Invasion Of The Dufi

Invasion Of The Dufi

Pick me! Warm weather and perfectly-timed rain showers have produced a bumper crop of succulent blackberries. Delicious right off the prickly vine, they are also a seedy treat when thawed and used in baking during the long winter ahead.
Plum full. A feral plum tree was almost “Ripe for the picking.” I picked a hatful to bring home to fully ripen before the birds took them all. No apologies. They are plum yummy.

Friends report nasty weather in far away places wet and hot, wet and cold,depending where you are. Here on Vancouver Island the weather is superb for the beginning of August, exactly what one would expect. We’ve had a little rain now and then and there is a gentle breeze so the temperature rising through 28° C seemed perfect for a long-weekend Sunday morning. Without a boat, what was there to do but go for a drive? Driving a near 200-mile route in a circumnavigation of Southern Vancouver Island it was soon obvious that Paradise has been fully discovered and over-run.

Rugged beauty. This is ‘Noroue, a Corbin 39 cutter. She has been the pride of a dear friend who has taken her around the South Pacific. Well equipped, a good voyager, spacious and cosy below, she may be coming up for sale. She’ll take you anywhere and be a fantastic home.

The small town of Lake Cowichan lies inland on Vancouver Island at the east end of the lake from which it takes its name. The lake, and its sister named Nitinat, almost bisect Vancouver island into two halves before draining via the Cowichan River into Cowichan Bay. The two lakes drain in opposite directions. It is the short stretch of solid land, about eleven-hundred metres, between their head water streams which formally keeps Vancouver Island a single entity. The name Cowichan is an anglicized perversion of the original Coast Salish Quw’utsun which means “Warm valley.” It is lyrical and easy to remember, especially when used so often. The name is synonymous with fantastic handmade native woollen goods as well all the wine now produced throughout the area. I’ve joked that among some of the undulating vineyards here, you can almost imagine you are in Provence.

Across the Jack Gap. Clearly it was built just for him. This is on Butte Islet in Ladysmith Harbour, recently purchased as parkland by the Cowichan Valley Regional District.
Money well spent in my opinion.
Arbutus aromatherapy. It is the time of year when dried leaves fall from our unique Arbutus Trees. When stepped on they emit a fantastic aroma.
Smooth! A Gulf Island peek through an Arbutus (aka Madrona) tree. One of my favourite trees!
A summer view from Coffin Island in Ladysmith Harbour. I have a new appreciation of being able to get out there on a full-sized boat. My inflatable boat just does not fill the bill for long trips but Jack loves it.

It was certainly a warm valley today with the truck thermometer peaking at 32°C (89.6ºF) while stuck in the crawling traffic on the main street of the little town. Stopping to photograph the chaos would have just added to the danger and chaos. Folks wandered everywhere and the sights were amazing. Bobbling mounds of human anatomy, apparently held together with stringy bits of clothing, looked absolutely out of place as folks in various states of undress wandered through the swollen traffic of a historic, rustic community. I am no prude, nor a letch, and I’ve long-ago accepted gay rights (I’ve yet to hear of a heterosexual rights parade) but geez people! Obese rights? Bummer!

Rafting down the Cowichan River from town is a summer tradition. You could have walked the river without wetting your feet. It was jammed with flimsy plastic donuts filled with squirming, squealing pink creatures of various shapes and sizes. I thought of spawning jellyfish. There was no place to stop and photograph the incongruous sight. Plastic debris in the planet’s waters is clearly an urgent situation even well inland. There is also probably a carpet of aluminum drink cans on the bottom of the river.

Don’t laugh, it’s almost paid for! Actually this 1919 Franklin is a local vehicle regularly driven. Note the standard license plates. One hundred years old, it will outlive cars yet to be built. Beep!
Currently boatless and RV-less, this factory-built Japanese RV certainly caught my eye. It is cleverly designed; although a bit small for my needs, but I’ll take it!

The drive was a frustration of strange driving habits. I coined several terms for the characters encountered along the way. ‘Dufus’ will do to cover them all. Is the plural, Dufi? For some reason, there were repeated near-head on collisions with motorcycles leaned hard over on the wrong side of the road’s curves. Have you ever noticed how folks tend to use a common driving quirk on any given day? Laws of random stupidity were clearly in effect. There is a paved logging road stretching between Lake Cowichan and Port Renfrew which is on the open outer coastline of the island. It can be a beautiful leisurely drive of about an hour. Yesterday’s little trip was not. There is no centre line painted and expecting the next WTF was soon an obvious requirement. It was impossible to drive and also admire the scenic splendour of the route. There was no relaxing. I took no photos.

Some photos beg to be taken.  Someone donated this old umbrella to a local dog park.

Every spot providing any access to the clear forest streams was clotted with parked vehicles. Each tiny camping nook held at least one group, all campgrounds were seething with weekenders. It seemed impossible that the backwoods could be so overrun. Botanical Beach Park at Port Renfrew was so clotted with people and parked vehicles that creeping along the access road was a challenge. All this in the name of ‘getting away from it all.’ How I miss my boat! Finally hunkering down on a tiny bit of roadside beach, the Strait of Juan de Fuca was airlessly, flat calm. Very eerie indeed; this is a body of water known by many professional mariners as “Wanna Puke Ya Straight” in respect and dread of its often huge tormented seas, a product of days of usually strong winds against eternal massive tides.

Morons! Stopping for a roadside pee, we found this abandoned campfire still smouldering. Yes, I did! It is incredible that anyone can be so incredibly stupid and ignorantly selfish. Folks love the back country but have no respect. They left all their plastic junk as well.

Returning homeward along what were once back roads, one of which, after many decades of use is now blocked, was also hell. More WTF! New routes led through what was once a distinct suburb of Victoria. Langford is now a sprawling, faceless, soulless mess of grey boxes which folks call home and blurs into a megalopic sprawl. Where they’ve come from, and what all the people do here is a mystery to me. There is no fruit to pick, no more lumber to stack, few fish to pack. WHAT do they all do? It would seem that everyone must be hard at it building ever more houses for ever more of the inbound. I am reminded of all those dreary British row houses, but they at least have a bit of character, and a regular displacement of pubs. Here, it seems, the most common vendors of distractive substances are now marijuana dispensaries.

Next winter’s milk. This corn will feed local dairy cattle.
Cows? It looks edible to me.

The final leg back to home is the gauntlet of the Vancouver Island’s highway. Even though I drive it often, there is always another new subdivision and even more shopping which has sprouted up like another patch of toadstools. The quaint charm which drew me to Vancouver Island seems lost. Perhaps I am simply jaded, but the swelling population on the south island has precluded what once was. I keep seeing something new and find myself asking, “Hey isn’t that where the old ……….. once was?” Victoria just feels like any other city now. The city’s inner harbour has been mutilated with a monster yuppie yacht marina. Folks in boats of less than fifty feet appear to be an endangered species. There is now a plan in place to ban the ubiquitous horse-drawn carriages. I suppose flowers will be next on the hit list. Or perhaps the Parliament Buildings; a great location for more condominiums. I admit I am a tiny part of the problem and this island is not much like the place it was when I arrived almost four decades ago.

Yesterday I realized an affirmation about my latest video effort which I posted recently on YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GQiy9Bko1gQ&t=47s

A comment about our drinking water and how carelessly we consume it, I put it together after buying some bottled water to carry in my vehicle. I discovered the water had been bottled in Texas! Of all places! With its dusty aquifers, from where does Texas import water. Sudan? Well, (There’s a pun!) please give it a thumbs up if you like the video at all. I truly appreciate every bit of help.

Leaf it be.  An interesting natural abstract.

With a tough enough time selling my own books I seldom flog someone else’s work. However, I have just finished devouring ‘The Devil’s Highway’ by Luis Alberto Urrea. The writing itself is tremendously artful, combining the subject of illegal walk-in immigrants trying to cross some of the most hostile deserts in the world, with the convoluted bumblings of politicians and bureaucrats in both the USA and Mexico. This book gave me a new understanding of the US Homeland Security effort and I am very sobered as someone who likes to walk in the desert. My jokes about ‘Homeland Insecurity’ will be subdued from now on, these folks have a thankless job and their efforts are as much about saving lives of those lost in the desert as about catching illegals. Even if you do not have a fascination with the area, or care  anything about it, the work is an absorbing read and one of the best pieces of writing and research you’ll find in a long while. We gringos do tend to take so much for granted.

Got it! Nice crest!
I trespassed. I had to photograph this rare pine rose. Actually, a feral rose bush has vigorously invaded this feral pine, another invasive plant and part of an abandoned garden at an abandoned logging camp at Jordan River on the shore of Juan de fuca.
The rare Jordan River Pine Rose.  Seeds for sale!

Today has become a glorious cloudless, hot, calm holiday Monday holiday afternoon. The local British Columbia Day fireworks had Jack the dog in a fury last night. Now all is placid. Traffic on Mad Max Way, aka the Island Highway, seems to be humming along nicely without, for the moment, any chorus of sirens. Is it time to get out there and become part of the problem?

Dem’s da berries! Soon to be ripe.
Stone daisy. Just add water. This bunch is growing on the river bottom along the Nanaimo River.

We forget that the water cycle and the life cycle are one.” Jacques Cousteau

Lonely Roads

Happy Dory. From my archives I unearthed this image of a classic little fishing boat. Built in the 1930s, it provided a living to support many families for many decades before retiring to a life as a pleasure boat. That face could launch a whole new series of children’s stories.

Sell, sell, sell! I warned you that there’d be a little bit of marketing in my blogs. Now posting my images for sale online with Fine Art America.com I’ve just received an e-mail from those folks saying, that to kick-start business in July, they are offering a $100. wine gift certificate with Naked Wines.com. Apparently the offer is valid in the US only but the gift card comes with any purchase of artwork, no matter how small the order. So, for a $15 mug you get a $100. worth of wine. Now you know. Apologies to my fellow Canadians. Damn eh!

What attracts folks to live in places like this?

A month ago, four blogs back, I posted a blog titled “Goldfield Calling.” I wrote about Highway 50 being described as the loneliest highway in America. The route runs East-West across Nevada. Even telephone poles along its length are a rarity. As you drive its long miles you are in the wild wide open west. Now I believe I’ve found an even lonelier road. While listening online to Radio Goldfield I learned of a community in Nevada called Gabbs. The name “gabbed” me. I’ve looked it up on Google Earth. I don’t think there will be e-mails from anyone saying “Yeah, ‘bin there, know it well.”

Miles and miles of miles and miles…I love it. This image was taken somewhere in the Mojave Desert.
Surviving hang gliders will be shot. “Dunno wot it were yer honour,. It wasn’t moving so I shot it…agin! This shot-up sign is well on its way to being a sieve.

I can’t explain why but I love lonely roads and I will certainly drive this way on my next trip south. Here’s the route: on Highway 50, a few miles east of a half-way mark between Austin Nevada and Reno is a pinprick on the map called Middlegate. I’m not sure there is even a gas station there. Don’t blink when you are getting close in case you go on by. Hopefully there is at least a road sign. The junction sits a few miles west of Bench Creek Wash and Cold Springs, location of the Pony Express Station which I have written about. I had already decided to go back there to explore and photograph that old outpost so I’m not going out of my way at all by swinging down toward Gabbs.

Turn south to Middlegate, you’ll now be on Highway 361. Gabbs is about 30 miles away. If you look this up on Google Map you’ll see bleak, brown, bare, dry desert in all directions. Actually, that kind of country supports an amazing ecosystem if you care to look. There is certainly a lot more than tumbleweed, rattlesnakes and coyotes. For me that is part of the magic of deserts. It is all a mystery to me. Well aware that I am an alien there, it thrills me to see how much is going on in an environment that at first appears bleak and hostile, just like the ocean but in an opposite sort of way. If you leave me on a remote beach here in the Pacific Northwest, with just a pocket knife and a lighter, I may not be happy but I’ll be OK. In the desert I’m not sure how I’d survive. It is a very different world to me.

Gabbs looks more like a camp than a town, the landmark there is a huge open pit magnesium mine, now closed. Wikipedia says the population was 269; it will not be higher now. It is now unincorporated but there is a description of infrastructure which among other things includes a jail; a sure sign of civilization. Folks who live in places like Gabbs are not there because of their high social yearnings. They did not seek out seclusion so they could befriend inquisitive strangers. There are bullet holes in nearly everything in the US Southwest. It’s a cultural statement best heeded. Let reclusive people demonstrate their desire to interact, at their inclination. I meet plenty of lovely folks down there, but I remain aware that I am the intruder. I’ve never felt at risk but then birds of a feather know when to flock off. In fact I always feel better whenever I go into remote areas. The desert leaves me with the same inner peace I know when far out at sea. Locals who choose to live in isolation operate on similar frequencies as me and I find an affirmation in meeting them. I might be nutters but I’m not alone. Cities leave me with a very opposite feeling. When surrounded by urban throngs I seldom feel at ease.

Whomever built this house never considered how that one day it would be a crumbling ruin. Man’s presence on this planet is like a passing virus.

Gabbs was named for a paleontologist who was fascinated with the large number of fossils in the area. So, there’s something else that may be of interest. A few miles south of town, a gravel road, even more remote and primitive, angles off the pavement to the southeast where it eventually passes the Crescent Dunes Solar Energy Project. In the photo on Google Earth it looks like a massive sunflower comprised of solar panels and it alone appears to make that entire back road jaunt look worthwhile. I’ll let you know.

Uh Huh!

There is another route, which is a paved road, but either way will eventually take you to Tonapah, civilization at last. Just look for the road signs if they are not too shot-up to read. Tonopah has several fast food joints, each of which will have wifi… so I can post a blog with photos describing my adventure realizing yet another little dream. This past winter I sat in the MacDonalds there trying to do exactly that. Other patrons stared me down for the stranger I was. Clearly, using a laptop there was a suspicious activity. At the table next two me, two bewhiskered old codgers loudly reminisced over their boyhood glory days in the South Pacific during WWII. Clearly, it had been the pinnacle of their life still worth reliving over seventy years later to anyone within earshot. Meanwhile, across the restaurant a near-deaf, geriatric couple shouted insults at each other. I recall deciding to do my work elsewhere. There is, by the way, another Tonopah. But that one is in Arizona, another place and part of another story.

The Nevada town’s name of Tonopah is an old Shoshone word meaning “hidden spring.” One of my joys in the US Southwest are those place names. They are lyrical, whimsical, even romantic. An illustrious place-name may now prove to be just more empty desert with little or no sign of human presence ever. What was once someone’s centre of the universe is now gone. Why it was ever there may be a profound mystery.

Google Map shows many funky little communities, or place names at least, spaced all over the desert including the perimeters of Area 51 and Nellis AFB, only a few minutes to the east by supersonic fighter jet and alleged home to strange events, including alien sightings and encounters. There are other remote but well-developed, large airfields which have no names, all very strange indeed. I’ve met people who describe themselves as “Aviation Archeologists.” They go out into the desert in hot rod offroad vehicles looking for the remains of crashed airplanes. The Southwest has long been a military aviation training region and there are wrecks littered all over the landscape. What a great excuse if you want to roar around the outback drinking, shooting and generally being a yahoo.

Suddenly a horse with no name. Wild horses and burros appear then vanish like ghosts. How they survive and thrive is wonderful.
A bottle top never opened. Little flowers no-one looks at. Green leaves sprouting in dry sand. There is a whole novel in this one image…and there are millions of square miles like this to contemplate.

Whenever you travel in desolate areas it is wise to carry extra gas and you can never have too much water, the latter preferably in bottles so that any leak is confined to one small container. Not only is carrying a few basic supplies a good idea for your own needs, you never know when you might come across someone who needs a little help. In the desert, like any remote area, a simple mishap, like a simple vehicle breakdown, can easily become a matter of life and death. You must look after other folks in distress. It is the code of pay back and pay ahead, especially when there may be no-one else to come along for a very long time.

Top up with gas whenever you can, never assume you will find more before you run out. The gas station promised miles ahead may be closed. If you must pay a little more to fill up before you venture on, think of much you’d be happy to pay if you were to run out. Living in remote areas much of my life, I’ve learned that leaving town with a full fuel tank in a vehicle is like having money in your pocket. Spend wisely and keep some cash on hand; some places do not accept credit cards.“Failing to plan, is planning to fail.”

Old Hammerhead. A Saguaro cactus in southern Arizona. This is a rare anomaly in these cacti. This one is known by locals for miles around.

And..there are infinite miles of other back roads to explore as well. Looking at the vastness of the American Southwest, it is hard to grasp that, despite its emptiness, there is not one square inch that has not been explored. Every stone must have been turned over, at least once, in a quest for the mineral riches hidden among all that rock and dirt. I marvel constantly at mine locations. Profitable or not it is amazing how someone found, then extracted, that vein of ore exactly where they did. Their tenacity, both physical and mental, was huge. There were no roads, no automobiles, minimal technology, only deprivation, grit and single-mindedness. Even with modern technology, we cannot duplicate that spirit of endeavour.

The wetback.

Meanwhile my summer is passing on what proves to be a far lonelier and dustier road than any I’ll find in any desert. Sometimes the road of life offers barren distances which you must travel to get to greener places. I’m finding life without ‘Seafire’ an absolute dreary hell. I am now among billions of others who are landlubbers. The difference is that, unlike most, I know what I’m missing. “It is better to have loved and lost…” I know, I know. Bullshit I say, bullshit!

An Arbutus. These lovely trees are unique to this corner of the world.

Nothing lasts forever, this dreary time shall pass, but I am restless and eager to move forward. No matter what one’s circumstances, you can only live one day at the time. I find myself trying to ponder good things to come. Fortunately, I can spend hours contentedly travelling virtually on Google Earth. What a wonderful technology! A daydream machine! This from a guy who often laments his cyber ineptitude! Now for the moment, I’m back from my desert musings.

The old boatshed. A relic on the beach from days gone by. There are not many of these old-school landmarks left. I’m always tempted to go peek inside to see what treasures are stowed away.
All abuzz. The frenetic sounds of winter preparations surround flowers everywhere as insects pollinate the flowers and perpetuate the cycle of life .
Playing with shutter speeds. Water on a step of a fish ladder.
That’s me in the middle. There is beauty to find everywhere you look.
The snake and the ant. Who’s going to eat who?
Tarzan of the slugs. What it was doing away up there is a complete mystery.
Suspense. Then came a puff of wind.
Just a leaf, and not a new one at that. I thought it was an interesting natural composition.
It’s over my head. Wet grass and a cousin called corn.

Here on Vancouver Island we are having what is deemed by many to be an unusual summer. It is a slightly rainy July, which is not extraordinary. I recall that most years here we have a wet July. We certainly need all the moisture that comes. Every year folks seem to forget the previous summer. Most people complain no matter what the weather is doing, too wet, too cool, too hot, too smokey, too windy. Other reports from the Northern Hemisphere describe muggy summer heat beside the Great Lakes and on the East coast friends describe constant cold.

Ebb tide in the swamp. Placid to the eye, there is a whole world living in those reeds.
The nurse stump. This massive clump of cedars began as seedlings in the old stump they have since split and pushed aside.
Up the creek. The Nanaimo River, short but beautiful. Running from a series of lakes on Vancouver Island this clear, green, pure water is a treasure too many people take for granted.
As the stones turn. The rock where these potholes are formed is not especially soft. How many milenia of annual high waters has it taken for these boulders to grind out the basins where they are trapped? It is boggling to contemplate the passing of time when you look into these pools. Jack considers how long a million years really is.

So we’re doing just fine on our island, a wonderland of moderate climate and gentle yet dramatic natural beauty. People come from around the planet to see it. Jack takes me on spectacular walks within a radius of a few miles of home. Some days I am able to actually see it all and marvel that I live here. This morning I napped peacefully on the banks of The Nanaimo River while its crystal laughing waters sang happily on their way to the sea. Jack snuffled and plunked around, chasing waterbugs and digging in patches of soft sand. He drank from the clear water and then chased more bugs before falling asleep in the sun-warmed ground. A deer wandered out of the forest a little way upstream to drink in the river. Flowers swayed in the breeze while birds twittered and flitted. I have no idea what the poor people were doing.

Bambi takes a bath. Out of focus in the distance, this doe wandered about for several minutes  in the middle of the river. Fishing perhaps?

There are three kinds of people in the world:

The living, the dead, and those who go to sea …Aristotle

Goldfield Calling

In the American Southwest all roads seem to funnel through Las Vegas. There is also another place which my travels invariably take me to when travelling the breadths of Nevada. That place is Austin. It is an old mining town. Like many ghostly communities in that state, it is perched high on a mountain-side overlooking a broad valley. The population is sparse. I’ve driven through it twice already this year. While returning from Mexico, I was there again, now on a vicious winter evening. Snow was blowing along the main street. I came face to face with a herd of approximately eighteen white-tailed deer. They seemed to have no concern about the weather or me. I stopped and let them cross the highway.

Looking back on the outskirts of Austin Nevada. Thazzit!

The Austin campground, run by the local Baptist church, was closed. It was where I had planned to spend the night. All the side roads were solidly drifted-in. I could find no place to pull in for the night so I drove on westward. Down across the valley I travelled into the gathering darkness for more countless weary miles. Highway 50 is called America’s loneliest highway. It certainly was that night. Finally there was a spot sufficiently off the road at an old Pony Express historic site. In the morning I read the narrative signs and took my photos.

I vividly recall how the history of that epic venture was described. A dismal financial failure from the beginning, after a few short years, the Pony Express was decimated by the then-new telegraph system. As I drive through that vast country I often think of someone on a horse pelting across the untamed wilderness. Even in a vehicle, you can drive for days across bleak and beautiful land that leaves one wondering about that romanticized era. What has not been glorified was the desperate lives of the station keepers of the express service. They were the backbone of the fabled trek. Horses had to be changed regularly, every few hours, and that meant there had to be stables with fresh horses all along the route. Not only did the folks at these places get no glory, they endured multiple deprivations of hunger, cold, heat, illness, loneliness and frequent native attacks all for a meagre income. It must not have been at all romantic.

Sadly, that day, the data memory card in my camera came adrift. I have no photos of that dramatic place but I will not forget that stop at aptly named ‘Cold Springs.’ On my homeward trek this was yet another night of bitter cold when the plumbing in my van froze up. By then, on that wintry drive, I had learned to fill my morning kettle the night before. Thanks be that my trusty propane furnace did not ever let me down but there was never a happier sound in the morning than when that old engine fired up! The came the whistle of the kettle and the first sip of hot, black coffee which I drank as the front heater began to produce more warmth. I’m not so sure I would have done well as a Pony Express employee.

Highway 50, “The loneliest highway in America.” This was taken westbound for Austin on the night described. It was as cold as it looks. Imagine this same scene from horseback, with no sign of civilization anywhere. You have not eaten all day, the horse is beginning to limp.
Looking west from Austin on another day when Mexico-bound. This is the valley described which I crossed that wintry night in the dark after a twelve-hour day of driving       I intend to go back there, soon, and hike the few miles up to the actual station. Apparently you can still see gun ports in its stone walls. That will be after I work out what the hell to do about funds and rebuilding or replacing my ill-fated little trailer. No-one seems to want to buy it outright as salvage nor as an interesting project. I’m beginning to wonder if the Gods are determined that I do this rebuild. I have my preliminary measurements and drawings complete. It will be a huge job but ultimately produce a solid off-road steel-framed trailer, (maybe even with a few gun ports.) What I envision will certainly be something to be proud off although I’d rather be out there taking it easy and enjoying a leisurely summer with my cameras. I am supposed to be retired but that is clearly a state of income.  I’m not qualifying.

This all came to mind recently as I uploaded my best photos from that trip to Shutterstock.com. That is a website which heavily screens and files a photographer’s work then sells quality images as selected by a global clientele. On occasion I actually get paid a few coins for some of my efforts. Editing and submitting those images took my memory back to an intriguing old mining town in Nevada called Goldfield. Southbound, somewhere near here, is the latitude where one first sees Yucca trees growing wild in the desert. I’ve previously described the village as a full-time Burning Man event. There are funky relics, buildings and some interesting people. Like all the other old communities, it has a distinct personality.

One notable point is a wonderful volunteer FM radio station located on main street but also streams its programs live online. “Voice of the Wild, Wild West.” I’m listening as I write. There’s some Harry Chapin on, “The Cat’s In The Cradle.” If you know the song, you’ve dated yourself! Next is an old, old recording of Paul Harvey delivering an essay called “And God made a farmer.” Then comes Dylan with “Tweeter And The Monkey Man.” I love this station. Now I’m listening to the theme song for the ancient TV show, “Mr. Ed.”Then comes some Ian Tyson. “Cain’t beat it with a stick!”

Alive and in colour coming to you from the wild, wild west.

Here is the link: https://tunein.com/radio/Radio-Goldfield-891-s137238/  Not only is the music earthy and pleasant, it takes me back to that town. It instills a deep yearning to return and linger. An outback humour is shared among it’s hosts who all joke about an imaginary station mascot. This burro, named ‘Tumbleweed,’ loves to drink thirteen beer at a sitting in the local saloon. There are of course many other backcountry radio stations out there which remain undiscovered to me. Check out KGFN Goldfield for some rustic comfort. Listening to local stations as they come within range and then fade behind me as I drive along is one of my travelling joys. Unfortunately that desert peace fades for me once I descend into Las Vegas.

The first yucca I saw on my way south. That is an entire old-growth forest of them in the background.

Friends have now discovered a route which allows one to sneak around Las Vegas (Spanish for the plains or lowlands) on its east side. I will certainly try to find it next time. All other roads force one to descend into the bowels of this horrible place. Real plastic! I don’t like greed, glitz, din, facades or pretentiousness which seems to be all that Vegas is about. Real plastic! Real plastic! World famous! World famous! The notion of gambling and all the maggots who feed on that industry has always wilted my biscuit. In Vegas even the churches look like casinos. There are flashing lights everywhere. Apparently casino chips are welcome in the collection plates! Enough said! Meanwhile, the desperately poor are apparently invisible within the shining throb and flash of all that shallow fantasy.

When I returned from my southern odyssey in February, this was the view at the old Swallowfield farm.
Five months later.
Another morning, another walk. It helps keep at least two old dogs youngish.

In the midst of my present woes I just received an e-mail from a boat owner. He has an Albin 27 on which I left my card last year saying “If you ever want to sell…” Now he does. It would be a perfect little displacement cruiser for me, tough enough to take to Mexico and very practical to own. Albins have been long-loved by me, simple and tough is my kind of sexy when it comes to boats. It could be a great summer home on this coast. Bugga!

This is the actual Abin 27 in question. I photographed it last summer when at the local marina. Then I left my card.

I continue to look for a way to hook my dream. I have a very hard time being hove-to and waiting for the storm to pass. They always do. Possessing a manic need for my hands and brain to always be busy, sitting day after day waiting to see which way the pickle squirts is damned hard. I know nothing happens until you do something but sometimes you just have to be cool; even when it’s hot. Speaking of heat, the thermometer here this afternoon rose to 32°C. For fun, I checked the temperature in Goldfield, 29°C. Go figure!

Blackberry Honey
The blackberry bushes are a-buzz with bees. There will be a massive crop if we have enough moisture. Their flowering seems to be at least a month early this year.
The last plum. Indian Plumbs are small but make good jam if picked when ripe. The birds know when they are perfect. Suddenly they are all gone.

After a long wet winter we’ve had a very dry spring. Streams are dry, some trees are beginning to wither. A long summer lays ahead. We will either dry up, turn to dust and blow away or burn, or…it will rain the whole season. One way or the other, this island is still paradise. Here is a link to my latest video-making effort. In three minutes you can get a sense of one facet of life on this island.

https://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=one+fine+day+fred+bailey

When I think of all the places on this planet where millions are born, live and die who may never see a real tree or can image unlimited amounts of fresh water… and the health and plenty and peace we take for granted I can only be thankful to live here.

“Ya well you bikers aren’t so tough when you’re on your own!” A cleverly motorized bicycle indeed.
That’s easy for you to say.
Lego world! Jack and I sometimes go for a walk past this old mine’s head rig. A historical site it is apparently under renovation. Ship’s containers make clever, strong scaffolding and perhaps…affordable housing.
I deliberately did not focus this orange cat to show how well he blends in. It is the art of not moving. Do you ever wonder how many creatures you pass closely and do not see? Jack didn’t.
A Barred Owl I was fortunate to see as it flew silently through the limbs and settled here.
Remember that while cream may rise to the top, so does scum.                                                                Some may want to take that as a political comment.
Your call!

 

For my part, I travel not to go anywhere, but to go. I travel for travel’s sake. The great affair is to move.” – Robert Louis Stevenson

I Thought It Pulled Heavily!

The Dream. The Sea Of Cortez and all of Mexico around it . It exists even as you look at this image.

As noted in my previous blog, a week ago Jack and I were in a campsite on Sproat Lake just west of Port Alberni. It was a nice enough place although a bit too civilized for me. Yet I found myself in bliss because the trailer was proving itself as a close-to-perfect unit for my needs. This would be my mobile home for months on end so I could take exquisite photographs and make inspiring videos and write. It would be this old fartist’s (not a typo) studio and make for a healthy, affordable retirement. With that lifestyle in mind, I know my state of being and longevity will improve. I was fantasizing about sitting beside the trailer under a brilliant starry desert night sky, with a gently flickering mesquite campfire. Coyotes yipped and howled in the distance. My plan was to come home and repair the delamination in the front of the trailer. It would be an easy job for an old boat re-builder guy like me. The trailer would then be ready for adventures south. It is supposed to be a light-weight trailer. It thought it felt a bit heavier than it should, sort of like driving a loaded logging truck. I was essentially correct. The damned thing was water-logged throughout, top to bottom, front to back.

The joy of the trailer a few weeks ago. That reality was too short-lived.
Reality today.
“Whadya mean I’ve taken apart the wrong trailer. This belongs to who?”
NOT! Metal frame or not, you do not build a product like this and sell it to the public. “Good enough” is never good enough. The gap in the insulation and the poor joins are inexcusable as is the longitudinal piece which is an added chunk at the end only 8″ long.
Let there be no doubt as to who built this sorry mess. It is 12.5 years old and should not be  completely filled with moisture and rot. And…I don’t care who else builds crap like this, it is wrong. “Make America Great Again?” Start with some integrity!
Like can be simple. A motor bike and a pop-up tent. The best days of my life were when all I owned was a backpack.

Today I’ve just removed all my personal effects from the trailer which is now proven to be a hopeless rotted-out wreck. The more structure I opened up, the worse it got. I can see now that there were obvious signs of water damage but this arrogant Mr boat-fixer guy, with decades of marine experience, was too smart to get a seasoned RV person to come and have a look before I bought it. I’ve seen the same thing happen to knowledgeable mariners who decided they did not need a third party to survey the vessel they were buying in a fit of nautical lust. Now it is my turn to affirm that you cannot see objectively to pick out obvious signs when you are in a passionate state for a thing or a person. That is why so many marriages fail. Now I have nothing but a trailer frame and floor with working appliances. Worst of all, it was purchased with precious funds from the sale of my beloved ‘Seafire’.

Despite plenty of tough times in my life I have never lost something so important so quickly. A dream one minute, a disaster the next. Now I can understand the vacant look in the eyes of those who have endured a flood, or fire, invasion or earthquake or… well, there are plenty of ways your life can change instantly. Just a quick drive to the corner store can become a life-shattering experience, or perhaps a slip in the bath tub.

Part of the “South Library.” I’m keeping it handy.

This problem is not life and death, it just feels that way. Suddenly, in this moment, my dream is dashed and all looks hopeless. I know sailors who have put their boat and their whole life on a reef and considered themselves lucky to have survived the swim ashore in shark-infested waters to some distant foreign country, without water, money or passport. A while later, they had rebuilt their life and continued on, somewhat the better for their adventure. I am left wondering how to turn this into an adventure instead of an ordeal. There is a way. I will find it.

“The dream never dies, just the dreamer”
“Hope springs eternal.”
It’s up to you.

Self-produced videos online are testimonials to what a wonderful trailer a ‘Fun Finder’ is. I interviewed owners who could not offer enough praise and love for their Fun Finder. So I bought this trailer because several points of research told me the product was built with an aluminum frame and was a rugged, off- pavement capable trailer. Check out their website https://www.cruiserrv.com/travel-trailers/fun-finder.html There is, in fact, no aluminum in the structure anywhere. Perhaps my trailer, built in 2006, was before these people began using metal superstructures. I am not claiming the product was misrepresented and admit that clearly, my research did not go deep enough. I know that I did not buy a new product. That aside, the workmanship I have found points to a shabbily-built product which would have begun self-destructing as soon as it was pushed out of the factory into the weather. That is where I find an outrage. So let me suggest:

-DO NOT buy anything called a “Fun Finder” or “Shadow Cruiser” or “Cruiser RV”.

-If there is any evidence on a used RV of re-caulking anywhere, run like hell.

-A simple test for water damage (I’ve now learned) is to pull aside the insert strip in corner mouldings and remove a screw or two in the lower part of that seam. If the screw is rusty, or spins freely without backing out, the wood beneath is rotten, run like hell.

-If the vendor objects to an inspection, run like hell.

-If any interior covering such as wall paper is even slightly wrinkled, that’s water damage, run like hell.

– DO NOT but anything susceptible to the ravages of time and weather without the second opinion of somebody intimately familiar with that specific product.

I will be producing and posting a video of the damage. It will be on You Tube alongside all the accolades for the same product. It has been suggested that I park my wheeled hulk on the side of the highway with a sign saying “I’ll never buy a Fun Finder again.”

I did give  the trailer an interior sniff test, like all old boaters know how to do. It is actually a very good test for rot detection to the experienced nose. It seemed fine. I thumped and bumped all over and except for the “delamination” it appeared, to my unknowing eye, to be dandy. I’d researched that rippled front skin. Videos on YouTube show how to fix it easily. The vendor was a very nice fellow, who passed my street-smart tests for honesty and integrity. I truly believe that he was unaware of any problems behind the “delamination” which he pointed out absolutely up front. I thought I had bought myself a bargain and after a little work, I would be off to see the world. Since my dark discovery I have noticed several trailers and RVs with similar exterior signs of water ingress and clearly there are a lot of products out there in varying stages of self-destruction. Those signs are glaringly obvious now. They are out there as I write, hurtling down the roads of this long-weekend oblivious to the horror that awaits them. So, what they don’t know won’t hurt them.

It’s Indian Plum time already!
Six months from now the trailer has to be rebuilt and in Loreto Baha for Christmas. A tall order, but I you don’t make plans, guess where you’ll end up.

After a few troubled night’s sleep, I’ve determined there is only one route which is forward. I’ve some debt to clear up, no money, no workplace and can easily fall into a state of utter hopelessness. (It’s that old manic depressive thing) I know it’s just a tiny trailer, but it represents the rest of my days. So I’ll sing the old lemonade song and get to work. Creative busyness is, for me, the best distraction. So I go.

So Caveat Emptor, there’s no fool like an old fool.

As smart as he looks. The old fool himself.

We should be taught not to wait for inspiration to start a thing. Action always generates inspiration. Inspiration seldom generates action.”…Frank Tibolt

Blizzard!

I left Baker in mid-morning after editing photos and posting a blog. It always feel good to be caught up. This trip has been a breathless rush of events, people and images which I feel are truly worth sharing. Reader’s comments confirm that. I began the day’s travels by visiting a local archaeological site. It was wonderful. I had it all to myself to speculate on the wonders of mud ruins, apparently seven-hundred years old. The wind was keen and shrill and cold. I wore no hat and soon had an ice-cream headache. My hands throbbed painfully. I am just not nineteen anymore!

Handyman special! View home in need of TLC. Quiet neighbours. These ruins left me with a whole lot of questions. Why here? Water? Game? Defenses? Each question raises three more.
Spring Valley, Nevada. There are five rows of these monsters steadily turning in the face of the approaching storm. it is an impressive sight to say the least. They are huge. It is hard to guess but I reckon each blade must be about ninety feet long. Maybe it was because the wind was shrieking, but the whole weird scene was dead quiet. Eerie!

Turning west onto Highway 50 (Called the loneliest highway in America) I again climbed and descended several mountain passes and traversed more wonderful valleys. I stopped to absorb the wonder of a huge wind farm in a place called Spring Valley. The wind was increasing and it was obvious that a storm was coming. I reckoned I could make it to Ely (Pronounced eely) and hunker down somewhere if the weather was indeed as serious as it seemed. The snow blew and thickened. When I finally arrived I passed an RV Park that looked so dismal in the deepening snow I could not bring myself to stop. I filled up with gas at a “Loves” truck stop and then decided that in consideration of the weather I should stuff up my own tank. The truck stop is adjoined to a sort-of casino and a Carl’s Jr. Fast burger joint. I know better. I still have a souvenir of that joint riding in my belly over a day later.

Sure glad I had my shorts and sandals along!
…And my bike too!
Struth! Of all the things a person could possibly see!
Slowly, the visibility improved and I could see what I was passing.
Can’t call it the Pearly Gate, and Horny Gate would upset some people. How about “Bone Bower?”
Those antlers represent an awful lot of dead deer and elk.
Eureka! I’ve found Eureka..which sure beat being back at Carl Jr’s in Ely watching the drifts pile up.
Somehow, in the snow, the old freight wagon does not look so romantic.
S’no dog like a Blue Merle Collie on an ATV in the snow.
These folks have known a winter day,or two, before.
This town knew some high times…before the gold ran out.
Mule Deer antlers, goat skull, maybe a clock some day? Too cold to ponder any longer.
“America’s Loneliest Highway.” Nevada HWY 50.
How’s Business?
Yeah, they’re everywhere!
Some Logo! What does a Fist and Whip really mean?
Not a place I’d want to work.
A big hat, a long range coat, the clink of spurs, a a horse’s steaming breath, the squeak of snow shoes. Wasn’t I in Mexico a few days ago?
We’re outta here!

All the employees there, mostly chunky ladies who looked like the Michelin Sisters wore company T-shorts with “Beyond Meat” emblazoned on their chests. The irony did not escape me. Clearly the management has an all-you-can eat policy for its employees. There’s an old country song that says, “I love the way you fill out your skin-tight blue jeans.” Not! What rhymes with sweat pants? I suppose it may be cheaper than a retirement program, but pity the pallbearers! My ubiquitous gang of Asian tourists arrived, looking completely bewildered. Their patriarch, an aged, shuffling fellow was dressed incongruously in a Russian fur helmet, a pair of John Lennon sun glasses, camouflage trousers and open toe sandals with bright pink socks. And I thought I was a snappy dresser! While we snacked on our gristle burgers, a full blizzard descended with swirling fury.

I am a former great white north guy and reasoned that if I could make it to the other side of the mountains, conditions would ease and the storm could heap as much snow as it wanted…behind me. Hell, I’ve driven in everything. Fool! My photos attest to that. However, the most weirdly wonderful thing happened as I set out on that trek. I could smell coal smoke and put it down to an over-reaction to my lunch or perhaps my angst about the weather. Then I saw it! Had I also begun to hallucinate? I leapt out into the wintry blast with my mobile phone. (My serious cameras were not going to be taken out into the driving snow.) There, in that raging blizzard, was a steam locomotive backing an antique work train onto a siding. I could not have been more amazed had I been looking at the ‘Queen Mary’. I’ve reviewed my short video and photos repeatedly to confirm what I saw. It is still hard to believe. You can google up information on the railway museum in Ely) Go closer to spring. I drove on westward into that storm; sometimes my speed was down to fifteen mph. I had to stop repeatedly to clear the ice from my windshield and wipers.

I was right. The snow eased and visibility improved and I arrived in Eureka Nevada. It was winter-bound and the RV park I saw looked closed. After a short stretch and breathe and shoot- up with my camera, I drove on west into the now-brilliant sunset hoping to find a place to stop for the night in Austin. Everything there was wintered out as well. After almost colliding with a large herd of mule deer on the main street I drove on down the mountain into the darkness. I looked back and saw that Stokes Castle was cleverly lit with golden light. Every time I drive across Nevada, Austin is on my route. This time I closed a loop of my south-bound leg to San Carlos. I hate looking for a spot to spend the night in the dark when I’m not sure where I am. Eventually I found a safe turn-out which proved to be the former site of a Pony Express station called ‘Cold Spring.’

In the morning I took photos of the surrounds and also ruins of a former telegraph station. Later, in perfect light, I came upon an archaeological site with loads of ancient and beautiful pictographs near Grimes Point, looking down on the Fallon Naval Air Base. Yep, right there in the desert! Tonight, I discovered I’d done something wrong and have no images to download from the day. Swear words! My water pump had again frozen last night. Later in the day as it thawed, a hose came loose and the water tank under the bed emptied itself inside the van. Grit! You’ve gotta have grit!

Blowing snow. The view did not leave me feeling warm and fuzzy.
Into the setting sun he drove, Westward, ever westward, California or bust. Hwy 50, Austin somewhere ahead.

 

Red Bluff California offered no room at the inn. It was full of homeless refugees from last year’s horrible wildfires in the surrounding area. I drove on into the gathering dusk, once again, looking for a level place to park for the night. I awoke in the morning beside a stockyard, beside a gurgling stream. “California!” I thought, I’ve made it, the snow is behind me now.” Haa!

It was fortunate that I made a decision to put my head down and just drive, ignoring some great images along the way, (which I would have lost as it turned out.) I drove through Reno (Eeeech) and then north, heading for Susanville California. Then I chose to head for low ground and put the last mountain passes behind me. Eventually I arrived in Red Bluff a few thousand feet ASL lower. In the wake of last year’s horrific wild fires, there is no space available in this area for the likes of me. Many of those displaced folks are living in RV Parks all over the interior of Northern California. So with no wifi again, no blogs will be posted tonight. I am in some very beautiful countryside, about one-hundred miles from the coast, parked on the side of the road once more. Think of the money I’m saving in fees. There is a gentle steady rain falling which, I know, is more snow in the mountains behind me.

I have always loved this region of California. The lush, rolling hills covered with open Oak forest and filled with grazing cattle soothes my soul. Sadly, everywhere you look there is a”Posted” sign. Private, no trespassing, no looking, threats of prosecution and execution. Where have you gone, Timothy Leary? Peace man!

Hard winter conditions have pursued me for the past week. I’m frustrated in not finding the rest and reboot I sought. I am in fact, exhausted. Meanwhile, at home, snow is piling up with more to come. Folks are emptying the grocery stores in anticipation of continuing harsh weather. I try not to feel guilty about being out here on the lam. Silly bugger!

Creativity is allowing yourself to make mistakes. Art is knowing which ones to keep.” … Scott Adams.

Beyond Zion

Kanab, Utah. Just over the border I was seduced by the pink sandstone, its texture, arches, caves and pools. I wanted to stop. But something drew me onward through what had already proven to be an amazing day. I expected to see Mormon churches everywhere. I was right. All mileage boards, no matter which road i travelled, always displayed a distance to Salt Lake City.  Plenty of women and girls wore  ankle-length dresses. Fortunately, apparently, no Burkas are required. Yet!
How does one adequately photograph this? You need a good local knowledge of both the locations and when the light is best. The sun was setting, the light was fantastic and I raced on like a giddy child looking for the next awesome spot. The arch is several hundred feet high and wide.
The afternoon light was fading quickly. I stopped, grabbed a few frames and hurtled off to see what was around the next corner.
Quick! The light, the light!

 

Oooo-ah! Yeah right! This old blue-collar boy dropped many expletives, all four-lettered and no ooooh-ahs!
A portal in the Mt. Carmel Tunnel. It is 1.1 miles long and drops/climbs 800′. There is no lighting other than that emitted through random portals carved out through the side of the cliff. It was built by the CCC, and is an amazing piece of engineering, as is the entire roadway through the park. The
Civilian Conservation Corps was founded by President F.D. Roosevelt to provide relief employment for young single men during the great depression. Their projects across America are a continuing legacy for the infrastructure of the country.
The workmanship is amazing. The tunnels, bridges, road grades and hairpin turns are an achievement that should be listed among the man-made wonders of the world.
Last light
Loads of photographers, some with very serious equipment were there to milk out the last drop of workable light.
Mind how you go!
The Zion River RV Park.
A very classy place!
Spawning of the Airstreams.
They are apparently the ultimate in travel trailers, including price!
No, not my dog! A racoon, I believe, this way went along the Zion River.
Say no more.

Bob Marley and other Reggae musicians often sing about Zion. So, I’ve been there, I want to go back and spend time working with the changing light. I’ll need some sort of motorcycle so I can park easily along the roadside wherever I need to stop.Finding a pull-out is a challenge. For the moment I have to go home and reload. Just west of the park I came upon a fabulous place(They claim a 5 Star rating) and I enjoyed my stay in the poshest RV Park ever. In the morning I discovered the park is located on the banks of the Zion River where it flows through Virgin Utah. How did folks name their towns? By the way, I met a lady while there who makes hand-made high-top moccasins. They are beautiful. Her website is Moccasin Lady.com. Check it out. 

No jokes please.
Well maybe one.
Virgin, Population None.
Terrorists need not apply.
A Scotsman this way came. Who else would build a free-standing dry stone wall? Beyond Cedarville, Utah I point myself toward the Nevada border. Yep, lots of snow ahead. Little did I know how much!
A former glory. What keeps folks hanging on in these old communities? What do they do for income? For dreams?
The way we were. Milford, Utah.
Hey Frodo, I think we’re in Mongolia!
Quick! somebody’s coming! I swear that I could see this load of hay a half-hour before it passed. There is no sneaking up on anyone here.
The black spot in the distance is a dead cow. There were three ravens sitting on it…until I stopped.
First a little water.
Then some slow-growing trees.
Then a well. Then a small corral.
Then a small ranch hand’s house.
Then…abandoned.
Home on the range. There were four heifers penned in without feed or water. I assumed someone would be along to tend to them. As a stranger, I knew better than to mess with another man’s critters. Mormon bullets leave you just as dead.

 

Water, bull rushes, trees. sloughs, homestead, abandoned, posted ‘No Trespassing.’ So where did they get the building logs? There must be some sort of civilization within fifty miles.
Sho nuff! Sod roofs and all.
Garrison Utah, on the Nevada border. Endless rustic scenes, eternal valleys and passes with a thousand sideroads heading off over yet another pass. I’m hooked.
What yuppies drove in the late’50s. Options included V-8 engines, 2-speed automatic transmissions, power steering, power brakes, push-button radios. It was not uncommon to have a six cylinder engine and a three-speed manual shift on the steering column with non-power brakes and steering.
Many, like me, took their driving test n such a vehicle. “Son, see that space between the two cars on the hill? I want you to parallel park in it. Use your mirrors, do NOT roll back when we pull out.” This old beast’s last license plates were dated 1967.
A haven for the night in Baker, NV. Their water was frozen but I was happy enough with my little electric heater. I had the place to myself.
Actually, the manager took my trade at the roadside bar which she opened from 4-8pm. I had no gun to leave at the door.
The workshop…my kind of campground!
Beautiful downtown Baker NV. where the air is clean and free. So is the view.

As I drove northwest the skies became duller, snow began to fly and I speculated that I may have to find a niche to wait out the storm. North of a community called Cedar City I found the highway that would take me across the Utah border. I arrived in Baker, Nevada shortly before sundown at a lovely RV Park. Their water supply was frozen up. Fine!

My trip for the day encompassed traversing several mountain passes and broad, wonderfully dramatic valleys. The light there reminded me of Scotland in the way it constantly changed as the shadows raced across the broad plains of the wide valleys. What a wonderful journey! Again, my photographic efforts seemed pale against the task of capturing the feeling of that vastness.

Beneath a desert elm, complete with an old Oriole’s nest and setting new moon, I went to bed wondering what tomorrow would offer. It would prove to be another grand adventure.

We do not really know what draws a human being out into the world. Is it curiosity?A hunger for experience? An addiction to wonderment? The man who ceases to be astonished is hollow, possessed of an extinguished heart. If he believes everything has already happened, that he has seen it all, then something most precious has died within him … the delight in life.”

Ryszard Kapuscinski ‘Travels With Herodotus’

____________________________________________

High Plains Drifting

High Plains Drifting

I’ve described arriving in Page, Arizona. It was a time to buy provisions, do laundry and purposely begin heading in a vague direction toward home. It is amazing what can happen in one day. The next two blogs will be pictorial accounts of an amazing and ongoing trek.

And a partridge in a bare tree. It is going to be a good day when you are bid farewell by a Mourning Dove. There are thousands of these beauties in the Southwest. They are considered a game bird and  are hunted aggressively.
Dam it all!? Page Arizona, where the Colorado River was backed up to make huge Powell Lake. This mighty but sorry river never reaches the Sea Of Cortez as it used to. It is pumped dry for irrigation of the rich farmland in a radius of Yuma. That happens after it is again dammed by the Hoover Dam near Las (Lost) Vegas That dam’s reservoir, Lake Mead, is almost dry. It is still an amazing river despite all the effort to destroy it.
Run ponies, run. Horses are another cornerstone of Navajo culture. The creatures are allowed to run wild and free. They are extremely wary and will herd up and charge off with the simple provocation of your stopping. They are difficult to photograph. They are beautiful!
The photographer’s shadow. I cannot get enough of this country.
I hope this cut was not made with pick and shovel. They are a feisty lot in this part of the country.
After doubling back from Page, i drove through the cut and down the long, steep grade to Bitter Springs on the plain below. Here one leaves Highway 89 and heads westward into the magic of Marble Canyon, the Vermillion Cliffs and the hig snowy North Rim country of the Grand Canyon. Bleak and desolate perhaps but I was overwhelmed by the stark beauty of it all.
More wild horses, wary as ever. Surely another good omen for the day ahead. They quickly vanished beneath the rise of land as if I had only imagined seeing them.
Uh Huh? Would this sign make a difference if you were really going to take the plunge? This is on the old Navajo Bridge at Lee’s Ferry, a crossing of the Colorado River.
Head-Smashed-In-White-Man Jump. Turbid and swift, the Colorado River at Lee’s Ferry is cutting its way toward the Grand Canyon.
Nice Canyon Ya got there!
The Vermillion Cliffs drew me westward. I found a notation on my map about a place called “Cliff dwellers”. You know what I was thinking. I began to get excited.

 

WTF!? Bedrock City! In 1927 a couple driving by had their car break down. They decided to stay and built an abode with out-buildings (outrockings?)
They constructed walls and roofs beneath the immense boulders, opened a restaurant, put in a gas pump and…? Cliff Dwellers is listed among Arizona’s ghost towns.
C’mon on in. Set a spell. D’ya bring any water?
An old Scottish expression came to mind. “Long may your lum reek.” Translation: Long may your chimney smoke.
The In-law suite.
Doghouse?
Graffitti. Some from 1878. That’s cool!
Oh SHIT! Really? What’s with the Porta-potti security? Guess we’ll have to go behind a rock. Paper? No! Really?
Who let the rocks out? Why the hell would anyone go to the effort of fencing this? My dirt! It was intriguing but I couldn’t bring myself to trying to live beneath any of it. What if, what if?
Car-squashed-flat-native-jewellery vendor. Don’t lean on anything!
“She died, and left me the deed to the ranch.” That’s a punchline from an old Paul Harvey joke. Dang! that’s a lot of fencing to look after. There are ranch buildings at the bottom of the hill. The vastness, solitude and endless beauty are overwhelming.
Fredonia!? Old Fred drove onwards. Jacob Lake is where you turn in to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. It was closed, and heaped with snow. I was amazed at the number of people who live up in every one of these high, desolate places.
Descending into the Kanab Valley, the Utah border is a few miles ahead. I can never get enough of these broad, spectacular vallies. There were fresh deer tracks in the snow everywhere.
I once knew of a boat named ‘F.R.E.D.’ It meant F—ing Ridiculous Economic Disaster. Welcome to Fredonia.
The Town Center. Someone should be charging admission.
Low profile tires, spoked wheels, full cabin air. There was nothing to indicate what make it was.
A dodge tow truck. No hydraulic problems with the rig.
Home-made signal lights.
Straight-out, left turn.
Pointing-up, right turn. You used to have to know the hand signals for your driving test, car or motorcycle. Folks don’t even use their electric signal lights now.
The original Ram-Tough Dodge grill.
They delivered fuel in this!
You can still see Standard Oil on the side of the three-compartment tank. There are mechanical brakes on the rear axle only. And there are no hills anywhere! Nope.
With a little paint, I’ll bet this thing would sell!
It didn’t hurt him a bit!
Farm yard frugal. Ya could stuff it with straw and git another cupla hunnert miles outta ‘er!
Says it all, that saw blade mural on the tin wall. I did not stop at the realtor’s office.

All I’ve ever wanted was an honest week’s pay for an honest day’s work.”

… Steve Martin

Life Is A Journey

Life Is A Journey

(Remember that images can be enlarged by clicking on them)

The crack of dawn. It cracked because it was brittle with cold. Here I awoke at first light  in a gravel pit near Williams Arizona.

I am determined to journey homeward in a meandering fashion, with no particular route planned. The journey, after all, is its own reward. After all the repairs and expenses I knew I dare drift no further eastward, away from the general direction of home on Vancouver Island. I arrived in Flagstaff, where it was cold, snowy and blowing. I found a McDonalds and checked my e-mail and the weather. With more real winter to come, I checked for an RV Park then entered the data into my dash-mounted GPS. It lead me for miles in all directions and finally in the gathering darkness, I fired the miserable little box. The Grand Canyon was in my sights so I headed westward, where I would turn on to Highway 64 and find any old place to camp.

In the early morning light what to my wondering eyes should appear? A lifelong airplane guy, you’ll just have to put up with my occasional aviation photos. A pair of Convair 990s.
An inglorious end to a wonderful life of airshow flying. Closed for the winter, the museum claims to have many flyable aircraft stowed away inside.
Drones are nothing new. I want one for my birthday!
Bin der, Dun dat! No photo can convey the immensity, not only of geography, but also of man’s insignificance on this tiny planet within the universe. All this photo can tell you is that I was there.
That is the Colorado River down there. It’s almost a mile to the bottom and obviously much warmer. It is hard to believe that this meandering stream was the prime maker of the huge canyon. So where did all the dirt get washed to?
The nearby sign said 8000′, ASL. A ski hill close by was on Humphrey’s Peak, 12, 600′ up in the frozen desert sky.
That’s better. This is the through-road from the Grand Canyon where it arrives at Cameron AZ. I would have been here six hours earlier if the road had not been closed, forcing me to backtrack through Flagstaff.
If I had not been forced to detour, I would not have had the joy of meeting these wonderful Navaho ladies selling their handmade crafts. Who can resist smiling, waving people on the roadside out in the lonely desert?
They even sold mutton soup! An arrow and a bookmark were the only only souvenirs I bought  from these women on the entire trip. We had a great chat and I discovered the Navajo people endure the same issues as the North Coast natives at home, of whom these folks had never heard! That’s Lady laying there, guarding the jewellry.
“Honey, I felt the earth move.” A section of old highway. Things take a very long time in the dry desert to vanish into the earth.
A horse in the Painted Desert. The country is beautiful. I was left wanting a horse of my own so I could ride and ride. I can feel my saddle-sore bottom even as i think of it. Then there is the aching back of the poor horse who had to carry me!
A hogan. This was the traditional Navajo home. No matter what these folks live in now, they still also have a hogan for traditional religious purposes. With roofs made of different materials, the doors alway face east to catch the morning sun.
A Navajo community.
Beautiful but hostile to gringos like me. It is amazing to this outsider how indigenous people survived and thrived in this environment. Their art demonstrates enough free time to develop a rich cultural cornerstone.
Neo-native art at a roadside craft marketplace.
There were several murals, all very poignant.
While taking my photographs, a young Navajo girl stopped to shyly ask if I’d seen her runaway dog, a young brindle female pitbull named ‘Jinx.’ Hope you found your way home doggie!
One more
Sheep are an important part of Navajo culture.
The Painted Desert now holds a piece of my heart. Imagine a desert night’s sounds under a brilliant moon and star-studded sky. Whistling wind, coyote’s howl and all the things that go bump in the lonely night. Then comes the golden light of dawn against the vermillion cliffs. It is said that if your dog runs away, you can watch him going for the next three days.

 

The night was crackling cold. I piled on all my blankets and thanked the Gods for my propane furnace. The stars were amazing. By morning the potable water pump had frozen. I was worried about split plumbing but all’s well that ends. I arrived at the Park Gate, paid the horrific fee, and found my way to the snowy parking lot. I’ve seen thousands of photos and films of this incredible hole in the planet, but nothing can prepare a person for the moment when you first look upon the Grand Canyon. If you are not rendered speechless, then you are a sad creature indeed. My photos can only confirm that I was there; they cannot do justice to the expansive and overwhelming feeling of the place.

Unfortunately the price of being able to easily attend one of the world’s greatest marvels is that there are people, bus loads of them, steadily arriving in an endless convoy. They overwhelmed the place, with hordes pushing, shouting, being rude in every possible way and seemed oblivious to any sanctity or wonder. They’d come half-way around the planet to take selfies on their mobile phones and absolutely nothing else seemed to matter. I really do try to love all of God’s creatures and I hate categorization and racism so all I’ll say is that it is holiday time in celebration of Chinese New Year. “Gong Xi Fa Cai” with all due respect! These tourists were everywhere, I mean every-bloody where I was to go in the following days. Their behaviour was consistently rude and arrogant. Shop keepers and vendors expressed dread at their invasion. I’ve been in China, the folks there are charming and considerate. I cannot explain beyond my personal observation of what happens when they are visiting here. I should quickly add that I’ve found other cuacasion cultural groups just as abominable when on their vacation. People!

With the fabulous shifting light, I could have stayed, but after having actually been shouldered aside a few times, I decided to proceed forthwith. My plan was to drive on to a place called Cameron, where I could consider my options, but the road had been closed due to wintry conditions. Swearwords indeed! Why the hell could the National Parks folks not have made the closure clearly noticeable beforehand?

Frustrasted, with no other option, I headed the sixty miles back to Flagstaff, fortunately in part, on a different route. I ended my day in Page, Arizona on the shores of the great man-made Powell Lake where the Colorado River was dammed, and damned. Incredible scenery was sacrificed to make a huge recreational waterway. I had no interest in seeing it and headed off to see other wonders. Everywhere I go, I am boggled by what I see. The grandeur and vastness is too much to comprehend. I want to come back and slowly sponge it in and so the bottom is blown out of my bucket list. I am bemused that nearly all the best views are smudged by power lines. Or on clear days, by an endless parade of jet contrails streaking in all directions. I wonder repeatedly at how the world must have looked before it was “Settled” and how we have altered it so drastically and so quickly. Small wonder at the disenchantment of the First Nations People.

Finally arriving at the Arizona/Utah border I had to choose a route that lead approximately northwest. With a simple choice at a crossroads I left the natural wonder of the scenery of Kanab Utah behind and drove over yet another snowy pass into the wonderland of Zion National Park. I had barely heard of this place and can only describe it, inadequately, with photographs. I caught an incredible afternoon light and realized that everything was happening in a serendipitous order that makes perfect sense in retrospect, including some very wonderful people I meet along the way.

I’ll be back.

Beauty is not caused. It is.” …Emily Dickinson

Foresight

A traveller’s promise. Beyond Wickenburg, home of the Desert Caballeros Western Museum museum. I did not go in. Every town claims to have been the prime stomping-grounds of Wyatt Earp. He was a very busy dude!
It’s hard to believe I woke in this van under a palm tree this morning and now I’m going to bed in this! Yep that’s sleet on the windshield, ice on the ground. Eeeech.
Altitude makes all the difference. The Glen Ilah Hill is a steep winding grind from the desert floor below to a high plain and forest 4000′ higher.
His Master’s Voice. Remember that? Mainstreet Yarnell. Many of these small American towns look as if someone walked out the door one day, and never came back. You keep expecting to see Rod Serling standing on a street corner.
See what I mean?
Each little town can be easily dismissed as being like all the others. Yet, if you have a real look, they all have their own distinct personality.
Beauty in the storm. It chased me as I went along. The welded steel pipe fence went on for miles and . Even if prefabbed,it was a helluva project. (Trump Fence Company?)
The GPS says it all. On the road to Prescott, complete with several roadside crosses. Pelting rain and sleet, swirling cloud, snow plows on switchback corners. Nope, not sleepy!
Jerome or bust! Part of the bigness of this incredible country is that distances are given in miles not kilometres. You drive and drive.

Light jazz was playing on the local radio station. Saxophone, piano and pan flute. Then came a crash and a flash of light. For a moment I thought I was back in Ajo with yet another sonic boom. It was thunder and lightening. Thick rain and snow pellets rattled down on the van.

It is hard to comprehend that only this morning I was among the palms and cacti of the broad Ajo Valley. On the way, I missed a turn and drove miles out of my way and then had to drive through the heart of Phoenix. It’s no place for the likes of me and I’m glad to have that gauntlet behind me. Now I am at 6000’ASL in the boulder-tumbled mountains above Prescott, southwest of Flagstaff Arizona. I drove up from the valley east of Phoenix into the clouds and onto a high plateau which rapidly became a jumbled rocky forest and a winding, snaking road that crawled through it. The radio station is from nearby Prescott, the local forecast is for up to three inches of snow tonight. The countryside and forest are fantastic, entirely new to me. That’s why I came. As promised I’m meandering homeward but palm trees to snow in one day, that was not within my foresight.

The ups and downs of travel in Arizona. For a few hours I leave the snow behind, until I drive up the next mountain pass. Just before I could pull over and take this photo I left an indelible image behind. A huge prickly pear cactus was poking out of a snow drift. The road maintenance is excellent.
Driving in Arizona is seldom dull. Brake shops and funeral homes must do very well. “Look ma, they got no snow down there.”
Jerome AZ. I could have spent a whole day here, with my camera clicking. This funky town is perched on the side of a very steep hill at 5000′ ASL. Every home has a view.
The countryside is constantly changing. Open plains dotted with Juniper, cactus and sage, deep winding canyons, steep cliffs and weird rock formations. It is NOT boring. This stream in winter freshet will probably be bone dry by late spring.
Gobsmacked!
The dramatic red rocks of Sedona are surreal. They made many cowboy movies here.Shame they were black and white.
What does a priest have to do to be sent here? It is a stunning piece of architecture that blends with the natural surroundings. I pondered yet again how a dogma that claims peace and love as cornerstones, uses a symbol of capital punishment as its icon.
Dang rocks! Yer view in every direction gits spoilt!
Every home in Sedona has curb appeal. This house also has my idea of a lawn.
Front yard shrubbery. Now try pruning that.

I am determined to take some gorgeous photos of my own in the Sedona region and then meander on northward on routes which are new to me. All the repairs I’ve had to make on the van have gobbled up my already tight budget. So there is a stress factor but I am determined to return home refreshed and recharged. Old aviation clichés about wings and prayers and groping through the murk with dusty gas tanks are coming to mind. Well, ordeal or adventure, that it is up to me. I have had some wonderful moments, making wonderful new friends and seeing amazing things. And, the grandest times of my life have been when I didn’t have the proverbial pot. No, not the one you smoke!

Tonight I’m snug in a National Forest Service campground, parked on a level asphalt pad with a lighted outhouse only a few long paces away. The fee is a modest $5. The forest around is open, a mix of Ponderosa Pine and Juniper. There are punctuations of clear rushing streams among jumbles of smooth, large boulders. It is the sort of woodland where I could wander blissfully for days. Look there’s another deer! I am warm, dry, fat and happy inside the van. As I edit my day’s photos the radio station KAHM, Prescott Arizona, 102.7 continues to play a lovely mix of music. It will be a long dark night and it sure beats sleeping in a ditch. I realize that, for the moment, I don’t want to be anywhere else. That’s a grand feeling! G’night.

Over the pass and down through the funky old mining town of Jerome I descended to the broad, undulating valley below and began tacking and gybing across the country like a good sailor should. The suddenly I found myself in Sedona. The natural scenery is stunning and beyond description. The whole town has been designed to blend in with that natural wonder. Despite the reek of money and the glossy architecture it is elegant and makes this town, in my opinion one of the most beautiful inland communities I have ever seen. Even in February, the sightseers were everywhere. I can only imagine how it is in the peak seasons.

Travelling northward from Sedona the scenery changes dramatically yet again as you wind up along Oak Creek, famous to Southwest nature photographers. Unfortunately there are few safe places to pull over and where provision has been made, they have gates and toll booths.
Everywhere is an essay on Rocks and water. Here a trickle of water belies the eons it has taken to carve the earth.
Oak Creek was a dream. Note the waterfall up high, coming down from the ridge.
I drove for miles to find a spot to turnabout and come back to this piece of the creek. Fortunately the light was still good.
I’ve said it before. “Hi mom, I’m home.”
A cave across the road from where I parked.
The cave evolved.
On up the creek.
It began to snow yet again. I drove on and up yet another twisting steep grade. At the top I travelled for miles through a snow-laden pine forest. Fresh elk and deer tracks crossed the road everywhere. I emerged from the forest into snow-shrouded Flagstaff where Old Route 66 is the main drag. It took me three tries to get out of that town for good.

I know those devastating numbers of people need to be controlled but it gets frustrating. No matter where I wanted to stop for more photos there is a plethora of signs and concrete preventers of some description. You are expected to display a permit but there is no indication of where to purchase one. Other places one is able to stop will not accept the day permit from the last place. Travelling north from Sedona along incredibly beautiful Oak Creek there is no place to pull over and work your camera. I finally emerged out of the spectacular scenery, miffed about all the photo opportunities I had to pass by. It is cold and snowy and blowing. I am sitting in the van tonight somewhere west of Flagstaff apparently on a road to the Grand Canyon. It will be beautiful with all this snow. Yesterday I was in Ajo. It is a long way away now. Was I ever really there?

Power To The Peeples.

Part of being sane is being a little bit crazy.” …Janet Long

Ba Bam Part II

The Ajo Mountains
Looking back into Mexico. Within the vista of this harsh desert as I take this photo there are illegal immigrants making their way toward a faint hope. They may have walked thousands of miles. Although it is illegal, some folks take out caches of water and food. There is a slogan here: “Being humane should not be against the law.”
Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument, a very large forest of huge Sagauro cacti
Dennis and Laurie, charming hosts of Belly Acres RV Park in Ajo. Everything you need is within a short walking distance and the facility is great. You are treated as family. It is pet friendly, and affordable They are online. Laurie, by all accounts is a great cook and I can attest, makes the world’s best baked beans. Dennis is the world’s friendliest gentle bear. Don’t worry about the pistol on his hip, it’s just Arizona!  www.bellyacresrvpark.com

 

 

I’ve now stayed for three nights in Ajo this time. I’m not sure I want to move on, but the long trek home has to begin and the meter of life is ticking. Deadlines and commitments!

The folks who run this RV Park, Belly Acres, are embracing, charming and provide a lovely place to stay. They had a Super Bowl Football gathering and pot luck supper with copious heaps of very good food complete with a keg of beer. I am not a football guy but how could I say no? All the folks here are lovely. There is a NAPA store and garage next door. They fitted my van repairs into their busy schedule and I can go back out on the road with a renewed confidence.

In the NAPA repair yard
OK! Enlarge the image and read the small sign.
Inside the NAPA store a 1952 Harley Davidson for sale. The same age as me, with only one oil leak, it is in much better shape than I’m in.

 

I’ve finally been able to get to really know an acquaintance of several decades. I know Frank through a mutual friend and we hit it off well. He took me for a drive into the desert in his SUV which was amazing; both the desert and Frank. The vehicle has a standard transmission and Frank has only one leg. The man uses a wooden cane to work the clutch as smoothly as anyone else. He is a genius and a very inspiring character, having courageously worked as an advocate for disabled folks for decades. He is clearly more enabled than a lot of folks who have the use of all their bits and pieces. That does not change the simple fact that he is a great fellow. I’m proud to count myself among his friends.

My friend Frank
with more friends, Zena and Charlie.
Now fill it in again! How’s that for an environmental disaster? That turquoise bit in the bottom is water. This is one of the world’s largest open pit copper mines and one hell of a pile of pennies!
A funky Ajo home. Homes in an abandoned mine town are cheap so you can afford to do some creative things.
Funky Ajo art school.
The old Ajo Mission now turned mine museum.
Your sidewalls are gone!
There is a load of cool junk,um, I mean artifacts. Check out the etching on the rock.
A desert home with a spectacular view. It’s for sale!
The View
May I have this dance?
Dry camping
On BLM land you can camp without fees, or services, in exchange for the reasonable expectation that you will respect the land and take or leave nothing.
Locally known as the pipeline road, this will, if you are tenacious enough, take you over the mountains and down into Tucson.
And now for something different. How do you fry a frozen egg? At least the fridge is working!
“Flying high in April, shot down in May.” Folks sure do like to shoot things down I here. I try to stay polite!
I did try!

There is a vicious, cold wind blowing across the desert this morning. I ave had a sleepless night and am waiting for dawn to pack up and move although reluctant to leave this fantastic place. Ajo is home to one of the world’s largest open-pit copper mines, or at least home to a massive work of environmental devastation, now closed. The small town is also the hub of the American Sonoran Desert. With the Air Force Gunnery ranges and several intriguing places of interest, including Baboquivari, within a short radius, I could happily spend several months here. Adios Ajo, for now.

Ah Arizona!
I have enough excellent photographs of the desert to put together a fine picture book…and maybe I will!

To be upset over what you don’t have is to waste what you do have.” …anon