Category Archives: Uncategorized

Long time, no blog

It’s come to my attention that I haven’t written anything here in a while. Wow… I don’t see a single entry for 2008 – how is that possible? Well, I guess I’d better write something then, eh? OK… I’ll have to do some catch-up blogging. More to come…

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Driving Courtesy

What is with people?  Doesn’t anybody learn to drive courteously anymore?  On my recent trip to the hamfest, I took the scenic route – I find that the two-lane roads have much better scenery and are more challenging (and therefore more fun) to drive than the freeways.  It is on these roads that peoples’ driving courtesy (or, more often than not, lack thereof) becomes apparent.  It’s been years since I’ve driven a rural two-lane highway, and possibly longer since I’ve done so through mountainous terrain, but it all came instantly back to me, just like riding a bicycle.  Some things one never really forgets.  Except for those who never learned.  We’re talking about simple stuff here, too.  Like dimming your headlights for oncoming traffic, or when following another vehicle.  Signalling your intent to pass, and doing so only when it is safe. 

 For that matter, most people don’t seem to do much better on four-lane divided highways (two lanes in each direction).  I guess people are spoiled by 6- 8- and 10-lane freeways.  On a four-lane highway, you are supposed to stay in the outside lane, moving to the left lane only when necessry to pass another vehicle, returning to the right lane once you have passed and it is safe to.  Exceptions include moving to the left as yo approach an on-ramp to make it easier for the cars entering the roadway.  Oh… and of course signalling all lane changes. 

As much as I hate to cast stereotypes, you know who the biggest offenders are, at least here in AZ?  Nine times out of ten, if I see a discourteous driver, especially one that continues to drive in the inside (left) lane, whether passing or not, the car seems to have California plates.  I’m sure there are plenty of Californians who learned proper driving courtesy, but I guess these Californians never drive to Arizona. 

 Well, I’ll continue to drive the way I was taught. I guess it’s just me and the professional truckers who still practice common courtesy on the roadways.

Cast Iron Cooking

When I was deciding what to take and what to leave, I’d opted to leave my cast iron cookware behind (in the interest of saving space and weight).  Not that I was gonna try and cook on some cheapie thin “camping” or “RV” cookware – I brought along a few pieces of quality stainless plus some heavy non-stick-coated aluminum.  Who was I fooling? NOTHING else cooks like cast iron.  Especially breakfast foods like bacon, sausage, eggs, and pancakes.  Sure… a non-stick aluminum skillet or griddle will work, sort of.  But they tend not to be as non-stick as they purport, and, especially with the eggs and pancakes, they just don’t brown the same nor taste the same as when cooked on well-seasoned cast iron.

 Well, I now have my Lodge skillet and griddle on board, and tossed out the Teflon-on-aluminum skillet and griddle, and I’m once again a “happy camper”.  And yes, I said “Lodge”.  Those who know me well know I’m not a brand name snob nor a name dropper, but once in a while there is a product or brand that stands out so far above the rest that even I will call it by name and will go out of my way to buy that brand and only that brand.  Lodge, being the last remaining manufacturer in the USA of cast iron cookware, which is both reasonably priced and of excellent quality, deserves such name-brand recognition, even from a die-hard generic consumer such as myself.

So life is once again good, mealtime is good, cooking (and eating) is once again a joy, even if the motorhome (and eventually myself) winds up being a few pounds heavier for it.  Now where’d I put that cornbread recipe?

Long overdue writing :)

It sure has been a while, no?  Right now, I’m in Tonopah, Arizona. That’s about 50 miles west of Phoenix. Some of you may be thinking “If your house has wheels, why would you stay in the desert for the summer?”  Well… that’s a good question.  I suppose I could say that I’m used to it because I’ve already spent 30 summers in the Arizona desert, and it would be true. Anyway, I kinda have to stay here for medical reasons. Remember a while back I said I might have ended up truly homeless, or “camping” at an urban Wal*Mart?  Well, that really could have happened. Luckily, I’d already been planning for the “RV Lifestyle”, had acquired my rig, and started fixing it up, etc. But really I was so close to being homeless and in the streets.  Unfortunately some unplanned medical issues came up, leaving me unable to support myself for some time. That’s the “could have been homeless” part. While things are improving, I still need doctors and treatments frequently enough that I have to stay relatively close to “the big city” to deal with those issues. Eventually when my medical concerns are more stable, I hope to be able to venture farther away from “home” for longer periods.  We’ll see – for now I’ll do what I am able. 

  Anyhow, on to more pleasant thoughts…. Been doing some good stuff lately. I’m planning to go to Williams AZ for the Hamfest (convention for Amateur Radio enthusiasts), and in anticipation I’ve been trying to get my ham station and my solar power all set up and doing what I want.

Of course I’m learning that no matter how good it looks on paper, some stuff is just worthless in practice. A lot of stuff I thought I’d need is gonna be sold at the hamfest or donated to the thrift store. And there’s other stuff I wish I had.

 But all in all, life is good, and could be a lot worse. Right now I’m a caretaker for a private property. I keep a general eye on things, manage the irrigation, and perform occasional repairs and maintenance. In return I get a place to park including water and electricity. The owners are are great, and a  BIG bonus is that the property is “clothing optional” so the only time I have to think about wearing clothes it once in a while when the inevitable shopping trip into town is needed. It’s hard to put a price on not having to wear clothes 🙂 When I took this gig, I was mostly interested in being able to stay reasonably close to Phoenix, and the nude thing was just a cool perk. But now after spendng a while here I think I’m getting spoiled. “Nude Friendly” may be a requirement for my next situation.

Good and cheap – mutually exclusive?

Sorry I haven’t written in a bit. Had a bit of whatever’s been going around and just wasn’t in much of a writing mood for a few weeks.

So where were we? Oh yeah – filling you in on a little history.  So I’d decided this was do-able.  I’d have basic shelter plus all the technological comforts of home.  Next step was to learn as much as I could about RVing in general and motorhomes in particular.  Where did I go?  Where I always go when I need to absorb information on anything – the internet.  There I found lots of info.  Blogs and websites about general RVing, full-time RV living, technical info about all the various systems (as a fully self-contained living unit, a typical RV needs its own electrical, water, and septic systems, heating, cooling, ventilation, and more).  Now I’m a very handy person and can fix almost anything, but there was still plenty to learn.  How the RV systems differ from conventional systems, for example.  And how they are similar.  What things are subject to more frequent failure and why.  A fantastic resource was (and continues to be) the RV.NET forums.  Full of people who’ve been there and done that.  Post a question and you’ll quickly have lots of good answers.

Now that I’ve educated myself a bit, it’s time to go shopping.  My budget?  As cheap as possible.  I hoped to find something a little older, maybe in need of a little TLC that I could do myself, but no major problems.  I posted on the forums about what I hoped to do, asking if I was being realistic or just dreaming.  As you can imagine, the replies ran the gamut.  Some folks wouldn’t feel safe (nor be caught dead driving) anything older than five years old.  Others were a bit more realistic, suggesting that I should be able to find something good in the 5-10 year old range.  All but a few seemed to think that trying to buy a motorhome for full-timing on a shoestring budget was more wishful thinking than reality, suggesting that in the long run it would be more trouble than the money saved would be worth.  Some went as far as to suggest that if I couldn’t afford to buy a nice, late-model rig, then perhaps I shouldn’t be contemplating the lifestyle.  But it’s all opinion.  Some folks, OTOH, were supportive, with the caveat that I’d need to be pretty handy and do my own repairs, and to try to buy something with no apparent defects because there will always be some hidden problem or another, and things will eventually break.  No need to complicate matters by starting out with known problems.

Time to hit the usual places for used vehicle buying.  Dealers tend to be more expensive than private sellers, but they are nice for being able to compare different units all in the same place and get an idea of what I like and dislike about different styles and different floorplans, get a feel for different sizes and features, etc.  Most of the stuff at the dealers was bigger and more expensive than I was interested in, but it was still educational.  Next stop, the private sellers. Craigslist, RV Trader, and a couple other sites that list RVs for sale by private individuals.  Looked at tons of ads.  Most of the cheap ones were obviously junk, and most of the nicer ones were either way too expensive or already sold.  Alot of them I just didn’t like the floorplan.  Still, I managed to find some that seemed promising enough to actually look at in person.  What did I say about the cheap ones being junk?  Oh well.  Then I found one that looked OK.  Even in person.  I liked the floorplan.  Everything seemed to work.  No evidence of major leaking or structural damage.  Ran well.  Tires were decent.  Despite being almost 30 years old, it was in better shape than alot of much younger coaches I’d looked at.  It seemed to have been well maintained.  Had just the right mix of replacement parts of various ages, indicating that things were serviced or repaired as needed (rather than a rush “let’s get it fixed so we can sell it” rehab project).  After a little haggling, I became the proud new owner of a 1979 Georgie Boy Cruise Master “Mini-Home”.

Next installment:  repair and customization

Portable Living Via Technology

The seed had been planted. I wanted to do this.  But could I?  While it’s true that it doesn’t take too much for basic survival, I didn’t want that to mean deprivation.  A motorhome would provide a roof over my head, a bed, bathroom, and kitchen.  Basic needs fulfilled. How about the secondary needs?  Not true necessities,  but stuff I’d rather not do without.  For me that means a computer with internet access, a decent sound system with music library, and television.  Pretty simple, really.  The hardware isn’t too much of a challenge.  For the computer a laptop would be ideal, but even a compact desktop system could work.  There are some pretty nice audio components made for the mobile environment, plus some compact home equipment that might be modified as well. And TV is, well, TV.  For those who want it, satellite TV adapts well to the RV environment, but personally I’m happy with what I can pull in with an antenna or the occasional DVD.  How about the internet connection and music library?  As recently as less than ten years ago the internet connection would have been almost impossible, and what was available, via cellphone, was very expensive and excruciatingly slow.  Now there’s cell-based wireless broadband service, satellite internet service, WiFi all over the place, and other options just over the horizon.  And a music collection?  I’ve been a music lover all my life, and a working DJ for part of it.  Can you imagine my trying to carry around a collection of thousands of vinyl records, hundreds of CDs, and hundreds of cassettes?  Not too long ago I’d have had to decide between music and mobility.  Not anymore.  With digital music storage and small hard drives with huge capacities, it’s now possible to carry an immense music library in the space of a single paperback book.  Add XM Satellite Radio and it’s like having a library of millions of songs, plus news, sports, talk, comedy, and more.  Cool.  Maybe this really can be done without too much technology deprivation. 

You’re going to do WHAT?!?!

As promised, here’s some more of the “back story”.  But where to begin?  When I was a child, I’d always been fascinated by the concept of a fully self-contained mobile dwelling.  Not that I really ever lost that fascination, but as a child all I could really do is fantasize.  Eventually, as a young adult, I discovered motorhomes.  Wow – it’s a fully self contained house, AND you can drive it! Or, as Homer Simpson would say, “It’s not just a motorhome; it’s a car you can go to the bathroom in!” As working young man, however,  a motorhome was pretty much out of my budget, and even if I could afford one, maybe find one cheap enough that wasn’t too beat up, where would I keep it?  I was living in apartments at the time, and apartment complexes tend to be pretty picky about what you park there, especially if it’s a big honkin’ motorhome.  Of course I was thinking of it as a “toy”, a recreational vehicle for maybe weekends and vacations or whatever. I didn’t see the obvious – live in it *instead* of the apartment.  Not that you can blame me, after all, as I mentioned before, society in general tends to approve of permanent living, and disapprove of “temporary” or transient living. A few times I got real close to actually buying one, but ultimately didn’t.

Fast-forward to a few years ago, when the thought struck me to just sell the house and everything I couldn’t take with me and move into a motor home.  Why?  Well, there was still the lingering fascination with motorhomes and the technologies involved. It seemed practical, and potentially a fairly economical way to live.  It offered freedom of location.  Ease of moving. Lots of good reasons. Why now?  Maybe a midlife crisis, or perhaps a midlife awakening. I realized just how much of my life has been spent pretty much in the same place – at least in the same city.  I realized just how much junk I’d accumulated over the years. All this stuff needs to be moved every time I move,  and it seemed I needed to keep getting bigger and bigger places for it all. Like George Carlin says, what is a home, really? It’s a place to keep your stuff!  I had a whole room full of stuff that I literally hadn’t touched in several years. I was suddenly feeling like all this stuff was getting to be more of a burden than it was worth. I wanted to downsize and minimize and simplify.

Did some reading (alot of reading, actually) on the internet about folks who’ve done that – drastic downsizing and move into a very small place – an RV, or maybe a “microhome” or something like that.  I don’t remember reading a single person who regretted it, even among the few who eventually went back to a more “normal” lifestyle.  They found it cleansing and liberating.  Free of the responsibilities of “stuff”.  Free of the hassles of cleaning and maintaining a large home and yard, and the associated expenses. 

It wasn’t just that, though.  There was really an accumulation of various other factors that also helped nudge me further along.  I’m single. Do I really need a three bedroom, two bath house with a yard?  Not really, considering I actually use very little of it.  It’s just more space to clean, more to heat or cool, mortgage, taxes, all that expense and responsibility.  Add to that my neighborhood in particular, and my city in general seems to get worse each month. Higher and higher crime.  Worse and more violent crime.  Graffiti.  Litter.  Polluted air.  Just an overall unpleasant place to be.  Over a several-year span, I’d been the victim of multiple burglaries and a home-invasion robbery. 

Add to all that the fact that I’m slowly becoming burnt out in my work (I’d say “career”, but that implies a future) in the quickly dying dead-end industry of consumer electronic repair.  I mean who’s going to pay to get a DVD player fixed when you can just go buy a brand new one for $25?  And why was I working so hard? To pay the mortgage and taxes and all the other bills for a house I didn’t need in a neighborhood I didn’t want to be in.  I’ve heard “insanity” defined as doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.  Well, I needed change.  Big change.  That’s when I decided I wanted to do this.