to him how well cared for this motorcycle has been by its previous owners, how rare it is for one of these to be so complete including the original tool kit and spare fuel can and how it has been stored indoors all it’s life. “You take care of it, and then when the time comes and you decide to sell it, you will get your money back. It will only increase in value as time passes. But if it is left out to get rusted, not maintained, abused, wrecked or whatever, you’ll be lucky to get half back.” With that I bid him an “Adios”, closed the garage door and went inside to eat dinner.

Strangely, I noticed it was on this very same day last year that I bought the little Honda 90.

Friday, June 18, 2010


This morning looks to be another cold (by my standards) and blustery day so I may as well pack it in. We got rolling before breakfast and had a nice tailwind out of the north to push us along the 80 miles to I-80.
Stopped at the rest stop just a mile onto the interstate, ate breakfast. dumped the tanks and headed for home. We stopped in Dixon for fuel and got to see a woman pull away from the gas pump with the nozzle still stuck in her car. Ripped the hose clean away from it's connection at the pump. Don't get to see that very often.

After a stop in Sonoma at the car wash to get the bug splats and playa dust off the View, and the playa mud off the Honda we pulled into the driveway at 4:20pm. It is nice to be home when we have a nice quiet neighborhood to come home to. 

Thursday, June 17, 2010


There is a definite change in the weather this morning. The sky is full of clouds a few of which are dark and menacing. No hurry to move on today as all I have planned to do is to collect a bucket of playa dirt for the cactus garden. I’ve collected a bucket full at Red Rock and Anza Borrego also all which I will spread around the cactus at home completing my little desert landscape area.
(this is good sky towards the east, the other direction was nasty looking)

After stealing dirt we then drove back up onto the road towards Gerlach and stopped where the Guru Road begins. The Guru Road is a dirt road that parallels the highway. People, locals for the most part, have set up rocks with sayings etched onto them plus artsy displays which are in a bad state of disrepair. There I ate lunch while waiting for the hail to stop, then walked the mile long road. I remember the road as to be not that great so felt walking would be better than taking the RV out onto it. I see now conditions have been improved and was probably doable in the View. I timed the walk just right for the sprinkles started up again just as I was driving off to find a new campsite.
With the weather conditions as there are I opted to stay along the shoreline less than a mile from the road for a quick escape. This lasted less than an hour and we moved off the Playa. Not so much as any fear of getting stuck but if it rained enough the tires would kick the playa goop up underneath the vehicle which in the end is nearly impossible to remove. What gets left behind corrodes the metal due to the high alkaline content of the playa dirt. My Land Rovers and the old motorhome have the scars to attest to that. I ended up down the road at the county gravel pit. Don’t scoff at a gravel pit for a campsite. I once found a complete horse skeleton up the hill from it. I had to give it away when we moved but my daughter has the head in her cactus garden. There I spent the rest of the afternoon doing the usual, inside that is. It was too cool outside and if the wind is not blowing then sprinkles or hail fall. Sometimes it is all three. If tomorrow begins as today I will head for home where I know warm bright sunny skies await.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010


The sleeping bag worked good but I felt it was a bit warmer last night anyway. I got up at 6:30, ate breakfast and went for a scooter ride. The wind was howling and the little Honda worked hard beating into it. The plan was to ride over to the railroad tracks and follow them south towards Gerlach. At the tracks I saw the fencing down in spots and a road on the other side so I went for it. Instantly I was in muck and mire and barely got out without bogging down to a stop.

(insert picture here of deep tire tracks in mud, had I taken one)

Nevertheless I had that awful thick playa paste kicked up and plastered onto the bike. I retreated back over onto the Playa and continued on south kicking away at the clods stuck to various parts of the trail bike. This didn’t last long for soon the Playa itself began to get soft. I figured as much for the southern end is the low end drainage for the Playa. I then crossed over to the other side of the not-so-dry lake to work up the opposite “shoreline”. This was easy going with the wind at my back. I continued on up to the 8 mile entrance which is where the Burning Man circus attendees enter from.

(insert picture here or where nearly 50,000 people come to live for one week each year, had I taken one)

From there I proceeded out onto the Playa to the approximate spot of Black Rock City. No streets were visible and I found very little moop (matter out of place). Time to head back to camp. This was a long hard ten miles straight into the teeth of the wind. The wind sound was deafening and at one point I stopped, switched into low range and motored on in 4th gear barely hitting 20 mph. By the time I got back to camp I had had enough but the little Honda 90 probably could have done even more. I could sense a weather front rolling in and the skies looked gloomy to the west. I loaded the Honda onto the rack, put all the gear away and broke camp. It is difficult to get a good night’s sleep when you are thinking about possible rain.
Not the gloomy skies, just tire tracks as I pulled away.

It was nice to just putz along Highway 34 with the wind behind me. No other cars on the road so I was able to go at my own pace. I went as far as Fly Geyser just because it has been years since I was last there. The geyser was spewing away water and steam. Too bad one cannot drive in to it anymore but it has been gated off for over 20 years now. If people would all respect things and places leaving them better than they found them, maybe spots like this would last longer for all to enjoy before being gated off. So now one has to enjoy the geyser from a half a mile away looking through binoculars.

(insert picture here of Fly Geyser far off in the distance on the other side a fence, had I taken one)

I drove back to Soldier’s Meadows road and made camp on the lookout point about a mile in. This spot provides a nice panoramic view of the Playa down below, where I could watch the winds whip up the alkali dust. I fixed a sandwich (a half!) and decided to go for a little hike up the hills behind me. The little hike evolved into a rock gathering expedition.

(insert picture here of rocky slope, if I had...oh hell, here's a picture of Sinbad instead)
One of the things to do on this trip was bring home more shale to edge the cactus garden with. I know places out here to get it but one cannot get there in a motorhome. This exposed igneous rock would have to do.

I carried a few flat pieces of the dark reddish brown volcanic basalt down and returned with my backpack. Thin pieces like the shale I have at home were hard to find as most were in slabs 2 inches or more in thickness. After some time searching I would load my backpack add a few pieces in my shoulder bag and stagger under the load back down the slope of loose jumbled stone. I climbed up and stumbled back down twice. I figured I had enough (the rocks and packing them down) and quit. I was going to quit anyway, enough or not. Then it was a matter of how to pack all this rock away in the View for the trip home. Of course during all of this I saw a very nice Collared Lizard who posed for the longest time and I had no camera with me! So here's another picture of my little buddy...
The rest of the afternoon was spent doing very little – no surprise there. I read, gazed down upon the Playa, stayed inside out of the wind, ate a light dinner, read some more and turned out the light at 9.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010


I’ve dispensed with all the bedding in the View. It is just too much of a hassle putting sheets and blankets on the bed, so I am reverting back to the sleeping bag. The evening was so pleasant I thought I would do fine with just the comforter on me. Not! In the middle of the night I spread the Indian blanket on top and had to slip on my knit cap. In spite being cool, I slept real good and had a hard time waking up in the morning. I will use the sleeping bag from now on.
I checked outside and saw that the carpet had blown over. As I unrolled it a large mouse or Kangaroo Rat scurried away under the View. I didn’t see him on the other side on the Playa so figured he was up in the chassis. Sinbad eventually located him between the dual tires. I poked the varmit out with the broom handle and he ran up into the engine compartment. Poor Sinbad, he just isn’t that good at catching mice. Being an inside cat all his life has left him severely handicapped in the mouse catching department. After awhile we gave up and I went in to go eat my breakfast, wondering if when I started the motor rat guts would be splattered all over inside.
I unloaded the Honda 90 and motored up towards Trego Hot Springs. Since I bought myself a car I have no need for the Honda 90 anymore so I plan to sell it after this trip. But now while riding it on the Playa I begin to second-guess this idea. It is handy out here, it's fun, but is it worth it to keep just for one or two uses a year? I think not, yet not so sure.
It seemed like a long ride but was only 13 plus miles. I missed the regular route in and came in too far below so had to work my way up through the lumpy bumpy terrain of sagebrush to the springs. I have a lot of memories of Trego, having spent many nights here or the past 20 years and found myself a bit melancholy. Was it the memories? Was it that things had changed? The Jan Barton memorial was gone. So were the steps down into the water. Only a carpet remained. The place was quite clean and there were signs posted all about. Warning signs, closed signs, historical signs – all inevitable I suppose. Or was it just knowing that this may be the last time I will ever be here?
The water was the usual. Hot at the spring gradually cooling down as it flowed away. Reeds and grasses choked the stream once the temperature cooled to a point where they could survive. I wandered around a bit, then got on the Honda, kicked it to life and puttered away glancing over my shoulder for one last look as I reached the railroad tracks.

Several of the dunes on the Playa have been fenced off with wood posts and rails. It is an attempt by the BLM and Friends of the Black Rock to keep motorized vehicles off of them. It is nice that they are being protected but the fencing poses an odd image, as if the dunes are corralled in from escaping.

Back to camp where I ate a too much lunch (my stomach which bothered me the rest of the afternoon) and set up my shooting range for my little .22 rifle. My first shot was at a small rock 50’ away and I hit the thing! I shot at it again to see if it was just dumb luck and hit it again. “Careeeinggg” ricocheted the bullet off down the Playa. I was very surprised. I then placed a paper target out 100 feet and two tin cans out at 184’ and 212’. First shot at the target – bull’s-eye. I shot again. Another bull’s-eye! I placed 4 out of 5 shots on the red bull’s-eye. I couldn’t believe it. I then tried the first can. Pow! I looked in the spotting scope and there was a hole in it! I did it again. Another hole! I tried the furthest can and was able to hit it too. There were a few misses on the cans but the little single shot 22 with the scope was dead on.

The automatic I brought home from the farm wouldn’t feed shells into the chamber. I worked with it for awhile but couldn’t get it to work. Looks like someone (?!) tried to fix it making it only worse, so I’ll have to get rid of the gun somehow. I had wished I brought my grandfather's automatic now so I could really shoot up those tin cans. The plinking didn’t entertain me as long as I thought it would. Soon I was back with my book.

The wind picked up around 3 and I retreated inside to read. By 3:30 I was napping. I got up a half an hour to the sound of the wind is ripping along at 25 mph. The sky is overcast so at least the sun isn’t beating down on me now. I am trying my best to stay in the shade and with a hat on at all times. This place takes a toll on the body and I feel the older I get, the easier it is for the Playa to beat me under. My eyes are sore. From the glare, dry air or what I don’t know. Overall I feel drained without much energy to do anything. This is a strange place that can do that to you.

I caught up my journal notes and read, taking it easy for the rermainder of the afternoon. I had only a salad and a few soda crackers for dinner (stomach issues remember). No more whole sandwiches for lunch. I’ll stick to a half a sandwich for lunch from now on. Lights out and to sleep at 9.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Monday, June 7, 2010

It was great to be back on the road once again. I love driving the View as it is so effortlessly to do so and has all the comforts of home away from home. We made a stop at Camping World in Vacaville to get this little diamond shaped yellow plastic sign that states: “Pet Inside. In case of emergency, please rescue.” I saw one of these in someone’s RV awhile back and just had to have one. I care about my cat. I have found since having Sinbad along on these road trips for the past 10 years, I am more aware of not doing foolish things. I worry about him being left alone if I did something stupid and died.

We are at the Black Rock Desert at 3:15pm, drove out onto the playa only about 3 miles and turned off the engine. I dared not to go further as the playa was damp in places where it usually is not at this time of the year. Northern Nevada has had a series of late rains which made for lush green grasses, fragrant sagebrush with a few wildflowers thrown in for color.
Each time I come out here, I continue to be amazed at how quiet it is. This as always is well worth the 7 hour drive. The weather is very pleasant with a slight breeze and scattered clouds overhead. I rolled out my little carpet, set up the camp chair and table, sat down and stared at the nothingness all around, while sipping a cup of tea. Simply lovely.
I started one of three books I brought along, took a couple of sundown pictures which doesn’t happen until 7:30, fixed a light dinner, read some more and turned out the light at 9:30. I was asleep in no time at all.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Taking Off For a Week

Summer will officially be here sometime this month so I thought it best to do my annual pilgrimage to the Black Rock Desert before it gets too warm on the Playa. After 15 years of Burning Man, I am calling it quits this year and have other plans for that week in August so this may be the best time for my yearly spiritual retreat of peace and solitude. That's not to imply that there was much peace and solitude to be found during Burning Man week. Nope, but before retirement I would always make this peace and solitude trip over the Memorial Day weekend. Now I am free to do it anytime I please. Check back in a week or so for a write-up on whatever took place. 

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

A Century Young

Today my aunt is 100. I saw her on the way home from the wildflower trip to the desert a couple months ago. She looked good and is able to get around in her home quite well. Still sharp as a tack. Only her eyesight isn't what it used to be. I called her this morning to see how her big day was going.
"Oh, it's just another day. Friends have sent flowers and I have 8 beautiful bouquets in here. You'd think I was dead already. It looks like a funeral parlor."
I told her that her 100th birthday was a real accomplishment that not too people can attest to. "Be proud of it."
"Yes, you are right" she said. "But I wouldn't want to do it again."
She went on to how she had a good life with no regrets. "You know, I think my 60's were the best years of my life." I told her I'll keep that in mind these next 8 years and try to make the most of them.
I then asked if the local newspaper might run a story on her. "Oh, I don't think they can afford to do those things anymore."
"Well you never know" I said. "You might want to be prepared if someone asks you what your secret is to a long life." She paused and then said "Well I always have my hair and nails done regularly and I put salt on everything."
Happy birthday Aunt Florence!